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Fire Lily

Chapter Text

Beneath the early morning sun, the church exterior was a treasure. The orange light remade the structure in rich, golden shades, with stained glass windows like glittering gems. Once he’d landed, Izuku stopped for a moment to gaze at the building in awe, silently cataloging each detail. It was truly magnificent. The top of the steeple had been broken off in all the chaos, but Izuku was sure that, had it still been there, it could’ve pierced straight through to Heaven.

The sound of an explosion from the east broke him out of his reverie, and Izuku hastily moved toward the church, folding his wings down against his back as he went. As much as he’d like to take his time admiring the building’s architecture, he had a job to do, one he’d sworn to carry out. Still, as Izuku brushed his fingers along the engravings of the church’s vast, arched doorway, he couldn’t help but feel a sense of loss. In all likelihood, this was the last time he’d get to see it. The church, like all beautiful things, would be engulfed in flames soon enough.

Izuku put his hand on the doorknob and took one last breath before entering the building.

Inside the church, dozens of heads immediately popped up from behind the pews, their eyes widening as they looked at him. After the initial shock, many of them bowed their heads in silent reverence, though most still seemed tense, like they weren’t quite sure what the appropriate protocol was, when in the presence of an Angel.

Izuku offered a reassuring smile. “Don’t be afraid.” He said. “I’m Dekiriel, a servant of God. I’m here to escort you all to the Kingdom of—”

“—Dekiriel?” A rough voice interjected. Izuku tensed. “The fuck kinda name is that? Sounds like one of those drugs they give to human kids to force ‘em to sit still and pay attention.”

Izuku quickly turned around, and paled at what he found.

Across the room, sitting splay-legged on the altar with one muddy combat boot proper up on the edge, was a Demon. A freaking Demon. Spiky blond hair, angular features and deep, red eyes that appeared luminescent even in the morning light. He wasn’t fully shifted. Sharp, black horns peaked through his hair, a thin, pointed tail whipping around behind him. The Demon looked back at him and grinned, putting sharp, white canines on display. “You seem like you could use something like that.”

For a moment, he simply gaped. This was not supposed to happen, or if it was, no one had told him about it. What the hell was he supposed to do? He couldn’t fight him; he wasn’t certified for that, yet. And even if he could fight him, what good would it do? The Demon was clearly above his level. It didn’t take a genius to figure that out.

Izuku shook himself. The humans. He thought, Remember the humans. He steeled his expression and turned to face him head on.

“What business do you have here, Demon?” He asked, voice steady, yet cautious.

“I don’t have to answer that.” He shot back. “And don’t call me fuckin’ Demon, asshole, it’s Katsuki.”

“You do have to answer that. You’re trespassing on God’s property.”

“Trespassing? What’re you, a fuckin’ cop? “ He said, glaring. Then the expression dropped and he looked up in thought. “Well, actually yeah, guess you basically are.”

“What did you do to these people?” Izuku demanded.

“Do to them? I didn’t do shit.” The Demon hopped off the altar, and Izuku instinctively put his barrier up. “It’s your fault they’re scared. You’re the ones who fed them all that fucking fear-mongering bullshit about us.” He went down the steps and began a leisurely stroll down the aisle. 

“Just tell me why you’re here!”

The Demon, Katsuki, rolled his eyes.

“Same reason you’re here, Deku.”

“It’s Dekiriel.” Izuku sternly replied. “And I highly doubt that.”

“God, you assholes never change.” He muttered. “Look, if y’don’t believe me, why don’t you just do your little magic trick and see for yourself, huh? You can do that, right? I doubt God’s so big an idiot that he’d send some incompetent little dweeb down here.”

Izuku stared back at him for a moment.

“Well? Are you gonna fucking do it, or what?” Katsuki asked. “Here, I’ll even repeat myself for you. I’m here for the same reason you are, Deku. Evacuation.”

Izuku activated his Persentiscence as he met the Demon’s eyes.

He was telling the truth.

Izuku gaped at him, not quite able to believe it. He must’ve screwed things up. He was still a rookie, after all; he’d never attempted to use the power on a Demon before.

“Y’still don’t believe me, do you?” Katsuki said, monotone. He sighed. “You get your power from God, right?” He said, stepping closer, until there were only about three feet between them. “You really have so little faith in him?”

“It’s not that.” Izuku said. “I just… I mean, I thought—“

“What, you thought your powers were malfunctioning?” He snorted. “Y’wanna try turning it off and on again?”

Izuku stared at him for a moment. He loathed to admit it, but he was right. For whatever reason, Katsuki was, indeed, telling the truth. Izuku wasn’t foolish enough to believe his intentions to be benevolent, of course, but so long as he wasn’t interfering with his duties, he figured it’d be best not to press him any further.

He sighed.

“I have a job to do.” He said. “I’ll deal with you later.”

The Demon raised his eyebrows mockingly. “Sure,” he snorted. “We’ll see how that goes.”

Izuku narrowed his eyes, but proceeded nonetheless. Turning back to the humans, he smiled reassuringly as he told them, “You have nothing to worry about. As long as I’m here, you’re safe.” The humans seemed to visibly relax. “Now, then.” He began again, “As I was saying before, I’m here to escort you all to the Kingdom of God. In return, I only need one thing from you.” He paced down the aisle. “When I reach you, I ask that you look me in the eyes and repeat the phrase I tell you, and when I offer my hand to you, you take it. Understand?” Everyone nodded.

Izuku then directed his attention toward a woman with dark hair, huddled up with two small children under her arms. He knelt in front of a girl no more than six years old, and offered a warm smile as she seemed to give him her full intention.

“Look into my eyes and repeat after me.” He said. “‘I am a child of God.’”

She looked up at him with big, blue eyes, and Izuku activated his Persentiscence. “I am a child of God.” She said.

And she was.

So Izuku extended his hand and waited for her to take it, and wrapped his fingers around her small hand with a grip both gentle and firm.

And within seconds, all that remained of her on this Earth was a pile of clothing on the floor.

Izuku proceeded in this manner, and remained quietly baffled at the fact that the Demon had been silent throughout the process, leaning against one of the pews somewhere off to the side. He didn’t dare question it, lest he jinx the whole thing, but he still kept an eye on him throughout the ritual, in case he were to try something. It wasn’t until the very end that the Demon finally decided to break his silence. By then only one man remained: A kind-faced man in his late forties.

Izuku smiled at him. “Repeat after me.” He said. “‘I am a man of God.’”

“I am a man of God.” He said.

And he was.

So Izuku held his hand out toward him, only to falter with the sound of the Demon’s voice cut through the peaceful atmosphere.

“Him? Really?” He asked incredulously, strolling over with his hands shoved in his pockets. He clicked his tongue. “Yeah, I’d rethink that one, if I were you.”

Izuku’s eyes widened. “What on Earth are you talking about?”

“He’s not a good person.” Katsuki stated, as though it were the most obvious thing in the world.

Izuku gaped at him, but after a moment, he felt a sense of anger steadily beginning to bubble to the surface.

“And just what do you suppose makes you an authority on that?”

Katsuki quirked an eyebrow.

“Damn, they really don’t teach you guys shit, huh?”

“About what?”

“Uh, basic Demonic abilities?” He sneered. “The term “insidious cryptospection" ring a bell? Or as I call it, the shame detector?”

“This man is not lying.”

“I never said he was.”

“Then I fail to see the issue, here.” Izuku said, narrowing his eyes. “This man is a man of God. That’s all there is to it.”

Katsuki rolled his eyes.

“Seriously, is that really all that matters to you assholes? Obedience?” He scoffed. “So, what? Do you think believing in God and being a piece of shit are, like, fuckin’ mutually exclusive properties?”

Izuku opened his mouth to respond, but no words came out.

Katsuki smirked, and took it as a cue to continue, beginning a casual stroll, slowly circling the man.

“Again, feel free to use your little magic trick on me if you don’t believe me, but I’m not kidding. This guy’s a piece of shit.”

“You’re gonna have to be more specific than that.” Izuku spat.

“He beats his wife and kids.” Katsuki announced. “Used to, anyway. Probably would still be doin’ it, if not for the— well.” He gestured toward a window, where towers of smoke could be seen billowing on the horizon.

Izuku stared at him for what felt like hours, frozen in shock, unsure how to proceed. He activated his Persentiscence and looked the Demon in the eye.

He wasn’t lying.

But he had to be, didn’t he?

He turned his attention toward the man again.

“Sir, I’m going to need you to repeat after me, again.” He said. “Say, ‘I am a man of God.’”

“I am a man on God!” He replied emphatically, gazing into Izuku’s eyes imploringly.

“You’re an abusive piece of shit, actually.” Katsuki interjected, and for a moment, Izuku saw a spark of fear in the man’s eyes just before he turned toward Katsuki

“No, I’m a man of God! I’m a man of faith!”

“And you’re also an abusive piece of shit, and not just to your family.” Katsuki snarled, a dangerous glint in his eye as he stepped closer, towering over the man. His pointed tail whipped around behind him, cat-like pupils contracting to mere slits, exuding a perilous aura as he stared down at the man with a look that Izuku could only describe as complete and utter revulsion. “You think you deserve to be with them, now? That they deserve to be with you?” He sneered. “Why? One lifetime wasn’t enough?”

The man abruptly turned back to Izuku.

“Please, he’s lying!” He cried, face pale and panic-stricken. “I went to church every Sunday!”

That was true.

“I’m a man of God!”

That was true.

“I’ve lived a proper life!”

Izuku tensed.

“I’ve been good to others!”

That…

“I’m a good person!”

That was a lie.

Izuku stared at the man in silence, and deactivated his Persentiscence.

He didn’t need to hear any more from him.

He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, trying to clear his head enough to consider his options. He almost wanted to laugh at the dry, cynical feeling rising inside him, because of course. Of course his very first time carrying out duties alone in the Rapture Zone he’d be forced to make a decision like this — because of a Demon, no less! The bitter irony of the situation hit him like the downpour of rain, soaking through his robes, so the mess would follow him wherever he went. Of course it had to happen this way, but Izuku was careful to keep his expression neutral.

As far as he knew, there weren't any explicit rules about refusing passage to a true believer, but the consequences for any failure to adhere to the guidelines, if discovered, could be severe.

Still, when he thought about the man’s wife and children, about the pain he’d be exposing them to if he were to let the man through… he couldn’t do it. Maybe there was something wrong with his Persentiscence, and this man wasn’t actually a man of God at all. It certainly seemed more likely than what the Demon was suggesting. But in either case, he still couldn’t do it, not in good conscience.

Izuku looked around the church, checking to make sure it was really just him, the man and Katsuki. It was.

No one would have to know.

Steeling himself, he turned toward Katsuki again.

“What will you do with him if I leave him here?” He asked carefully.

Both the man and the Demon seemed shocked. The man dropped to his knees and began pleading for mercy, but Izuku clenched his teeth and ignored it, staring into the Demon’s wide, glowing, red eyes, awaiting his response.

“Well?” He prompted.

Katsuki cleared his throat. “I mean, I’d just take him with me. It’s not my area really, but I can transport a few people on my own.”

Izuku nodded, side-eying the man, and suddenly realizing just how transparent he truly was as he knelt there, looking up at him with his hands clasped together, spewing empty words and promises he should’ve never had to make.

He couldn’t bare to look at him any longer.

“Alright.” He said, meeting Katsuki’s eyes. “I’ll leave that to you, then.”

“Seriously?” Katsuki raised his eyebrows.

“Yes.” Izuku nodded. “Believer or not, Heaven has no place for those who would seek to make it unsafe for others.”

Katsuki seemed speechless for a moment, but after a while, a grin spread across his face, and he laughed.

“You’re really somethin’ else, aren’tcha, Deku?”

“Not really.” Izuku muttered. “I would think anyone else would do the same, given the situation.

“That’s cute.” Katsuki shot back, sticking his hands in his pockets again as he strolled over to the man, now kneeling on the floor in shock. He lightly kicked him in his side. “Get up, dipshit. You’re comin’ with me.” The man didn’t move, just sat there with his head bowed, staring dejectedly at the floor. After a moment, Katsuki clicked his tongue and grabbed the back of the man’s shirt collar, yanking him up off the floor. “God, I gotta do fuckin’ everything around here.”

“No, please…” The man said, quiet and broken.

He scoffed. “Shut the fuck up, you heard the nerd.”

Nerd?

Izuku blinked several times in confusion, but opted not to say anything as Katsuki began dragging the man toward the door. It was only when he was turning the handle that Izuku gathered his thoughts enough to get one last word in.

“Wait!” He called out.

“What?”

“What…” He hesitated. “What’ll you do after this?”

Katsuki stared at him for a moment, then smirked.

“I don’t have to answer that.” He replied.

The sound of the door falling shut echoed within the church, and he was gone.


At the shrill cry of the whistle, Izuku shot into the air. With his arms firmly at his sides, he kept his gaze locked on the center of the first hoop, ensuring a clean goal as he cleared it. It was all muscle memory at this point. His body knew exactly what to do, those subtle shifts in his center of gravity which had once confounded him were now second nature. The wind whipped his hair as he picked up speed, body twisting and turning as he zigzagged through each ring. The last ones were always the trickiest, at least as far as accuracy was concerned. With ten hoops stacked vertically from the ground up, they sent you into a nose dive from start to finish, only made more intimidating due to the rings’ decreasing diameter, which forced you to pull your wings inward. As Izuku’s body torpedoed through those final hoops, he silently cursed himself as he felt the tips of his wings hit the last few rings, but he still managed to make the final, crucial landing, extending his wings as soon as he cleared the last hoop and twisting his body upright just before his feet touched the ground.

“Thirty-six-point-eight seconds,” The instructor announced. “Forty-six out of fifty. Up next, Iida!”

Izuku quickly stumbled off the landing block, panting as he moved to rejoin Uraraka on the sidelines.

“You beat your record,” she said, patting his shoulder.

Izuku offered a small, sheepish smile. “Only by a second, though. And last week I had forty-seven out of fifty.”

She shrugged. “Accuracy isn’t everything.”

Izuku laughed. “Says the girl who’s gotten fifty out of fifty every week for the past two months.”

She rolled her eyes and grinned. “At a minimum time of forty-four seconds, Izuku.”

“Yeah, well—“ He began, but stopped at the sound of the instructor’s booming voice.

“Thirty-one seconds, even!” He shouted. “Forty-nine out of fifty!”

Panting slightly, Iida made his way toward them.

“Congratulations, Iida!” Izuku beamed.

“That last hoop,” Iida muttered. “It’s always that last hoop…”

Uraraka smirked, waving her hand in front of his his face. “Hello? Anyone there?” 

“Ah— my apologies!” He sputtered. “Thank you, Midoriya.” He smiled.

Izuku shook his head and grinned. “You really are your own worst critic, Iida. You have the best record in the class!”

He averted his eyes. “Other than Todoroki, you mean.”

“Oh, for—“ Uraraka scoffed. “Todoroki’s not in this class, anymore!”

“That’s why he was the first to ascend.” Izuku chimed in. “And that’s why you’ll be the second!”

“Well, I don’t know about that.” He replied, cheeks dusted red. “We’re all passing with flying colors…”

“Up next, Shinsou!” The instructor shouted.

“Ah. You might’ve spoken too soon.”

Izuku winced. “Uraraka, don’t say that.” He chided.

But she wasn’t wrong, as was made evident by the way Shinsou clumsily landed, almost a full minute later.

“Fifty-eight seconds.” The instructor said. “Twenty-six out of fifty.”

Shinsou made his way over to them with a sour look on his face. Izuku patted his arm.

“You’ll get the hang of it. You’ve only been here two months.” He consoled him. “It took me almost three just to get to twenty-five.”

Shinsou smiled slightly, rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly.


It was early evening by the time class ended, and Izuku resisted the urge to yawn as he stared into space, doing his best to keep his eyes open while All Might passed out their weekly progress reports. He perked up slightly when he received his, looking over it silently at his desk. There wasn’t anything incredibly novel about it — mostly the same suggestions he’d been receiving for the past few months, more or less. Defensive flying, weight training, logging progress. He slid the paper into his bag after a minute and stood, bowing and offering his thanks to All Might as he prepared to leave, only to stop in his tracks upon feeling a heavy hand on his shoulder.

“Ah!” All Might said, suddenly reaching into his pocket and retrieving a scrap of paper. “Sorry to trouble you, Midoriya, but would you mind dropping by the library? There’s this book I really need for tomorrow. I’d go there myself, but the administration has called a meeting this evening.”

Izuku accepted the piece of paper, smiling. “Of course, All Might. It’s no trouble at all, though…”  Izuku glanced down at the paper, squinting at the hastily scrawled directions. “Which level is it?”

“Six.” All Might replied, with an air of apology. “You shouldn’t have any trouble carrying it, though.”

He nodded. “I’ll go right away!”

“Thank you,” he said, putting his hands together. “I really appreciate it. You can just leave it in my office in the morning, if that works.”

“No problem!” He smiled.

“I might go with you, actually.” Shinsou then said. “I’d like to see if I can find any useful books on flight control. If that’s alright.”

“Of course, Shinsou.” He beamed.

Shinsou averted his eyes.


The trek to the library was never a very long one.

Though the four concentric, circular walls of heaven kept the different classes of Angels divided, the library was one of the few truly communal spaces, unless one counted the outermost ring, wherein all were welcome, but only the lowest would typically live. Still, although the walk was objectively short, the cold bite of the December air made it feel like an eternity. Izuku shivered, rubbing his arms as he shuffled down the stone pathway.

“Are you alright?” Shinsou asked. “You didn’t bring a coat, did you?”

Izuku laughed. “I didn’t. Guess I just didn’t expect it to get this cold, tonight.”

He hummed, pushing the fur-lined hood of his coat off his head. “You could wear mine, if you want.” He offered.

“Oh!” Izuku squeaked. “No, no, that’s okay. We’re almost there, anyway. Thank you, though!” He said.

He shrugged. “If you’re sure.”

“Thank you,” Izuku repeated, before looking up at the lavender sky, the color fading as the night creeped closer. He could see the library up ahead, the vast walls stretching far in both directions, forming a perpendicular intersection with the second ring, and indeed, all the others. As they grew closer, he picked up his pace until they stood before the massive entryway, and breathed a sigh of relief once they were out of the cold.

“He said it was level six, didn’t he?”

“Yeah. Don’t worry, though. I know where to find it. You said you wanted to look at flight books, right?”

Shinsou smiled lightly, and nodded. “See you in a bit, then.” He said, and with that, the two of them parted ways into the labyrinth of bookshelves.

Izuku paced down the aisles between the vast rows of books, though he didn’t pay them any mind, instead focused on the sparse furniture surrounding him. He searched until he found a potted plant with silver-tipped leaves and lavender flowers, and after a quick glance over his shoulder, he reached down into the corner behind it. Sure enough, there was a book stashed away there, and though it was a bit heavy, it was nothing he couldn’t handle. Izuku shook his head, smiling nostalgically as he recalled the first time he’d been asked to do this. “It’s to keep other people from taking it if I need it!” All Might had said. “You’ll understand when you’re at my level, Midoriya. Everyone does it!”

He laughed softly, leaning back against one of the shelves, examining the cover. He narrowed his eyes a bit. Selected Fairytales, it read.

He blinked.

This is level six?

With a slight frown, Izuku tried to open the book, but sure enough, the cover remained firmly closed, and on the spine, a large number six began to glow in response to his attempt. He pursed his lips, turning the book over in his hands. There wasn’t any sort of description on the back, though he couldn’t say he was surprised.

Just what kind of fairytales are these? He wondered, but after a moment, he sighed, sliding the book into his bag. Maybe I’ll ask All Might about it later.

Glancing around the aisle, Izuku yawned as the exhaustion started to catch up to him again.

I should probably go find Shinsou, he thought, but he made no move to follow through with it. Leaning back against the shelves, he instead allowed his gaze to wander lazily over the rows of books until a flash of red caught his eye. It was a pretty hefty book, and he leaned forward slightly as he read the bold lettering.

The Demonic Code: Morality and Ethics for the Godless

Izuku’s breath hitched. He looked around nervously, confirming he was alone before reaching out toward it, his hand trembling slightly as he grabbed the spine and pulled. But it wouldn’t budge. As if it were a permanent fixture on the shelf, it remained exactly as it was. As Izuku retracted his hand, he squinted at the number that illuminated the spine.

Nine.

He frowned.

Well, I guess I won’t be reading that one anytime soon. Or ever.

Izuku sighed—

“Midoriya?”

—then nearly jumped out of his skin. Quickly turning around, he found Shinsou standing about five feet away.

“Ah, sorry about that.” He said. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“No, no, you’re fine!” He replied, though his heart was still racing. Shinsou looked him up and down.

“Did you find it?”

It took a second for Izuku to remember what he was talking about.

“Y-Yeah!” He eventually replied. “Yeah, it’s, um, it’s in my bag.” He laughed awkwardly. “Did you… uhh, find what you were looking for?”

He nodded toward the small stack of books in his arms. “Found a couple. Figured I’d try them all out, see what works.”

“Makes sense. You ready to head out, then?”

Shinsou nodded again.

 

The walk back to the school was mostly quiet. Izuku shifted his bag a few times from shoulder to shoulder, trying to ease the burden. Shinsou offered to carry it for him, but Izuku insisted it was alright, staring down at his feet as he walked.

Eventually, against his better judgement, he spoke.

“Um…” He murmured. “So, I know this is kind of out of the blue, but… have you even seen a Demon, Shinsou?”

He turned to him and stared as though Izuku had spontaneously grown three heads.

“No.” He said, firmly. “I haven’t gone on any missions in war zones yet, so I’m not sure how I would have, anyway.”

“Right! Right,” Izuku said, internally hitting himself. “Of course. Sorry.”

For a few seconds, it was silent.

“Have you?” Shinsou asked.

Izuku looked at him, blinking rapidly. “Have I what?”

“Seen a Demon.” He supplied, raising an eyebrow.

“Oh!” Izuku laughed, eyes darting around. He already regretted saying anything. “Y-Yeah, I mean… once.” He replied.

“And you got away unscathed?” He incredulously asked.

Izuku laughed nervously again. “Yeah, uhm. It was… strange.”

“Strange how?”

“He didn’t try to attack me.”

“So it saw you, too.” He stated. “Must’ve been a pretty close encounter.”

“Yeah.”

“...What was it like?”

“Um…” Izuku hesitated. “He was…” Surprisingly decent, he wanted to say. But he couldn’t say that, so instead he said, “…Crass.”

Shinsou snorted. “Guess I’m not too surprised.” He said, pausing. “Be careful, Midoriya. Don’t let them fool you. Even if they seem non-combative, don’t turn your back on them. They’ll try to trick you, catch you off guard.”

“Oh, of course. I’m always very cautious, don’t worry!” He assured him. “It was an isolated incident, anyway.”

Shinsou hummed. “To think they’d even dare to speak to you. Bastards. Can’t let them get close to you.” He muttered. “Can’t let them out of your sight.”

As they passed in front of the gates to the third circle, the lanterns on either side automatically glowed red in the darkness, denying them entry, despite them not seeking it. The lanterns returned to their regular, golden glow as soon as they moved out of range, but for a moment, he felt the glow of red bleed through his skin, revealing, like a paper doll pressed up against the window.


After a couple of relatively uneventful rescue missions, Izuku was beginning to think he’d truly seen the last of Katsuki.

He’d settled into a routine, more or less. Every other day, Izuku would wake up before dawn, get dressed and make his way outside. He’d walk from the dormitory in Heaven’s second circle to the golden gate on the edge of the first, where he’d be given a map marked with all the churches he would be tasked with evacuating that day. He’d then fly down to the surface and get to work, and, if he acted efficiently, he’d finish by around six o’clock in the evening, at which point he’d return the exact same way he’d come, and then promptly pass out in exhaustion.

It wasn’t that Izuku was bored, per se. He enjoyed what he did — he was helping people! But still, every time he sent up someone who seemed just a little too reluctant to look him in the eye, he couldn’t help but think of the Demon. That sense that there was something there, some dark secret hiding behind that well-kept exterior lingered long after the clothes hit the floor, and he wanted to ask what exactly they’d done to cause it, but he wouldn’t know what to ask.

It was a fantastic ability, insidious cryptospection. To be able to see into the souls of humans and instantly know each and every shameful thing they had ever done. It made sense for Demons to have such an ability, but Izuku had to wonder why he’d never heard of such a thing among Angels. It’d certainly make the job much easier, make the screening process far more comprehensive.

These were the thoughts that populated Izuku’s mind one Sunday, as he wandered from place to place in a daze, his exhaustion gradually getting the better of him. He wasn’t sure why they’d assigned him so many locations that day. Frankly, it was sort of unreasonable, and he would’ve been angry about it, had the work not been so important. Maybe it was because things had gotten worse on Earth, or maybe it was because they’d noticed him working hard and elected to give him extra work as a result. Either way, it was an unfortunate situation, but he didn’t know how to be upset about it without feeling bad for being upset.

By the time Izuku finished clearing out the last church, it was nighttime. The stars above lit the sky up brightly, but the hulking structure of the buildings around him cut deep, jagged shadows into the cityscape.

He was tired, yawning as he flapped his wings, preparing to take off, only to be harshly jerked back into full-alertness at a sudden flash of red light in his peripheral. He sharply turned around, searching for the source, but found nothing.

Then he took a step back, and his wings collided with something solid.

“Such a hard worker.” A familiar voice said, deep and husky and right behind him.

Izuku almost choked, viscerally aware, yet frozen in place.

Close.

Really, really close.

That same voice chuckled.

“Let me know if you ever feel like takin’ a dive,” he rasped, before leaning in further, his breath hot against the side of his face, sending shivers down his spine as he whispered, “Deku.”

Izuku moved quickly, his heart pounding as he spun around on his heel.

But by the time he'd made the turn, he was gone.

Chapter Text

“It sounds like he’s trying to tempt you.” All Might told him, easy and nonchalant.

It was a Saturday morning. They were sitting on a bench on the side of a gravel track in the outermost circle, and Izuku had been blotting sweat from his forehead at the time. His hand froze as the words left his mentor’s lips, blood draining from his face as his eyes went wide. He opened his mouth to speak, but before he could get a word in, All Might continued.

“No, no!” He hastily exclaimed, waving his hands. “It’s not a bad thing— well, unless it worked, but…”

Izuku’s throat made some noise, strangled and involuntary.

“—But that’s not the point I’m trying to make!” He went on. “You have nothing to be concerned about, Midoriya. In fact, this could be a great opportunity!”

Izuku halted, turning to look at him with a bewildered expression.

“…H-How do you mean?”

“Well…” He made some vague, meaningless gesture. “You’re in a very unique situation. Not a lot of first-tier Angels come in contact with Demons, you know, let alone the same one multiple times.” He explained. “If you can show yourself to be capable of resisting temptation, that’s sure to make you stand out when the council reviews you for ascension.”

Izuku blinked a few times rapidly.

“You really think so?” He asked, narrowing his eyes.

“I know so.” He held eye contact with him for a while, then looked away.

“Isn’t it sort of dangerous, though?” He followed. “I mean, what if he attacks me?”

All Might hummed, brows pinching together for a moment.

“I can understand your concern.” He said, then sighed, leaning back on the bench. “It’s a shame they don’t allow us to give combat instruction to Angels below the second tier.”

Izuku was silent for a moment. He stared at his feet, shuffling them idly against the gravel.

“It’s… not just that. I just…” He bit his lip, fingers tangling with the fabric of his pants as he debated whether or not he should even voice his concerns. “I feel like…” He sighed, “Like there’s just… so much I don’t know about Demons.” He finally said, then released an awkward laugh. “Even he seemed surprised.”

All Might hummed again. “The curriculum as far as that is concerned does leave a lot to be desired.”

He felt some of the tension ease from his shoulders.

“Why won’t they teach us this stuff?” Izuku pressed. “I mean, it just seems so… I don’t know.” He exhaled harshly, raking his fingers through his sweat-damp hair. “I’m sure there are good reasons for it, of course. It’s just, from my perspective, it kind of feels… unnecessarily risky.”

“It’s… complicated.” All Might replied. “The official reason is that they want to avoid sensitive information falling into the wrong hands. But honestly, even as someone who’s actually worked closely with the higher-ups, some of the restrictions do still seem sort of arbitrary.” He said, then shrugged. “I’ll be the first to admit that it can be quite frustrating. But that’s society.”

Izuku nodded, and for a while, remained silent. A couple of women strolled by, chatting animatedly. He waited until their voices receded into the distance.

“Are you…” He started, then cleared his throat, speaking quietly. “Do you know about a thing called ‘insidious cryptospection’?”

For several seconds, All Might didn’t respond. Izuku was sure that if he were to glance at him, he’d find him staring back at him with his mouth agape, but he kept his gaze trained on the gravel beneath his feet.

“I… do.” All Might eventually answered, leaning in a bit further. “It’s a fairly typical, innate Demonic ability.”

Izuku nodded silently.

“Can it, uhm…” He swallowed. “Can it be used on Angels?”

“It can’t.” He replied.

Emboldened by the ease and immediacy of his answer, Izuku turned to look at him.

“What if—“

“Midoriya.” He interjected. Staring intently at him, All Might then raised his hand up. Izuku’s eyes followed the slow movement of his finger as he proceeded to point at his eyes, then his ears, before finally tapping his wrist twice.

Izuku could count the number of times he’d seen the gesture on one hand, but he knew what it meant.

Others watching. Others listening. Now is not the time.

Izuku’s mouth snapped shut, and he turned away, again, staring down at his shoes in silence. He swallowed, a cool, prickling sensation making the hair on the back of his neck stand up.

Eventually, All Might cleared his throat.

“Listen, there’s…” He hesitated. “There’s not a lot I can tell you, but what I can say is this: I don’t think you need to worry too much about him attacking you without warning.”

Izuku looked up again, meeting All Might’s eyes. He had a million questions racing through his head, but he didn’t dare voice them, instead letting the quizzical look on his face speak for itself.

“But — and I’m telling you this as your instructor, for your own safety. Because this demon has clearly taken an interest in you, which makes the probability of you seeing him again sufficiently high.” He prefaced. Something told Izuku the disclaimer wasn’t really meant for him. “If… If he ever shifts. You know, fully.” He continued, stumbling slightly. “By which I mean, if you ever see wings.” He paused. “Then you need to run away as fast as you can.”

Izuku stared at him for a while longer, turning the words over in his head. He eventually sighed, offering a soft smile.

“Thanks, All Might.” He said. “I’ll be sure to remember that.” He laughed a bit, trying to diffuse the tension. “Who knows, though? Maybe he’ll get bored, and I’ll never see him again.”

All Might smiled, but didn’t say anything.


Izuku shivered, stuffing his hands into his pockets and wrapping his wings around his body as he walked against the wind. He’d only been walking for around ten minutes, but his legs already felt heavy, and his toes were beginning to feel numb. Spotting the entrance to the library over the top of his wings, Izuku pushed forced his legs to move quicker. He ducked inside, and breathed a sigh of relief.

The entrance from the first circle led directly into the study space. Weaving between tables and desks, Izuku made a beeline for the fireplace and took a seat on the hearth, closing his eyes as the crackling fire breathed heat into his body. It had been around noon when he’d left the park, and he looked around the room idly, noting how sparsely populated it was. Then, he saw something that made his eyes light up.

Not wanting to shout in the library, Izuku quickly began walking toward where a familiar head of red and white hair was. He put his hand on his shoulder, only to jump and release a small ‘eep’ when half the books laid out on the table before him abruptly snapped shut.

“Ah! I’m so sorry!” He whisper-shouted, meeting mismatched eyes sheepishly. “I just wanted to say hi.” He muttered, rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly. “I hope I didn’t make you lose your place…”

Todoroki’s lips quirked up slightly, and he shook his head. “It’s no big deal. I was finished with most of those, anyway.”

Izuku smiled meekly. “That’s good, I suppose…” He said, sighing. “How’ve you been, though?” He asked, leaning against the desk. “It feels like forever since I last saw you. How’re you liking tier two?”

“It’s alright.” Todoroki replied. “It has been a while, though, hasn’t it?” He looked away, and muttered, "Wish they didn’t make us live in the third circle.”

Izuku laughed lightly, nodding in understanding. His eyes darted over to the books in front of Todoroki. “Uhm,” he began hesitantly. “What’re you reading about? If you don’t mind me asking, that is.”

“Mostly battle strategy,” he shrugged.

“Ah! Are they putting you in soon?”

“That’s what they say.” He answered. “Within the next week, if I pass the exam.”

“That’s so exciting!” Izuku gushed, a wide grin stretching across his face. “I hope I can join you soon!”

“Yeah,” Todoroki replied, his volume a bit lower. “It’d be nice to get to see all of you, again.”

“Well, I’ll be sure to work hard and ascend as soon as possible.”

Todoroki offered a tight, awkward smile, and averted his eyes.


There were never too many people inside the churches — a couple dozen, perhaps, at the most. Izuku often wondered where the others had gone, if anywhere. Though he liked to think that they were acting efficiently, the simple truth was that rate at which they were currently evacuating people just couldn’t account for the sheer the level of desertion Izuku consistently found as he worked. Surely there were more believers around than what his missions would have one think.

These were the thoughts that bounced around inside Izuku’s head late into the afternoon, as he wandered down stone-paved roads on the outskirts of a desolate city, gazing at the wreckage of a once-lively area. He’d already finished clearing out his last assigned location for the day, though it was nothing to brag about. After all, there were only five people inside.

Izuku sighed, raking a hand through his hair as he turned a corner. He kicked up rocks and dust and allowed his eyes to roam, only to freeze up when something caught his eye. Movement.

Up ahead, there stood a large, dilapidated building. He stayed still for a moment, staring at the half-boarded up windows before slowly beginning to approach it. Upon closer inspection, Izuku realized it was a small, girls’ boarding school.

He paused, glancing up at the sky. Based on the position of the sun, he figured it was probably around six o’clock. He had already evacuated all the churches he’d been assigned to. Surely there’d be no harm in investigating.

Right?

Projecting confidence, he strode up toward the front door, grabbing the heavy handle and entering. He took a deep breath as he opened his mouth and prepared to announce his presence, but, in the end—

“Someone’s breaking the rules.”

—all that came out was an embarrassing shriek.

Izuku bristled, quickly whirling around, meeting glowing red eyes.

“You!”

“Me.” The Demon said, lips curling up in amusement.

Izuku took a staggering step back and looked him up and down. His horns and tail were nowhere in sight. Had it not been for his eyes, he might have passed for human. All Might’s warning suddenly came back to him, echoing inside his mind.

If you see wings, run away.

“What’re you doing here?!”

“I could ask you the same question. Aren’t you supposed to be at a church somewhere?” Katsuki snorted, grinning as he leaned back against the door.

“I was just—“ he sputtered, somehow embarrassed. “I was just passing through—”

“Yeah?” Katsuki quirked an eyebrow, and something about his tone grated on Izuku’s nerves.

“Yeah.” He clenched his jaw. “I saw movement in here. I came to see if anyone needed help.”

“Aww,” he cooed, an amused smirk plastered across his face. “How altruistic of you.”

“Well, obviously.” Izuku narrowed his eyes. “What do you think an Angel’s job is if not to help people?”

Katsuki stilled, and for a few seconds, just stared at him. He maintained the same grin, though it was noticeably strained, as though he were barely holding back the urge to laugh. Eventually, Katsuki slowly lowered his chin, his brow raised.

“Do you…” His eyes narrowed, “Really want me to answer that?”

“Oh, by all—“ Izuku started, only to stop abruptly, biting his tongue as he thought better of it. He clenched his jaw, and after a moment, simply shook his head, forcing his curiosity out of his mind. “You still haven’t told me what you’re doing here.”

“Because I don’t have to.” He replied easily. “And honestly, it shouldn’t even be necessary, either. I’d hope that past experience would be enough for you to figure that shit out for yourself.” He gazed at Izuku, eyes half-lidded, his tone shifting to condescension. “C’mon, Deku, think about it. Try not to hurt yourself, but do your best, yeah? See if you can crack the code.”

Izuku felt the vein on the side of his head throb.

He took a deep breath.

“Whatever.” He muttered, rough and short. “Just stay out of my way and let me do my job, okay, Demon?”

“Your job?” He snorted. “Yeah, whatever you’re doing here, it sure as hell ain’t your goddamn job.” He rolled his eyes, then smirked. “Better be careful, Deku. You keep this shit up and daddy’s gonna clip your wings.”

“I’m not breaking any rules by being here.”

“You’re not following any instructions, either.” He fired back, holding his gaze. “Don’t kid yourself. We both know that’s just as bad.”

Izuku narrowed his eyes.

“So, what? Are you gonna tell on me, then?” He challenged, and for a moment, Katsuki seemed taken aback. After a few seconds of staring, he stood upright again.

“Nah.” He said, sighing. “Not a fuckin’ narc. ‘Sides,” he paused for a moment to look him up and down, glowing eyes roaming over his body in a way Izuku wasn’t quite sure how to interpret. “Things’re more interesting this way.”

For several seconds, Izuku just glared up at him, green eyes meeting red as he attempted to gather his thoughts.

“What do you even do here, anyway?” He blurted. “If you can’t actually transport more than a few people, what’s the point of you being here?”

“What do you think’s keeping this place from burning to the ground?”

Izuku froze, brow furrowing.

“What? Did you think it was a coincidence that the inferno hasn’t reached this part of town yet?” He snorted.

Now that he thought about it, it was rather strange. Other Angels had occasionally spoken of close calls during evacuations, when they had traveled a little too close to the combat zone. They always returned with singed clothing, and the sort of rattled demeanor one could only expect of a person who had just narrowly escaped the complete destruction of their soul. They said that Hellfire surged into the streets with all the vengeance of a flash flood, burning everything in its path indiscriminately. Izuku had always thought himself lucky to have made it this far without encountering it, but up until that moment, that's all he had assumed it was: luck.

"So you…”

“Redirect the flow of Hellfire until someone else can get here.” He supplied. “Y’know, you oughtta be thankin’ me, nerd. I’m makin’ your job way easier.”

He opened his mouth to speak, but closed it upon thinking better of it. Though he hated to acknowledge it, he couldn’t help but feel intrigued by the demon. Izuku found himself thinking back to his conversation with All Might, again.

You should work with him, he’d said.

Izuku bit his tongue, mind racing. There were a million things he wanted to ask Katsuki, but if there were ever a time for them, it certainly wasn’t this one.

Izuku sighed.

“Look, just… where are the girls?” He asked. “Can you tell me that?”

“Oh, they’re all in the mess hall.” He said, gesturing toward a large set of double doors at the far end of the hall. “Would probably be in the dorms right now, but of course you clumsy assholes blew that shit up.”

He faltered for a moment, unsure how to respond. Eventually he just looked away and mumbled, “It’s a war,” before turning to walk swiftly down the hall. Katsuki followed.

“Against kids?”

“Things happen.”

The Demon snorted, but didn’t otherwise respond, trailing a few steps behind him as they approached the doors. Izuku pushed them open and entered upon a large group of girls, most sitting around the tables with books, and a few on the floor in sleeping bags. They immediately looked up.

“This is Deku—”

“—Dekiriel.” Izuku interjected, much louder than he intended. He flushed in embarrassment, quickly fixing his posture before offering a nervous smile. He cleared his throat. “Sorry about that.” He said.

Izuku did his best to ignore Katsuki as he went through his usual spiel, before proceeding to approach each girl individually.

Distantly, he knew it was quite possible that some of the girls might not be true believers. Children were wildcards when it came to faith. On the one hand, with them being so young, many of them weren’t at the point where they’d begun to have doubts, yet. On the other hand, considering most of them came from religious families, there was always the possibility that they were merely going along with their parents’ wishes, and never truly believed to begin with.

It was a rough situation, but not incredibly uncommon, so they received training on how to handle it gracefully. Still, no amount of instruction could truly prepare one to confront it in real life.

The girl was perhaps eleven years old, with long, red hair and freckles. Izuku could already tell by the look on her face that something was wrong. Her voice quivered as she looked into his eyes, tears already welling up. “I-I’m a child of God,” she told him.

And it hit him like a heavy boulder dropping deep in the pit of his stomach.

Because she wasn’t.

Izuku stared at her a moment longer, then offered a smile he hoped would be comforting, though his voice still shook when he spoke. “S-Sit tight. Everything’s going to be okay.” He told her, and moved on to the next person.

Izuku did his best to appear calm. Schooling his features, he carried out his duties with the rest of the girls. Every once in a while, he’d glance over at the red-headed girl, only to find her in the exact same position again and again: knees pulled up against her chest, head ducked down between them.

Frozen and desolate.

After a few minutes, he reached another girl with red hair, though this one couldn’t have been more than seven years old.

“I’m a child of God,” she said, with a slight lisp.

And she was.

So, Izuku reached his hands out toward her, only to halt at the sound of a sudden, desperate cry from across the room.

“Wait!” The other girl shouted, scrambling to stand and run toward them. She practically tackled the younger girl, wrapping her arms around her protectively. “P-Please.” She whimpered. “She’s my little sister. Please don’t take her away!”

Izuku gaped, tense and pale and at a loss as to what to do; his training never covered this. He hesitantly tried to reach out toward them, but the girls recoiled, heels squeaking against the floor as they frantically scooted back into the wall. The younger of the two began to cry into her sister’s shirt, while the older had tears in her eyes, only barely holding it together.

“Please don’t separate us. Please! She’s—She’s all I have!”

Izuku stared at them, lowering his hand and taking a step back.

“I—“ He swallowed “I-I’m not—“

“I can take them.” Katsuki suddenly interjected. Izuku’s head whipped around, and he jumped slightly at the sight of him a mere two feet away.

“You… You’ll what?”

“I can take them both with me.” He shrugged. “If it’s just them, it’s no big deal.”

Izuku stared at him in shock for a while, something hot bubbling up inside him until it burst.

And suddenly, he was furious.

Keeping his barrier up, Izuku grabbed his wrist in a harsh grip and stormed out of the room, offering only a clipped “be right back” for the girls as he dragged him out with him. Once out, Katsuki snatched his hand away, right as Izuku was slamming the door shut behind him.

“Jesus Christ, Deku! The hell’s your—“

Izuku spun around sharply.

“I’m not letting you take those girls to Hell.” He snarled.

Katsuki stopped rubbing his wrist, looking up at Izuku with narrowed eyes.

“And why the fuck not?”

“That should be obvious.”

Katsuki stared at him for a moment, blinking slowly before it finally seemed to dawn on him. “Oh for fuckssake— how fucking brainwashed are you?!” He shouted, throwing his hands up dramatically.

“No way.”

“What the fuck do you think Hell is, Deku?” He asked incredulously. “Do you think we just throw people on the fire and use their flesh for fuel?”

“Not happening.” He hissed.

“You’re not even listening to me!”

“I don’t care, you’re not taking them! I won’t let you!”

“And how exactly do you intend to stop me?” Katsuki shot back, taking quick strides toward him, until they were mere inches apart, and he could glare down at him menacingly. “Huh? What the fuck are you gonna do? I could snap your fucking wings in two right now, if I felt like it. You have zero say over what I can and can’t do, Deku.”

Izuku winced, leaning away slightly. He clenched his fists at his sides and gritted his teeth.

“So do it, then.” He challenged. “I don’t care. You’re still not taking them.”

Katsuki stared down at him in disbelief. Then, he released a loud groan of frustration, and raked his hands through his hair. As Izuku watched him, he noted that he appeared to be shifting a bit, seemingly involuntarily, because when he pulled his hands out of his hair, the tips of his fingers had morphed into sharp, black claws, and his horns were beginning to peak through his blond hair.

“Swear to fuckin’ God, it’s like you assholes thrive on cognitive dissonance. What’s it gonna take, huh?” He demanded. “What the fuck’s it gonna take to get it through your shitty head that I’m not secretly planning to fucking torture those girls, Deku?”

“You know, if you insist on not referring to me by my Holy name, the least you could do is call me by my actual name!” Izuku hissed.

“Oh?” Katsuki’s eyebrows nearly reached his hairline as he barked a short, sardonic laugh. “Okay, no problem. What’s your name, then, huh? Gonna tell me?”

“Izuku Midoriya.” He snapped.

Katsuki stared at him for a moment, eyes wide, mouth gaping in what looked to be nothing short of pure, genuine shock. Then, he sighed, dropping his head down into his hands.

“You just— Oh my god.” He groaned, then laughed with some mixture of derision and disbelief. “Y’know, I expected them to be withholding some information in order to keep you fuckers in line, but this? This is just fuckin’ negligence. This is gonna get someone killed.”

Izuku stared at him, his glare faltering. “Wh—“

“You’re not supposed to tell me your fucking name, genius!” Katsuki interjected, head snapping up again. “Why d’you think they make you choose Holy names, in the first place? For fucking fun?!”

Izuku’s mouth fell open, the color draining out of his face.

Oh.

He really screwed up, didn’t he?

“Christ!” Katsuki exasperated. “You’re real lucky I’m not out tryin’ to fuckin’ kill you, ‘cuz if I was, you’d be dead the second that shit came outta your mouth.”

Izuku swallowed, steeling himself before offering what little leverage he had at this point. “I wouldn’t go down without a fight.”

“There wouldn’t be a fight.” Katsuki deadpanned, marching right up to him,  Izuku matching his steps until he was backed up against the wall. He activated his shield as the demon reached out, poking him in the chest, the tip of his claw pressing against him threateningly. “That pathetic little shield of yours? Your fuckin’ spiritual condom? That doesn’t mean shit. ” He spat. “I’d slice through your sternum and squeeze the life outta your heart before you even knew what the fuck was happening.”

Izuku took a shuddering breath, the full reality of his mistake settling in like a cold weight deep inside him. He clenched his jaw and forced himself to meet the demon’s gaze.

“So, why haven’t you, then?”

Katsuki smiled — a mocking, borderline cruel smile. His claws receded as he took a step back, sliding his hands into his pockets. He shrugged. “Guess I just don’t feel like it,” he replied cryptically. Izuku looked him up and down warily, and squeezed his fists at his sides. He remained silent for a moment, reaching up to rub his temples as he took a few deep breaths.

“What happens to the girls,” He began, slow and steady, “If I let you take them.”

He looked up, activating his Persentiscence as he met the demon’s gaze. Katsuki leaned back against the wall across from him and sighed.

“Can’t say for sure,” he replied. “But they’ll be fine. If Hell was as terrible as you assholes wished it was, we wouldn’t live there. I mean, weather's kinda shit, but they’ll have everything they need to live a happy existence.”

Izuku released a breath he didn’t realize he was holding.

Katsuki was telling the truth.

After a moment, he nodded. The movement made him feel nauseous.

“Okay.” He said. “Okay, alright…”

Katsuki stared at him a few seconds longer, his eyes calculating.

“You serious?”

“Yes.” Izuku answered, chewing his lip. He averted his gaze for a moment, before returning. The corridor was dim, the Demon’s body slightly backlit as the sunset filtered through the window behind him. Izuku looked up into those glowing, red eyes of his and kept his tone even. “Please don’t make me regret it,” he said.

Katsuki offered only a tilt of his head and a slow-spreading grin, and started toward the door, again.


Izuku stood on the rooftop, his nails digging into his palms as he watched Katsuki take the girls away. The younger of the two sat propped up on his bicep, the older holding his hand and walking alongside him as he made his way down the cobblestone path. He took a left turn where the main road ended and started uphill, moving at a leisurely pace, on a dirt road that stretched out to the horizon.

If anyone asked him about it, he’d say he did it in the practice of extreme caution. That the girls’ safety was his motivation for quietly moving from the roof and trailing after them beneath the violet light of sunset.

At first, he’d been content to just observe from a distance, but when Katsuki took a turn into what appeared to be a forest, Izuku found himself moving before he consciously realized it, hastily flapping his wings as he took flight, gliding over the road to where he thought he’d seen them turn, and landing as silently as possible.

There, at the side of the road, there was a path paved with gravel and surrounded by trees, and if he held his breath, he could still hear the sound of leaves crunching in the distance. Izuku cautiously started down the path, instinctively hunching over as he walked.

After around ten minutes or so, the trees began to thin out. Up ahead Izuku could see a tall, black fence, with an iron gate left wide open, and the road more or less faded away into the depths of what, upon getting closer, Izuku realized was an apple orchard. He blinked in confusion as he passed through the gate, looking back and forth and pausing to listen for any footsteps, but there was no discernible movement, and the orchard was completely silent.

Sighing, Izuku wandered between the trees, noting with no small amount of confusion that they appeared to be flourishing, in spite of the mayhem outside. The leaves were green, and from the branches hung blood-red apples. It was as though this orchard, for whatever reason, had been suspended in its own little universe — one where the war simply didn’t exist.

As the sky began to darken, the shade of the trees pushed the space surrounding him into a deeper night. Izuku wasn’t sure when he’d given up searching for Katsuki, just that at some point he’d turned his attention toward one of the trees and stopped thinking. He inched closer and reached up, fingers brushing against one shiny, red apple, gently, as though it were some illusion he could expect to vanish at any second. But the fruit was as real as Izuku was. It sat there in the palm of his hand, as big as one of his fists, and as heavy as he would’ve expected.

After a while, Izuku sighed and stepped away. His idle curiosities still buzzed inside his mind, but the sky above had gone dark, and he knew he needed to be getting back. Izuku walked back the same way he’d entered, and, with one last glance over his shoulder, took flight.


That night, Izuku laid awake in bed for what might’ve been a few hours, or a few minutes. He stared up at the ceiling as his mind darted from place to place, never quite settling into any particular thought. He wondered what would happen to the girls, if he’d made the right choice. He wondered what Katsuki’s motives were, if they truly did align with his own. He wondered if All Might was right.

For whatever reason, the orchard became a permanent fixture in his mind. He wondered what it meant, what Katsuki was doing there. Whether he was just passing through, or if…

A splash of cold air washed over him.

…if there was actually a path to Hell within the orchard itself.

He wondered why the trees looked so well-cared for. If the apples tasted as good as they looked, and it was then that he realized, somewhat strangely, that he couldn’t actually remember what apples tasted like.

He racked his brain, rolling flavorless saliva over his tongue as he tried to remember, but couldn’t. Though he knew it should come as no surprise, it was… frustrating, nonetheless.

Because Izuku loved being an Angel.

They were a rare breed; fewer than one out of every five-million believers were offered the chance to become one. It was a massive honor just to be selected, and despite the things he’d left behind, he couldn’t imagine wanting to spend eternity any other way.

But for the first time in his afterlife, Izuku found himself longing for the memories he’d forfeited. It was stupid, and it made no difference in terms of how he lived, now, but the desire remained, saturating his late night thoughts until there was nothing left.

He wished he could remember what apples tasted like, or if he had liked the flavor, or if he would still like it, now. The thought circulated inside his head, polluting his thoughts to a degree as perverse as it was pointless. He knew, in his heart, that he wouldn’t change his life for anything in the world. But he just couldn’t help it.

He wished he could remember the person he was, back when he was still human.

Chapter Text

“I’m sorry, All Might, I didn't—“

“No.” He shook his head. “No, I’m the one who should apologize. As your mentor, it’s my duty to teach you what you need to know in order to be safe. I didn’t provide you with adequate information, and that’s a failure on my part, not yours.” All Might sighed, leaning back in his arm chair.

It was around seven or so in the evening, and Izuku was wringing his wrists, staring down at the hardwood floor of All Might’s study.

“Honestly, I just didn’t expect you to run into him again so soon.” All Might mumbled sheepishly.

“It was a surprise to me, too…” He trailed off.

“Well,” All Might continued. “I suppose all I can really say is… we’re lucky nothing bad happened.”

Izuku nodded mutely, eyes still locked on his feet.

Time passed by, and for a while, neither of them spoke.

All Might was the first to break the silence. “Whelp,” He clapped his hands together. “I think it’s time for a little ‘Demons 101.’ Wouldn’t you agree?”

Izuku’s head snapped up.

“Wait, seriously?” He squeaked, waving his hands around meaninglessly. “I-I mean, are you sure? C-Couldn’t you get in, uhm, some pretty major trouble for that?”

“You’re correct, but…”All Might smiled softly, and looked away. “I’ve already put you in unnecessary danger by withholding information.” He met his eyes again. “If risking a strongly-worded letter from the Council is what I need to do to protect you, then I’m more than happy to take that risk.”

Izuku stared back at him for a few seconds, his brows pinched together in worry. Eventually, he relented.

“If you’re sure…” He said, then smiled. “Thank you, All Might.”

After a moment of silence, All Might stood, and Izuku watched as he made his way to the far end of the room, opening the closet door. From there, he grabbed and wheeled out a large chalkboard, wincing at the way the wheels creaked. “Sorry about that.” He said. Izuku shook his head.

Once he had the board where he wanted it, All Might sighed. “Alright,” he said, picking up a piece of chalk, before pausing again to think. “I suppose the first thing you should know is this: Demons come in different types, but regardless of variety, there are four innate abilities that all of them share.” All Might made a numbered list on the board, and continued to write as he spoke. “The first,” he said, “Is their corruptive touch, as I’m sure you’re aware; it’s why we need a barrier in place.” He paused for a moment, then went on. “Second is insidious cryptospection. Third: the ability to feed off of sinful emotions. Finally, fourth: a mildly hypnotic gaze, at least for lower level Demons.” He turned and looked at Izuku. “Any questions?”

“…Am I allowed to write this down?”

“Oh! Yes, of course!” All Might replied, laughing slightly. “Go right ahead. I know it’s a lot to take in.”

Izuku quickly reached into his bag, grabbing a notebook and pen.

“Anything else?”

Izuku shook his head, leaning forward eagerly. All Might smiled.

“Then let’s address the elephant in the room, eh?” He went on, setting the chalk down as he began pacing back and forth, his hands clasped behind his back. “The reason you’re not supposed to tell Demons your real name is because it opens up a number of offensive capabilities that wouldn’t otherwise be available to them.” He explained. “What you need to understand is that your real name is your human name. If a Demon learns an Angel’s true name, the theory is that there are certain ways in which that Angel is rendered no different than humans, at least as far as their magic is concerned.”

Izuku blinked. “What do you mean by ‘theory’?”

“Well,” he sighed. “Truthfully, there’s a lot we still don’t know about it, because honestly, it just doesn’t come up very much.” He shrugged. “What we know is that, if you give a Demon your name, the efficacy of your barrier is more or less at their mercy. There’s some evidence that it also makes you more susceptible to hypnosis, but the main issue concerns your barrier. If the Demon chooses to do so, they can break through it.”

Izuku felt his blood run cold, Katsuki’s snide, vulgar words suddenly ringing in his ears.

That pathetic little shield of yours? Your fuckin’ spiritual condom? That doesn’t mean shit, he’d said. I’d slice through your sternum and squeeze the life outta your heart before you even knew what the fuck was happening.

He released a shuddering breath.

All Might offered an empathetic smile. “I take it you understand, then—the gravity of the situation.”

Izuku nodded mutely, his body feeling numb, hands cold and clammy.

All Might approached the blackboard again.

“Those are the basics.” He said. “The next thing you ought to know is that, as I alluded to earlier, there are different types of Demons. Generally speaking, Demons will fall into one of seven different categories, where each category is named after one of the seven deadly sins. When I was still on active duty, we had long, arduous training sessions on this, because knowing how to figure out what type of Demon you’re dealing with is a seriously important skill. It gives you a framework for what sort of tactics you can expect from them.” He explained, picking up the chalk again. “Types aren’t set in stone, exactly. They’re interconnected. You can imagine it a bit like a seven-point clock.”

All Might drew a circle on the board, placing a notch at the top, and moving clockwise to place six more notches at equidistant points on the circle. Izuku did his best to replicate it in his notes.

“It doesn’t actually matter where we start, so… let’s say the first type is envy.” He labeled the first notch. “These are Demons whose abilities are primarily based around mimicry, which extends to stealth-related things.”

On the second notch, he wrote pride.

“Pride Demons are the most well-rounded Demons, which makes them highly unpredictable, and difficult to classify. They tend to fight in teams.”

At the third notch, he wrote greed.

“Greed Demons are the second most powerful in terms of raw strength.” He said. “Their fighting style primarily relies on exploiting their environment.”

Next, he wrote sloth.

“In contrast, sloth Demons are generally the weakest, at least from a brute force standpoint. I’ve never actually seen one fighting close-range on the frontlines. Most of their abilities are better suited for sit-and-wait traps, so they’ll usually be involved in ambushes, if anything.”

The fifth notch was gluttony.

“Gluttony Demons aren’t particularly strong physically, either, but they make up for it through speed and endurance. They’re often sent in as a first line of attack, with the hope of wearing you down before a stronger Demon deals the final blow.”

Sixth was lust.

“Like sloth Demons, lust Demons are a bit less common on the frontlines, though the more powerful ones can be extremely strong. They’re capable of hypnosis far beyond that of any other type. Finally…”

At the seventh tick mark, All Might wrote wrath, thus completing the circle.

DemonClasses

“…There are wrath Demons—by far the strongest among the Demons, as far as sheer physical power is concerned.” He said, setting down the chalk before turning toward Izuku again. “Based on what you’ve told me so far, I would say you’re probably dealing with a Wrath Demon.”

“Really?”

All Might nodded. “Repelling Hellfire is a relatively advanced ability native to Wrath Demons. It also means he can likely manipulate or manifest it to some degree, as well.”

Izuku felt a bead of sweat roll down his neck.

“So what you’re saying is…” He gulped. “If he were to attack me, I… pretty much wouldn’t stand a chance.”

“Well, yes, but—to be fair—as things stand, you probably wouldn’t stand a chance against any Demon, regardless of type.”

Izuku clenched his jaw. “I-I see…”

All Might sighed, moving to sit down once again.

“Honestly, I don’t feel you’re in too much danger.”

“Why’s that?”

“See, Wrath Demons… well, yes, they’re powerful. In terms of raw strength, they’re unmatched. I know that probably doesn’t sound very reassuring, but what I’m trying to say here is that if he wanted to kill you… I think he would’ve done it already. Though that’s not to say there’s nothing else worrisome he could do.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well,” he rubbed the back of his neck. “This is where the adjacency circle comes into play. Wrath demons are positioned between Envy and Lust, you see. That means they can learn abilities from those classes, too. I’m not sure if there’s a limit on it, but in any case, it sounds like Katsuki already has some cross-typical abilities.”

“Like…?”

“The night you said he snuck up behind you and then disappeared?” All Might said. “That, to me, sounds like an Envy trait. Moving in complete silence is a pretty basic ability for Envy Demons. It’s the same with traveling through shadows, though I think that’s considered to be more intermediate.”

“I see, but… what’s worrisome about this?”

“Well, the thing is, even if he’s not planning to kill you, there are still bad things that could happen. If he’s learned any Lust abilities… that could be problematic.”

Izuku felt his face heat up. “H-How so?”

“Lust Demons… Well, they’re a special kind of dangerous.” He said. “Because most of the time, they’re not out to kill you.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well… maybe an anecdote would explain things better.” He said.

All Might paused, taking a deep breath before speaking.

“Once, when I was younger, a couple of people from my squadron were involved in a fight against a very powerful Lust Demon.” He began. “They managed to win, but when they came back,” He hesitated for a moment, “things weren’t the same. It was like they weren’t all there, mentally; they didn’t talk much, just… stared into the distance.”

Izuku’s brows pinched together.

“There were five of them, all level seven, but against a Demon of that caliber, it was a close call.” He looked down, and rubbed the back of his neck. “At the time, we all just assumed they were a bit traumatized by the experience—understandably so, but, four days later…” A beat of silence. “They Fell—every single one of them.” Izuku paled. “Mass Falls are extremely uncommon, especially in the third tier, so this was quite devastating. Things were never quite the same, after that.”

For several seconds, it was quiet.

“Lust Demons… All Might eventually went on, sighing. “They specialize in a particularly insidious kind of psychological warfare. They can plant ideas in your head, little seeds of doubt—things so small you might not even be aware of it happening. But even when they’re gone, even after they’re dead, those seeds still remain. And they can sprout and grow into something you can’t fight against.” He explained. “We call it weaponized self-corruption.”

Izuku didn’t speak — couldn’t speak. He just stared straight ahead, rattled and numb.

“Honestly, when you first told me about this… Katsuki fellow, I pegged him as a mid-range Envy Demon.” He said, chuckling slightly. “Of course, all Demons can be dangerous, but Envy demons, even ones who’ve learned attributes from their adjacent classes, wrath and pride, are relatively harmless psychologically. I might not’ve been… quite so emphatic about this had I known he was a Wrath Demon earlier.” After a second, he hastily waved his hands. “But let me be clear! I’m not saying this to deter you from working with him. I just want you to be prepared.” All Might said. “And frankly, the story I told you was an extreme case. As a wrath Demon, it’s very unlikely that he’d be capable of anything more than a couple of mid-range lust abilities. Again, I just want you to be prepared.”

Izuku nodded, though he was still tense. It was silent. The ticking of the clock above All Might’s desk, which he had until then tuned out, came into focus, again, and for a few minutes, that was all Izuku could hear.

After a while, All Might cleared his throat.

“If it would help you feel safer, we could do some… private training.”

Izuku did a double take.

“What?”

“Probably not anything too in-depth,” he preemptively clarified, “But… I don’t want you feeling defenseless.”

“Are you sure?”

“I mean, I’ve already broken the rules,” All Might said, laughing. “What’s a few more? So long as you don’t mention it to anyone, it should be alright. What do you say?”

“That would be incredible,” Izuku replied, nodding effusively. “Thank you so much!”

All Might grinned. “Well, then it’s settled,” He said, “We can start tonight. No time like the present.” He stood up and held his hand out. Izuku took it, beaming, practically vibrating in excitement.

“Oh, one last thing—“ All Might said. “When you get to the second tier and start learning this stuff officially, do your best to act surprised, and pretend to be bad at the techniques for at least a few weeks!”

Izuku laughed, “Alright, I’ll be sure to do that, All Might.”

After a moment, Izuku sighed, raking a hand through his hair.

“Is something wrong?” All Might asked.

“Oh, no,” He stumbled, “I mean, I don’t know, just…” he hesitated, chewing his lip. “All of this sounds good in theory, but… what if he doesn’t want to work with me?” He asked. “Like, it’s one thing to talk about all of this. It’s another thing to actually convince him. What incentive would he even have to agree to this?”

All Might was quiet for a moment, then chuckled. Izuku looked up at him, confused.

“Oh, Midoriya,” he said, shaking his head. “If anything, he has even greater incentive to work with you than you do with him. The greatest incentive of all.”

Izuku’s brow furrowed.

“Which is…?”

All Might grinned. “You.”

Izuku flushed.

“Don’t forget, this is a test of strength on your part.” He went on. “Katsuki has every reason to want to work with you; you’re offering him a rare opportunity: the chance to corrupt an Angel.”


Izuku left the next morning with jitters running through his limbs and nerves prickling the back of his neck as he took flight. The wind whipped through his hair as he soared across the sky, drawing closer to the source of the chaos. All Might had ensured that he wouldn’t have nearly as much work to do, that day. After all, he had a higher calling.

Today, he was going to convince Katsuki to work with him.

…He just needed to find him first.

Up above, the combat zone looked like Hell on Earth. Vast, billowing smoke stacks stretched out to the sky, dwarfing the buildings surrounding them as Hellfire filled the streets, surging like white water rapids. The sight alone made Izuku uneasy.

He scanned the area for any disruption of the flow, places where the Hellfire appeared to be unnaturally disrupted, but after half an hour of searching, he still couldn’t spot any signs of him. Izuku landed on the roof of an old shop and sighed. It was hopeless. Who knew if Katsuki was still in the city? For all he knew, he might not be in the country. He might not even be on Earth.

That thought gave him pause. Wait.

The orchard.

It was a bit of a longshot, but it was better than nothing.

His heartbeat picking up, Izuku set off once more, gliding across the morning sky until he came upon a familiar Victorian-style schoolhouse. From there, he retraced the path up the dirt road, wind whipping his hair, and landed at the turning point. Izuku entered the forest, making quick strides down the gravel path. He continued on in his single-minded pursuit, following the trail deeper and deeper into the forest, but after about fifteen minutes, the forest was still as dense as ever. He stubbornly continued for another ten minutes, but slowed to a stop as he approached a point where the path split in two different directions.

I don’t remember there being a fork in the road… he thought.

Confused, Izuku peered down the paths, squinting.“Where’d it go…?” He mumbled to himself.

“You’re not gonna find it.”

Izuku released a rather unbecoming shriek. He spun around, head turning this way and that.

“Up here, nerd.” That rough voice called, and finally, Izuku looked up and saw him. Katsuki was sitting on a thick branch, his muddy combat boots dangling about ten feet over his head. He was holding something in his right hand, roughly the size of a grapefruit. Izuku wasn’t sure what it was, but the outside was black, and when the Demon brought it to his lips, he maintained eye contact as he sunk his teeth into it. He lowered his hand as he chewed, and Izuku noticed his lips were covered in a strange, almost blood-like substance. Katsuki wiped his mouth on the back of his hand.

“It’s not here anymore.” He continued. “Not right now, anyway.”

“How do you keep finding me?” Izuku blurted out.

“I don’t have to answer that.” Katsuki replied, sounding bored. “But what I will tell you is that you make yourself very easy to find.” He paused, taking another bite of his… whatever it was. Izuku watched the bob of his Adam’s apple as he swallowed. “It’s pretty fucking stupid, actually. You should cut it out.” He said, then amended, “Which is not to say I think you’d actually know how, but y’know.”

Izuku’s eyes followed his movements as Katsuki finished the last of his snack, oddly entranced by the sight. The clawed tips of his fingers were left coated in that same bizarre, carmine juice. Katsuki maintained eye contact as he shoved each of them into his mouth, sucking the liquid from his fingers, one by one. He then hopped down from the branch, landing gracefully, like a cat.

“So?” Katsuki prompted, strolling toward him. “Y’gonna tell me what you want, or what?”

“I…” Izuku trailed off, his face feeling warm for some incomprehensible reason. It took a moment for his brain to come back online. “I’ve been looking for you.”

“That much is obvious.” Katsuki shot back, taking another step toward him. “The question is why.”

“W-Well,” Izuku swallowed his nerves. “I was, uhm… actually going to ask if you would be interested in… working together?”

Katsuki stared at him for a moment, then snorted.

“What?” He laughed. “You’re fucking joking, right?”

“I’m not!”

Katsuki evidently didn’t believe him, if the increasing mirth of his laughter was any indication.

“I’m serious!” Izuku whined, his brow furrowed. “I really mean it! I want to work with you! Why would I spend all this time looking for you if I was joking?”

Katsuki chuckled a bit more, but it began to patter out the longer Izuku kept that insistent, imploring look on his face. Slowly, the amused grin began to fade away, and in its place arose a distinctly guarded demeanor. Katsuki’s relaxed aura gradually froze over, and he regarded Izuku with a cold, calculating expression.

“Why.” He spat.

“I think we could accomplish a lot to—“

“—Lying’s a sin, Deku.” Katsuki interjected, his tone patronizingly sweet, contrasting the cool look on his face.

“I’m not—“

“—You are.” Katsuki clipped, his expression morphing into a disgusted sneer. “And frankly, I see no reason for me to trust you if you don’t even have the decency to be transparent about it.” With that, Katsuki brushed past him, his shoulder bumping hard against Izuku’s as he strode away. It took a second for Izuku’s brain to recover from the initial shock, but as soon as it did, he was whirling around, heart rate picking up as he followed.

“Wait, I’m sorry!” He called out. “I’ll tell you the truth!”

Katsuki briskly turned around, walking backwards as he stared at Izuku, an expectant look on his face.

“I—“ Izuku fumbled. “My mentor suggested it.” He eventually said. “He said—He said it would look good to the Council, y’know… when they review me for ascension.”

Katsuki slowed to a stop, and stared at him for a moment before snorting, with some mixture of amusement and derision.

“Oh, so I’m your extracurricular, huh?” He scoffed. “You think I’m your path to a promotion.”

“I mean…” Izuku looked away sheepishly. “Maybe…?”

“And why the fuck would I help you?” Katsuki spat, his expression something along the line of disgust. “What’s in it for me, huh? What exactly do I stand to gain from helping you move up the hierarchy, Deku?”

Izuku sputtered, nearly tripping over his feet.

Katsuki huffed a dry, humorless laugh, and shoved his hands into his pockets. “Goodbye, Deku.” He spat, turning on his heel, with the clear intent of making a swift escape.

Izuku heard his heartbeat pounding in his ears, and in his state of panic, moved without thinking.

“Wait!” Izuku shouted. He leapt forward, closing the distance just enough for him to reach out and grab Katsuki’s hand. He felt the Demon’s skin against his, the subtle, pleasant difference in the transfer of heat, and immediately knew he’d screwed up. He hastily put his shield up, but there was no reversing the damage he had likely already sustained. Izuku yanked his hand away, squeezing his own wrist, and the look in Katsuki’s eyes told him he knew what had happened, too—that he could somehow feel him slipping up.

Izuku quickly looked away, his face feeling unbearably warm.

“You—I mean… you said it yourself. That night.” He mumbled. “You said to me, ‘let me know if you every feel like taking a dive.’” He chanced a glance at Katsuki’s face, and watched his expression grow even more incredulous as the words left his mouth. “A-And, well, I don’t, of course, but… you could try to convince me?” He said, then quickly added, “Of course I don’t think—well, I know it won’t work. But you can still at least try, uh, to…” He trailed off, clenching his fists at his sides.

“Make you Fall.” Katsuki finished for him, his voice deep, resonant, with some combination of disbelief and reverence. Izuku stared down at the forest floor, and nodded.

He heard the shuffle of gravel and leaves as Katsuki moved toward him again.

“You’re telling me…” He began, circling him slowly. “That you want me to try and tempt you?”

Izuku swallowed.

“I mean, it wouldn’t say much about my ability to resist it if you didn’t…”

Katsuki scoffed, laughing deep under his breath as he came to stand before him again. Izuku looked up hesitantly and found himself pinned beneath a glowing gaze. Katsuki smirked.

“You’re so fucking weird.” He said, his tone almost affectionate. “Who the hell is your mentor?”

Izuku hesitated, taken a bit off guard by the question. “Uhm,” he started, “I’m not sure if you’d know him.”

“Try me.”

Izuku blinked. “All Might.” He said, watching Katsuki’s face carefully. The Demon’s eyebrows seemed to raise a bit, but apart from that, his expression betrayed little more than a vague sense of recognition that Izuku could’ve just as easily imagined.

After a moment, Katsuki turned his back on him again.

“Fine.” He said, beginning to walk away, albeit at a more leisurely pace.

“Really?” Izuku gasped, trailing a few steps behind.

Katsuki grunted in response, then suddenly whirled around again, fixing Izuku with a stern gaze.

“But let’s get one thing straight.” He said. “You,” he poked Izuku in the sternum with his forefinger, “don’t know what the fuck you’re doing.” The statement came out so direct and harsh that Izuku almost didn’t know how to react. He opened his mouth to retort, but Katsuki beat him to it.

“You don’t.” He aggressively declared. “So if I fucking tell you to do something, even if you don’t exactly understand it, even if it makes absolutely no fucking sense to you, if I say it’s important, you do it, and ask questions later. You got that?” He said, staring Izuku down, glowing, red eyes boring into his soul. Izuku swallowed nervously, and—in the spirit of picking one’s battles—opted to simply nod in agreement, without complaint.

Katsuki seemed to relax slightly, and after a beat of silence, turned around again, prompting Izuku to follow him.

“We’re taking care of my shit first.” He muttered. “I’ll talk to the others later and work something out, but at least for today, I think it’s only fair that my shit takes precedence.”

“Of course,” Izuku agreed. “I appreciate you, ah, humoring me.”

Katsuki just sighed, before proceeding to reach under his jacket and apparently grab his upper arm. “Oi, baldy. It’s me.” He grunted. “You’re not gonna fuckin’ believe this shit, but…”


They arrived some fifteen minutes later at what was evidently Katsuki’s assigned spot: a large community center with boarded up windows. As they cleared the front entrance, they approached a set of double doors with a sign that said gymnasium, and Izuku could already hear the rumble of chatter within. Just before they entered, Katsuki stopped and turned to him, one eyebrow raised.

“Since this was your idea, I’m assuming you’ve got some sorta plan for how you think this should work.” He stated. “Spill it. I’ll let you know if I think it’s shit.”

“Well…” Izuku hesitated at first. “I was thinking that maybe we could start by telling everyone to find their families, so no one gets split up.” He explained. “Then, I could start checking people, and maybe we could have some kind of signal. Like, if you see someone you think is a bad person, you could just give me the signal so I’ll know not to send them up.”

“So you’re makin’ me take all the assholes, huh?” Katsuki snorted. “I see how it is.”

“I-I didn’t—“

“—I’m just fucking with you, Deku. It’s fine.” He cut in, exasperated. “I mean, fuck knows your shit hole ‘paradise’ doesn’t have the systems or infrastructure to handle the baddies.”

Izuku stared at him for a moment, blinking slowly in disbelief. “Did you just call Heaven a ‘shit hole’?”

“Yep.” He replied, matter-of-factly. “And if God didn’t want me to call it a shit hole, he should’ve tried making it less of a shit hole.”

Izuku continued staring at him for a while longer, but eventually, he just sighed.

Pick your battles. Pick your battles. He told himself. So, he gritted his teeth, mumbled a ‘whatever’, and forced himself to let it go.

“So is that it?” Katsuki then asked.

“Well, no.” Izuku said. “Not quite. I mean, I don’t know how long it’ll take for your ‘support’ to get here, but depending on how long we’ll need to wait, I could run out to some of my churches and bring them over here. It might be easier to process people that way.”

Katsuki hummed. “Usually doesn’t take that long.”He said, shrugging. “Longest I’ve ever had to wait is an hour, but generally it’s around thirty minutes or so.”

Izuku nodded. “I guess that’s not too bad.”

Katsuki grunted an acknowledgement, and meandered toward the entrance to the gymnasium. He threw a glance over his shoulder. “Oh!” He said, as though he’d only just remembered something. “There’s just one issue with your plan, Deku.”

Izuku’s brow furrowed. “…What’s that?”

Katsuki turned toward him, his back pressing against the crash bar, opening the door a sliver, just enough to let the noise out. Katsuki grinned, putting sharp, white teeth on display.

“It only works if you assume that my definition of a ‘bad person’ is the same as yours.”

Izuku stared at him for a few seconds, processing. When the implication finally hit him, he felt a spike of cold air rush over him. “Wait, what do you—?!”

“—Let’s do this.” Katsuki declared.

He opened the door.


If Izuku were to guess, he’d estimate there had been around two hundred people inside the community center to start with, though by the time they’d gotten through everyone, that number had fallen to around a hundred and twenty or so. It was around ten-thirty when Katsuki suddenly seemed to tense, his posture straightening as he reached under his jacket and grabbed his arm, much like he had done earlier.

“Yeah?” He grunted, then fell silent for a moment. “Alright.”

Izuku gave him a quizzical look.

Katsuki raked a hand through his hair. “Big guy’s here,” he said, then sighed. “Brace yourself.”

Izuku didn’t even have time to comprehend those words before the gymnasium doors suddenly burst open, and with them came the sound of a booming voice, resounding throughout the room.

“Hello!” He shouted, grinning from ear to ear as he quickly strode up to them. Izuku’s eyes nearly popped out of his head. Katsuki was pretty tall, but this guy was huge. Izuku just barely had time to activate his shield before the Demon suddenly grabbed his hand and proceeded to shake it with enough vigor to yank his shoulder up and down. “You must be Deku! It’s nice to meet you! I’ve never met an Angel who wasn’t trying to kill me!” He leaned toward him, and Izuku reflexively leaned away.

“Oi, baldy.” Katsuki growled. “Calm the fuck down. You’re gonna spook him.”

“Right! Sorry!” He said, without any loss of enthusiasm. The Demon stood up straight again. “My name’s Inasa!”

“H-Hello!” Izuku squeaked, gently extricating his hand from Inasa's grip. “Uh-Uhm, it’s nice to meet you, too?” He tried, glancing at Katsuki from the corner of his eye. Katsuki just snorted.

“Don’t worry. He’s always like that.” Katsuki said, rolling his eyes. “Absolutely no concept of an ‘indoor voice.’”

“I’m still here, you know!” Inasa said.

“I’m well aware.” Katsuki scoffed. “Anyway, everyone’s over there,” He said, gesturing toward the large group of people. “Well, most of ‘em. There’s some kids playing across the hall. I’ll round ‘em up.”  Katsuki turned and started toward the entrance to the north hall. He threw one last glance over his shoulder. “Try not to make him shit himself while I’m gone, baldy.”

“I’ll try!” He shouted, his tone cheerful. The sound of the door closing echoed throughout the gym. Inasa grinned. “Katsuki’s told me so much about you!”

Izuku did a double take. “R-Really?” Inasa nodded enthusiastically. Izuku looked away, a nervous smile on his face. “Good things, I hope…?”

“Yeah! Well, I mean— other than the part where he called you an idiot and guessed that you had at most three months before Falling. That’s just how he is, though.”

“I see.” Izuku pursed his lips. “Well, I’m not going to Fall.”

“That’s what everyone says before they Fall.”

“I feel like that’s what most Angels would say in general.”

“You’ve got me there!”

Izuku paused for a moment. Out in the hall, he thought he could hear children laughing.

“…How often do Angels fall?” He eventually asked.

Inasa raised his eyebrows. “Hmm. Not very often,” he said. “They say it usually averages out at around once every eighty years, but that’s during times of peace, when we just don’t have very much contact with Angels.” He shrugged.

Izuku nodded. “And I take it you think it’ll happen more, now?” He asked, then added, “because of the war…?”

“Well, yeah. I know it will,” Inasa replied, “Because it has.”

Izuku was quiet for a while.

“You know,” He hesitantly began. “I enjoy being an Angel. I get to help people.” Izuku rubbed the back of his neck. “It’s hard work, but that’s part of why I love it.”

“I do respect you guys’ passion!” Inasa said. “If nothing else, I’ll give you that; you’re really passionate about what you do.”

Izuku smiled, looking down at his feet.

“Can I ask you kind of a weird question?”

Izuku glanced up again. “Um, sure…?”

“Do you trust Katsuki?”

That caught him off guard.

“I…” Izuku fumbled. “I mean, I guess?” He paused, then added, “I can tell when he’s lying.”

“Oh wow, cool!” Inasa exclaimed. “But would you still trust him if you couldn’t do that?”

Izuku blinked. “No.”

Inasa laughed.

“Very blunt, I like that! You remind me of—“

A muffled shout from across the hall cut him off, and Izuku jolted in alarm, looking in that direction with concern.

“I should probably…”

“Yeah,” Inasa agreed. “Go on! Can’t have him dying on us!” He said, laughing. “I should be getting things ready in here, anyway.”

Izuku nodded before jogging over to the door, yanking it open and entering the hall. He glanced in both directions, quickly zeroing in on one room a few doors down, from where the sound of high-pitched screeching appeared to originate. He quickly made his way over to it, and opened the door to the sound of shrill laughter and deep, aggravated groans.

The scene within nearly caused his eyes to pop out of his head.

“Oi, quit fu—fudging pulling on them!”

There was a young boy sitting on Katsuki’s shoulders, no older than four years old. Katsuki, as it happened, was partially shifted, and the boy had both hands on his horns, leaning back and pulling. Izuku leaned against the doorframe, his hand covering his mouth as he watched.

“Why do you have kitty ears?” He asked. “Are you a cat?”

“What? No, they’re clearly not—“

“—He’s got a tail, too!” A little girl exclaimed.

“Katsuki’s a kitty-cat!” The boy on his shoulders yelled, giggling. “Cat-chan!”

“I just said—!”

“Kacchan! Kacchan!” The kids chorused, drowning out his protests.

Izuku cleared his throat.

“Hey, kids?” He finally said, prompting Katsuki to look up at him, wide-eyed. Izuku was grinning from ear to ear, barely holding back the urge to laugh. “C’mon, give it a rest. It’s time to go.”

“Awww!” They seemed to collectively cry.

The boy on Katsuki’s shoulder’s frowned. “But—but—“

And it’s not nice to pull on a kitty-cat’s ears,” he chided, waving his finger. “You’re gonna make Kacchan upset.” He snorted. Katsuki glared at him rather intensely, but the kids seemed to get the message. Izuku stepped to the side and ushered them all out into the hall, then propped open the door to the gymnasium. It took a minute, but eventually they managed to herd everyone back inside.

“Fucking gremlins,” Katsuki hissed, horns and tail receding as he entered.

“Aw, they’re just kids.” Izuku cooed, side-eyeing him. “Don’t be so mean… Kacchan.”

“Oh my fucking god—“

“What’s wrong, Kacchan?”

“You’re never gonna let that shit go, are you?”

“Kacchan!” He singsonged.

“I’m gonna fucking hurt you.”

Izuku opened his mouth to retort, but before he could get a word out, Inasa’s booming voice filled the room.

“Alright, everyone!” He shouted. “Since you’re all here, now, let me introduce myself! My name’s Inasa! I’ll be helping you evacuate, today. If you would be so kind as to come gather around in the center of the room, it will make the trip much smoother! Thank you!”

There was a bit of a commotion as people shuffled around, doing their best to fit closely together in the center of the gymnasium. After a few minutes, Inasa spoke up again.“Ready, everyone?” He shouted, right as Izuku felt Katsuki’s hand grip the back of his shirt, yanking him away from the crowd. He sputtered indignantly as Katsuki dragged him to the edge of the room, pushing his back against the wall. Inasa looked over at them and grinned.

“It was nice to meet you, Deku! I wish I could stay longer. If I’m around long enough to meet you again, I’d love to get to know you better!”

Izuku’s brow furrowed, but he didn’t get a chance to say anything before Inasa began yelling again.

“All right! Here we go!”

The air inside began to swirl, slowly at first, but soon picking up speed until what appeared to be a tornado formed at the center of the gymnasium. Izuku watched in half-terrified awe as the rapid winds became opaque, and he heard a loud crack from within, which, when he noticed the tornado beginning to sink in to the ground, he realized had come from the floor. It took around ten seconds before the winds began to slow and disperse. In their absence, all that remained was a massive pit at the center of the gymnasium and Izuku’s dropped jaw.

“Fuckin’ show off.” Katsuki muttered, then sighed, stretching his arms above his head. “Well, guess we should head out. Where’s your closest place?”

Izuku didn’t respond at first.

“Oi, Earth to Deku.”

Izuku jolted. “Ah, sorry!” He shook himself, and went to follow Katsuki as he grunted, opening the door to the hall. “It’s just, uhm, around two blocks east. But…“ Izuku bit his lip. “Just now, what did he mean by that? About being around long enough to meet me again?”

“Oh, yeah.” Katsuki clicked his tongue. “Fucker’s on combat duty starting tomorrow.” He said, then shrugged. “Not too concerned about him, though. You saw that shit he just pulled; he’ll be fine. He’ll be back to annoy me soon enough.” He waved his hand dismissively.

“Oh. I see.” Izuku muttered. He followed Katsuki outside, and for a moment, neither of them spoke. Then Katsuki turned a corner to head east, and for whatever reason, something came back to him.

“Hey, Kacchan… remember earlier…?” He trailed off.

“Earlier when what?” Katsuki grunted. “Are you asking if I’m capable of remembering past events in general, or something specific?”

“Ah, s-sorry.” He sputtered. “I meant earlier when you, ah, said that stuff about me assuming you, uhm, have the same…”

“Oh, the shit about your plan?” Katsuki said. “What I think defines a bad person?”

“Yeah.” Izuku nodded. “What… did you mean by that, exactly?”

Katsuki shrugged. “I just think it’s real cute how you’re just assuming my definition of a bad person is the same as yours.”

Izuku did his best to ignore the ‘cute’ part of that statement.

“Yes, but, I mean—“ he looked away. “You wouldn’t let me send up anyone dangerous, would you?”

“Depends how you define dangerous.” Katsuki answered. “If you mean people who’ve committed violent crimes, then no. But my ability just lets me see the stuff humans don’t want other humans to know about. That includes a lot of pretty benign shit.”

Izuku blinked. “Such as…?”

“Eh, drug addictions, unusual fetishes, shit like that.” He said, then snorted. “I honestly could not give less of a fuck about ninety percent of the secrets humans keep.”

“Oh.” Izuku mumbled. “So, what you’re saying is… You wouldn’t tell me about any of those people.”

“Absolutely fucking not.” He replied, his tone joyous. “Pretty sure Heaven would be damn near empty if I did, anyway. I mean, do you have any idea how many religious people are actually kinky as shit? Like, at least fifty percent.”

“Excuse me?”

“You heard me.” Katsuki snorted. “It’s all that repression, y’know? That ‘leave room for the holy spirit when you slow dance’ type shit, or pamphlets sayin’ you’ll burn for eternity if you jack off.” Katsuki made a vulgar gesture, and all Izuku could do was stare at him, mortified, as he continued his rant. “It’s just what happens when you attach feelings of shame to natural desires. The desires don’t go away; they just get fucking weirder.” He rattled on. “I mean, fuck, the day I met you, you sent up a woman who almost exclusively fantasized about getting pissed on by, like, thirty-plus people, or something, and I just sat there and watched it happen ‘cause, frankly, ‘what makes you horny’ isn’t my litmus test for moral character.”

Izuku just gaped at him, eyes wide and cheeks burning.

How can he just say stuff like that aloud?

“So, you still wanna work with me?” Katsuki snorted.

Izuku opened his mouth, closed it, then opened it again.

“I-I mean, it’s still better than nothing, I guess.” He scratched his head. “But… there’s really nothing I can say to convince you otherwise?”

“Not a goddamn thing.” Katsuki said, grinning. “Sorry, Deku. You’re just gonna have to make peace with the fact that at least half the people you send up are gonna be into some things.”

Izuku sighed, turning his head away, his cheeks heated. “I guess… some sins are worse than others.”

“Damn right,” Katsuki said. “And I mean, shit, if Heaven’s gonna be full of people who’ve got a stick up their ass, might as well let in the people who’re already into that, anyway.”

Izuku felt something bubble up inside of him, bursting out in the form of an abrupt laugh that surprised even him. He reflexively smacked his hands over his mouth to stifle it, but the grin on Katsuki’s face let him know that it was too late.

Chapter Text

In the end, they managed to evacuate everyone with time left to spare. As the last set of clothes fell to the floor, Katsuki breathed a sigh of relief and took a seat on the altar. Izuku watched, wincing, as the Demon leaned back on his hands and propped a foot up on the edge, his muddy combat boots leaving filthy marks on the pristine, white fabric. 

“Can’t you at least try to show a little respect?” He grumbled.

“I’ve got none to give.” Katsuki shot back, staring vacantly at the ceiling.

For a moment, Izuku was taken aback, his jaw clenching as he stared at the irreverent Demon, anger bubbling up inside him. He opened his mouth to retort, but the words died on his tongue.

“Okay, that was kinda harsh.” Katsuki said, grimacing, as though the act of admitting it caused him physical pain. “It’s… It’s not you I hate. It’s just, y’know, what you stand for.”

Izuku’s anger calmed down, but only slightly.

“Isn’t that functionally the same as hating me?”

Katsuki laughed, finally tearing his eyes away from the ceiling and looking at him. “You tell me, Deku. I’m taking a page out of your book, after all. The phrase ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ ring any bells?” He asked. “Like, I can see why you’d think that, but no, it's really not.”

Izuku stared at him for a while, eyes narrowing. “Okay…?”

“Look, let’s put it like this.” He said, sighing again. “I hate the shit they make you do, Deku. I hate that you help prop up their bullshit, and I hate that you’re brainwashed into thinking it makes sense.” He said, pausing for a moment. “But I don’t hate you.” He eventually continued. “If I truly hated you, I wouldn’t want you to Fall.”

Izuku held eye contact with him for a while.

“So what you’re saying is,” he lowered his chin slightly, squinting. “You want me to Fall because you… like me?” He raised an eyebrow.

Katsuki snorted. “No, not particularly.” He replied, leaning forward a bit. “You’re actually really fucking annoying, honestly. But it’s kinda like dealing with a kid, y’know. You do dumb shit because you don’t know any better.” He shrugged. “It’s irritating, but I’m not, like, mad at you ‘cuz of it.”

Izuku clenched his jaw. “I really don’t see how insulting me lends itself to your goal.”

Katsuki laughed again, pushing himself onto his feet. “Yeah, maybe it doesn’t.” He took a few steps down the aisle, until he stood just a few feet away from him, smirking. “Then again, the last angel I got this close to didn’t make it out alive, so y’know,” he shrugged again. “Compared to my past interactions with you fucks, I might as well be sucking your fucking cock right now.”

“Oh, for—“ Izuku face-palmed, his cheeks heating up. “Would it kill you to tone down the vulgarity?” 

“Hmm.” Katsuki paused, pursing his lips, as if contemplating it. “No, maybe not.” He finally replied. “But you’re the one who wanted to be tempted. You signed up for this shit, Deku.” He said, snorting.

Izuku groaned, averting his eyes and nodding. A begrudging agreement.

After a few seconds, Katsuki spoke up again. “Seriously, though, Deku—think real carefully about if this is what you truly want.” He said. “‘Cuz frankly, if I end up having to clear my fuckin’ schedule only for your wishy-washy, birdbrained ass to back out, I swear I’ll break your stupid halo over my knee. You’re really, really sure?”

Izuku turned, meeting his eye again. “I’m sure.”

For a long moment, Katsuki maintained the eye-contact, his gaze calculating. Eventually, he sighed and brushed past him. “In that case, when’re you scheduled next?”

“I, ahh—“ He fumbled for a moment as he moved to follow him. “Wednesday.”

Katsuki nodded, opening the door. “Alright.” He said. “Guess I’ll see you then.” Katsuki started down the street. 

“W-Wait!” Izuku called out. “How will I find you again?”

Katsuki stopped, turning around. He squinted up at the sky, then looked at him again. “Y’know what? Don’t even worry about it. I’ll find you.” With that, he began walking away again.

“Oh. Okay…” He mumbled. “Um. But how…?”

Katsuki snorted, ducking into an alleyway cast in shadow. “Same way I always do.”

“Which is…?” Izuku called out.

But Katsuki was already gone.


The following morning, Izuku awoke to an odd pulsating sensation in his right hand. Sluggishly, he pulled his arm from under his pillow to look at it. He was still half-asleep, and his vision was blurry, but the vague, fuzzy sight of black markings on his hand was enough to shock him into cognizance. 

Izuku shot upright in bed, his eyes quickly focusing in, and for several seconds, he was just dumbstruck. There, on his right hand, was what looked to be a black, tree-like scar. It stemmed from his palm and wrapped around the back of his hand like lighting, branching out in an intricate, almost fractal-like pattern. He ran his fingers over it, but nothing happened. Izuku’s heart rate picked up as he thought back to the day before, the memory of himself reaching out and grabbing Katsuki’s hand replaying endlessly in his mind. Without a second thought, he flung himself out of bed, ripping open the top drawer of his dresser. He pawed through it frantically, carelessly tossing hats and scarves over his shoulder until he found a pair of gloves. He then proceeded to throw on the first vaguely presentable outfit he found before sliding the gloves on and heading out. 

It was roughly six o’clock in the morning, on a Saturday. All Might wouldn’t be at the school, but Izuku knew the path to his first circle residence like the back of his hand. 

Well, perhaps that wasn’t the best comparison. After all, he didn’t exactly know the back of his hand anymore.

Izuku ran all the way to All Might’s doorstep, and proceeded to knock on the front door insistently and continuously until his knuckles were met with empty space.

“Midoriya?” All Might was still in his sleep clothes, and looked as if he’d just rolled out of bed.

“All Might, I-I—“ Izuku stammered. “I’m so sorry to bother you so early, I just—“

“No, no,” All Might shook his head, stepping aside. “Come in, my boy.”

Izuku interrupted his panicked expression with an appreciative, if strained, smile, as he came in, toeing off his shoes as his mentor shut the door behind him.

“I’m really, really sorry.” He repeated.

“It’s quite alright, Midoriya.” All Might said. “Just tell me what’s going on.”

“Well, it’s—“ Izuku quickly slid off the glove on his right hand, lifting it so All Might could see. “I just—I just woke up and this was there, a-and,” he swallowed, voice wavering. “I think it’s because I accidentally touched him yesterday, w-without my shield up.”

All Might placed a heavy hand on his shoulder and smiled. “Oh, Midoriya, it’s nothing to worry about.” He said, laughing. “Just a stint of corruption damage is all. It should go away on its own.”

Izuku lowered his hand a bit. “Oh…”

“I understand why you’d be alarmed, though.” He said. “I know I was the first time it happened to me. It’s really quite something, isn’t it?” 

Izuku smiled weakly, nodding. “Y-Yeah, it really is…” He leaned back against the door, sighing. “That’s a relief, though. I was, um... pretty scared.”

“A smart reaction, if you ask me.”

Izuku laughed slightly. “Um, so… how long will it take to go away?”

All Might pursed his lips. “It should start to fade in a few days. Might take a couple of weeks to completely disappear, though.”

“Weeks?”

All Might nodded, smiling apologetically. “Well, you know. Your body needs time to clean itself up.” He said. “I do have something that should help, though. It’s called fire tea. I believe I’ve got some left over from when I was on active duty…” He said, beginning to shuffle toward the kitchen. 

“O-Oh!” Izuku said, trailing behind him. “Thank you, All Might!”

All Might waved his hand, as if to say, ‘of course.’ He opened up the pantry and began searching, pushing various things aside until he found a large box near the back. “Ah, here we are.” He said. “I can give you some to take with you, too, if you’d like.”

“Really?” Izuku said. “That would be wonderful. Thank you so much!” 

“It’s really no problem.” All Might said, pulling out a kettle and filling it up, before setting it on the stove. “Since you’re already here though, how about you go ahead and tell me how it went, eh?” He grinned. “I want to hear every detail.”

Izuku smiled, and pulled out a chair at the kitchen table.


The surface on Wednesday morning was mostly quiet, apart from the sound of birds chirping, and the rumble of the ongoing battle a couple miles out, which Izuku had long since learned to tune out. He landed near his first destination, and spent a moment just looking around, half-expecting Katsuki to simply materialize in front of him. After a minute, he sighed and began walking slowly down the sidewalk. 

Katsuki hadn’t given him much information on how he intended to find him, if there was anything he could do to make it easier, or even how long it would take. It was sort of aggravating, when he thought about it. The Demon was almost pathologically cryptic when it came to things like this. Izuku sighed as he meandered into an alley, stopping to lean back against an old dumpster. He closed his eyes and wondered if it’d be petty for him to count the minutes until Katsuki got there. His lips quirked up at the thought, and—

“Hey.”

Izuku shrieked, the feathers on his wings ruffling as he leapt forward and turned around. And there he was, sitting on the lid of the dumpster, his legs spread out, tail flicking around behind him.

“Why do you always do that?!” Izuku shouted.

“Do what.” He deadpanned. Izuku stared into his glowing eyes, glaring. After a drawn-out moment, Katsuki’s expression morphed into one of performative realization. “Ohh, you mean sneaking up on you?” He said, leaning forward. “Yeah, see, the thing about that is… it’s fucking funny.”

“Hilarious.” Izuku rolled his eyes.

“Yeah,” Katsuki grinned, hopping off the dumpster. He brushed off the back of his pants. “That, but unironically.”

Izuku sighed, taking quick strides out of the alley. Katsuki trailed behind him.

“Talked it over with the others.” Katsuki said, conversationally. “As of today, I’m on ‘special assignment.’”

Izuku slowed, looking over his shoulder. “What does that mean?”

Katsuki shrugged. “Whatever the fuck we want it to mean.” He said. “But in this case, it means we’ve decided you’re worth the effort of trying to tempt.”

Izuku blinked a few times. “Um. Good? Ahhh…” He glanced away. “I’m not really sure how to feel about that.”

Katsuki snickered as they approached the front entrance to the church.


By the time they had finished everything, it was around an hour before sunset. The two of them decided to check some buildings in the surrounding area for any remaining stragglers. Izuku was peering through the dark, dusty window of a dilapidated motel when he heard him.

“What happens if a bug flies into your halo?”

Izuku was so bewildered by the question that somehow, his instincts managed to bypass an entire spectrum of confused reactions, and he wound up defaulting back to something mundane. He turned and looked at Katsuki over his shoulder. “Sorry, what?”

The Demon shrugged, his gaze drifting off to the side, as if bored. “Just wondering. Like, does it get zapped? Become a little bug angel?” He asked, smirking. “Does it go to bug-heaven?”

“…Where did this even come from?”

“S’crossed my mind a couple times. So?”

“Uhh,” Izuku squinted. “I mean, I don’t really know? As far as I’m aware, nothing really happens.” He said, shuffling over to try the door. It seemed to be jammed. He kept trying it, and his voice was strained as he continued, “Which I suppose would make sense, if you think about it. I fly at pretty high speeds sometimes, so if that were the case I would expect to have noticed by now.” 

Izuku’s muscles tensed and cramped as he continued to fight with the door, wiggling the knob and mumbling under his breath. After a second, he spotted Katsuki approaching in his periphery, and took it as a cue to step aside. Taking his place, Katsuki grabbed the doorknob and, without so much as a grunt, proceeded to shove the door open in one sharp, efficient movement. 

“Oh.” Izuku said, surprised, and not quite sure how to react. When Katsuki took his hand off, he noticed that the doorknob had been deformed, as though partially melted. “Uh… wow.”

Katsuki grinned. “And for the low, low price of your soul, you too could have powers with actual practical applications, Deku.”

Izuku rolled his eyes, brushing past him. It was only after he stepped inside that he realized the door had actually been boarded shut from the inside, though all that remained now were splintered planks and loose nails. 

The room itself appeared to be the motel’s lobby, though as far as he could tell, it was vacant. Most of the furniture was hidden beneath dusty sheets, as though it had been abandoned months ago.

But you never know.

“…I guess we should check the rooms.” Izuku said. Katsuki hummed, and went on ahead of him. 

One by one, they knocked on doors, and one by one, Katsuki would force them open with an unsettling ease that had All Might’s words echoing inside Izuku’s mind.

“Wrath Demons— by far the strongest among the Demons, as far as sheer physical power is concerned.”

Izuku felt uneasy, his pulse picking up each time Katsuki showed him the proof of this fact. Whether or not the Demon was doing it as a deliberate show of strength, Izuku couldn’t tell, but if he was, he’d certainly achieved his goal. 

He watched as Katsuki took his hand off one of the doorknobs, and in the dim light, he could see that the metal was actually glowing slightly. He swallowed.

Izuku always knew Katsuki was stronger than him. And it wasn’t even that there was anything unique about Katsuki; as things stood, most Demons on the surface were probably stronger than him. But it was one thing to be passively aware of the power imbalance and quite another to actually observe the consequences of it. To watch this man, this Demon, and be viscerally aware that if he wanted to kill him, he could. If he tried to do it, he would succeed. 

Izuku was at his mercy.

Katsuki could do anything to him.

It was terrifying, yet strangely entrancing, like a tornado wreaking havoc on a city, or hellfire swallowing a skyscraper. He felt the desire to keep watching out of something like morbid fascination. 

At least that’s when Izuku assumed it was.

“Oi, Deku. Deku!” 

Izuku jumped. 

“Finally,” Katsuki clicked his tongue. “Been tryin’ to get your attention for like a thousand years, dipshit.”

Izuku blinked, his eyes wide.“Oh. Um.” He winced.

They were back in the lobby again, he realized. Katsuki was leaning against the edge of the front desk, looking at him like he’d grown a second head.

“The hell’s up with you?” Katsuki asked, leaning in closer, an eyebrow raised.

“I was just, uhh…” Izuku’s eyes darted around. His mind felt scattered, but he needed to find a way out of the situation. Any longer, and Katsuki might begin extrapolating things that weren’t there. Izuku opened his mouth and blurted out the first thing he thought of. “Can you pick things up with your tail?”

“What?” Katsuki seemed dumbstruck for a moment, but after a second, he snorted. Izuku took it as a sign that his diversion had worked, and the tension melted away as Katsuki continued, “Well, duh. Of course I can.” He proceeded to demonstrate, the tip of his tail wrapping around a nearby lamp and flinging it across the room. It hit the wall, and the glass base shattered upon impact with the floor. “What would even be the point if I couldn’t?”

Izuku shrugged, looking away. “Aren’t tails usually for balance?” He laughed awkwardly.

Katsuki hummed. “Yeah, guess so.” He muttered, wandering over to the other side of the room, where the lamp had shattered. He kicked the shards around idly, and after a second, looked back at Izuku. “But I mean, strictly speaking, if you wanna know the real reason Demons have tails, then I’m pretty sure it’s ‘cuz God wanted us to be, like, repulsive or some shit, so he gave us traits he thought would achieve that.” He paused, then smirked, all sharp teeth and hooded eyes. His pitch dropped. “But obviously that plan backfired pretty substantially, since most humans associate us with sex to some degree.”

Izuku had no idea how he was supposed to respond to a statement like that.

He opened his mouth, closed it, and then tried again. He managed to keep his voice even when he said, “Well, lust is a sin, so it kind of makes sense for people to associate you with it.”

Katsuki laughed, low and breathy. “I think it’s a bit deeper than that, but sure.” After a pause, he added, “Don’t worry, though. There’re plenty of people out there who wanna fuck Angels, too.”

Izuku frowned, his cheeks burning. “O-Okay…?” He averted his eyes. “You know, I wasn’t actually worried before, but now I kind of am.”

“Oh yeah?” Katsuki asked. Izuku heard his footfalls as the Demon approached him again, stopping just short of a foot away, leaning against the front desk again. “Why? Afraid someone might try and make a pass at you?”

Izuku shuddered, looking at the floor. He mumbled, “Don’t understand why they’d even…”

“Want to?” Katsuki finished, and let it hang for a moment before pressing on. “It’s really not that hard to figure out, Deku. You seriously don’t know?” 

“I don’t want to know.” Izuku said, trying his best to sound firm about it. “Can we talk about something else?”

“Why?” Katsuki asked, the corners of his lips curling up. “Gettin’ nervous?”

“I’m not nervous.”

Katsuki snickered, looking Izuku up and down. “Uh-huh. Sure—”

“—What did you mean earlier?” Izuku cut in. “About me being ‘worth’ trying to tempt.”

Katsuki rolled his eyes, his mischievous expression fading to boredom. He sighed. “What d’you mean?”

“Just, is there…” Izuku waved his hands around meaninglessly. “…I don’t know, some sort of criteria for that?”

The Demon hummed, scratching his head. “Not exactly,” He eventually replied. “It’s not really a common enough occurrence for there to be, like, a standard way to figure it out. As things are, we mostly just judge shit on a case-by-case basis. Y’know, like, ‘does the Angel seem like they can be swayed morally?’ Stuff like that.”

Izuku blinked. “And you think I can be convinced to give up my morals?” He asked, more than a little incensed at the thought.

“What? No.” Katsuki spat, scowling. “That’s the opposite of what I was trying to say. Christ.”

“Then what—“

“—Some Angels,” He interrupted, pausing before continuing, “are loyal to God above all else. It’s like…” He gestured vaguely. “They don’t really have, like… coherent ethical principles. They kinda just do what they’re told. And yeah, they think they’re doing the right thing, but it’s very dogmatic, y’know. It’s like, ‘this is right because God says so,’ and that’s the end of it.” 

He stopped to take a breath. 

“But there’re some Angels who actually do have strong morals.” He went on. “They usually just follow God ‘cuz they think that’s the best way to uphold their value system. So, at least in theory, if someone could convince them there’s a more effective way to do that…” He trailed off. After a moment, he shrugged and said, “Well, anyway, those are the ones worth trying to tempt: the ones who actually want to do good.”

“So… you think I have a moral imperative to join you?”

“I know you do.”

Izuku scoffed. “I find that very hard to believe.”

And then Katsuki smiled, in this slow, off-color way that immediately put Izuku on guard.

“Oh, but there’s one other type, though.” He then said. “Sometimes, once in a blue moon, you’ll meet an Angel who just really wants to sin. And like, it’s painfully obvious. You see them and you just fucking know.”

Izuku swallowed.

“Ah.”

“Yeah. Not a lot of ‘em, but they’re out there.” Katsuki drummed his fingers on the countertop. “So, once we’ve decided that someone’s worth trying to tempt, the next thing we have to ask is who’s up to the task. And it’s a holistic thing, y’know. Usually, if we’re dealing with someone who could be swayed if you just present ‘em with the right information in the right way, we’ll ask someone who’s particularly good at rhetoric. If it’s someone who just wants to sin, or some combination of the two, it gets more personal.”

“I’m guessing you’ve done this a lot, then.”

Katsuki grinned. “Nope,” he shook his head. “Not once. It’s not even remotely my area.” With his elbow on the counter, Katsuki tucked his chin into his palm, staring at Izuku with this smug, knowing look in his eyes. “Frankly, I’m not really the talking type. I’m more…” He trailed off for a moment, humming, “…physical, you could say.” He laughed darkly. “If someone calls me in to help deal with an Angel… Well, let’s just say they’re definitely not trying to de-escalate things.”

Katsuki stood up straight, turning to face Izuku head-on. “But despite that, everyone still thought I’d be a good fit for this, at least for you.” He murmured, leaning forward, just a hair’s breadth too far into Izuku’s space. “Funny how that works.” He said, hypnotic, glowing red eyes pinning Izuku in place, until eventually he sighed and broke eye contact. “Course, I didn’t come in here blind. I’ve got some plans. Got a couple tricks up my sleeve.”

Izuku swallowed. His throat felt dry, and his voice came out hoarse as he asked, “Such as…?” 

“Wouldn’t you like to know.” Katsuki retorted. A second later, his eyes widened slightly and his demeanor shifted. “Ah, but that reminds me…” He opened up his rucksack, pulling out a thick, leather-bound book. “I’ve also got this.” He said, handing it to Izuku.

“What…” Izuku trailed off as he accepted it and opened it up, flipping through the pages. They were all blank. “Kacchan, is this just a blank book?”

“It’s a memo.” He said. “Y’know, a memorandor.” 

“A what?”

Katsuki gave him an odd look. “Wait, seriously? You really don’t know?” After a second, he groaned, rolling his eyes. “Guess I shouldn’t be surprised.”

“What do you mean?” Izuku pressed. “What is it?”

“It’s a type of communication device.”

Izuku stared at the unassuming book for a few seconds.

“…Explain.”

Katsuki sighed. “D’you know about the double agent defector incident?” 

“Oh!” Izuku chirped. “Faux-Fallen Angels, right? Izaiya and Setsuko?” He asked. “The spies who rejected God?”

“Historical inaccuracy aside, yeah.” Katsuki replied. “When they were still trying to keep tabs on us, they needed a way to communicate. So, they made these.” He gestured toward the book. “Trick is that each memo has a twin. It’s basically like a two-way diary. Whatever one person writes in their book will also appear in the other.”

“So…” Izuku said. “You’re giving me this to communicate with you?”

“What? No.” Katsuki said, taking the book out of his hand. “This one’s mine. You’ve gotta find your own.”

Izuku blinked. “Uhhh…”

“Now that you’ve touched it, it should be in Heaven somewhere.”

“That’s really not very specific.”

“It doesn’t need to be.” Katsuki said, shrugging. “Just trust me, Deku; it might take a few days, but if you’re patient, it’ll find its way to you.”


“What’s up with you?” Uraraka suddenly asked.

The four of them—Izuku, Uraraka, Shinsou and Iida—were sitting on the stone wall that framed the flying field.

“Um. What do you mean?” Izuku asked.

She shrugged. “You just seem happy.”

Izuku tensed. “Oh,” He muttered. “Wait, do I usually seem unhappy to you…?”

“Oh, no, I didn’t mean it like that!” She said, waving her hands. “I just meant—“

“—You’ve been smiling this whole time.” Shinsou interjected, and the sound of his low, monotonous voice made Izuku jump as he reflexively looked at him. Somehow, he didn’t expect him to have been paying attention.

Swallowing, Izuku turned away, facing forward. “Well, that’s… news to me.” He said, laughing awkwardly.

“How are things going on your missions?” Iida chimed in.

“Fine!” Izuku replied, perhaps a bit too quickly. “I-I mean, it’s challenging work, but it’s rewarding, so…”

“That Demon hasn’t given you any more trouble, then?” Shinsou asked.

“Wh-what?”

“The Demon.” Shinsou side-eyed him. “The one you said you met.”

“You met a Demon?!” Uraraka exclaimed.

“Midoriya?!” Iida shouted, almost simultaneously.

“Wait, you didn’t tell them?” Shinsou frowned, finally turning to look at him fully.

Izuku rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. “It, uhh… It didn’t really come up?”

Uraraka snorted. “’Didn’t come up’?” She repeated incredulously. “Izuku.”

“I’m sorry, okay?” He shot back, holding his hands up defensively. “I-I just didn’t think it was such a huge deal, is all! I mean… nothing bad happened.”

“Oh, thank goodness,” Iida said, his hand over his heart.

“So you haven’t seen him again, then?” Shinsou probed.

Izuku’s fingers turned white as he gripped the edge of the cold stone wall.

“…Midoriya?”

“Oh, ah… no,” Izuku fumbled, laughing nervously. “I guess he must’ve lost interest…”

Izuku could feel Shinsou’s eyes on him, but he kept his gaze fixed on his shoes.

“…Really?”

“Really!” Izuku replied, a foul, sour taste blooming on his tongue that he tried to swallow down before he tacked on, “I promise.”

“Well, that’s good.” Uraraka said, still sounding a bit exasperated. Iida hummed in agreement.

Izuku waited for a response from Shinsou. It never came.


All Might entered his study with one hand wrapped around the handle of a large bucket. He set it down beside the chalkboard before turning toward Izuku. “So, tell me, my boy—how much do you know about the soul?”

Izuku tensed, caught off guard by the question. “Um…”

“It’s not a trick question, don’t worry.” All Might said, chuckling. “Just tell me anything—anything at all.”

Izuku relaxed slightly, his face scrunching up as his eyes fixated on the wooden floor. “Well… I know that when I put up a barrier, what I’m really doing is hardening my soul so that it can’t be corrupted through touch.” He said, then shrugged. “But I think that’s all I’ve been explicitly told. Everything else is sort of just a jumble of contradictory rumors…”

All Might hummed. “Yes, that’s fairly typical for someone at your level.” He said. “I should say, though—the part about barriers isn’t quite right. It’d be more accurate to say you’re flexing it.”

“Flexing, huh…” Izuku mumbled. “I wonder why they didn’t say that before, then.”

“As you mentioned before, there’s a lot of misconceptions floating around.” He said. “But that’s what’s technically happening. You’re just flexing the outer layer of your soul so that it’s impermeable.”

“Outer… layer?” Izuku blinked, scratching his head. “I didn’t even know souls had layers.”

“Oh?” All Might said, seeming genuinely surprised. “That’s interesting. I think I knew that at your level, but perhaps things have gotten stricter.” He paused for a moment, rubbing his chin. “Well, to give you the abridged version—essentially, your soul has two main parts.” He held up one finger. “The outer shell,” he raised a second finger, “and a fluid-like substance contained within it.”

“Fluid?”

“Yes.” He said. “It’s called serthus; it generates the power Angels use to fight, and the outer shell protects it.”

“So this… serthus is the source of our power?”

“No. Almost, but not quite. It generates power.” He replied. “It’s important to be precise about this, because although an Angel can temporarily run out of power, the serthus remains exactly the same in both form and volume, at least under typical circumstances.”

“Oh,” Izuku said, squinting. “Wait, so there’re times when it wouldn’t stay the same?”

All Might smiled. “Well, sure. What do you think corruption damage does?”

Izuku glanced down at his hand, where the dark, lightning-like scar remained, albeit faded. “I…”

“The main difference between Angels and Demons, at least on a physiological level, is the resting state of their soul.”

“…Demons have souls?”

“Oh, yes. Corrupted ones, but souls nonetheless.” He explained. “Essentially, when an Angel sustains corruption damage, the serthus becomes partially coagulated.” He said. “In those cases, given time, the serthus will circulate and return to its liquid state. But if an Angel’s serthus completely coagulates, then there’s no going back. That’s what happens when an Angel Falls.”

Izuku hummed, nodding reverently. Absent-mindedly, he rubbed the spot when the scar was more prominent.

“There are other circumstances where things can happen to the serthus, but for now, let’s focus on how one actually utilizes this power.” 

Izuku looked up, eyes sparkling with excitement just as All Might was turning around. He pulled open a drawer on the far side of the room, taking out something Izuku couldn’t quite see. He dusted it off with his hands, and then turned toward Izuku again.

“If you want to use your power, you’ll need a vessel to channel it through. That’s where these come in.” All Might handed him something that Izuku quickly recognized as a pair of gloves of some sort. They were an off-white, cream color, and the embroidery on the back formed a large, golden sun, the rays of which extended toward the fingertips. 

“These are technically training gauntlets,” All Might said. “I wish I could offer you a more substantial weapon, like a sword, or a bow, once you’ve gotten a hang of the basics, but that would attract too much attention. You can still pack quite a punch with just these, though.”

Izuku smiled. “Well, hopefully by then I’ll be up for ascension.”

“Oh, I’m sure you will be.” All Might said. “I’ve already submitted your application, actually.” 

Izuku tore his gaze away from the gauntlets, his face lighting up. “Really?!” 

“Really!” All Might replied. “It’ll be a few weeks before the Council gets around to reviewing it, but… fingers crossed!” He said, grinning. “Now, then!” He clapped his hands together. “Shall we get started?”

Izuku nodded, eagerly slipping the gauntlets on, pleased to find that they fit him well.

“Ah,” All Might held up a finger. “One last thing you should know—well, two, actually.” He said. “Firstly, there is generally a pretty steep learning curve. I’m not saying this to intimidate you, I just want you to know that you probably won’t figure everything out on the first try, and that’s perfectly alright.”

Izuku hummed. “Well, okay. No problem. What’s the other thing?”

“This is probably going to hurt.”

He blinked. “Sorry, what?”

All Might shrugged, offering a tight, sympathetic smile. “It’s just something every Angel has to deal with in the beginning, unfortunately.” He explained. “Although these powers are innate, your body isn’t accustomed to using them, yet. The damage won’t be irreparable, of course, but…” His eyes drifted toward the floor, “Well, there’s a chance you’ll throw up.”

Izuku gulped.

“…So that’s what the bucket was for.”

All Might laughed awkwardly. “Listen, try not to focus on it too much. Just be prepared.”

“A-Alright,” Izuku replied. “I’ll do my best?”

“That’s what I like to hear!” All Might said, grabbing the bucket and setting it down a bit closer to where Izuku stood. “Are you ready?”

“I hope so.”

All Might laughed.

“In that case, close your eyes.”

 

 

Izuku returned to his room that night with the taste of bile on his tongue and an ache deep inside his chest. 

As he shed his clothes and prepared to step under the shower spray, the sight of his reflection gave him pause. He stood there for a while, eyes fixated on his chest. Bruises like nebulas bloomed from his sternum, and from there, sprawled out across his upper body. They stretched out all the way to his shoulders and to the bottom of his ribcage, colors gradually blending into his natural complexion like watercolors.


Izuku was never one to give up on… well, pretty much anything, really, but even he had to admit: searching for the memo was really trying his patience.

It’d been five days. 

Five days since Katsuki first introduced him to the concept of a memorandor before flippantly sending him on his way without so much as a hint about where he ought to look for the damn thing. He’d spent more time at the library in the past few days than he had in almost his entire afterlife, and the longer his search went on, the more questions people asked. Just the other day, he nearly launched out of his skin, feathers standing on end as he reflexively extended his wings, like some kind of cornered animal, and all this because someone tapped him on the shoulder at some indeterminate point during the nth  hour of his search.

“Woah, hey.” Shinsou said, putting his hands up. “It’s just me, Midoriya.”

Izuku relaxed slightly, his bulging eyes receding back into their rightful position.

“Shinsou,” He said, exhaling.

“Yeah.” He blinked. “What’s gotten into you? Are you alright?” 

Izuku’s mouth open, and for a while, no sound came out. Eventually, he managed to offer a small, shaky, “Wh-what do you mean…?”

Shinsou arched an eyebrow. “How long have you been here?”

“I, uhh…” He paused, glancing out the window. He arrived sometime around noon, and it was now what appeared to be early evening. “…Awhile?” He replied, laughing nervously.

“I figured.” Shinsou deadpanned. “I’ve been here three times in the past week, and every single time, you’ve been here.” He said, frowning. “I know we don’t have an exam coming up.”

Izuku bit his lip, averting his gaze. He knew this would happen. His friends were far too perceptive for their own good—especially Shinsou. Izuku had spent a considerable amount of his time these last few days contemplating ways he could respond to such questions without having to outright lie again. But in his exhausted state, he just couldn’t seem to gather his thoughts enough to form a strategic response.

After some length of silence, he sighed. “It’s… I’m sorry,” He mumbled, looking down at his shoes. “It’s nothing to worry about. Promise. It’s just…” He glanced briefly at Shinsou’s face, his violet eyes narrowed in some mixture of concern and suspicion. Izuku swallowed, and looked away again. “Just something I’m working on.” He quickly said. “There’s nothing wrong, I just kind of… lost track of time, I guess.”

Shinsou stared at him for a while. Beneath the weight of his gaze, Izuku felt naked, the cool air creating pin pricks on his exposed flesh. “I suppose that would be in character for you.”

Izuku laughed, but it was sharp, short, and much louder than what would normally be considered suitable for a library. He quickly slammed his palms over his mouth, looking around anxiously. Fortunately, there weren’t too many people in the library at that hour, but a cursory glance across the room yielded the sight of a withering glare from one of the librarians, which had Izuku slinking back beneath the cover of his wings, like a turtle into its shell. 

When he finally looked at Shinsou again, he was smiling slightly, though it faded as the librarian briskly moved out of sight.

“There’s something you’re not telling me, though.” He saidnot a question, but a statement of fact.

Izuku sighed, and, maintaining eye contact, replied, “…Yes.”

Shinsou held his gaze for a while afterward, most likely waiting for some kind of explanation, but as seconds ticked by in silence, his eyes seemed to dull, and eventually, broke away. He glanced down, eyes lingering on the floor for a moment before looking up again, hazily settling on some indistinct nothingness behind Izuku. 

Shinsou was never one to give voice to his insecurities, at least as far as things like these were concerned, but Izuku had known him long enough to recognize them when they appeared.

“I’d tell you if something was seriously wrong.” Izuku said, speaking softly, his brows pinching together. “You know that, right?”

Shinsou blinked a few times, the fog dissipating as his eyes focused on Izuku’s again. Izuku offered a small smile. A consolation prize. Shinsou tensed slightly, and then relaxed.

“Yeah.” He said. “Yeah, that’s—I know.”

“I appreciate you worrying about me, though.” Izuku said. “It’s really sweet of you.”

Shinsou’s eyes widened slightly, and he quickly turned around, moving toward the door.

“It’s getting late. I should probably head back.” He muttered, and in a slightly more stern tone, he added, “So should you.”

Izuku deflated slightly, but he knew he had a point.

“You’re right.” He sighed, hastily returning the small pile of books to the shelf, moving as quickly as he could while still keeping everything in order, because Shinsou was waiting for him. He didn’t ask him to, but he was.

After a minute, he stood up again, jogging after Shinsou, catching the door as he followed behind him. He panted slightly, his breath visible in the cold air.

“Hey, um. I mean it. I really do appreciate it.” He reiterated. “It’s very kind of you to be, um, concerned about me.”

Shinsou sighed, stuffing his hands into his pockets.

And Izuku couldn’t be sure, exactly, but as he trailed behind his friend in the cold, rapidly deepening night, he could've sworn he heard him reply:

“You say that as though it was a decision I made.”


Katsuki stood on the roof of an old schoolhouse, leaning back against the railing, devouring another one of those fruits he liked—the ones that evoked some disconcerting image of violence. Izuku had just finished lamenting his struggle to find the memo.

“What the fuck?” He said, speaking with his mouth full. “Deku, what part of ‘be patient and wait’ did you not understand?”

“Excuse me?”

“What, you don’t remember?” He said, licking his lips. “I said it would find its way to you, dipshit.”

Izuku stared at him for a while, mouth agape, blinking rapidly. “W-Well, you could’ve been more clear!”

Katsuki gave a mirthless laugh. “What, did you want me to give you a checklist of shit not to do?”

“It might have helped!

Katsuki glowered as he licked the blood-red juice off his fingers, one by one. “Literally all you had to do was just go about your daily routine or whatever.” He said, his lips stained red. “Don’t know how you managed to fuck up doing nothing. It’s almost impressive.”

Izuku frowned, looking away, his face beginning to feel very hot. Katsuki’s brash attitude certainly wasn’t making him feel less embarrassed. “I just wanted to make sure I found it before someone else did.” He mumbled, rubbing the back of his neck. “Give me a break.”

Katsuki’s expression seemed to soften slightly. He shuffled closer, exhaling. “That’s not something you need to worry about.”

“What makes you so sure?”

Katsuki shrugged. “I’ve never heard of it happening before.”

“Kacchan…” Izuku sighed, and in his sleep deprived state, he spoke without forethought. “I don’t think you understand how much trouble I could get in if the wrong person finds it.” He said, anxiety saturating his tone. “I-I mean, with all due respect, it doesn’t sound like you’re very familiar with these things, and I mean, it would’ve been nice if you could’ve told me what it was before you had me touch it and, and—“

“Hey.”

Izuku could feel the heat of Katsuki’s hand, fingers partially shifted into claws and hovering just beneath his chin, as close as possible without actually touching him. Izuku put his barrier up and held his breath.

“Look at me, Deku.”

Izuku released a shuddering breath, and when he turned his head, Katsuki was much closer than he expected him to be, his red eyes glowing like a second sunset against the orange sky.

“You’ve been stayin’ up late for this shit, haven’t you.”

Izuku’s face heated up slightly. “…Sometimes.”

Katsuki scoffed. “Fuckin’ idiot. You look like hell.”

Despite himself, Izuku smiled at the irony of that statement.

After a moment, Katsuki sighed. “Look,” he said. “You’re right. I should’ve told you what it was first.” 

Izuku blinked a few times. He hadn’t expected the Demon to admit fault so easily.

“…But.” He continued, his tone firm. “I really mean it when I say this isn’t something you should freak out over.” He said, the tip of his claws still just a phantom presence against Izuku’s skin. “I have it on good authority that what you’re worried about is, at the very least, rare. Even if someone does find it, odds are, they won’t know what it is.”

“Okay, but—“

“I’m not finished.” He interjected, claws finally making contact with his skin. “Listen. On the off chance that whoever finds it does know what it is, finding out who it’s linked to is not a trivial thing to do, Deku. It’s possible, but it’ll take awhile.” His claws lightly tapped against the underside of Izuku’s chin. Katsuki smirked. “And here’s the kicker: if someone else opens it, I’ll know. And all I need to do is sever the connection. Past that point, there’s nothing they can do. Got it?”

Izuku swallowed. The movement of his throat made Katsuki’s knuckles brush up against it. “And you’re sure you can do that in time?”

Katsuki grinned. “All I gotta do is destroy my own.” He said, and out of the corner of Izuku’s eye, he spotted Katsuki’s other hand resting on the metal railing. He watched as his fingers gradually started to sink into the bar, the surrounding metal glowing red as it collapsed, liquifying beneath his touch. Katsuki licked his lips. “I’m pretty good at destroying things.”

Izuku could feel the heat radiating off the molten metal as Katsuki slowly pulled away, his hands sliding into his pockets.

“Don’t over-think it.” He said, beginning to walk away. He approached a spot behind where the school’s stairwell would’ve been—the only part of the roof cast in shadow. He threw one last look over his shoulder. “Oh, and get some fucking sleep, while you’re at it.” After that, he stepped into the shadows and dissipated into the darkness. Izuku spent a good few minutes just standing there, staring at the place where Katsuki used to be. Eventually, he sat down.

He stayed there for around half an hour before he finally gathered the will to get up and fly home.


It’d been two days since Izuku had stopped his search, and though he felt better physically, it’d be a lie to say that the anxiety hadn’t gotten to him.

It wasn’t that he didn’t believe Katsuki. He knew for a fact that the Demon was telling the truth, at least to the best of his knowledge. Still, the waiting game fostered a strong sense of unease within him that he just couldn’t seem to shake. 

After around two hours spent lying awake in his bed, Izuku decided to get up. He paced around for a few minutes, silently warring with the temptation to just go back to the library and continue his search. There were only a few sections he hadn’t been through, after all. Surely it wouldn’t take more than a couple of hours. 

But eventually, the memory of Katsuki’s words echoing inside his mind won out, and with a sigh, he forced himself to sit at his desk, switching his study lamp on and wincing at the sudden light. 

He just needed to get his mind off of it, he decided. Mumbling under his breath, Izuku begun searching through his school bag. He had an assignment due in a couple of days, and figured he might as well get started. 

Izuku grabbed his notebook and the assigned text—some book called The Economics of Faith  that he’d admittedly been putting off reading for a little while now, due to lack of interest.

Better late than never, he figured, sighing as he cracked it open.

Except there was nothing there.

Literally nothing. The pages were completely blank. Izuku flipped to the next page, but that one was blank, too. 

And the next one. 

And the next. 

He glanced at the cover just to make sure he’d grabbed the correct book, and then a flash of some irregularity caught his eye. He turned to a page near the beginning, and it felt as though his entire world just clicked into place.

There, he found a single sentence in surprisingly elegant script:

Looks like you finally found it, nerd.

He stared at it for a long time, his hands shaking. The ink was so red it almost looked as though the words had been cut into the flesh of something living.

Eventually, he shook himself out of his trance long enough to pick up a pen.

Kacchan, I needed this book for an assignment!!

Writing in the book felt different, somehow. As though his pen was sinking deeper into the parchment, transcending a barrier he never knew existed. After a second, he added: 

It’s due in two days, what am I supposed to do?!

After that, he forced himself to put the pen down, and stared at the page. A minute went by, and suddenly he felt the book warm up in his hands, the pages bowing outward before relaxing again, almost as though it truly were a living, breathing thing. He watched as, stroke by stroke, the words appeared right there before his eyes, until the book went cold in his hands, reverting back into its inanimate state as if to signal the message’s end. And his eyes scanned over it a few times.

Not my fault you left that shit to the last minute, dumbass.

Despite the insult, he found himself smiling. 

Izuku imagined him somewhere far away, where the skies were dark and the environment unforgiving. A place where ash fell like snow and embers drifted across the sky in a parody of starlight. And somewhere in that vast expanse, Katsuki’s long, clawed fingers wrapped around the spine of the book as he walked alone, his glowing, red eyes just passing lanterns in the perpetual night.

Chapter Text

Though the memo was originally intended as a way for them to coordinate meeting locations, it wasn’t long before it turned into something more. It was mostly Izuku’s fault, really. He just couldn’t resist the urge to ask Katsuki questions, knowing that the answers were right at his fingertips.

 

 

do demons still make contracts with humans?

 

no

not for like 1500 years

 

oh

what happened 1500 years ago?

 

lots of shit

main thing is we figured out how to make agriculture work for us

 

agriculture?

don’t demons feed off of sinful emotions?

 

that’s what I meant by making it work

basically we figured out how grow food enriched with sin

 

oh wow

is that what that fruit you’re always eating is?

the black ones with the red juice

 

yep. 

it’s called an embrite

they’re full of wrath

…and also gluttony, but all our food has some amount of that in there

go figure

 

that’s really interesting!

what do they taste like??

I’m curious

 

spicy

very spicy

like the kind of spicy that would make you wanna rip your tongue out

 

and you… ENJOY that?

 

hell yeah I do

 

is that all you ever eat?

 

nah

that’s just what I like to eat around you

 

why?

 

I can tell it makes you unsettled

and that is extremely funny to me

 

oh. uhhh.

that’s… weird

Do you go out of your way to make EVERYONE you interact with uncomfortable?

 

no

only the ones I’m trying to tempt


It was around an hour before sunset. Izuku found himself standing on the roof of an old, abandoned convenience store, his gaze sky bound. He watched in awe as the thrones led the Holy Army, smoke billowing in the distance as they blasted away swaths of Demons in their path.

“So, that’s really your dream, huh?” Katsuki chimed in, his voice monotone and coming from somewhere behind him. “You wanna be a fucking ring of fire covered in eyes?”

Izuku glanced over his shoulder. “Well, no, I mean—it’d be an honor, of course! But right now, I’m just working on getting to the second sphere. I want to be on the front lines. It’s hard to imagine being as powerful as the third sphere Angels.”

Katsuki hummed, raising an eyebrow as he looked out at the horizon. “So, Angels get creepier as they become more powerful? Weird. Demons just get sexier.” 

“Wha—really?”

“Yeah.” He said. “I mean, shit—have you seen Lucifer?” Katsuki whistled. “Dude’s like, the personification of sex.”

Izuku hesitated. “I guess that’s probably why he’s so good at corrupting others.”

Katsuki repeated his words in a high-pitched, mocking tone.

“Well, I’m not wrong!” 

“Yeah, well here’s the thing, Deku. Temptation isn’t inherently bad. If you’re about to piss your fucking pants and I turn on a faucet, I mean—“ He gesticulated widely. “Yeah, it’s kinda mean, but also, maybe you should just use the fucking toilet?”

Izuku stared at him for a while, attempting to extrapolate some sort of underlying argument from that statement, but to no avail.

“That’s…” He squinted. “That’s a really weird analogy, Kacchan.” He said, articulating each syllable carefully. “Are you trying to frame bullying someone into peeing their pants as some sort of round-about form of altruism?” He shook his head. “I don’t know how to explain to you how fundamentally bizarre that is.”

Katsuki stared at him a moment. “Okay, yeah. Fine. I’ll give you that.”

“Is this your way of trying to tempt me?”

“Well, it’s not exactly my fucking department, asshole.” He said, glaring at him, but blushing slightly. 

Izuku started laughing. “But I don’t—” he snorted, shoulders shaking. “I don’t even know what point you were trying to make just now.”

“Fuck you!” Katsuki shouted back, face turning redder. “I don’t need to hear that shit from you. Your entire belief system is incoherent!”

Izuku just laughed harder, clutching his stomach.

“Okay,” He wheezed, “Okay, but now I’m curious. What exactly were you trying to argue just now?”

Katsuki sighed, closing his eyes and clenching his fists. Izuku wiped the tears from his eyes and watched as he slowly counted to ten, mouthing the numbers, and then took a deep breath.

“Look, honestly? Temptation isn’t really even the right word for it.” He said, raking a hand through his hair. “It’s not like some kind of carnal process where the only thing pulling you in is the promise of frivolous pleasure, or some shit. I mean,” He threw his hands up, “Are there things like that I can capitalize on? Hell yeah. But it’s way more effective to just convince you my side’s better, and there’s more than enough evidence to back that up.”

Izuku raised an eyebrow. “Such as?”

Katsuki stared at him for a moment, looking him up and down. He crossed his arms and smirked. “Do you really wanna know?”

Izuku opened his mouth for a second, then closed it again. 

Maybe this is a bad idea, he thought. 

But eventually, he sighed, and gave in. “Sure, why not.” 

This was inevitable, anyway, he told himself. 

But then Katsuki gave him one of those damn smiles of his—the slow-spreading, mischievous ones that always seemed to precede dangerous interactions of one sort or another. Izuku’s stomach instantly filled with regret.

“Well, in that case…” Katsuki proceeded to reach into his rucksack and pull out a thick book. Dozens of tabs of various colors stuck out from the pages.

“Um… What is that?”

“Just something I picked up a few weeks ago.” Katsuki replied, shrugging casually. “Been tempted for a while, but I finally caved a couple days after I had to explain to you what a fucking memorandor was.”

Izuku squinted, trying to read the cover, but Katsuki’s hands were in the way.

“Okay…?” He said. “But what is it?”

“Oh, you know—just a brief little synopsis of the sociopolitical clusterfuck you call Heaven.” He replied off-handedly, beginning to flip through the tabbed pages. After a moment, Katsuki grinned, seeming to have found what he was looking for.

“Alright, so here’s what we’ll do.” He said. “As far as I know, this book’s still up-to-date, but I’m not positive. So, I’m gonna read off an excerpt. When I’m done, I’ll pause and let you tell me whether or not it’s still true, and we’ll go from there. Got it?”

“Uh, sure.” Izuku replied. “Go ahead.”

Katsuki smiled curtly, and began to read aloud. 

“‘An Angel’s ability to obtain accurate information is contingent on their position within the hierarchy. Depending on the level of their students, instructors may be forbidden from teaching certain subjects, and curious Angels are barred from so much as opening books covering topics deemed to be inappropriate for an Angel of their status. 

“Most telling, however, are the places where the lines are drawn. In the first sphere, which encompasses Angels from levels one through three, books covering both combat and Angel physiology are almost entirely forbidden. While these are allowed in the second sphere, which includes levels four through six, in most cases, books which cover the history of conflict between Heaven and Hell are still off limits. Books which look at Demonic culture and government, to the extent that they exist in Heaven, are generally only available to level nine Angels.”

Katsuki stopped, and looked up at him expectantly.

After a second, Izuku nodded. “That’s… true, I suppose.”

Katsuki closed the book with a pointed snap, and gave a tight smile. “Deku.”

Izuku frowned, crossing his arms. “What?”

“You know what.”

“I don’t!”

“Well—!“ Katsuki stopped abruptly, closing his eyes and taking a few deep breaths. When he looked at Izuku again, his smile was still notably strained, but the manic glint in his eye had mostly disappeared. 

Enunciating each word slowly and deliberately, Katsuki then asked, “Would you like to know how I got this book?”

When Izuku didn’t say anything, he seemed to take it as a cue to continue.

“I walked to the library, and I asked the librarian where I could find current information about the structure of you fucks’ society. She lead me to an aisle, and recommended this book in particular. And it looked pretty good to me, so I checked it out. And I went home.”  He pinched the bridge of his nose. “I mean, fucking Christ, Deku—you do realize this shit ain’t normal, right? Like, you’re aware of that?”

Izuku rolled his eyes. “And who made you the judge of what is and isn’t normal?”

Katsuki groaned, shoving the book back into his bag. He closed his eyes, rubbing his temples in small circles. When he finally opened them again, he looked at Izuku, and began speaking in a patronizingly sweet tone. 

“Deku, baby,” He said. “You’re getting fucked. You’re getting fucked by some asshole you’ve never even spoken to—“ He suddenly pointed at Izuku, as if to preemptively rebut some response he’d anticipated. “Because yes, the book mentioned that, too, Deku. I know. I fucking know that the vast majority of Angels never even get the chance to speak to God.”

Izuku scoffed. ”Well, when’s the last time you spoke to Lucifer?”

“Last week, in a public bathroom.” Katsuki shot back, with a wide grin. “He asked about the recipe for a dish I brought to a mutual friend’s birthday party last month and then took the most toxic dump I’ve ever had the displeasure of smelling.” 

Izuku stared back at him for a while, unsure how to respond. Unnecessary details aside, that was far from the response he’d been expecting.

“We’re talking about the same person, right?” He finally asked. “Lucifer, as in…?”

“The so-called ‘Prince of Darkness’?” Katsuki snorted. “Yeah, Deku. That Lucifer.”

Izuku blinked several times, trying to recalibrate his brain. He was beginning to wonder whether Katsuki had found a way to lie to him undetected. But then, out of nowhere, it suddenly occurred to him that, although he’d always known that Katsuki was powerful, he’d never actually stopped to ask where exactly he sat within the hierarchy.

The epiphany sent a cold shock through him, as though he had just awoken to the realization that he’d slept through a flight exam. Izuku tensed, and without really meaning to, his stance shifted to something a bit more defensive.

“Kacchan…” He cautiously said. “Just how high-ranking are you, anyway…?”

“Ra—“ Katsuki started, then stopped, staring at him for just a split second before bursting out into a fit of laughter. He clutched his sides, looking at Izuku as though he’d said something absurd. “Deku,” He wheezed. “Holy shit.”

“What?” Izuku demanded, suddenly embarrassed for reasons he couldn’t understand. His face felt hotter the longer Katsuki’s fit went on, but eventually, he calmed down enough to speak normally.

“Deku, that’s not how this works.”

“How what works?”

“Our society.” He said. “This might come as a shock to you, but not every society is, like, a totalitarian surveillance state. Lucifer’s just a guy.” Katsuki kicked a can off the rooftop. “A strong guy? Hell yeah. Arguably the strongest, even. But he’s still just a guy.

“Like, don’t get me wrong, his strength is no fucking joke. Being so damn old, he’s had time to master just about every type of magic that exists. Occasionally that expertise might give his opinions more weight—y’know, when it’s relevant—but he’s not like, categorically important, or some shit.”

Izuku frowned. “But… he’s one of the original Demons, isn’t he?”

“Yeah, but who the fuck cares?” Katsuki snorted. “Like, I don’t know about you, Deku, but ‘finders keepers’ doesn’t seem like a very logical ideal to build an entire fucking society off of.”

“Well, a lot of human societies were created like that.”

“Yeah, Deku. And the vast majority of people were fucking miserable.”

For a long while, Izuku just stared at him, his mouth open slightly. He wasn’t sure what he was feeling. There was a part of him that was angry, and on an instinctual level, he felt that he knew why. But for whatever reason, he just had no idea what to do with the feeling. It was there, churning deep inside him—he just didn’t have the vocabulary to express it.

After what felt like an eternity, Izuku tore his eyes away. He went and sat on the ledge, looking down at the vacant street below. A moment later, Katsuki sighed, and came to sit beside him.

“Deku, what the hell are you doing?” He asked, his tone soft, almost… affectionate.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean—“ He gestured toward the skyline, where the war raged on. “Why do you want to be like them?”

After a moment of thought, Izuku exhaled. “Kacchan, there are a finite number of people on Earth.” He pulled his knees up toward his chest. “Eventually, our job here will be done, you know. I want to keep helping, even after that time comes.”

“And you think fighting in the war will… help… people?” Katsuki asked, cocking his head, frowning. “Have you considered just, like…” He gestured vaguely. “I dunno, maybe starting a community garden or some shit?”

Izuku laughed softly, under his breath. He shook his head. “Kacchan, that’s not enough… I want to be able to protect people.”

“From what?” Katsuki asked, and the question hung in the air for a bit. Then, a little softer, he added, “People like me?”

Izuku’s breath caught, and for several seconds, he didn’t respond. He could feel Katsuki’s eyes on him, pinning him in place. The silence stretched between them, only interrupted by the muffled sound of explosions and impact in the distance that both had long since learned to tune out.

After a while, Katsuki hummed. “Maybe I’m just the exception.”

Izuku smiled slightly, despite himself. “The exception that proves the rule.”

Katsuki sighed, looking out on the horizon. “You know,” he said, “I’ve never really understood that phrase…”


“I just feel… strange.” Izuku said, staring down at his cup of fire tea, stirring it idly. “I don’t know. I feel like I’ve gotten too comfortable around him. I keep trying to remind myself how easily he could hurt me, if he felt like it.” He paused, releasing the spoon. Izuku watched as the amber liquid gradually settled, his murky reflection gently rippling in the mug, and shrugged. “Maybe that’s why I feel this way. Because he could do it, but just… chooses not to.”

When Izuku finally looked up from his tea, he found All Might seated across from him, elbows on the table, fingers laced beneath the chin of his frowning face. Under his scrutiny, Izuku suddenly felt embarrassed.

“S-Sorry, maybe I said too—“

“No, no.” All Might assured him, waving his hands. “Apologies—this is just my thinking face.”

Izuku relaxed a bit, nodding as he looked down at his lap, where his hands were folded. His gloves sat discarded on the table. The corruption mark was barely visible at that point, but he still wore them around others, just to be safe.

“However,” All Might continued, sighing. “I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t an issue. Frankly, based on some of the ways you’ve described him, I sort of didn’t expect this to be a major concern, but perhaps the boy is more charming than I gave him credit for.” All Might chuckled softly, and Izuku smiled.

“Charming definitely isn’t the word I’d describe him with.” Izuku lightly replied, carefully raising his mug to his lips, blowing on it before taking a sip. “Half the time he’s insulting me, and the other half he’s just excessively crude—probably on purpose, to try and make me feel unsettled.”

Izuku glanced up, and the grave look on All Might’s face gave him pause.

“All Might…?”

All Might took a deep breath, regarding him carefully. “Midoriya… Are you certain he hasn’t been using his abilities on you?”

He blinked a few times. “Um… what do you mean, exactly?” He frowned. “He hasn’t hurt me, or anything—“

“Not his Wrath abilities, Midoriya.” All Might said, shaking his head. “I’m talking about his Lust abilities. Are you certain he hasn’t been hypnotizing you?”

Izuku paled, mouth falling open slightly. After a second, he swallowed. “I mean… would I know it if he did?”

All Might hesitated, lowering his chin slightly. “Given that he’s a Wrath Demon primarily, I would say probably… but not necessarily.”

Izuku’s palms began to sweat. He wiped them on his robe.

“Ah.” He said, voice jumping an octave. “Well… great.”

All Might stood up. “You need to ask him,” he said, pushing his chair in. “And be sure to get a straight answer; don’t allow him to dodge the question. Understand? This is very important.”

Izuku gulped, nodding silently. Then the kettle screamed, and he nearly jumped out of his skin.


The sunset filtered through the stained glass windows at around five in the afternoon, stretching colorful lights over the altar and pews. As the last set of clothes fell to the floor, Katsuki sighed, shoving his hands into his pockets and wandering down the aisle. Izuku braced himself, trying not to look quite as nervous as he definitely was. 

He cleared his throat, and Katsuki looked at him, seeming bored.

“Kacchan, are you…” He winced, looking away from Katsuki’s glowing eyes. “…Doing something to me?”

When Katsuki didn’t respond immediately, Izuku glanced up, and found him staring at him with his head cocked, a bewildered look on his face. “‘Doing something’?” He repeated. “The hell are you talking about?”

“I mean, like…” He gestured vaguely, his cheeks growing redder under his attention. “You know, t-to my head… or something.”

For several seconds, Katsuki just kept staring at him, his confusion now tainted by a growing look of irritation.

Eventually, Izuku sighed, trying to subtly wipe his clammy hands on his robes. “Look, you’re… you’re a Wrath Demon, right?”

Katsuki blinked a few times, then threw him a small smirk. “I don’t have to answer that.”

Izuku scoffed. “I’ll take that as a yes.” He said, then took a deep breath. “My mentor told me about Demon types. He… he said that every type has two adjacent classes, and uhh…” He swallowed, watching Katsuki’s realization in real time as he stammered through the explanation. He started speaking faster, as if he could outrun the Demon’s comprehension, but it just lead to him tripping over his words even more. “Th-That one of yours, uhm, specializes in…” He looked away, blushing. “Uh, m-manipulating people’s—“

“—Ohh, I get it.” Katsuki cut in, suddenly much closer than before. He loomed over Izuku, his grin downright predatory. “So you think I’m pulling some kinda Lust shit on you, huh?”

Izuku kept his eyes fixated on the ground, watching Katsuki’s shoes as he moved further into his space. There was a certain spring in his step when he started to circle around him that made Izuku wish he could take it all back.

“What if I told you m’not?” He playfully asked, hot breath wafting against his ear. “What if I told you it’s all just you, huh?” Katsuki laughed, circling around to speak into Izuku’s other ear. “Would ’ya even believe me?”

For a good while, Izuku found himself unable to say anything at all.

“Hmm?” Izuku swore he could feel the timbre of his voice reverberating inside him. “What’s wrong? Tongue-tied?”

As Katsuki looped around his right, Izuku took a decisive step to his left, putting space between the two of them.

“I asked you first.” He said, forcing himself to look up and meet the Demon’s eyes.

Some of that playfulness melted away as Katsuki frowned, looking him up and down, an eyebrow arched. Izuku held his ground, fists clenching behind his back, and eventually Katsuki scoffed, glancing away. “Fuckin’ amateur,” he muttered, rolling his eyes.

“Excuse me?”

Katsuki turned toward him again, hands stuffed into his pockets. He widened his stance and leaned forward. “Look,” he said, his tone patronizing. “It’s real cute that you think I’m doin’ some kinda funky shit with your feelings right now, but I’m not.”

Keyword being ‘right now’, Izuku’s mind supplied. He narrowed his eyes.

“I’m not sure if I—“

“—Believe me?” Katsuki completed, tilting his head, both eyebrows raised. After a moment, he sighed and took a step closer, looming over him again. “Tell ‘ya what,” He said. “How ‘bout I just show you how it feels?”

Izuku blinked a few times, his mind going blank. “I… don’t follow.”

Katsuki rolled his eyes. “I’m saying, instead of you speculating about whether or not I’ve found some clever way to hack your lie-detector bullshit, how ‘bout I just settle this right now by showing you how it feels when those abilities actually get used on you.” He said, shrugging. “Probably save us both a fuck load of time.”

Izuku froze, his whole body tensing up. 

To say that idea made him nervous would be a gross understatement.

“Uhh…”

“I won’t do anything bad, Deku. Promise. It’s purely so you can see how it feels.”

And he was telling the truth; Izuku checked.

But still.

“I… I don’t know, Kacchan,” he said, laughing anxiously.

“You wanna be on the battlefield someday, right?” Katsuki said, red eyes studying him carefully. “Doncha think it might be useful to know how it feels beforehand?”

Izuku opened his mouth for a second, and then closed it again. Katsuki leaned in just the slightest bit closer, and raised an eyebrow.

“Y’know, the next time this happens to you, it ain’t gonna be for educational purposes, Deku.”

Izuku swallowed, eyes downcast. He hated to admit it, but the Demon made a pretty good point.

And really—how many Angels got the opportunity to experience the effects of a Demon’s powers in a non-hostile setting?

There was a little voice in the back of his mind, now only a shadow of what it used to be. What makes you so certain this is a non-hostile setting?

Izuku smothered the doubt within himself. It’d been a long time since it’d done him any good.

With a sigh, he nodded. “Okay, fine… but you promise you won’t do anything bad?”

“Promise.” 

Izuku released a shuddering breath.

“…Alright.”

Katsuki hummed. “In that case… look into my eyes.”

Izuku did as he was told, turning to meet the Demon’s gaze. The innate, entrancing quality of his eyes made it all too easy to get lost in them—a feeling he was well accustomed to. But after a moment, he felt something new. Something clicked inside his head, like a door he never knew existed. Then, all at once, his mind felt heavier, and his vision grew hazy.

Katsuki smirked, slow and dangerous.

“Get on your knees.”

Izuku’s body seemed to move before the words even reached his consciousness. Everything was slow, muted, like he was immersed in warm molasses. Before he even knew what was happening, Izuku’s knees were on the floor, pressing into the faded red carpet.

But then, just as quickly as it had come, he felt that extra weight leave him, exiting his mind with a second click, as though locking the door behind it. 

And just like that, he was himself again. 

Izuku blinked a few times, clearing the fog as he stared at Katsuki’s black combat boots, mere inches away from where his knees were situated. He looked up at Katsuki, and found the Demon staring back down at him, an amused look on his face. Katsuki offered him a hand. Izuku stood up on his own.

“You get it now?” Katsuki asked.

Izuku dusted off the front of his robe, his mind still feeling a bit off-balance. “Yeah, it’s…” he hesitated, trying to find the right word for it, but nothing particularly descriptive came to mind. “…Pretty distinctive, I suppose.”

“Mhmm,” Katsuki hummed, low and rumbly.  “So you believe me now?

Izuku nodded quietly.

“Good.” He said, sliding his hands back into his pockets, and beginning to walk circles around him again. “So…” He began, “What exactly did you think I was making you feel, anyway, hmm?”

Oh, dear.

“I-I mean,” Izuku sputtered. “My mentor’s the one who wanted me to ask. It’s not what you think.”

Katsuki snorted. “Yeah? And what do I think, Deku?”

“I don’t know!” Izuku exclaimed, voice raising in pitch. “But I’m sure it’s very inappropriate!”

He cackled. “Inappropriate? For fuck’s sake, Deku, we’re both adults, and—“ He suddenly came to a stop in front of him, turning to face him fully, his eyes narrowing. “Wait, they let you guys fuck, right?”

Izuku face-palmed, turning sharply on his heel. “Oh my God, Kacchan!”

“But they do, right?” Katsuki asked, matching his movements to try and stay in front of him. “Right?”

Izuku’s feathers ruffled. He was about to scream.

“…Oh fuck, they don’t.” Katsuki said, grim realization evident in his tone. “What’s even the point of—“

Izuku covered his ears. “La la la la la—“

Katsuki knocked his hands away from his ears with his wrists, using the sleeves of his leather jacket as a buffer. “What are you, five?”

Izuku stuck his tongue out at him… only for Katsuki to suddenly reach up and try to grab it. He lurched back, just barely dodging his fingers. Somehow, Izuku’s cheeks burned brighter.

“What the—Kacchan! What’s wrong with you?!”

“What’s the point of going to Heaven if you can’t even indulge in all the shit you weren’t allowed to when you were alive?” He threw his hands up. 

Izuku threw his hands up higher.

“Why did you try to grab my tongue just now?!”

“You were acting like a child, so I figured you’d lost tongue privileges!”

“What does that even mean?!”

“Whatever the fuck I decide it means!”

“Why are you yelling?!”

“I don’t know, why are you—!”

Katsuki suddenly tensed, and then a sour expression overtook his features. “Seriously? Now?” He grumbled, unzipping the front of his jacket. “This better be fuckin’ important.”

Izuku could do nothing but look at him in confusion, shuffling back as Katsuki proceeded to shed his leather jacket. Underneath, he wore a simple, black tank top. 

The first thing that caught Izuku’s attention was the size of his biceps—physical proof of the strength the Demon had demonstrated many times over.

The second thing he noticed was the intricate tattoo adorning his left arm and shoulder. Katsuki placed his hand over it, and it began to glow—the black ink lighting up orange. 

“What d’you want?” He said, speaking through gritted teeth, though as time went by and Katsuki remained silent, the irritation faded. After a minute, he said, “Okay, but why are you telling me this?” Another minute went by, and he sighed. “Fuck. Alright, fine. See you there, I guess.” His hand fell away from the marking, and he slouched, arms hanging limply in front of him. 

“Um…” Izuku said. “Is everything okay?”

“Yeah, s’fine.” Katsuki muttered, raking a hand through his hair. “Apparently Baldy got into some shit, though.”

“Inasa?” He frowned. “Is he okay?”

“Terminally stupid, but he’ll be fine.”

“Oh. Well, that’s good.”

Katsuki shrugged, projecting apathy, but somehow, Izuku could sense that he was relieved. He wondered when exactly he’d learned to read the Demon so well.

“Well, I should probably head back, anyway.” Izuku eventually said, rubbing the back of his neck. “Um, tell him I said hi, I guess.”

Katsuki grunted, throwing his jacket back on again. Izuku’s eyes followed the movement of his arms.

The two of them parted ways beneath a cloudy, pink sky.


Just beyond the gates of Heaven, there was a dispatch station. The station contained six platforms, each serviced by a shuttle, and all of which were designed to take passengers to one distinct, unchanging location. 

The first platform was the largest, as its shuttle was bound for the most populous portion of God’s Kingdom: the mainland, where virtuous humans spent their afterlives. The car had been temporarily disabled as a precaution during the war, though, in order to keep civilians safe. It’d been a long time since Izuku last saw it running.

The next three platforms were entry points for the inner circles, where working Angels like Izuku lived. Of the remaining two, one went directly to the hospital, while the other went to the High Tower, where God resided, along with his Council. This platform was rarely used, as the only ones authorized to use it were Councilmen, their Acolytes, and theoretically, God himself—though the idea of God needing to rely on shuttle transport seemed almost laughable to Izuku. 

In all his years, Izuku had never actually seen anyone use that shuttle. Perhaps that’s why it caught his attention, when he noticed a tall figure standing alone on the platform, waiting.

But then again, it was also just generally difficult not to notice when one was in the presence of such a person.

The Councilmen’s Acolyte was an odd sight to behold, standing just fifteen feet away in his white and gold robes, which flowed and billowed out around him unusually, as if hiding some writhing mass within. Only one set of wings was visible, though Izuku was sure he had more hidden beneath the robe.

The strangest part was the crimson scarf covering his eyes. It wrapped around the entire upper portion of his head, which was itself mostly hidden beneath a white cowl. Izuku still wasn’t sure why exactly the Acolytes wore blindfolds, or how they managed to see in spite of them.

He didn’t mean to stare; he really didn’t. It was just difficult not to. The few times he had seen Acolytes before, they always seemed to have a bizarre sort of gravitational pull about them, as though thousands of souls lived within their bodies. All high-level Angels felt like that to some extent, but even among them, the Acolytes were in a league of their own—a de facto tenth level beyond the normal ninth. 

His vision went out of focus as he continued to gaze at the man, but it wasn’t until the Acolyte turned toward him that Izuku really became aware of what he was doing. His head turned slowly, and tilted to the side. Somehow, Izuku knew he was watching him, despite the blindfold, and felt a cold rush travel down his spine as he hastily turned away, a metallic taste on his tongue.

A moment later, the shuttle car arrived, and Izuku boarded alongside a couple other Angels, his heart racing. 

He had to be more careful. The powers of the Acolytes were not fully understood. He’d heard rumors which claimed that they could see into the minds of Angels. Although it was just hearsay, Izuku knew he’d do well to be a bit more cautious, should he ever run into one again.

As the shuttle car doors closed, Izuku worked up the nerve to throw the Acolyte one last glance. He was relieved to find the man standing in the same spot as before, his head facing forward, and remaining as such as the car began to move.

His heart continued to pound in his ears for the duration of the trip.


Before even setting foot inside the dorm building, Izuku already knew something had happened. Uraraka was in the common area, pacing back and forth while Iida spoke animatedly. Shinsou, who seldom hung around the common room, stood leaning back against the wall, listening and occasionally nodding. 

When Izuku opened the door, Uraraka stopped and looked at him.

“Izuku!” She shouted.

“Um. Yes…?” He said, eyes darting between the three. “What’s going on?”

“Todoroki’s hurt!” She said.

Iida nodded. “He’s in the hospital. We only just found out.”

“What?” Izuku said, a cold weight settling in his stomach. “What happened? Is he going to be okay? How bad is it?”

“We don’t know.” Shinsou replied.

Uraraka shook her head. “They haven’t told us anything else. We tried to figure out more, but that’s all they would say. Just that he’s been admitted.”

Izuku frowned, his brow wrinkling.

“We were about to head over there,” Shinsou said. “See if maybe they’ll let us in to see him.”

Izuku nodded, gripping the strap of his messenger bag.

“Did you want to put that in your room, first?”

“No, that’s okay.” Izuku replied, shaking his head. “I’ll just bring it with me.”

Shinsou shrugged, while the others nodded. And without further delay, they all left the building the same way Izuku had entered.


The four of them sat in the waiting room for a what felt like several hours, but was probably around twenty minutes in actuality. Izuku zoned out, staring at the ‘No talking’ sign as he waited, listening to the steady sound of the click ticking above his head. Eventually, the door to the emergency wing opened up, and a single nurse emerged, greeting them pleasantly before gesturing for them to follow her. They all stood up, thanked her and hastily trailed behind, barely avoiding stepping on each others’ ankles on the way down.

A minute later, they arrived at a door near the end of the hall, at which point the nurse bid them farewell. The four of them piled inside, and Izuku braced himself for the worst.

There, Todoroki sat upright in bed, a cast on his left arm, and gauze wrapped around his neck and left shoulder. Izuku felt the tension inside him melt away almost instantly.

“Oh,” Todoroki said, looking up. “Hello. I wasn’t expecting you guys.”

Uraraka spoke first. “Sorry, we were just worried.”

“We heard you were injured, but we didn’t know how bad it was.” Iida added.

“Are you feeling alright?” Izuku asked.

Todoroki gestured toward his left arm and shoulder. “Not in ideal condition, but nothing they won’t be able to heal in a few days.”

“Oh, thank goodness.” Uraraka said. “We were terrified!”

“Sorry to make you worry.”

“No, no!” She waved her hands. “It’s not your fault, Todoroki.”

“We’re just glad you’re alright.” Shinsou said, speaking for the first time.

Todoroki smiled. “I was lucky. It could’ve been a lot worse.”

“If you don’t mind me asking, what happened?” Iida asked.

“Oh,” Todoroki shrugged. “Just had a close run in with a Demon. It was sort of my fault, I guess. I let hi—“ He cleared his throat. “It caught me off guard. I need to learn not to let… that happen.”

“I imagine everyone slips up sometimes.” Iida said.

“Yeah,” Izuku agreed. “Don’t be too hard on yourself. This was only your…” Izuku trailed off. “Uh, third battle, was it?”

“Second.”

“Oh, wow.” Izuku said. “Well, that just makes my point stronger, then. You’re new at this, Todoroki. You’re bound to make some mistakes.”

“Hopefully none of them will be fatal.” Todoroki said.

The room fell silent for a moment, apart from the sound of humming machinery, and the steady beep of the heart monitor. 

“Well, I wish I could stay longer, but I had plans to study with Tsuyu later. We’ve got a test coming up.”

Iida cleared his throat. “I should probably be getting back, too.” He said. “I’m relieved to see that you’re alright, though, Todoroki.” 

“Same here!” Uraraka said. “Please stay safe out there!”

“Yeah.” He said. “Ah, good luck on your test.”

“Thanks,” Uraraka chirped.

Uraraka and Iida headed for the door, and Shinsou trailed behind them. Izuku, however, remained in place.

“Midoriya?” Shinsou called, looking over his shoulder.

“Um. You guys go on ahead.” Izuku said. “I think I’ll stay for a few more minutes,” He looked over at Todoroki. “If that’s okay with you, I mean.”

Todoroki nodded.

Shinsou paused for a moment, then shrugged. “Alright. Well, I guess I’ll see you later, then.”

“See you later!” 

The door closed quietly behind Shinsou, muffling the sound of their footsteps as the three of them walked away. With no one else around, Izuku opted to sit in the chair beside Todoroki’s bed—it had been left vacant up until then; Izuku figured none of them wanted to be the one person who sat while all the others had to stand.

“So…” Izuku said, fidgeting with the hem of one of his gloves—the one that covered his corruption damage, or at least what remained of it. “Are those… physical injuries?”

Todoroki seemed a bit surprised by the question, but after a second, he gestured toward his left arm. “It’s a mix. My arm is broken, and I have some bruises, but the rest is corruption damage.”

Izuku nodded, chewing his lip. “I’m guessing that’s pretty common.” He muttered. “Corruption damage, I mean.”

“Yeah, I’d say so. It seems to happen less often the more experienced you are.” He blinked. “Holding a barrier while fighting is harder than you would think. I don’t even remember when it slipped. There was a lot going on.” After a moment of silence, Todoroki added. “And even for the more experienced Angels, there are some Demons who can get around barriers.”

Lust demons, Izuku’s mind supplied. He swallowed.

“Do you think it was one of those?”

“No. They teach us to determine that sort of thing based on the way they fight. This one didn’t really match up with what you’d expect from a Demon like that.” 

Izuku nodded, biting his lip. “So it was just one, then.”

“Yeah. Just one.”

“…Did the Demon survive?”

“Yes,” he said. “And I don’t think I could’ve beaten this one. Too strong. But I got in a few good hits.” 

Izuku hummed, and silence fell between them. 

Both of them, Izuku assumed, knew what the other was doing. Carefully structured sentences designed to avoid referencing Demons with any particular pronoun. It wasn’t something Izuku usually thought about. He didn’t bat an eye when others referred to a Demon as ‘it.’ Most of the books he read which mentioned them did the same. Likewise, most didn’t really seem to care when Izuku referred to them with words like ‘he’ or ‘she.’ Many switched back and forth between the two modes, depending on context. 

But in that moment, as he sat there beside Todoroki in that sterile hospital room, for whatever reason, it seemed to matter. The avoidance felt like a signal of some kind, though whether it was meant to be between the two of them or… something else, Izuku couldn’t say.

“That’s where most of the corruption damage came from.” Todoroki paused. “The broken arm is sort of embarrassing, though, because it’s not even related to fighting. I just tripped and fell while I was running, and I ended up breaking my fall with it… on a large rock.” He smiled softly. “So next time I go down there, I’m wearing bracers.”

Izuku laughed lightly. “That sounds like something I’d probably do.”

“I do still remember that time you fractured a wing on one of the hoops in the flying field.”

“It was dark!”

“Which is why they don’t have us practice after sunset.”

“Yeah… I learned that lesson the hard way.” Izuku said, smiling. After a long pause, he asked, “So… did they say how long they’re planning to keep you for?”

“Just a couple more hours. I have to come back every morning for the next few days for treatment, but after that, I should be pretty much completely healed.”

“Well, that’s good news.” Izuku said. “You should drop by the dorms sometime soon, Todoroki. We all miss you.”

Todoroki averted his eyes awkwardly, and sighed. “I know. It’s been hard to get away, but maybe after what happened they’ll give me a bit more free time.” 

Izuku hummed. “I mean, I’m sure we’ll all understand if you can’t make time.”

“No, I’ll figure something out.”

Another long silence stretched between them. Izuku was preparing to excuse himself, but then Todoroki said something, a bit too quiet for him to make out.

“…Sorry?”

“I just said it’s… funny.”

Izuku blinked, leaning in closer to hear him better. “What is?”

Todoroki hesitated for a moment. He kept his eyes fixed on his hands. “Just that…” He frowned. “I’m still not sure if the Demon was… actually trying to kill me.”

Izuku’s brow furrowed. “Um… why do you say that?”

Todoroki shrugged. “It was weird. The Demon didn’t really try to hurt me. Just grabbed my arm and wouldn’t let go.”

“…Like the Demon was trying to force a Fall?”

Todoroki shook his head. “The Demon let me go after a minute.”

“That’s… very strange.” Izuku leaned in a bit further. “Any guesses as to what, uhh…” He trailed off.

“I think…” He said, voice barely a whisper. “I think he just wanted my attention.”

He.

Somehow, hearing him utter that word held a sort of reverence in the quiet room. It hung in the air for a moment before Izuku spoke.

“Did he say anything to you?”

Todoroki nodded. “I think so.” He replied. “But it was too loud. I couldn’t hear anything.”

“Are you sure it wasn’t some kind of trap…?”

“It wasn’t.”

Izuku blinked, momentarily dumbstruck at the immediacy of his answer. After a beat, he asked, “What makes you so sure…?”

Todoroki didn’t say anything, at first. For a moment, the only response was in the steady beeping of the heart monitor, the muted sound of footsteps outside, and the subtle creaking of the walls as the wind blew against them.

But after a while, Todoroki spoke once more.

“I don’t know.” He murmured. “That’s what I’m trying to figure out.”

Chapter Text

A typical day with Katsuki looked something like this:

Izuku would meet up with him in the morning, at the first church he’d been assigned to. As one might expect of humans who chose to gather in a church in midst of a global catastrophe, the vast majority of them were true believers. Once in a while, Katsuki would discover a bad apple or two in the bunch, but most people were basically decent. 

On the occasions when stragglers remained, their numbers were almost always under five. At this point, Katsuki would take over, escorting them to Hell personally before meeting up with Izuku once again at the next church.

But today…

The two of them sat at the front of a large cathedral near the center of what used to be a major city, and for the first time, there were too many non-believers for Katsuki to handle on his own.

After a moment of silent deliberation, Katsuki groaned, shedding his jacket and activating whatever it was on his arm which allowed him to communicate with other Demons. 

“Oi, Pinky. It’s me. Need some backup over here.” After a moment of silence, he side-eyed Izuku. “Yeah… he’s here.” He cautiously said, eyes narrowing. “Why?” A few more seconds went by, and Katsuki took his hand off the tattoo. “Fuck, she’s closer than I thought.”

“Um… who?”

“Our transport Demon.” He replied, standing up straight and heading toward the door. “C’mon, it’s probably best you meet her somewhere…” He gestured vaguely toward the group of stragglers. “Y’know, not in front of fifteen people.”

Izuku frowned, an ominous weight settling upon him. He hesitantly followed the Demon, and as the ornate door closed behind them, Katsuki tensed, seeming to have remembered something. His hand smacked over the mark, and it began to glow once more.

“Me again.” He barked. “Listen, I really shouldn’t fucking need to tell you this, but do not touch him without warning.” A pause. “I know you know. I’m telling you so you won’t forget. That’s all.” He dropped his hand, and the tattoo returned to its normal, black state.

To say Izuku was nervous would be a vast understatement.

“Fuck, she’s close. I can feel it.” Katsuki muttered, turning to look at Izuku for the first time in a while. “Woah, hey.” He raised his eyebrows. “Calm down, Deku. It’s okay.”

“Are you sure?” Izuku shot back. “Because everything you’ve said and done these past few minutes seems to imply the opposite.”

“Deku, I mean it.” The Demon rolled his eyes. “Like, yeah, she’s fucking weird, but she’s harmless.”

“See, but that’s the problem.” Izuku pointed at him. “You’ve said it yourself. I don’t know if your definition of ‘harmless’ is the same as mine.”

“Anything Ashido could do to you is nothing a little therapy couldn’t fix—“

“—This is the opposite of reassurance!”

“Hey, hey!” A feminine voice called out. Izuku jumped, and found her standing about ten feet away, a wide grin on her face. Her hair was wild and pink, almost matching her complexion, her eyes colored black, with glowing golden irises. Like Katsuki, she was only partially shifted, but despite bearing similar characteristics as Katsuki—horns, tail, sharp teeth—she looked much closer to what one might have expected a Demon to look like.

“Bakugou, didn’t anyone ever teach you it’s not nice to talk about people behind their back?”

“I could kill you with my bare hands, Pinky.” He deadpanned.

“Thanks, but I’m already seeing someone.” She winked, grinning from ear to ear as she jogged up the steps. She came to a stop a few feet from Izuku. “And who’s this?”

“You already know that.”

She puffed her cheeks out. “Humor me.”

Katsuki sighed, stepping closer and wrapping an arm around him. Izuku stiffened. His hand fell a bit lower than he'd expected, resting on his hip. He could feel the heat of it through the fabric of his robe. In a sarcastically sweet tone, Katsuki said, “This is Deku, he’s my pet Angel. Y’know, one of those weird bird things that fear God.”

“Kacchan, what—“

“‘Kacchan’?!” Ashido interjected.

“Fuck.” Katsuki groaned. He removed his hand. It brushed along Izuku’s lower back as he moved it.

“Oh my god, that’s so cute!” She exclaimed, jumping up and down. “You guys have pet names!”

“They’re not pet names.” Katsuki glared at her. “They’re insults we got used to somehow.”

At that, Izuku laughed.

Ashido gasped, freezing as she looked at him. He reflexively put up his barrier.

“I’m gonna pinch your cheeks.” She said.

Izuku blinked. “You’re go—w-wait—“ But it was too late. She was already in his space, and he winced as she did just as she said she would. 

“Oh, you even have freckles, that’s so precious!” She said, tugging on his pinched cheeks. She winked at Katsuki. “You picked a good one, Bakugou.”

Katsuki sighed. “I think Deku would like you to stop touching his face, Pinky.”

“Ah, right,” her expression morphed into one of faux-seriousness. She removed her hands and cleared her throat performatively as she took a step back, speaking with a deepened voice. “Of course, yes. Nice to meet you, Deku. You can call me Mina.” She held her hand out. It took a second for Izuku’s brain to catch up, but he eventually reached out and accepted the handshake, careful to maintain his barrier. She gripped his hand so hard, it felt like it was being crushed.

Afterward, she took a step back, rubbing her chin as she looked him up and down with a discerning gaze.

“You look like you’d make a great Pride Demon.” 

Katsuki snorted. “You’re just saying that ‘cuz that’s what you are.”

“Nah, he looks like the type who’d want to go for something well-rounded,” She said. “Unlike someone I know.” She winked at Izuku. “I could teach you some sick moves.”

“You just want an excuse to harass him more.” Katsuki rolled his eyes. “Pride doesn’t really fit him, anyway.”

She frowned. “Well, what does he look like to you, then?”

Katsuki paused, looking Izuku up and down in a way that made him feel oddly exposed. He flushed, crossing his arms and ankles as he averted his eyes.

“…Envy, maybe?” Mina offered.

“Nah.” Katsuki shook his head. “He sucks at lying, and his mumbling habit would give him away.”

“Um.” Izuku finally piped up. “So, is this like… something Demons are born with?”

“What? No.” Katsuki shook his head. “You can pick any path you want, we’re just try’na figure out what you’d be good at.”

“Gluttony?” Mina said.

“I could see that.” Katsuki replied, nodding thoughtfully. “Gluttony, or…” He paused, tilting his head, humming. “Lust.”

It hit him like a shock of lightning.

“Oh, really?” Mina said, grinning.

“Yeah, the more I think about it, the more sense it makes.”

“Fallen Angels do tend to take faster to Lust magic.” Mina said.

Katsuki shrugged. “Sure, but even without the advantage, it just seems… right, somehow.”

Izuku swallowed. “You think I’d be a Lust Demon?”

Mina waved her hand. “Oh, calm down, cutie.” She said. “It’s just a name. Lust Demons aren’t any hornier than other Demons.”

“I dunno, Pinky.” Katsuki said, snickering. “They can be pretty fuckin’ horny.”

Mina jabbed him in the side with her elbow.

“Ow! What the fuck—“

“—I’m trying to make him feel better!” She shouted. “He looks like he’s about to explode!”

Katsuki’s eyes darted up to his face. He studied him for a moment, and then shrugged. “Ehh. He’s been redder.”

“Bakugou.”

Katsuki rolled his eyes. “Look, it doesn’t matter, anyway. Whatever Deku picks is what he picks.”

Izuku frowned.

They seem way too confident about me Falling.

“We are.” Mina said. 

Izuku jumped.

I said that out loud?

“You did.” Katsuki said. “And that’s why I recommend scratching Envy off the list.”

“Ahh, I see.” Mina said, nodding slowly. “Well,” she slapped Katsuki’s shoulder. “Good luck to you, Bakugou. He’s the cutest egg I’ve ever met.”

Izuku blinked. “…Egg?”

“Oh!” Mina said. “Sorry—it’s slang. It just means an Angel who’s expected to Fall.”

“Wow, I… uh,” Izuku frowned. “Don’t really like that.”

“I won’t call you that if you don’t like it.” She said, shrugging. “It is one of the, uhh… kinder words for Angels, though.” Katsuki snorted, and Mina side-eyed him. “I’m sure Bakugou could tell you about some of the others.”

“Where would I even start?” He asked, grinning. 

“I would prefer that you didn’t.” Izuku replied.

Katsuki snorted. “Anyway, there’s about fifteen people inside.”

Mina nodded. “Right. Guess it’s time to get this show on the road!”

The three of them filed back inside, and Izuku and Katsuki stood back as the stragglers gathered around Mina. Many of them seemed a bit skeptical about following her, but Izuku did his best to assure them that they were headed someplace safe.

He hoped that was true.

Once everyone was accounted for, Mina jumped up from within the center of the small crowd, waving at Izuku. “Nice meeting you, Deku!”

“Uh, y-you too!” He awkwardly waved.  

“Alright, everyone!” She sung. “Next stop, the ACH!” 

And then, Izuku watched in awe as the floor began to cave in beneath the groups’ feet, as though melting. It was slow at first, but soon picked up speed, and before he knew it, all that remained was a gaping chasm, toward which all furniture seemed to deform, like a surrealist painting. After a moment, Izuku carefully inched over to it, peering over the edge, gulping as he realized he couldn’t see the bottom.

“You’ll probably wanna back away from that.” Katsuki said.

“…Why?” Izuku asked. 

But then he heard it. A rumbling noise, soft at first, but quickly getting louder. Izuku hastily backed away as the chasm rapidly decreased in depth, until the floor snapped back into place like a trampoline. Izuku was thrown off his feet, landing on his butt a good five feet away as the floor settled. 

Had he been any closer, that likely would’ve shot him straight into the ceiling.

He turned and looked at Katsuki, his eyes wide. But Katsuki just grinned.

“Hey—don’t say I didn’t warn ‘ya.”


What would’ve happened if someone jumped into that pit?

 

presumably death

 

Kacchan.

 

If you’re asking whether they’d end up in hell, then no

Other than dying, the only way to get to hell if you’re not a demon is to have a demon take you there.

One who knows how to expand their soul

 

Expand their soul?

 

yep

That’s what pride demons do

just expand their souls til they engulf everyone/thing around them

it’s how they’re able to transport large groups

 

So inasa’s a pride demon too?

 

basically all transport demons are

 

Wait, then how do YOU transport people?

 

We all learn the basics of each branch before we specialize

I can expand my soul too

just not to like the size of a fuckin gymnasium

 

I see

then are all branches like that? 

if some demons can make their souls big, does that mean some can make them small?

 

The closest thing to what you’re thinking of is compression and it’s about half of what I do

Wrath is compression + heat

 

Oh wow 

Why’d you choose that?

 

you ever looked at someone and thought to yourself :

“i wanna hit them, but I also wanna set them on fire”?

Wrath demons don’t have to choose

We can do both those things simultaneously 

 

I’m quietly pathologizing this

 

Weird considering you can’t seem to shut the fuck up

 

It just seems like an oddly specific reason

 

that obviously wasn’t the only thing dumbass

if you really want the real reason, it’s cuz I was fuckin stubborn

I went with wrath cuz everybody kept tellin me not to

 

Oh

Yeah that sounds like you

But why were they telling you that?

 

basically wrath usually has the steepest learning curve just cuz it’s really fuckin hard on your body

other branches are hard in other ways, I guess

envy and greed are very technical

pride takes sustained concentration

those are all challenging in some way

but wrath is the only one that literally just fuckin hurts

 

So they didn’t want you to do it because it was painful?

That’s it?

 

No. It’s always painful

But it’s particularly bad for someone like me

I learn faster, but the physical consequences are worse

People kept saying I’d be lucky not to end up passed out in a puddle of my own vomit after each session

Which turned out to be true

I got through it, but it fuckin sucked for a while

You’re actually pretty fuckin lucky, deku

fallen angels have it easy

 

what do you mean “someone like you” though?

You’re different somehow?

 

yes.

 

In what way?

 

And Izuku waited, but Katsuki never responded.


It happened first in a dream. 

In the dream, Izuku had been walking through the streets of a vacant, rural-looking town. The sun beat down on his skin, and his shoes kicked dust into the air. And then he blinked, and suddenly, All Might was standing in front of him.

He looked angry.

“You haven’t been practicing, have you.” He stated, rather than asked.

Izuku gulped, but his throat was dry. It was uncomfortable.

“S-Sorry? I’m not sure what you—”

“I see no reason to continue putting my position in jeopardy for a student who does not appreciate it.”

With that, All Might turned on his heel and began to walk away, throwing Izuku into a confused panic. “Wait!” He nearly fell over himself as he scrambled to catch up to him. “I’ve been practicing, I swear!”

All Might sharply turned around, tossing something at him. Izuku looked down, and realized they were the training gloves. “Then prove it.” The man said.

Izuku tried to swallow again, but his throat was too dry for it. He felt like he could taste the dust on his tongue—but he did it, anyway. He put on the gloves, his body tense as he cautiously glanced up at All Might, who was now standing there with his arms crossed, waiting.

He put everything he had into focusing, and soon, he felt the power flowing through him, like electricity in his veins. Izuku turned toward a tree that had not existed prior to that moment, and following a deep breath, he swung his fist at it. He heard it crack, and—

Izuku opened his eyes just as he tumbled out of his bed, hitting the wood floor beneath in a way that had him gasping in shock and pain. He sat up quickly, looking around his room, disoriented. He stayed there, eyes wide, panting, for a few moments more before his brain fully adjusted to reality again. And it was only then that he noticed the pain radiating from his right hand. He looked down, doing a double take at his bloody, discolored knuckles. 

“What the…” He mumbled. 

What happened?

Izuku carefully stood up and looked around, and that’s when he saw it. The headboard of his bed was broken, the wood splintered. 

Did I…?

Izuku looked down at his hand, and then back at the headboard. He did this a couple of times. 

After the initial shock wore off, Izuku padded over to his bathroom. His body moved on autopilot, turning on the sink and watching off his knuckles under the cold water. It was only then, as he stood there, watching the blood wash down the drain, that the true realization hit him.

There’s no way I could’ve done that on my own. He thought. I must’ve used power.

He tensed.

While I was asleep.

His blood ran cold.

And I wasn’t wearing the training gloves.

All of a sudden, All Might’s words from their first real training session were in his head, echoing endlessly.

“If you want to use your power, you’ll need a vessel to channel it through.”

I need to talk to All Might. 

Izuku’s throat felt tight. 

But… I can’t. he suddenly remembered. All Might was teaching a seminar in the third circle, and wouldn’t be due back until the next day. He’d just have to wait.

Izuku gripped the edge of the sink with his uninjured hand, his vision swirling like the water going down the drain. An overwhelming sense of dread settled within him. 

This is going to be a very long day.

Turning off the tap, Izuku gently wiped his knuckles off and bandaged them, and sighed.

He briefly considered going back to sleep, but he worried that if he did, it might happen again. And even if he wanted to sleep, Izuku doubted he’d be able to, what with how anxious he was. So with nothing left to do, Izuku sat at his desk, and spent the next few minutes quietly ruminating on it.

He wasn’t sure if this was a good thing or a bad thing, but based on what All Might had said, Izuku could deduce that it was, at the very least, a strange thing. 

And strange things drew attention. And Attention lead to… Izuku gulped, and only then realized just how dry his throat was. 

That explains the setting of the dream, at least.

He stood up and got a glass of water, and then sat down again and sipped it. He felt jittery, tense and unable to keep himself from fidgeting. Releasing a shaky breath, Izuku reached into his bag and pulled out one of his upcoming assignments. He tried to read over it, but his was mind too anxious to absorb any of the information. Eventually, he gave up, and shoved it back into his bag.

He glanced at the clock. It was about half-past four in the morning. 

The library opens at five, Izuku thought. 

And he was already putting on his shoes.


The library at five o’clock in the morning was a vacant chasm, save for the lone librarian dozing behind her desk. Izuku shut the door quietly behind him, gripping the straps of his bag as he scurried over to the medical section. After confirming that he was out of the librarian’s sight, he set his bag down with a sigh, and started at the top.

Truth be told, Izuku wasn’t entirely sure what he was looking for. All he had to go off of was the vague hope that he’d know the right book when he saw it, and he wound up scanning the spines of well over a hundred books before something finally gave him a speck of hope. 

Abnormal Souls

He pulled it from the shelf. To his relief, it opened for him, but as he began to flip through, his hope quickly waned. The book he held wasn’t a medical book. It wasn’t even non-fiction. It was a novel, which had evidently been misplaced by one of the librarians. Izuku considered notifying them of the mistake, but he didn’t want to call attention to himself. He put the book back where he found it.

Izuku continued to search, and after some fifty or sixty more titles, he once more happened across one that caught his interest.

Beyond Corruption: Cataloging Conditions of the Soul, Both Common and Rare

Izuku’s pulse picked up as he reached for the book, but as soon as his fingers touched its spine, it began to glow, and his heart dropped into his stomach.

Eight.

“Of course.” Izuku said under his breath, his tone cynical. He shook his head.

Maybe All Might could transcribe it, Izuku thought. He peaked at level eight. He might still have clearance. Maybe if I can just…

Izuku grabbed the book by the spine, testing the weight. It wasn’t moving, so he took hold with both hands, and pulled as hard as he could. He clenched his jaw, muscles straining in protest. But the book would not budge. It was as though it had been cemented in place, a permanent fixture on the shelf. 

Izuku sighed, exasperated. He adjusted his grip and looked around himself, ensuring he was still alone. Then, he put one foot up on a lower shelf, using it for leverage as he tried again. Still, nothing. He put his other foot on the lower shelf as well, trying to use his body weight to drag it out. But in his struggle, his hands became sweaty, and it was only a matter of time before his grip slipped. Izuku fell, landing on his butt, wincing as his tailbone hit the edge of the shelf behind him. The impact caused a couple of books to come loose, falling and hitting him over the head. 

Izuku sat there silently for a moment, his body tense. He stared up at the book, the glowing, red ‘eight’ still illuminating the spine, and scowled. 

He wiped his hands off on his robe, and then clenched his fists around the fabric. The book seemed to glow brighter, as if to taunt him.

And then, out of nowhere, a thought entered his mind, like a cold weight in the pit of his stomach.

What if I was seriously sick?

Angels didn’t get sick very often, and when they did, it was usually fairly minor. Severe illnesses were rare, but not completely unheard of. 

He thought back to his first days in training, when one of his classmates fell ill. Nobody really took it seriously at the time, but in retrospect, Izuku could trace the path of his decline that he should’ve noticed back then. He grew increasingly lethargic over the course of a few days. Looking back, the rate at which it progressed was quite alarming, but it wasn’t until they found him under the stairwell that they realized their mistake. 

He never found out what happened to the boy from level one, and he never saw him again.

There had been other instances, as well. Though he could count the number of times a classmate had fallen seriously ill on one hand, they all seemed to follow that basic pattern. 

An Angels’ work was important, and as such, they seldom took sick days, or even reported their symptoms at all. Part of it, Izuku supposed, was due to social expectations. No one wanted to be seen as whiny. The other part was simply failing to recognize when something was seriously wrong. Apart from obvious things like pain and discomfort, Angels weren’t really taught to watch out for warning signs of developing conditions.

As Izuku sat there, zoning out at the glowing book, he imagined the Angel from level one.

He could almost see it: the phantom image of him sifting through this exact same aisle, searching for answers, yet finding most of it to be inaccessible. Izuku’s eyes panned across the vast wealth of knowledge sitting idly before him.

He wondered if any of it could’ve saved him.

Izuku finally caught himself, squeezing his eyes shut as he banished the thought from his head. In its absence, however, there came a heavy sense of unease, like the shadow of a panic attack. Because Izuku didn’t normally think like this. He wasn’t so—

“—Midoriya?”

Izuku jolted, heart pounding in his chest, biting his lip hard to avoid shrieking. His head snapped up. There, standing a couple of feet away, was Todoroki, his frown and slightly widened eyes betraying his surprise.

“Woah. Are you okay?”  He asked.

“Y-Yeah!” Izuku scrambled to stand up, brushing off the back of his robe. He then dropped to a squat, gathering up all the books that had fallen, shoving them onto the shelf behind him at random. “Sorry, I was just—“

“That?”

“Huh?” Izuku spun around. Todoroki was pointing at the book Izuku had been trying to pick up, its spine still glowing. “Oh, um…”

To his surprise, Todoroki reached up, grabbing the book and giving it a try himself. He grunted quietly, his body straining. It began to tip outward slightly, only to snap right back into place. Todoroki sighed. 

“Well, I tried.” He said, then shrugged. “Even if we could get it off the shelf, we probably wouldn’t be able to carry it out of here.”

Izuku stood there for a while, his fingertips cold, his body tense.

Why would Todoroki try to help me with this?

Shouldn’t he be getting the librarian to kick me out, or at the very least, lecture me?

Izuku cleared his throat. “Um… Thanks anyway.”

Todoroki turned toward him. “You’re sure you’re alright?”

Izuku gaped at him for a moment. “I…”

Todoroki blinked. “We could talk outside, if you want.”

After a second of hesitation, Izuku nodded, standing up straight and following him out the side door. It was still dark out, but it wouldn’t be for much longer. Izuku quietly cursed himself for losing track of time.

The two of them stood beneath an oak tree. Todoroki looked at him, raising an eyebrow. “You can tell me if you’re sick, you know.” He said. “I wouldn’t tell anyone else.”

Izuku smiled, laughing nervously. “Thanks, but I…” He sighed. “I don’t know. I feel… fine. Physically, anyway.”

“Well, I assume there’s a reason you wanted a book about conditions of the soul.” 

“…Yes”

Todoroki stared at him for a while, and Izuku uncomfortably stared back. After a moment, Todoroki tilted his head. “Are you doing something you aren’t supposed to?”

He tensed, his whole body freezing. He couldn’t drag his eyes away from Todoroki’s face, despite every instinct inside him telling him he should. 

When Izuku didn’t respond, Todoroki sighed. “You know I wouldn’t judge you if you were.” He stated. “I wouldn’t tell anyone either. I’m not that desperate to ascend—”

“—S-Sorry, I just…” Izuku stuttered, voice cracking. He wiped his sweaty palms on his robe.

Why do I feel so… scared?

Todoroki frowned.

“This is big, isn’t it?” He said quietly.

Izuku gulped. In lieu of a verbal response, he nodded.

“…Is it something that could get you killed?”

Izuku froze. 

He’d never quite thought about it in those terms before. Angels can’t really die—not in a normal sense. They can be destroyed, their souls obliterated by hellfire, or some other unholy force. But beyond that, the only alternative was—

The face of the boy from level one barged into his head again, the memory of his vacant eyes as he lay catatonic beneath the stairwell sending shivers down his spine.

“Midoriya?” Todoroki probed, his tone becoming increasingly worried.

“No, it’s…” Izuku stumbled. “I… I don’t think I’m in danger.”

Todoroki stared at him for a while, still frowning, but eventually his expression melted back into neutrality. “Well, if you ever feel like talking about it, let me know.” He said, shrugging. 

“…Thank you,” Izuku said, his smile wobbly, but genuine. 

Izuku returned to his dorm room some twenty minutes later, his hands still shaking as he packed his bag and prepared to head down to the surface.


Izuku waited until the first church was clear before broaching the subject. 

He still wasn’t sure about it. Most of the time, when Izuku asked Katsuki questions, he did so through the memo. And generally, the things he would ask about would be little more than inane curiosities—the sort of things Katsuki wouldn’t have much incentive to lie about. That was primarily because Izuku wouldn’t able to detect whether Katsuki was lying through writing, but it still created a precedent.

So Izuku wouldn’t normally ask the Demon to answer something so important. But paradoxically, its importance meant he couldn’t afford not to.

Katsuki stood with his back turned toward him, standing before a stained glass window depicting the Garden of Eden, the light from outside creating a halo around his body. Izuku cleared his throat, the sound echoing in the large, decadent chamber, and Katsuki turned his head slightly.

“There’s, um… something I wanted to ask you,” Izuku said. “I don’t know if you’ll know, but…” He exhaled. “Well, I don’t really have any other options right now, so…”

Katsuki finally turned toward him fully, his curiosity evidently piqued. 

“Okay.” He raised an eyebrow. “Shoot.”

Izuku swallowed. Fidgeting with the hem of his sleeves, he did his best to explain what had happened, avoiding eye contact until he was finished. When he eventually glanced at Katsuki’s face again, he looked almost as bewildered as Izuku felt.

“So you used power, as in Angel magic, while you were asleep?” Katsuki narrowed his eyes. “I’m assuming you don’t sleep in enchanted gloves.”

Izuku frowned. “Of course not.”

Katsuki took a deep breath. “Well, that’s definitely not normal.”

“I know that.” Izuku snapped. “I’m asking if you have any idea why this could happen.”

“Okay, first of all: chill.”

Izuku looked away sheepishly. Katsuki sighed, and moved closer.

“Here’s the thing, Deku.” He said. “For the most part, I know about shit that it’s useful for me to know about. If you’re looking for a diagnosis, I’m not the guy to go to.”

“But you’re the only—“

“—I’m not fucking finished.” He interjected, exasperated. “Look, I’ll cut to the chase: I don’t know what’s happening to you, Deku. I don’t. The only explanation I can think of would be if you had something like a divinity implant put in, but that’d raise way more questions than it would answer.”

Izuku cocked his head. “Divinity implant?”

“Yeah. Back in the day, they used to give Angels these implants that let ‘em use power without any special equipment.” He explained. “They stopped using ‘em around three-hundred years ago.”

“…Why?”

“I don’t know. I wasn’t around back then. From what I’ve heard, they never actually explained it.” Katsuki shrugged. “If you wanna know what Demons believe, most of us assume it was ‘cuz having an armed populace made ‘em nervous, so they switched to enchanted weapons and armor ‘cuz they were easier to control.”

“Oh.” Izuku frowned. “Is that what you think?”

“Well, yeah. I mean, I think it was a bit more complicated.” He muttered, scratching his head. “Probably a combination of that and the fact that the implants made their soldiers too vulnerable. If a Demon could figure out where the implant was, all they’d have to do is rip it out, and then that Angel’s basically useless. Having layers of enchanted armor and weapons is just more practical.”

“I guess that makes sense…” Izuku mumbled. “But… I feel like I’d probably know if it was something like that.”

“Probably, yeah.” Katsuki said. “I didn’t bring it up ‘cuz I thought it was plausible; it was just all I could think of. Y’know, just ‘cuz I know more than you doesn’t mean I’ve got all the fuckin’ answers. ‘Specially when it comes to shit that God would have a strong incentive to keep secret.” He shoved his hands into his pockets, meandering down the aisle. “I’m sure there’s like ten other possible explanations buried in the secret archives of God’s sex dungeon, or wherever the fuck.”

"Katsuki opened the door with his back, allowing golden light to spill into the church. He looked at Izuku and arched an eyebrow. “Anyway, you comin’ or what?”


Izuku sat before All Might, wringing his hands as he fumbled through the explanation, despite having spent nearly every second leading up to that moment rehearsing it in his mind. When he finally got through with it, he paused, a cold sweat clinging to the back of his neck. “All Might… am I going to die?”

“No, no! Of course not, my boy.” He replied. Izuku relaxed slightly, but then— “You can’t die, because you’re already dead.”

Izuku blinked, his mouth hanging open slightly.

“All Might,” He said, taking a deep, shaky breath. “With all due respect, I’m really not in the mood for jokes.”

“I apologize,” All Might said, sighing. “I was just trying to lighten the mood. I really do mean that, though—you’re going to be fine.”

Izuku nodded, releasing the breath he’d been holding.

“However, this is… highly irregular.” All Might continued. “And I’m afraid I don’t have the answer.”

“I see…” Izuku frowned. “Well… maybe there’s a book about this somewhere?”

“It’s… possible, I suppose. But I highly doubt it.”

Izuku cocked his head. “But why? I mean, I saw a book about soul irregularities in the library yesterday. It was level eight, you could—“

“—Midoriya,” he interjected, putting a hand up. “I guess now is the part where I need to tell you that some of the information I gave you regarding the soul was… well, not exactly standard.”

“What do you mean?”

“Put simply, you probably won’t find any information about your situation, because what you’re experiencing presupposes that your soul generates power independently.”

“But…” He blinked. “Doesn’t it? That’s what you told me…”

“But that’s not what the textbooks will tell you.” All Might replied. “The accepted narrative is that souls can’t generate power, but rather that God endows Angels with it.”

“So, you… lied?”

“No.” All Might was quick to say. “What I told you is accurate to the best of my knowledge. More accurate than the official facts, anyway.” He shrugged. “After all, if what the Council said was true, you wouldn’t have been able to use power at all.”

“But why would the Council lie about something like that?”

“The Council lies about quite a lot of things.”

Izuku gaped. 

“All Might, that’s—“

“—Not as blasphemous as you might think.” All Might cut in, chuckling. “The Council lies, but they have real reasons to do it.”

“…Like what?”

“Well, you have to understand that Heaven is at a large disadvantage when it comes to keeping secrets.” All Might explained. “A Demon can never become an Angel, but an Angel can quite easily become a Demon. The Council disseminates misinformation about certain things in order to protect sensitive information when Angels inevitably Fall.”

“So they lie... to protect us?”

“In a sense, yes.”

For a while, Izuku remained silent.

He could understand the rationale. It seemed like a reasonable decision to him, at least in the abstract, but somehow, it still just didn’t sit right with him.

It doesn’t have to, he tried to remind himself. It doesn’t have to make sense to you, so long as it makes sense to God.

“Well…” He bit his lip. “I’m sure God and his Council know best.” After a moment, he shook his head, his attention shifting back to the issue at hand. “But… I’m worried. What if I use power in my sleep again, and someone actually hears it this time? Or what if I accidentally use it in public?”

All Might hummed. “That is the main concern, I would agree.” He said, rubbing his chin. “I may be able to find something that will help you keep that from happening, but it will take a few days.”

Days?

Although nothing had happened the last night, Izuku still paled at the thought of going multiple nights without some sort of safeguard.

“But as for the next few nights…” All Might said. “Well, I can offer you a short-term solution, but you won’t like it.”

Izuku shook his head. “I’ll do whatever I need to do.”

All Might nodded, and stood up, leaving the room. He returned a couple minutes later, holding a pair of handcuffs and ankle shackles. Izuku’s heart sunk.

“It won’t be comfortable, but it should prevent you from destroying the dorm building.”


Four.

That’s how many nights Izuku had spent sleeping—trying to, anyway—in shackles, and it was beginning to take a toll on him, to put it lightly. 

It was like there was this perpetual fog in his head, obscuring and blurring all sensory information into one indistinguishable experience-blob. If you asked Izuku to elaborate on what that meant, he wouldn’t have a response, but he felt it, deep in his bones.

That morning, he woke to discover fresh bruises on his wrists, evidence of him straining against the cuffs in his sleep. It was a bittersweet realization. It proved that the cuffs had done their job, but it also proved that they were necessary. 

And he wasn’t the only one who noticed the bruises. Katsuki commented on them when they met up on the surface that morning. 

“What happened there?”

“Oh,” Izuku said, eyes glazed over as he stared down at his wrists and shrugged. “I’ve been wearing hand and ankle cuffs to bed these past few days, so I won’t destroy anything in my sleep by accident.”

Katsuki hummed. “Huh. That’s kinda kinky, Deku.”

Izuku had barely even registered the comment. 

For most of the day, he was just moving through space, carrying out his duties like an emotionless automaton. All his reactions were delayed as he weakly fought against the haze of sleep deprivation and emotional exhaustion. At one point, Katsuki even asked if he needed to go home and rest.

Things went on this way for the rest of the day—up until the last stop, anyway.

The two of them had temporarily parted after the last church, so Katsuki could escort the three remaining stragglers to Hell, and when Izuku entered the church, he was surprised to find it empty.

Well, almost empty.

“I think this one got cleared out by one of our people about a week ago.”

Izuku didn’t see him at first. He spun around, looking in all directions, before he finally thought to look up. And that’s where he found him: leaning over the railing of an indoor balcony. It seemed he’d foregone the jacket for his return, wearing just a dark red tank top. A second later, Katsuki hopped over the railing, landing in front of Izuku. It was only then that he realized, with slight confusion, that Katsuki was holding an apple.

“I actually like this one alright.” Katsuki said, gesturing at their surroundings. “Usually I find church architecture kind of obnoxious, but this one’s decent. Clear color-scheme, not too over-the-top.” He took a bite out of the apple, sharp teeth cutting through its red skin.

“Isn’t that just… a regular apple?” Izuku asked.

Katsuki looked at him. “Yeah,” he said. “Never said I couldn’t eat human food. Just that I don’t need to. I still like it sometimes.” He took another bite, the sound sharp in the otherwise quiet space.

“Oh.” Izuku said. “What’s it taste like?”

Katsuki blinked, staring at him blankly. “Like an apple, Deku. The fuck do you think?”

Izuku frowned, averting his eyes. “I don’t know.” He mumbled. “I was just asking…”

A beat of silence.

“Wait.” Katsuki said. “Do you… do you not know what an apple tastes like?”

Izuku laughed nervously. “Well, I don’t know what most things taste like, uhh… you know. Because I don’t remember anything from when I was human, Kacchan.”

“Okay…” Katsuki narrowed his eyes. “But you can still eat, can’t you?”

Izuku nodded. “Sure, I mean, technically. I usually don’t, though.”

“Why not?”

He shrugged. “No one really mentions it out loud, but it’s sort of… frowned upon.” He said. “Angels are supposed to be above human desire. There’s no stigma around drinking water or tea or things like that, but eating… well, no one wants to look like a glutton, I guess.”

Izuku wasn’t sure why he decided to tell him all of that. It felt like he’d just opened his mouth and dumped his thoughts out onto his tongue, but he was too mentally worn out to really think about it.

“That’s so stupid.” Katsuki flatly stated.

Izuku just shrugged again. “It is what it is.”

“And what it is is dumb.” Katsuki said, taking a step toward him. “I mean, what’s the point of existing if you can’t even enjoy it?”

Izuku sighed, rubbing his eyes with his hands. For several seconds, he was quiet, racking his brain for a response. But the fog was too thick. “You know, maybe if my head was a bit clearer, I’d be able to answer that question.” He said, shaking his head. “But at least for now, all I can say is… I don’t know. But there’s probably a reason.”

For a long moment, Katsuki just stood there, staring at him silently.

“Do you wanna try it?” He asked. Izuku looked up, meeting his eyes. Red, entrancing, glowing in the dim light. Katsuki took a step toward him. Izuku took a step back.

“You mean…?”

“Yeah. There’s no one else here,” Katsuki said, shrugging. “No one around to judge you for doing some shit that doesn’t affect them.” 

He took another step toward him. Izuku tried to take another one back, but his foot hit the wall instead. Izuku found himself backed up against a stained glass window. His eyes darted back and forth between Katsuki’s face and the apple in his hand. 

But it was strange.

Kacchan should be smiling, Izuku thought. He should be smirking at me, speaking in that condescending tone of voice. 

Everything about the situation matched up with the times Katsuki had teased him before, except for the way the Demon was acting.

With Katsuki, everything was loaded until proven otherwise. Izuku had gotten better at recognizing when he made a statement with strings attached, but in that moment, Katsuki’s demeanor revealed nothing. He just looked at him, regarding him casually. Katsuki was in his space, but it wasn’t like the other times. It didn’t feel like he was trying to evoke a reaction. 

It felt almost… normal, somehow. But perhaps that was just the sleep deprivation talking.

“One bite can’t hurt.” Katsuki said, his tone calm, conversational. “Aren’t you curious?”

He was.

But Izuku didn’t trust his voice. So instead, he just nodded slowly.

Bracing one hand against the wall beside his head, Katsuki leaned in a bit closer, raising the apple to his lips. He quirked an eyebrow. “Well, go on then. Open.”

He did, and felt his teeth touch the skin. 

“Bite down.”

Izuku tried, tentatively at first—not quite sure how solid it would be. But the flesh gave way easily enough.

“Close.”

He did. 

“Chew.”

He did, and immediately, a sweet taste covered his tongue. 

After a couple of seconds, Katsuki said, “Swallow.” 

And just like all the times before it, Izuku did as he was told.

“There you go.” Katsuki said, his voice low and rumbly, and he could almost feel it in his chest.

Izuku’s knees felt weak. He glanced down at the ground, at the placement of their feet. One of Katsuki’s shoes was positioned between his own, and his vision darkened at the edges. He looked up, and—

Ah, there it is. Izuku thought, almost relieved. Katsuki’s signature smirk was back, coupled with that dangerous glint in his eye the suggested he knew something Izuku didn’t. The air between them felt hot. Izuku’s eyes followed the movement of his tongue as Katsuki licked his lips.

“How is it?” He asked.

Izuku gulped. “Tastes… sweet.”

“Do you like sweet things?”

After a second, Izuku nodded slightly. “Yeah,” He said. “Yeah, I… I do.”

“Good,” Katsuki whispered, raising the apple to his own lips and taking a bite. Izuku watched, transfixed as the Demon’s sharp, white teeth sunk into the flesh. He licked the juice off his lips and chewed slowly, his Adam’s apple bobbing as he swallowed, and then rose it to Izuku’s lips again.

He didn’t need to be told this time. Izuku took a bite, his eyes locked with Katsuki’s. 

Close. 

Chew. 

Swallow.

Katsuki’s smile grew slightly, as if to congratulate him for getting it right on his own.

It was intoxicating, somehow. Izuku felt as though he were floating in space, and all that existed was the man in front of him. Katsuki gazed down at him, his eyes half-lidded, cat-like pupils blown wide.

“You know, you look good when you do that.” Katsuki whispered, warm breath wafting against his face.

Izuku shuddered. It took a second for his brain to catch up.

“…Do what?” He asked.

Izuku held his breath as Katsuki leaned in closer, their faces now just millimeters apart. He reached up, his hand hovering just over his neck, radiating heat, but never quite touching. 

And then Izuku leaned into it.

And for a brief moment, he felt Katsuki’s fingers caress his neck. His eyes fluttered. 

Katsuki grinned, sharp and dangerous.

“Take what you want.”

Chapter Text

Izuku couldn’t move, and when he opened his eyes, he saw nothing but darkness. A spotlight shone down on him and him alone, and as he looked around himself, he mind sluggishly put together the pieces that spelled out his predicament. He was trapped, strung up at the center of a vast web, his body ensnared in spider silk. He pulled at the restraints, but they would not give.

He squinted, searching for shapes in the darkness, but it was far too dense.

Izuku gulped. “H-Hello?” He called out. “Is there anybody out there?”

“Oh, you’re awake.” He heard a voice say. The void shifted, and a form materialized before him.

Katsuki.

He looked different somehow, but Izuku couldn’t quite discern why.

“Kacchan, what’s going on?”

Katsuki shrugged, strolling closer. “Your guess is as good as mine.”

Izuku frowned, looking around in vain. “Where are we?”

“If I knew, I’d tell you.”

“Well, can you help me out, here?” He asked, wriggling against his bonds. 

“Sure.” He replied. “That’s kinda why I’m here. Probably gonna take a while, though.”

“That’s fine.” Izuku said, sighing. And then he glanced down at his body and gasped.

Was he always naked?

And were the bonds always… like this?

As things were, the spider silk wasn’t wrapped around him like a cocoon, but rather in a strange, complex network of knots which left much of his skin exposed.

“W-Wait,” Izuku squeaked, his face burning.

“What?”

“I didn’t realize… th-that I was…”

Katsuki rolled his eyes. “Look, do you want me to untie you or not?”

Izuku whined, his blush only intensifying as he reluctantly nodded. With that, Katsuki got to work, starting first on his right arm, moving up from his hand. Izuku’s breath caught at the sensation of his fingers brushing against his skin, dipping beneath the ropes to test their tightness. Izuku’s eyes darted around, looking at everything except Katsuki.

“Did you put me here?”

Out of the corner of his eye, Izuku saw him shake his head. “Think you’ve always been here.”

“Oh…” Izuku frowned. “What does that mean?”

Katsuki exhaled, working his claws into one of the knots and carefully massaging it loose. “Who knows?” He said. “Seems like there’s lots of others in the same boat, though.”

“…Really?”

Katsuki grunted a vague affirmative. “You’re one of the luckier ones, I think. There’re a couple whose bonds ain’t as bad, but there’re a lot more tied up way worse.” He said. “Sometimes it’s so bad, you can’t even see ‘em.”

Izuku’s brows pinched together. “Can’t we help them?”

Katsuki hummed. “Maybe.” He shrugged. “But you gotta be careful, I think. Some of ‘em are wrapped up in so many layers, they can’t even see. If you’re not careful, they’ll just get scared.”

That didn’t really make sense to Izuku, but his mind was too scattered to ponder it for long.

He felt the rope around his wrist loosen, and sighed as it fell away. He rotated the joint as Katsuki moved up his arm.

They both fell silent for a while, and Izuku relaxed beneath the careful attention of Katsuki’s fingers. So much so that, when he spoke next, he didn’t even realize he’d said anything until he heard Katsuki’s reaction.

“Your hands feel… nice.” Izuku said, his right arm finally coming free.

He smirked, looking at Izuku beneath his lashes. “Oh yeah?”

Izuku’s cheeks lit up again, and he sputtered. “S-Sorry, that was—“

“—S’okay,” Katsuki purred, sliding his hands up to his cheeks, forcing Izuku to look at him as he leaned in close. “Don’t be afraid of what you feel, Izuku.”

Izuku wrapped his arms around Katsuki’s neck.

Wait, arms?

“When did my left arm…?”

“Hmm?” Katsuki’s thumb rubbed against his lower lip.

“I… never mind.”

Katsuki ran his hands down his body and started to work on one of his legs. 

“Kacchan?”

“Yeah?”

Izuku hesitated, his mind foggy. “What happens after this?”

“What d’you mean?”

He chewed his lip, not quite sure himself. “Just… where do we go from here?”

Katsuki slid his hand up to his inner thigh, working his fingers beneath a knot tied there, and stood up straight. He leaned in close, pressed his lips against his ear, and whispered something deep and rumbly that Izuku felt thrumming beneath his skin like a second pulse.

Izuku opened his mouth, and—


Izuku sat up in bed with a start, gasping for breath as he looked around frantically, his body drenched in sweat. Though the familiar environment of his dorm room eventually grounded him in reality, it took much longer than it usually did.

With a sigh, Izuku shifted on the mattress, moving to sit on the edge as he reached for the keys on his bedside table. He groggily unlocked the handcuffs, before leaning over to do the ankle cuffs. 

And that’s when he saw it—something white at the edge of his field of vision. He looked, just as it was settling on the hardwood floor.

A single, white feather.

Izuku stared at it for a moment, frozen with the key still in the lock. After a moment, he hastily removed the ankle cuffs and stood, leaning over to grab the feather.

And as the events of the dream rapidly dissipated, the events of the previous night gradually began to return.

But… this is just a coincidence, right? 

Izuku sat down on his bed again, and two more feathers fell out, drifting elegantly to the floor. 

Izuku’s throat tightened, a rush of cold swallowing his entire body. His heart lurched against the wall of his chest.

“No.” Izuku whispered. 

Suddenly, the specifics of the encounter came rushing back into his consciousness in full, vivid detail. The taste of the apple, Katsuki’s closeness, the sensation of his warm fingertips on his neck—

Oh no.

Izuku sprung out of bed, nearly slipping on the wood floor as he scrambled to the bathroom, wincing as he turned on the light and looked in the mirror.

He froze.

Sure enough, there, on the side of his neck, he found a small, black mark. A lightning-like formation roughly two inches in diameter, stemming from the spot where Katsuki had touched him.

Where I let him touch me.

Izuku gripped the edge of the sink as he stared at the mark. His breathing began to pick up, his chest rising and falling almost painfully as he leaned in, tentatively running his fingers over the mark, swallowing the metallic taste on his tongue.

And then, in a flash, he spun around and marched over to his shower, sharply turning it on, and barely managing to get his sleep clothes off before he climbed inside, cold water cutting into him like shards of ice. 

Izuku planted his hands against the tile wall for stability, but before long, he started to slip, anyway. Slowly, Izuku’s palms slid down the wall, and he fell to his knees, curling up into a ball as the freezing water continued to beat down on his head, soaking his bangs and dripping into his eyes, the sound of it hitting him drowned out by the ringing in his ears.

This wasn’t happening to him. 

It couldn’t be. 

Not to him, not to Izuku.

These were problems that happened to other people. Angels of different levels, in different classes—people who existed at the fringes of Izuku’s awareness, at best. These were stories that Izuku heard in passing. Things people would speak of in the space between small talk and the main conversation. Izuku would hear about them, and his heart would ache for them, but he was always able to move on from it. It was a footnote in his life and nothing more.

Izuku shivered beneath the onslaught of freezing water, the tips of his fingers turning blue and his muscles growing stiff as his body temperature started to drop. It took him twenty minutes before he finally gathered the will to shut off the water, and ten more before he actually moved.

He stumbled out of the shower, sluggishly pulling his towel off the rack. He dried his hair, and then the rest of his body.

Another feather fell out. 

Izuku tensed for a moment, and then picked it up off the floor. He leaned against the sink and stared at it for a minute, before closing his fist around it and squeezing. He slowly lifted his head to look at his reflection. At the black mark on his neck, and the feather in his fist. 

And then it shattered around the force of his punch. Izuku dug his knuckles deeper into the broken mirror, green lightning crackling around his arm. It didn’t really register for him that he’d been using power until the pain finally caught up with him.

And it was around this time that Izuku heard a knock at his door.

“Midoriya?” A muffled voice called. Shinsou. “Are you alright in there?”

Izuku hurried to grab his bathrobe, hastily throwing it on and tying it around his waist. He nearly tripped over his feet on his way to the door. He heard another knock just before he ripped it open, finding a very concerned-looking Shinsou standing on the other side, his knuckles hovering right over where the door used to be.

His expression only grew more shocked as he took in his appearance. Shinsou looked him up and down, frowning as his eyes settled on—

“—Midoriya, your hand.”

Izuku blinked, looking down, and—Ah. 

His knuckles were bloody. Of course.

“What happened to your hand—and your… wrist?” Shinsou asked, evidently noticing the bruises the handcuffs had left. 

Izuku’s heart raced as he racked his mind for an explanation, only to come back empty-handed. As things were, he probably wouldn’t even be able to articulate the truth—how on Earth could he be expected to craft anything resembling an excuse?

And so Izuku didn’t respond. For around half a minute, he just stood there, eyes glued to his bloody knuckles while his other hand still clutched the doorknob, his palm slipping against the metal as it became sweaty. 

“Um… can I come in?”

Izuku nodded mutely, and Shinsou took a step forward, but then—

The feathers.

“Wait!” Izuku shouted, holding his bloody hand up. Shinsou stopped in his tracks, his brow furrowing. “I-I’m… I’m s-sorry,” Izuku stammered, his voice squeaky. “I can’t… can’t…” He hesitated, squeezing his eyes shut. “I have to go!”

He slammed the door. He lunged to the floor, grabbing the three feathers near his bed before heading to the bathroom to retrieve the other. All the while, Shinsou continued to pound on his door.

“Midoriya! Hey!” He shouted. “What’s going on? Please open the door!” 

Izuku yanked open a drawer under the sink, shoving the feathers to the back of it before  turning on the sink and hastily rinsing his hand off. He gently patted it dry, and let that be enough for the time being. The blood was oozing out slowly, anyway. 

Izuku took a deep breath and went to check his reflection, only to remember that the mirror was broken. He mumbled under his breath, squinting as he leaned to the side, awkwardly looking into one of the larger shards. He sighed in relief when he confirmed that the mark on his neck was hidden by to robe, as long as he didn’t move around too much.

Taking a couple more measured breaths, he schooled his features and left the bathroom, going toward the door once again. When he got there, both Shinsou and Monoma—whose room was across the hall—were standing there. Shinsou looked worried still, but Monoma just seemed confused. 

“S-Sorry about that.” Izuku said, doing his best to look Shinsou in the eyes. He was still trembling slightly. He gripped the edge of the door harder.

“What’s going on?” Monoma asked, yawning. “You guys woke me up.” 

“I’m sorry,” Izuku repeated. “It’s not as big a deal as it… well, as I was acting,” He smiled sheepishly. “I overreacted. That’s all. Sorry for making you worried.”

“But what happened?” Shinsou asked. 

“I…” Izuku hesitated for a second. “I had a nightmare.” He said. “I’ve been having a lot lately, and this one just shook me up, and—“

“—How does that relate to your hand and wrist being injured?” Shinsou interjected.

“Well,” Izuku looked away, flushing. “The thing is, I’ve been uhhh…” He swallowed, and suddenly, it came to him. He kept his eyes fixed on the ground, trying to play up his embarrassment. “Lately, I’ve been having this problem where I move around in my sleep. I’ve been sleeping in handcuffs to try to limit it, so I won’t, uhh, knock things over. This morning, though, I wound up falling out of bed, and, uh, my cuffs got caught on the edge of my night stand, so when I woke up, I freaked out and ended up pulling one of my hands free by force, which is how it got cut up like this.”

As soon as Izuku said it, he realized how many holes there were in that story.

Shinsou frowned. “Then why’s your hair wet?”

Izuku tensed. “…I sweat a lot when I have nightmares.”

Monoma nodded, smiling in that weird, vacant way of his. “Gross,” He said, before turning around and heading for his room. “Try to keep it down, alright?”

“R-Right, sorry.” Izuku said. 

Shinsou still looked uncertain, but it seemed Monoma’s acceptance was enough to sway him into dropping it himself.

“Okay, well… be careful,” He told him, shrugging. “And let me know if there’s anything you want to talk about, I guess.”

“Of course!” Izuku said, nodding quickly.

With that, Shinsou turned and walked away. Izuku closed the door softly, leaning against it with a sigh.

All Might, he thought. I need to talk to All Might. 

But first…

Izuku padded over to the closet, grabbing the box of fire tea All Might had given him, along with his electric kettle. He waited, tapping his foot as it brewed, then poured himself a cup that he started to drink just a bit too soon.

Still, it calmed him, and helped him think a bit more clearly.

Four feathers wasn’t the end of the world, but it was disconcerting in a way that regular corruption marks were not. All Might had talked about it in the past, albeit not in great detail. 

Contact-based corruption damage always appeared at the site where the contact occurred. It would take very extensive tactile contact before feathers began to fall out, so given Izuku’s situation, the fact that his feathers were falling out pointed to a deeper issue. Something in his heart and mind, translated into his soul.

This wasn’t the result of some accidental contact.

This was Katsuki’s plan working.

To an extent, at least.

Izuku sighed, finishing off his tea. He got dressed, picking a shirt with a high collar and slipping on his shoes. But before he left, he paused, and slowly reached back toward his wings. Though he was terrified at the prospect of discovering more loose feathers, it would be so much worse if they fell out in public. Izuku carefully tested each one, pulling gently to ensure they were secure. He sighed in relief. None of them were loose.

With that, he headed out. 


All Might walked in with an unmarked, black jar and what looked like a paintbrush. He set them down on the kitchen table before Izuku. He stared at them for a while over his steaming cup of tea—his second that day—before finally looking up at his mentor.

“What’s that?”

“It’s glue.”

Izuku furrowed his brow, staring back at All Might for a second. Then it hit him. “Wait, you’re serious?”

All Might chuckled, sitting down across from him. “I am! They have this at the hospital, but one doesn’t make it to the third sphere without at some point acquiring a supply of their own.” He said, grinning. “Feathers can fall out for internal reasons, but they can also fall out as a result of just normal corruption damage caused by a Demon touching one’s wings. Naturally, because the wings are one of the least armored spots on Angels, they’re also one of the most common places for corruption damage to occur. And since soldiers can’t have our feathers falling out willy-nilly…” He gestured to the jar. “Well, feather glue!” 

Izuku smiled, laughing slightly. It was such a simple solution, he hadn’t even considered it.

But after a moment, his face fell.

“But in my case, it wasn’t normal corruption damage,” he quietly said.

All Might exhaled. “…Yes.”

Izuku put his head in his hands.

“I’m such an idiot,” He said, muffled. “I mean, I was tired. I haven’t been sleeping well, so I guess I was more susceptible, but… still. I should’ve never let him get that close.”

Whether Izuku was referring to physical or emotional proximity, he wasn’t sure. 

“All things considered, I think you’ve been doing quite well up to this point.”

Izuku gave a mirthless laugh.

“No, I mean it!” All Might said. “I know third tier Angels who would’ve crumbled in under a month, and you’ve been at this for nearly four.”

Izuku flushed, looking at him through the gaps in his fingers. “…You’re just saying that to make me feel better.”

All Might sighed. “If I may be frank, Midoriya, I wouldn’t have put myself in such a… risky situation for a student I didn’t consider to be extraordinary.” 

For a while, Izuku was quiet. He mumbled something under his breath.

“What was that?”

Izuku cleared his throat. “Just… would you still feel that way if I did Fall?”

All Might hesitated for a moment. Izuku was too scared to check his expression.

“It’s no use worrying over things like that.”

“But I’m scared.”

“I understand that.” He said. “But… Midoriya, Falling is the result of a lapse in faith.”

“Yes, but lately—“

All Might reached across the table, placing his hand over Izuku’s injured one. Izuku fell silent. 

“Faith doesn’t just mean faith in God, my boy.” He said. “You also need to have faith in yourself. This is just a trial. You can make it through, but you need to trust yourself.”

After a long moment, Izuku nodded. “Okay.” He said, softly. “I’ll… I’ll do my best.”

All Might smiled, standing up. “Great!” He reached for the jar. “Now, let me show you how to do this. There’s a bit of a trick to it…”


As wonderful of a mentor as All Might was, there were limits to the things Izuku felt comfortable telling him. Despite how much he trusted the man, some things were just too awkward to discuss. Like the specific things Katsuki had said to him.

Or the specific… feelings Katsuki had dug up in him.

He flushed, clutching the straps of his bag as he hurried back to the dorms. He entered as discreetly as he could manage, and took the stairs up to his room. Once inside, he locked the door behind him. He dropped his bag next to the door, and collapsed on his bed.

All Might was like a father to him, he supposed. He trusted him a great deal, and they were fairly close. But no matter how close one was with one’s father, there were certain things you just… did not talk about. 

And unfortunately, the volume of things Izuku couldn’t tell All Might seemed to be piling up more and more each day. 

Izuku sometimes wondered if All Might might not have been quite so optimistic had he known the extent to which Izuku had fallen for Katsuki’s… charms.

He frowned into his pillow. 

That word didn’t seem right. Katsuki wasn’t charming. In a lot of ways, he seemed to embody the antithesis of charm. He had his moments sometimes, in his own, unconventional way, but it was far from being enough to categorize him as charming on the whole.

No, Katsuki wasn’t charming. In fact, he was actually quite rude. Obnoxious. Arrogant.

…But the arrogance seemed to be backed up by genuine skill, at least from what Izuku had seen. It was justified arrogance. Maybe that made it confidence. But it seemed to carry over into everything he did. 

Izuku rolled over on the mattress and sighed, staring up at the ceiling.

Katsuki’s looks probably helped, he supposed. Say what you will about his demeanor, but it was hard to deny that he was, in fact, quite handsome.

Izuku shook himself.

Why am I thinking about this?

Izuku never used to pay attention to Katsuki’s looks. Sure, he was aware, he figured, on some level, that Katsuki would probably be considered quite attractive by most people. But the same could be said about Uraraka and Todoroki, and he never caught himself ruminating on that.

Izuku groaned, restlessly turning over onto his side and staring at the wall. The more he thought about Katsuki, the more unstable his heart became. He felt he was moving toward something he couldn’t control, and though he suppressed the feeling as best he could, it was moments like these where it really hit him, shaking him to his core. It was terrifying, plain and simple.

He glanced at the memo, sitting innocently atop his dresser, then closed his eyes.

Maybe it would be best if he just kept his distance for a while.


The following day, Izuku was preparing to rush back to his room when someone grabbed his wrist. He yelped, and instinctively tried to break free until he saw who it was. 

“Oh! Apologies,” All Might said. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”

Izuku shook his head, his face heating up. “N-No, it’s no big deal, All Might. I’ve just been, ahh…” He rubbed his neck. “Tense, lately.”

All Might nodded. “Well, do you have a moment to spare before you head out?”

“I… Sure.”

All Might led him to his office, a small room at the end of the hall, with a desk covered in papers and books stacked up under the desk. Izuku sat in a chair on the opposite side of the desk, gripping his backpack in both arms.

“What’s going on?” He asked, as All Might closed the door behind them. He turned to look at him with a grin.

“Well, I’m pleased to inform you that you’ll no longer be needing to sleep in handcuffs.”

Izuku perked up. He could almost feel his dark circles fading at the thought. All Might opened his desk drawer, and pulled out a small box, which he set down in front of Izuku.

He glanced up at All Might, quietly asking for permission. All Might nodded, and Izuku opened the box.

Inside, he found what looked to be two rings, crafted from some sort of black stone.

“Obsidian rings.” All Might said. “So long as you wear them, they should prevent you from using power in your sleep.”

“Wow.” Izuku picked one of the rings up and examined it. “How do they work?”

“It’s…” All Might cringed. “It’s complicated.” He said. “It’s sort of like a distraction.”

“A distraction?”

“Yes. The rings themselves are harmless, but the material is similar to certain substances that aren’t.” He explained. “Your body falsely anticipates harm, and prepares to allocate power toward counteracting it. Does that make sense?”

Izuku hesitated. “Um… Not really.” 

All Might smiled sheepishly. “Well, I tried. As I mentioned, it’s complicated.” 

Izuku hummed. “So is there, ahh… any sort of danger to wearing them for long periods of time?”

“Not that I’m aware of, but…” He trailed off for a moment. “Well, I’d advise against wearing them outside of sleeping, just to be safe.” He paused, looking around the messy room with a frown. “You know, I know have a note from the supplier that talks about all of this somewhere around here, but I can’t seem to find it…”

“Supplier?” Izuku said, putting the rings back in the box with care. 

“Well, perhaps that’s too official of a term.” All Might said, chuckling. “I called in a favor from an old friend. Let’s leave it at that.”


Wake up. Get dressed. Go to class, or to the surface; whichever he was scheduled for that day. Return to the dorms. Lock the door. Alone.

It’d been ten days since Izuku had last opened the memo.

He did not know if Katsuki had tried to contact him, though he assumed that he must have. After all, under normal circumstances, they would have met twice during that timeframe. 

Izuku did his best to keep a low profile on the surface, and it had worked so far. All Might had taught him the basics of dulling his presence, so his soul wouldn’t be so easy to detect, at least beyond a one-mile radius.

Apart from his missions, Izuku spent most of his time locked up in his room. He’d been sleeping better, thanks to the rings, but the anxiety was still very much present.

Every day, Shinsou would knock on his door, and every day, Izuku would make some excuse not to come out, until he just… stopped responding altogether, and pretended to be asleep instead.

He just couldn’t take it. Couldn’t face the questions, couldn’t keep lying to his friends. It was tearing him up almost as much as his feelings for Katsuki had been.

Izuku was finding it easier to be alone, these days. But it was harder to pretend everything was okay.

It was late at night as he sat awake at his desk, staring at the memorandor sitting atop his dresser. It was beginning to collect dust.

Sighing, Izuku stood, heading over to his closet and grabbing his stash of fire tea along with his kettle, only to find that the thing wouldn’t turn on.

Izuku frowned, and tried turning it off and on again, but nothing seemed to be working. He glanced at the clock. Three in the morning.

Now’s probably a safe time, he figured. So he grabbed the tea and headed downstairs quietly. The kitchen was empty. 

It usually was.

Izuku found the kettle underneath the stove, dropped the tea infuser in and filled it with water. He turned on the stove and set it down with a sigh, wandering out into the common area.

“Midoriya?” 

Izuku jumped, looking to his right. And there he saw the person he least wanted to see—well, after Katsuki, anyway. 

That thought made him feel ashamed. Why did he have to avoid his friends like this?

“Shinsou…” He said, blushing.

He was sitting in a chair near the corner, his feet up on an ottoman, reading a book—the one Izuku was supposed to be reading for class, but had yet to start. Another thing for him to feel guilty about.

“I wasn’t sure if I’d ever see you come out of your room again.” He said, laying the open book down across his lap. 

Izuku laughed nervously. “Yeah… um… sorry about that.”

Shinsou blinked. “Uraraka and Iida are getting worried.” He said, looking away. “And I’ve been worried for a while.”

“Oh.” Izuku awkwardly mumbled. “I’m… really sorry. I don’t want to make anyone worry about me.”

Shinsou shrugged. “It’s not really something you can control. Just something that happens when you…” He trailed off, but Izuku could guess where he might have been going with it.

When you act so strangely for months on end.

When you suddenly start acting like a hermit, and never answer your door.

When you make a habit of lying to the people you’re supposed to trust the most.

Izuku frowned, his shoulders hunching, ankles crossing. He wanted nothing more than to disappear. He felt so… slimy. So unbelievably inconsiderate. But he didn’t know what to tell him. Didn’t know what he could say that would make things better.

Izuku slunk over, sitting in the chair beside him. Shinsou still wasn’t looking at him, but he hadn’t returned to his book, either. 

For a minute, they just sat there, the silence stretching uncomfortably between them. Izuku was afraid to speak. He didn’t know if he’d be able to keep it together. Not with the growing tightness in his throat. 

“…Please forgive me,” He managed to say. That got Shinsou to look at him.

“What is there to forgive?”

Izuku shook his head, his lip quivering. Just barely hanging on. “I’ve been a bad friend.”

Shinsou set the book on the side table and leaned forward. 

“No, you haven’t.” He said. “If anything, I have, because I haven’t been able to help you.”

“Only because I haven’t been honest with you.” Izuku said, voice breaking.

Shinsou looked at him for a while, his brow furrowed. He looked so worried.

“Midoriya, please don’t cry.”

But of course, that set him off. A sob broke free from his throat, and Izuku keeled over, trying to hide his face in his hands. He felt the chair dip beside him, and he stiffened when he felt an arm wrap around him. 

“Is this okay?”

Izuku nodded quietly. Shinsou sighed, awkwardly rubbing his shoulder.

“Is there anything I can do that’ll help?”

Izuku sniffled. “I don’t know… probably not.”

For a while, they just sat there like that. Eventually, Shinsou broke the silence.

“…You’ve been acting off ever since you met that Demon.”

Izuku tensed.

“Midoriya?”

“That’s…” Izuku swallowed. “I—“

The kettle whistled, and Izuku jumped up, his posture ramrod straight. 

“S-Sorry,” he said, wiping his nose on his sleeve. He hurried to the kitchen and turned off the stove, pouring himself a cup of tea. 

When he returned to the common room, Shinsou was sitting in the same place. Izuku couldn’t meet his eyes.

“I… I should go to bed.” Izuku said, eyes darting around. For a moment, Shinsou said nothing.

“…You’re scheduled for tomorrow morning, right?” 

Izuku nodded. “Technically this morning…” he weakly joked. Shinsou didn’t acknowledge it. He didn’t say anything at all. “Um, well… good night, Shinsou.” Izuku said, heading back to his room. 

He didn’t hear him say it back.


Deep down, Izuku had always known he wouldn’t be able to avoid Katsuki forever.

And so it happened that following morning, when he was walking down an alleyway beneath a cloudy sky, puddles from the previous night’s rain splashing beneath his feet. He saw it, a flash of movement out of the corner of his eye, of luminescent red.

“Well, if it isn’t God’s favorite little liar.”

Izuku spun around. Experience had taught him to look for Katsuki in the shadows first. He found him leaning back against a nearby wall, his fiery eyes glowing in the relative darkness.

“K-Kacchan!” Izuku said, stumbling back.

“D-Deku.” He mocked, stepping toward him, into the light. There was a smile on his face, but his eyes were cold. Izuku swallowed the lump in his throat, immediately breaking into a sweat.

“S-Sorry, I was just…” Izuku sputtered. “I just, uhh, didn’t—“

“—What?” Katsuki interjected, cocking his head. “Didn’t think I’d find you? Thought you could get away with fuckin’ avoiding me forever?”

“Kacchan, it’s not what you think.”

“Oh yeah?” Katsuki snorted. “So you’re telling me you didn’t just drop off the face of the fucking Earth and ignore all my attempts to contact you.”

“I’ve just… had a lot on my plate, and—“

“—Bullshit!” Katsuki snarled, and in a flash, shoved Izuku up against a brick wall, the front of his cloak balled up in the Demon’s fist. “Do you have any fucking idea what it looks like when you pull a stunt like this? Huh? For fuck’s sake, Deku, I thought you’d gotten fucking black-bagged!”

“I’m sorry!” Izuku cried. “I didn’t—I wasn’t—“

“What, tryna make it look like your shitty government disappeared you?” Katsuki yelled, tightening his grip and shaking him. “I thought you were a fuckin’ goner, but now here you are, just walkin’ down the street like nothing happened. Y’know, I don’t see any injuries, Deku, but I’d be more than happy to give you some!”

“That’s quite enough, Demon.”

Izuku froze, a shock of icy fear rushing through him. 

He’d know that voice anywhere.

Oh no.

It felt as if time had slowed down. Izuku turned his head, all the dust and litter and mysterious stains on the ground coming into sharp detail as they traveled through his field of vision, but his perception narrowed as his gaze fell upon the figure standing at the center of the alley, just ten feet away. 

Shinsou.

He stared at Katsuki with a stone-cold look in his eyes, his fists clenched at his sides.

“Let him go.” Shinsou said.

Oh no. Oh no, no, no, God no—

“Shut the fuck up, nerd.” Katsuki hissed, before throwing Shinsou an incredulous look. “Who the fuck are you?”  Shinsou slowly moved closer. Katsuki looked him up and down with a derisive sneer. “Christ, you look like you haven’t slept since you died.”

“Who I am is none of your concern, Demon.”

“And this is none of your goddamn business, Ambien.”

“Sh-Shinsou, you…” Izuku swallowed, but his throat was too dry, and it hurt. “Did you… follow me here?”

Shinsou averted his eyes. “I’m sorry, Midoriya. I just… was worried. And you wouldn’t say anything.” He sighed. “I wouldn’t have done this if I thought I had any other choice.”

Katsuki snorted.

Shinsou glared at him. “Something funny, Demon?”

’No other choice,’ you say.” Katsuki rolled his eyes. “You could’ve made the choice to stay out of other peoples’ business, but I guess you bastards have always struggled with that…”

Shinsou narrowed his eyes. “He’s my friend. I’m not going to just stand by and let some pathetic creature like you hurt him.”

Katsuki tensed, and Izuku’s breath caught in his throat.

“Shinsou…” He said, his voice just a shaky whisper.

After a second, Katsuki finally released the front of Izuku’s robe, slowly turning to face Shinsou fully, sliding his hands into his pockets casually. They stood about five feet apart, and Katsuki still seemed to loom over him, despite being only a few inches taller than Shinsou.

“Deku,” Katsuki said, his tone eerily calm, almost sweet. “Is that true? This asshole’s your friend?”

Izuku nodded at first, before he remembered Katsuki wasn’t looking at him anymore. He cleared his throat. “Y-Yes, he is.”

Katsuki hummed, cocking his head. “Well, you’re really fucking lucky then, Ambien.” Katsuki said. “‘Cuz if it weren’t for that, I’d’ve killed you where you stand.”

Shinsou’s jaw clenched.

“Just leave him alone.”

“Hmm, no.” Katsuki narrowed his eyes. “No, I don’t think I will. But you’ll leave us alone, if you know what’s good for you.”

“I’m not asking, Demon.” 

“Shinsou,” Izuku said softly. He met his eyes, shaking his head quickly. “Please don’t. Please, it’s not worth it.”

Shinsou seemed to think about it for a moment, and then shrugged. “Okay, well if it won’t leave—“ Katsuki’s eye twitched, “—then you can just come with me.” 

After a second of hesitation, Izuku nodded, moving to follow him. 

Katsuki grabbed him by the back of his robe and yanked him back.

“Oh, no you don’t.” Katsuki said, his tone low and dark. “You’re not going fucking anywhere, Deku. Not ’til you give me a goddamn explanation.”

“Release him.” Shinsou hissed.

“Fuck off before my good will runs out, Ambien.”

Shinsou snorted, crossing his arms. “‘Good will’? That’s a good one.”

Katsuki raised an eyebrow. “Did you want me to kill you on sight?”

“I just think it’s funny how you’re trying to act as though you have any morals at all.”

“How’s that cognitive dissonance workin’ out for ‘ya?” Katsuki rolled his eyes.

“Let Midoriya go, or else.”

Katsuki laughed sharply. “Or else what?”

“Shinsou,” Izuku said. “Please, I’ll be okay. Please, please just go. I don’t want you to get hurt.”

Shinsou’s expression softened for a moment as he seemed to consider it, but then he shook his head.

“I can’t. I’m… I’m not leaving you alone here.”

Katsuki looked back and forth between the two of him, and then grinned. “Oh, I get it.” He said, releasing his hold on Izuku with a shove. Izuku stumbled a few feet behind Katsuki. The Demon took a few steps forward, looming over Shinsou. “It all makes sense, now. Deku’s not just a friend to you, is he? Not in your head, at least.”

“I don’t need you telling me—“

“—You want him, doncha?” Katsuki said, leaning forward. “That’s what this is really about. You just want him all for yourself, huh?” His grin only grew wider. “Perfectly understandable, of course—but do you really think Deku would go for someone like you? Really think he’s gonna spread his fuckin’ legs for some pathetic little—“

Thwack!

Shinsou punched Katsuki in the jaw, and time stood still.

The force made Katsuki turn his head to the side, caught off guard by the surprise attack. Izuku held his breath, paralyzed as he watched Katsuki slowly turn back toward Shinsou. The hit must have caused him to accidentally bite down on his lip, as it was now bleeding.

“Shinsou…” Izuku said, quiet and shaky.

“Aw, fuck.” Katsuki said, touching his bloody lip and looking at his fingers, confirming that it was bleeding. He started laughing, but Izuku could see the anger in his eyes. “Oh, man. You’re pretty fuckin’ stupid, aren’t ‘ya? You know, you can’t fuck Deku if I kill y—”

Shinsou swung again, but this time Katsuki was ready for it. He easily dodged, stepping back into a shadow, only to emerge from another just behind Shinsou. “They really don’t teach you fuckers any survival skills, do they? Almost like they see you as disposable little—”

“—I don’t care what you think!” Shinsou shouted, spinning around and swinging again. And again, Katsuki dodged with ease, vanishing and reappearing from another shadow, like a game of whack-a-mole.

“Aw, why not? Y’know, I think there’s a nuanced conversation to be had there.”

“I am not concerned with the thoughts of disgusting things like you.”

Katsuki stilled, standing in front of Shinsou. He threw Izuku a glance. “See, this is why I prefer to kill Angels before they get a chance to speak.”

Shinsou swung again. Katsuki grabbed his wrist midair and held it in a tight grip.

“Look, let me be blunt, Ambien.” He said, grabbing Shinsou’s other wrist before he could try anything. “You’ve got two options right now. You either get the fuck out of my sight right this second, or you end up hospitalized for the next six months, minimum. S’your choice.” 

Shinshou snorted. “You expect me to just leave you alone with him?”

“I’m not gonna do anything to Deku.” Katsuki said, rolling his eyes. “Well,” He side-eyed Izuku, smirking. “Nothing he won’t enjoy, anyway.”

Shinsou tried to knee Katsuki in the crotch, but Katsuki leapt back just in time. He landed atop a dumpster a couple feet away.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” Katsuki groaned. “Y’know, m’not exactly dressed for this shit, but if you really, truly insist on being a fucking idiot…” Katsuki reached for the hem of his tank top, sighing. “You’ve got five seconds, Ambien.” Izuku watched, frozen in place as he proceeded to pull it over his head. “Five.” The garment hit the asphalt.

Izuku’s vision darkened at the edges as Katsuki rolled his shoulders, muscles flexing beneath the morning sun. In any other context, he might’ve thought the sight incredible, but in that moment, it just left a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.

Because he could sense where this was headed, even before Katsuki’s body began to change.

“Four.”

Katsuki’s horns began to elongate, claws appearing on his fingertips, and Izuku’s throat tightened.

“Shinsou, go.”

“Three.”

As his horns grew, they began to twist, curving like the horns of a ram. At the same time, Katsuki’s hands enlarged, and the obsidian black of his claws began to spread up his fingers, hands, and arms.

The panic kicked in.

“Shinsou, go!” He clenched his jaw. “I’m serious!”

“Two.”

Katsuki’s hands were black, the color continuing up his forearms in a gradient that ended right around his elbows. Izuku watched the odd roll of his shoulder blades as they begun to stick out, the skin there darkening.

All Might’s words from many months ago came to him, then. 

If you see wings…

Izuku tasted blood as he turned to Shinsou, looking at him with wild eyes.

“Run!” He screamed.

Katsuki jumped off the dumpster, and as he landed in front of Shinsou, large, bat-like wings extended outward, blocking Shinsou from view for a moment before he folded them in again.

"One."

Izuku had always wondered what Katsuki would look like when he was fully shifted. 

He just wished he could’ve found out under different circumstances.

“You’re a real fuckin’ idiot, you know that?”

Shinsou scowled, but Izuku could see his hands shaking. “I said I don’t care what you—“

Katsuki swung, his fist connecting with Shinsou’s sternum, sending him flying right into a wall about twenty feet back. He slid down to the ground, clutching his chest and coughing.

“Shinsou!” Izuku cried, launching toward him, only to be caught once again by the back of his robe. Katsuki shoved him away. “Kacchan, stop!” 

“Just stay out of my way, Deku.” He said, shooting him a stern look before approaching Shinsou at a leisurely pace. After a moment, Shinsou stood up, wincing. 

Katsuki cracked his neck. “What do you think, Ambien? Still think you’re tough shit?”

Shinsou glared, wheezing. Then he lunged, aiming for Katsuki’s stomach. Katsuki side-stepped it, grabbing his leg to knock him off balance before kneeing him in the gut. Shinsou hit the ground and rolled, finally coming to a stop a few feet away from Izuku.

“Shinsou!” Izuku ran to his side as he shakily forced himself up on his hands and knees, hacking and heaving, drops of blood hitting the asphalt.

Izuku looked up and saw Katsuki approaching again. He hastily stood up, putting his body between the two of them. 

“Kacchan, stop!” He cried. “Please, you’ll kill him!” 

Holding his barrier, Izuku grabbed Katsuki’s shoulders, shaking him slightly, tears beginning to blur his vision. Katsuki clicked his tongue, grabbing Izuku’s wrists in those large, inhuman hands. “He’s fine, see?” He said, gently pushing Izuku aside as Shinsou shakily stood up. Katsuki looked him up and down. “You fuckers are a lot more durable than you look, unfortunately.”

Katsuki swung his fist at Shinsou’s jaw.

With a surge of adrenaline and crackling electricity, Izuku grabbed his fist, stopping him just in time. Katsuki looked at him, one eyebrow raised, and then promptly gathered both his wrists into a single hand and shoved Izuku against the wall, pinning them above his head. Izuku squirmed in his grip, but even with power, Katsuki’s hold was like steel.

“Kacchan, just stop! Please!”

Katsuki groaned. “I’m not gonna fuckin’ kill him, Deku.” He said. “I’m just teaching him about consequences.”

“But he means well!”

“Most people do.”

“Get away from him.” Shinsou said, still wheezing. Katsuki turned and looked over his shoulder, raising an eyebrow, unimpressed.

“Don’t touch him with your filthy hands, you monster.” Shinsou hissed. 

Katsuki’s hand tightened around Izuku’s wrists.

He gave a mirthless laugh. “You think I’m a monster, huh?” He said quietly.

“You’re all monsters. All of you.” He said, grinding his teeth. “You’re a plague. A vermin infesting this planet.” Shinsou grabbed Katsuki’s wrist. Katsuki didn’t move, or even look at him. He kept his eyes locked with Izuku’s. “Now get your filthy hands off of Midoriya and crawl back into whatever hole you came from, you subhuman piece of shit.”

With every word, Izuku watched Katsuki’s eyes grow more and more cold. For a moment, it seemed as though the glow had extinguished.

Katsuki wasn’t hypnotizing him, but he could still feel him, could see inside him through those hollow eyes. 

And it hit him like a bullet carving through his chest.

Shinsou is going to die, he thought.

And the worst part was, Izuku could no longer say with certainty that such a fate would not have been earned.

But then, suddenly, Katsuki released his wrists, stepped back, and began to laugh. It was quiet at first, but quickly gained momentum, until he was bent over, clutching his stomach. 

“Ah… You know, it’s actually pretty funny, in a fucked up sort of way—the way you fuckers talk about my people.” Katsuki said, wiping away fake tears. “It’s the absurdity of it, I guess. I mean, Christ, feels like I’m looking at a carbon copy of the worst parts of human history over here.”

Shinsou scowled, adopting a defensive stance as Katsuki began approaching him again.

“Filthy. Vermin. Subhuman.” He spat. “You say that shit so easily. You either don’t know the history of words like that, or you do, but just don’t care. It’s so fucking weird. I actually can’t tell which one it is.”

“What the hell are you—“

In a flash, Katsuki had him by the neck. He held him in the air, claws biting into his skin.

“The enemy is not like us. The enemy is subhuman.” Shinsou gasped—or tried to—and clawed at his hand. “The enemy is weak, but the enemy is strong, and the enemy will getcha unless you do as our fucking perfect leader says.” Katsuki tightened his grip, claws drawing blood. “We are pure; they are filthy. We are superior; they are inferior. The enemy will destroy us, so we must destroy them first.” Katsuki threw him against the wall. Shinsou fell to the ground, clutching his throat, heaving. 

Katsuki dropped to a squat beside him. 

“Y’know, the humans had a name for this particular phenomenon.” He drawled. “They’ve seen this shit many times. But at least humanity had the decency to feel fucking ashamed each time and treat it like the fucking stain on their history that it was.”

Katsuki slowly stood, turned on his heel, and began to walk away. After a few paces, he stopped and looked over his shoulder. “You’re probably gonna wanna take him to the hospital.”

Izuku gulped, still shaking. “R-Right…”

Katsuki continued walking. 

This time, he didn’t look back.


The trip to the dispatch station was challenging, but when they finally arrived, they were able to board the hospital shuttle. Shinsou was placed on a gurney upon arrival, and Izuku took a moment to breathe. 

“Midoriya…” He said, voice hoarse. 

“Yes?”

Shinsou said something, but Izuku couldn’t quite make it out. He leaned down, angling his ear toward him.

“I saw…”

Izuku frowned. “What do you…?”

Shinsou looked away from him, his eyes sorrowful. “I saw the way you looked at him.”

Izuku tensed. He opened his mouth to respond, but the words just didn’t come. 

He just stood there, paralyzed as the nurses wheeled Shinsou away. The doors to the emergency wing closed heavily behind them, and Izuku was alone.

Chapter Text

The steady beeping of the heart monitor cut the silence in the small hospital room. It’d been about two hours since they had arrived, though for most of it, Shinsou had been sedated.

Being Angels, few, if any, physical injuries were actually fatal. Their bodies were merely vessels for their souls, and so long as their souls were not destroyed, Angels could generally recover, given time. But of course, that didn’t make the symptoms any less uncomfortable.

Izuku was dozing in the chair beside Shinsou’s bed when an odd sensation pulled him back to himself. It was unnerving, as though the air itself was pressing against him on all sides. He looked toward the door seconds before the knob turned, and his heart thumped against his chest as his fight-or-flight instinct immediately kicked in. 

The door opened. There, standing in the doorway, was a single Acolyte. His hands were clasped behind his back, and his cloak billowed strangely as he entered the room.

Izuku found himself unable to tear his eyes away from the powerful figure, even as the pressure against his skin began to increase. Then the Acolyte turned and looked at him, despite the red blindfold over his eyes.

“Izuku Midoriya.”

It didn’t really sound like a question, but Izuku nodded anyway.

“Y-Yes, that’s me.” He stammered.

The Acolyte tilted his head. “And I take it this is Shinsou Hitoshi.”

“Yes, sir.” He replied. “Um… how may I assist you?”

He turned toward Shinsou, walking slowly around the bed, shoes clacking against the tile like a metronome. “I understand you and your colleague here had a confrontation with a Demon. I came to inquire about the circumstances under which two first-sphere Angels found themselves in such a predicament.”

Izuku gulped. 

He knew this would happen. But that didn’t make it any less terrifying.

“I see. Of course, sir.” Izuku cleared his throat. “So, we—“

Beside him, Shinsou groaned, stirring in his sleep.

“Shinsou!” Izuku gasped, leaning forward as the other Angel’s eyes fluttered open.

“What’s going on…?” He slurred, wincing as he looked around. His eyes soon settled on the Acolyte, who stood at the foot of his bed like a sleep paralysis hallucination. 

The heart monitor immediately sped up.

The Acolyte smiled slowly. “Ah, you’re awake.” He said. “Good. I was just asking your colleague here about the circumstances leading up to your confrontation with the Demon.” He gestured toward Izuku, giving him a short but clear view of his hands. The ends of his fingers were white, like fresh snow, as though all the color had been sucked out of them. The odd bleaching effect gradually faded into a more natural skin tone around his knuckles, though even that looked a bit off, as though he were afflicted with some human disease, like jaundice.

Izuku finally forced himself to look away, but he couldn’t stop the thoughts from entering his mind. 

It was normal for higher level Angels to undergo physical transformations of one kind or another, but there was usually some resemblance from one level to the next. Acolytes didn’t really resemble anything closely, except… well, other Acolytes.

He felt a chill run down his spine. What happens to them?

Izuku shook himself, looking up at Shinsou again. He was nodding, the hazy look in his eyes now long gone. He cleared his throat. “W-Well, I was attacked, essentially. If it weren’t for Midoriya, I probably would not have survived, sir.”

No lies so far, at least technically. 

The Acolyte hummed. “And where were you two scheduled today?”

Shinsou’s breath caught, and he looked down. “…Florence.”

The Acolyte looked toward Izuku. “And you?”

“Ah, Paris, sir.”

“And where did this confrontation occur?”

Shinsou sighed. “…Paris.”

“Interesting.” The Acolyte leaned forward. “Might I ask just what you were doing so far from your assigned area?”

Shinsou hesitated, glancing at Izuku. Then, he sighed.

“I… followed him.”

“Why?”

“I was worried about him. I… wanted to make sure he’d be safe.”

All true so far.

“From what, exactly?”

“From the Demons, sir. I had reason to believe he might run into one.”

“Paris is a war zone, Shinsou Hitoshi. There is always a small chance of running into Demons when one works near a battlefield. But Midoriya Izuku has evacuated such areas plenty of times before.” He cocked his head. “What was different this time?”

Shinsou opened his mouth, but hesitated. Izuku dug his nails into his palms, a bead of sweat rolling down his neck.

Every second felt like an eternity.

Izuku watched Shinsou’s throat bob as he swallowed.

“…Midoriya has not been sleeping well, sir.” He said. “As his friend, I was just concerned that he wouldn’t be able to react in time if he did run into a Demon.” He looked down. “I’ve heard rumors about Paris being… particularly hazardous.”

Izuku held his breath.

Is that true? He wondered. Parts of it were, at least, but if he had to make a guess, he’d say the statement on the whole was really only half-true. Would that be enough?

Calm down, Izuku told himself. You don’t know if he can detect lies from other Angels. That’s just a rumor.

But as seconds ticked by and the Acolyte remained standing there, still as a statue, Izuku’s heart rate accelerated, a horrible, ominous feeling creeping just beneath his skin. 

He knows. He’s caught Shinsou in a lie. Oh God, he knows.

Izuku’s vision darkened at the edges. He could taste blood on his tongue.

I need to do something!

He opened his mouth, and—

“—Very well.” The Acolyte said. The sound of his voice after nearly a full minute of total silence sent a shock through Izuku. “I take it that you did not complete your assignment in Florence, then?”

Shinsou visibly shuddered. “N-No, sir.”

“It does not look like you will be able to do so anytime soon.” He lowered his chin. “There will be consequences, of course.”

Shinsou nodded. “…Yes, sir.”

Without thinking, Izuku blurted out, “But sir, Shinsou meant well. He was just trying to protect me!” And as the Acolyte slowly turned toward him, he immediately started to regret it. 

After a moment of sustained staring, the Acolyte said, “I suggest you get going.”

Izuku blinked. “Sir…?”

“I am assuming this disruption kept you from completing your assignment, as well.”

“Oh!” Izuku quickly stood. “Yes, right—of course.”

“While you are at it, see to it that Shinsou Hitoshi’s assignment is taken care of, as well.”

Izuku’s heart dropped into the pit of his stomach.

“Y-You mean… Florence?” Izuku said. “You want me to do both…?”

“The world does not stop turning when an Angel breaks.” He said. The corners of his mouth tilted up. “If what Shinsou Hitoshi says about your insomnia is correct, you should have no issue completing both.”

“…Right,” Izuku clenched his fists behind his back. “Of course, sir!”

He chanced a glance at Shinsou, and found him pale and wide-eyed.

“Midoriya, I’m so—“

You are excused, Midoriya Izuku.”

Izuku froze for a second, looking back and forth between the two of them, and swallowed.

He really, really did not want to leave Shinsou alone with the Acolyte.

But as his eyes settled on his friend one last time, and he watched him mouth the words, “Just go, it’s okay,” he swallowed the despair and let it fill his stomach. 

“Yes, sir.” He said, then turned around and stiffly headed for the door. As he twisted the knob, he pause for one last moment to look over his shoulder. “I’ll talk to you later, Shinsou.” He told him, as though it were a magic spell. A prayer, one might say.

This is not the last time I’ll see you, it promised. 

This is not the last time we’ll speak.


By the time Izuku had gotten down to the surface again, it was nearly half-past eleven. He’d decided to start with Shinsou’s assignment, since it was shorter. It still took him nearly seven hours to get through it all, though, and by the time he’d made it to Paris, it was dark. He was pleasantly surprised to find that nearly half his assigned locations had already been evacuated. 

Maybe Kacchan swept the area before he left? 

It was a relief, but it still took until nearly three in the morning for him to finish everything. When he arrived at the dispatch station, he was the only person there. 

He never did run into Katsuki again. Perhaps that was deliberate, or perhaps Katsuki simply wasn’t around. It was always hard to say, with him.

When he eventually returned to his room, he decided to forgo showering in favor of simply collapsing on his bed, and in doing so, his eyes fell upon the memorandor, still sitting on his dresser, untouched. He’s not sure why he decided to pick it up then, apart from the simple fact that it was within arm’s reach, while the light switch was not.

He turned onto his side and opened it up, thumbing through until he found a note he hadn’t seen before. There were a couple pages worth of those. The memo itself had no mechanism for indicating when a message had been written. All Izuku had to go off of was the reasonable assumption that the messages were written chronologically.

He started at the top.

 

When are you scheduled next?

Oi, nerd.

Where are we meeting?

Deku?

Is this about what happened last time?

It better fucking not be

Listen, asshole.

I did not come this fucking far with you just so you could lose your shit over something stupid like that.

 

Izuku snorted softly, and turned the page.

 

But you’re okay though

right?

Deku this isn’t funny.

Are you okay??

Hey

Dipshit

Answer me

You fucking coward

Deku, I’m serious

 

Izuku frowned, the guilt taking root inside him. He turned the page.

 

Okay, FINE. Maybe I was a bit too pushy.

You seemed alright with it at the time, though?

Fuck. Shit.

I’m sorry, okay?

I’ll fucking tone it down

promise

Is that what you wanted to hear?

Deku seriously I need you to fucking respond so I’ll know you aren’t dead

Can you PLEASE stop ruminating on your weird purity angst or whatever the fuck for like two seconds?

I just wanna make sure you didn’t get black bagged or some shit.

Hey fucker

I’m looking for you on earth 

If I find out you’ve just been ignoring me this whole time you’re in for a world of hurt, asshole

DEKU

Okay, fuck this.

Do you have any idea how fucking idea how worried this is making me?

What the hell am I supposed to think??

I keep FUCKING looking for you

WHERE ARE YOU

 

Izuku’s brow furrowed. Katsuki seemed to be oscillating between feelings of worry, anger, and remorse. Maybe this is just how he acts when he’s scared, Izuku thought, watering the guilt sprouting inside him. He turned the page.

 

Hey nerd

ya know I never mentioned it but

there’s actually two different kinds of hypnotism

Well there’re more but there are two main kinds

Active hypnotism and passive hypnotism

What I used on you a while back was active hypnotism

Basically means I was controlling you without really messing with your head

Wanna guess what passive hypnosis does?

 

Well, that’s different. Izuku noted. It’s like he’s trying to see if he can bait me into responding.

 

Well?

Here.

I’ll tell you a bit more about wrath magic

Maybe that’ll get your shitty nerd ass to respond

anyway

already mentioned the part about it being compression + heat, but that’s just part of it

it’s also about movement

basically I compress my soul into a dense ball, and I use that density to hit harder by throwing it with my movements

That’s why wrath is so hard at the beginning

for a while it feels kinda like having a cannon fired at your insides all the time 

then just when you think you’re getting used to it, you finally figure out how to superheat it and then you’ve got basically the same issue except now the cannon ball is like a small, very dense star

the only good part is that it cauterizes the wounds it creates

I’m obviously used to it now but damn if it wasn’t a fucking bitch for a while

I bet you’d fucking cry

fallen angels still struggle with it ya know

just not as much as regular demons

or demons like me.

So there you have it.

Any questions, nerd?

Comments? Concerns? 

Any last words before I kick your ass?

 

Despite his exhausted state, the part of Izuku’s mind that craved knowledge lit up as he absorbed the information. He did have questions. But it was probably too late to ask them. At the bottom of the page, Katsuki had written:

 

You’re either dead or not reading these and honestly I don’t know which one would piss me off more.

 

Izuku turned the page, and was met with a giant “FUCK YOU” spread out across two entire pages.

He turned the page again.

 

Hey I’ll tell you a story, asshole

so one time I fought this angel

I wanna say they were like level 7? Somewhere around there

anyway

thing about angels is that their power from level to level sorta increases by orders of magnitude

So if you’re level 3 and they were level 7, that’d make them about 10,000 times stronger than you

they had 3 pairs of wings, but by the time I was through with them they had 0

I repeat: 10,000 times stronger than you

Now you may be thinking to yourself, “gee kacchan, that sure sounds like a threat”

And you’d be correct. I am absolutely threatening you, asshole

So you better FUCKING respond

You absolute

Piece

Of 

SHIT

Deku

Deku

Deku

God you’re such an asshole

If you’re not already dead, I’ll fucking kill you myself

Ya know deku this shit’s really fucked me up

Cuz I wanna hurt you now

Which isn’t exactly new

But most of the time when I wanna hurt you it’s cuz I’m horny or something

(Side note: I hope you spend the next few days ruminating on the implications that statement and I sincerely hope that it causes you great distress)

But right now I just kinda wanna kick your ass just for the sake of it

Any thoughts on that you wanna share?

Any fucking opinions?

Ya FUCK??

Deku if I ever see you again someone’s getting their ass kicked and it aint gonna be me

 

Well, he was right about that, Izuku thought. Probably not in the way he was expecting, though. Izuku turned the page. At the very top, there was one last message. A single word.

 

Please.

 

And for some reason, that made Izuku’s heart ache more than anything else. With a sigh, he reached for a pen. He didn’t have time to respond to all the things Katsuki had said, but he had time for this.

 

I’m sorry, Kacchan.

I messed up. I was wrong.

And I’m really sorry.

 

He was about to close the memo when suddenly it grew warm in his hands, and he watched  as new letters formed, bleeding through the page.

 

Fuck you.

You’re such a fucking asshole, holy shit deku

FUCK YOU

SO MUCH

 

For a moment, that’s all there was. Izuku’s heart sped up, and he was about to try to write something else, but before his pen could even touch the page, new words started to appear, and put his mind at ease.

 

When are you fucking scheduled next?


The following morning, Izuku woke to the sound of someone knocking on his door. He groaned, rolling over onto his stomach, covering his ears.

“Not now, Shinsou…” he grumbled into the pillow, half asleep. He didn’t actually plan on  responding. He was just waiting for the knocking to stop. 

It didn’t.

Izuku frowned. Shinsou usually gave up somewhere around the third knock. What was making him so persistent this time?

And then he remembered. 

Oh. Right. 

Shinsou’s in the hospital.

His body tensed.

Then who…?

Izuku forced himself out of bed. He shuffled over to the door, opening it slightly and peering through the crack. 

“…Todoroki?”

Todoroki looked him up and down. “Sorry. Did I wake you?”

“What? No…” Izuku reflexively said. Then he glanced down at his pajamas and faltered. “Well… maybe, but I probably needed to get up, anyway.” He laughed sheepishly. “Um, did you want to come in?”

“If that’s alright.”

Izuku nodded, unhooking the chain latch. Todoroki entered, and stood awkwardly near the corner.

Izuku pulled out his desk chair. “Here, you can sit!”

He muttered a soft thanks and sat. As he looked around, Izuku sat down cross-legged on his bed, wringing his wrists. He hadn’t really taken note of it when he saw him in the library, but Todoroki seemed to have made a full recovery. Even the corruption damage appeared to be but a faint shadow upon his skin. Izuku subconsciously touched the small, flesh-colored bandage on his neck. 

“So… How’ve you been?” Izuku asked.

“Alright.” Todoroki replied. “Iida told me what happened.”

Izuku paled slightly. “I…” He stumbled. “What exactly did he say?”

“Just that Shinsou got into a fight with a Demon, and you were there.”

Izuku blinked. “Well, that’s… true.”

“I also heard that you somehow protected him.”

Izuku chewed his lip. “I guess so, sure.”

Todoroki cocked his head. “With all due respect, Midoriya, that seems very far-fetched.”

“I…” He hesitated. “What makes you say that?”

“Even the weakest Demons on the surface are still stronger than a lot of level four Angels. It takes a certain amount of skill to travel between Hell and Earth, and Demons tend not to send out anyone who wouldn’t be able to return on their own, if they needed to.” Todoroki explained, drumming his fingers on the surface of Izuku’s desk. “That’s what I’ve been taught, anyway.”

Izuku stared back at him for a while, then slowly looked away. “Well, maybe this one wasn’t there to fight.”

Todoroki arched an eyebrow. “What other reason would a Demon have to be on Earth?”

Izuku opened his mouth, but stopped short of actually speaking. 

I have to be careful, He reminded himself. If I tell him Demons evacuate people too, he’ll just have more questions. 

Izuku bit his lip.

When he looked up, he noticed Todoroki looking around.

“Does anyone else have access to this room?”

Izuku frowned. “Um. No, not that I know of. Why?”

“Just wanted to make sure this conversation was actually private.”

Izuku’s mouth fell open a bit. 

“…Oh.” He swallowed nervously, looking around at his surroundings. It was a relatively sparse room. Not a lot of places to hide any sort of recording device, at least not as far as Izuku could tell. “I mean… is there a way to check?”

He shook his head. “If someone my level could detect something like that so easily, they wouldn’t use it.”

“R-Right.” Izuku cleared his throat, still scanning the room for anything out of the ordinary. “Well, for what it’s worth, I don’t see anything I don’t recognize.”

Todoroki remained silent.

“If it would make you feel better… we could talk in the bathroom?” Izuku offered.

“Good idea.” He said, standing up. Izuku followed just behind him. By the time he remembered the state of his bathroom, it was too late.

“Midoriya, what happened to your mirror?”

“Oh, that…” Izuku said, his voice about two octaves higher than normal. He laughed nervously, and it made him sound deranged. Izuku cleared his throat. “The thing is, uhhh…” He thought about it for a moment, but truthfully, he just didn’t have the energy to come up with a lie. “Actually,  to be honest? I’d… rather not talk about it, if that’s alright.”

To his relief, Todoroki seemed completely unbothered, shrugging without so much as a word. Izuku closed the door behind them, and went to sit on the edge of the bathtub. Todoroki put the lid of the toilet down, and sat there. For a moment, it was silent again.

“Midoriya, can I be blunt?”

Are you ever not? Izuku thought. “Sure,” He said instead.

“Even together, you and Shinsou would not survive a hostile encounter with a Demon on the surface, even with every other variable in your favor.” Todoroki said. “Fighting a Demon without magic is like trying to win a fist fight against someone standing fifteen feet away with an assault rifle.”

Izuku winced.

“We weren’t trying to fight him, though. We just needed to escape.”

“The idea that you could get away from a fully-shifted Demon while carrying someone else without any use of magic is patently ridiculous.” He shot back, monotone. “You can’t hide from them without training, either.”

“Sure, but—“ Izuku hesitated, his mouth hanging open for a moment before he closed it. He thought over his options. There were very few. Eventually, he sighed. “Okay. I lied.” He admitted. “We got away because the Demon allowed us to. Because he didn’t want to kill us.” 

Izuku carefully watched Todoroki’s face, searching for signs of disbelief or hostility, but his expression remained neutral.

“Alright. That makes a lot more sense.”

Izuku did a double take. “Uhhh… Really?”

Todoroki shrugged. “Demons aren’t mindless killing machines.” He said. “I guess it’s a bit weird to imagine a situation where a Demon would be hostile enough to attack you, but not want to kill you. It’s not that absurd, though. And people can change their mind.”

People.

Izuku’s heart rate picked up.

Now’s the time. He thought. If I’m ever going to ask him, it should be now.

“Todoroki…” He swallowed. “What exactly do you think of Demons…?”

Todoroki blinked. “They’re our opponents in the war. That’s it.” He replied. “If you’re asking whether I think they’re all inherently evil, then the answer would be no. I’m fairly certain they just tell us that so we’ll feel more comfortable killing them.”

For several seconds, Izuku was dumbstruck. Todoroki never minced words, but somehow, it still came as a shock to hear him put it so bluntly. But despite his normally calm exterior, as the silence stretched on, Todoroki seemed to grow increasingly uncomfortable, if the way he was fidgeting was any indication. He opened his mouth, but Izuku spoke first.

“Sorry.” He said. “I… agree, basically. I’ve just… never heard someone say it so…” He gestured meaninglessly.

Todoroki seemed to relax. “Well, it’s not the most legal opinion.”

Izuku could almost hear Katsuki in his head, snorting at the very notion of a ‘legal opinion.’

“Have you always felt that way?”

“I’ve always been skeptical, I guess.” He replied, shrugging. “I think most people who buy into it do it because it’s simple, and I guess that makes them feel safer. For me, it’s the opposite, though.”

Izuku blinked. “You mean it makes you feel… less safe?”

Todoroki nodded.

“How so?”

For a little while, he was silent, staring at the floor, his brows pinched together ever so slightly. 

“I… don’t know.“ He then said. “Personally, I just like to think that most people’s actions follow some kind of internal logic that can be understood, even if I don’t agree.” Todoroki paused, then sighed. “I guess, for me at least, the world becomes a much scarier place once I decide that there are large groups of people who are just categorically evil for no coherent reason. But I don’t know if that makes sense, really.”

“No, no, it does, um… I think.” Izuku said. “I can see where you’re coming from, at least.”

Todoroki smiled slightly, and silence stretched between them.

Izuku cleared his throat. “Ah, when are you headed back to the battlefield, by the way?” He asked. “I mean, if you haven’t already…?”

“I haven’t. If plans don’t change, though, I think it’ll be sometime next week.” Todoroki stood up then, and stretched. “I guess I should get back soon. They’re probably wondering where I am.”

Izuku nodded, standing as well. “It was nice getting to talk to you.”

Todoroki gave a small smile, and started heading for the door. Then, he stopped. “One more thing before I go, actually.” He said. “I guess it’s only fair that I come clean about something, since you did, too.”

Izuku raised his eyebrows. “Okay…?”

“The story I told you in the hospital, about how I got all that corruption damage… it wasn’t entirely true.”

“Oh.” Izuku frowned. “Well, what—“

“—My shield never slipped. It was up the whole time; it just didn’t matter. He bypassed it.” Todoroki reached for the doorknob. “The Demon knew my full name, Midoriya.”

Izuku blinked a few times, staring at his back. “Oh. That’s… wait—“

“—Don’t tell anyone.” Todoroki cut in. “I know you won’t, but… don’t.”

Izuku faltered. “Of course. Your secret’s safe with me, Todoroki.” He said, then swallowed. “But please, be careful out there.”

“I will.” He said. “If I see him again, I’ll get out of there. After last time…” He paused, sighing. “Well, who knows what could happen.”

And with that, he bid him farewell.

 

That night, Izuku fell asleep in his bed with the obsidian rings on, and had dreams about the floor collapsing beneath him.


He was called into All Might’s office at the end of class three days later, and the room looked messier since the last time he’d been there.

“What’s this about?” Izuku asked.

All Might shut the door, and sighed. For a moment, he didn’t speak.

“All Might…?”

“It’s… bad news, I’m afraid.”

Izuku immediately tensed. All Might shuffled over to his desk, picking up a large, open envelope.

“I’m sorry, but… your application for ascension was denied.”

Izuku’s heart dropped into the pit of his stomach. He looked down at the floor, his throat growing tight. “Oh…”

“But it’s not the end of the world!” All Might was quick to say, but then hesitated. “Well, it’s the rapture, so I suppose it technically is, but…” 

Izuku was already sniffling, his vision beginning to blur. All Might sighed.

“I’m sorry. Now’s probably not the time for jokes, I suppose.” He said sheepishly. “What I meant to say just now is… Well, this is just a minor setback. I can resubmit your application, once the waiting period is over.”

“Right…” Izuku said. The reminder made him feel better, but not by much. “How long is that, exactly?”

“One year.”

Izuku felt a churning sensation in his gut, nausea rising up his throat. A whole year?

A chill ran down his spine, leaving goose bumps all across his body. Memories of his bloody fist clenched around one of his own feathers came rushing to the surface, and he lost control of the trajectory of his thoughts.

Will I still be an Angel a year from now? He clenched his jaw. I feel like I’m hanging by a thread already, and it’s only been four and a half months since Kacchan and I…

His breathing became shallow, and an abrupt sound made him nearly jump out of his seat. His eyes refocused, and he realized All Might had just snapped his fingers in front of his face.

“Midoriya…?” He said, enunciating slowly, his brows knitted together. 

Izuku swallowed. “S-Sorry,” He cleared his throat. “I… I understand.”

After a pause, All Might exhaled, and reached across the desk, placing his hand over Izuku’s.“Midoriya, please don’t take this as a reflection of your abilities or potential.”

“But isn’t that exactly what it is?”

“That’s what it’s supposed to be, but that doesn’t mean it’s always fair.” All Might replied. “Sometimes, whether an Angel gets approved or denied just depends on whose hands the application falls into, and what sort of mood they’re in that day.”

Izuku grimaced. “But that’s so… arbitrary.”

All Might chuckled. “You’d be in good company feeling that way!” He said. “Midoriya, really—a lot of students don’t get accepted the first time they apply.”

“You did.”

All Might faltered. “Well… yes. But I was a bit of a special case. And it was easier back then, anyway. The standards weren’t as high.”

Izuku reached up, wiping tears off his cheeks.

“Deep breaths.” All Might murmured, giving his hand a squeeze. Izuku nodded, taking a few long, shuddering breaths. “Stay strong. This too shall pass, Midoriya.”

 

But despite All Might’s comforting words, the darkness still wormed its way inside him—a vile weight that writhed just beneath the surface.


He found out the next day, as he was on his way to class. The wound of rejection was still fresh on his mind, but he put on a brave face and stuffed the emotions deep down inside him. It took him a while to even notice that something was happening, but the halls were abuzz with gossip, and based on the bits and pieces he’d gathered from various conversations, it wasn’t too hard to piece together what happened. 

Someone else had been approved for ascension. 

Izuku didn’t know who it was until he walked in, and found a crowd of people surrounding…

…Monoma?

“Congratulations, Monoma!” Asui told him.

“Yeah, that’s amazing!” Uraraka added, jumping up and down. “Hope we can all join you soon!”

Izuku stood frozen in the doorway, just staring at the group in bewilderment. 

Monoma…? He thought. Wait, really?

Izuku wanted to be happy for him, but it was difficult to ignore how… strange it was.

He’s not even in the top fifty percent of our class. How did he get approved if I—

Someone tapped his shoulder, and he quickly apologized and moved out of the doorway. He headed to his desk and set his bag down beside it. Then, forcing his uneasy thoughts to the back of his mind, Izuku made his way over to Monoma.

“You’re the one who ascended?” He asked.

“Of course I am.” Monoma replied, grinning.

It took every bit of control Izuku had not to cringe.

“Well, congratulations! I’m sure…” Izuku cleared his throat. “Well, I know you must have worked very hard for this.”

He shrugged. “It was long overdue, really.”

Izuku laughed awkwardly, looking away. “Yeah, I feel the same about, um. Iida, and Uraraka…”  He trailed off. “Uh, anyway—again, congrats!” Izuku spun around and hurried back to his seat.

Be happy for him. Be happy for him. Izuku told himself, clenching his jaw. There are a million reasons why your application might have been rejected while his wasn’t. Just be happy for him, damn it! This shouldn’t be difficult!

But no matter what he did, he just couldn’t quite rid himself of the foul taste on his tongue. 


Later that day, Izuku found himself walking toward All Might’s office without really thinking about it. He still had mixed feelings about his classmate’s ascension. Perhaps in the back of his mind, he was hoping his mentor could provide some form of explanation, but mostly, he just needed to vent to someone who wouldn’t judge him.

Upon arrival, he was relieved to see that the light was on inside. He knocked on the door, and waited.

And waited.

Izuku frowned, knocking once again. Still, nothing.

Maybe he went to the bathroom or something? Izuku thought, glancing down the hall. 

But… no. He shook his head. All Might always turned the lights off in his office, even when he was only away for a short period of time. 

Beginning to get a bit worried, Izuku knocked once more, louder this time.

Finally, All Might answered.

The door cracked open, a sliver of light leaking out into the hall. Then All Might poked his head out and looked both ways, before quickly ushering Izuku inside. As he looked around, he was baffled to find that the room was somehow even more messy than it had been the previous day.

“All Might… is everything okay?”

All Might shushed him as he closed the door. With his back still turned toward him, he took a couple deep breaths before turning around. Izuku’s brows pinched together as he took in his mentor’s appearance. He looked disheveled, the dark circles beneath his eyes somehow deeper than usual.

“Sorry, Midoriya.” He whispered. 

“What’s going on?”

“Nothing.” All Might was quick to say, only to then tack on, “Nothing you need to worry about, at least.”

That just made Izuku even more concerned.

All Might sighed, drudging over to his desk and sitting down. “I meant to send you a note, but I got so busy I just couldn’t find the time.”

Izuku swallowed, leaning forward. “All Might… what’s this about?”

For a few seconds, he was silent, staring down at his desk, his expression conflicted.

“I… I really shouldn’t tell you.” He finally said. “Not here, at least. Apologies.”

The subtext of the situation was more than a little disconcerting, and Izuku’s curiosity only increased, but out of respect, he simply nodded, and stayed silent.

After a pause, All Might spoke again. “Is there a reason for your visit?”

“Ah.” Izuku said, rubbing the back of his neck. “It’s, um…”

Should I tell him? Izuku wondered, chewing his lip. He seems so stressed out, already… Do I really want to add my feelings about Monoma’s ascension onto that?

After a moment, he shook his head. “Sorry. It’s nothing, really.” 

All Might took a deep breath.

“Well, for your own safety, I must ask that from here on out, you refrain from visiting unless it’s a scheduled meeting or an emergency.”

Izuku’s stomach dropped. “What?”

“Sorry. I really don’t mean to be harsh. I just don’t want you to get mixed up in…” He trailed off, then exhaled. “I really do mean it when I say this is for your own safety, Midoriya.”

Izuku wrung his wrists. “I… see.” He mumbled. “W-Well, in that case, I guess I’ll see you in a few days?”

All Might nodded, standing to open the door. He paused as he was turning it, and threw Izuku another look. “Please try to stay out of trouble.”

Izuku tensed. “Wait.” He said. “This isn’t… This isn’t about what happened with Shinsou, is it?”

All Might shook his head. “No, it isn’t. That much, at least, I can tell you.”

He nodded slowly, some of the tension melting away, though only a little.

All Might opened the door just enough to poke his head out.

“What are you doing?” Izuku asked.

“Looking both ways.” All Might replied. Then he stepped aside and ushered Izuku out of the small office.

The door shut behind him, resonating like a gunshot in the quiet hallway.


Izuku left earlier than usual the next time he set out for the surface, but when he arrived at the first church, Katsuki didn’t seem too interested in talking. They went about their respective duties in relative silence, and it wasn’t until the last person’s clothes hit the floor that Katsuki finally broached the subject.

They were still inside the church, and Katsuki was leaning against the altar, fidgeting with the white linen cloth laid draped over it.

“So, how is he?” He asked. “Still in the hospital, I’m guessing?”

Izuku was so surprised, it took a moment for him to respond. “Y-Yeah. He is.” He said. “As part of his punishment, they’re not using magic to accelerate his healing, so I think it’ll probably be another month, at least.”

“Damn,” Katsuki sighed. “Y’know, I really was shooting for six months. Guess I’m just not used to using restraint.”

Izuku scowled. “If anything, you should’ve used more restraint.”

Katsuki arched a brow. “Deku, sweetie, with all due respect—go fuck yourself. Frankly, considering the kinda shit he was saying, you oughta be on your knees thanking me for not fucking killing that asshole.”

He grimaced. “Shinsou was wrong to say those things.” He replied carefully, crossing his arms. “But that’s just… I mean, that’s what we’re taught, Kacchan. You know that.”

“Is that supposed to make me feel better?” He snorted. “Guy basically opens with, ‘Hi, I think you’re subhuman,’ and you want me to take his fuckin’ tragic backstory into account? Fuck all the way off with that shit. I’m not tolerating it. Had enough of that before I died.”

Izuku frowned. What’s that supposed to mean? He shook his head. Doesn’t matter.

“Well, fine, but that’s not going to make him stop thinking of you that way.”

Katsuki scoffed. “Do you think me being polite would’ve changed his mind?” He rolled his eyes. “Hate to break it to you, Deku, but that really ain’t how it works. And anyway, none of this shit would’ve even happened if you didn’t fucking avoid me for two weeks. What the fuck was that about, huh? I still don’t fucking know.”

“I was just—” Izuku faltered, looking down. “I mean… I don’t know.”

“Bullshit.”  

Izuku winced. “It’s complicated, okay?”

“More complicated than me shoving my foot up your ass, or less?”

Izuku flushed, clenching his fists. “Look, if you really need to know, I was afraid, okay? There’s your answer. I was scared.”

“Of what?”

Izuku narrowed his eyes, scoffing. “Don’t act like you don’t remember, Kacchan. You know.”

“So you went out of your way to avoid me over a goddamn apple?” He spat, almost laughing. “That’s it? Seriously?”

“Of course that’s not it!”

“Then what the fuck is it?!”

“My feathers started falling out!” Izuku shouted, his body tense, fists clenched. “I woke up the next day and four feathers fell out, even though I know you never touched my wings.” He rattled on, venom on his tongue. “So there you go, Kacchan. Your plan is working, congratulations! I’m terrified! Is that what you wanted to hear?!”

For a long while, Katsuki just stared at him, his eyes wide, speechless in the aftermath of his outburst. Izuku stood there, his body tense, chest rising and falling rapidly with his heavy breathing. It was only after the first tear finally slipped down his cheek that Katsuki broke eye contact.

“Oh.” He said.

“I just…” Izuku’s voice broke, tears welling up. “I… What if this was all for nothing?”

Katsuki frowned. “The hell are you talking about?”

“I got rejected, Kacchan!” Izuku snapped. “Even after all these months with you, my application to ascend was still denied!”

The Demon stared at him for a moment, his expression slowly morphing into one of incredulity.

“Is that really all you care about?” Katsuki asked, with a mirthless laugh. “Fucking seriously, Deku? After all this time?”

“Of course not, but that’s the only thing that made this okay, Kacchan! Don’t you understand that?” He cried, forcefully wiping tears from his cheeks. “I’ve spent all these months with you, clinging to that one thing that made this whole thing acceptable, and now it’s just—just gone!” He gritted his teeth painfully. “What the hell am I supposed to do, now?! I have to wait a year before I can reapply, and—and at this rate, by then, I don’t even know if…” He choked on a sob, shaking his head. He couldn’t bring himself to say it out loud.

Katsuki was just a blurry form standing silently before him, and Izuku was too far gone to gauge his reactions.

“And I know I shouldn’t have bet so much on getting approved the first time. I just…” He sniffled. “I really thought this would work…” He wiped his nose on his sleeve. 

“But despite all this time I’ve spent with you,” Izuku continued, “despite how hard I’ve been working, I still got rejected, and—and freaking Monoma, a person who barely even shows up to class, gets to ascend?” Izuku tugged at the roots of his hair. “It doesn’t make any sense! He’s—I—“ Izuku cut himself off with a frustrated scream that had Katsuki staring at him, his eyes wide, his mouth open.

“You just don’t get it!” He cried. “You have no idea what it’s like to be in my position. I work so hard and everything I do gets scrutinized. Everything! I’m doing everything I’m supposed to, but they still—still—“

Izuku crumpled to the floor, curled up against the wall, sobbing. He was exhausted, both physically and mentally. His emotions felt too big for his body. 

A minute later, he felt a hand brush against his back, and he tensed. He hadn’t heard Katsuki approaching, but when he peaked up over his arms, he found him sitting on the floor beside him, his expression calm. Izuku relaxed slightly, choosing to let Katsuki’s hand stay there, rubbing gentle circles on his back.

Several minutes went by before Izuku managed to calm down enough to speak.

He wiped his nose on his sleeve. “I’m… I’m sorry.” He said softly. “I-I know that one day my work will be recognized. Right? I’ll… eventually, but…” He trailed off, and released a shuddering exhale. “Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m just… not working hard enough.” Izuku curled into himself further, ducking his head between his knees, and quietly whimpered, “Or maybe I’m just not good enough…”

After a long pause, Katsuki sighed.

“Deku, can I tell you a story?”

Izuku didn’t hear him at first. After a second, he raised his head slightly, confused, but nodding.

Katsuki scooted a bit closer. “So, there’s this preacher who lives in a tiny little mountain town, right? One night, a mysterious woman appears in his dreams. Nine months later, this screaming brat shows up on his doorstep.”

Izuku frowned. Where’s he going with this?

“He takes the kid in, raises him as his own.” Katsuki continued. “Teaches him all about God and shit, tells him what he’s gotta do to get into heaven, all that stuff. He lets him call him ‘dad.’ But…”

He hesitated, the hand on Izuku’s back going still for a moment.

“…But there’s something wrong with the kid.” He finally said. “He’s just not… normal. Both of ‘em can sense it, they just don’t know why. At that point, it’s just a feeling, but over time, shit starts to get weirder.

“The kid starts to feel it—I mean really feel it—around when he starts hanging around other kids. He just knows he’s not like them. He’s trying to keep it hidden, ‘cuz it’s scary, but it’s hard to hide a problem when you can’t even pin down the source.” Katsuki took a deep breath. “But it bothers him—actively, y’know? He has weird dreams. And sometimes he just gets this… feeling, like everyone’s hiding somethin’ from him…” He picked a piece of lint off his pants. “His dad’s church is always too cold. He prays every night, but no one ever answers.”

Izuku’s brow furrowed. “Kacchan…”

“And it just gets worse, ‘cuz by the time he’s seven, the townspeople have started to feel it, too.” He said. “The adults are polite enough to at least try to hide it, but... the other kids don’t wanna play with him anymore. They say his presence makes them feel weird. Y’know. They don’t like the way he looks at them. In the beginning, the kid lashes out, but that doesn’t work out too well—just seems to prove them right.” Katsuki winced, pausing for a moment. “So he just does what his dad always told him to do. Y’know, pray. He prays his fuckin’ heart out every day, begging for some unseen power to just… make things normal. Whatever that would mean.”

Katsuki sighed.

“It’s not long before the whole town just becomes pretty much openly afraid of him.” Katsuki snorted. “Wild, huh? Whole buncha so-called adults, fuckin’ terrified of some little kid just ‘cuz he gives ‘em weird vibes. Fuckin’ pathetic.” He spat. “But anyway, after a certain point, he just has to avoid going outside most of the time. Which is shitty, ‘cuz it means he can’t help his dad with errands, but…” Katsuki shrugged. 

“He’s just so fucking isolated. He has no friends, except…” He paused, taking a deep breath. “There’s this stray cat that always comes to his window. A black cat. She...” He faltered, voice sounding tight. “She lets him pet her, and he feeds her sometimes, when he can manage it. He starts calling her Twin, ‘cuz, being a black cat, he figured she was just like him, y’know? People were afraid of both of ‘em for no reason.”

Katsuki fell silent for a moment, fidgeting with the hem of his pants.

“Anyway, by the time he’s, like…” He squinted. “Ehh, twelve, I guess… he’s got a pretty good idea of what might be wrong with him, but he’s still too scared to think too much about it. He’s just in denial, so he doubles down on his studies, memorizes scripture and prays, because his dad always told him that’s all he had to do. You know, ‘Just keep praying, God loves you. God loves all his children, this is simply a test of faith. You’ll get through it, and one day you’ll live in eternal bliss in God’s kingdom. Just have faith.’” Katsuki laughed bitterly.

“Some nights, he’ll go out to fetch a pail of water, when no one’s around, and he’s thirteen years old when it happens. He goes out that night, minding his own business…” He hesitated. “But he hears something strange, and goes to investigate. Rounds a corner and catches a boy about his age hunched over in the alley, but as soon as the bastard realizes he’s been caught, he fuckin’ bolts. He thinks about chasing after him, but then… he sees…” 

Katsuki grimaced. For several seconds, he did not speak, and all Izuku could do was sit there and stare at him. The look on his face was weary, a mixture of exhaustion and numb sadness, as though he were trying to resurrect a part of himself long after coming to terms with its death.

Eventually, he sighed.

“Twin’s alive, but she won’t be much longer if he can’t find help.” He mumbled. “So he panics, obviously. Rushes over, scoops her up in his arms, and fucking books it. Heads straight for the town clinic, ‘cuz, y’know, what the fuck else is he supposed to do?” Katsuki shrugged. “Anyway, he starts banging on the door, yelling for help. There’s light inside, but no one answers. And here’s the fucked up part—a few seconds later, the light goes out.”

“What?” Izuku whispered. 

“Right?” Katsuki scoffed. “And the kid’s just… fucking losing it. He’s never felt this way before. And he’s screaming at them, begging for help, but no one fucking listens to him. And it’s too late, anyway. So he just… sits on the doorstep, crying. Still cradling her. Takes him a moment to actually realize that Twin just isn’t… there anymore. She’s gone, and he’s alone again.” 

Katsuki clenched his jaw, pausing for a moment.

“Gets worse, though. ‘Cuz a few minutes later, he hears footsteps. Hears a woman gasp. He looks up and sees her face, but it’s cold. And she asks him, ‘what did you do to it?’”

Izuku tensed. Anger flared up inside him, but all he could do was stare back at Katsuki, speechless.

“Yeah… So, by morning, the news has spread. ‘Oh, did ‘ya hear the preacher’s kid killed a cat? How fucked up is that?’” He said, his tone mocking. “‘Course he tells his dad he didn’t do it, and his dad says he believes him, but honestly? Who the fuck knows what his dad thinks at this point. He sure doesn’t. The kid doesn’t leave the house after that. Not for a while, at least.

“But then, when he’s seventeen, his dad goes out of town to visit his aunt and asks him to take care of shit ’til he gets back. He’s nervous, but he agrees. Y’know, it’s been a few years. Figures maybe it’s time to try again. And he just wants to fuckin’ help, y’know? He wants to do good, wants to get into heaven. So he does everything his dad tells him to, as best he can with the town turned against him, of course.”

The hand on Izuku’s back began to move again, Katsuki’s fingers tracing patterns across his spine.

“It’s fine for a bit, but of course it doesn’t stay that way.” He continued. “One night, just when he’s startin’ to think things’ll be okay, he comes back and finds his dad’s church on fucking fire. He’s so shocked, he doesn’t even know how to react at first. But he eventually goes for help, tries to explain what’s going on. You can probably guess how that goes.” Katsuki said, snorting. “They basically chase him out of town, and… well, that’s it. He’s gone. Never sees his dad again.” He took a deep breath, and exhaled.

“Anyway, for a few years, he just wanders from place to place, doing whatever he can to survive. He still prays, still tries to be a good person, even though just about everyone he meets assumes the worst of him. He kinda knows what he is, but he’s still trying to overcome it. Every day he gets a little less hopeful. 

“And then one day… he runs into him again. The piece of shit who killed her, and he fucking loses it. Ends up on top of him, fucking strangling the asshole. ‘Course, he’s making a lot of noise, so he gets caught before he can actually kill the fucker. Guy comes rushing over and swings an axe at him, misses once, backs him into a corner. He screams, ‘go back to Hell, devil!’ and you know what his last thought is before he dies?” Katsuki laughed mirthlessly. “‘I’m already there.’”

For a while, Katsuki was silent. He stared into space as he traced lines across Izuku’s back.

“When he opens his eyes next, he’s lying in a field, lookin’ up at a red sky. He learns the full truth about himself. Half-Demons are even more rare than Fallen Angels, ‘specially these days.

“It reminds him of a conversation he had with his dad once. He asked him if a Demon could ever earn their way into Heaven. His dad said no. The souls of Demons are far too filthy, you see.” He arched a brow. “Even if they’re born that way, even if they never asked for it, that cannot change. There is no repentance strong enough to make their souls come clean.”

Izuku frowned, felt a pulling sensation in his chest, a tightness in his throat. “Kacchan…” He said softly, then swallowed. “That’s… I’m so sorry.”

Katsuki looked at him then, his sharp, red eyes glowing in the low light. “It was two hundred years ago.” He shrugged. “Point is, sometimes, hard work just ain’t enough. You don’t live in a meritocracy, Deku. That’s just a lie they tell you to keep you subservient.” Katsuki sighed. “The first step to breaking those chains is to accept that they exist.” He murmured, his voice a low rumble resonating in his bones.

Izuku held his breath as the Demon caught a rogue lock of hair between his fingertips and carefully brushed it behind his ear.

“The next step's easy.” Katsuki smirked. “Get fuckin' angry.”

Chapter Text

The council must be acting against God’s wishes, he decided. And that's not blasphemous, because God gave us free will. If those who God trusted could never betray him, Lucifer would have never Fallen.

That was how Izuku was rationalizing things, anyway. Admittedly, even that felt a bit dangerous, but at that point, it was one of the few things he had left to cling to.

Every few days, Izuku redid the glue on his feathers, and prayed that God would root out the false confidants among his inner group. He convinced himself that one day, things would be better. That one day, stories like Katsuki’s would no longer exist.

Katsuki.

It’d been about two weeks since that day when Izuku broke down in front of him, and Katsuki told him about his past. Things had more or less returned to normal since then—better than normal, really. 

Or worse, depending on how one looked at the situation. 

Izuku could never quite escape the persistent feeling of unease as far as their relationship was concerned. It was a bit of a catch-22. Being comfortable around Katsuki made Izuku uncomfortable. But if nothing else, he enjoyed those easy-going moments as they happened. It was a welcome distraction from all the stress and uncertainty that seemed to saturate the rest of his existence.

Still, his willingness to trust Katsuki alarmed him at times. He no longer regularly checked to see whether he was telling the truth. He just took it for granted. And he was probably getting a little too comfortable venting to Katsuki. There were times when he had to stop himself from saying too much, lest he give away some sensitive information by mistake. 

There was this cynical voice in the back of his mind that he could never quite tamp down. As if there was anything useful you could tell him that he didn’t already know about, it said. Kacchan probably knows more about Heaven than you do, anyway.

But he digressed.

Perhaps the most alarming instance occurred during their last meeting, when, in order to satiate his curiosity, Izuku volunteered to let Katsuki hypnotize him again.

It started with a simple question.

“Kacchan… is there anything hypnotism can’t do?”

They were walking down an empty side road at sunset, checking for any signs of stragglers.

Katsuki grunted an affirmative. “Couple things.” He said, peering through an cracked window. “You can’t manipulate emotions with it, ‘least not directly. And you can’t use it to force someone to tell the truth. Those are the big ones.”

“Oh.” Izuku said. “That second one’s a bit surprising…” Having found no one, Katsuki returned to his side, and they continued walking. “I kind of assumed hypnotism would be mostly used for interrogation, but…” He trailed off.

“It still can be. There’s a couple ways to get around it.” Katsuki shrugged. “Like, Y’can’t make someone tell the truth about something, but you can force them to talk continuously.” He explained. “If you give ‘em enough time, the truth’ll probably come out eventually.”

“Ah, I see.” Izuku nodded. Katsuki peered around the corner, confirming it was clear before proceeding.

“‘Course, if you ever got held up by a Lust Demon, I’d tell them not to bother.” He said, smirking. “That fucking mumbling habit of yours has the same effect.”

Izuku glared lightly, and rolled his eyes. He stopped as they came upon a small, abandoned bakery, where the door had been left open. Glass crunching beneath his shoes, Izuku stepped inside. “Hello?” He called out. No answer. 

They continued on.

“So, there aren’t any physical limits?” Izuku said. “I mean, what would happen if you just told a random person to tap-dance?”

“Well, yeah, obviously you’re limited by what the target’s capable of. It’s mind control, not puppetry. If ‘ya can’t do it, ‘ya can’t do it.”

“But is that all? As long as the person can do it, you can make them?”

“Well, technically.” Katsuki squinted. “It gets harder the more complex the task is.” He kicked a can off the sidewalk. “There’s also some shit that’s, like, practically impossible. Shit like telling someone to kill themself. Far as I know, the only Demon who’s ever actually pulled that off was Asmodeus.” He shrugged. “A lot of this shit just depends on how skilled the Demon doing the hypnosis is.” After a moment, he added, “And what kinda hypnotism it is, obviously.”

Katsuki forced open the door to an old middle school, looking around before gesturing for Izuku to follow.

“Ah, that’s right.” Izuku said. “You mentioned that there were different kinds.”

Katsuki grunted. “Active and passive.” He said. “There’re some other, kinda more niche hybrids, but those are the two major ones.”

“So, what’s the difference?”

“Essentially, during active hypnotism, you’re being actively controlled. That’s what I used on you a while back. It’s what you’d kinda expect hypnosis to be, y’know? Basically removes your free will.” He explained. “Under passive hypnotism, you’re not being directly controlled, but the way you perceive the world is. So it’s like a type of illusion. You’re making someone hallucinate.”

“Huh.” Izuku said, staring down at his shoes. Their footsteps echoed in the quiet hallway. “Is there any way to break out of it?”

Katsuki snorted. “Well, for one thing, you could just not get fuckin’ hypnotized to begin with.” He replied. “Just don’t make eye contact with hostile Demons, full stop. And for fuckssake, if you think you’re dealing with a Lust Demon, don’t let them fucking touch you.”

Izuku frowned, brow furrowing. “I thought they needed eye contact…?”

Katsuki shook his head. “Deku, eye contact is a pretty high bar to clear if you’re fighting an opponent who knows better.” He said. “Sure, if you’re a Wrath or Gluttony Demon, it’s pretty unlikely you’ve delved deep enough into Lust magic to do it, but learning hypnotism without eye contact is, like, one of the main objectives for Lust. S’like hellfire manifestation for Wrath, or light bending for Envy.”

Izuku suppressed the urge to ask for more information about that last bit. One thing at a time.

“Okay, but,” Izuku held his hands up. “Let’s say you’ve already been hypnotized. What could you do at that point?”

“Regret.”

“Kacchan.”

He rolled his eyes. “Again, depends on the type of hypnotism. With active, it’s kinda just, like, a willpower thing.” He gestured vaguely. “It’s tough to break outta it if you’re dealing with someone stronger, but that type of hypnosis is harder to maintain, anyway. Takes more focus.” He explained. “Under passive hypnosis, you can always break out of it, even if you’re a lot weaker than your opponent. At least in theory, anyway. You just have to figure out what’s wrong with the illusion.” 

“What’s… wrong?”

Katsuki nodded. “You ever had a dream where you saw something so jarring you realized it was a dream?” He arched an eyebrow. “Passive hypnosis can be broken in a similar way. There’s no such thing as a perfect illusion. Find the thing that doesn’t belong, and you’ll break the spell.”

He backed up into a door that led the two of them into the cafeteria. There were chairs scattered around, but no humans in sight, at least as far as Izuku could tell.

“Huh…” Izuku rubbed his chin. “Can you do that?”

Katsuki blinked a few times. “On you, sure. But you’re a really easy target.”

“…Well, would you?”

At that, Katsuki actually laughed.

“You’re askin’ me to hypnotize you?” He grinned. “Seriously, Deku?”

Izuku blushed, averting his eyes. “I mean… I just want to know what it’s like. I’m curious, is all…”

“I just think you should maybe think more critically about givin’ me the power to make you hallucinate literally anything I want.” Katsuki said, taking a few steps closer. “There’s a lotta nasty shit I could do with that power, Deku.”

Izuku frowned. “But… you won’t, right?”

Katsuki stared back at him for a moment. Then, he looked away. “Well, no.” After a moment, he shrugged and turned back toward him, red eyes glowing bright in the dimly lit room. “Alright.” He said. “Look into my eyes, dipshit.” 

Izuku scowled, but nonetheless did as he was told. Within seconds, he felt a familiar click within his mind, only this time, instead of being followed by a sense of weight inside his head, his surroundings began to ripple, and he was no longer in the cafeteria.

Izuku’s vision cleared, and he realized he was standing in an apple orchard.

He spun around a few times, searching. “Kacchan?” He called out, but there was no response. After a moment, he began to walk around. Every direction looked the same.

“Could’ve been a bit more specific about what to look for…” Izuku grumbled, frowning as he did his best to study his surroundings. He was getting ready to shout into the sky when he noticed something unusual out of the corner of his eye—a glint of something… gold?

Izuku turned toward it, approaching a nearby tree. Like all the others, this one bore large, red apples. Except for one. On a low-hanging branch to his right, there hung a single golden apple. Izuku put his hand beneath it, and felt its weight in his palm. Unsure what else to do, he picked it. 

And immediately, the trees around him started to dissolve, and he was back in the cafeteria again. He turned and looked at Katsuki, glaring slightly. “You could’ve given me a bit more instruction.”

“Whatever, nerd.” He scoffed. “You get the idea. It’s not always that easy to break out of, though. There’s always an out, but it can be a real bitch to find, sometimes. ‘Specially if you don’t know it’s an illusion.” Katsuki shrugged. “As always, the best way to deal with it is to avoid letting it happen to begin with.”

Katsuki cast one last glance around the room and then turned on his heel. “Anyway, I think this one’s empty.”

“Yeah.” Izuku nodded. “Let’s move on.”


“I am sorry to have to do this twice in a row,” the note read, “but I’m afraid I’ll need to reschedule our regular meeting again. Things are rather hectic right now, and I’ll need at least a few more days to get things settled. 

“Would Thursday or Saturday next week work for you? I could perhaps do Sunday as well. Please write down your availability and slip this note back under my office door when you get the chance. Again, I apologize for pushing our meeting back again. I hope you are doing well.

“All Might.”

Izuku sighed, folding up the note and placing his head on his desk. It’d been two weeks since his last scheduled meeting with All Might, and his mentor’s sudden flakiness was worrisome to say the least. He knew All Might wouldn’t do something like this if he didn’t believe it to be necessary, but he couldn’t help but feel a slight bit of resentment over it.

Worse still, it was feeding into a conspiratorial part of his mind which, up until recently, Izuku hadn’t even known existed. In his longing for answers, Izuku’s brain started to draw connections where they weren’t.

Like Monoma’s ascension, for example. Wasn’t it curious how he got approved right around the same time All Might started acting so strangely? His impulses wanted him to believe that the two events were related, but his rational mind knew it was unlikely, at best. Monoma didn’t interact with All Might outside of class, like Izuku did, and he didn’t seem to the type to go searching for incriminating information. For every such scenario he could conjure up in his head, there were a million more plausible scenarios in which Monoma could’ve been approved on the basis of skill. Academic performance wasn’t everything, after all.

Izuku unfolded the note and wrote down the word ‘Saturday,’ and then folded it up again just as class was ending. He veered off from the rest of the group and down the hallway, quickly slipping the note underneath All Might’s door, and heading home soon after.


It was cloudy outside, and the sun had just dipped beneath the horizon, leaving the world outside a murky grey. Izuku took a seat in the frontmost pew, leaning forward, his chin in his hands. He stared straight ahead, looking at nothing in particular.

“What’s up with you?” Katsuki asked, his mouth still full as he finished off the last of one of those disturbing fruits he liked—an embrite, if Izuku recalled correctly. 

Izuku sighed. “I’m fine, really.” He said. “I just have a lot on my mind, I guess.”

He listened to the quiet sound of Katsuki sucking the juice off his fingertips. Katsuki went to sit down beside him, the wood creaking, but Izuku kept his gaze locked in front of him.

“Okay…?” Katsuki said, throwing his arm over the back of the bench. “Kinda seems like something’s wrong.”

Izuku finally managed to tear his eyes from the void before him. He sat back against the uncomfortable wooden backing and and exhaled. “I’m just stressed out. It’s complicated.” He said, pausing for a moment. “My mentor postponed our meeting again. It’s the second time he’s done it.”

“Oh. That sucks. He didn’t tell you why?”

Izuku shook his head. “He’s been acting kind of strange lately, but that’s…” He bit his lip. “That’s probably not worth delving into. There’s too much I don’t know. Speculating about it is useless.” It was the same line Izuku had been telling himself for the past few weeks, whenever his mind got a bit too close to the deep end. Saying it aloud, the statement sounded canned, even to him.

Katsuki drummed his fingertips on the back of the pew.

“Huh.” He said. “You’re doing the whole training thing under the table, right?”

Izuku shrugged. “Guess that’s one way to put it.”

“How’s that going?”

“I mean, it was going well.” Izuku replied. “But I haven’t been able to train for two weeks. I’m starting to worry I might forget what I’ve learned…”

Katsuki frowned. “There’s no way for you to train on your own?”

Izuku shook his head. “My dorm room’s too small for me to do much more than stretching. And it’s risky, anyway. Thin walls.”

“Damn.” He muttered. A moment went by, and Katsuki reached up, stretching his arms above his head, and then sighed. “Well, if you want, I could help ‘ya out.”

Izuku glanced at him, blinked once, and did a double take. “Wait, what?”

“You heard me.” Katsuki grunted. “I dunno, why not? Like, m’not an Angel, but I’ve fought a fuck ton of ‘em. Could probably give you some useful tips, at least.” He stood up, walking over to the altar. “Nothing about magic, obviously. More just fighting in general.”

Izuku stared at his back for a while. He wanted to say yes, but then that voice in his head piped up. 

You’re just going to accept this offer uncritically? Seriously? It said. 

Izuku swallowed.

“Okay, but…” He began. “How do I know you won’t give me bad advice on purpose to sabotage my progress?”

Katsuki looked over his shoulder and scoffed. “That’s the dumbest shit I’ve ever heard.”

“I mean, I think it’s a reasonable concern!” Izuku said, though even he wasn’t too sure whether he believed it or not.

When Katsuki finally turned around, he was holding a candle in one hand, deforming the wax like dough beneath his heated touch. 

“Deku.” He looked at him under his lashes, and spoke with a patronizing lilt. “I wish there was a nicer way to put this, but frankly, I do not see your ‘progress,’” he used air quotes, “as a threat in any meaningful sense.” He started rolling the warm candle wax between his palms, gradually molding it into a ball. “It doesn’t even matter who you’re training under. Could be God himself, for all I care. You’re still not going to learn fast enough to become a problem for me, or probably any Demon, for that matter.”

Katsuki stopped molding the wax, setting his sights on the large, stained glass window about twenty feet behind the altar. In a flash, he chucked the deformed candle at it, striking the window right at the center, where it flattened like a pancake upon impact, and stuck. 

“Damn it.” He muttered. “Should’ve waited for it to cool down, I guess…”

Katsuki reached for another candle, and Izuku cleared his throat.

“If I concede your point, will you stop doing…” He squinted, eyes flitting between the Demon’s face and the malformed candle in his hand. “Y’know, that?”

Katsuki snorted, “I could be persuaded to stop doing it where you can see. No promises, though.” He set the candle back down on the altar, and brushed flakes of dried wax off his palms.

Izuku rolled his eyes, then sighed. “Well… I mean, how would this work, then? Where would we start?”

Katsuki hummed, looking up in thought. After a moment, he roughly picked up the altar and hauled it off to the side, causing several items to fall over in the process. The sight made Izuku frown, but he held his tongue.

At least he didn’t kick it over, I guess. He thought. This is probably his version of courteousness.

After a second, Katsuki returned to the now-cleared area, and stood in the center, where the altar used to be. Then he looked at Izuku and said, “Hit me with your best shot.” 

Izuku’s mouth fell open. “Excuse me?”

“You fuckin’ heard me.” He said. “Just fuckin’ come at me with your best move—kick, punch, whatever—and we’ll go from there.”

Izuku continued to gape at him for a moment. “But why?”

Katsuki shrugged. “I just wanna get an idea of where your skills are at,” He said. “It’ll help me figure out what you’re good at, and what you’re not.”

Izuku frowned. “I still haven’t agreed to train with you.”

“This isn’t training, Deku; it’s a consultation.” He replied, monotone. “Look, just fuckin’ do it. You’ve got nothin’ to lose.”

“Um…” Izuku gulped. “Well, okay, then… I guess.”

“And don’t you dare go easy on me, Deku.” Katsuki snapped. “I want you to fuckin’ hit me with all you’ve got.”

“R-Right.” Izuku said, nodding. He took a few steps closer and paused, taking a some deep breaths. He closed his eyes, and allowed the power to run through his veins as he adjusted his stance. 

Then, he charged.

Izuku came at him straight on, landing a clean punch right at the center of his chest. Katsuki slid back across the wooden floor with the slightest of grunts, and came to a stop a couple feet from where he started.

He raised an eyebrow. “Not bad.”

“Kacchan, you barely even reacted.”

“Deku,” He rolled his eyes, “I’ve been training for a hell of a lot longer than you have. All things considered, that’s pretty impressive.” He said. “So shut the fuck up and quit whining.”

“Um.” Izuku blushed lightly. “Th-Thanks, I guess?”

“Mm.” Katsuki slid his hands into his pockets, walking toward him at a leisurely pace. “Anyway, your form seems fine. No major complaints there. But obviously, in an actual fight, you probably wouldn’t have the chance to throw a punch like that.”

“Well, sure.” Izuku blinked. “That’s what you told me to do, though.”

“I know what I fuckin’ said,” Katsuki scoffed. “I had to make sure you wouldn’t do somethin’ fuckin’ stupid, like throw a punch with you thumb inside your fist.”

Izuku crossed his arms. “Well, okay. But now what?”

Katsuki was quiet for a moment, and then sighed. “Here, how ‘bout this.” He said. “You just fuckin’ attack me, and—“ He shrugged, “—I dunno. We’ll see how it goes, I guess.”

Izuku’s eyes widened. “Attack… you…?”

“Yup. And do it like you fuckin’ mean it, too.” He scowled. “M’not gonna fight back. I’ll just block and dodge.”

“Um. Well…” He tried to think of a reason not to do it, but nothing came to mind. Izuku swallowed. “Alright, I guess…?”

Katsuki nodded. “Whenever you’re ready.”

Izuku took a deep breath, and lunged. Electricity dancing across his skin, he aimed his first punch at Katsuki’s jaw, and the Demon blocked it with his forearm. At the same time, Izuku’s other fist swung toward his ribs, and with a swift bump to his wrist, Katsuki knocked the hit off course. Clenching his jaw, Izuku went for his face again, his fist meeting air as Katsuki side-stepped it. Izuku ducked down low and grabbed his ankle before he could set it down, but Katsuki twisted out of his grip, sending Izuku off balance. He winced as his knees hit the hardwood floor first, his palms soon after.

With a frustrated sigh, Izuku stood up again, looking up at Katsuki with a mildly irritated expression.

Katsuki hummed, stuffing his hands back into his pockets. “Alright, so right off the bat, you’re kind of shit at maintaining a steady center of gravity.” He told him. “You know how to move in a controlled situation, but your form gets fucked up once you have to respond to a moving target.” He cocked his head. “I’m guessing you’ve been training with a punching bag most of the time?”

“…Mostly,” he said. “My mentor has been focusing mainly on the power aspect…”

“Figured.” Katsuki said. “Magic is fine, but it won’t do you much good if you can’t use it effectively in an actual fight. You need to get to a point where those movements feel natural.”

Izuku nodded, brow furrowing.

“That said, y’got pretty fast reflexes, and your instincts are decent.” Katsuki continued. “I like that you tried to grab my foot and knock me off balance. ‘Course, problem there was you were already off balance, yourself.”

“Right,” Izuku said. “Yeah, that makes sense.”

“Anyway, I’d say your mentor gave you a pretty good foundation.” He shrugged. “You mainly just need more practice applying the shit you already know.”

Izuku bit his lip, quietly cataloging the critique. “I see…” 

A moment of silence.

“I could help you with that part, if you want.” Katsuki said. “It’s somethin’ to do, I guess.”He walked over to the altar and picked up a long candle. He spun it around in his hand, and began tossing it in the air, each time catching it with one hand.

“Right…” Izuku said, eyes instinctively following the candle. “I just, um…”

Kacchan gives pretty good advice, he noted. But…

Katsuki caught the candle, and looked at him. “What?”

Izuku laughed nervously. “It just seems a little strange, I guess.” He said. “I mean, my mentor started training me specifically because I was going to be spending so much time around you. He didn’t want me to feel totally defenseless if something happened.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “I’m… not quite sure how I should feel about you being the one to teach me how to stay safe from… well, you.”

Katsuki stared at him for a long time, one eyebrow raised. After a moment, he closed his eyes and exhaled. “Deku, baby.” He said, opening his eyes. “Put your shield up.”

“S-Sorry?”

“Now.”

And then he was gone. Izuku only barely managed to put his barrier up before he felt a warm body pressing against his back. Katsuki’s arms ensnared him, one locking Izuku’s arms against his sides while the other held the candle to his neck, as though it were a knife. 

Izuku gulped. He both heard and felt Katsuki taking a deep breath behind him. And then he leaned in, hot breath wafting against his neck.

“Don’t let a couple months’ training go to your head, Deku.” Katsuki whispered. “The reason I haven’t killed you is because I don’t want to. Frankly, as things stand, me being around probably makes you more safe, not less. You’d be surprised how much shit out there could kill you.”

Izuku squirmed out of his hold with a scoff. “I’m not some damsel in distress, Kacchan. I don’t want other people to have to protect me.”

“So train with me, then.” Katsuki shot back. “I’ll teach you how to fight for real. Can’t promise you’ll be able to beat me anytime soon, but at least you’ll know what the fuck you’re doing.”

Izuku sighed, chewing his lip. 

A Demon teaching an Angel to fight, huh? It was such a bizarre concept to him. The same could be said about their existing arrangement, though, of course, that was a bit different, since it was set up to be mutually—

Izuku tensed as it suddenly occurred to him. The only reason Katsuki was working with him in the first place was so he could try to make him Fall.

So the question you need to be asking is…

Izuku narrowed his eyes.

…What does he stand to gain from this?

“Kacchan,” He slowly said. “What exactly would you be getting out of this deal?”

Katsuki stared at him for a moment, his face twisted up in confusion. “Not everything’s a fucking transaction, Deku.” Izuku narrowed his eyes even further. “Maybe I just think it’d be fun. You ever consider that?”

Izuku continued staring at him, and Katsuki groaned.

“Oh, for—“ He glared. “Look, if you really want an explanation that plays into this weird-ass marketplace mentality, fine.” He threw his hands up. “I fucking guess you could argue that, because I am betting on you Falling, the act of training you now is simply an investment in your future utility.” Katsuki widened his eyes, and gave a tight smile. “I am offering my services now so that your skills will be stronger, so that your labour will be worth more, so that your existence will matter more.” 

His arms fell limp, hands smacking against his legs as they dropped. “There. Was that soulless enough for you? D’you need me to put on a top hat and monocle? Maybe crush your windpipe under my boot? Fucking Christ.”

“I get it, I get it.” Izuku sighed, exasperated. He rubbed the back of his neck, looking off to the side. “Look, I’ll… I’ll ask my mentor about it and see what he thinks, okay?”

After a moment, Katsuki shrugged. “Whatever.”


“All Might?” Izuku said, staring at his mentors face, at the faraway look in his eyes. He waved his hand in front of his face. “All Might?”

All Might jumped. “Yes! Sorry, um. What were you saying…?”

Izuku frowned. “I was telling you about Kacchan’s offer.” He said. “You know. His offer to help me learn to fight.” He tilted his head. “I… wanted your opinion on it?”

“Oh! Right, right. Sorry.” All Might looked around nervously. “I… Yes. Yes, I think that should be alright. He’s proven himself to be trustworthy enough.”

Izuku nodded slowly. “Are you alright?”

He blinked a few times. “Yes, of course, why wouldn’t I be?”

Izuku gave him a look. All Might turned his head away sheepishly.

“Sorry. It’s nothing you need to be concerned about.”

Izuku sighed. “I’m already concerned, though, All Might.” He said. “You… you haven’t been acting like yourself recently, and… and all the cancellations…”

All Might was quiet, staring down at the floor.

Izuku’s throat felt tight. “Please don’t tell me not to be concerned. Everything about these past few weeks has been nothing but concerning.” His voice broke a bit. “I’m… worried about you.”

For several seconds, it was silent.

Then, All Might laughed softly. “Ah. I’ve really messed up, haven’t I? Making my own student worry about me.”

Izuku waited, his vision growing more and more blurry.

All Might sighed. “I will tell you everything, Midoriya.” He murmured. “Just… not right now.”

Izuku’s shoulders slumped.

“Please, trust me. I know this is hard on you. It’s hard on me, too. But I need you to trust me.”

“Isn’t there anything you can tell me?” Izuku asked. “Anything. Anything at all.”

All Might fell silent for a moment that seemed to stretch on for an eternity. But eventually, he took a deep breath, and whispered:

“Someone has gone missing.”

Izuku paled. He opened his mouth to respond, but—

“—No.” All Might was quick to say. “No, it is not someone you know. I cannot tell you anything more than that.” He leaned back in his chair, and for long time, the two of them just sat there, stewing in the silence.

‘Gone missing’ could mean a lot of things. Izuku yearned to ask for something more precise, but he didn’t. He couldn’t. The words hung in the air like a noose around someone’s neck.

Izuku cleared his throat.

“So, then, um…” He took a moment to breathe, get his emotions under control. “So… Kacchan. You really think it’s a good idea? I mean, really?”

All Might smiled. “I do. Katsuki…” He trailed off for a moment, then took a deep breath. “Katsuki is a good man, I believe. In his heart.”

Izuku nearly choked on his own saliva. “All Might?!”

“Yes?”

“You—You just,” He stammered. “I-I mean—”

All Might chuckled, but there was something melancholic about it, his eyes downcast. “Midoriya, I’m old. I’m tired.” He said. “There comes a time when one must say the quiet part out loud.”

Izuku remained frozen in place, his mouth hanging open.

“Katsuki knows your full name,” All Might noted. “He could have forced you to Fall a long time ago, but chose not to. I think that says more than enough about his character.” After a long pause, All Might sighed. “I’m not defecting, of course. I still think you should be careful. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions, as they say. Just be sure to wear protective gear if you’re planning to work on anything more hands-on.”

Izuku forced his jaw shut, and swallowed, nodding stiffly. “G-Got it.”

All Might stood up slowly, joints popping as he stretched. “Anyway. I believe next Friday should work fine for me.” He said. “I’m compiling some notes and things for you that I hope you’ll find useful. I should be able to finish by then.” 

“Oh,” He blinked, mind still reeling. “R-Really? Um, what are they about?”

“A number of things.” All Might shrugged. “I can’t tell you much right now, but I’m looking forward to showing you.”

Izuku forced a smile, and thanked him, despite the ominous feeling in his gut. 


My mentor said it’s okay for me to train with you.

 

cool

I’ll have my mentor call your mentor and we’ll schedule a playdate

 

Kacchan…

oh!

one thing though

he said to make sure we use protection

 

 

Suddenly, tiny droplets of some blood-red substance began appearing all over the page.

 

 

what’s happening? 

Kacchan? uhhh

there’s red stuff all over the page.

ew, it’s all sticky??

Kacchan, what IS this???

 

I am drinking a smoothie

I spat it out all over the page

didn’t expect that to actually go through, though

Huh.

Wonder what else this thing could transfer…

 

why did you spit your smoothie onto the memo??

is it even safe for me to touch this???

gross

 

not important

but on a related note, are you allergic to latex?

 

?

no, of course not

I don’t think that’s even a thing for angels…

why?

 

Several minutes went by.

 

Kacchan?


At the street corner, Katsuki ascended the steps and forced open a boarded up door. Izuku waited a moment for the dust to settle before following him inside, and it was only then that he realized where they were. It was an old, vacant gym. Most of the equipment had been covered with sheets haphazardly, and whatever wasn’t was coated in a layer of dust. 

Izuku trailed behind Katsuki as he strode down the hallway, peering into each of the rooms until he seemed to find what he was looking for.

“What are we doing here?” Izuku asked, right as Katsuki was opening the door. 

“We’re gonna fight.” He replied, entering what Izuku now recognized as a training room of some kind, the floor cushioned with thin, squishy material that extended from wall to wall. Katsuki set his bag down in the corner, and started fumbling with it. Izuku was still standing in the doorway, his body tense.

“…Excuse me?”

“You heard me, nerd.” He said. “I said I’d help train you. What the hell did y’think that meant?” He pulled something out of his bag that Izuku couldn’t see. 

“But—but how?”

“With these.” Katsuki said, standing up and turning toward him, showing Izuku what he was holding. It was a pair of long gloves, made from some shiny, black material, like vinyl or latex. Katsuki slid one of the gloves on, the top of the garment ending around his upper arm. He pulled on the material and snapped it against his skin, then looked at Izuku. “Y’know. Protection.” He smirked, beginning to slide the other glove on.

Izuku blinked a few times. “Kacchan, are those…” He tilted his head, “…Opera gloves?”

“No.” Katsuki scoffed. “I’ll have you know these are fetish gloves, thank you very much.” Izuku’s eyes widened slightly, heat creeping up his neck. Once both gloves were on, Katsuki smoothed out the latex, and tested the movement of his arms in them. ”Honestly, I’m mad at myself for not thinkin’ of this shit earlier,” he said, licking his lips.

When Izuku looked closer, he realized that there were metallic caps on each of the fingers, solid and slightly pointed. 

Probably so that the gloves won’t get ruined if he starts to shift on accident, Izuku’s mind supplied. 

He gulped.

“What…” Izuku wrung his wrists. “What exactly are you planning…?”

Katsuki shrugged, walking toward him at a leisurely pace. “Nothing much, really. We’re just gonna spar. And this way you don’t have to worry about accidental contact so much.” He cracked his neck. “M’not gonna use magic, ‘least not today. This is more about teaching you how to move in an actual fight.”

Izuku chewed his lip, looking Katsuki up and down. “I… okay.” Without taking his eyes off him, he set his own bag down and shed his over-cloak, leaving him in just his tunic and pants. He hesitantly stepped onto the mat.

Katsuki arched an eyebrow. “You nervous?”

“…A bit.”

“Y’know, m’not gonna hurt ‘ya, Deku.” He said, then smirked, his eyes darkening. “Unless you want me to.”

Izuku frowned. He’d heard him say things like that before, and he still wasn’t really sure what he meant, but the look on his face gave enough information for him to know that asking for clarification probably wasn’t a good idea. Shaking his head, Izuku sighed. “Where do we start?”

“Wherever.” He said. “Just get ready, and I’ll start whenever you do.”

Katsuki shifted into a fighting stance, and Izuku did the same. He locked eyes with Katsuki, who nodded, and after a deep breath, Izuku launched toward him. 

It was over almost as soon as it started.

With his right hand, Izuku threw a punch, and with his right hand, Katsuki grabbed his wrist. Tightening his grip, Katsuki spun around, briefly showing Izuku his back before immediately launching him over his shoulder. Izuku choked on spit as his body hit the mat with a heavy smack. He’d landed on his side, coughing as he squirmed, his wrist still locked in Katsuki’s grip. He tapped the mat, and Katsuki released him. 

“You said you weren’t going to hurt me!”

“Oh, did that hurt?” He asked, feigning surprise, but Izuku could see the amusement in his eyes. “Whoops.”

He mumbled under his breath as Katsuki fell to a squat beside him.

“You good?” He asked, offering a hand. Izuku glared, and stood up on his own, brushing off his clothes.

“You mean apart from the whole right side of my body being bruised?” He scoffed. “Sure.” 

Katsuki rolled his eyes, rising to his full height again. “Deku, we’re sparring. Hate to break it to ‘ya, but if you wanna get better at this, you’re gonna have to get used to getting a little beat up. If you’re not bruised, you’re not trying hard enough.” 

Izuku scoffed, but he knew the Demon was right, even if he had a rather annoying way of proving his point. After a moment of silence, Izuku grumbled, “Show me how you did what you just did.”

Katsuki nodded, beckoning him closer. “Kay. So, let’s say I’m throwing a punch with my right arm.” He imitated the move in slow motion. “You’re gonna grab my wrist with your right hand, and hold it tight.” Izuku did as he said, fingers squeaking slightly against the black latex.

“Now what?”

“Hold tight and turn around, back to me.” Izuku started turning to his left. “Not to your left, to your right. When your opponent punches with his right, everything’s gonna be to the right, ‘least for this.” 

Izuku nodded, returning to his starting position to try again. He spun to his right, his shoulders making contact with Katsuki’s chest. He could feel the heat radiating off his body. He swallowed, and his throat felt dry. 

“From here, you wanna hold your arm up, and then sharply pull down.” He continued. “At the same time, you’re bending forward to give yourself some extra force.” Izuku nodded, adjusting his grip. “Don’t do it from here. You need the turn to give yourself momentum.”

He bit his lip. “Right.”

“Wanna try it?”

“…Sure.” Izuku released his wrist and turned around to face him again.

“Alright.” Katsuki took a few paces back. “Ready?”

“Uhh—you’re not going to do this at full speed, are you?”

Katsuki shook his head. “No, but m’not doin’ it in slow motion, either. Moves like this don’t really work if you do ‘em too slow.”

Izuku bit his lip. “Well, okay then…” He took a deep breath. “Ready.”

Katsuki came at him with a right hand punch. Izuku’s fingers couldn’t quite wrap all the way around his wrist, so it was awkward, but he did his best to compensate with a tight grip as he spun around, his back bumping against Katsuki’s chest as he bent over and thrust his arm down with him. Katsuki followed the movement, flipping over Izuku’s shoulder and smacking against the mat. 

He didn’t seem to hit the floor as hard as Izuku did, despite weighing more. Izuku wondered if there was some sort of technique behind it.

“Not bad.” He said, wrist still locked in Izuku’s hand.

“Tha—“ Suddenly, Katsuki thrust his hips up and around, catching Izuku’s legs between his own like a pair of scissors. Izuku toppled to the floor, ending up face down, his right arm pinned behind his back while Katsuki straddled his thighs. Izuku hissed as he twisted his arm uncomfortably. Katsuki then leaned forward, left hand wrapping lightly around his neck, tilting his head up, and his breath was hot against his ear.

Katsuki rasped, “And that’s a particularly fun way to get outta it,” And Izuku could practically hear the smirk on his face.

Katsuki lingered for a moment before he released him, and it wasn’t until that heavy weight on his body was gone that Izuku realized he’d completely forgotten to tap out. After a moment, Izuku stood up, dusted himself off, and prepared to go again.

The next hour was largely more of the same, though Katsuki did start to go easier on him, once he seemed to get over the sadistic joy of hitting Izuku with outlandish finishing moves that left him pinned before he could even process what had happened. 

Izuku still lost every match, but he found it difficult to be too mad about it. He was learning, after all—every time Katsuki pulled an interesting move, every time he evaded an attack with some novel footwork or blocked a hit in an unconventional way, he was always more than happy to slow down and show him just how it worked, and coach Izuku through his fumbling execution. He still laughed when Izuku tripped over his own feet, but not as much as Izuku expected him to.

It was… fun.

Izuku grinned as he wiped sweat off his forehead. He ducked under a kick aimed at his head and managed to land a punch on Katsuki’s ribs, and even though the end result was him lying on the floor face down, Katsuki twisting one arm painfully as he frantically tapped the mat with the other, he still enjoyed it, somehow. The way Katsuki moved so smoothly made the whole thing feel like a strange, elaborate dance. 

Izuku wasn’t really sure what he was feeling until the very end. 

It happened right as Katsuki was preparing to flip him over his shoulder again, only this time, Izuku knew what was coming. 

As Katsuki turned around, Izuku quickly jumped up, locking his free arm around Katsuki’s neck, causing him to release his other wrist. He went to tighten the chokehold, but before he could lock it in, Katsuki spun back around, grabbing his legs in either hand as they both toppled to the floor. Izuku pushed at his chest, but Katsuki just grabbed his wrists, pinning them on either side of his head. With his hands immobilized, Izuku tried to use his legs to flip them, but Katsuki dropped his body into him harder, keeping Izuku’s hips trapped against the mat, preventing him from gaining any momentum.

They stayed there for a moment, panting, and then Izuku groaned, hitting his head lightly against the mat.

“I really thought that would work...”

Katsuki laughed. “It might’ve, but you gotta be faster than that, nerd.”

A couple seconds went by. Katsuki was still holding his wrists, preventing him from tapping out. Izuku shifted against the mat. “Um…”

“Yeah?”

“Are you gonna, you know… let me up?”

“Hmm, I dunno.” He smirked, leaning in closer, their faces just inches apart. “I think I kinda like you like this.”

Izuku frowned, momentarily confused. 

And then he looked down.

“Oh… Oh.” His eyes widened, cheeks burning as he finally registered the position they were in. Katsuki’s hips pressed against him, Izuku’s ankles slung over his back. Izuku sputtered, his voice coming out an octave higher than normal. “Um. R-Right, uh, th-this is a little…” 

“What?” Katsuki leaned in just a little bit closer, his hands tightening around his wrists. Up close, Katsuki smelled a little like smoke, a little bit sweet. It filled Izuku’s nose until he could taste it.

Izuku opened his mouth, but no sound would come out. Katsuki hummed, and he felt the vibrations resonating through his body. 

“See, the nice thing about this is it gives me a whole lotta control.” He murmured, eyes darkening. He shifted Izuku’s wrists into one hand above his head, and Izuku shivered as he trailed the cool, metal tips of the gloves up his neck. Katsuki traced his thumb across Izuku’s bottom lip, the rounded point pressing lightly against it. 

There was a voice somewhere in Izuku’s mind, screaming at him to struggle. But as he stared into Katsuki’s eyes, he felt himself being transported further and further away from it, until it was just an unintelligible murmur in the distance. 

Kacchan is… very attractive, he realized. And it was far from the first time he’d noticed this fact, but in that moment, it felt… different, somehow. 

Strong. Clever. Handsome.

Close.

Katsuki was at the center of everything, his body eclipsing the world around him.

“I mean, just think about it.” His voice was hushed, deep. He could feel it in his bones. “From here, I could do all sorts of things to you, Deku.”

Izuku swallowed. He felt hot, and the immovable weight of Katsuki’s body against his own only made the feeling more pronounced. 

He wasn’t sure what exactly compelled him to say it. It was like there was something emerging from a place very deep inside him, rising to the surface. He couldn’t say for certain what it was, but somehow, he knew it had always been there.

“…Like what?” Izuku whispered.

Katsuki’s eyes widened slightly, his brows raising. As the initial surprise melted away, that signature smirk of his returned. 

He licked his lips, his eyes half-lidded, and hummed. Then, to his confusion, Katsuki slid his hand over Izuku’s mouth, sealing it shut. Izuku watched hazily as the Demon’s face drew closer, closer, until finally, his lips met the back of the glove, right where Izuku’s mouth would have been. 

Izuku’s eyes fluttered shut as Katsuki lingered, lips moving sensuously against the black latex, as though there were nothing in between. As though he was actually, truly kissing him. Izuku arched up off the mat slightly, a small, involuntary sound breaking free of his throat, his own lips mindlessly moving against his palm.

It was the sound that did it, he thought. The subtle, slightly wet sound of Katsuki’s lips breaking away from the surface of the latex. Something clicked into place then, sent a wave of heat through his system that left everything scorched.

 

Oh.

 

Katsuki pulled back, placing some small amount of space between their bodies. He removed his hand from his mouth, and as he turned it over, laughed softly at what he saw. Izuku frowned, but then Katsuki turned his palm toward him, allowing him to see the distinct, wet mark Izuku had left there, and blood rushed to his cheeks. Then, all while maintaining eye contact, Katsuki brought the hand to his lips… and slowly dragged his tongue across his palm.

 

Oh.

 

A soft, aborted sound escaped Izuku’s mouth. Holding his gaze, Katsuki smirked, in that slow, cocky, devious way of his. Like he wanted to eat him alive. Terrifying. Gorgeous. 

 

Oh.

 

He sat back on his heels, glowing eyes roaming over his body at a leisurely pace. Taking stock of the wreckage, Katsuki licked his lips.

 

Oh.

 

“I’d say that’s a good place to start.”

Chapter Text

Izuku didn’t think too much about the event after it occurred.

On the rare occasions when the memory crossed his mind, he was generally quick to shut it down, though over time, the aggregate of all those tiny thoughts still synthesized into something more. Because Izuku wasn’t ignorant. Although he’d never experienced feelings like he had that night with Katsuki, he knew how to put two and two together.

Still, he felt conflicted about it. There was a part of him that wanted to make excuses, the most common of which being the general idea that, because he had nothing to compare it to, it was impossible for him to know what he had felt back then with certainty. But it was a shallow rationalization—a chair he could wedge against the door if ever the thought tried to break into his consciousness. It only worked because his concerns were unprocessed, underdeveloped. It worked because they were weak, and so that was how they needed to remain.

So he didn’t think about it. Thinking about it gave it strength. Thinking about it made it real. Thinking about it fed into the filth that already tainted his soul. He knew this to be true; it was even codified in conventional medical knowledge. When Angels sustained critical amounts of corruption damage, it was not uncommon for them to be sedated for prolonged periods of time, in order to give their souls a chance to recover without the risk of blasphemous thoughts tipping the scales.

It was impossible for Izuku to know just where he fell on the continuum of corruption, but as long as he kept consistent with the feather glue, as long as he kept his mind far away from it, the consequences would not exist prior to the point of no return.

Izuku wasn’t sure whether he found that thought comforting or terrifying. 

It was just another thing he didn’t want to think about.


All Might’s study was quiet, apart from the subtle squeaking of the ceiling fan spinning overhead. Izuku sat at the desk, twiddling his thumbs as he waited on his mentor. After a minute, he returned with a tray that held two cups of tea, and a thick, leather-bound book resting in between them. He set the tray down in front of Izuku.

“What’s that?” Izuku pointed at the book.

“Notes on magic and battle strategy, for the most part.” All Might said, shrugging. “It’s what I wanted to give you. I’ve been compiling it for some time.”

“Oh,” He perked up. “Really? Thank you!”

He smiled and nodded, but Izuku did not miss the tension in his shoulders. All Might pulled up a chair and sat down, resting his elbows on the edge of the desk. 

“This isn’t a normal journal, however. There’s a very specific way it needs to be read.” He gestured toward it. “Open it up. Take a look at the inside of the cover.”

Izuku did as he said, feeling smooth leather between his fingertips as he flipped it open. There, he found what looked to be a long list of dates. 

“I’m… confused.”

“That’s the schedule.” All Might said. “The days when you’ll be able to read each successive entry.”

“Oh…” His brow furrowed as he scanned the list. “Uhh. Why, though? What would happen if I didn’t follow it?”

“That’s not something you’ll need to worry about.”

Izuku blinked a few times. “I don’t understand.”

“The book is enchanted.” He said, picking up his teacup and sipping it. “It’s set on a progressive time-locked schedule. You wouldn’t be able to read entries prematurely, even if you wanted to.”

That, for whatever reason, made Izuku’s gut twist up in a rather unpleasant way.

All Might set his cup down. “It’s not that I don’t trust you, Midoriya. It’s just that this is…” He trailed off, his eyes drifting away. After a moment, he closed his eyes and sighed. “Well, it’s just too important for me to rely on trust alone.” All Might looked up at him. “Please try to understand.”

Izuku nodded slowly, and after a pause, asked, “What would happen if—theoretically—I just waited until the last date and read the whole thing at once?”

All Might frowned. “Well, it’s impossible to really predict, but it certainly wouldn’t be good.” He chuckled softly. “I’m sort of banking on your insatiable curiosity preventing that from being an issue.” 

Izuku gave a small smile, in spite of his anxiety. “But…” He swallowed. “Why would it be an issue at all?”

“Midoriya,” All Might exhaled. “What you have to understand is that—among other things—these notes contain a lot of information transcribed from books beyond your level. Information you would normally acquire over the course of decades of training.” He leaned forward, lacing his fingers together. “I’m really just trying to be cautious, here. It’s impossible for me to predict what will happen, but Angels have a history of responding poorly to sudden influxes of dense information. I just don’t want you to get overwhelmed.”

You didn’t seem too concerned about that when you were teaching me about anything else, he thought, narrowing his eyes slightly.

“What sort of information is in here, exactly?”

All Might stared at him for a while, and then raised an eyebrow.

“You’ve been unusually obstinate lately.” 

Izuku tensed.

Have I…? 

He watched, opening and closing his mouth a few times, as All Might reached for his teacup again, taking a small sip.

“I… I’m sorry, All Might.”

Izuku looked down, wiping his sweaty palms on his robe.

Maybe I’ve just gotten too used to having all my questions answered immediately. 

“It’s alright.” He replied lightly. Then his tone shifted to something more serious. “But you should be careful to remember where you are, Midoriya. I’m sure you’re already quite aware of this, but the way you act around me at times could get you into a lot of trouble if you did it around anyone else.”

“I apologize.” Izuku said, his voice coming out a bit higher. He swallowed. “I… really don’t mean to be disrespectful.”

All Might shook his head, offering a reassuring smile. “It’s really not about me, Midoriya.” He said. “We know each other, and that inherently means that things will be less formal between us.” He shrugged. “I’m only saying something because I’ve been noticing this trend for a while now, and it’s crucial that you remain conscious of it.” 

He paused to set his cup down. 

“Things like asking pressing questions, speaking out of turn or back-talk may be alright with me, but those same behaviors could garner a lot of suspicion if you allowed them to slip out around, say, an Acolyte, for instance.”

Izuku tensed, his eyes widening as he stared down at his lap, memories rushing back to the surface.

“But sir, Shinsou meant well. He was just trying to protect me!”

He felt the phantom weight of the Acolyte’s attention, and a wave of nausea swept over him.

“Midoriya?” All Might said, frowning. “Are you alright?”

“Y-Yes,” He stammered. “I’m alright. Sorry.”

“Are you sure? You look… ill.”

Izuku forced himself to swallow the bile rising in his throat, and looked up at All Might with a wobbly smile. “I’m sure. Don’t worry.”

All Might stared at him a while longer, his brows pinched together, though eventually, he simply sighed. “Anyway, I’m sure that’s nothing you weren’t already aware of, but I figured it’d be good to remind you.”

“Of course.” Izuku nodded. “Thank you for that.” 

All Might regarded him quietly, a faint look of worry still marring his features. After a moment, he stood. “Well, then. Shall we get on with your training? Or do you need a moment to…”

Izuku picked up the cup of tea, downing the whole thing in one go before setting the cup down with an, ‘Ahh.’

“I’m ready.”


Izuku heard the news as he was returning from All Might’s house. 

Shinsou had been released from the hospital, after nearly five weeks of treatment. Despite his exhaustion, he headed straight for Shinsou’s room, not even bothering to drop off his things.

He knocked on the door, a tight feeling in his chest betraying both excitement and worry. After that first day, the hospital hadn’t allowed Shinsou any more visitors, as per his punishment, and the inability to check on him had left Izuku with a persistent feeling of unease.

After a moment, Shinsou opened the door. Izuku made no attempt at subtlety as he looked him up and down, studying his condition. For the most part, he looked alright—his arm was in a sling, and there was a gash on his forehead that had been sewn shut with stitches. But all in all, he looked much better than when Izuku had seen him last.

It was a relief, though it probably shouldn’t have been. 

There was a part of him, something small and quiet in the back of his mind, that worried Shinsou would look worse, somehow. He didn’t want to think about what that would mean.

“Oh, Midoriya.” He said. “Hello.”

“It’s good to see you, Shinsou.” Izuku smiled. “I’ve missed you.”

Shinsou blinked, averting his eyes. “Do you want to come in?”

Izuku nodded, thanking him as he ducked under his arm, setting his bag down in the corner. Shinsou’s room was a bit dark. He always kept the blinds shut, and there were only a couple of small lamps scattered around the room, most of which were off.

“Sorry it’s so messy,” He said. “I haven’t really had a chance to clean, yet.”

Izuku laughed softly, taking a seat at his cluttered desk. “It’s okay. It almost makes it cozier.”

Shinsou smiled slightly, and sat at the edge of his bed, sighing. 

“So… How’re you doing?”

“Hmm? Oh.” Shinsou’s back straightened a bit. “Alright, I guess. My arm still hurts, but they say I should be more or less back to normal within a month.”

Izuku chewed his lip, the guilt stirring up inside him. “I’m sorry…” He swallowed. “About everything.”

For a long while, Shinsou didn’t speak. Then, he exhaled, shoulders slumping a bit.

“It’s… not your fault.” He murmured, shaking his head. “I was in over my head. I should’ve realized it, but…” He looked down, eyes fixating on Izuku’s bag in the corner. “I just… wasn’t thinking straight.”

“I know you did it because you care about me.”

Shinsou blinked. “…Yes. But still, I…” He closed his eyes, and sighed. “I shouldn’t have followed you. I knew that even before then. But…” He hesitated. “Well, I’m not sure what would’ve happened to you if I hadn’t.”

Izuku was quiet for a bit, turning the words over in his mind as he debated how he ought to respond. It didn’t take long for him to decide, but gathering the nerve to actually speak was another thing.

But still.

I’ve lied to Shinsou far too much already, he thought. He deserves the truth. 

“I-I mean…” He gulped. “Well… if you want the truth… probably nothing.”

Shockingly, Shinsou didn’t seem surprised. In fact, he didn’t really visibly react at all. For a while, the room was void of all forms of communication, the air still and lifeless. Izuku found himself thinking back to what Shinsou had said to him, as he was being carted away at the hospital. 

“I saw the way you looked at him.”

He swallowed.

“He… definitely went overboard.” Izuku finally said, speaking quietly, eyes fixated on his feet. “I-If it makes you feel any better, I yelled at him about it.” He laughed awkwardly.

When he looked up, Shinsou was staring at him.

“Midoriya…” He murmured. And Izuku could feel the weight of all the words left unsaid. He nodded slowly, eyes downcast.

It’s time to tell him.

“Kacch—Um, Katsuki,” he stammered, blushing slightly. He took a deep breath. “Katsuki’s sort of like… my partner, I guess. It was All Might’s idea.”

At that, Shinsou’s eyebrows shot up. “Your mentor’s?”

“Y-Yeah.” He said, eyes darting around. “Um. After I ran into him around five months ago, All Might suggested that I work with him as an…” He squinted, “Uhh, extracurricular, of sorts?” 

He rubbed the back of his neck, chancing a glance at Shinsou again. The look of disbelief on his face caused Izuku to break into a sweat. 

“B-Basically, um, his rationale was that spending time around a Demon would make my application stand out by showing that I’m capable of resisting temptation. Essentially.” 

Forcing himself to look at Shinsou again, he found him sitting there stock-still, looking at him with an incredulous expression. “That seems…” He looked off to the side, then back at Izuku. “Unlikely.”

Izuku frowned. “I’m telling the truth! All Might really—“

“—Not that.” He shook his head. “I’m not doubting you’re telling the truth about what your mentor said, I’m just… skeptical about whether he’d be correct.”

Izuku looked down at the floor, smiling sadly. “Well, you’d be right to think so.” He said. “Almost immediately after you were admitted, I found out my application had been denied.”

Shinsou faltered, his mouth hanging open. “I’m sorry to hear that,” he then said, his tone soft. “I know you’ve been working very hard, Midoriya.”

Izuku nodded, swallowing around the dull ache of sadness that still lurked within him. He gave a limp shrug. “It’s alright. I’m… I’m sure I’ll get there eventually.” He murmured, ignoring the bitter taste on his tongue.

After a long moment of silence, Shinsou spoke again. “That wasn’t really what I meant, though.” He said. “I mean… I don’t know, I’m sure your mentor knows best, but…”

Izuku looked up, brow furrowed. “What?”

“I just… I feel like what you’re doing would be more likely to just get you in trouble.”

“Ah.”

It’d be a lie to claim the thought hadn’t crossed his mind. His trust in All Might’s judgement always quelled his concerns in the end, but there were times when he still wondered. And the more he learned about Demons, the more he questioned it.

“I’ve thought about that before,” Izuku said. “But I guess if they were going to punish me, they would’ve done it when they read the application.”

Shinsou blinked. “…Did you read the application?”

“Well, no. All Might submitted it on my behalf.” He cocked his head. “Why?”

Shinsou held eye contact for a while, and then looked away, shrugging. “No reason, I guess.”

More silence.

“So…” Izuku began. “What happened? You know, after I left that day.”

Shinsou tensed, his fingers clenching around the bed sheets. “You mean…?”

Izuku nodded.

“I…” He squinted. “He asked me questions, I think. He wanted a physical description of the Demon. I described it—um.” He hesitated. “Him, I mean, as best I could, and then…” He clenched his jaw. “I don’t know. I think he just left.” 

Him. 

A small sensation of warmth bloomed somewhere in Izuku’s chest, though it was overshadowed by more pressing emotions.

Izuku swallowed. “You sound… unsure.”

“Well, I was pretty heavily sedated. At some point, I think I fell asleep. But it was after he left, I think.” After a moment, he quietly tacked on, “It must’ve been.” 

Izuku stared at him for a while, a dark feeling burgeoning within him. Shinsou spoke as though he were trying to convince himself as much as Izuku, if not more.

“Falling asleep before wouldn’t have made sense.” Shinsou muttered, fidgeting with his arm sling. “His presence alone woke me up the first time…” He grimaced.

“Shinsou…” He trailed off. Shinsou looked up then, meeting his concerned gaze, only to look away quickly.

“Sorry. I’m fine, I just…” He chewed his lip a bit, and then sighed. “I don’t know. Acolytes are… strange.” He grimaced. “They don’t… act like normal Angels, you know?” He laughed awkwardly—tried to, at least. It didn’t really work; he wasn’t smiling. “The whole thing made me feel sort of nauseous. I had a lot of weird dreams afterward…”

Izuku frowned. “You had nightmares?”

Shinsou hesitated. “Not… really. I don’t feel like they were strongly good or bad, just… weird.” He said, wincing. “I can’t distinctly remember anything about them, though, so…” He went silent, then shrugged.

“I suppose it’s possible it could’ve just been a side effect of whatever sedatives they had you on.” Izuku offered. 

“Oh,” Shinsou’s eyes got minutely wider. “I hadn’t thought about it, but now that you mention it, yeah, that would make more sense.” His lips turned up slightly, and the tension in his body seemed to melt away.

“Well, I’m glad nothing too traumatic happened.” He said, chuckling softly. “I was really scared to leave you there alone. Part of me was worried that…” He trailed off, but Shinsou seemed to understand where he was going, as he nodded, gazing down at the floor, a kind look on his face.

“I’m glad, as well. Um…” He hesitated, blinking a few times. “Thanks…” He said. “You know, for being…” He shifted on the mattress. “Well, you know.”

“Of course.” Izuku replied, a bright smile on his face. “That’s what friends are for.”


Despite Izuku’s expectations, the first few entries were actually fairly mundane. They mostly consisted of transcribed segments from various manuals on battle strategy which were inaccessible to Izuku, and though the information was certainly useful, there was nothing really groundbreaking about it. 

He’d been keeping up with the schedule, but there was something peculiar about it that Izuku hadn’t initially noticed—namely, the time intervals between entries were not always equal.

The first four entries were all set up to be read at a rate of one per day. The fifth entry, however, was set for three days after the fourth. Izuku wasn’t sure what that meant, exactly, but he was equal parts anxious and eager to find out. 

When the day finally came, Izuku was surprised by how short the entry ended up being. But as he began to read, he very quickly discovered that it was not like the other ones.

 

 

 

 

 

Commander,

We write to inform you that the Sinners have not been punished. 

It is really quite bizarre, the ‘society’ these creatures have apparently formed. When asked why they insist on subverting God’s will, the Demons simply told us that His will ‘serves no purpose.’

Further investigation will be required, but the Council should be prepared to intervene in the near future.

Regards,

I & S

 

“‘I and S’?” Izuku muttered under his breath.

He stared at the signature for several seconds, his mind blank before it suddenly clicked into place. 

Izaiya and Setsuko! He realized. The spies who betrayed God! This must be an excerpt from the original memorandor.

His initial excitement was soon tempered as the implications of the situation began to set in. 

…But why would All Might have something like this to begin with? He wondered. And…

He read over the entry a few more times.

‘The sinners have not been punished.’

…What exactly do they mean?


“Exactly what it sounds like, dipshit.” 

Katsuki was leaning over the altar, his hands hovering above a small goblet filled with holy water. His brows pinched together as he concentrated on heating it up gradually, and a triumphant grin spread across his face when the water started to boil over. Like most sacrilege Katsuki idly took part in, Izuku opted to ignore it, if only to avoid getting side-tracked.

“…So you just have sinners wandering around unchecked?”

“Depends what you mean by ‘sinner.’” He rounded the altar, the goblet of steaming holy water forgotten as he hopped off the platform. “Most people in Hell didn’t actually do anything bad while they were alive. Majority just didn’t believe in God—or didn’t believe in the right God.”

Izuku resisted the urge to point out that not believing in God was, in fact, a bad thing, at least by his standards.

He sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Okay, but what about the ones who did other bad things? You’re telling me you just let them do whatever they want?”

Katsuki scowled. “Never said that.” He scoffed. “Deku, I don’t know if you realize this, but this ain’t an either-or situation. There’re ways to handle this kinda shit that don’t involve eternal fucking torment.”

At that, Izuku looked up. “Oh...?” he said, and after a second, followed, “Well, like what?”

“Eh,” Katsuki shrugged. “It’s a case-by-case sorta thing. Lotta human violence is pretty much just a byproduct of people’s material conditions, which are obviously completely fuckin’ different in Hell.” He paused, stretching his arms above his head, yawning. “Most of ‘em don’t end up being a real threat.”

“So you just… don’t punish those people? Like, at all?”

“Why would we?” Katsuki asked, deadpan. “What purpose would that serve?”

In lieu of a response, Izuku just stared at him, his mouth gaping. After a while, Katsuki groaned.

“Deku, y’know punishment isn’t like, the fuckin’ end-all-be-all of dealing with shit like this, right?” He raised an eyebrow. “Frankly, I think we must be doin’ somethin’ right, given that Hell doesn’t really have much of a problem with, like, antisocial behavior, or whatever.”

Izuku scoffed. “I find that very hard to believe.”

“Oh, I’m sure you do.” He said, snorting. “But fortunately, reality is not contingent on whether or not it fits into your worldview.” Katsuki shoved his hands into his pockets and strolled down the aisle, headed toward the front door of the chapel. He backed up into the door, allowing a slice of light to leak in. “You comin’?”

Izuku nodded, hurrying over to him and shutting the door behind them. As they walked side by side, Katsuki spoke up again. 

“It’s honestly not that weird, if you think about it.” He said, squinting up at the sky. “Societies with weird conditions have to evolve to accommodate weird needs, otherwise they’ll fall apart.” He shrugged. “Hell gets a lot of violent people, ‘least compared to Heaven, which means we basically had two choices, we either…” He held up a finger. “One, come to terms with the idea of havin’ a permanently massive carceral class, or two,” He raised a second finger, “figure out how to integrate those people into society. The second one just happened to align better with the ideals we were workin’ toward.”

“Ideals?” Izuku arched an eyebrow. “What ideals were those?”

Katsuki hummed, pursing his lips. “I guess the simplest way I can think to put it is…” he trailed off for a moment. “Well, Hell, at least as it currently exists, was basically designed to function sorta like a scaled-up version of the way people already interact.” After a second, he added, “Y’know, without the influence of any sort of outside power, or institutions, or whatever.”

“…What do you mean?”

“I guess a good way to imagine how Hell approaches problems is to try and imagine how you and your friends would handle an analogous problem.”

“O…kay?” Izuku squinted. “Could you… maybe give an example, or…?”

“Yeah, sure. Uhh…” They turned a corner, and made their way down a side road. “Well, let’s take the whole ‘handling antisocial behavior’ issue.” He eventually said. “So, imagine you live in a house with all your friends, and there’s two of ‘em named…” He squinted. “Ehh, let’s call ‘em Cool Katsuki and Chaos Katsuki.” 

“Why are you inserting yourself into this hypothetical?”

“Not important.” He clipped. “Anyway, so everything’s fine at first, but at some point, you catch both Coolsuki and Chaosuki pissing in your potted tomato plant. What is the first thing you say to them?”

Izuku stopped in his tracks. After a few paces, Katsuki stopped, too, and looked over his shoulder.

“I… Excuse me, what?”

“It’s really pretty simple.” He said. “Coolsuki and Chaosuki are pissing in your potted tomato plant.”

“But why are they doing that?”

“I don’t know, Deku.” Katsuki replied, his tone patronizingly sweet. “That sounds like a great question to ask them.”

After several seconds, Izuku sighed, giving in. He started walking again, catching up to Katsuki before responding. “Okay, fine. I’d ask them why they’re doing…” He cringed, “that.” 

“‘Kay.” Katsuki nodded. “So, you ask, and let’s say they give you two different responses.” He held up two fingers for emphasis. “Coolsuki says he’s sorry. He didn’t wanna do it. He just couldn’t find the bathroom, so he panicked.” Katsuki lowered his chin. “How do you respond?”

Izuku frowned. “But I thought he lived there?”

“Never said it was a perfect hypothetical.” Katsuki shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe he just moved in, or something. Whatever. It doesn’t matter. Just—fuckin’—assuming that’s a reasonable excuse, how would you respond?”

“I, uhh.” Izuku’s brow furrowed. “I guess I would, um…” He scratched his head. “W-Well, I’d definitely show him where the bathroom is, that’s for sure.”

“And you’d forgive him?”

“I… Sure, I guess?” Izuku shook his head. “Kacchan, I still don’t know what point you’re trying to make.”

“We’ll fuckin’ get there. Lemme finish the damn hypothetical.” When Izuku didn’t protest, he took a breath and continued. “Alright, anyway… So, that’s Coolsuki. Great. But Chaosuki,” He snorted, “that fucker’s a different story. When you ask him why he did it, he just fuckin’ shrugs and tells you he just enjoys pissing in other people’s potted tomato plants. It, like, gets him hard or something.” He cocked his head, smiling. “Your move, Deku.”

“Um.” Izuku’s eyes widened, his cheeks dusted pink. “Sorry, he what?”

“You heard me, nerd. It gets him off.” Katsuki grinned wider, looking at him with a crazed glint in his eyes, gesticulating wildly as they walked. “The mere knowledge that your tomato plant is nourishing itself with his piss, using it to produce sweet, succulent tomatoes for your consumption, makes him cum harder than anything else. The sheer amount of sexual pleasure he can derive from the simple act of urinating on that Solanum lycopersicum is fucking beyond comprehension.” He shrugged. “Those are the parameters of this hypothetical, Deku. Your fucking move.”

Izuku glared at him, but it lost a lot of its bite thanks to the overpowering strength of his blush. “I think you’re having way too much fun with this.”

“And I think that’s none of your goddamn business,” Katsuki shot back, still grinning like a madman. “I repeat: Your. Fucking. Move.”

He stared at Katsuki for a while, still scowling, though the muscles in his face were quickly losing strength. Eventually, he squeezed his eyes shut and released an aggravated groan. 

“I mean…” He sighed. “I don’t know, Kacchan. I’d probably just—just tell him to leave.”

“What about your other friends?”

“I guess I’d have to explain it to them afterward.”

After a pause, Katsuki said, “Okay, yeah. Guess that’s fair enough, since you caught ‘im in the act and all.” He shrugged. “What if you didn’t, though? What if you found out he’d just been doing this for like, a while, and you just discovered it after the fact, somehow?” 

“Uhhh…” Izuku looked at the ground. “I mean, I guess I’d probably talk to my friends first, so they’d know what was going on.” He muttered. “Maybe we could confront him as a group, and then figure out what to do after that.”

“Makes sense. And in any case, you’ll probably wanna keep him away from your tomato plants.”

Izuku nodded emphatically. 

“What if it gets worse, though?” Katsuki asked. “What if he starts pissing on other things, like your clothes, or your food?”

Izuku grimaced. “Well, isn’t that kind of a safety hazard? I mean… if we haven’t already kicked him out, we definitely would, then.”

“Cool, Cool. And you’re probably not gonna want him around, even as a guest, right?”

“Absolutely not.”

He paused for a moment, humming. 

“Okay, but…” Katsuki sped up a bit, and began walking backwards in front of Izuku. “Let’s say, one day Chaosuki calls you all up and apologizes. He says,” Katsuki held his hand beside his ear, proceeding to speak into it like a phone. “‘Hey, it’s me, Chaosuki. I wanted to apologize for pissing all over you guys’ things. It was fucked up, and I’m sorry. Since then, I’ve started seeing a therapist and we’ve been working on getting my paraphilias under control. I’m in a much better place these days, and will now only piss on things that consent to being pissed on.’” His hand fell away from his ear, and he cocked his head. “What do you think, Deku? Does he deserve a second chance?”

Izuku blinked a few times, slowing down a little as he thought it over. “I mean…” He cringed. “If it seems like he means it, then I… guess so…?” He rubbed his neck, eyes darting around uncomfortably. “I mean, maybe he can come over, if everyone’s okay with it? Whether or not he can actually move back in, though…”

“…Would probably depend on a few things.” Katsuki completed. “Like how long it’s been, how your roommates feel about it. Maybe whether you can verify that he actually is in therapy. That sorta thing.” 

Izuku nodded quietly, then sighed, coming to a stop. “Will you please just tell me what your point is?”

“It’s pretty straightforward. Hell tries to follow that same logic, just on a larger scale.” Katsuki said, shrugging. “Now, if this analogy worked the way Heaven does, whichever roommate had the most power by whatever arbitrary metric would’ve simply forced both Coolsuki and Chaosuki down into the basement at gunpoint, where they would then be waterboarded with their own piss for some indeterminate amount of time.”

Izuku cringed. “You really didn’t need to be that detailed.”

“Yeah, but I wanted to be.” He said, grinning. “You might get flashbacks to this conversation next time you see a tomato plant, but at least I know you won’t forget about it.” 

Izuku rolled his eyes, prompting Katsuki to laugh. As it pattered out, Katsuki moved to walk beside him again. Izuku peered up ahead, spotting the steeple of the next church on his list. For a moment, neither of them spoke.

“So…” Izuku murmured, breaking the silence. “Exile, then…?”

Katsuki glanced at him, and sighed. “In serious cases.” He said, a bit softer. “There’s places outside the cities where people can go to get professional help. Y’know. If they want it. If they wanna come back fast…” He trailed off, and then shrugged. “Some people just choose to brave the Wilds on their own, but not a lot. Thing about people is we usually need other people to survive.” 

Izuku nodded.

“After a while, if they can demonstrate that they’re no longer a threat, we’ll negotiate.”

Izuku frowned, looking up at him. “What if they can’t change?”

Katsuki exhaled quietly, shielding his eyes as he peered up at the sky, where the sun peeked out behind the clouds.

“Y’know, humans got it pretty rough.” He murmured. “When you’re human, depending on how fucked up you are, the amount of time it takes to get better could be longer than you’ve got left to live.” 

Katsuki’s lips quirked up a bit. 

“But y’know, I’ve been dead two-hundred years. I’m sure as fuck not the same person I was when I died.” He said, and laughed quietly. “That’s the great thing about eternity, Deku. Everyone can change.” Katsuki slid his hands back into his pockets. “Might take a thousand years, but immortality means you’ve got all the time in the world to save yourself.”

Izuku’s breath caught as he stared up at him, taking in the softness of his expression. A few seconds later, he began to laugh.

Katsuki blinked, glancing down at him. “What?”

“I don’t know. It’s just funny,” Izuku said, smiling. They were approaching the front entrance of the last chapel. “You’re framing a direct contradiction of God’s wishes in a way that makes it sound… weirdly christ-like.”

Katsuki shot him a look with a raised eyebrow, and turned to look straight ahead.

Then, with absolutely no intonation: “We’ve also got this massive stadium called the Amphilux where people can go to watch or participate in massive orgies twenty-four hours a day.”

“What?”

“Yep. It’s sort of a relic of the past, but it’s still in use.” 

“Kacchan.” 

“Also, I live across the street from a sex dungeon. We’ve got a lot of those—real convenient. It’s where I got those gloves, actually. I pass it every night when I get home, and oh man, Deku, you would not believe the kinda sounds I’ve heard comin’ outta that place, I could go on about it for fuckin’—”

“—Kacchan!”


Later that day, Izuku was lying on his back, fingertips pressed against the mat. Katsuki knelt at his side, holding his right leg up at a little bit beyond a ninety-degree angle, one hand wrapped around his ankle, the other resting on his thigh as he counted aloud. 

“…Fifty-eight, fifty-nine, sixty.” With that, he released his leg, then scooted around to the other side to do the same with the left. Keeping Izuku’s knee straight, he slowly eased his leg higher and higher as he counted.

“Twenty-one, twenty-two—keep your hips down—“ He snapped, shoving Izuku’s hip back down against the mat with one hand before returning it to his thigh. Izuku winced slightly, clenching his jaw. “Relax.” Katsuki muttered, and Izuku took a deep breath, trying his best to release the tension from his muscles.

Nothing too extreme had happened since the first time they’d sparred. It was always a bit tense, and Katsuki did seem to have an affinity for pinning Izuku down in compromising positions, though Izuku might’ve been reading a bit too far into it.

Katsuki’s face hovered above him, red eyes glowing in the dim training room, soft lips forming around the syllables of numbers as he counted up to sixty. His latex-clad fingers shifted slightly as he eased his leg a little higher. Izuku straightened his head, fixing his gaze on the ceiling, his cheeks dusted red. 

Fortunately, exertion was a decent enough excuse for that. 


It happened as Izuku was on his way back.

His mind was still a bit foggy from his time spent with Katsuki, and he wasn’t really paying attention to his surroundings. As he approached the platform, he noticed an unfamiliar scuff mark on one of his shoes, and in his distraction, he wound up bumping right into someone’s back.

“Oh my goodness, I’m so—“ Izuku stopped, cutting himself off with a gasp. The sensation hit him like a ton of bricks, even before the stranger turned around. Izuku stumbled back a few feet, breaking into a cold sweat as he finally, finally registered the tell-tale pressure that seemed to weigh down the air itself.

How could I be so oblivious?!

The Acolyte turned around, a frown affixed to his face, and despite the presence of that typical red blindfold, Izuku could still feel the blunt force of the Acolyte’s gaze on him. He felt like he was choking on his own tongue.

“I-I’m,” He stammered, voice two octaves higher. “I’m s-so sorry, Sir. I was… w-wasn’t looking where I was going. I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.” He looked away, a jagged chill running down his spine as the Acolyte continued to stare at him, into him. Izuku shuffled uncomfortably beneath his gaze. This went on for several seconds before the sound of someone shouting dragged his attention away.

Izuku looked up, and despite the darkness lining the edges of his vision, his brain managed to make sense of the information. A gurney was being rushed down the breezeway, and this, on its own, would not have been particularly unusual; Angels get injured on the battlefield all the time. 

What set this instance apart was the brief flash of red and white, caught for just seconds between the bodies and limbs of the surrounding medics. Just like that, the spell broke, and Izuku gasped, craning his neck to try and see over them. He looked at the Acolyte, hands still shaking. 

“E-Excuse me, sir. That’s my friend over there. I should…” Izuku gulped, hesitating. Then, he shook his head. “Sorry!” He yelped, bolting toward the hospital platform, following the medics as they lifted the gurney over the lip.

“Who are you?” One of them snapped.

“I’m sorry!” Izuku waved his hands. “He’s my friend!”

The medic looked him up and down, and then sighed. “Well, fine, but stay out of our way, okay?”

“Of course!” Izuku nodded quickly.

He boarded the shuttle after them, and stood back on his tiptoes, trying to see over their shoulders without disrupting them. All he could see were scraps of bruised flesh and bandages. Izuku clenched his jaw and attempted to calm his breathing, but it was difficult.

Upon arrival, they wheeled Todoroki inside, Izuku trailing behind him. One of the medics shouted something too technical for Izuku to grasp, but it made the on-duty nurses spring into action. The double doors of the emergency wing parted as they wheeled Todoroki through, shutting heavily behind them. 

And then he was alone.


The wait wound up being well over four hours. 

During that time, Izuku would occasionally get up and pace around a bit, maybe get a cup of water. But that was all he could do. The clock mounted on the wall in front of him ticked steadily, the sound seeping into him, melding with his heart beat until he could no longer differentiate between the two.

He nearly jumped out of his skin at the sharp sound of a doorknob turning, hinges creaking as a nurse emerged, with a clipboard in her hands and bags beneath her eyes. “You’re here for Todoroki Shouto?”

Izuku immediately stood, nodding.

“Well, he’s stable. You’re welcome to come see him now, if you'd like, but he probably won’t be conscious.”

“That’s okay. Thank you.”

With that, he followed her down the hall. When they reached his room, she opened the door for him, and he thanked her once more, stepping inside. The door shut behind him, and Izuku gulped at what he saw. Todoroki was lying unconscious in bed. 

This time, the injuries were clearly much worse.

Izuku sat in the chair at his bedside, trying to calm his heart rate. Still, he couldn’t help the tears that slipped free from his eyes. 

Then, as if on cue, Todoroki began to stir, his eyelids twitching until they fluttered open. Izuku held his breath.

Should I get the doctor…?  

He remained still, quietly waiting for Todoroki to say something, but for a long while, he just lay there, staring up at the ceiling. Eventually Izuku opened his mouth to speak. Todoroki beat him to it. 

“Midoriya.” He said, gaze still fixated on the ceiling.

Izuku felt something cold settle in the pit of his stomach, sending shivers down his spine. His pulse picked up speed, a shot of adrenaline charging through his veins. 

He wasn’t sure why, though. 

This wasn’t a dire situation. 

This was just Todoroki.

Swallowing despite the tightness in his throat, Izuku leaned in closer. “Todoroki, you’re awake!” After a moment, he added, “Should I get the—?“

“No.”

Izuku froze, his mouth still open. He blinked several times, trying to reset himself. Trying to correct the surely misplaced feelings lurking within him. It didn’t work. “I… why not?”

After a pause, Todoroki moved to sit up. It was clearly a difficult task, given his injuries, but he managed it eventually. He settled down with a sigh, still not looking at Izuku. “They’ll just put me to sleep again.” He muttered.

Izuku frowned. What’s that supposed to mean?

Todoroki’s heart monitor beeped at a steady, resting pace. Izuku felt a cold bead of sweat roll down the back of his neck, a metallic taste polluting his tongue.

Something’s wrong.

“W-Well I mean,” He stammered. “If you need the rest, then maybe I should just—“

His head snapped toward Izuku. 

“No.” Todoroki spat, a wild look in his eyes. “I’m fine.”

For several seconds, Izuku just stared back into his eyes, paralyzed. But eventually, he looked down at the ground, nodding quietly. 

His hands started shaking in his lap. The room was cold. Bleach white. Sterile. Like they were the only living things that had ever been there.

“What happened?” Izuku finally asked. “What’s going on?”

Todoroki sighed, his gaze still empty as he looked himself over. He glanced over his shoulder, at the bandages around his wings, and picked at them, just a little at first. 

Then, Izuku watched, frozen in shock, as he proceeded to grab the edge of one bandage and pull. His mouth fell open, but he did not speak. His mind was a blank slate.

Todoroki began to unravel the bandages around his wings, occasionally wincing as he worked. Gradually, what remained of his patchy wings became visible. With one sharp yank, he revealed a piece where a large chunk of feathers were missing, and Izuku finally found the nerve to speak up.

“I really don’t think you should be doing that—”

“—It doesn’t matter.” Todoroki interjected, calm. “Don’t worry. It doesn’t matter, anyway.”

Doesn’t matter? He gulped. This is getting out of hand.

Izuku gripped the arms of the chair.

“Todoroki, I…” He hesitated. “I really think I should get the—“

“No.” Todoroki snapped, halting his movements to look at him with a stern glare that melted away a second later. “Please, Midoriya.”

Izuku’s throat felt tight. He opened and closed his mouth a few times.

“W-Well, at least tell me why you’re doing that.”

Todoroki looked away, exhaling as he moved on to his other wing. Izuku watched his Adam’s apple bob as he swallowed. 

“It hurts,” he mumbled. “They put the bandages on too tightly.”

It sounded like a lie, but Izuku wasn’t prepared to fight him on it. The situation felt volatile in ways he couldn’t fully understand. So he just sat there, watching uneasily as Todoroki continued to strip the bindings off his wings. The silence was filled by the sound of adhesive bandages being ripped away, until eventually, both wings were completely free of them. Todoroki rolled his shoulders, stretching his wings with a slight grimace. Izuku bit the inside of his cheek as he took in the mangled state of them.

There were a decent number of feathers missing from both—more than enough to impede flight—and there were a few places where the skin beneath was visible. Raw, and still a bit bloody, like the feathers there had been ripped out. 

After resting a moment, he moved onto his arms, beginning to work on the bandages there as well. And Izuku noticed that, as time went on, Todoroki’s movements became jerkier, more harsh and frantic. He was clenching his jaw, his facial muscles tight. Each bandage he tore away revealed more and more skin, showing the extent of the corruption damage he’d sustained. And for far too long, Izuku just sat there, paralyzed, his heart in his throat. He stared at the black static scars covering his arms, barely an inch of flesh left unmarred. 

“T-Todoroki

“I figured it out, Midoriya.” He said, his tone void of affect.

Izuku’s breath caught. 

“What?”

“I figured out what was going on.” He replied. Then, a bit softer, “With the Demon.”

Izuku held his breath. He knew, somewhere in the back of his mind, that this was coming. But somehow, he still wasn’t prepared for it.

Having freed his left arm, he moved onto his right. 

“I figured out what he wants.” He paused, and then his lips pulled up into a tight, cynical sort of smile. “Or maybe it’s more appropriate to say I remembered.”

A chill shot down Izuku’s spine. 

“What…” He swallowed. He didn’t want to ask. “What do you mean, exactly…?”

Todoroki’s movements slowed, and he gradually came to a stop, allowing the last bandage to hang off of his upper arm loosely. He stared down at the hospital bed, his expression unreadable—or perhaps it was more accurate to say it was inconsistent. As Izuku studied him, his sadness remained a constant presence, but the undertone seemed to shift. One moment he looked grief-stricken, the next he seemed almost nostalgic.

Izuku wasn’t sure how much time had passed. It must have been several minutes, at least.

Then, with a small, hoarse voice, Todoroki broke the silence.

“We knew each other.”

Izuku tensed. 

“Sorry?”

Todoroki swallowed audibly.

“We knew each other, Midoriya.” He whispered, a faraway look in his eyes. “When we were alive, when we…” 

A pause. 

“When we were human.”

Izuku gawked at him for a while, cold, shaky hands covering his mouth. He lowered them. “You’re sure?”

Todoroki nodded slowly. “I am.” He murmured. “I remember, Midoriya. I remember…” His eyes grew a bit wider as he stared into space, gripping the thin hospital sheets between his injured fingers. Izuku slowly registered the shine in his eyes as he began to tear up, and he wished, more than anything else, that he could’ve done something for him. That there was something he could say to Todoroki in that moment that could’ve eased the pain of whatever unknown Hell raged inside his mind. 

But there was nothing, and this was happening. He was powerless.

“Everything,” Todoroki finished. Then, sucking a sharp breath through his teeth, he ripped the rest of the last bandage off, and with it, the temperature in the room dropped. Izuku clasped his hands together, trying to make them stop shaking. Slowly, Todoroki turned his head toward him, his jaw tight, eyes unfocused.

“It’s all a lie, Midoriya.” He said, voice cracking as a tear finally slipped down his cheek. “Everything we’ve been taught. Every goddamn thing.”

He could hear the sound of threads popping as Todoroki gripped and pulled at the sheets. 

And then, a single feather fell from his right wing, unnoticed by him. 

Izuku watched it drift elegantly down, but his heart hit the floor first. A tiny event, in the grand scheme of things, but in that moment, the implications were all-encompassing, suffocating. 

Izuku stood up, the legs of the chair squealing as it slid back. He looked at Todoroki, his vision darkening at the edges. “Todoroki, you need to calm—“

“—Lock the door.”

Izuku faltered. “What?”

“Lock the door.” He repeated, teeth gritted, eyes hidden behind his bangs.

Izuku just gawked at him, blinking dumbly.

“T-Todoroki, I can’t just—“

“—Lock the fucking door, Midoriya!” His head snapped up. Izuku saw the tail-end of his rage before his expression morphed into something far more desperate. “Please.” He said, voice cracking. “Please.”

Izuku couldn’t breathe. 

“Okay,” he barely managed to say. “Okay.” Then he stumbled over to the door, his joints locking, and turned the deadbolt before ambling over to him again, just in time to see another feather fall. He felt like his throat was closing up, but at the very least, Todoroki seemed less overtly panicked. As he closed his eyes, more tears slipped free.

Izuku sat down, and waited. It was all he could do. Just exist beside him.

How pathetic.

“I heard that your application was rejected.” Todoroki said, voice hoarse.

There was a dull twinge of pain, but his mind was too far away for him to truly feel it. “I… I was, yes.”

“Well, you’ll be relieved to know it had nothing to do with your abilities.” He forcefully wiped the tears from his cheeks, jaw clenching. “Just like my acceptance had nothing to do with mine.”

Izuku’s brow furrowed. “What are you talking about? Todoroki, you’re very talent—“

“—It doesn’t matter!” Another feather fell out. “It doesn’t matter, Midoriya. It never mattered. All of this—” He started to make a gesture, but seemed to give up partway through, his arms falling limply into his lap. He shook his head. “There’s only two types of Angels who ascend, Midoriya. Those who are willing to sell out their friends, and those with connections in high places.”

After a moment of shock, Izuku pushed back. “Todoroki, I don’t think that’s—“

“—It’s my fucking father, Midoriya!” He ripped the IV needle out of his arm in a way that made Izuku cringe. “My asshole father is a level nine Angel. He’s the next in line to become an Acolyte. He’s the real reason I ascended.”

“How could you possibly know that’s the reason?”

“I just know.” He spat. Another feather fell. That makes four. “That’s the secret to ascending. You either know someone important, or you prove yourself to be so mindlessly loyal that you’ll keep all the Council’s horrible secrets. And… And the Demon…”

One more feather slipped free, and then a couple seconds later, another followed. It’s getting faster, Izuku realized, with a wave of nausea.

“Todoroki, please, you have to calm down!”

“He saved my life, Midoriya.” He said. “When I was human. That’s how we met, when I was about to…” Another feather fell. Izuku’s head was swimming. “A-And now’s he’s…” His voice broke as he keeled over in bed, tears staining the hospital sheets. “It doesn’t make sense!”

Izuku was shaking, his chest painfully tight. “P-Please, Todoroki. Please, we—we can figure this out, we can—“

“I loved him!” He shouted. His voice was mangled, so far from anything he’d heard from Todoroki before. And it shattered the veil of isolation they had enjoyed up to that moment.

There was a knock on the door, followed by a muffled voice. “Sir? Are you alright?”

Izuku’s blood ran cold, but Todoroki seemed unfazed, as though he hadn’t even noticed. He sat there, tears slipping down his stained cheeks, shoulders shaking. Izuku heard the doorknob jiggle, followed by more muffled voices outside.

Todoroki harshly wiped his cheeks with his palms, wiped his nose on the sleeve of the hospital gown. 

By then, the feathers were falling steadily, around one every five seconds or so. Todoroki’s wings were mostly bare, less than half of his feathers remaining.

“He was better than me.” Todoroki whispered. “But he went to Hell. I went to Heaven. My fucking father went to Heaven, but he went to Hell.” His lips were tight, brow furrowed. “I… I don’t get it. In what reality does that make sense?”

Izuku opened and closed his mouth, like a fish out of water. 

What could he possibly tell him? 

Feathers cascaded like snow onto the cold hospital floor. 

What could he say that would make any of this better?

“I just… what the fuck are we even doing? What am I doing?” He said, shaky hands gravitating toward his head to grip the roots of his hair. “What am I even fighting for? This… This isn’t justice!” He shouted. “If someone like my shitty father can get into Heaven, but he can’t—what…”

The last feather fell, leaving his wings naked, trembling with his sobs. The banging on the door became more insistent. Izuku raised a shaky hand, reaching out toward him.

And then, all the feathers on the floor abruptly turned black. Izuku’s breath caught in his throat. Seconds later, they all burst into flames, burning up rapidly, leaving behind only ash. 

When he looked up, he noticed that two bumps were beginning to appear on Todoroki’s head, growing until they emerged through his hair. 

Horns, he realized.

…No. 

Around the same time, the hands cradling his face began to grow larger, the skin there becoming darker as his nails morphed into something resembling claws.

This isn’t happening.

As his naked wings began to shrink, the horns on the sides of his head started to twist, finalizing their form. And Todoroki’s shoulders shook as he continued to cry, though his voice was beginning to sound distorted. 

No, God—please. 

The banging on the door became louder.

“Todoroki!”

In a last-ditch effort to put a stop to it all, Izuku clamored onto the bed, tears streaming down his cheeks as he desperately called out his name. His hands on Todoroki’s knees, fingers digging in as he cried frantic, hollow words of placation, garbled promises and reassuring lies that likely didn’t even make sense. It was all he had left. 

It wasn’t enough.

Suddenly, two large, black wings shot out from his back, curling protectively around his body, casting them both in relative darkness. 

Izuku could hear the sound of the wooden door cracking, of people screaming out in the hall. And then, wiping his tears away, Todoroki lifted his head.

He looked at Izuku. His eyes were glowing, now—highlighting the red, puffy skin around them.

“Todoroki,” He sobbed. Begging. Pleading for a lost cause.

But Todoroki just gazed at him, a quiet despair etched into his features. As though he’d already accepted it. Already given up.

“Todoroki!” Izuku cried, grabbing his shoulders, shaking him. 

He simply shook his head. 

And then, as he stared mournfully into Izuku’s eyes, Todoroki whispered:

“What just God would allow this to happen?”

And suddenly, the mattress began to dip inward, forcing Izuku to scramble away as it caved in. He stumbled back, tripping over his own feet, falling down. The tile beneath the bed creaked and cracked just seconds before it crumbled, and the space itself collapsed inward, taking Todoroki with it.

And then it was over. 

He was gone.

“No.” Izuku whispered. "No, please."

The door burst open, several doctors and nurses piling in.

“What’s going—!” One shouted, but they all froze as they witnessed the scene before them. The gaping chasm in the floor remained for only a brief moment longer before it began to reverse itself, the bed returning as the tiles flew back into place, solidifying. Everything was as it was before.

Except Todoroki was no longer there.

“Oh... Oh my—“ One of the nurses whispered, placing her hands over her mouth. Izuku was still slumped on the floor, sobbing. She turned toward him, a look of concern on her face.

“Hey, are you—“

The act of her addressing him set him off. Izuku tensed up, shaking his head, and bolted. He rushed past them into the hallway, hastily wiping his tears away. They just kept coming. 

He needed to get out. He needed to be somewhere where he could scream. Normally, he would’ve gone to All Might, but of course, that was a no-go.

It was nearing midnight as Izuku burst out beneath a starry sky. He looked around anxiously, searching for a place to hide, but the hospital exterior was far too sparse. 

He didn’t really think too much about it when he ducked back into the vacant hospital shuttle, sitting down in the darkest corner he could find before he reached into his bag and grabbed the spine of a familiar book.


Can you meet me on the surface?

 

It took a minute for Katsuki to respond.

 

What? 

Deku, I’m at home right now

I’m about to go to BED

 

Please

I’m sorry

PLEASE

 

What the hell?

What’s wrong?

 

Izuku’s fist clenched around the pen, teardrops falling onto the page. There was a sharp, mechanical sound as the car jerkily began to move, carrying him toward the dispatch station.

 

I watched my friend fall just now

 

More teardrops fell, staining the parchment. He wondered if Katsuki would receive those, too. He figured he must have, because no sooner after the memo breathed to life did he see his response appear.

 

I’m on my way.

Chapter Text

Katsuki stood beside an old, dried up fountain at the center of what used to be a vibrant city, and based on the way he was dressed, Izuku could tell he meant it when he said he was about to go to bed. He was wearing a simple, grey hoodie and what looked to be a pair of black pajama pants, haphazardly stuffed into the tops of his boots. And Izuku didn’t think it was possible, but his hair somehow managed to look even more disheveled than usual.

As he approached, Katsuki turned, his posture straightening a bit, tail swaying gently behind him. He looked him up and down, and Izuku could tell from his expression that he looked like a mess.

"Deku…” He murmured. 

And for whatever reason, that set him off. The tears began welling up again as the tightness in his throat mounted. Izuku sniffled, eyes downcast as Katsuki closed the distance, removing his hands from his pockets. In the face of his distress, he still felt the passing shadow of something warm when he noted that, despite his chaotic state of dress, he still remembered to wear gloves.

Katsuki wrapped his arms around him as his sniffles devolved into sobs, tears soaking into the material of his hoodie. Izuku’s shoulders shook, Katsuki’s gloved hands patting and rubbing his back with a gentleness he had seldom seen in him before. They stayed that way for a while, until Izuku’s cries began to wane, and he started to pull back. 

“What happened?” He quietly asked. Izuku wiped his eyes on his sleeve, and then his nose. Took deep breaths until he could get himself under control.

It took a few tries before he was able to fully explain the event, and all the while, the Demon kept his hands on his shoulders, gently smoothing up and down his arms. 

When he finally got through the full story, Katsuki exhaled softly. 

“What’s his name?”

“Todoroki.” Izuku swallowed. “Todoroki Shouto.”

The hands on his arms went still. “Wait, no shit?”

Izuku frowned. “Yeah?” He said. “Why?”

“Baldy’s been moaning about that guy for months, Deku.”

He blinked a few times, brows knitted together. “Inasa?”

Katsuki nodded. “He’s been moping around fucking constantly, cryin’ about how the ‘love of his life’ doesn’t remember him. He’s been absolutely fuckin’ insufferable.” He grinned. “I guess he’ll be happy to hear about this…”

He felt a spark of anger inside of him, and clenched his jaw. “Well, that makes one of us.”

Katsuki looked back at him again, his smile disappearing. He opened his mouth, but hesitated, as though he were trying to choose his words very carefully. After a moment, he sighed, taking Izuku’s hand and coaxing him to come sit beside him on the ledge of the fountain. 

“Listen, Deku…” He began. “I know what you just experienced was probably pretty fuckin’ upsetting, but it’s not like he’s fuckin’ dead, he’s just…” He shrugged. “Y’know. In a different place. He’s safe, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“But how do you know?”

“Because Hell has a system for dealing with Fallen Angels.” He replied. “People don’t just spawn randomly in Hell. Not anymore, at least. When an Angel falls from Heaven, they can end up in a couple of places, but they’re all well-equipped to handle ‘em.”

“What does that mean, though?” Izuku asked. “‘Handling them.’”

“Eh, depends on the person.” He said. “Therapy, usually. But overall, it’s mostly just a place for support and re-education.”

Izuku tensed. “Re-what?”

Katsuki gave him an odd look. “Re-education?”

“So you’re going to brainwash him?”

“What? No.” He glared, hand tightening around Izuku’s. “It’s deprogramming, Deku. Literally the opposite of brainwashing.” 

Izuku maintained his scowl.

“Deku, I know this might be difficult for you to comprehend, but Fallen Angels are kind of a fucking disaster when they first arrive.” He deadpanned. “We used to not do anything, but after a certain number of attempted coups we realized we kinda fuckin’ had to.” 

“Coups?”

“If they can even be called that.” He scoffed. 

Izuku frowned, and Katsuki sighed. 

“See, the thing about Hell is,” He squinted, gesturing vaguely. “Well, the way shit’s set up in Hell doesn’t really leave room for individuals to gain the upper hand over the rest of us.

“I died after the system was already in place, but according to our records, most of those ‘coups’ were really just self-righteous dipshits standing on rooftops and loudly declaring themselves God-emperor, as though people were supposed to, like—fucking care, or something?” 

“Why’s that an issue, then? The way you’re describing it just makes it sound like a minor annoyance.”

“It wasn’t an issue, but it could’ve become one.” He said. “Deku, this mindset ain’t an isolated thing. A lot of Angels just have some really fucking weird ideas about, like, power and shit. At some point, you gotta deal with it—preferably before there’re enough of ‘em to pose an actual threat.” 

Izuku pursed his lips, staring back at Katsuki. Eventually, he dragged his eyes away. He didn’t say it out loud, but he could kind of see where he was coming from. “Whatever…” He mumbled, then took a deep breath. “Look, just… tell me how long he’ll be there.”

“I can’t. It varies. I mean, he can technically leave whenever he wants, but…” Katsuki shrugged. “Well, if what baldy says about their past is true, it probably won’t be long. It’s generally way easier for Fallen Angels to adjust if they’ve got someone in Hell that they care about.” His tone softened. “Deku, trust me. He’s going to be okay.”

“I…” Izuku opened and closed his mouth a few times. “W-Well, even if that’s true…” He bit his lip. “Still…”

He swallowed around the lump in his throat, eyes beginning to water again. Izuku wanted to believe that Todoroki would be alright. He really did. But there was this writhing, jagged feeling in his chest, this weight on his heart that wouldn’t give up. No matter what he did, he couldn’t force himself to believe that this was good.

Katsuki sighed, roughly throwing an arm over his shoulder. 

“Deku, y’know you’re allowed to just be upset, right?” He grumbled. “You don’t have to introduce ethics or fuckin’… value judgements, or whatever. You can just feel sad.”

Izuku froze, then curled further into his chest. “But… But it’s…”

“I know.”

“It’s—“

“—I know.” He repeated, pulling him closer. A small sob escaped from Izuku’s throat. He gripped the fabric of Katsuki’s hoodie, like it was the only thing keeping him grounded. 

After several minutes, he spoke, his voice muffled.

“Kacchan… I’ll never see him again.”

Katsuki was silent for a moment. 

“You don’t know that.”

Izuku tensed, and after a second, pulled away. He clenched his jaw, glaring at Katsuki. 

“Kacchan, I’m not going to Fall.” He spoke through gritted teeth. “And I’m really not in the mood to hear about how much you think I will.”

“You don’t have to Fall to see him again.”

Izuku was briefly puzzled.

Then it hit him. 

“You mean, like… bringing him to the surface?”

“Well, no. Not exactly.” He said, looking away. “I was thinking more along the lines of bringing you to see him.” He sat up straight, and stretched his arms above his head. “As in, bringing you to Hell.”

Izuku stared at him for a long time, his eyes wide. “Excuse me?”

“You heard me.” Katsuki scoffed, side-eying him. “Are there any laws forbidding you from visiting Hell?”

“I-I mean… I don’t think so, but—”

“—Then why not?”

Izuku faltered, swallowing. “Why can’t you just bring him to the surface?”

Katsuki paused, licking his lips. “Well, I could possibly pull that off, sure.” He admitted. “But if I’m being completely honest, I have other motives here.”

He narrowed his eyes, “Such as…?”

“Such as showing you what Hell is actually like, Deku.” He said, finally turning to look at him fully. “I know you’ve still got a fuck load of internalized ideas about it. You should see for yourself why you’re wrong.”

Ah. Should’ve known.

Izuku scoffed, and mumbled, “Of course…”

“Of course what?” He snapped. “Of course I want to show you that my home, which you seem to be so fucking fond of making unsubstantiated assumptions about, isn’t what you think it is?”

Izuku winced, averting his eyes. Hearing it put like that made him feel a bit guilty. 

“I just… I don’t know if I…”

“What?”

Izuku shook his head, and didn’t respond.

Katsuki exhaled, standing up.

“Look, just…” He raked a hand through his messy hair. “Just fuckin’ think about it, alright?”

Izuku stared down at the ground, gripping the fabric of his cloak. It’d be a lie to say he wasn’t at least curious.

Just like it’d be a lie to say the thought didn’t terrify him. 

In his exhausted state, he couldn’t tell which feeling outweighed the other. After a moment, he gathered the will to reply.

“Alright.” Izuku quietly told him. “I’ll… I’ll think about it.”


That night, Izuku returned to his room in a daze. Collapsed in his bed and stared at the ceiling, his mind paradoxically both numb and anxious.

Sometimes he wondered if free will actually existed. 

Although he did his best not to think about it too much, he could never quite rid himself of that persistent sense of inevitability. It was as though he were on a conveyer belt, and it was slowly but surely carrying him toward this singular end.

Because there were two distinct, irreconcilable images of Hell inside his mind: the version he’d been taught, and the version Katsuki’s words had constructed. On some level, he’d convinced himself that these were separate places. It wasn’t rational, of course, but it was something he could get behind emotionally, at least for now.

The fact of the matter was, there were certain foundational ideas he’d been taught early on—ideas about the way the world works, about what’s right and what’s wrong. And just like all people, Izuku had built his belief system off of that groundwork. 

There were times when talking to Katsuki made his worldview feel like a game of Jenga. 

‘Demons are capable of altruism’ was the first block pulled. ‘Individual Demons can be good people’ was the second. ‘Demons, like humans, are probably mostly decent,’ was the third.

None of these were critical. It was entirely possible for groups of mostly well-meaning people to enact evil. Humanity had proven that fact many times over.

He knew that the things Katsuki said about Hell were true for him, but that didn’t make them real. 

Katsuki was real. His relationship with Izuku was real. The fact that, despite knowing his real name, Katsuki never actually used it against him, never forced him to Fall, even though Izuku Falling was his ultimate goal—all of that was real, because he’d seen it. He’d experienced it.

But Hell wasn’t real. Or at least, it didn’t have to be. And sure, his concept of Hell wasn’t exactly foundational, but it was deep enough in his hierarchy of beliefs to have the potential to destabilize things. Hell was the place where he stored his reservations. It represented the ideas he was too afraid to examine, and too afraid to give up. It both was and wasn’t the place where Katsuki lived. Hell was the evil built from billions of shards of good, an abstract structure that kept Izuku oriented in a world of ethical ambiguity.

Heaven never needed to be perfect. It didn’t even need to be good. 

It just needed to be better.

And as long as Izuku didn’t have to see it, he could convince himself that somehow, in some way, Hell was worse. 

But then there was that fear, again. That relentless inevitability, underscoring Izuku’s existence like an ominous rumble emanating from the tectonics of his reality. 

Because one of these days, Katsuki was going to lay it all out for him. Drag him down to Hell and make him look, make it real.

Izuku didn’t know if he’d be the same person if he found out the grass was greener there.


Two days after the incident, Izuku was lying in bed, holding the journal up in both hands. The overhead light backlit the book and made it a challenge to read, but Izuku was too tired to do anything about it. He stayed still, squinted and dealt with it.

 

 

 

#6

I’m not really sure how to describe it. I think it’s just one of those “know it when you feel it” sort of things. All I can really say is that one moment, I was doubled over in pain with an obsidian spear impaled through my abdomen, and the next moment, I couldn’t feel it at all.

I don’t mean that in the sense that it was numb. It felt like the wound had healed somehow. I vaguely recall a sort of rush of relief, but after that, it gets fuzzy. I do remember Nana looking very scared when she saw me. She pulled the spear out of me before the wound could heal around it. I didn’t even realize it was closing up until then.

I’m still not certain how she knew. I never got the chance to ask, since… well, you know.

Anyway, I suppose I’m one of the lucky ones. It certainly doesn’t feel like it, but I acknowledge that it could have been a lot worse. Please be careful out there. If you have any reason to suspect soul bleed, get yourself to a medic immediately, consequences be damned.

It’s taken me a few months, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that I won’t be able to fight anymore. I’m looking into teaching, and I’m feeling a bit more optimistic these days. Perhaps in some ways this was for the best.

Izuku frowned, staring at the page, reading over it a second time. 

Soul bleed?

What is that supposed to mean?

He got his answer the following day, after a firm knock on the door nearly made him jump out of his skin.

After a minute of deliberation, Izuku forced himself out of bed and shuffled over to answer. He slowly opened the door, peering through the crack. To say he was surprised at who he found would be a massive understatement.

“All Might?” Izuku opened the door further.

“May I come in?”

Izuku nodded, stepping aside.

“Oh, uhhh. Sorry it’s so messy, I’ve just been…” Izuku trailed off.

All Might laughed. “My office looks like this on a good day.” He said. “If this is how your room looks on a bad day, I think you’re doing just fine, Midoriya.”

Bad day. 

“Is that what this is about?”

All Might smiled. “I wanted to check to make sure you’re doing alright.”

“I’m… fine.” Saying it made Izuku wince. He averted his eyes, fidgeting with the hems of his sleeves. “I thought we couldn’t see each other outside of scheduled times, though.”

All Might opened his mouth to respond, but hesitated. “Well, when I heard what had happened, I figured I ought to make an exception.” He finally said. 

“But what if you get in trouble?” 

He shrugged. “If I do, then it’s my own fault. Nothing for you to worry yourself over, Midoriya.”

Izuku’s brows pinched together, and he looked down at the ground. As seconds ticked by, his eyes began to tear up, a fact which surprised even himself.

“But… how can I not? All Might, I—“ His voice broke. “I can’t lose you, too.”

He wiped his tears away, covering his face.

All Might didn’t say anything for a while. When Izuku glanced up at him, he found him sitting there with his mouth open, an odd, almost pained look on his face. He looked down at the floor.

“I don’t… want you to have to bear the burden of thoughts like that.” He eventually said. “I know it’s a moot point, but a student shouldn’t have to worry about their teacher’s safety.”

“But you’re not just my teacher, All Might. You’re…” Izuku trailed off, sniffling. All Might stood up, and gently pulled him into a hug.

“I know,” He murmured. “I know.”

Izuku tried to get himself under control, but his shoulders still shook.

“Deep breaths.”

Izuku nodded. 

Deep, shuddering inhales. Slow, shaky exhales.

After a few minutes, he managed to reign himself in enough to pull back.

“I’m sorry…” Izuku murmured.

“No, no!” He waved his hands. “Please, don’t apologize. I understand completely. It’s normal for you to feel this way.”

Izuku nodded, staring at his feet. 

All Might sighed. “I’m sorry for getting you wrapped up in all of this.”

Izuku looked up. “Wh-What do you mean?”

“Well, uhh…” He gestured vaguely. After a pause, he simply shook his head, chuckling softly. “I wish I knew how to answer that. Lately, it’s felt like being caught up in a maelstrom.”

Izuku offered a weak smile, taking a seat on the edge of his bed again. All Might pulled the desk chair closer, and sat in it backwards, resting his arms on the back. 

“Have you been keeping up with the journal entries?”

Izuku blinked. “I, uh—yes. I have.” His brow furrowed. “It’s… All Might, what was that last one? Soul bleed?”

“Ah.” His posture straightened. “Right, yes. That was a part of a letter I wrote to a friend a while back, after I retired.”

Izuku tensed. “Wait, that was you?” He frowned. “All Might, I thought your injuries came from Hellfire.”

“Some of them did!” He quickly clarified. “But that’s… Well, it’s not the real reason I retired. It was…”

A pause.

“Soul bleed.” Izuku quietly finished. “All Might… what is that?”

“Uhh…” He scratched his head, brows pinching together. “Well, you know how Angels are generally considered to be indestructible? At least when it comes to regular physical damage.”

Izuku nodded.

“That’s… not exactly true.” He stated. “There is actually a limit to how much physical damage one can sustain.”

“…What’s the limit?”

“It’s…” He squinted. “Well, I can’t really give you an exact answer. Like I mentioned in the letter, it’s really more of a ‘know it when you feel it’ sort of thing.”

“What do you mean?” Izuku asked. “What exactly do you feel?”

“Let me just start at the beginning.” He sighed. “Essentially, when an Angel crosses a certain threshold of physical damage, the serthus—the fluid inside your soul—begins to leak out into the rest of your body, where it’s used to heal your injuries. This is called soul bleed.

“It’s a physiological phenomenon. A last-resort sort of defense mechanism.” He drummed his fingers on the back of the chair. “The point of this is supposed to be to allow you a chance to escape an aggressor when your injuries would otherwise prevent you from doing so. That’s the idea, in theory.”

“Oh…” Izuku mumbled. “I mean, that sounds like it’d be useful…?”

All Might squinted. “Well, in some ways, I suppose that it is.” He said. “But there are issues. For one, it’s not clear what conditions need to be met to initiate it. Not all severe injuries result in immobilization, but soul bleed has been known to occur regardless.”

“But… is that really a problem?” Izuku blinked. “I mean, if it’s healing you, I don’t really see what the downside could be.”

“Ah,” All Might grinned. “Remember what I told you a few months ago?” He asked. “Midoriya, the problem is that serthus does not regenerate.”

Izuku opened his mouth to respond, but nothing came to him.

“Part of what makes soul bleed so dangerous is how quickly it happens.” He went on. “Once it starts, you really only have around fifteen minutes before it’s too late. And even if you manage to get medical assistance in time, it almost guarantees you won’t be able to fight anymore.”

“Why not?”

“Well, I’m not an expert, but essentially, it’s actually very important that the soul’s entire volume be filled with serthus.” He replied. “If it isn’t, the parts that aren’t in contact with it will dry out and become inflexible, which keeps energy from being able to move through properly.

“I can still use power, but it’s nowhere near as strong. And I have to be extremely careful not to overdo it.” He smiled. “For most Angels, overdoing it isn’t really possible. But when parts of the lining dry out, they become brittle.” He shrugged. “If I’m not careful, my soul could rupture, causing the whole thing to start up again—only this time, I’d have even less time to get help before it was too late.”

Izuku frowned. “What do you mean by ‘too late’?” He asked. “What happens if it all drains out?” His voice fell to a whisper. “Do you… die?”

All Might chuckled. “Oh, I wish.”

Izuku’s eyes went wide.

“Ah, sorry—“ he rubbed his neck sheepishly. “That was a bit morbid, wasn’t it?”

“All Might…”

“Let me start over.” He said, waving his hands. “When the serthus completely drains from an Angel’s soul, they become what is known as a husk.”

“A… husk?”

“It technically refers to the fact that your soul is, quite literally, an empty shell. But the meaning runs deeper than that.” He chewed his lip, hesitating. “It’s…” He trailed off, and after a second, he sighed. “What you need to understand is that your soul is… well, it’s what makes you, you. Without it, you’re just…”

A moment of silence.

“An empty husk.” Izuku whispered. 

All Might looked up at him.

“Yes.” He said. “There’s an entry in the journal which goes into this in more… detail. The next one, I believe. So…”

He nodded slowly, and for nearly a full minute, neither of them spoke.

Izuku eventually broke the silence.

“All Might…who is ‘Nana’?”

“Ah! She was my mentor.” He replied. “Your grand-mentor, if you will.”

“She saved you, didn’t she.” It wasn’t really a question.

All Might looked down, a sad smile on his face. “Indeed, she did. At the cost of her own soul.”

Izuku frowned. “You mean…”

“Yes.” He sighed. After a moment, he began to speak again, his tone soft. “Midoriya, I know how it feels to watch someone you care for Fall. It’s… a special kind of helplessness.”

Izuku swallowed, his throat becoming tight. “Did you ever see her again?”

He shook his head. “Even if I could, finding someone after they Fall can be challenging. Not impossible, but…” He shrugged.

“Right.” Izuku paused. “Kacchan… actually offered to help me with that.”

“Oh, you told him?”

He nodded. “The night it happened. I would’ve gone to you, but because of… Well, you know, I went to him instead.”

“In person?”

“Yes. He, uh, comforted me,” Izuku winced. “Kind of?”

When All Might didn’t immediately respond, he looked up and found him grinning. The embarrassment hit him like a freight train.

“I—I mean, it’s not like,” He sputtered. “Um, y’know, I just didn’t—“

All Might waved his hands. “It’s alright, it’s alright.” He assured him. “Midoriya, I’m happy you’ve found such a good friend in him. A bit surprised, yes, but happy nonetheless.”

Izuku’s face still felt far too hot for his liking. He averted his eyes and muttered a squeaky ‘thanks.’

“So, he offered to bring him to the surface?”

“Oh! Um, not quite.” Izuku laughed nervously. “He… actually offered to take me to Hell to see him.”

All Might froze, staring at him for a moment.

Then he burst out laughing. 

All Might?” Izuku squeaked, embarrassment coming back full force. “What’s so—“

“Sorry, sorry,” he wheezed. “It’s just… Ahh. It’s just funny.”

“What is?!”

“Nothing bad, I promise!”

“Then—!“

All Might raised a hand, putting a stop to Izuku’s incoming anxiety monologue. 

“Midoriya, do you know how…” He gestured vaguely. “Protective, I should say, Demons are of Hell?”

Izuku frowned. “What do you mean?”

“As someone who’s been around a lot of high-ranking Angels, I can tell you, the few times when we actually tried to negotiate with Demons, it’s always been quite challenging.” He shook his head. “Everything needed to be on Earth—which is easy for them, of course, since they can pass as Humans. Not so easy for us, however.” He gestured pointedly back at his wings, and sighed. 

“Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is, Demons actually have a surprisingly strong sense of collective responsibility. As a consequence, they’re usually reluctant to do anything that could cause others in their community to feel unsafe.”

“Okay…?” He said. “I still don’t—“

“Midoriya, for Katsuki to simply offer to bring you to Hell…” All Might chuckled, shaking his head. “It almost sounds like a marriage proposal of some kind.”

Izuku’s blush flared up again. 

“I-It’s—he’s not—“

“I don’t mean that literally, of course!” He put his hands up. “I’m quite certain Demons despise the very concept of marriage, anyway.”

Somehow, that didn’t make Izuku less embarrassed.


They ended up talking for nearly two hours, and when All Might finally excused himself, it was with evident reluctance. 

Izuku was happy, though. Despite the ostensibly dark nature of certain parts of their conversation, the lighthearted portions left him feeling alright in the end, and it was nice just to be able to speak with All Might this way. At least for a little while, it was almost as though things were back to normal again. 

It was almost enough to convince Izuku that things would be okay.


The next journal entry unlocked at the stroke of midnight, and Izuku was on it almost as quickly.

 

 

 

#7

I do not like the husks. They have a certain unsettling quality to them—somehow alive, yet simultaneously not. We’ve tried everything we can, but they don’t respond. No talking, no movement, no response to stimuli whatsoever. They just stare into space, breathing slowly, blinking occasionally. It’s not clear whether their minds are still intact, or whether they can hear what we say to them. We haven’t been able to prove it either way. 

I try not to think about it too much, but lately, it’s been bothering me. There are times when I look into their eyes, and I just know that these Angels are gone. That there’s nothing left behind that hollow gaze—at least nothing we can recognize. 

But then I see that shine in their eyes during the tests, and I start to wonder. The pain sensitivity tests seem to be the only thing that promotes a response, albeit an involuntary one. Thankfully, due to their volatility, the pain inflicted during these tests is necessarily very minor, which is a relief, I suppose. Even this much bothers me, sometimes. I feel like I can feel their pain. Sometimes I wonder if the Councilmen forget that these are still Angels.

The hypothesis the others seem to operate under is that the husks aren’t conscious.

I hope they’re right about that. 

For a few minutes, Izuku just stared at the page in shock. And suddenly, his mind flooded with memories of the boy from level one—the one who’d fallen ill, but by the time that was known, it was already too late. That vacant stare of his still haunted him, even to this day.

Is this what became of him? He wondered. But… I thought soul bleed only happened after sustaining severe damage…

Maybe there are other conditions that can cause it?

Izuku shook his head, and sighed.

Well, I suppose I’ll just have to wait until our next meeting to ask All Might about it…


All Might wasn’t in class the next day.

At first, Izuku didn’t think too much of it. All Might was absent more than most teachers. His status as a retired high-level Angel meant that he would occasionally be asked to travel to the innermost circles for the purpose of things like special training events and teaching seminars. It wasn’t all that unusual for him to disappear for one or two days every other month or so. The fact that Izuku didn’t know about it ahead of time made him a bit anxious, but it was easy enough to dismiss. Given the infrequency of their meetings as of late, it’d be reasonable for All Might to simply forget to mention it to him. 

The second day made him a bit more nervous, but he still managed to remain calm enough to put his mind off of it.

And then the third day rolled around, and the sight of the substitute teacher strolling in made Izuku’s heart lurch against his chest. He could barely focus for most of the day. He slammed his wings against the edge of one of the rings on the flying field, dislocating it, and wound up having to sit out for the rest of the session. 

He’d been too afraid to ask where All Might was. Rationally, he knew that doing so wouldn’t raise suspicion, that it was normal for a student to wonder about something like that. But the paranoid thoughts in his mind all seemed to meld together in his state of panic.

Izuku cried out in pain as Uraraka popped his wing back into place. He wiped the tears from his eyes and did his best to regulate his breathing as she sat down beside him with a sigh.

“How are you doing, Izuku?” She asked, after a moment. “I heard All Might was out sick.”

Izuku tensed. “Oh, really?” He said. “Um, where’d you hear that?” 

“I asked this morning. It seemed strange for him to be gone more than two days in a row, I guess.” She shrugged. “I don’t want to jump to conclusions, but it seemed kind of…” She bit her lip. “Well, serious.” 

Izuku felt a rush of cold run through his veins. “I… see.” He gulped. “Well… I hope that’s not the case.”

She hummed in agreement. “Same here.”

“Do you, uh, have any idea what he’s sick with?”

She shook her head. “Sorry. I didn’t really think to ask.” She nodded toward the substitute, who was standing on the sidelines, a whistle held close to his lips. “You could, though. They might know.”

Izuku gulped, anxiety twisting up inside him.

“I think maybe I’ll just go to his house. See for myself.”

“Alright.” Uraraka smiled. “Well, be careful. He might be contagious.”

Izuku forced a returning smile, and that was that.


All Might’s house was a short walk from campus, but that day, it felt like it took an eternity. As he approached, he scanned over the windows, noting that out of all of them, only one light was on—the one in the study. Despite the circumstances, it made him smile. Typical All Might. He thought fondly. He hates wasting energy. 

Izuku ran up the steps to the porch and stopped at the door, taking a deep breath before ringing the bell. He waited. And waited.

And waited.

Nothing.

Izuku frowned, felt a wave of nausea in his stomach. 

Don’t panic, he told himself. If he’s sick, it would make sense for him not to answer. 

After a minute, he tried again. He rang the bell, knocked, even called out, “All Might?”

But still, nothing.

A bead of sweat rolled down the back of his neck. 

Either he’s not here, or he’s too sick to get out of bed, Izuku thought, with a spike of panic. 

He managed to reel himself in a moment later. 

Or he’s just sleeping, he reminded himself. Stop jumping to conclusions.

He lingered on the doorstep for a little while longer, but ultimately, he just had to head home.


 

 

 

#8

Things have been tense lately. It’s been a while since any of us last spoke to God. The Council won’t tell us anything, though, and it’d be a lie to say I didn’t feel frustrated by it. It’s just that I don’t really understand it. It’s such a departure from how things used to be. And I know that things are tense right now. I know that the Council likely feels paranoid. But frankly, if their fear is that transparency could be a detriment if more third spheres Fell, then I’m afraid it might be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Already, I can sense my fellow level nines growing agitated and restless in the silence.

There’s a rumor going around that the Council is looking into ways to modify Angels in order to prevent them from Falling. I choose not to believe them, mostly because I’m not sure how I’d feel if this were the case.


Izuku stopped by All Might’s house again the next day, and the day after that.

Nothing changed.

Even the light in the study was still on.


 

 

 

#9

It’s hard for me to say whether it’s better or worse than Hell at this point. Maybe it’s the proximity of it, but I’m inclined to say it’s worse. I know it’s useless to dwell on it, but I wish the Demons could’ve at least tried to be a bit more flexible. If they’d been willing to negotiate on this, maybe Operation Lacuna wouldn’t have been necessary.

I opened the hatch the other day. The fumes inside the place are truly something else—quite literally a misery agent. I’m still not sure if it’s chemical, magical, or both, but it’s potent stuff. It’s supposed to be airtight, but I still hold my breath if I’m within fifteen feet of it. Last time I got a whiff of that stuff, I tried to go in. That’s probably the worst part of it. When you’re enveloped in it, you stop caring.


He was just doing it as a gesture. Because All Might was absolutely in there. He just wasn’t well enough for visitors.

That’s what he told himself. It left a bitter taste on his tongue.

It was the fifth day since he’d first visited, and the seventh since All Might’s first sick day.

It was a Sunday, so Izuku took the opportunity to prepare a basket, and a nice, soft blanket. 

He wasn’t much of a chef, as one would expect of an Angel, but he did his best. He got up early in the morning and dusted off the cookbook, opening it up to a recipe for a simple soup.  It took a while for him to get it right. His hands weren’t steady, and he had to throw it out the first time after accidentally pouring in an entire container of salt. 

It took a few hours, but once he was satisfied that it was sufficiently edible, he put the soup into an airtight thermos and placed it in the basket, buried under the blanket. 

Though it was generally more socially acceptable for Angels to eat when they were ill, the fact that illness occurred so infrequently meant that most casual observers weren’t likely to assume sickness when an Angel was caught eating. When in doubt, it was usually best to keep such things out of sight.

Izuku wrote a simple, unsigned note which read, ‘get well soon,’ tied a red ribbon around the handle of the basket, and was on his way.

It was still quite early when he arrived, so he didn’t ring the bell. He simply set the basket on the doorstep and hoped that All Might would find it.

He crossed his arms, digging his fingernails into the flesh of his upper arms as he strode away.

The light in the study was still on.


 

 

 

#10

I sat in to view the results of the first test, and I’ve decided to distance myself from this  particular project. I know they’re sinners, but that doesn’t make it any less upsetting. I find it hard to watch people suffer, even when they deserve it. 

The gas does more than I originally thought. Apparently, if you spend more than five minutes in there, your senses start to dull. By ten minutes, you can’t sense anything at all. Not even orientation, or where your limbs are located in space.

The subjects were fished out after about an hour. It was… disturbing. Neither of them reacted when they were dropped onto the floor. They were shaking and twitching a lot. One of them—the woman—had bitten off the tips of her fingers. The man was worse. When he came out, his chest and throat were spasming, and the lower half of his face was bloody. It took a moment for them to realize he was choking. When they managed to get him to cough the obstruction up, it turned out to be a large portion of his tongue. After washing his mouth out, it was discovered that most of his teeth were broken, supposedly as a result of him grinding them.

I guess this is what happens when someone loses the ability to sense their own strength.

It took a few minutes for the two of them to start regaining their senses. I’ve never heard a person make a sound like that, and I hope I never will again.

I don’t know. I know that punishing sinners is necessary. I’m just not used to having it at the forefront like this. I know that this is God’s will. I don’t need to understand it. But I can’t help it. It keeps me up at night. 

When I heard those two screaming, nothing about it felt holy.


The basket was still on the doorstep on Monday. 

Tuesday, as well.

The roof of the porch kept it safe from the rain, but Izuku knew the soup would be spoiled. Like a sacred item, however, he couldn’t bring himself to move it.

The light in the study was still on.


 

 

 

#11

I can’t do this anymore. 

I’ve been afraid to even think it until now, but things have gotten to a point where I can no longer stay silent. The Council is absolutely, unequivocally out of line.

I could tolerate the idea when it was just the sinners being punished, but this expansion is just grotesque. I know that preventing the leaking of intelligence is important, but not every Angel who experiences high levels of corruption is a traitor, and to punish them as though they were is morally repugnant. 

I’ve had enough. I need to find some way to speak with God directly. I need to hear him condemn what they’re doing here, for the sake of my friends and my own soul. Because honestly, I’m scared. These thoughts I’ve been having lately make me feel like a different person. I’m not sure how much the corruption has progressed. I’m too afraid to wash the glue off. Not even fire tea really takes the edge off anymore.

I’ll be on a mission tomorrow. We’re not expecting the fight to last long, but I need to be careful. I need to hold on, at least until I have a chance to speak with God. If things turn ugly, who knows what might happen.


On Friday, the basket was no longer alone. 

Izuku noticed almost as soon as the house was in sight. The house was located in a cul-de-sac a few blocks from the corner where Izuku always turned.

He was too far away to actually feel anything, but the fear that ramped up inside him was still quite real.

The Acolyte stood still on the doorstep. He was facing away, but Izuku would know the look of that white cloak anywhere. Luckily, being so far away meant that the Acolyte didn’t seem to notice his presence, but Izuku wasn’t looking to push his luck. After a moment of shock, he turned on his heel and marched right back the way he came.

The whole way back, Izuku couldn’t walk five steps without checking over his shoulder.


Izuku didn’t get a chance to open the journal until later that night. 

He didn’t even realize it was the last entry until he checked the back cover, and realized that there was nothing written after it. It was odd, considering the fact that the listed page number was only around halfway through the total thickness of the journal.

He was nervous as he turned to the listed page. The past few entries had shaken him nearly enough to overtake his curiosity, and he felt a bead of sweat roll down his temple when he found it.

A cursory glance at the heading left him with an odd mixture of relief and fear, however.

Because unlike all the others, this one was addressed to him, specifically.


 

 

 

#12

Midoriya,

It’s difficult to know where to start with this, but you’ve waited long enough. 

First of all, I would like to apologize. I want you to know that I never meant for things to turn out this way. It wasn’t part of any sort of grandiose plan. Like you, I am fallible, but that does not excuse my getting you caught in the crosshairs. Six months ago, I did not have all the facts. I was not aware of the extent of the Council’s actions, and my greatest regret is involving you before I had everything figured out.

I’m sure you’re confused about some of the previous entries. The contents of this journal come from various sources. Some come from my own mentor’s notes, others from those of my mentor’s mentor. I transcribed them for you because I don’t want the information I’ve gathered to go to waste if something happens, and because I think it’s important that you know what I know. 

The short of it is, my mentor Fell in order to save me. I witnessed it myself. When an Angel Falls, unless a Demon specifically prevents it, they are automatically transported to Hell. However, a few months ago, I managed to confirm that there is no record of her soul ever having appeared in Hell. This suggests that the magic was intercepted. The list of those capable of doing such a thing is very, very short.

At this point, I need to come clean about one thing in particular.

When I originally suggested you work with Katsuki, I told you it was because I thought demonstrating an ability to resist temptation would make your application for ascension stand out. 

This was a lie.

The real reason was far more selfish. 

Back then, I was still searching for a way to confirm whether or not my mentor was in Hell. Due to the nature of my retirement, I am unable to leave Heaven, and in the beginning, I had hoped that your connection to Katsuki might allow me to circumvent those restrictions in order to achieve that goal. Of course, I wound up confirming it independently shortly after your partnership with him begun. It was only then that I really started to put the pieces together.

I know that an apology for a mistake of this scale will probably fall flat, but I want you to know that I am deeply sorry. I’m sorry for deceiving you, and I’m sorry for all the suffering that my choice has caused you. I could not have predicted how this would unfold, but that is no excuse. As your mentor, part of my job is to protect you. I have failed to do so, and that is something I will regret for the rest of my days.

As for this journal, please believe me when I say that I did not decide to tell you all of this out of a desire to cause distress, or put you in danger of Falling. In fact, I think that you may be one of the only Angels capable of processing this information without succumbing to despair. Let me explain what I mean.

What you need to understand is that Falling is a physiological process: the dissolution of the soul’s outer shell, which is held together by faith. It’s an event which is triggered by either tactile corruption damage, or specific emotional experiences. Experiences which trigger the release of certain chemicals. For the vast majority of Angels, this can only occur under one specific circumstance: losing faith in God. When an Angel loses this, everything else comes crashing down. However, this does not seem to be the case for you.

Over the course of the past six months, I’ve watched you grow to care deeply for Katsuki. He has become a friend to you, someone you can trust, despite what he is rather than because of it. Your trust in him does not rely on your trust in God. It is wholly independent. And though I obviously cannot know for certain, it is my belief that, as strange as it may sound, your relationship with him might be the reason you’ve managed to hold on for so long. Even if you lost every last shred of faith in God, you would still have something to believe in. Of course, this is all just a hypothesis, and so I’ve done my best to remain cautious.

Now is the part where the “good news” ends. Because if you are reading this, I am already gone. I ask that you do not come looking for me. I ask that you do not attempt to rescue me. I’m painfully aware of the hypocrisy of this request. After all, I got myself into this mess in an attempt to save my own mentor, but I need to at least try to deter you from doing something incredibly brave and stupid.

 Of course, I know you well enough to know that you’re probably already crafting a plan to save me, even as you’re reading this. Fortunately, I’ve planned for this. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, this is not the last page of this book. There is quite a bit after this. I did not lock it, but I strongly suggest that you do not read any of it, as much of it is upsetting, and not particularly useful for you to know.

It would be extremely useful to the Demons, however.

Make of that what you will.

The most important thing I need to tell you is this: though I have done everything in my power to cleanse the situation of your involvement, it is still only a matter of time before they come for you, too. I’ve procured a serum that will wipe my memories to an extent, but no form of memory erasure, even that which God uses on his Angels, is completely infallible. Persistent and sufficient probing will eventually lead to you being implicated. 

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from all of this, it is this: Falling is not the worst fate an Angel can meet. On the contrary, compared to the alternatives, it’s quite merciful. I realize this is probably very shocking to read, but please try to understand that I would not be saying all of this if I thought there was a better way. 

Midoriya, for your own safety, you need to Fall. Please. Before it is too late. Trust me when I say that, if they get to you first, it will be much, much worse.

Midoriya, I love you as though you were my own son. I’m so proud of everything you’ve achieved, and I want you to continue thriving. It is ultimately up to you, but I can’t stress enough the importance of this choice. I will buy you as much time as I possibly can, but there are many variables beyond my control.

I do not know how long it will have been by the time you read this. I tried to time it so that this entry would unlock a few days after my disappearance, while still allowing you time to process each entry. If it’s been under seven days, you have some time to think. I can probably hold out a bit longer than that, but there are no guarantees.

In the unlikely event that it has been more than twelve days, you need to operate under the assumption that you are in immediate danger. 

At a minimum, you need to get out of Heaven. In the long run, though… it pains me to say this, but I cannot think of any other option. I know the idea of Falling is scary, but please think about it. I want you to make that choice before someone else makes it for you.

I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you this, but it is worth emphasizing:

When the Council takes you, they do not allow you to Fall.

Please take care of yourself.

Toshinori Yagi


Izuku stared at the page for a very long time.

Twelve days, he had said.

He froze.

The day All Might came over was a Sunday. He was gone the next day, which would make Monday the first day, so that’s…

Izuku mouthed the days as he counted on his fingers.

He felt a chill run through him, like a block of ice dropping straight into his gut.

“Twelve days.” He whispered.

He glanced at the clock.

Thirty minutes to midnight.

Thirty minutes until the thirteenth day.

For a minute, he just sat there, paralyzed. And then the hyperventilation began. Izuku gripped the edge of his desk, black spots appearing in his vision as his mind struggled to come to grips with it all.

They have All Might. They’re doing something to him. Some sort of interrogation. Is he okay? Are they hurting him? What if they’ve turned him into a husk? They wouldn’t do that. They wouldn’t. Not if they want information from him. 

His breath caught in his throat.

That place the journal described. What if he’s in there? 

Izuku’s heart slammed against his chest.

They wouldn’t—would they? All Might is susceptible to soul bleed. If they put him down there, he could hurt himself. Unless they restrain him. Unless something has changed.

It felt as if all the blood had been drained from his body, and he could hear it rushing out through his ears. Izuku was shaking.

What do I do? What do I do? He told me to Fall. But if I Fall, I won’t be able to return. I won’t be able to save him. I need to save him, but… is it even safe to leave now? What if they catch me? Maybe I could—no, that wouldn’t work. Maybe—wait, no.

What if they’re already outside?

He felt his throat starting to close up, tears blurring his vision.

Think, think, you idiot! You’re running out of time! There has to be—

Knock knock. 

Izuku screamed. He fell out of his chair, scrambling backward on the floor.

Oh God, this is it. It’s over. I’m going to die. I’m going to die. I’m going—

“Midoriya?”

Izuku didn’t process it at first.

“Hey, Midoriya? Are you okay?”

Shinsou. Oh, thank God.

Izuku struggled to stand up, nearly tripping over his feat as he went to open the door. Shinsou stood on the other side, looking at him with an almost fearful expression. Before he could even speak, Izuku yanked him inside. 

“Woah, hey!” Izuku shut the door, nearly catching Shinsou’s cloak in the process. “Midoriya, what the hell is going on?”

How do I answer that? Why did I let him in. Oh God, this was a mistake, wasn’t it? I made a mistake, this will just—

Shinsou grabbed his shoulders. “Midoriya?” He studied him for a moment. “Crap.” He muttered. “Midoriya, I think you might be having a panic attack. You should probably sit—”

“No.” Izuku reflexively shook his head. “Can’t. I need to go.”

“What?”

“I need to go.” He repeated. “I need to get out of heaven.”

Shinsou’s brow furrowed. “Why do you say that?”

“It’s not safe.”

“What isn’t?”

“Staying here.”

Shinsou faltered. “What makes you think that?”

Izuku looked at the journal, still open on his desk. Shinsou followed the path of his eyes, and started moving toward it.

“No!” Izuku shouted. Shinsou froze. “You can’t! If you read it, you’ll Fall!”

To say Shinsou seemed alarmed would be an understatement. 

“I—Okay,” Shinsou nodded, putting his hands up. “It’s okay. I won’t read it.”

Izuku relaxed slightly. 

After a moment of uncertainty, Shinsou began speaking again. It was slow, careful, as though he were treading a verbal minefield.

“Midoriya,” he said. “Regardless of what that book says, you are safe right now, in this room. You need to calm down. Take deep breaths. Can you do that?”

After a moment of hesitation, Izuku nodded, but the tightness in his throat made it a challenge.

“Don’t force it.” Shinsou told him. “Go slow.”

Izuku nodded again, and did his best to focus on that alone.

After a couple of minutes, he gradually started to feel normal again. Shinsou handed him a glass of water.

“Thank you,” he mumbled, pressing the cool glass against his forehead. 

Shinsou sat on the floor in front of him. “Are you able to talk about it?”

Izuku paused, the edge of the glass pressed against his lip. He wasn’t sure how to explain it in a way that would make sense while still being safe for Shinsou to hear.

He didn’t know what to tell him, so he decided to just say that, or something to that effect. Shinsou hummed, apparently thinking it over. 

“Well, if you really don’t think you can tell me everything, then tell me the version that doesn’t make sense.”

“You’ll think I’m crazy.”

“I’ve always thought you were a bit crazy.” Shinsou deadpanned. “But I still trust your judgement. Mostly.”

Izuku hesitated. “Uh, let me just—“ 

He went to take a sip of water, and then wound up downing the entire glass. Shinsou stared at him, one eyebrow raised. Izuku set the glass down gingerly.

He took a deep breath.

“The Council has All Might and they’re coming for me next and if I don’t leave soon the Acolytes will take me and I don’t have a lot of time.”

Shinsou stared at him for a long time, expressionless. 

“Well, that’s definitely crazy.”

Izuku’s shoulders slumped. “I knew you’d—“

“—I didn’t say I didn’t believe you.”

Izuku faltered.

“So you…” He squinted, “Do believe me?”

“I didn’t say that either,” He replied, with a small smile. He dropped it a moment later. “That said, I can tell you really believe what you’re saying.”

“So you think I’m crazy.”

“Maybe. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re wrong, though.” He shrugged. “What’s that quote? I think I saw it in a book, once.” He used air quotes. “’Just cause you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not after you,’ or something like that.”

That actually got Izuku to laugh.

“In all seriousness, I don’t know if I believe you or not, but I guess it doesn’t exactly matter.” He said. “You’re going to leave whether I help you or not, so I guess I will.”

“Wait, what?”

“I said I’ll help you.” He stated flatly. 

“Shinsou.” Izuku spoke slowly. “I’m pretty sure that’s treason.”

“Actually, it’s only treason if I believe you.”

Izuku held eye contact with him for a while, analyzing Shinsou’s oddly lighthearted expression. It wasn’t that he didn’t think he could count on Shinsou to help him if it came down to it. But for him to offer so readily, without even bothering to try and talk Izuku out of it, was… unexpected.

“Listen, Midoriya.” He sighed. “I had a lot of time to think while I was in the hospital. It’s not like I’ve had some massive change of heart, but I’m trying to be less…” He trailed off, wincing. He paused, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath. “Anyway. All of that aside, if there’s even the slightest chance you might get caught by the Acolytes, then yeah, I would rather do too much than too little.”

“I… Thank you, Shinsou.” Izuku said, smiling softly. Shinsou quickly looked away. 

 “…Do you have a plan for where to go once you leave?”

Izuku started to say no, but then—

Just fuckin’ think about it, alright?

Katsuki’s words echoed in his mind, and he bit his tongue. After a minute, he cleared his throat.

“…Yes, actually. I do, uh, have a place in mind.”

Shinsou looked at him expectantly. Izuku grimaced.

“Are you going to tell me?”

“I, uhh… I mean, do you really want to know?”

He continued to stare at him for a while afterward, blinking slowly. Pointedly. If Izuku didn’t know better, he’d think the dark circles under his eyes had gotten deeper.

“It’s Hell, isn’t it.”

Izuku tensed. “Uhh, no comment…?”

“Midoriya…” Shinsou pinched the bridge of his nose. “You know, I knew you were crazy, but… wow.”

“It’s not that crazy.” He muttered. “Kacchan will protect me.”

Shinsou scoffed. “Uh-huh.”

Izuku frowned. “I’m serious, Shinsou. He really would.”

“Uh-huh, yeah, I know.” He said, with a bizarre, sarcastically sweet cadence. Izuku watched as Shinsou began massaging his temples, his eyes closed, and realized he was quietly counting up to ten under his breath.

Shinsou exhaled, looking up at Izuku. “I know,” he repeated, only this time, it sounded genuine. “I just don’t like it, is all. Which is fine. I’m allowed to not like it. Anyway,” he suddenly stood. “Do you own anything with like, a hood? Something dark, preferably.” 

“Uhh.” Izuku noticed that Shinsou was moving toward the door, as though he already knew the answer. “No? Nothing I can think of anyway.”

“Well, I have something you can wear.”

“Oh!” Izuku stood. “Um, are you sure? I mean…” He trailed off. “You know, it’s possible you won’t see it again.”

“Oh, don’t worry.” Shinsou said. “From what I can tell about that guy’s personality, I would expect nothing less. Be right back.”

Izuku opened his mouth to retort, but the door shut behind Shinsou before he got the chance.


It was around two in the morning by the time Izuku reached the surface. He ducked into the first intact building he saw, which turned out to be an old, abandoned tavern. He held the edges of the dark blue cloak Shinsou had lent him, trying to keep it from dragging through the piles of dust, broken glass, and God knows what else. He set down his bag, took a seat on a barstool, and placed the memo on the dusty countertop.

He found his pen, and set it down beside the memo. He didn’t open it yet. Instead, he took a deep breath and sighed, his elbows on the counter, his head in his hands. 

There were too many thoughts swirling around inside his head, too many things he had yet to truly process. Even before the last journal entry, Izuku’s mind had been a mess. He had no reason to doubt the authenticity of any of the journal entries, but that didn’t make it any easier to digest. It was like all those horrific things he’d read about weren’t quite real until he was hit with the possibility of All Might falling victim to them.

All Might’s letter was a tangled ball of emotions and fears lodged in the back of his throat. Izuku hadn’t even allowed himself to look at it again after the first time, as though he were afraid it might unravel and reveal something new, something even more terrifying.

Everything. The lies, the stories, the implications of Nana’s Fall. The not-so-subtle endorsement of treason. The theories regarding Izuku’s resistance to Falling, and the explicit push for him to Fall regardless. There was a part of him that couldn’t wait to hand the journal over to the Demons, and yet another that wanted to clutch it tight to his chest and never let go.

Izuku was not going to Fall. Not tonight, anyway, and probably not tomorrow. There was still so much he needed to think about. There was still so much he could do. But though he might make it through this stage with his wings and halo intact, he knew, on some deeper level, that this would change things. When he emerged from the depths of Hell, Izuku might still be an Angel. But he wouldn’t be the same person.

Izuku opened the memo, and turned to a fresh page. He picked up his pen and pulled the cap off with his teeth. Clutched his wrist with his left hand to try and keep it steady. 

Something ends tonight.

Izuku put pen to paper, knowing this could very well be the last thing he ever wrote in the memo. And as he penned the message, he wondered, with the sort of humor one can only engage in under dire circumstances, what a passive observer might think if they were to read it. If someone—with no additional context—were to pick up the memo, read through all of it up to this final point, Izuku wondered what sort of story it would tell.

Maybe they’d read it as a tragedy. Or perhaps just the start of something new.

 

I need you to take me to Hell.

 

Izuku closed the memo, and waited to see who he’d become.

Chapter Text

Izuku knew that the likelihood of Katsuki responding soon was slim, given how late it was, so he opted to find a place to stay the night. He ended up in a small motel near the tavern; the covers were a bit dusty, but once he’d pulled back the comforter, it was tolerable. Unfortunately, sleep did not come easily.

Every time Izuku closed his eyes, it was like his mind just flooded with millions of what-if scenarios. He didn’t know where this path would lead him, or how things would play out once he got to Hell. There was a part of him that wondered if it might be best for him to just stay on the surface, give Katsuki the journal and let him handle it. But that would be dangerous. Although Acolytes weren’t involved in combat, that did not preclude them from traveling to the surface. There was a real possibility, albeit a slim one, that they could track Izuku down, and the probability of that happening only increased the longer he stayed there. Anyway you sliced it, the surface just wasn’t a very safe place to stay long term.

Of course, whether or not Hell would actually be safer was a whole other question. Sure, he might be safe from the Acolytes, but what of the other Demons? Izuku remembered what All Might had told him during their last meeting, about how difficult it was for Angels to arrange diplomatic meetings in Hell. Who knew how long it’d been since the last time an Angel had been allowed in? Sure, Izuku could get there—Katsuki had already offered—but what would happen once he arrived? How would people react to his presence? Would they distrust him? Is there a chance things could turn violent?

Izuku smacked himself. He understood that there was no use pondering that which was currently unknowable, but no matter how much he tried to clear his head, something always dragged him back. He just laid there, staring at the water-damaged ceiling of the abandoned motel room. He was beginning to wonder if he’d ever sleep again. 

He wasn’t sure how many hours passed, only that by the time he managed to drift off, the light from outside had begun to bleed into the dark room.

He woke to the sound of heavy boots hitting the floor, and sat up with a start. 

“Couldn’t have waited ’til a reasonable hour to drop that bomb on me?”

The tension eased away once he saw him. Katsuki was standing in front of the window, which he’d evidently melted a hole into on the way in, and he looked almost as tired as Izuku felt.

“Kacchan.”

“Don’t ‘Kacchan’ me,” He grumbled, striding over to him. He leaned forward and flicked Izuku’s forehead with gloved hands. “Your little message made me choke on my fucking coffee, y’know. What’s with the sudden change of heart, huh?”

Izuku opened his mouth, and then the memories of the previous day all came rushing back to him. He felt a heavy weight sink into the pit of his stomach. For a while, he just sat there, his mouth hanging open. Katsuki’s brow wrinkled, and he moved a bit closer, looking Izuku up and down.

“Fuck, Deku.” He said, his tone softer. “You look like you haven’t slept in fuckin’ days. What’s goin’ on?”

He took a deep breath, sitting up properly. And to the best of his ability, he explained the situation to Katsuki.

When he finally got through the whole thing, Katsuki took a deep breath and exhaled, leaning back against the wall, his arms crossed. 

“…Well, that’s certainly somethin’,” Katsuki muttered. “You got the journal with you, I assume.” Izuku nodded. “Can I see?” 

Izuku gestured toward his bag. “It’s in there.”

He opened the rucksack up and pulled out the leather-bound notebook, took a seat on the edge of the bed and started to flip through it. Izuku watched his expression carefully as he read. There were times where Katsuki seemed completely unfazed, and others when he seemed somewhat surprised.

Once he reached the latter half of the journal, however, that surprise became a lot more consistent. After only a few pages, Katsuki closed the journal, and looked at Izuku seriously. 

“You’re sure the info in here is correct?”

“I can’t think of any reason why it wouldn’t be, at least to the best of All Might’s knowledge.”

Katsuki nodded, putting the journal away. “Well, I know the others will at the very least be interested in this.” He stood, and started to say something else before he stopped himself, regarding Izuku critically. “Was about to ask if you were ready, but you look like you’re about to drop dead.”

Izuku was quick to push back, shaking his head. “I’m fine, I promise!”

Katsuki scoffed. “Did you even fucking sleep?”

“I did!”

“How long?”

Izuku opened his mouth, but stopped himself. He bit his lip and averted his eyes. 

“Deku.”

“I’ll… I’ll make up for it tonight!” 

“Look, Deku.” He sighed. “The process of getting an Angel to Hell? Bit more complicated than getting a human there. I don’t wanna have to carry your ass after you fuckin’ pass out. Just go back to sleep for a few hours and we’ll—”

“—No!” Izuku interrupted him, much louder than he intended. He flushed slightly. “Kacchan, I… I don’t want to waste any time. All Might’s already been missing for almost two weeks. Who knows if he’ll even—” 

He couldn’t find the strength to finish that sentence.

Katsuki was silent for a moment, then groaned. “Alright, fine. We’ll leave now.” Izuku perked up.“But you’re going straight to sleep as soon as we get there.”

Izuku deflated again.

“But the—“

“—I’ll handle the journal, Deku.” Katsuki cut in. “I know who to take it to. You can come with me tomorrow morning to actually discuss it. He’s gonna need some time to read through the whole thing and analyze it, anyway.”

Izuku took a breath, preparing to fight back some more, but no response came to mind.

“You still wanna argue with me?” Katsuki raised an eyebrow. “‘Cuz at this point, you’d just be fighting the reality that time is linear and that actions occur over non-zero intervals of it.” He deadpanned. “I’m really not in the mood to debate you on the lower limit of fucking duration.”

Izuku blinked a few times.

Was that supposed to make sense?

Maybe I’m more tired than I thought…

“…Alright. But first thing in the morning tomorrow, okay?”

Katsuki nodded. “We’ll leave when you’re ready.”

Izuku finally got up, grabbing Shinsou’s cloak and pulling it over his head before he began looking for his shoes.

“What the fuck is that?”

His back straightened, eyes widening a bit as he looked at Katsuki. “Oh, this?” He pinched the fabric of the cloak. “Shinsou actually gave it to me. I didn’t have any dark cloaks.”

Katsuki stared at him for a long time, his jaw tight. Eventually, he tore his eyes away. “Well. You don’t need it anymore, so you can just leave it behind.” 

Izuku frowned. “I can’t do that, I’d feel bad.”

“Then take it off and put it in your bag.”

“But—“

“—Deku, it’s fucking June, and we’re going to Hell.” He interjected. “If I end up havin’ to carry you ‘cuz your dumb ass passed out from heatstroke, I swear to fuck I’ll kick your ass.”

He was a bit startled by how emphatic Katsuki was being, but ultimately, he had to concede his point. He removed the cloak, carefully folding it and storing it in his bag. 

“Ready!”

Katsuki nodded, and headed for the motel door, prompting him to follow. 

“So, how exactly is this going to work?”

“Well, like I said, the process of getting an Angel to Hell is a bit more involved than it is for Humans.” He shrugged. “Not too bad, but it’s a bit of a hike. Hope you’re wearin’ comfortable shoes, nerd.”


Apparently, Katsuki’s definition of ‘a bit of a hike’ was a two hour long trek through the forests of northern Estonia. 

“Are you sure we can’t fly closer than this?” Izuku asked. There wasn’t any sort of discernible trail this far out, and between watching where he was stepping, ducking under branches and keeping pace with Katsuki, Izuku quickly grew tired.

“Y’can’t see it overhead. That’s the point.” He told him, not even bothering to look back. 

Katsuki pushed past a small branch, causing it to smack Izuku right in the face as he treaded the same path right behind him. Izuku winced, a small, involuntary noise coming from his throat. Katsuki muttered a quick ‘sorry,’ but something about the grin on his face made his remorse seem insincere. 

Izuku mumbled something under his breath, taking a seat on a mossy boulder. It took a moment for Katsuki to realize he wasn’t following him anymore. He paused, turning around and regarding him with one eyebrow raised. 

“Am I gonna have to carry you after all?”

“No.” He muttered, rolling his eyes. “I just need a minute.” He pushed his bangs back with a sigh. The climate out here was fairly cool, but the humidity stuck to his skin in ways that made him wish he could somehow take it off. Katsuki didn’t seem fazed by it. He leaned his shoulder against a tree, examining his nails performatively. After a few minutes, Izuku stood up, giving Katsuki a small nod and following him again. To his credit, Katsuki slowed down a bit—just enough for Izuku to walk alongside him, where the width of their path permitted.

“So, are you just used to this kind of thing, or…?”

Katsuki shrugged. “Compared to the forests in Hell, this is nothing.”

Izuku did a double take. “Wait, there are forests in Hell?” 

He side-eyed Izuku. “Well, duh. Hell’s a big place, Deku. There’s all kinds of biomes, even tundras.” He smirked. “Places where Hell has literally frozen over.”

“That’s… unexpected.”

Katsuki grunted. 

“‘Course, on the whole, the climate skews hot, and most of the environment wants to kill you. If you’ve ever been to Australia, it’s a bit like that.”

“Huh….”

Katsuki pushed a branch out of the way, and Izuku perked up at the familiar sight up ahead. 

Black fence stretching into the distance on either side of a large, iron gate, enclosing an apple orchard that seemed to go on infinitely. Katsuki pulled the gate open, holding it for Izuku. The moment Izuku set foot in the orchard, it was as though he were in a completely different place. The air was dry, the temperature moderate, and the sound of birds and wildlife that once surrounded them abruptly ceased. All that could be heard was the faint sound of wind blowing gently through the trees, perfect, red apples swaying in the breeze.

It was bizarre. Unsettling. A strange, liminal energy seemed to pervade the orchard, and a chill ran down Izuku’s spine as Katsuki closed the gate behind them.

“This isn’t Hell, is it?”

“Nah.” Katsuki shook his head. “It’s more like purgatory, I guess.”

“Oh,” He said. “Then how do we get to Hell from here?”

“Well,” Katsuki arched an eyebrow. “If you were human, all you’d need to do is pick an apple and take a bite.”

“But I’m not.” Izuku frowned. “So what does that mean?”

“Means we gotta keep walking.”


And walk they did. And for a little while, nothing really happened. They just continued on through the aisle of trees, traveling in a straight line, and everywhere he looked appeared essentially identical. 

But then, at some point, things started to change. Izuku couldn’t say for certain when it was; it was so gradual, he didn’t even notice at first. It wasn’t until around fifteen minutes in that he actually registered it consciously.

It started off normal enough. The trees were just a little bit taller, their branches a little more vertical.

Twenty minutes in, the trees had begun to grow at an odd angle, their trunks arcing inward along their path, as though they had all turned toward them, watching them specifically. It made Izuku nervous in a way he couldn’t fully describe.

“Kacchan…” He swallowed. “What’s going on?”

“We’re gettin’ closer.”

“And that’s related to why the trees are—”

“—Yep.”

Izuku nodded, though he knew he couldn’t see. He just continued to trail behind him, trying to will his goosebumps away. Several times, he had to apologize for stepping on Katsuki’s heels.

At the half-hour mark, all the trees were growing on distinct curves, forming arcs overhead that brought the tops of those across from each other together. It was at that point that Izuku realized what was actually happening.

It’s like… 

They’re forming a tunnel around us…?

 The arcs became more extreme, eventually pushing the tops of each tree into direct contact with the ground, and then it was as if they were growing straight through it. 

The space between one tree and the next began to shrink, and after around forty-five minutes of walking, the trunks were locked so tightly together, all Izuku could see were tiny slivers of morning light overhead.

Their path was no longer straight, and it was beginning to get very dark. Izuku needed to run his fingers along the tree trunks to keep himself on track. After around five more minutes of this, the ambient light slowly returned. 

And then it ended.

The tunnel opened into a small, circular enclosure of sorts, roughly six feet in diameter. The walls were organic, packed with winding brown tendrils that stretched high into the sky. It took him a moment to recognize what he was looking at, though it eventually hit him that the walls were, in fact, roots, and the floor was the simply the base of a massive tree. Izuku looked up, squinting at the tiny speck of blue many feet above him, the only confirmation he had that they were still on Earth. 

When he glanced at Katsuki, he found him rummaging through his bag, pulling out a pair of gloves and a hoodie. He put the gloves on first, then pulled the hoodie over his head. 

“C’mere.”

Izuku blinked. “Sorry?”

Katsuki grumbled, simply taking Izuku by the shoulders and pulling him against his chest. Izuku’s breath caught in his throat, his face going hot. Hesitantly, he wrapped his arms around Katsuki’s back.

“U-Um.” He squeaked. “Is this it…?”

“Mm.” Katsuki pulled him even tighter to his body. “Stay close to me, nerd.” He told him. After a second, he tacked on, “Oh—and try not to puke.”

And with that ominous statement, it began. Izuku became transfixed as the roots around them started to glow a strange, otherworldly red. His arms constricted further around Katsuki when they started to move toward them.

“S’okay. Don’t worry.” Katsuki said, as a few started to wrap around them, like serpents capturing their prey.

The process sped up as more and more roots joined in, encasing them in a tight cocoon of luminous red, so bright Izuku had to close his eyes and hide his face in Katsuki’s chest.

After a moment, it began to move, pulling them down into the Earth, or perhaps the trunk itself. At the same time, Izuku noticed an odd gravitational shift, and realized that they were slowly rotating. A minute or so passed, and it felt like he was lying on top of Katsuki. Pretty soon, he was fully upside-down.

The tendrils stopped for a moment, and then quickly unraveled, revealing a small room of sorts inside a massive, hollow tree trunk. There was a doorless opening in front of him, but it seemed to be upside down.

Even more strangely, however, was that Katsuki was, too. 

“One sec.” He called out. Stepping outside and disappearing for a moment, before coming back with a red apple in hand. He offered it to Izuku.

“You gotta eat this.”

Izuku took the apple, eying it warily. He was still unsettled by the fact that Katsuki appeared to be abiding by completely different laws of physics. 

“This won’t hurt me, will it…?”

“Nah.” He said. “Deku, you ain’t the first Angel to come here. Just take a bite so we can keep going.”

Izuku shrugged, and then sunk his teeth into the flesh. He wiped the juice off his lips as he chewed, glancing at Katsuki, who had his arms held out in an odd way. He frowned, swallowing the bite before asking, “Why’re you—“

Suddenly, the pull of gravity reversed, and Izuku fell from the ceiling with an undignified yelp. Katsuki caught him with a low grunt, and set him down on his feet, but the shift was so abrupt, Izuku very nearly vomited up the bite he just swallowed.

“Y’good?”

Izuku was clutching Katsuki’s gloved hand, leaning heavily against him as he waited for the dizziness to pass. 

Finally, he took a deep breath, and exhaled. “Yeah.”

“Well, then.” He grinned, gesturing toward the opening. Katsuki stepped through it, pulling Izuku along with him.

His breath caught in his throat. For a while, all he could do was stare.

The sky was a pale, reddish orange, and scattered across the expanse were a number of clouds, some grey in color, others a bit more yellow. They were standing right on the edge of a cliff which towered over a vast valley of bronze soil, the various plants dispersed throughout painting it in the colors of a sunset on Earth, as far as the eye could see—which wasn’t especially far. There seemed to be a fair amount of dust suspended in the air near the ground, and the further he looked, the more the low-lying areas seemed to fade. 

Out on the horizon, Izuku could see tall, jagged mountains cutting into the sky, some of them stationary, while others had thick columns of smoke rising from their peaks. 

Peering down the cliffside, he found a long, winding black stairway, leading down to a platform of sorts.

“This is Serpent’s Crossing,” Katsuki said, breaking him out of his trance. “And that,” he pointed to the right, “That’s where we’re headed.” 

Izuku followed the path of his finger, and his breath caught. Out in the distance, a large mass of something carved through the dust, and Izuku realized it was a city of some kind. It was lit up in a few places, and tall, twisting structures stretched up into the sky. 

“Oseryth.” Katsuki said. “That’s where I live.”

Suddenly, something zipped by below them, making Izuku jump. “What was that?”

“Oh, that’s just the train.” Katsuki shrugged. “Speaking of, we should probably head down there so we can catch the next one. But first…”

Katsuki reached into his rucksack and pulled out a small, satin bag. “Here.” He handed it to Izuku. 

He pulled open the drawstring and looked inside. When he pulled it out, he realized it was a necklace of some kind.

“What is this?”

“An artifice.” He replied, hoisting his bag over his shoulder again. “Makes you look like one of us. Figured you wouldn’t wanna attract too much attention.”

“Oh.” That’s thoughtful… “I didn’t even know things like this existed.”

Katsuki raised an eyebrow. “Deku, I know you know about the double agent defector incident. Did’ya think Izaiya and Setsuko just strolled in here, white wings, halo and all, said, ‘Hello, fellow Demons,’ and that was that?”

Izuku scoffed. “I knew they had disguises, Kacchan.” He rolled his eyes. “I just didn’t know the details of how they worked.”

Katsuki grunted. “Well, put it on. We should get going.” He muttered. “Don’t wanna stay out here for too long.”

“Why not?” Izuku unhooked the necklace, bending slightly to hook it around his neck. He adjusted the artifice’ position on his chest, but he didn’t actually feel any different.

“Most of the animals and at least half of the plants out here are aggressive, so it’s just—“ He faltered. “Just… uhh…”

Izuku looked up and found Katsuki staring at him with an odd look on his face. “What? Did it not work?”

“Oh, it worked.”

“Really?” Izuku frowned, glancing back at his wings. “Why can’t I see it, then?”

“Doesn’t work on the person wearing it.”

“Oh…” He rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly. “Well, um. How do I look, I guess…?”

“Gorgeous.” His response was immediate.

Izuku’s cheeks flared up, but before he could respond, Katsuki was grabbing him by the wrist, pulling him toward to stairs. “C’mon.” He said. “Next train comes in a few minutes.”

He followed Katsuki as they descended the long, winding stairway. It took a minute, but when they finally made it to the platform, Izuku sighed, standing beside Katsuki, waiting.

“Um.”

“Hm?”

“Will there be a lot of people?” Izuku fidgeted with the necklace. “On the train.”

Katsuki hummed. “Probably not, this time of day.” He replied. “But just so you know, your wings are still there. They’re just invisible. So, y’know. Try not to let anyone bump into you.” He shrugged. “On the off chance it’s crowded, you can stand with your back to the door, maybe.”

Izuku bit his lip, nodding silently. A few minutes later, the train arrived, slowing to a stop in front of them so quickly, Izuku briefly wondered if the laws of physics were different here. The doors slid open, and he held his breath as they stepped inside. 

There weren’t a lot of people in their car, and none of them distinctly looked at him, apart from a few brief, passing glances. Nonetheless, the fact that Izuku couldn’t see his own disguise made him nervous, and he shuffled in place, staring down at the ground to avoid making accidental eye contact with anyone.

The doors slid shut, and the train began to move. Very quickly. 

Izuku released a small yelp, stumbling back against Katsuki, who was holding a handrail, smirking as he caught him. 

“S-Sorry.”

“I gotcha.” 

Izuku sheepishly turned away, looking out the window. The train was moving too fast for him to see much more than a formless blur of red and orange, punctuated by the occasional flash of glowing matter that Izuku could only assume to be hellfire. Then the train entered a tunnel, throwing the outside world into a darkness that persisted for a few minutes before they emerged. 

Shortly afterward, the train began to slow, just enough for Izuku to make out their surroundings. The terrain was largely rocky and mountainous, so he couldn’t see too far out most of the time, but he saw a few things he’d never forget. A lake of fire, glowing bright in the distance. At one point, he watched a large ‘tree’ snatch a bird right out of the air with its branches before proceeding to swallow it through a cavity inside its trunk. 

Overall, it was pretty on par with what he’d expected Hell to be like.

But after a few minutes, the brutal landscape became tamer, and the appearance of buildings became increasingly common. Eventually, the train passed through a membrane of some kind, and slowed to a stop. A voice sounded over the intercom.

“Savaek station, Savaek station.”

Katsuki took his hand, and Izuku allowed himself to be pulled out onto the obsidian walkway, leading into a large structure embedded in the mountainside. 

Izuku looked around as Katsuki led him inside. It almost felt like an actual cave; the orange walls curved up smoothly into the ceiling, and embedded within them were large patches of yellow, luminescent stone that spread warm light throughout the station. Around fifty feet ahead, he saw five large, glass columns that extended through the ceiling. He didn’t actually realize they were elevator shafts until a platform descended down into the chamber, stopping to let a group of six people out.

Katsuki pulled him into an empty elevator, and it began to ascend. They passed through the ceiling, and for a moment, it was dark. Eventually, they emerged in a large, outdoor area, only partially embedded in the mountain. He followed Katsuki out onto the terrace, and as they approached the edge, Izuku had to stop and stare. 

The platform was elevated a few stories above the ground, and Izuku gripped the railing, mouth gaping as he took in the city below.

The buildings in Oseryth were notably tall, and oddly organic-looking in form—which seemed to work well, considering most of them appeared to have plants growing off the sides. To his right, he saw a staircase leading toward the ground, and to his left, a staircase leading to an upper platform, from which train tracks emerged. He traced the path of the tracks, and was immediately struck by the way that many of the buildings seemed to be built around the railway, leaving gaps in the structure through which the trains could pass. A couple of the buildings were also connected by covered bridges high in the sky, on which pedestrians walked.  

Overall, there seemed to be a strong emphasis on building up rather than out. Perhaps this was the result of Demons’ ability to fly being actively incorporated into the architecture, but there didn’t seem to be very many people around who were more than partially shifted. Maybe it was simply their way of making the most of the space.

Izuku finally turned his gaze downward. Interestingly, although there were paved roads, there were no actual vehicles in sight, and most of the Demons seemed to operate as though they didn’t exist at all.

Perhaps most striking, however, was the place just across the street from the station. The park was covered in violet grass, and scattered with crimson trees that grew from the ground like corkscrews. 

Not too far from them, a man sat alone on a bench, reading. Off to the left, a woman stood before an easel, brush moving across a canvas as she painted what appeared to be a normal, water-filled pond, just in front of her. On the other side of the pond, five people sat together on a picnic blanket, eating. Laughing. 

Izuku gulped, gripping the railing harder.

He wasn’t really sure what he was feeling. Up until that point, he’d been so overwhelmed by the bizarre aesthetic that he hadn’t been able to properly contextualize it in his mind. The sound of laughter was like an alarm bell, breaking him out of his stupor and reminding him that this was a place where people lived, where people laughed.

A place in Hell, where happiness still exists.

“Deku?” The sound of Katsuki’s voice made him jump, squeezing his hand tightly as he finally tore his gaze away. “You good?” 

Izuku wasn’t sure how to answer that. His eyes kept drifting back toward the park.

“We still got one more train to go.” He said, nodding toward the upper platform. “But we can come back here later, if you want.”

Not knowing what else to do, Izuku swallowed and nodded mutely, adjusting his grip on Katsuki’s hand and following him up the stairs. They entered a partially enclosed area, and waited near the tracks. It wasn’t long before the train rolled to a stop before them. They paused to allow others to get off before boarding themselves.

Izuku sighed, turning to look out the window. It was only then that he noticed it—the large mural sprawling across the opposite wall. 

It was an abstract design, filled with a rainbow of chaotic, swirling colors. But out of the madness, something else seemed to emerge. Izuku squinted, leaning toward the window as the doors slid shut, and realized that there were words.

No Gods, he read, straining to decipher the rest. But by then, the mural was just a smear of color retreating into the distance.


They arrived about twenty minutes later at a station near the center of the city, and once they got off, Izuku followed Katsuki down the stairs and across the street.

“It’s just a few blocks from here.” Katsuki told him, bumping shoulders as they walked down the sidewalk together. 

They crossed the street again, turning the corner into what appeared to be a large market of sorts. Izuku was so distracted by the strange look of some of the food set out, he almost missed the fact that no one seemed to be distinctly tending to any of the tables. He frowned. 

Maybe they have some sort of anti-theft technology?

On one of the tables, there sat a large box of those fruits Katsuki liked—embrites, Izuku recalled—and as they passed, Katsuki grabbed two off the top and continued walking. 

Izuku felt a spike of panic. “Kacchan, did you just steal those?”

“Hm?” He looked at him, his expression bewildered, as though he didn’t even understand the words Izuku was saying. But he could see the cogs turning in his head the longer Katsuki stared at him. Something clicked, and he burst out laughing. “Oh, shit.” He wheezed. “I guess I never told you, did I?” 

“What?” 

Katsuki shook his head, stashing one of the fruits in his bag, and taking a bite out of the other. “Thing is,” he swallowed before continuing, “That’s not really how shit works here.”

Izuku raised an eyebrow. “What does that even mean?”

“Outside of shit like…” He squinted. “I dunno, breaking into someone’s home and taking their toothbrush, or maybe grabbing a park bench and running away, ‘stealing,’” he used air quotes, “doesn’t really exist down here. Least not in the sense you’re probably used to.”

“...So everything’s just free?” He asked, incredulous. 

He just shrugged. “We don’t really have any reason to have, like, a monetary system. Post-scarcity and all that.” He took another bite.

“But what stops people from hoarding resources?” 

Katsuki rolled his eyes. “Why do you think that’d be an issue?”

“…Because people are selfish?”

“Nah, that's where you're wrong, nerd." He clicked his tongue. "People ain't selfish, they're just self-interested.”

Izuku frowned. “Is there a difference?”

“People wanna survive and be happy. That’s self-interest. That’s natural.” He explained. “Selfishness is, like… self-interest at the expense of other people, I guess. It’s not usually a widespread problem unless you live in a society that, like, rewards that type’a behavior, or makes it necessary for survival.” He took another bite of the embrite, licking his lips.

“Far as people are concerned,” He continued, “I think there’s really only two things you can say about our nature.” He held up a finger. “First is that we’re self-interested—I wanna survive, and I wanna be happy. No shit.” He raised another finger. “And second is that we’re social—y’know, there’s a reason puttin’ people in solitary tends to make ‘em go crazy; we rely on others to know what’s real and what ain’t.” He shrugged again. “Outside those two, I think people are pretty malleable.”

“I’m…” He squinted, “Not really sure what point you’re trying to make.”

“I’m just sayin’, before you make big generalizations about people’s nature, you should think about the broader context.” He said. “Like, yeah, maybe it is the case that people are inherently X. But it might also be the case that they’re not, and it just seems that way ‘cuz they live in a world that incentivizes X behavior. Maybe without that influence, people would tend to act different.” 

Izuku just stared at him for a while, his arms crossed as he walked alongside him. Katsuki took another bite, the red juice staining the corners of his mouth. He glanced at him out of the corner of his eye, and groaned, slowing his pace a bit.

“Deku, lemme put it like this.” He said, exasperated. “If you’re at a party with your friends, and they’re all eating cake or whatever, what prevents you from eating the entire cake?”

He blinked. “I…” Izuku squinted. “Where are you going with this?”

“Humor me.”  

“…Is this going to be another tomato plant analogy?”

“No, but it could become one, if you don’t answer the damn question.” Katsuki replied, smiling ominously.

Izuku shot him a mild glare.

“Well?”

He sighed. “I mean…” He scratched his head. “I don’t know, Kacchan. I feel like that’s probably physically impossible.”

“Yes,” Katsuki said. “Much like you have a limited reserve of piss with which you can water a tomato plant, you also have a limit to how much you can eat before you get sick.”

“Kacchan.”

Katsuki snorted, teeth sinking into the embrite. He chewed and gulped the bite down. “Anyway, what if you could, though? Like, what if you could eat the whole cake at once and still enjoy it? What stops you then?”

Izuku scratched his head. “I mean, that’d still be pretty inconsiderate. I wouldn’t want to be rude…”

“Well, there’s your fuckin’ answer, nerd.” He took another bite, and spoke with his mouth full. “The reality is, when ya think about it, there ain’t really a point in hoarding most shit unless you can sell it. If ya can’t, then its only value is personal. Like, the actual use you get outta it.” 

They turned a corner, continuing down the sidewalk. 

“You can’t eat an entire cake at once, so after a few slices, it stops being valuable to you.” He paused to finish off the embrite, licking the juice off his fingers. “And that goes for basically everything else, y’know. Like, there’s no reason to own fifty TVs, ‘cuz after the first few, they just become useless. That’s the only kinda value that matters down here.”

A moment later, they reached the entrance to a tall, twisting building. “This is me,” Katsuki said, leading Izuku up the stairs and inside. Katsuki punched a button on the wall. “And even if something’s still useful in excess, social pressure usually keeps you from taking more than your fair share.”

The doors opened up, revealing a glass elevator, not unlike the one at the station. They stepped inside, the doors closing behind them. Izuku was momentarily distracted by the view—the city shrinking down before his eyes.

“I mean…” he eventually said. “I guess I can sort of understand the first part, but… Not everyone cares about being rude, Kacchan.”

“That’s the thing, though, Deku. They don’t have to.” He grinned. “Shitty behavior has consequences that even the biggest assholes can understand.”

“Such as…?”

Katsuki hummed. “Y’know, one time a few years ago, before this whole shitshow started, I was on the surface—unshifted, obviously.” He said. “I remember going to this coffee shop and watching this woman just fucking scream at the barista. I think it was about an expired coupon, or something.” He shrugged. “Anyway, at one point, I heard her say something like, ‘you have to do this, I’m a paying customer.’ Manager comes out, screaming bitch ends up gettin’ what she wants.” 

The elevator dinged, opening out into a small sitting area. They stepped off, and Katsuki paused, turning toward him.

“You know what happens if someone pulls that kinda shit down here?”

Izuku looked to the side, then back at Katsuki. “What?”

“The barista throws ‘em the fuck out. The end.” He smirked. “There’s no obligation to serve someone who’s bein’ an asshole.”

“Huh…” Izuku scratched his head. “I mean, I guess that sounds better, at least in theory.”

Katsuki began walking again, and gestured for Izuku to follow. “Point I’m tryna make is, down here, your needs are provided for, but your desires are a different beast. If y’want something, being an asshole literally jeopardizes your ability to get it.” He smiled. “Some societies make good people act shitty. Down here, we believe in makin’ shitty people act good.”

They turned the corner into a hallway, and Izuku trailed closely behind Katsuki, until they reached a door near the end. Katsuki stopped, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a key.

“It just seems so…” Izuku frowned. “I don’t know. It seems too… utopian.” 

He was about to unlock the door, but paused, turning to look at him. 

“Listen, Deku.” He said, sighing. “I’m not sayin’ it’s fuckin’ perfect; it’s not. Sometimes shit doesn’t work out how we want, and yeah, assholes still exist. Sometimes they even get what they want, despite everything. It’s rare, but life’s too complicated for that to just never fuckin’ happen, but…” He shrugged. “There’s nothing productive about dismissing shit ‘cuz it sounds ‘utopian.’ You gotta believe better things are possible, or nothing ever changes.” 

“I mean… I suppose.” Izuku rubbed the back of his neck, staring down at his feet. “It’s just hard for me to buy into the idea that all of this actually works. It seems like there are a lot of ways it could go wrong.”

“There’re a lot of ways anything could go wrong.” Katsuki snorted. “Y’know, Hell isn’t the only society that’s like this. Plenty of human societies have made some variation of this idea work, and the shit a human needs for survival is way more particular than it is for Demons.” He said. “Just ‘cuz it’s not what you’re used to doesn’t mean it doesn’t work, and anyone who says otherwise has a fucking agenda.”

Izuku sighed. “I guess I’m just waiting to find out what the catch is…”

Katsuki was silent for a moment. Then, “C’mere.” He gestured for Izuku to follow him, and led him to a window at the end of the hall. “You see that building across the street there? The one with the black walls and no windows?”

It wasn’t hard to find. The nondescript building sat sandwiched between what looked to be a cafe of some kind and another apartment building. 

“Um. Yeah?”

“That’s the sex dungeon I told you about.” He said, then pointed off into the distance. “If you squint, you can see the Amphilux from here. It’s that big, circular building, on the left over there. You see it?”

“…I…yes?” He replied, his voice two octaves higher than normal, his cheeks burning. “Why?”

“See, for me, I see these places as a feature, not a bug. But for you, I imagine this causes you some level of distress.” He turned around and headed back toward his door. Izuku remained rooted in place for a moment. 

“So, there ya go. That’s the catch, Deku: people in Hell are broadly known for having some unusual sexual proclivities. Which is to say, no one arrests you for not fucking in missionary.”

Izuku heard the click of the door unlocking, followed by the sound of it swinging open. After a moment, Katsuki called out, “You coming, or what?”

He shook himself, taking a deep breath before turning around. Katsuki was holding the door open, staring at him with a raised eyebrow, and the slightest of smiles. Izuku kept his head down and skittered inside. Katsuki shut the door behind them, and then flicked on the light. They were in a short hallway, and at the end sat a single potted plant. Still carrying his bag, Izuku toed off his shoes, walked to the end, turned the corner, and froze.

It was… nice.

The hallway lead out into a surprisingly spacious open area. The living space sat in front of him—a couch, a couple chairs, a TV—and to his right was the kitchen. Nearly the entirety of the back wall was composed of one long, curved glass window, the curtains only half-closed. 

He heard Katsuki set his bag down, and so he did as well.

“Kacchan, this is nice.”

Katsuki snorted. “Why do you sound surprised?”

Izuku blushed slightly, looking away. 

“C’mon. I’ll show you around.”

There wasn’t much else to see, really. Katsuki pointed out the bathroom, showed him to a closet where he could store his things for the time being. He took him out onto the balcony, where many large, purplish pants seemed to be growing off the side, and a few more sat in the corners in pots.

The last spot he showed him was Katsuki’s room, which was surprisingly neat and organized, apart from the unmade king-sized bed. 

Without thinking, Izuku asked, “So, am I sleeping in here, or…?”

Katsuki's answering grin made Izuku realize this was a mistake.

“Well, I was planning on pulling out the couch bed,” He said, voice deep. “But if you’d rather sleep with me, I’m sure that could be arranged too, De-ku.”

Izuku all but burst into flames. He jumped back, just beyond the threshold of the door frame that Katsuki was now gripping the top of, laughing lowly as he watched him squirm. 

“I-I’m okay… thank you.”

Katsuki shrugged, still smirking. “Offer’s on the table.” He hopped up a bit, swinging from the top of the door frame and landing just in front of him with a soft thud. “In all seriousness, though, you’re welcome to sleep there right now. I’ll get the couch bed made up and shit later, but for now, this is easier.”

“…And what are you going to do?”

“I need to eat first, but after that, I’ll head out.”

Izuku nodded. “Head out where, exactly?” 

“The academy.” He replied. “Someone there I think should see that journal of yours.” He threw a look over his shoulder. “You got clothes to sleep in?”

“Oh, yeah. I uhh, I brought everything. But, umm…”

Katsuki raised a brow. “Yeah?”

“Is there anyway I could, uh, take a shower, maybe?” He asked. “I’m… kind of sweaty and gross.”

Katsuki gestured toward the bathroom. “Towels under the sink.”

“Thank you.” He smiled.

With that, Izuku headed for the closet, grabbing a change of clothes before moving on to the bathroom. 

“Y’can put your clothes in the hamper!” Katsuki shouted from the kitchen. 

“Okay, thanks!” Izuku called back.

“Oh, and one more thing—if you use the toilet, stand back when you flush it!”

Izuku’s brows pinched together. “Why?”

“You’ll see!”

He frowned, an ominous feeling settling in his gut as he shut himself inside the bathroom, putting his clothes on the countertop before turning toward the toilet.

The first thing he noticed was that there was no hole at the bottom. Instead, there were two smaller holes, one on either side, near the top of the bowl. It was weird, but Izuku wasn’t really in a position to question it. He needed to go, so he did his best to shrug it off. 

Once he was done, he reached for the handle on the side, only to find that there was nothing there. Izuku blinked, puzzled as he looked around, until finally he spotted a button on the floor in front of him.

He gulped, taking a few steps back before slowly inching his foot toward it. After a moment of hesitation, Izuku clenched his jaw and pushed it before he could lose his nerve.

Instantly, two jets of fire shot from the holes on the sides, right down into the bowl. Izuku screamed, scrambling back against the door, his heart pounding. The fire didn’t last long, but for several seconds afterward, he couldn’t move.

And through the door, Izuku could hear Katsuki cracking up, all the way from the kitchen.


Thankfully, Katsuki’s shower was normal, in the sense that it dispensed water, and did not cleanse things with fire.

Katsuki was in the living room eating when he came out. He sat in the chair across from him with a sigh. Katsuki paused mid-bite.

“Did you use my shampoo?”

“Um. Yeah,” Izuku said. “Sorry, I forgot to bring my own. I should’ve asked.”

“Eh, do whatever.”

Silence.

Izuku found his mind drifting back to their conversation earlier. 

“What happens if there is a food shortage?” He impulsively asked.

Katsuki froze, slowly looking up at Izuku. “Do you really want me to answer that?”

“I mean, I wouldn’t have asked if I didn’t.”

“Okay, smartass.” He scoffed, taking another bite, chewing, and swallowing. “That’s the thing about being a Demon, Deku. Just ‘cuz we’ve figured out how to grow food enriched with sin doesn’t mean we can’t still feed the old fashioned way.”

Izuku blinked. “You mean…?”

Katsuki smirked. “In a pinch, I can always just fuck someone and feed off the lust that generates.” 

He nearly choked. “A-Ah.”

“Yeah. Ah.”

Katsuki held eye contact as he raised his fork to his lips and slowly took a bite.

Izuku tore his eyes away, clearing his throat. “Does it, um…” He fidgeted with the hem of his shirt. “Does it have to be aimed at you?”

He hummed. “Nah.” He licked his lips. “It just tastes way better if it is.”

Izuku gulped. “…I see.”

“That’s the whole reason the Amphilux still exists, Deku. I mean, that and the fact that people are just fucking horny, but y’know.” He waved his hand meaninglessly. “If you’re hungry, you can simply stop by the fucking endless orgy goin’ on down there. S’like an all-you-can-eat buffet of degeneracy. It’s fucking fantastic.”

Izuku grimaced. “I guess that’s… technically a solution.” He mumbled.

Katsuki just laughed, and they both went quiet again.

He sighed, slumping down in his seat. Izuku supposed that, when he really thought about it, it wasn’t the lack of a monetary system that bothered him so much as it was the lack of obvious supervision. 

One could argue about the nature of people until they were blue in the face, but there would always be outliers. Not every person is a rational actor. Surely there had to be someone around to enforce limitations. There had to be some form of hierarchy involved to keep others in check. That’s what society is.

…Isn’t it?

Izuku frowned. He sat there, staring out the window at the vast, alien cityscape. The view was strangely beautiful, in a terrifying sort of way. Whether the fear arose from Izuku half-expecting it to crumble before his eyes, or was merely a reaction to its radical unfamiliarity, had yet to be determined.

He just couldn’t help it. Although the… sexual stuff… was certainly weird and uncomfortable for Izuku to think about, it wasn’t exactly news to him. He’d expected that, but this? This was absurd. Things like this just didn’t exist in the real world. It was one of those looks good on paper, doesn’t work in practice sort of societies.

He could hear Katsuki’s words from earlier echoing between his ears.

‘You gotta believe better things are possible, or nothing ever changes,’ he’d told him.

It wasn’t that Izuku didn’t believe better things were possible; he did. But for him, ‘better things’ meant things like clearer expectations, and fewer restrictions on training among lower level Angels, not… whatever this was. 

Izuku never intended to tear things down and rebuild from the ground up. He wasn’t aiming for a revolution. He just wanted to patch things up. He wanted reform.

But as that thought passed through his mind, some voice inside of him released a mirthless laugh. 

Reform? It cackled. After everything you’ve learned, you still think this system can be reformed? 

Heaven in its current state is not as God meant it to be, he argued with himself. 

Izuku gritted his teeth, clenching his fists as he tried to put a stop to his dark ruminations. But before he could cut them off completely, one final thought clawed its way up through the rift, vile and heavy in the lowest register of his consciousness.

But what if this isn’t an accident? It asked him. 

What if this is the system functioning exactly as intended?

“Deku, are you good?”

Izuku looked up suddenly, and found Katsuki staring at him, one eyebrow raised, his fork hovering in front of his mouth.

“Y-Yes, of course! Why?” Katsuki looked down pointedly, then back up again. Izuku followed his gaze, and realized that he’d torn a hole in his shirt. “Oh!” He released it, as if it had burned him.

Katsuki took a deep breath, and exhaled. “Look, nerd.” He began. “It’s fuckin’ complicated, okay? Obviously there’s a lot more to it. More than I could explain in one sitting.” He gestured toward him with his fork. “All the questions you’ve got buzzin’ around in that head of yours do have answers, but for now, you’re just gonna have to fuckin’ trust me.”

Izuku nodded mutely, and Katsuki went back to eating. He turned and looked out at the sky, and though he tried to put it out of his mind, he couldn’t quite quell that sense of foreboding within him.

The other shoe was going to drop soon. 

The only question was when.

Izuku heard a rumble of thunder up above just before rain began to fall. Almost immediately, a large, black, umbrella-like apparatus unfolded on Katsuki’s balcony, shielding the plants. Izuku watched, hypnotized, as similar structures started to pop up all across the city. 

His brow furrowed. “Uhh. Why are they… doing that?” He squinted. “Isn’t rain good for plants?”

Katsuki took another bite, took his sweet time chewing it before he swallowed and stood up. Wordlessly, he beckoned Izuku closer to the window, and then pointed down at the street.

Izuku’s eyes went wide as he took in the smoke rising from the ground, wherever the rain hit it.

“Concentrated sulfuric acid.”

Izuku did a double take. “It rains sulfuric acid?!”

Katsuki shrugged, his expression distressingly casual. “It’s always a fifty-fifty chance. Half the time, it’s just normal rain. The other half—well.” He gestured broadly at the outside world. “Y’know, this.” 

With that, he sat down and continued eating as though nothing was happening. Izuku, on the other hand, pressed closer, all but plastering himself to the window as he gawked at the street below. His eyes settled on what appeared to be a piece of fruit, left behind in the road, and he watched, transfixed, as the rain gradually reduced it to steaming, black sludge. 

“It’s more common this time of year.” Katsuki said—with his mouth full, from the sound of it. “Most of the native plants can survive. The engineered ones, not so much—hence the auto-hoods.”

“Kacchan, this is insane.”

Katsuki snorted. “Told ya the weather was trash.” He stood up, taking his empty plate to the kitchen. When he returned, he came to stand by Izuku’s side again. “Luckily, it doesn’t last too long, usually. ‘Course, you still gotta be careful a little while afterward. The fumes can make you sick.”

Izuku finally tore his eyes away from the window. “So—what?” He frowned. “You’re just… trapped indoors for the next few hours?”

“Of course not.” Katsuki scoffed. “This is Hell, Deku. Y’think we don’t know how to handle a little acid rain?” 

He turned and walked over to the closet, opening the door with all the drama of a game show host unveiling a prize. 

There, hanging inside, were a couple of rain coats, boots and umbrellas, all apparently made from the same type of heavy-duty rubber material. Hanging off the coat hook on the back of the door were two black, full-face respirators. Grinning, Katsuki grabbed one of them, fitting the mask over his head. He slid on the boots next, followed by the coat, before finally brandishing an umbrella that he pointed at Izuku like a sword.

“I am un-fucking-stoppable.” Katsuki proclaimed, his voice muffled. Izuku couldn’t help but glance out the window again, at the pile of black sludge. He gulped.

“Welcome to Hell, Deku.”


Katsuki left shortly afterward, dressed head to toe in thick protective gear. He made Izuku promise he’d go to sleep as soon as his hair was dry, and left with one last parting threat:

“If I come back here and find you still awake, I will personally put your ass to sleep.”

And so, Izuku headed to Katsuki’s room and shut the door softly behind him. He stood still for a moment, eying the bed as if he could expect it to attack him. Then he shook his head, and went to sit gingerly on the edge. It seemed comfortable enough, but—

“Eep!” He felt something touch his foot, and reflexively pulled them up onto the mattress. “What the—?!” 

Staring down at the floor, he watched the shadows shift, and then the creature emerged. It was a black cat, and after it was out, the cat turned to look at him curiously. It very quickly became clear that this was not a normal cat, with the most obvious differences being that this cat had two tails, and a third eye situated between the other two.

A Hell cat?

“Um.” Izuku blinked a few times. “Hello…”

The cat meowed, then turned and ran toward a cat tree in the corner of the room. Izuku wasn’t sure how he’d failed to notice its presence until that moment. The cat leapt and climbed, curling up on the highest platform. 

“Well, okay then…” Izuku muttered.

He wasn’t entirely sure if this was safe. As far as he knew, creatures in Hell didn’t have the ability to corrupt Angels through touch, but it was more of a gap in his knowledge than a sure thing. 

But Kacchan would’ve told me if this was dangerous, right?

He might not know, though. There probably aren’t many opportunities to find out something like that…

Izuku chewed his lip, sliding under the covers. Still, if there was any chance, I’m sure he would’ve warned me.

With that final thought, he laid down and shifted around until he got comfortable, burying his face in the pillow, breathing in the sweet, smoky scent.

Smells like Kacchan, he thought to himself, blushing a bit when he realized he kind of liked it. Izuku pulled the sheets over his head and curled up into a ball, wrapping his arms around the pillow as he snuggled in closer to it. 

He had been fully prepared to spend the next few hours struggling to fall asleep again, but as he lay there, engulfed in Katsuki’s scent, he found himself drifting off in a matter of minutes.


Izuku woke to the sensation something of rumbling in his chest, and when he opened his eyes, he saw Katsuki above him, leaning over the edge of the bed. “Rise and shine, nerd.”

He blinked a few times, clearing his vision. 

“Kacchan…” he murmured. He furrowed his brow. Katsuki wasn’t talking, but he still felt the same rumbling sensation inside him. “What’s... Going on?” He asked. He wasn’t quite sure how to explain the sensation; he just hoped Katsuki would know what he meant. Based on the way he smiled, it seemed he did.

“Well, Triplet likes you, I guess.”

He felt movement on his chest, and it was only then that he noticed the cat curled up there. Katsuki picked the cat up, causing them to nip his thumb.

“Ow!” He winced slightly, then clicked his tongue. “I’m gonna feed you, jackass.” He released the cat, allowing her to exit the room.

“Wait,” Izuku blinked. “Your cat’s name is Triplet?” 

“Yep.”

Izuku swallowed. “As in…”

“Yep,” He repeated, popping the ‘p’ sound. “But if ya haven’t unlocked my ‘tragic backstory’  yet, I’ll usually just say it’s ‘cuz she has three eyes.” Katsuki snorted. 

Izuku smiled softly, and sat up in bed. He yawned. “What time is it?” 

“Little after six.” He replied. “Figured you’d be asleep for a while, so I ran a couple errands while I was out, so I—”

There was a rustling sound coming from the living room that immediately made Katsuki’s eyes widen.

“Oi! Hey!” He shouted, making quick strides out the door. “Get the fuck outta there, asshole!” Triplet meowed, and Katsuki returned a second later, right as Izuku was standing up. 

“What was that about?”

He rolled his eyes. “She just always wants to fuck with the habanero plant. S’why I keep the doors closed when I’m out. Dunno why she’s so goddamn interested in it.” He sighed. “Anyway, I gotta feed her.” 

Izuku nodded, quietly following Katsuki out of the room. As they passed through the living area, Katsuki said, “Oh, I made up the pull out couch for ya, by the way.” He waved lazily toward the bed. 

“Oh, thank you!”

“Mm.”

He trailed behind him into the kitchen. He leaned back against the counter, watching quietly as Katsuki pulled a container from the fridge, Triplet right on his heel. Izuku would’ve been worried about stepping on her, but it seemed Katsuki was used to it. 

“Sleep well?” He asked, setting a small food bowl on the counter.

“Oh! Um, yeah,” Izuku said. “I did. Your bed’s really soft.”

Katsuki threw a glance over his shoulder, smirking. “Good to know,” he told him. The suggestive cadence instantly dropped when Triplet tried to bite the spoon he was holding. “Hey!” He snapped, pulling it away. He mumbled something inaudible under his breath and scooped the food into the bowl, then set it down on the ground. 

“Anyway,” Katsuki said. “I talked to the Nexus, told ‘im we’d be there around nine tomorrow morning.”

“Nexus?”

“It’s the person whose job it is to coordinate between different sections of the military.” He said.

Izuku frowned. “I thought you didn’t have ranks.”

“Nexus isn’t a rank.” He said. “They don’t have power over their sections. They just make communication more efficient.”

“Huh…” Izuku mumbled. “Then what’s the use in giving it to them?”

“Well, they’re usually the first to know when something happens with other segments. It’s just a faster way to disseminate information.”

“Ah…” he trailed off. “Well, how long do you think it will take for them to make a move?”

Katsuki leaned back against the counter. “Hard to say. It varies.” He said. “We’ll have a better idea by tomorrow, though.” 

Izuku frowned, his heart rate speeding up.

“But… But we need to act fast.” His brow wrinkled. “All Might, he’s…”

“Deku,” He sighed. “I get it. But y’gotta try to keep some fuckin’ perspective, here. You’re basically talking about invading heaven. Just getting in is already a massive hurdle. Storming in there without a plan would be a waste of intelligence at best, and suicide at worst.”

Izuku gulped. Somewhere, in the back of his mind, he understood that Katsuki was correct. But it didn’t make him any less anxious. 

After a moment of silence, Katsuki took another step toward him. “There’s somewhere I wanna take you.”

Izuku blinked, looking up at him. “Tonight?”

“Mm. If you’re up for it.” He replied. “I think it’ll make you feel a little better.”

“What is it?”

Katsuki grinned. “It’s a surprise.” 

Izuku raised an eyebrow, thinking it over. Eventually, he nodded. “Sure.”

“Great.” A rustling noise came from the living room, and Katsuki immediately spun around. “Triplet, you fuck!”


Some twenty minutes later, Izuku heard a small meow from inside Katsuki’s room. He peaked through the crack just in time to see Triplet sitting on the edge of Katsuki’s bed, as he leaned down and kissed her on the top of the head. Izuku quickly backed away from the door, and seconds later Katsuki emerged.

“Fuck are you smilin’ about?” 

“Nothing.” Izuku replied—still smiling.


The train ride took around ten minutes, and by the time they arrived at their final destination, it was about a quarter to seven. 

From the outside, it was a building not unlike the one Katsuki lived in, though the actual interior design was far more traditional in style. A short elevator ride and a few paces later, and they were standing before a red, wooden door. 

Katsuki knocked, and they waited. A moment later, the door opened to reveal a familiar face. 

“Inasa?” Izuku perked up.

Does this mean…?

His pulse picked up, and he started shifting his weight back and forth between his feet in anticipation.

“Ah, Deku!” Inasa gave a wide grin. “It’s so nice to see you again!” He turned toward Katsuki. “And Bakugou! So you managed to tempt him, eh? Nice job!”

Katsuki raised an eyebrow. “Not quite.” Izuku tensed as he felt Katsuki’s gloved fingers against the back of his neck, deftly unhooking the artifice.

Inasa’s eyes widened. “Oh, wow! I’m confused, but somehow this is even more impressive to me?”

Katsuki snorted, dropping the artifice in Izuku’s open palm. “I’ll explain later.”

“Later, right!” He held the door open “Well, come in, then! I think there’s someone in the living room who’d really like to see you.”

Izuku nodded quickly and ducked under his arm. He all but ran down the hall, rounding the corner into a larger room. From behind, he spotted a familiar head of red and white hair, and he couldn’t help but tear up.

Todoroki was sitting on the couch, a cup of tea in one hand, an open book in the other. He was only partially shifted, and it was strange to see him without his wings. He looked up as Izuku entered, and did a double take.

“Midoriya?” He dropped the book and set his drink down, nearly spilling it in the process.

“Todoroki!” Izuku ran over to him, holding his barrier as he threw his arms around him. After a second of shock, Todoroki returned the hug. “It’s so nice to see you!” He started sniffling, sitting on the couch beside him when he eventually pulled away. “Are you doing okay?”

Todoroki smiled, warm and content and genuine in a way Izuku had never seen before. 

“I am.” He replied softly. “I miss everyone, but… on the whole, I’ve been doing better.”

Izuku gave a wobbly smile, nodding as he wiped his eyes. “I’m so glad.”

“What are you doing here, though?”

Izuku opened his mouth, but no sound came out. He rubbed the back of his neck. “It’s… complicated.” He muttered. “I guess the short answer is… I’m in hiding?”

Todoroki tilted his head. “From the Council?”

He bit his lip and nodded. “It’s… a long story.”

Todoroki simply stared at him expectantly. Izuku sighed. I guess there’s no way around it, really.

He chewed his lip, mulling over his words for a moment before taking a deep breath and beginning. He did his best to streamline it, and Todoroki sat there, nodding along slowly. He didn’t seem particularly surprised by anything Izuku had to say until he got to the part about All Might’s theory, at which point he raised a single eyebrow and told him, “Well, that’s pretty out there, but I can’t think of a better explanation for how you’ve managed to make it this far without Falling.”

Izuku felt vaguely slighted by the comment, but he shook it off.

“Yeah,” He laughed awkwardly.

Todoroki slurped his tea.

A few minutes later, Katsuki walked in, followed by Inasa, and set his sights on Todoroki. “So, this is the guy I’ve heard so much about, huh?”

Todoroki waved, taking another sip. “I take it you’re ‘Kacchan’?”

“Bakugou Katsuki.” He glanced at Izuku. “You told him about me, huh.”

Izuku blushed slightly. “Well, there’s not really anyway around it, Kacchan.” He muttered, rubbing the back of his neck. “But, um. I’m sorry I never told you about him before now.”

Todoroki blinked. “Why would I expect you to have told me about him?” He cocked his head. “Given how much trouble you could get in if this got back to the Council, that would’ve been reckless and idiotic, Midoriya.”

Katsuki barked a laugh.

“Point taken.” Izuku murmured, smiling softly. 

Todoroki raised his teacup to his lips again, noisily slurping it. 

“So, um.” Izuku cleared his throat. “Ah, what have you been up to?”

“Shouto’s learning magic!” Inasa interjected. 

“Oh, really?” Izuku sat up straighter. “What kind?”

“I haven’t decided yet.” He replied. “I’m thinking either Wrath or Sloth… or possibly both.”

“Double-classing?” Katsuki snorted. “Seriously?”

“Shouto’s a fast learner. You should see him!” Inasa said. “He’s super talented and passionate!”

“Ah, yes.” Katsuki deadpanned. “This guy, right here. Fuckin’ passion extraordinaire.”

“Kacchan!”

Todoroki seemed completely unfazed. “It’s mostly the teaching. It makes things very… intuitive, I suppose.”

“Wrath and Sloth is a weird combination, though.” Katsuki said. “The point of double-classing is usually to be able to use different types at the same time.” He raised an eyebrow. “You can’t do that with Wrath and Sloth.”

“Ah, sorry,” Izuku interjected. “Um, I know how Wrath works, but...” He scratched his head. “What is Sloth, exactly…?”

“Cooling.” Todoroki answered. “Sloth Demons aim to lower the temperature of their souls below freezing levels.”

“Which is inherently incompatible with heating.” Katsuki deadpanned. “So where’s the benefit?”

“Well, it’s like how you can use Wrath to burn things!” Inasa jumped in. “There’s no real reason why Sloth Demons shouldn’t be able to use their powers to freeze things in the same way!”

Katsuki blinked. “Baldy, the reason I can burn shit is ‘cuz of special movement techniques that’ve been developed specifically for Wrath magic. Sloth magic doesn’t involve anything like that.”

“There’s no apparent reason why it couldn’t, though.” Todoroki said. “Compression-related movement techniques aren’t incompatible with Sloth.”

“Exactly!” Inasa said. “And if he can move and freeze simultaneously, then he should be able to freeze with his touch!”

A look of recognition dawned on Katsuki’s face. “Ahh, I getcha now.” 

“Clever, isn’t it?” 

“Dunno about that.” Katsuki grinned. “But it’s probably not the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”

“That’s high praise, coming from you!”

“Whatever.” Katsuki snorted. “Anyway, we should probably head out.” 

“Ah, where are you going?” Izuku asked. 

“We’re picking up dinner!” Inasa said.

“Mm. Shouldn’t take more than twenty minutes.” Katsuki shrugged. He looked up at Izuku, throwing him a smirk. “See ya later, De-ku.”

The way he drew out his name made Izuku’s face feel hot. 

“R-Right.” Izuku waved. “Later, Kacchan!”

Inasa and Katsuki left the room. The front door clicked shut behind them, leaving the two of them alone in the quiet living room. When Izuku looked up, he found Todoroki staring at him with a subtle glint of amusement in his eyes.

Izuku blinked rapidly. “Wh-What?”

“Nothing.”

“Todoroki.”

“I was just wondering about your relationship with Bakugou.” He took a sip of his tea. “Are you two together, or something?”

A high pitched noise came from Izuku’s throat. “N-No! Of course not!”

“Oh, really?” He frowned. “I guess I read it wrong, then. Sorry.”

Izuku hesitated, felt a twinge of guilt in his chest.

“No, it’s okay, it’s just…” He winced. “I mean, you’re not wrong… I guess? I just…” He sighed. “It’s just that I don’t really know… what we are.”

“What do you mean?”

Izuku whined, covering his face with his hands.

He blinked. “We don’t have to talk about it if it makes you uncomfortable.” 

“No, no!” Izuku waved his hands around. “I just—I don’t know.” He exhaled heavily.

For a moment, it was silent. Todoroki raised his cup to his lips again and loudly slurped his tea, and set it down on a coaster with a soft clink.

“He… teases me a lot.” Izuku finally said, staring down at the ground.

“…He makes fun of you?”

“No!” He immediately said. “I mean, yes! I mean—“ he cringed. “Kind of…?”

“Midoriya, I’m having a hard time following any of this.”

Izuku bit his lip. “Hang on, let me just…” 

He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, taking a moment to gather his thoughts.

“Kacchan is… very flirtatious,” He eventually said. “At first, I thought he was just doing it to embarrass me. You know. He makes a lot of inappropriate jokes. But then…” He rubbed the back of his neck. “He kind of just… never really stopped doing it?”

“…Does that make you uncomfortable?”

“Yes.”

“Do you want him to stop?”

“Ye—“ He bit his tongue. “…No.”

“Interesting.” Todoroki tilted his head slightly. “Are you attracted to him?”

Izuku’s face grew impossibly hotter. “I… think so?” He scratched his head. “I mean, I know he’s attractive.”

“But do you get aroused when you’re around him? Or when you think about him?”

Izuku wrapped his arms around his head, squirming. “I don’t know! H-How am I supposed to know something like that?”

Todoroki closed his eyes, finishing off the last of his tea and lightly setting in down on the coffee table in front of them. “Just a second.”

He stood, disappearing into the kitchen, and a moment later, returned with a kettle and a second tea cup. Without asking, he set the cup down in front of Izuku and poured him a cup before refilling his own.

“Oh, um. Thank you!” Izuku smiled. Todoroki nodded, taking the kettle back and then returning once more. He sat beside Izuku, and took a sip of his fresh cup of tea.

“When Inasa kisses me, my body temperature rises. I feel his touch a lot more intensely, and I want him to touch me more.” He said, his tone nonchalant. “A similar thing happens when he whispers in my ear, but it’s a lot more sudden. Like a wave of heat rushing down all at once.” He shrugged. “Do you ever feel like that around Bakugou?”

For a minute, Izuku couldn’t speak. He knew Todoroki well enough not to be shocked by his candidness, but the subject matter seemed to override that. He blushed bright red, curling in on himself a little. 

“I-I mean…”

Memories flooded into his mind, every dicy interaction he’d ever had with Katsuki coming into stark focus. Images of Katsuki pinning him, either physically, or just with his eyes. Katsuki’s elegant fingers wrapped around an apple, pressed against his lips. Katsuki’s tongue dragging across the palm of a latex glove. Those hooded, glowing eyes, that damn smirk of his. The way he carried himself, playful, cocky, always standing at the threshold of ‘too far’ at any given time. Always just a little bit closer than he needed to be, his voice deep and raspy, resonating inside Izuku. 

Every move Katsuki made was an implicit offer, teasing at the possibility of something more. And when he looked at him that way, spoke to him that way, got close to him in that way, everything else disappeared.

Izuku swallowed, contemplating the best way to phrase it. “S-So, when you feel that way…” He began, “does it ever feel like, uhh… L-Like you can’t really feel anything else? Like everything else is sort of just… you know, background noise?”

Todoroki blinked. “Yes.” He replied. “I tend to get caught up in the moment.”

Izuku chewed his lip, nodding slowly. He finally picked up his tea cup and took a sip.

“Is that how Bakugou makes you feel?”

“Sometimes.”

“I see. Does that scare you, or does it feel like it’s not enough?”

“…Yes?”

Todoroki’s lips quirked up at the corners. “Well, there you have it, I guess.” He shrugged. “What are you going to do about it?”

Izuku’s mind went blank, apart from the sound of those words echoing inside his skull.

Do about it?

Do about it?!

“Uhhh… do I…” He squinted. “Have to do something about it…?”

Todoroki looked up in thought, humming. “I guess not. But if you have feelings for him and it seems mutual, why not?”

He brow furrowed. “Because I’m an Angel, Todoroki.”

“So was I, and yet.” He gestured to his horns and tail. 

Izuku shifted on the couch nervously. 

In an effort to deflect, he asked, “What’s it like, being with Inasa?”

Todoroki blinked a few times. “Well, it hasn't been that long, but it’s been good so far.” He said, reaching for his tea again. “He’s nice, and entertaining to be around. He’s very enthusiastic about basically everything, which I like, since it shows he cares.”

Izuku nodded. “I’d, um, imagine it’s pretty important to feel like your significant other cares about your interests.”

Todoroki took a long sip of his tea. 

“He also has a pretty big dick. So there’s that, I guess.”

Izuku nearly choked on his own spit. “H-How do you even know that?!”

Todoroki gave him an odd look. “Because I’ve seen it, Midoriya.” He told him. “You haven’t seen Bakugou’s dick?”

Izuku sputtered. “Under what circumstance would I even have that opportunity?!”

He shrugged. “Peeing, I guess.”

“Well, I’ve never watched Kacchan pee, so I’m afraid I have no way of knowing how… big… it is.”

“I didn’t ask you how big it was.” Todoroki said. “I just asked if you’d seen it.”

Izuku’s face burned with all the heat of a thousand suns.

“Also, that’s not quite true.” Todoroki continued. “There are other ways to gauge that sort of thing. Certain types of pants.” He shrugged. “Obviously I didn’t meet him for very long, but for what it’s worth, he does seem to carry himself with a fairly wide stance. Have you ever seen him sit cross-legged?”

“I… don’t… know…?”

He shrugged. “Well, in any case, take it with a grain of salt. Most of this only works if he’s a shower, as they say.”

“A what?”

Showers are guys whose dicks don’t get significantly bigger when they’re hard. Growers are the opposite.”

Izuku took a sharp breath, and closed his eyes. He raised his fingers to his temples, slowly massaging them in small circles. “Why are you putting these things in my head?”

Todoroki frowned. “I assumed you’d already thought about this before, since you’re attracted to him.” He replied. “You’ve never thought about having sex with him?”

That’s it. Izuku was going to die.

Again. 

Right there, in Hell.

For a while, he just sat there, quietly burning up. His mind was somehow both vacant and racing.

Around a minute into his silent turmoil, Todoroki spoke again. “Sorry, I don’t mean to…” He trailed off for a moment, wincing. “I guess it’s just because I’m able to speak freely, now. I never really realized how much energy it took to filter everything I said until I didn’t need to do it anymore.” He traced his finger over the edge of his teacup, frowning. “And I figured that it was alright, given what you said about All Might’s theory, but…” He hesitated. “I should be careful not to go overboard. I don’t want to offend you.” 

“Offend?” Izuku frowned. “No, don’t worry about that! it’s nothing like that, Todoroki. You’re fine, I just…” 

Don’t know how to answer that question.

He gulped.

There was a part of Izuku, somewhere in the back of his mind, that recognized that Katsuki’s teasing had never been neutral. Obviously it wasn’t. How could he not know that? 

But during his time as an Angel, he’d learned to compartmentalize things like that. He’d learned to file things separately from their context, to build walls between the different things he believed, so that he wouldn’t have to deal with the consequences of them overlapping. Although he never thought of it in such clear terms, the fact of the matter was, it was just easier to survive as an Angel if one kept clear barriers in place to stop certain trains of thought before one could arrive at some sort of contradiction, or worse—a dangerous synthesis. 

In one cell of Izuku’s mind, he held the way Katsuki talked to him, the way he looked at him. 

In another, he kept the implications of being spoken to like that, of being looked at like that.

In one cell of his mind, he held his attraction to Katsuki, the way he made him feel.

In another, he kept the desires such feelings would lead to. In yet another, he stored the actions that could be built from those desires. 

It wasn’t something he did consciously; it was an instinct. A reflex he’d developed long ago—one he’d gotten very comfortable not thinking about.

...Maybe it was time he thought about it.

Izuku took a deep breath and opened his mouth, but before he could get a word out, the front door opened, and the thoughts sunk back into the deep recesses of his mind.


It was half-past ten o’clock when they returned. Immediately after they arrived, Katsuki grumbled something about needing a shower and promptly disappeared into the bathroom, leaving Izuku to his own devices.

Having slept all day, he wasn’t tired yet. He dug through his bag until he found his fire tea, and headed for the kitchen, the only background noise being the sound of the shower running.

Kacchan is naked in there, his mind supplied—violently unhelpful. 

He shook himself and focused on finding a tea kettle. A task that continued to elude him even after the shower had turned off. I guess I’ll just have to ask him.

“Kacchan?” He called out. “Do you have a tea kettle anywhere?”

“Under the stove.” Katsuki called back. 

Izuku frowned. “I don’t see it there?”

After a pause, Katsuki yelled, “Alright, uh. Hang on a sec.” 

Izuku heard the bedroom door open, and a minute later, it closed again. Katsuki strolled in a moment later. 

Izuku started to turn toward him. “Hey, sorry, I just can’t—“

The moment he laid eyes on him, the words died in his throat.

Katsuki stood there, his hair damp, a small, red towel slung around his neck. He wore a pair of grey sweatpants.

And nothing else.

His skin was dry, apart from a few stray droplets, and the low light of Katsuki’s kitchen cast shadows along the contours of his muscles. The sweats tapered in at his ankles, hung low on his hips. Izuku’s eyes drifted just a little further down, and for several seconds, his brain simply stopped working.

Katsuki was not wearing underwear; that much was certain. Of course, it made sense—he was in a hurry, but knowing that did nothing to quell the existential agony raging in Izuku’s head.

Todoroki’s comment about showers and growers came to mind. 

…Izuku hoped Katsuki was the former.

He snapped out of his trance at the sound of Katsuki’s voice.

“Oi, Deku.”

Izuku looked up. Katsuki was smirking, his glowing eyes half-lidded. “Lookin’ for something?”

Izuku’s cheeks lit up so quickly, he broke a sweat. He immediately averted his gaze, eyes darting around, looking at anything but Katsuki. “K-Kettle,” He said, his voice two octaves too high. “I-I couldn’t…”

Katsuki advanced toward him, stopping to stand right in front of him. Izuku held his breath, glancing up at his face, taking in the amused glint in his eye.

“The stove, Deku.”

“…What?”

He raised an eyebrow. “You’re standing in front of it.”

“Oh…” he breathed. And then, finally, his brain rebooted itself. “Oh! Right, sorry!” He hastily stepped to the side, allowing Katsuki access. The Demon opened the cabinet doors and dropped to a squat. He reached far into the cabinet, moving pots and pans out of the way, and when he found the kettle, he stood and handed it to him. Izuku muttered an awkward ‘thanks’ and shuffled over to the sink to fill it with water.

He set it down on the stove, and grabbed his tea infuser. But his hands were shaky, and he ended up dropping it, causing it to roll behind the fridge. 

Izuku groaned, gritting his teeth as he fell to his hands and knees, wincing as he strained to grab it. He eventually managed, but it took a moment. And during the whole ordeal, Katsuki hadn’t said a word. With a sigh, he stood up again and spun around, only to find Katsuki leaning back against the sink right behind him, staring at him with dark eyes and wetted lips, and something else Izuku couldn’t quite place.

“Wh-What?”

“Nothing…” Katsuki drawled, in this deep, teasing cadence that seemed to suggest that it was absolutely something. 

Still, Izuku figured it’d be best not to push it, especially after his slip up just a few minutes prior. He moved toward the sink, intending to wash the infuser off, but when he came to a stop in front of Katsuki, he didn’t move. He just stayed there, his arms outstretched on either side, fingers gripping the edges of the counter top, blocking off the sink completely. 

Izuku looked up, meeting his glowing gaze. 

“Yes?” Katsuki smirked.

“You’re, um.” He swallowed. “You’re blocking the sink.”

Katsuki hummed, and after a moment, he shrugged and stepped aside, allowing him to rinse the infuser. He remained there, right next to the sink, for the next few minutes. But the moment Izuku turned his back on him, and started to pack the tea infuser—

“What’s that?” Katsuki’s voice was way closer that he’d expected.

Izuku yelped, physically jolting before he looked over his shoulder with a mild scowl. 

“Don’t do that!” 

“Sorry,” Katsuki said, but he was grinning. Izuku rolled his eyes.

He sighed, turning back to his work. “It’s fire tea.” He mumbled, putting the infuser in the kettle. “It helps stave off corruption damage.” He turned on the stove and set the kettle down.

“Huh.” Katsuki eyed the box. “Can I see?” 

“Uhh,” Izuku blinked. “Sure, I guess.” He handed it to him, and Katsuki started examining it. Izuku turned around and watched as he peered into the box of dried, orange petals and leaves. Then something seemed to dawn on him.

“Deku, is this made from fire lilies?”

“Uhh,” Izuku cocked his head. “I don’t know, actually.”

Katsuki sniffed the box. “It is.”

Izuku raised an eyebrow. “How do you know that?”

“Fire lilies are one of the only Earth plants that can survive out in the Wilds.” He explained, turning the box over in his hand. “They’re called fire lilies because they only bloom after a fire.” He set the tea box down on the counter, beside Izuku. “If you’re ever brave enough to go hiking out there, you might see some of ‘em. They usually bloom around a week after a forest fire.”

“Huh… I didn’t realize there were plants that had fire involved in their life cycles.”

“Mm, it’s actually not that unusual.” He said. “Lotsa plants have adapted to withstand or benefit from fire, but fire lilies actually depend on it. If you want ‘em to bloom, somethin’s gotta burn.” He smiled, eyes flashing. “It’s sorta poetic, I guess. Something new growin’ in the ashes of something old.”

Izuku averted his eyes, fidgeting with the hem of his shirt. “Um… how do you know so much about this, anyway?”

“Eh, past a certain level, some magic just ain’t safe to practice within the city.” He shrugged. “There’s a place out in the Wilds I like to go to work on some of my more destructive moves.

“A while back, I started noticing these little orange flowers popping up, and every time I come back, there’s more. Eventually I decided to just pick a few and bring ‘em to my neighbor; she’s a botanist.” He planted a hand on the counter next to Izuku, idly tapping it with the tips of his claws. “And that’s the story of how I found out pyrophytes existed.”

“…Wow.”

“S’really somethin,’” He agreed.

Izuku nodded.

And then it was quiet.

He wasn’t sure when Katsuki had gotten so close to him, but in the silence, it was getting difficult to ignore.

Especially with the way he was looking at him.

“Um… what is it?”

“Hm?” He blinked. “Oh, nothing. Was thinking about something… unrelated.”

He swallowed. “What’s that?”

“I was just wondering about your barrier.”  He cocked his head. “How hard is it to focus on keeping it up?”

“Oh.” Izuku hummed. “Not extremely hard, but it does take focus. It’s a bit like flexing a muscle, I guess. It gets tiring after a while.”

“Huh.” Katsuki drummed his fingers on the countertop. “Are there any limits to it?”

“What do you mean?”

“Mm, I dunno, really.” He squinted. “Like, are there places where it doesn’t work, or is less effective?”

Izuku was still confused, and it must’ve shown on his face.

“I guess what m’askin’ is, like…” He gestured vaguely. “Like, if I touch your hand, for example, would that be different from touching your cheek, or is it equally effective everywhere?”

“Oh!” He said. “I see what you mean, now. That’s… hmm.” He rubbed his chin. “I don’t think so? I think it’s, ahh… fairly consistent everywhere.” 

After a moment, Izuku added, “I mean, I’m sure there’re ways someone could touch me that would make it harder for me to focus.” Katsuki raised his eyebrows. “For example, if someone were to… I don’t know, tickle me or something, it’d probably be a lot harder to hold it.”

“Ah.” Katsuki nodded. “I imagined that sentence goin’ somewhere very different, but that makes sense, too.”

Izuku blinked. “What’re you—“ Then it hit him. Ah. Right. His cheeks instantly heated up. “K-Kacchan, that’s—!”

“—So it’s all the same, then?” He interjected, smirking. “What about the point of contact on the Demon? Is there any difference between, say…” Katsuki reached out, giving him time to raise his barrier before he grabbed his hand. “This,” He lifted it up, holding it tight. Then, his hand slid down, fingers encircling Izuku’s wrist as he pulled his hand up toward his face. He placed Izuku’s palm against his cheek. “Or this?”

Izuku gulped. “I…” He hesitated. “N-No, I don’t think so.”

Katsuki hummed. Izuku felt the vibrations beneath his hand. They traveled up his arm, resonated throughout his entire body. Katsuki’s tongue flicked out, wetting his lips, and Izuku’s eyes traced the movement.

“Interesting.” He said, releasing his wrist. Katsuki planted both hands on the counter, boxing him in. “So, in theory, there’s really nothing you can’t do, is there?”

Izuku’s eyelids fluttered as he stared up into Katsuki’s glowing red eyes, and the weight of it all came crashing over his senses. 

It was quiet, apart from the gentle sound of their breathing. He was backed up against the countertop, the ledge pressing into his back as Katsuki loomed over him, half-naked, and bathed in soft, warm light that gently highlighted every bump and ridge of his body. Izuku could feel the heat of his presence surrounding him, of his breath as he leaned closer, his sweet, smoky scent filling up his lungs, so potent he could almost taste it. 

Katsuki was the moon, eclipsing his reality. A Pandora’s box filled with fire.

He licked his lips again, red and shining slightly as he leaned in closer, pinning him in place with his gaze. His finger curled beneath his chin. His hands were shifted, and Izuku felt the tip of his claw touch the underside, but he was gentle. Careful pressure with the sharpest knife. 

Katsuki tilted his head upward and leaned in close, deep into his space, hot breaths intermingling. 

It felt like he was floating. Izuku closed his eyes.

And then he felt it. Katsuki’s lips pressed softly against his own, the point of contact sending ripples throughout his body.

The kiss was gentle, at first. The soft sound of Katsuki’s lips moving slowly against his own filled his body up with warmth. Despite his inexperience, Katsuki’s easy pace allowed him to keep up, following his movements as the Demon took control.

Katsuki pulled back after a moment, and Izuku opened his eyes as he leaned in, resting his forehead against Izuku’s own. The hand that had been holding his chin returned to the countertop, caging him in again, as if to say, this isn’t over.

“Breathe.” He rasped, the sound resonating deep in his throat, sending shivers down Izuku’s spine. He didn’t register it as a word, at first. It was just a sensation.

“…Wh-What?”

Katsuki laughed, low and breathy. He looked at Izuku with heavy-lidded eyes, catlike pupils blown so wide, they were almost circular. “You gotta breathe, baby.”

Izuku took a deep, shuddering breath, and then Katsuki was on him again, kissing him slowly, sensually. He whimpered softly, knees going weak, and Izuku blindly reached backwards, searching for something to hold onto. He felt Katsuki smile into the kiss as he grabbed his wrists, pulling them up toward his shoulders. Izuku got the message, and wrapped his arms around his neck. Katsuki’s hands slid down his sides, coming to rest on his lower back, just beneath his shirt.

Just as Izuku was beginning to settle into it, Katsuki deepened the kiss. He felt his tongue swipe across his lip, coaxing him to open up for him. And as the Demon’s tongue slid into his mouth, the temperature seemed to skyrocket, every point of contact searing into him like a brand. Katsuki’s tongue was hot against his own, deep and indulgent.

And then Katsuki’s knee slid between his thighs, and Izuku released a small, startled cry that had Katsuki digging his claws into his lower back. He bit his lower lip, pulling it lightly between his teeth. 

It was getting very difficult for him to focus.

Izuku broke away, disengaging his hands and panting as he met Katsuki’s gaze.

“Sorry,” Izuku said, breathless. “It was just getting a bit…”

“Hmm?” He cocked his head.

“…Hard to focus.”

Katsuki smirked, licking his lips. “Yeah?”

“Y-Yeah.”

Katsuki hummed, a low rumble in his chest, like a cat’s purr. He leaned in a bit closer, stopping just short of touching him. His lips ghosted over Izuku’s before he bypassed them completely, hot breath wafting against his ear.

“Lookin’ forward to the day you don’t need to focus anymore.” He whispered.

Izuku’s breath caught in his throat.

And then Katsuki took a step back, hands sliding into the pockets of his sweats. Izuku forced himself to keep his eyes above the belt as Katsuki backed away, a rhythmic energy in his step, and a sharp grin on his face. He stopped beneath the archway.

“Good night, De-ku.” He said, lips red and slightly swollen. Then he turned on his heel, and disappeared from view. He heard the sound of his bedroom door closing shortly after. 

For a while, Izuku just stood there, his brain struggling to process the feelings inside of him. In lieu of Katsuki’s touch, Izuku ran his thumb across his lower lip, and let his back slip down the cabinet behind him. He sat down on the cool, tile floor. He was tempted to lay down and press his cheek against it.

It was a difficult thing to come to grips with—so unfamiliar, yet oddly natural at the same time. He found himself wanting Katsuki’s touch. In some weird, abstract sense, he wanted to feel the heat of his presence enveloping him, taking up residence inside of him. The feeling burned in the pit of his stomach, and Izuku realized that even his own touch felt different, somehow. He sat there in a daze, his palms smoothing up and down his thighs, unconsciously creeping inward, heat spreading over his skin like a forest fire.

Izuku wondered what would happen if he let those flames take him. 

He wondered if anything would grow from his ashes.

Then the kettle screeched, jarring Izuku out of his trance. He scrambled off the floor, nearly tripping over his own feet as he went to turn off the stove.

Chapter Text

As Izuku laid in bed that night, all wrapped up in cozy sheets and staring at the ceiling, he found himself struggling with the same problem he did the night before. Namely, he couldn’t sleep—though this time it wasn’t due to racing thoughts so much as it was the fact that he’d only woken up around five hours earlier.

Although he knew Katsuki meant well, he couldn’t help but feel a bit aggravated with him. After all, if he hadn’t been so insistent, Izuku wouldn’t have this problem now. 

With a sigh, he leaned over and switched the bedside lamp on. For a few minutes, he just sat there propped up against the back of the couch, twiddling his thumbs and gazing at nothing. Eventually, he stood and wandered over to the window, gently pushing the curtains open.

Outside, the city was alive and vibrant, downtown lights twinking like glitter. Izuku raked his hands through his hair and turned away, eyes roaming aimlessly around the quiet apartment. He paced around a bit, and then wandered over to Katsuki’s door. He pressed his ear against it, but could hear no sound coming from within. Shaking his head, he padded over to the large bookshelf in the corner on the living room and began to scan the shelves. 

It hit him, as he was standing there, that for the first time in his memory, he could read anything he wanted. 

Every book before him was his to experience, if he so desired. It was so bizarre, Izuku almost didn’t know how to process it. He kept having to remind himself of that fact every time he reflexively skipped over a title that felt like it’d be off-limits. It was strange how that worked—even with total freedom, his mind still operated as though he were in chains.

The top shelf was mostly cookbooks, it seemed, along with some faded copies of books with Russian-sounding authors. Curious, he picked one up, opened it to a random page and began to read.

In the United States, in the Democracy that authoritarians hold up to us as an ideal, the most scandalous fraudulency has crept into everything that concerns railroads. Thus, if a company ruins its competitors by cheap fares, it is often enabled to do so because it is reimbursed by land given to it by the State for a gratuity. Documents recently published concerning the American wheat trade…

Izuku closed the book, and put it back on the shelf.

Taking a deep breath, he moved on to the lower shelves, where most of the books appeared to be fiction. He wasn’t really sure where to begin with those, and so he decided to just close his eyes and grab the first one he touched.

That ended up being a novel titled Hiro Worship. It wasn’t particularly long, and so Izuku shrugged to himself, climbed back in to bed, and began to read.

He was surprised to discover that it was a romance novel. It became apparent rather quickly, just based on the way the two male leads were introduced and how they interacted. Still, it was surprising—Izuku hadn’t pegged Katsuki as the sort of person who’d want to read something like this. But then, there was probably a lot he didn’t know about him.

The book told the story of a young police officer, Shun Yamazaki, and the elusive thief, Hiro Nakamura, who he’d spent the past few years trying to catch. The two crossed paths at the scene of many of Hiro’s heists, each time growing a little bit more familiar with one another.

After some amount of time, Hiro began regularly breaking into Shun’s apartment. At first, he would simply sneak in to leave the officer notes or gifts, but eventually, the two began to spend deliberate time together. There was a bit of a ritualistic aspect to it; every time Hiro broke in, Shun would up his security measures, but when the time came, Hiro always found a way.

The tension between them was palpable.

Izuku found himself growing invested in the story rather quickly. The mystery surrounding Hiro, the constant will-they-won’t-they. He was shocked by how quickly he’d managed to burn through the bulk of it. 

It was during the final stretch of the novel that the perpetual game of cat and mouse finally came to an end, and in an immensely satisfying scene, the characters shared a passionate kiss. 

Somehow, Izuku thought that would be the end of it. 

And then he turned the page.

Hiro grabbed the front of Shun’s shirt, fingers wrinkling the fabric as he urged him down onto his knees. Shun stared up at him hungrily, his cheek resting against his thigh. 

Hiro reached into his pants and pulled himself out, smacking his dick against his lips. Shun closed his eyes, licking up the side before stretching his lips around the fat head and sucking. Hiro groaned, fingers knotted in his hair as he spread his legs wider, beginning to thrust into his mouth.

“Fuck.” He hissed. “Bet you’d look real good handcuffed to my bed, officer.” He emphasized the word with a particularly deep thrust that had Shun moaning around his cock. Hiro grinned. “You like that, huh? Bet you’d scream and cry real pretty while I fucked you right in your tight little—“

Izuku slammed the book shut and threw it across the room. Luckily, it landed on a soft chair, making virtually no noise. He sat there paralyzed for what must have been several minutes, at least, his eyes bulging out of his skull, his face burning hot as he struggled to process what he’d just subjected himself to.

When he finally regained the ability to move, the first thing he did was stand up and grab the book again, sliding it back onto the shelf, though not before spending a few minutes obsessing over making sure he’d put it back exactly where he’d found it.  He eventually crawled back into bed, switching off the lamp and wrapping himself up in blankets, as though they could protect him from the flow of his own thoughts. 

As he laid there, staring at the ceiling again, he briefly contemplated picking up the political theory book again—just as a pallet cleanser—but he couldn’t gather the willpower to emerge from the cocoon he’d built around himself.

And so it was just him, the blankets, the soft glow of the city outside, and his own mind.

Izuku squirmed, pulling the covers over his head. He wasn’t sure why he felt guilty. He had no real way of knowing what sort of book he was getting into. Even the most wholesome of saints could’ve made the same mistake.

He just wasn’t sure how to process the effect it had on him.

The issue was, it wasn’t… unappealing, exactly. Sure, there was a part of him—the rational part—that recoiled at the thought of being spoken to like that. But on a deeper level…

Well. Izuku wasn’t really sure how to sort through those feelings, and frankly, he wasn’t sure he even wanted to. Wasn’t sure if that would make things better or worse for him.

Izuku whimpered, curling up into a ball around his pillow. He closed his eyes and forced himself to remain still, ignoring any and all itches or urges to move.

Around half an hour later, he finally managed to fall asleep.


Izuku stood in the aisle between the pews, bathed in the warm light of sunset. Katsuki stood before him, his body backlit, his glowing eyes burning into Izuku’s own. As he held eye contact, Izuku felt the familiar sensation of something clicking into place, and the subsequent weight in his mind that left Izuku hazy and pliant before him.

On some level, Izuku was aware that he had lived through this moment before.

Katsuki smirked, slow and dangerous. 

“Get on your knees.”

Immediately, Izuku dropped down, knees pressing against the dusty red carpet as he gazed straight ahead vacantly.

A moment passed by in silence as he waited for it to end. Waited for that weight to dissipate just as it had that day.

The Demon’s hips came into focus. 

And then Katsuki reached for his belt. 

Izuku watched as he unbuckled it, heard the sound of leather sliding over leather. It all seemed to happen in slow motion, as though the extra weight in his mind had somehow encumbered his perception of time. The fabric rustled as he popped open the button fly and lowered his zipper. 

Katsuki reached into his pants, and with a rough voice, he said: “Open your mouth, Deku.”

Izuku did as he was told, his eyes slipping shut. 

When he opened them next, however, he was no longer on his knees. In fact, he was in a completely different church. 

He stood, backed up against a stained glass window. His mouth was still open, but where he’d expected to feel the press of hot, hard flesh, he instead felt the smooth skin of an apple against his lips. Katsuki stared down at him with heavy-lidded eyes, waiting. Izuku sunk his teeth into the fruit, tasting the sweet juice on his tongue. He felt Katsuki’s fingers ghost over his nape gently just before he wrapped his hand around his neck.

Izuku shuddered, shivers running down his spine as he pressed into his touch.

And then Katsuki shoved his knee between his legs, and Izuku cried out, eyes tearing up as Katsuki rubbed between his thighs, pressed so hard his heels lifted off the ground. 

Apple juice leaked from the corners of his mouth. Katsuki reached up to wipe it away. Except his hands weren’t bare anymore.

Izuku wasn’t standing up anymore, either.

As his eyes focused, he found himself lying on the training room floor, Katsuki on top of him, their bodies pressed together as the Demon looked down at him with heated eyes. He watched his gloved hand descend toward his mouth, tips of the claw caps ghosting over his lips.

But instead of covering his mouth, Katsuki pressed his fingers against it. Izuku released a startled noise as Katsuki’s middle and index fingers dipped past his lips, running along the inside edge of the opening. 

Then, he made eye contact with Izuku and slowly sunk his fingers inside. 

Steady, steady—past his teeth, over tongue, and just barely into his throat. 

Izuku’s eyes began to water as his lips wrapped around Katsuki’s knuckles. And then he started to move, thrusting them in and out in smooth strokes of his tongue, his teeth, the roof of his mouth, the insides of his cheeks—like he was trying to map out the features of Izuku’s mouth, trying to commit them to memory. 

Izuku felt something hot and tight coiling up inside of him. It was so bizarre, and yet his response came to him so naturally, it was sort of alarming in itself. Izuku squeezed his eyes shut, hollowed out his cheeks, and sucked.

But before he knew it, he was standing up again, and Katsuki’s fingers had been replaced by his tongue. Izuku was in the Demon’s kitchen, pressed up against the countertop as Katsuki kissed him breathless. 

Izuku dug his nails into the back of his neck as he gasped and whimpered. Katsuki’s leg slotted between his thighs, and as the Demon bit his lip, he felt those hands slip lower, grabbing his ass and squeezing, pulling him harder into Katsuki’s thigh.

Izuku moaned against his lips as he felt heat rushing south. Katsuki broke away from his mouth, kissed his jaw, down the column of his neck before sinking his teeth into his nape, just enough to hurt. His body burned. He felt the sting of Katsuki’s teeth, of Katsuki’s claws digging into the flesh of his ass. He felt the press of something big and hard against his stomach and nearly choked on his own spit when he realized it was Katsuki’s cock.

“Shit.” He groaned, low and reverberating through ever inch of his body. “Just can’t help myself with you, baby.” Izuku shuddered, squirming against his thigh, overwhelmed with sensation. “Wanna wreck you. But don’t worry… I’ll put you back together when I’m done.”

Izuku cried out, something snapping inside him.

“Deku…”

His knees went weak, thighs clamping down around Katsuki’s leg.

“Deku.”

He felt like he was floating. Like he was in heaven— real heaven. It couldn’t get better than—

“Oi, Deku!”


Izuku awoke with a start, his body tangled in the blankets. He was covered in sweat, and Katsuki was standing over him, holding a coffee mug in one hand.

It was a jarring change of pace, to say the least. 

For several seconds, Izuku was frozen. He just lay there, staring up at Katsuki with wide eyes. He looked down at him, one elegant eyebrow arched as he sipped his coffee. 

“The fuck’s up with you?”

At that, it all came rushing back. He felt the heat accumulating in his cheeks and instinctively pulled the sheets over his head.

“Deku?” Katsuki said, sounding mildly annoyed. 

“B-Bright.” He squeaked, then cleared his throat. “It, um… hurts my eyes.”

Katsuki grumbled something inaudible, but seemed to accept the excuse. “Whatever.” He sighed. “It’s like, half past seven. You don’t gotta get up immediately, but if you wanna shower before we head out—and judging by how sweaty you are, I sure hope you fuckin’ do—then you’d better get on it.”

“R-Right.” Izuku gulped. “I’ll, um. I’ll do that.”

He grunted in acknowledgement, then added, “There’s coffee in the kitchen, if you want any.”

Izuku managed to squeeze out a ‘thank you.’ Then listened as Katsuki turned and retreated to his bedroom, presumably to get dressed.

Izuku moved to get out of bed, and then froze again. His eyes went wide, and he clutched the sheets tight in his fists.

His underwear felt… wet. 

And sticky. 

He could hear blood rushing in his ears. After the initial moment of shock, he sprung out of bed with renewed urgency and bolted toward the bathroom, forcefully shutting and locking the door behind him. He stood for a moment with his back pressed to it, panting, and then he heard a muffled voice yell from down the hall. “Oi, don’t slam the fuckin’ door!” 

Izuku tensed. “Sorry!” He called back, his voice cracking. Izuku bit his lip, tasting blood, and forced himself to move again. 

He took off everything else first. Obsidian rings. Shirt. Pants. Everything until he was standing there in front of Katsuki’s bathroom mirror in nothing but his soiled underwear. He slid his thumbs beneath the waistband and forced himself to look. As if he didn’t already know. 

Yep. Izuku thought, with the sort of comedic absurdity that can only arise when your life is falling apart.

That sure is semen.

Izuku gulped, his throat tight, wincing as he carefully peeled his underwear off and turned on the sink, doing his best to rinse the stain out. He quietly weighed the pros and cons of just dropping it into the toilet and letting the hellfire destroy it, but fortunately, the stain was fresh enough for it to come out fairly easily. 

Which means that it happened recently, he thought to himself, heart rate picking up. He turned off the water and glanced in the general direction of Katsuki’s room, as though he could see through the walls.

How long has Kacchan been up? What if he… Izuku shook his head. No. No, if he knew, he would’ve said something. He wouldn’t be able to help himself. 

Suddenly, a foggy memory of dream-Katsuki violently forced its way into his consciousness. 

“Just can’t help myself with you, baby.”  

Izuku barely resisted the urge to slam his head against the bathroom mirror. 

Instead, he redirected that impulse into his hands as he attempted to ring as much water out of the wet underwear as possible. With any luck, they’d be dry by the time Katsuki used the bathroom again. The less irregularities there were, the less questions Katsuki could ask.

He buried his underwear at the center of a ball consisting of his other clothes, and shoved it into the hamper. 

Izuku turned on the shower and stepped under the warm spray, and with several more pumps of body wash than necessary, he destroyed the evidence. As the water swirled down the drain, he felt some of the tension release from his body. He took a deep breath and sighed, closing his eyes. 

Izuku wasn’t an idiot. He knew what happened. 

He understood his anatomy, to the extent that he needed to be aware of it. Izuku woke up with erections on occasion. It was annoying and uncomfortable, but they always went down within a minute or two. And sure, on some level, he understood that this was a sexual phenomenon. But he never really thought about it that way. The morning erections weren’t pleasant—if anything, they were a bit painful. 

Even the current situation wasn’t wholly unfamiliar to him. In fact, he’d woken up in a similar state a couple of times over the years. It was rare, and it was awkward, but it happened. He understood these sorts of things on a clinical level. It was easy not to think about them as they were when he experienced them outside of any sort of surrounding context. The key difference was that, those times, he never remembered the dreams he had leading up to the… event. 

This time, the dream seemed determined to burn itself into his memory.

Izuku felt a tremor run down his spine. He could almost feel the phantom sensation of Katsuki’s lips on his neck, and his cheeks heated up.

How am I supposed to look him in the eye after this?

Izuku sighed, turning off the water and stepping out onto the shower mat. He grabbed his towel and began drying himself off. It was at that moment that he realized he’d made a fatal error, and froze.

Clothes.

I forgot to bring a change of clothes!

Izuku’s heart sped up again as he hastily wrapped the towel around his waist and silently argued with himself over what to do.

Should I ask Kacchan for help? To bring me a change of clothes? Izuku clenched his fists. That’d be so awkward! 

After a moment of quiet panicking, he softly opened the door, nervously looking back and forth. From the bathroom, he could see straight into the living room, and Katsuki’s bedroom was to his left. The closet where he kept his bag was in sight.

Maybe if I’m quick…

Izuku ran through the living room, clutching the towel around his waist. He grabbed the door knob, turning it sharply, and then shut himself inside. 

He sighed. It was dark, and there was no light, so he had to search his bag more or less blindly.

He managed to get his underwear on just fine. It was only his pants that gave him trouble. He ended up tripping and falling against the wall with a heavy thud.

“Deku?”

Oh no.

Izuku squirmed, trying to get his pants on correctly, but it was no use. Katsuki was already turning the doorknob. Izuku scrambled, grabbing a handful of clothes from his bag and haphazardly throwing them over his hips and legs. 

As light spilled into the closet, Izuku was left motionless on the floor, curled awkwardly on his side, half-hidden beneath a pile of assorted garments. He looked up at Katsuki, and found the Demon staring down at him, with the sort of blank expression that could only arise when one was presented with information they did not know how to classify. 

After a moment, he raised his coffee cup to his lips and took a long sip.

“What the fuck are you doing?” He asked, conversationally. 

For several seconds, Izuku just stared back at him, not really sure how to answer. Because really, what was he doing?

What was anyone doing?

“I…” He eventually said, squinting. “Uhhh, well… I… forgot to bring clothes… um. To the bathroom, so I was just…” Izuku trailed off. He wasn’t really sure how to explain the link between that and the present situation, so he just… didn’t. Instead, he squirmed on the floor, and tried to surreptitiously reach under the pile of clothes and tug at his pants. 

“What’s goin’ on under there.” Katsuki asked, with almost no intonation. Izuku paused, then went limp, staring blankly at Katsuki’s shoes.

“…The consequences of my actions.”

Katsuki laughed, and the sound broke the weird spell he’d been under. Izuku sighed.

“I, uh, went in here to get dressed, and… Well. I was putting on my pants, but for some reason I can’t get them to go up all the way. I still can’t. I don’t know why.”

Katsuki took a loud slurp of his coffee. “It’s ‘cuz they’re half inside out.”

Izuku blinked, turning to look up at him again. “What?”

Katsuki gestured down with his coffee mug, at the place where Izuku’s lower legs emerged from beneath the pile of clothing. “Your left pant leg’s inside out. The right one isn’t.”

“…Oh.” 

“Dunno why you’d pack your clothes like that, but—“

“—I was in a rush!” 

“All that tells me is you have a habit of takin’ your pants off like that and then just fuckin’ leaving ‘em that way.” He said. “Maybe try folding your shit next time.”

Izuku pursed his lips, glaring up at him. For a few seconds, Katsuki just stared back down at him.

“Anyway, you should come outta the closet.” He deadpanned, taking another sip of his coffee.

He blinked a few more times. “Wait, what?” 

“Come outta the closet, Deku.” He repeated. “I promise, this problem will cease to exist if you simply exit this fuckin’ closet.”

“Kacchan, I’m not wearing pants!”

“I don’t mind.”

“That’s not the issue, here!”

“Would it make you feel better if I took off my pants, too?”

Izuku flushed. “Why would that make me feel better?!”

“I dunno.” He shrugged. “I want you to come out, Deku. I’m just tryna create some incentive, here: come outta the closet, and I will take my pants off.”

Izuku narrowed his eyes. “That sounds more like a threat than an incentive.”

He smirked against the lip of his coffee mug. “Oh, I won’t do anything you won’t enjoy…”

Izuku squirmed in place, cheeks burning hotter. “C-Close the door, Kacchan!” 

Katsuki snickered, disappearing as the door clicked shut in front of him, casting Izuku into darkness once more.


When Izuku finally managed to make himself decent enough to open the door, he found Katsuki slouching in a chair in the living room, holding some sort of touch pad in his hands. Izuku quietly ducked into the kitchen to get himself a cup of coffee. He was more of a tea person than a coffee person, but given how little sleep he’d gotten the night before, he figured he could use the caffeine.

He poured himself a cup and looked around, searching for the sugar. There was a small container set out beside the coffee maker, filled with assorted substances. The proximity of it suggested that these were meant to be added to coffee, but none of them looked like sugar. Izuku headed out into the living room again, where Katsuki was still sitting in the same place. He looked up as he walked in.

“Uh, where’s the sugar?” 

Katsuki hesitated, like he had to think about it for a moment. “Second shelf in the pantry.” He then said.

Izuku muttered a thanks and went back to the kitchen. He returned a minute later, with a mug of steaming coffee in hand, and went to sit beside Katsuki. He peered over at the screen, but saw only a wall of text. Katsuki tapped something on the touchpad, and the screen lit up green, and then proceeded to another screen not unlike the one before it. 

“Um. What are you doing…?” 

“Voting.”

“Oh?” He perked up, leaning closer. “On what?”

He just shrugged. “Nothing special.”

Izuku frowned, sipping his coffee. “Voting on anything at all seems pretty special to me.”

Katsuki sighed, another screen lighting up green. “Here.” He handed the pad to Izuku. “Hit the arrows to flip through it.” 

Izuku accepted it, and began to do just that. He scanned the first proposal.

Oseryth Dist. 7, Proposal E 508 — Theater on Sadith and Mocna. 

The workers of the Korraiyasant Construction Collective request consent to build a community theater on the corner of Sadith and Mocna. This space, formerly utilized by the Saurex Redicent, is deprecated and in need of…

Izuku’s eyes glazed over after that. He scrolled down, noting the Katsuki had voted yes on that one, and flipped to the next. 

Special Proposal Sigma 3369: Trial Run of Emerging Weather Neutralization technology

New research at the Northern Weather and Safety Center has led to the development of promising rain neutralization technology. Analysis of existing weather control systems have led to the conclusion that the safest cities to test this technology in each region are:

Central Region: Erykos

Southern Region: Kolarthm

Northern Region: Svaakyr

Western Region: Aerolijk

Eastern Region: Oseryth

NWSC researchers request the consent of the population of these cities to deploy experimental technology in these locations. Please consult the following documents for in-depth information regarding potential risks.

He scrolled down. Katsuki voted yes on that, too.

After that, Izuku stopped really reading the proposals. He just glanced at the titles and Katsuki’s responses.

Grand Proposal X 1092 — Harvesting Crystals from Sjerre Park

Vote: No.

Oseryth Collective Proposal G 288 — Expansion of Underground Bunkers

Vote: Yes.

Subregional Proposal K 221 — Expansion of Central Pyrofutia Farmland

Vote: No.

“Do you just… vote on everything?” 

“Not everything. Only the shit that could impact me personally.” Katsuki said, taking the touchpad when Izuku handed it back to him. “Routine shit, or things that have no real chance of affecting larger communities, are handled internally within firms.”

“Huh…” Izuku said. “Who supervises that?”

“What d’you mean?”

“Just… I mean, how do you make sure things actually get done?”

Katsuki blinked, staring at him blankly. Izuku shifted uncomfortably.

“Are you asking me how you make sure that a construction firm…” He narrowed his eyes. “Constructs shit?”

“I mean… if everyone’s provided for, anyway.”

Katsuki sighed. “Deku, if no one did anything, providing for people wouldn’t be possible.” 

“Okay, but if one person did nothing, they could still be provided for.”

“Here’s the thing, Deku. Contrary to what you might think, most people actually enjoy being, like, productive and shit. They just don’t like working for the sake of it. They want to feel like they’re contributing to society somehow.”

“But what about the people who don’t care about that? How do you make them contribute?”

“We don’t.”

“You… what?”

Katsuki shrugged. “First of all, it’s not a big enough problem to be a widespread drain on resources. We can provide for a few non-contributors, it’s really not a big deal. Second of all, if you can’t trust people to do their part, why should we trust them to supervise others?”

“I’m… not sure what you’re saying.”

“Lemme put it like this.” Katsuki said. “There are two options here as far as people’s nature goes. Either people are good, or people are imperfect.” He turned off the touch pad, setting it aside. “If people are good, then no one has to tell them to be good.” He stood up, stretching his arms over his head. “If people are imperfect, then we obviously can’t trust them to rule over other people.”

Izuku stared at him for a moment. “That seems… overly simplistic, somehow.”

He raised an eyebrow. “You got a counterargument?”

Izuku blinked. “I’ll…” He squinted. “Get back to you on that?”

Katsuki snorted, pulling his gloves out of his pockets. Izuku sat there and watched as he slid them on. “You ready?”

He donned the artifice, and they were on their way.


The train ride took about fifteen minutes. Izuku was still nervous being out and about around other Demons, but Katsuki remained a comforting, if slightly sadistic, presence. He stuck close to him on the train, and on the walk afterward. He stuck close when they reached the massive entrance to the place Katsuki had referred to as, ‘The Academy.’

Once they were inside, Katsuki took off his jacket and grabbed his arm, causing the mark to glow.

“Hey, we’re here.” A pause. “Mmkay. See ya soon, then.” He turned toward Izuku. “He’s says he’ll meet us in a minute.

But Izuku didn’t really hear him. He was too busy staring at what stood at the center of the room. 

There, hovering above a small table, was an odd, silvery sphere. As he got closer, he noticed that the table had what appeared to be two large hand prints embedded into it. He waved his hand under the sphere, confirming that it was, in fact, floating.

“Kacchan, what is this?”

“Oh, that?” Katsuki stepped up next to him. “S’called a touch stone.” He said. “Most magic lessons are taught in this building, so they gotta ton of these around here.”

Izuku cocked his head. “What does it do?”

Katsuki bumped shoulders with him, prompting him to step out of the way. He pulled his gloves off, shoving them into his pockets before planting his hands right in the impressions in the table. 

Instantly, the sphere, which had been around the size of a small watermelon, shrunk down to the  size of a tiny pebble, hellfire emanating from the surface, brighter than the sun. Katsuki turned and looked at him. 

“It allows us to see the state of our souls.” He explained. “It’s real handy, ‘specially for beginners.”

“That’s… incredible,” Izuku breathed, hands covering his mouth. “Your soul is doing that right now?”

“Sure is.” He replied, grinning. Izuku couldn’t even find the will to scoff at his obvious arrogance. It was too amazing for him to do much more than stare at it in awe.

“It does somethin’ different for each type, of course.”

Suddenly, the fire went out, and it returned to its original size for a second before it changed again. This time, it transformed into a gas. It wasn’t quite as dramatic, but the way the vapor rotated and coiled was a spectacle in its own rite. 

“This is Envy.”

The touch stone returned to its solid state again, and then abruptly melted down into a liquid, swirling around in the air. 

“And this is Lust.”

Izuku circled around the display, trying to look at it from all angles. “That’s so cool.” He couldn’t help but enthuse. “Are they all like that? State changes?”

“Not all of ‘em.” He said. “Some of ‘em just change certain properties. Gluttony’s the weirdest, in my opinion.”

“What’s Gluttony?” Izuku asked. “Can you do that one, too?”

“A bit,” Katsuki shrugged. “It’s been a while, though.” His brows pinched together as he leaned against the table, pressing his hands harder into the imprints. After a second, the once-perfect sphere began to deform, taking on an almost clay-like appearance.

“What is it doing, now?”

Katsuki quirked an eyebrow, side-eying him. “Why don’t you try touchin’ it and see for yourself?”

“…Is that safe?”

“Wouldn’t suggest it if it wasn’t.”

Tentatively, Izuku reached out, and at first, lightly touched the wobbly mass. It was soft, and oddly… sticky? Izuku pinched one piece of it and pulled, amazed at the way it stretched. “It’s like gum.” He commented, going to grab a bigger piece, only for his fingers to hit a solid mass. 

“Can’t do it with the whole thing,” Katsuki told him, as though he had read his mind. “Never studied Gluttony beyond the basics.” He took his hands out of the imprints, and the stone returned to its normal, solid state. “If you wanna get the full picture, you’ll need to talk to an actual Gluttony Demon.”

“Still,” Izuku said, smiling brightly. “That’s amazing, Kacchan! What about the others?” He asked, practically bouncing up and down. “Can you do them all?”

“To an extent, yeah.” He shrugged. “Most Demons learn the basics of all of ‘em before we pick one to specialize in.”

“Then there’s three more, right?” Izuku asked. “Can I see them?”

Katsuki smirked. “What do you wanna see first?”

Izuku hummed, thinking about it. “Pride?”

Katsuki planted his hands into the impressions again, and the soul stone blew up to about four times its normal size. He raised an eyebrow. “Next?”

“Sloth!” 

The stone shrunk back down to its original size, and Katsuki closed his eyes, concentrating. Izuku watched, transfixed, as ice crystals started to form on the surface. “Can I touch it?”

“Go for it.”

Izuku smiled, lightly brushing his fingers across the frozen surface. “Amazing…” Katsuki opened his eyes, and he felt the stone slowly return to room temperature. “That just leaves Greed, right?”

Katsuki grunted, brows pinching together. To Izuku’s confusion, however, the stone didn’t seem to change. “Is… something happening?”

Katsuki hummed, looking around the room. “See that little box in the corner, there?” He nodded toward it. “Grab it and open it up.”

Izuku all but ran over to it, picking it up and pulling off the wooden lid. All he managed to see was a flash of something metallic and a blur of movement before the box was empty, all the magnets sticking to the surface of the soul stone. 

“You might wanna get behind me for this part.”

Izuku hurried over, standing behind Katsuki, but leaning to the side to watch. Just as quickly, the magnets were repelled, shooting out in an arc and colliding with the walls, only to reverse a moment later and return to the stone. He released them a second later, cupping his hands under the stone to catch the magnets, and depositing them into the box in Izuku’s hands. “As you’ve probably guessed, Greed manipulates charge.”

“Wow,” Izuku breathed. “That was incredible, Kacchan!”

“And I’m not even a damn specialist in most of those.” He said. “There’s Greed Demons who can fire magnets like bullets, even generate electricity. Envy Demons who can surround ‘emselves with soul vapor and bend light around their bodies. Lust Demons who can send droplets into open wounds to enter someone’s bloodstream, and use that to control their movements manually…” He shrugged. “People come up with new techniques all the time. ‘Course, mine’s still the best one.”

Izuku nodded. “Wrath definitely looks the coolest!”

Katsuki smirked. “Y’think so, nerd?”

“Yeah!” Izuku barely resisted the urge to jump up and down. “It’s so… flashy, and intimidating. Like turning your soul into a star. I bet there’s a lot of cool things you can do with that. You’ll have to show me sometime!” 

Katsuki leaned in, looking down at him with heavy-lidded eyes. “Oh, I could show you some moves.”

Izuku blushed at the proximity, nodding awkwardly.

“Oh, Bakugou. Are you flirting, or just showing off?” Izuku jumped at the sound of another man’s voice, spinning around. 

There stood a man with long, dark hair, wearing a grey scarf around his neck. He reminded him of Shinsou, a bit, in the sense that he, too, looked as though he hadn’t slept in years.

“I’ll have you know I’m flirting and showing off.”

The man snorted, taking a few steps toward them. 

“Deku, this is Aizawa. He’s the current Oseryth nexus.”

“Ah!” Izuku tensed a bit, extending his hand toward him. “Um, n-nice to meet you!” 

The man shook his hand, looking him in the eyes. “Don’t be so nervous.” He said, before turning on his heel and beckoning for them to follow. “C’mon. We’ll take this upstairs.”


Aizawa led them to an office at the end of a third-story corridor. Two chairs were already set out for them in front of the desk, and after Aizawa sat down, he swiveled around in his chair, grabbing a pot of coffee set out behind him.  He poured himself a cup, and then turned around again, looking at Izuku and raising an eyebrow. “You can take the artifice off now. There’s no one else around.”

“Ah, right.” Izuku muttered, reaching around the back of his neck to unhook it. He tucked it away into his pocket, glancing at Katsuki. “Don’t let me forget to put it back on again.”

“Yeah, yeah. I won’t.” Katsuki turned his attention to Aizawa. “So, you’ve read the whole thing?”

The man set down his coffee mug. 

“Cover to cover.” He said, before opening his desk drawer and pulling the journal out. He set it down and slid it across the desk toward Izuku. “I’ve already made a record of it all. However…” He looked up at Izuku. “I need to verify that this is a trustworthy source before we move any further.”

Izuku perked up. “Oh.” He said. “Well… to the best of my knowledge, it’s accurate.” He shrugged. “My mentor is a third-sphere Angel. I don’t see any reason for him to lie…” He faltered, wincing slightly. “At this point, anyway… He’s a good man.”

“Sure.” Aizawa took another sip of his coffee. “But how do we know you’re trustworthy?”

“Aizawa.” Katsuki said. 

“It’s a perfectly rational question to ask, Bakugou.”

“Well, the answer is because I know he is.” Katsuki shot back, clearly irritated. “I can vouch for him.”

“And you’re absolutely sure about that?”

“Fucking obviously, idiot. You think I’d just bring someone all the way down here without fuckin’ vetting them first? You—“

“Kacchan…” Izuku put a hand on his arm, putting on his best reassuring smile. Katsuki side-eyed him as he continued softly, “It’s okay. Really.”

Katsuki looked back and forth between Aizawa and Izuku for a moment, and then sighed, slouching down in his chair. 

“‘Kacchan,’ huh?” He smirked. “Well, I guess that’s all I really need to hear.”

Izuku blushed.

“Anyway,”Aizawa went on. “What I’ve read corroborates much of what we already know, so I feel fairly confident in saying that the information presented here is accurate.”

Katsuki glared. “Then why’d you act so damn suspicious at first?”

Aizawa gave Katsuki a look that seemed to deepen the bags beneath his eyes.

“Bakugou, I know that as a principal Wrath Demon you’re not exactly accustomed to these sorts of procedures, but it really is nothing personal.” He said, tone a bit softer. “It would be irresponsible to simply take an Angel’s trustworthiness for granted, even if the information appears to be legitimate.”

Katsuki stared at him for a moment, then tore his eyes away with a long exhale. “Whatever,” He grumbled.

After a brief pause, Aizawa added, “Frankly, I ought to be interrogating him much, much more. The only reason I’m not is because I know you. The fact that an Angel has managed to gain the confidence of you, of all people, is a testament to his trustworthiness in itself.”

His gaze snapped back onto him. “Oh yeah?” Katsuki narrowed his eyes. “Does that mean you’ll stop fucking with his emotions now?”

Izuku froze for a moment, and then slowly turned to look at the other Demon, who simply sat there with a deceptively bored expression, fingers drumming along the surface of the desk.

Aizawa hummed, closing his eyes and sitting back in his chair. Izuku felt something release, like a soft phantom of a sensation in his mind. He would’ve probably never even noticed it if he hadn’t been paying attention.

Izuku gulped, suddenly growing nervous again. It was nothing like the feeling he’d gotten when Katsuki had hypnotized him.

“Y-You…” Izuku gulped. “You’re a Lust Demon.” 

He shrugged. “Sorry. You seemed nervous, is all.”

“And now he’s even more nervous than he otherwise would’ve been.” Katsuki said, monotone.

“Wh-What did you do, exactly…?”

“Nothing much. I just eased your anxiety a bit.” He replied. “If it makes you feel any better, I’m doing the same with Bakugou.”

“The difference is that I’m a Demon, so I see you doing it. Deku doesn’t.”

“It’s easy to forget when you mostly interact with other Demons.” He shrugged. 

“But you’re not doing it anymore, right…?”

“I’m not.”

Izuku glanced at Katsuki, searching for confirmation.

“He’s telling the truth.” Katsuki told him. And that, at least, put Izuku’s mind at ease. 

He took another sip of his coffee. “Anyway, back to the matter at hand.” He set his mug down, the cup hitting the desk like a gavel. “It feels strange to say this, but it’s my opinion that the information provided is sufficient to infiltrate Heaven. Many of the questions we’ve been asking are answered here.” He paused. “That said, it also presents us with a number of challenges that we weren’t aware of.”

“And knowing how slippery these fuckers are, it’s safe to assume that’s just the tip of the iceberg.” Katsuki added.

He nodded, grunting in agreement.

“So then…” Izuku said. “What’s the plan?” 

Aizawa looked at him, raising an eyebrow. “There is no plan. Not yet, at least.”

Izuku blinked. “Well, how soon will we be able to act?” He asked. “Can you at least give a rough estimate?”

“That’ll depend on the scale of the plan and how quickly we’ll be able allocate the necessary resources.”

“Isn’t there any way to speed things up?” He pressed. “I mean, can’t you override that process?”

Aizawa and Katsuki exchanged looks. 

“Deku, we talked about this. Aizawa doesn’t have that kind of power.”

Izuku frowned. “Well, can’t you take me to someone who does?”

“No.” Katsuki said. “Deku, no one has that much power, at least not for shit like this.”

“But this is an emergency!”

“I don’t see that being the case.” Aizawa said.

“What do you mean?” Izuku asked, his heart rate picking up. “Sir, the Council took him. If we don’t act fast, who knows what could happen?” His voice broke. “What if they k-kill him? Or, or turn him into a husk, or—“

“Alright, first of all.” Aizawa interjected, holding up one finger. “Don’t call me ‘sir.’ It’s weird.” He raised a second finger. “Second, both of those cases seem highly unlikely.”

“What?” Izuku froze. “Why…?”

“Because they need information from him.”

Izuku’s brow furrowed. “But… you saw the letter.” He said. “Whatever he used to wipe his memories will have worn off by now.”

“It’s not about that.” He paused, raising his coffee mug to his lips, taking a long sip and finishing it off. “Here’s the thing.” He then said. “Few Angels manage to fall after being captured, and much less in the past few hundred years since the addition of this so-called ‘Acolyte’ rank. However, in every case we’ve seen, the process has taken at least a month to complete, at an absolute minimum.”

Izuku started at him for a while. “Process…?”

“Whatever interrogation tactics they use.” He shrugged. “Not much is really known about the specifics. In most cases, people don’t remember anything at all, and in the ones where they do, it seems all they can really recall are vague memories of having weird dreams.” He said. “But the duration is easy enough to ascertain. If your last clear memory was in early March and your next is in the middle of April… well, there you go.”

Izuku nodded slowly. “So then… What you’re saying is…”

“At an absolute minimum, we have two weeks before your mentor’s life or soul come under legitimate threat.” He supplied. “Almost certainly more than that, since he had the foresight to pre-wipe his memories. Given the depth of knowledge displayed in that journal of yours, I doubt you’ll be the only person he ends up implicating. The Council would logically want to get everything they can out of him.”

Izuku remained silent, staring down at the journal that still sat before him, chewing his lip.

Eventually, he swallowed, and asked, “Can we act within two weeks?”

“Sure.” Aizawa replied. “Again, it’ll depend on the plan we settle on.”

“Have you put in the request?” Katsuki asked.

He grunted. “Grand allseer network tonight at six.”

Izuku blinked. “Grand what?”

“That’s the main job of the Nexus.” Katsuki told him. “It’s how they’re able to communicate so efficiently. Kind of like a tiered, selective hivemind.”

That raises more questions than it answers.

“A grand allseer network is one that involves every other defense nexus in Hell.” Aizawa said. “I’m sure Bakugou could explain it to you in more detail later, but at this point, I really need to point out that we’ve yet to actually get to the true purpose of this meeting.”

Izuku’s brow furrowed, forcing his curiosity down as he waited quietly for the man to go on.

Aizawa leaned forward, resting his forearms on the desk. “So, I’m assuming, since you’re here right now, that you’re willing to help us further. Is that correct?”

Izuku quickly nodded. “Of course.”

“Good.” He said. “I can’t speak for everyone, obviously, but I think the majority of us are willing to help you out, as well.” 

He paused for a moment that seemed to last an eternity. 

“However, you need to understand what that actually entails. I need you to understand that we’re talking about invading Heaven, here. Do you know when the last successful invasion of Heaven was?”

Izuku shook his head.

“Never.” Aizawa said. “It’s never been done.” The words hung in the air for a moment. Izuku’s eyes widened, a cold feeling dropping into his gut.

“Heaven is exceptionally secure,” He continued. “Everything about it, from its very conception, has been designed to keep Demons out, categorically. What we have right now, along with hundreds of years of research and technological development, may be enough to override that, but it could just as easily be snuffed out. Then we’re back to square one.

“Given that, if we’re going to do this, it will need to be big enough to justify the risk of wasting all that effort.”

Izuku gulped, a nauseous feeling creeping up his esophagus. “I’m…” He swallowed. “Not sure I follow.”

But he knew, just like everyone else knew, that it was a lie.

Aizawa lowered his chin. “Midoriya, if you’re going to help us, you should understand that you won’t just be helping us win another battle.” He paused. “You’ll be helping us win the war.”

Izuku laced his hands together, to try and keep them from trembling. He couldn’t find it in himself to respond verbally. Katsuki placed one gloved hand over Izuku’s, stabilizing them. The warmth of his hand radiated through the gloves. 

Izuku took a deep breath, and asked, “What happens… if you manage to succeed?”

“The dogma that pervades Heaven is one which sees Demons as subhuman. The goal of the Council is to either force us back into eternal torment, or wipe us out entirely.” He said. “It’s an inherently violent ideology. As long as it continues to exist, we will never be safe.”

Izuku felt his throat closing, his vision darkening at the edges.

“So what do you do?” He asked. “When does it end?”

Aizawa paused. Izuku closed his eyes.

“I think you already know the answer to that question.” 


As they left the Academy, Katsuki held his hand, but he couldn’t feel it, could hardly perceive his own thoughts. Katsuki actually did have to stop him and remind him to put the artifice back on before they left.

They walked hand in hand down the street in downtown Oseryth. He didn’t take note of their surroundings in any sort of persistent, lasting way. It was all just colors and shapes to him, a strange backdrop to a dream he couldn’t wake up from. It wasn’t until Katsuki set something down in front of him and said, ‘eat’ that he began to register reality again.

Izuku blinked a few times, his brain struggling to get things going again. He looked around, and realized they were in a bakery or cafe of some kind. He was sitting in a chair across from Katsuki, at a table next to the front window. He met Katsuki’s eyes and found him staring back at him. Only then did he look down at what was in front of him.

It seemed to be some sort of frosted pastry. Izuku’s brow furrowed, and he looked back up at Katsuki.

“It’s safe.” He said, sipping an iced coffee. “It’s just an apple fritter.”

Izuku nodded quietly, and tentatively picked it up. He took a small bite…

…And then immediately took a larger one, scarfing down half of it in a matter of seconds. 

“Woah, hey.” Katsuki said. “Slow down, nerd. You’re gonna choke.”

His self-awareness slammed back into him like a freight train, and Izuku immediately dropped the pastry back on to the plate, blushing bright red. 

“Sorry.” Izuku gulped, his shoulders pulling up and inward as his eyes darted around the bakery. Luckily, no one seemed to be looking at them. 

Katsuki scoffed. “You don’t gotta apologize.” He stood up. “One sec.” He walked away, and a minute later returned with a glass of water. Izuku accepted it, holding it in both hands as he sipped.

Katsuki sat down again and set his forearms flat on the table, leaning toward him.

“Seriously, though, are you okay?” He asked softly.

He hesitated a moment. “Y-Yeah, I just…” He sighed. “I don’t know.”

A pause.

“Are you scared?”

Izuku’s eyes widened. He gulped. “I don’t… know if that’s the right was to put it.” His brow furrowed. Katsuki took a sip of what looked to be an iced coffee, and waited.

In a sense, Izuku supposed that he was scared. But it was complicated.

He knew that what he’d come here to do would have some sort of impact on the state of affairs between Heaven and Hell. He just hadn’t thought about where exactly it would ultimately lead them, at least not consciously. The war had always felt so much bigger than him. It was hard enough to imagine that he, a first-sphere Angel, could affect the outcome in any meaningful way.

The end of Heaven felt like the end of the world. 

He needed to save All Might. There were no other options in his mind. He simply had to do it.

But… if doing that means…

Izuku swallowed.

He kept thinking that there had to be another way. There had to be some way to save All Might without betraying everything he was. This just wasn’t something Izuku could come to grips with. 

Maybe there was a part of him that never expected to make it this far. But he was here, now, and the questions he didn’t want to confront were on the table in clear terms. He couldn’t avoid them any longer. As Aizawa spoke those words, it all came crashing down on him, and he didn’t know what to do. He was like a deer in the headlights of reality. 

He couldn’t keep playing both sides. Izuku needed to decide, once and for all, who was in the right. He needed to decide where his loyalties lied. 

Izuku took another bite of the apple fritter, chewing slowly as he scanned his surroundings. People sitting together in the bakery, eating and chatting happily. People passing by the window, smiling, holding hands. And Katsuki sitting across from him, his elbow on the table, cheek resting against his palm as he slurped down the last of his drink. 

And Izuku knew he didn’t want to be anywhere but here. He didn’t want this moment to end. 

Izuku had always been taught to regard joy and pleasure with suspicion. Nothing was ever as nice as it seemed, and if it was, then it was probably wrong. But as he sat there, watching Katsuki—handsome, brash, crude, caring Katsuki—he thought back to how he felt before he’d met him. How tiring it was to live as he did, work as he did. How physically and mentally draining.

Living like that was difficult. 

In retrospect, the most exhausting part was convincing himself that that was as good as it could get.

Izuku’s body curled inward. He could contemplate it as much as he wanted, but at the end of the day, he knew he was going to do it. Could see the event coming toward him steadily, ready to happen to him. Ultimately, these quiet ruminations were of no consequence for anything other than Izuku’s feelings about the event that would inevitably unfold. 

It was going to happen.

It was going to hurt.

And Izuku needed to feel okay with that, somehow. 

And so, he looked up at Katsuki and muttered something quietly, half-hoping he wouldn’t hear it.

“Hm?” Katsuki set his drink down, leaning toward him. “What was that?”

Izuku gulped. “I asked you to give me a reason.” 

Katsuki’s brow furrowed. 

Izuku took a deep, shuddering breath. 

“Give me a reason to give up on God.” He whispered. "To want to kill him."


Izuku could tell right away that Katsuki knew what he needed to show him. He could see it in his eyes.

Despite that, he initially pushed back.

“I don’t want you to have to see that.” He’d told him.

The irony was not lost on Izuku. Despite having spent the last several months painstakingly whittling away at Izuku’s faith, when the opportunity to deal the final blow was presented to him on a silver platter, Katsuki resisted.

But in the end, he acquiesced. And that’s how Izuku found himself back aboard a train beyond the city limits. Katsuki didn’t say much about where they were going, only that the length of the trip meant they wouldn’t be able to stay for long.

Izuku sat in the corner beside Katsuki, fidgeting with his sleeves. He occasionally glanced over at him, but Katsuki rarely glanced back. His expression always seemed distant, as if he’d forgotten his mind back in the city. Izuku wondered, from time to time, if asking this of him might have been insensitive, somehow. But it wasn’t like he had any way of knowing where the request would take them.

They finally got off at a stop about two hours north of Oseryth. The platform was not unlike the one near Serpent’s Crossing, in that it was cast in the same black, obsidian stone. There were a few trails sprouting from it in various directions. Katsuki took none of them. He simply walked straight through the tall grass, leading Izuku into the sparse forest beyond.

Izuku looked around nervously, remembering what Katsuki had told him about the Wilds. “Um, Kacchan?” He jogged to catch up with him. “Isn’t this a bit dangerous?”

“No.” Katsuki replied. “Not here, at least. You gotta venture a few more miles away before you start runnin’ into any sort of aggressive wildlife.” He paused for a moment, his mouth still open, like he wasn’t sure if he should say any more. Then, he gestured broadly at the forest around them, and in a quiet voice, he said, “Most of these trees are dead.”

Izuku’s brows shot up, his eyes widening as he looked around them. It was only then that he really noticed the state of the trees. Though most were still standing, he noted that many looked somehow… faded. But oddly, none of them appeared to be rotting. 

The further they ventured, the less trees there were, until eventually there was nothing but rocky terrain and gravel. Izuku felt an ominous feeling rising in his gut as he trailed behind Katsuki, staring at the back of his head. His posture seemed to indicate relaxation, but Izuku knew better. He knew that this was hurting him, in some way. He just didn’t know how.

Eventually, they reached the crest of a large hill. Katsuki came to a stop a little ways ahead, where the ground plateaued for a few feet before dropping off completely. Izuku hurried to catch up, coming to stand beside him at the edge of the cliff. 

He had meant to ask what was wrong.

But when the time came, there was nothing Izuku knew how to say.

Down below the cliff, the color of the landscape gradually desaturated. The soil, the rocks, the trees and the shrubs—all of it faded to an ashy, grey tone that spanned a radius of around twenty feet. Beyond that point, the grey slowly became lighter until everything that touched the ground was as white as fresh snow. 

And then there was the town at the center of it all.

It wasn’t a large town. Probably less than a thousand people, judging by the number of houses in sight. But if there were any people still living there, Izuku didn’t see them.

Every building within the settlement was bleached as white as the surrounding land, and for a minute, all Izuku could do was stand there, gaping at it. The town gave off a surreal, sterile feeling that sent shivers down Izuku’s spine. It was as though something had leeched all the color from the area. Cut open the land and bled it dry.

Perhaps the strangest part of it all was that, apart from the absence of color, all the buildings, structures, and plant life seemed completely unharmed. They just stood there, frozen, vacant and hostile. And the longer Izuku looked at it, the more he began to feel like he wasn’t supposed to.

“Toxic blessation.” Katsuki said. Breaking the silence. Making Izuku jump. 

He did a double take. “Wh-What?”

Katsuki clenched his jaw slightly. “That’s what it’s called.” He muttered. “Toxic blessation. It’s the result of overexposure to divine light.” He kicked the gravel beneath his foot. “When a Demon gets hit by divine light, they die. This…” he gestured vaguely down toward the town, “bleaching effect is what happens when it’s prolonged, or concentrated.”

Izuku’s breath caught in his throat. “You mean…” He looked out at the town, a metallic taste on his tongue. “We did this…?”

Katsuki turned toward him, finally. “Not you.” He said softly. “Them, Deku. They did this.”

For a moment, Izuku was silent, his heart in his throat. “Is… Is it all like this?”

Katsuki hesitated for a second. “Probably… but we don’t know for sure. None of us can go down there.”

Izuku looked at him again, his brow furrowing. 

“We call it ’toxic’ for a reason.” He offered a bitter smile. “Most of the people down here didn’t die from direct exposure. They died because of the hostile environment it creates.

“If I were to set foot on the bleached part, I’d make it maybe thirty seconds or so. After that, I’d go into something a bit like anaphylactic shock and collapse.” He closed his eyes. “It eats away at your soul. I’d be gone within a few minutes.” He took a deep breath. “It’s… a very painful way to die.”

Katsuki paused, sighing. When he spoke next, his voice sounded rougher.

“The grey zone’s… survivable. But you’ll still get real fuckin’ sick. You’d be lucky not to develop some kinda chronic illness.”He opened his eyes, wincing a bit. “Frankly, even standin’ this close is makin’ me kinda nervous. It’s supposed to be harmless at this distance, but it’s still makin’ me feel all psychosomatically itchy.” He peeled the gloves back a bit, scratching his forearms. 

For a few seconds, neither of them spoke.

“How many?” Izuku whispered.

A pause.

“Around six-hundred or so.”

Izuku clenched his fists, eyes darting around, searching for a path down the cliffside.

“Deku, I know what you’re thinking.” He muttered. “But trust me, you really, really don’t wanna go down there.” 

Izuku frowned. “…Is it dangerous for me, too?”

“Who knows.” He shrugged. “But even if it’s not, it’s still a terrible fuckin’ idea. It takes ages to get all the bodies out, ‘cuz we have to do it all remotely. We haven’t found any more at this specific site, but—“

“There are others?”

Katsuki blinked. “Well, yeah. Dozens.” He replied, as though it were obvious. Izuku slowly raised his hands to his mouth, covering it. “The worst attack was two years ago, up in the Northern Region. Kataghaerek. Estimates up there run at around twenty-thousand.” He shoved his hands into his pockets. “We still find bodies there, every goddamn day.”

For a few seconds, Izuku just stood there. Everything Katsuki said sounded muffled to his eyes as the static white noise of his rushing blood seemed to take precedence.

“That’s why you shouldn’t go down there, Deku. We think we got all of ‘em, but,” He grimaced. “I can’t promise you won’t… uncover something… if you go lookin’ around.”

Izuku wasn’t sure how long it was before he managed to gather his thoughts enough to speak once more.

“How…” He gulped. “How long has it been?”

“For this one? About fifty years.” 

“Fifty?!” 

He nodded. “Even after decades, it still looks like a fucked up colorless version of what it used to be. Like everything’s just frozen in time. It’s all just… dead.” His voice broke. Katsuki clenched his jaw, muscles tensing up as he apparently fought to reign himself in. Then, after what felt like an eternity, he said, “Nothing will ever live or grow down there again.”

Izuku shook his head, his eyes starting to water. “But… why…?” He whispered. “Is this just… b-because of the war?”

Katsuki turned to look at him again.

“No, Deku.” He said. “The war is because of this.”

Izuku’s brow wrinkled as he stared back at him, and something seemed to break through. “Wait, but—n-no, the—“ He gulped. “The war started because of Demonic presence on Earth.”

“Demons have always had a limited presence on Earth.” Katsuki told him. “But for tactical purposes, our presence increased a couple hundred years ago, after the first attack.

“They used to happen once every few decades. Mostly at rehabilitation centers, and smaller settlements like these. Lately… it’s been happening a hell of a lot more.” Katsuki sighed. “Things only escalated to end-times levels two years ago, though.” He took a step closer, his volume lowering. “The so-called rapture began three days after the Kataghaerek attacks.”

Izuku gaped up at him, a few tears finally spilling over.

“So, there you have it, Deku… There’s your reason.”

He swallowed, his throat growing tight. “I… I can’t. God wouldn’t…” He shook his head. “This had to be the Council, Kacchan.”

“Angels can’t normally get to Hell without the help of a Demon, remember?” Katsuki said, “That said…” He sighed. “Let’s say you’re right. Let’s say the Council really is acting independently. Y’know, it’s not that crazy to imagine they found another way.” He shrugged. “But you better fucking hope that’s not the case, Deku. ‘Cuz if it is…” He gave a mirthless laugh. “This shit gets a whole lot darker, if that’s even possible.”

“Wh-What do you mean?”

“Deku,” He murmured, the glow in his eyes seeming to dim slightly. “Do you know where divine light comes from?”

Izuku’s brow furrowed.

“The look on your face tells me you don’t.” He gave a tight smile, pausing for a moment, looking off to the side, a contemplative look in his eyes. 

“I wanna give you the option to remain ignorant of that for now.” He eventually said, speaking slowly, as if he were choosing his words very carefully. “If that’s what you want, we can turn around and go back now. If not...”

He trailed off for a moment, hesitating.

“I mean, I'll tell you. But if you want my opinion, I dunno if there’s any point in puttin’ yourself through that shit right now.”

Izuku gulped, taking a second to collect his thoughts, to ground himself in the moment. He stood there under Katsuki’s gaze. Tear tracks staining his cheeks, hands trembling as he lowered them from his face. It was oddly cold out there, and the only sound came from the soft ebb and flow of their breathing. Izuku closed his eyes, and asked himself what was stronger: his desire for the truth, or his fear of finding out.

Eventually, he opened his eyes, and met Katsuki’s gaze. 

“I want to know.”

Katsuki took a deep, shuddering breath.

“In that case, open up your bag and give me the journal.”

Izuku did as he asked, shaky hands fumbling with the closure of his messenger bag. He handed Katsuki the leather-bound book, and as he began to flip through it, he spoke. “Have you ever heard of endotoxins?”

He blinked a few times. “N-No?”

Seeming to have found what he was looking for, Katsuki paused. “There’re some types of bacteria that release certain toxins when they disintegrate. Sorta like a last-ditch effort to eliminate a threat, even as they die.” 

Izuku frowned, not sure what to make of the information. 

But then Katsuki began to read aloud.

“Due to their volatility,” he read, “the pain inflicted on the husks during these tests is necessarily very minor.”

Katsuki closed the journal and looked up at him. “Volatility.” He repeated. “What do you suppose that means, Deku?”

It took no more than a second. Izuku felt all the blood drain from his face.

“There's two kinds of divine light.” He raised a finger. “There’s the kind that comes directly from God himself…” He raised a second finger. “And then there’s the kind that comes from you.” 

That last word hit him like a bullet. 

“You, after you bleed out the essence of who you just to keep your body functioning, and you’ve got nothin’ left to lose.” He slowly lowered his hand. “If you’re mortally injured past that point, there’ll be nothin’ left of you in the end.”

Izuku stumbled back, hands covering his mouth again, tears welling up. “No. No, I c-can’t—“

“Deku!” Katsuki shouted. Izuku’s heart lurched against his chest in some mess of confusion, shock and fear, and before he realized what had happened, Katsuki was already grabbing his wrist, yanking him against his chest. He wrapped his arms around him. “Shit, nerd. Be careful.”

It was only then that Izuku realized that they were standing right on the edge. That he’d been just a second away from falling to the ground, hundreds of feet below. The realization set something off inside of him, and he began to sob against Katsuki’s chest.

A few seconds went by, and he felt Katsuki’s gloved fingers lacing through his hair, stroking it gently. He wasn’t sure how long they stayed that way. Standing on the edge. Holding each other.

When they eventually parted, Katsuki was careful to guide Izuku away from the edge before he spoke once again.

“They don’t care about you, Deku.” He said, a bit scratchy. “And they sure as fuck don’t care about me. As far as God’s concerned, there’s really only two options, here—either he’s behind these fuckin’ atrocities, or he’s negligent enough to allow even worse atrocities to occur.” After a pause, he continued, “And based on that Operation Lacuna shit in the journal, I can only assume it’ll get worse.”

“What do you mean…?”

“They’re building their own Hell, Deku.” He said. “What do you think happens when they’re done? When they don’t need us anymore?”

He opened his mouth, but the words died on his tongue.

After a minute of silence, Katsuki spoke once more. “C’mon. We should head back.”

And then he took Izuku by the hand and led him down the hill again, back into the dead forest beyond.

“Maybe…” Izuku swallowed. “Maybe we can reach a truce,” he said. But it sounded hollow, even to himself.

Katsuki just shook his head.

“There’s not gonna be a truce. There’s no compromise, here; we either accept eternal suffering, or we fucking die.” He scoffed. “This isn’t just gonna go away for us, Deku.

“They won’t be satisfied with anything less than absolute obedience. God will keep tryin’ to coerce us into accepting him as our eternal master, and it’ll never happen. We’re not gonna bow down. We’ve fought way too fucking hard for the right to be our own masters, Deku. And we’ll keep fighting, ’til there’s nothing left of us.”

He was quiet for a moment, simply staring straight ahead as they walked. Then, “This was never gonna end cleanly.” He murmured. “But if you’re still havin’ trouble choosin’, think of it like this: on the one hand, you got the death of God and some percentage of Angels, and the Fall of all the others.” He paused. “And on the other hand, you got the death or eternal torture of every single Demon, and whatever the fuck this place becomes once they’re through with it.”


The train ride back passed in silence. Izuku dozed on Katsuki’s shoulder, staring blankly at the windows across from them. All he could see were blurs of color.

But at least he could see color.

They arrived back at Savaek station two hours later, and subsequently boarded the same train they had when they first arrived. 

Izuku looked out the window, at the vast mural stretching across the wall, and finally managed to make it out in full.

Ah. He thought.  That makes sense.

No Gods, No Masters.

Chapter Text

Izuku did not want to kill God.

Not at that point, anyway. There were still so many conflicting thoughts inside of his head, and he hadn’t really gotten the opportunity to process them. Though Katsuki had done his best to comfort him in his own way, the colorless town came to exist in the back of his mind, and with it, a whole mess of emotions, the most prominent of which being guilt.

Although he was not personally to blame for the attacks, he couldn’t help but feel ashamed over his connection to them, however tenuous it may be. He felt a sense of responsibility, but he was careful to keep it tucked away in his mind, even as it quietly ate away at him.

They arrived back at the Academy an hour before the allseer network was due to begin.

“There are a number of ways you could help us further.” Aizawa said, holding a stack of papers and tapping the edges against the desk to straighten them. “It just depends on how much you’re willing to do.”

“Anything.” Izuku immediately said. 

Both Aizawa and Katsuki froze.

“Anything?” Aizawa repeated, brows furrowed. 

“Deku…” Katsuki said. He exchanged looks with Aizawa.

For a moment, it was silent. Then, Aizawa cleared his throat.

“Including return to Heaven?”

Izuku tensed for a moment, then forced himself to relax. He nodded his head, swallowing the fear churning inside of him.

“Well, a solo infiltration mission would certainly speed things up. It’d also be a fairly easy pitch to the others.”

Katsuki grabbed his shoulder, forcing him to turn and look at him head on. “Deku, are you sure about that?” He asked, his expression sober. “‘Cuz that ain’t a trivial task, y’know. It’d be really fucking dangerous.”

Izuku swallowed the nausea rising in his throat. “I’m sure.”

“You know there are other ways to—“

“I’m sure.” Izuku repeated louder, trying to be firm about it.

Trying to put an end to the conversation, so he wouldn’t have to think about it any longer.

Katsuki stared at him for a moment, his eyes searching, but eventually, his expression morphed from concern to an uneasy acceptance. He sat back in his chair, and didn’t say anything more.


The chamber was vast and circular, roughly two-hundred feet in diameter.

All along the edges were a number of smaller rooms, and within each, Izuku counted five round tables, all with around nine or ten chairs. At the front of each room was one smaller table, surrounded by five more chairs. 

Izuku paused to count the rooms and found that there were twenty of them, though they seemed to be divided into five distinct groups of four. There was another table set out in front of each group, all of which had four chairs, and then a final table near the center, with five seats.

Izuku’s brows pinched together as he paused to do the math in his head, and found that, if his calculations were correct, it looked like the room was designed to accommodate around a thousand people at full capacity.

And that was just the first floor.

As he peered up at the subsequent stories, he noted that each of them had a similar layout, with the only noticeable difference being the five floating walkways that seemed to sprout from the center, connecting each cluster of rooms to the spiral staircase in the middle.

As he looked around, he got the distinct impression that this layout was the result of rigorous planning for a specific purpose, but he couldn’t quite figure out what that purpose would be. Then, as if reading his mind, Katsuki began to speak. 

“This is what I meant about it being a tiered hive mind.”

Izuku’s gaze snapped onto him, and he blinked rapidly. “I don’t follow…?”

Katsuki shrugged. “Y’know about like, levels of organization? Like, squads, platoons, companies, all that shit?” 

Izuku nodded.

“Well, we have that, except instead of each level having like, a sergeant or a lieutenant, or whatever, we just take turns being the nexus. So there’s a squad nexus, or a platoon nexus—you get the idea.”

“Sure, but…” Izuku squinted. “I mean, what does the nexus actually do?”

“I’m gettin’ to that.” Katsuki grumbled, taking a deep breath. “So, here’s the deal.” He sighed. “The military is a big organization, and we need a way to efficiently make decisions, right?”

“Right…?”

“So, that’s what the allseer network does. It’s a special type of magic that Demons can use that connects us to other Demons. Y’know, kinda like when I use my sigil to communicate with others.” he gestured toward the mark on his arm.

“So… it’s like that, but with a group?”

“Not quite.” He shook his head. “It’s more complex than that. It’s kinda like…” He hesitated. His eyes darted toward an empty room to their right. “C’mere.” He said, waving Izuku over.

He led him into the room, pulled out a chair for him, and gestured for him to sit down. Katsuki planted his palms on the table beside him. “Let’s say we’re in the same squad, and I’m the squad nexus.” He paused. “During a discussion, you’d be sitting here at this table, talking shit over with the rest of the squad—everyone except me.”

“You wouldn’t be here?”

“Nope.” He stood up straight, and began to walk toward the smaller table at the front of the room. “I’d be sitting here, discussing shit with all the other squad nexuses in the platoon. But the key difference is that, as the squad nexus, I’d be mentally linked with the rest of my squad.” He gestured toward Izuku’s table. “And my job would be to carry their thoughts and concerns over to the other squad nexuses.”

“So… you’d have nine other people’s thoughts in your head simultaneously?” Izuku frowned. “That sounds kind of overwhelming.”

“Well, not all their thoughts.” He shrugged. “That’s why it’s a selective hive mind. M’not up here havin’ to try and filter out fuckin’ Steve’s dinner plans, or whatever. The magic works so that I only have to hear about shit that’s actually relevant.

“It also prioritizes information. Like, if there’s someone who feels really strongly about something, or if there’s a lot of people worrying about the same thing, that shit gets pushed to the top of my awareness.

“Basically, the system’s optimized to keep the nexuses from getting overwhelmed, while still dealing with the most pressing concerns.”

“Ohh!” Izuku smiled. “I see! So it’s like that for every tier up, too?”

“Yep.” Katsuki nodded. “The platoon nexuses tap into the minds of all the squad nexuses from their platoon.” He gestured toward the table set out in front of the four rooms. “The company nexuses do the same for the platoon nexuses.“ He pointed at the table next to the staircase. “Then there’s the battalion nexuses, the city nexuses—ours is Aizawa, right now—and shit just goes on and on ’til we’re all the way up at the regional level.”

“Wow.” Izuku said. “So that’s how you make decisions?”

“No, that’s just how we regulate discussions.” He replied. “Actual decisions are made by a vote at the end. But we have to have the discussion first so we can figure out what we actually need to vote on.”

“Still, it seems… complicated.”

“Well, sure.” Katsuki shoved his hands into his pockets. “It’s complicated in the sense that coordinating a large group of people is fuckin’ complicated, but it’s not complicated in particular.”

Izuku chewed his lip. “I guess so…”

“Anyway, let’s—“

“Bakugou!”

They both turned their heads simultaneously, and Izuku’s eyes locked on a room across from theirs. There, he spotted a group of four people sitting at one of the tables. 

Well, three of them were sitting; there was one person—a blond man—standing up on a chair, waving at them enthusiastically, trying to beckon them over. Izuku glanced over at Katsuki, and found him staring at the man with narrowed eyes.

The blond did not seem deterred. Rather, he began miming as though he were holding a rope, theatrically acting up the effort of trying to pull Katsuki in. This continued until finally Katsuki just rolled his eyes, glanced over at Izuku, and told him, “This was gonna happen eventually, anyway.”

And with that, Katsuki started walking toward them, his feet dragging across the floor. Everyone at the table began to cheer and clap, as though getting Katsuki to come to them was some sort of grand achievement.

When they eventually reached the room the group was in, the blond man was still standing in his chair. Katsuki raised an eyebrow at him. “We really gotta switch to chairs without metal legs.” He said. “It ain’t fair for you to be able to be this fuckin’ obnoxious without any consequences, Kaminari.”

The blond—Kaminari—scoffed dramatically. “You wound me, Bakugou. To think you’d prioritize insulting me over introducing us to your…” He glanced at Izuku, and waggled his eyebrows. “Friend.”

“Bro, is this who I think it is?” A man with spiked, red hair asked.

“Kirishima.” Katsuki said, tone laced with warning. Kirishima put his hands up, shaking his head.

“I know an artifice disguise when I see one.” A woman with short, dark hair said. 

Izuku shuffled awkwardly, not quite sure what to do. 

“Fine.” Katsuki groaned, stepping aside to gesture at Izuku. “Yeah. This is fucking Deku.”

The table instantly erupted into whoops and hollers.

“Oi, stop that!” Katsuki shouted, notably red in the face. “You’re makin’ him nervous!” 

“Nay, I think it is you who is nervous, my good bitch.” Kaminari said.

“Kaminari, I will set your ass on fucking fire.”

“You promise, daddy?”

Katsuki smacked his own forehead, slowly dragging his hand down his face, skin pulling along with it before his arm fell limp at his side.

“Yeah, y’know what? Fuck this.” Katsuki grabbed Izuku’s hand, and he stumbled as he began dragging him away. The others immediately stood up, chair legs squealing across the floor as they shouted their dissent. 

They were around twenty feet away when Katsuki released an exasperated growl and spun around again, fixing the group with a stern glare. “If you can’t fuckin’ behave yourselves, why should I—!”

“It was Kaminari!” The woman shouted. “He doesn’t represent us!”

“Kyouka—!” Kaminari cried, clearly offended.

“No, Jirou’s right.” A tall, dark-haired man said. He leaned over and slammed his hands down on the table. “We disavow Kaminari!”

“Sero, how could you?!”

“Raise your hand if you disavow Kaminari.”

The other three raised their hands.

“Kirishima, seriously? You too?!”

Kirishima offered only an apologetic smile. “There’s a time and a place for daddy jokes, man.”

“So,” Sero said. “Since we’re all in agreement that Kaminari sucks, will you come back?”

Katsuki clenched his jaw, remaining rooted in place for a moment before he finally sighed, and started back toward them, pulling Deku along with him. As they came to stand before the table, Katsuki pointed at the others from left to right. “Deku, meet Kirishima, Kaminari, Jirou and Sero.”

“Um. Hello.” Izuku waved awkwardly.

Katsuki pulled out two chairs, and gestured for Izuku to sit.

“Ooh, pulling out chairs, Bakugou? That’s so ro—“ Jirou smacked her hand over Kaminari’s mouth, shutting him up. Katsuki gave her an appreciative nod.

“Anyway,” she said, still grinning as though she were trying very hard to control herself. “It’s nice to meet you, Deku.”

Izuku offered a small smile. “Are you all in the same squad?”

“Yep!” Kirishima said. “There’s five more of us, but they haven’t gotten here yet.”

“So, uh. Deku,” Sero said, leaning toward him from across the table. “Bakugou’s, uhh, told us a lot about you.” 

Izuku blinked a few times. “Oh, really?” He glanced at Katsuki, and found him staring at Sero with narrowed eyes. “What sort of things?”

Kaminari snorted. “Um, well—“ Jirou elbowed him in the ribs, and he lurched away. “Ow!” 

“Oh, you know. Just that he thinks you’re, uhh…” Her eyes darted around. “Um. Cool…?”

“Yeah!” Kirishima nodded. “Honestly, we’ve wanted to meet you for a while now. So if we seem a bit over-excited, that’s the reason.” He smiled. “It’s just that we know Bakugou, and we know he’s not an easy person to impress. We’re all just excited to meet the guy who finally won his…” He trailed off for a moment, eyes widening as he looked off to the side. “Uhhh…”

Sero snapped his fingers. “Appreciation!”

Jirou snorted. “Nice save.”

Izuku fidgeted with the hem of his cloak. “Um, well… it’s nice to meet all of you, too. I, uhh…” He cleared his throat. “Appreciate Kacchan as well?”

“Kacchan.” Jirou repeated, trying to cover the wide smile on her face.

“Oh god, that’s so cute.” Kaminari said, banging his head against the wall behind him.

“Well,” Kirishima said. “We’re glad Bakugou’s got mutual… appreciation… with someone.”

“Yeah.” Kaminari snorted. He then looked at Katsuki and made an odd gesture, his fist moving back and forth in front of his mouth, his tongue pressed into his cheek, making it bulge out. “Appreciation.”

Katsuki looked him in the eye and made a clear throat-slitting gesture. Kaminari responded with a wide grin and a thumbs-up.

For a moment, it was silent.

Sero cleared his throat. “So, Deku…” He said. “You enjoyin’ Hell so far?”

“Oh,” Izuku sat up a bit straighter. “Yes, it’s been…” Memories of the town, leeched of all color, flooded his mind. He winced and looked down for a moment.  Izuku closed his eyes, and then looked up again with a soft smile. “It’s been nice, mostly. It’s very different from Heaven, though.”

“Yeah, I’ll bet.” Kaminari snorted. “So, has Bakugou taken you to the nightmare forest yet?”

Izuku’s brow furrowed. “The… what?”

Kaminari’s grin widened, and he leaned toward him. “See, Bakugou has a bad habit of wanting to take people he cares about to the most Hellish part of Hell.”

Katsuki scoffed. “Maybe you’re just a fucking coward, Kaminari.”

“That may well be the case,” Kaminari replied. “But that does not negate the fact that most of your past relationships fell apart soon after you decided to take them on a fun little date into the death trap forest of doom.”

Izuku frowned. Somehow, the thought of Katsuki having past relationships at all made him feel like curling in on himself. But now wasn’t the time to examine that feeling.

“Um, is that what you meant about hiking, Kacchan?”

Katsuki looked at him, the glare he’d been directing at Kaminari softening. “Yeah. It really ain’t that bad, though.”

“Yeah, honestly, I’m with Bakugou on this one.” Kirishima said. “Like, you gotta be careful, but if you know what you’re doing, you should be okay.”

“Maybe for Wrath Demons like you two, but for the rest of us—“

“—Nah, I’m kinda with Bakugou on this, too.” Jirou cut in. “I mean, I don’t like it, but it’s not that bad.”

“Well, okay.” Kaminari rolled his eyes. “But you’re an Envy Demon. You can make yourself basically invisible.”

“Not to everything.” 

“Well, whatever!” Kaminari said. “Sero knows what I mean, don’t you?” 

“I mean.” He squinted. “I fucking hate that place, but I can escape most things by just climbing the trees.”

“There are no branches for over six-hundred feet, and the trees are too cramped to fly.” Kaminari deadpanned.

“I said I could escape by climbing. Not you.” Sero grinned, and pointed finger guns at him.  “That’s just Gluttony, baby.”

“I hate all of you.” Kaminari groaned. “What am I supposed to do, huh? There’s no metal in the forest!”

“The hell kinda Greed demon would you be if you didn’t carry that shit with you already?” Katsuki rolled his eyes. “Why don’t you just admit you’re still freaked out ‘cuz of that time you opened your mouth too close to a fuckin’ Vassalite colony?”

“It was in my mouth.” 

“We got it out.” Katsuki shrugged.

“But it was inside of my fucking mouth, Bakugou!”

“Well, at least it wasn’t up your ass!” Katsuki shot back. “Kaminari, I’ve almost died in there multiple times. That shit was nothing.”

Kaminari laughed uncomfortably. “Y’know, reminding me that it could’ve been a lot worse really isn’t the argument you seem to think it is!” He said, with what was perhaps the most painful smile Izuku had ever seen. “The fact that you’ve almost died on multiple occasions strengthens my point, actually!”

“Multiple times, spread out over more than a hundred years.” Katsuki said, monotone. “Kaminari, I’ve gone hiking at least once a week for over a dozen decades.”

“Yep!” He chirped. “And we’re all hoping you get better soon!”

“Whatever.” Katsuki rolled his eyes and stood up. “Where’s Aizawa?”

“Oh, yeah.” Sero said. “He’s upstairs, I think.”

Katsuki nodded, gesturing for Izuku to get up.

“Um, nice meeting you all.” Izuku called out. They all smiled and responded in kind—well, all except Kaminari.

“Don’t take him to the forest, Bakugou!”

“You know what?” Katsuki shouted back. “I think I fucking will, just to spite you!” Then, softer, so that only Izuku could hear, he added, “Probably safer than fuckin’ Heaven, anyway.”

Kaminari began to yell many variations of no and don’t, but the further they got, the more indistinct they became. Once they’d made it up the stairs, they fizzled out entirely. 


Because the discussion would necessarily delve into information from the second half of the journal, Izuku was advised to sit out for the actual meeting, though even without sound, viewing it through the window in the hall was a fascinating experience. He watched as Aizawa stepped onto a platform on the top floor, causing several hologram-like projections to appear down on the lower levels, standing in front of every cluster of rooms. Had he seen it from above, he imagined it would’ve looked a bit like a kaleidoscope. 

Izuku settled in on the bench near the window. He squinted, trying to read Aizawa’s lips, but he was too far away. It was pointless, anyway. Aside from the information in the latter half of the journal, Izuku already knew what they were planning to pitch. 

The end of the discussion was marked by Aizawa stepping onto the platform again, and from there, the voting began, and ended around twenty minutes later. 

When the meeting came to a close, Katsuki was the first person out, at least on the fifth floor. Izuku quickly stood up. They met each other in the middle.

“The day after tomorrow.” Katsuki told him, his expression somber. “That’s when you’re set to go back.”


They returned home at around nine o’clock that night, and as seemed to be the trend with him, the first thing Katsuki wanted to do was shower. 

Izuku sighed as he dug through his bag, searching for his feather glue. He figured it was time to re-apply it, if only as a security blanket to comfort him about the events of that day. He quickly changed into his pajamas, selecting a shirt with a scoop-back to avoid getting the paste on his clothing. Then he switched on the lamp beside the couch bed, and got to work.

It was difficult, though; normally, he had a mirror he could use, but as things were, he could manage most of the feathers, but the ones near the back gave him trouble.

A couple minutes later, Katsuki emerged from the bathroom—wearing clothes, thankfully. He was in the process of toweling off his hair when he noticed Izuku’s predicament.

“Uhh…” He grunted. “What’re you doing?”

Izuku held up the paintbrush. “Gluing my feathers.” He shrugged. “It helps keep them from falling out—for a while, at least.”

Katsuki stared at him blankly for a moment, blinking slowly. Then, a grin slowly spread across his face. “Wait, for real?” He snorted. “Damn. What’re you, some kinda arts and crafts project?”

Izuku laughed. 

“I thought the same thing when All Might… first…” He trailed off, the smile falling from his face as dark, fearful emotions began to creep back into his consciousness. For several seconds, he was silent, and the subtle shift in Katsuki’s expression gave him a sense that he knew why.

After a moment, Katsuki put the towel around his neck, letting it hang loosely. He looked Izuku up and down. “You want some help?”

Izuku blinked a few times, taken off guard by the offer. “Oh, uhh—“

“—I can see you strugglin’ to reach the back.” Katsuki said. “So if you want, I can give you a hand there.”

Izuku chewed his lip, glancing down at Katsuki’s bare hands.

“I’ll be careful not to touch skin. Just touchin’ your feathers is safe, right?”

Izuku nodded, and offered a small smile. “Thanks, Kacchan.”

With that, Katsuki pulled up a chair near the edge of the bed, and gestured for Izuku to sit. Once he was situated on the edge of the mattress behind him, Katsuki grabbed the brush from the pot of glue, and got to work. 

The next few minutes passed peacefully as Katsuki meticulously applied glue to his feathers. Izuku closed his eyes and let his head fall forward as he felt the careful movements of the brush, slowly sliding around the roots of each feather, soaking into the follicles. 

Sometimes, Katsuki would pause to blow on the spot he’d just glued. It surprised Izuku at first, enough to make him jolt. 

“What’re you doing?” He’d asked.

“Just makin’ sure it’s dry.” Katsuki had said. “Don’t wanna gunk up your other feathers.”

The tension eased from his body then, and he came to expect it soon enough. Came to appreciate it.

Once in a while, he’d hear Katsuki shift around on the mattress, and occasionally he’d stop and ask Izuku to extend his wing for him. But for the most part, it was silent.

It was only at the end when Katsuki started up what might be considered a conversation.

“I like your wings,” He told him.

Izuku’s back straightened, his cheeks dusting pink. He bowed his head, hoping Katsuki wouldn’t see. “R-Really…?”

Katsuki hummed, leaning over to dip the brush in the glue again. “They’re pretty,” He murmured.

Izuku blushed harder, his shoulders drawing up. He wasn’t sure why it made him feel so embarrassed, at first. But once he started thinking about it, it didn’t take long to zero in on the reason.

In all his time spent working with him, this was the only occasion he could recall when Katsuki had actually told him, in no uncertain terms, that there was something about Izuku’s appearance he found attractive.

There’d been times he’d gotten close. Katsuki was rather fond of teasing him, after all, and through his teasing he would sometimes say things that implied a sort of attraction. He’d called him cute before, but it was always tongue-in-cheek, and generally felt more patronizing than complimentary.

And of course, there was that time just one day ago, when he’d told him the artifice made him look ‘gorgeous.’ 

Izuku chewed his lips, wringing his wrists as he thought back to it. It wasn’t nothing, that was for certain, but because Izuku had no way of knowing what he looked like while wearing the artifice, it was hard to say how much of it was him, and how much of it was just the magic itself. 

No, as far as Izuku could remember, this was the first time Katsuki had expressed appreciation for Izuku’s natural looks.

Izuku’s hands balled up in the fabric of his pants as a warm feeling nestled up in his heart. 

“Oi.” Katsuki said. “Don’t get your feathers all ruffled over it. Literally.”

“Ah! Right, sorry!” Izuku squeaked, willing himself to relax, so his feathers would lie flat.

A minute later, Katsuki was finished. 

“Alright, I think you’re good.” He said, standing up and stretching his arms over his head.

Izuku stood as well. He rubbed the back of his neck, face still feeling a little too warm. “I, um… thank you, Kacchan.”

Katsuki gave him an odd look. “Why’re you actin’ all weird? Like you’re…” He trailed off for a moment, eyes narrowing. “Wait,” he said. “Are your wings, like, a fuckin’ erogenous zone, or some shit?”

“A what?” Izuku’s brow furrowed.

Katsuki shrugged. “I’m just tryna figure out if what I just did was some kinda weird Angel sex act or whatever.”

“Kacchan!” Izuku reflexively covered his face, his blush intensifying. 

“Be honest, Deku. Did I give you a fuckin’ wing-job just now?”

“Kacchan!”

“Hey!” Katsuki put his hands up. “It’s okay if the answer’s yes! I won’t be mad. If anything, I’ll be a little turned—“

Izuku suddenly threw his arms around Katsuki’s body, burying his face in his chest. For a moment, Katsuki seemed too shocked to even move or say anything. 

“I just…” Izuku said, slightly muffled. “Didn’t realize there was anything about me that you actually… um, liked.”

Katsuki remained frozen for just a second longer, before he sighed, and gently wrapped his arms around him, his chin resting on the top of his head.

“Seriously?” Katsuki said, laughing softly. “That’s it? Really?”

“Don’t make fun of me.”

“M’not fuckin’—“ Katsuki huffed, pulling back a bit, so he could look him in the eye. “Deku, c’mon. You should know that by now.”

Izuku frowned, looking off to the side. And then Katsuki tipped his head up, and pressed his lips against his own. It was slow, gentle, sweet—nothing like the raw, charged kiss of the previous night. Like warm tea in the wintertime, or the sound of rain outside your bedroom window. The kind of kiss you’d come home for.

Katsuki pulled away after a moment, met Izuku’s eyes and licked his lips.

“Tomorrow.”

Izuku blinked a few times. “What?”

“M’gonna take you out. Alright?”

“I, umm…” Izuku gulped. “Sure… okay.”

Katsuki grinned, and planted one last peck on his lips. “Get some rest, nerd.” He murmured. “You and your pretty wings are gonna need it.”


Izuku woke the next morning to the sensation of Triplet landing on his chest, and based on the way Katsuki was standing and the position of his arms, it wasn’t hard to deduce that he was in some way responsible.

“Wake up, asshole. We’re goin’ on an adventure.”

When Izuku’s eyes finally adjusted to the morning light, he realized that Katsuki was dressed head to toe in hiking gear. Dark green cargo pants, a black shirt, and a utility belt with all sorts of strange items attached to it.

Izuku sat up slowly, careful not to disturb Triplet, who was curled up in his lap, purring. As he gently petted her, he looked up at Katsuki with narrowed eyes. “What sort of adventure?”

“Nothin’ you can’t handle.” He shrugged. “Wanted you to get to do some sight-seeing, is all.” Katsuki turned and reached into his bag, which was set aside on one of the living room chairs, and handed a touch pad to Izuku.

There, on the screen, was what looked to be a map.

Map of Hell

“Wait.” Izuku’s eyes widened. “Is… Is this Hell, Kacchan?”

Katsuki smirked. “Sure is.”

Izuku just stared at it for a while, zooming in on different features. Triplet, having grown bored now that he wasn’t petting her, hopped off his lap and made a beeline for the habanero plant. 

“Oi!” Katsuki barked, scooping her up in his arms. “Y’little fucker, don’t think I don’t know what you’re up to.”

She meowed at him.

“Yeah, yeah. I’ll feed ya.” He glanced at Izuku. “Be right back.”

Izuku just grunted, still staring at the map as Katsuki walked away.

When he finally zoomed out again, he noticed two things he hadn’t before. First was the highlighted route on the map. Second was the scale bar down in the bottom left corner. Katsuki returned just as the realization hit him full-force.

“Kacchan… it says every inch here is a thousand miles.”

“Yeah,” Katsuki took a sip from the coffee cup he was now holding. “What about it?”

Izuku stared at the path Katsuki had drawn. It basically had them circling around the entire continent. “How long is this route, exactly?”

“Roughly eighteen-thousand miles.”

Izuku just looked up at him for a while, attempting to come to grips with that concept. “And you’re expecting this to take us how long, exactly?”

“Well, it’s about seven right now. If we head out soon, we can be back before ten tonight.”

He blinked a few times pointedly. “And how exactly is that supposed to work?”

Katsuki merely grinned, a mischievous glint in his eye as he stared at him over the lip of his coffee mug. “Oh, you’ll see, nerd.”


Their journey began with a train ride just over an hour east of Oseryth, and after ten minutes of walking, they reached the edge of a dense forest, surrounded by a short but highly visible red fence. As they got closer, Izuku squinted to read one of the signs posted up ahead.

WARNING: now entering THE DEPTHS. 

Extreme caution is advised.

Izuku felt a chill run down his spine.

“Um, Kacchan? Are you sure we should be here? It seems kind of…” He side-eyed the signpost. “Dangerous?”

“I said I was takin’ you on an adventure, didn’t I?”

Izuku hesitated, staring back at him for a moment. Then, his eyes narrowed. “Wait.” He said. “Is this the forest Kaminari mentioned?” 

Katsuki simply stared back at him, and Izuku took that as a confirmation, his eyes widening.

“Um, I don’t know if—“

“—It’ll be fine.” Katsuki waved his hand. “You’re with me, and I know what I’m doing. That said,” he gave Izuku a stern look. “We gotta set some ground rules, Deku. And I really mean it. This shit is fuckin’ non-negotiable.”

Izuku gulped. “Okay…?”

“Rule number one,” He raised a finger. “Is that you stay close to me at all times. I’ll walk just slightly ahead of you, but I want you fuckin’ glued to my side, you got that?”

He nodded. That’s easy enough.

“Good.” He lifted another finger. “Rule number two is, once we’re in there, there’s no stopping. We can slow down if you need to, and if it comes to it, I can carry you, but we have to keep walking the entire time, no matter what.”

Izuku frowned. That one’s a little… disconcerting.

Still, he nodded again.

“Alright.” He raised a third finger. “Finally, rule number three is… if it starts talking to you, don’t react to it.” He stopped for a second, giving him a grim look before continuing.

“It’ll use your own voice, and it’s weird as fuck, so, y’know—be prepared for that shit, but do not fucking respond, Deku.” Katsuki grabbed him by the shoulders, shaking him slightly. “Don’t respond, and do not, under any fucking circumstances, turn to look in the direction you heard it from, because that is how it finds you.” He paused, taking a deep breath. “Just keep your eyes locked straight ahead and ignore it ’til it stops.”

Izuku shivered, a cold, ominous feeling dropping into his gut that seemed to freeze him from the inside out. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know, but couldn’t resist the urge to ask. “What…” He gulped. “What do you mean by it, exactly…?”

“The Depths, Deku.” Katsuki replied. “The forest itself.”

The words hung in the air for a moment.

“A-And what happens when it… finds… you?”

“I dunno, nerd. But considering no one’s ever lived to tell the tale, I think it’s safe to assume it’s nothing good.”

Katsuki stood and held something out to him that looked like a belt. “Here, put this around your waist.”

He took the belt, and noticed that, among other things, it had a pair of ear muffs and a full-face respirator attached to it.

“What are these for?”

Katsuki shrugged, hooking a matching belt around his waist. “Creatures in the Depths can sense the strength of other creatures. I’m actually gonna shift before we go in, just for good measure. Since you’re with me, most of the shit we come across out here won’t attack us, but there’re exceptions. If I tell you to put those on, do it immediately.” Katsuki paused for a moment. “Actually, if I tell you to do anything, do it immediately.” He amended. “That’s rule zero. Any questions?”

“Yes, actually.” Izuku replied. “Is it perhaps an option for us to simply…” He squinted, gesturing vaguely. “You know, not enter the murderous nightmare forest?”

Katsuki scoffed. “It’s not that scary.”

“Kaminari seemed to think it was, and everything you’ve told me appears to confirm that.”

He rolled his eyes. “So if you don’t got any more questions, I’m assuming you’re ready to go?”

Izuku just pursed his lips and stared back at him. Katsuki seemed to take that as a tacit agreement.

“Great. In that case…”

In less than a second, Katsuki shifted, his horns twisting and extending as his wings all but shot out of his back. It happened so quickly, Izuku actually jumped. Given how long it had taken that day with Shinsou, he’d expected it to be more gradual.

Guess that was just for dramatic effect…

He clapped his large, clawed, black hands, and an orb of light appeared a few feet in front of him. Then, he stepped over the red fence, and gestured for Izuku to follow. 

Katsuki entered the woods with Izuku by his side. The morning light crested the mountains in the distance, spilling abstract patterns through the trees. The orb floated in front of them, mostly useless, at first. 

But as the minutes ticked by, Izuku noticed the trees becoming taller, and oddly regular in their spacing. The pattern emerged as a sort of grid, with every tree around the same distance from its neighbors, which was just enough space for them to walk side by side comfortably.

Their branches became fuller, too—gradually covering more and more surface area, until they seemed to obscure the sky completely. From there, it felt somewhat reminiscent of twilight.

After ten minutes, Izuku could no longer see the tops of the trees. The trunks simply faded into the darkness, hundreds, perhaps even thousands of feet above their heads. The orb illuminated a radius of roughly five feet around them; just enough to see their immediate surroundings, and perhaps catch small glimpses of what lay beyond.

As they walked, Katsuki held what looked to be a compass in his hand, and from Izuku’s position—quite literally under Katsuki’s wing—he noticed that, even as they walked in a straight line, the compass seemed to display otherwise. At times, they’d be walking straight north, and the compass would start to drift east or west, at which point Katsuki would veer off the path in order to get back on track. Other times, it would abruptly jerk one way or another, and Katsuki would have to make sharp turns to compensate.

On one occasion, the compass even made a complete one-eighty, forcing them to turn around and backtrack, or so it seemed, at least.

It was somewhere around the half hour mark when Izuku finally heard it.

“Are you ready to go, yet?” A voice—his own voice—asked. 

Izuku tensed. It seemed to come from the left, roughly ten feet away. But Izuku didn’t look. He clenched his jaw and kept his gaze locked on the path in front of them.

Up above, he could hear the distant sound of wind blowing, swaying the trees ever so slightly. Apart from that, the forest was dead silent. 

It came from behind him next.

“Don’t forget to turn your heart off.” It told him. 

Then, from his right this time: “Do the shadows still bleed for you?”

Izuku’s brow furrowed. It was… strange, to say the least. It was as though the Depths knew how to construct a sentence that technically expressed an idea, just not one that corresponded to any sort of reality. Like it was piecing together puzzle pieces from many separate sets, all cut in the same way, yet displaying different images; the result was structurally coherent, but meaningless. 

The next one came from his left again. Closer, this time. Perhaps only a foot away from his ear. “I thank my transparent skin in this night of vile fairytales.” 

Izuku’s hands had been shaking since he first heard the voice, but for some reason, that one just got to him. He wasn’t sure why; it didn’t make sense, but his eyes teared up nonetheless. He wished he had thought to ask Katsuki beforehand how long he could expect this to go on. He wasn’t sure how much more of it he could handle. 

Fortunately, however, it seemed that it was over. A few minutes went by, and then Katsuki spoke.

“Good job.”

Izuku’s breath caught, his heart still racing. “…Did you hear it, too?” 

“No,” he shook his head. “But you looked like you were about the shit yourself, so I assumed.”

Izuku nodded quietly. “Have you heard it yet?”

The compass suddenly twisted east, and Katsuki made a sharp left turn to continue on north. “I haven’t. And it’s probably targeting you, ‘cuz it can sense you’re the weakest link. No offense.” He shrugged. “Be careful, though. It can start up again at any time.”

Izuku gulped. “What… is it, exactly…?” He asked. “The Depths.”

Katsuki hummed. “Y’know, no one really knows. ‘Course, there’re theories. One is that it’s all one big organism. That’s probably the one most people buy into. But even within that, there’s a lot of debate about its specific nature. Y’know, how intelligent it is, where it comes from. That sorta shit.” 

The compass spun west, and Katsuki made a sharp right turn in response. 

“There’re some people who think that calling it an organism is kinda dangerous, though.”

Izuku blinked. “Dangerous?”

“Yeah. Not like, literally dangerous, but… well, it’s kinda hard to explain.” Katsuki paused, his brow furrowing. “I guess the issue is that categorizing it that way presupposes that it’s something we’re able to categorize.”

“…What do you mean?”

“Well, just think about it. It’s like—the Depths is this big, massive thing that nobody really understands, y’know? There’s something kinda weird and arrogant about looking at this fucking horrible eldritch location and saying, ‘oh yeah, that’s totally something we can describe based on our current understanding of how shit works.’”

“Ohh, I think I get it.” Izuku smiled. “So, what you’re basically saying is it’s sort of like trying to fit it into a box, when the right box might not even exist yet.”

“Yeah, pretty much.” He nodded. “And the issue is, when you categorize something, it’s sorta like choosin’ a lens to look at it through. And like, sure, maybe lookin’ at it through that lens could lead to some new discoveries, but y’gotta be careful, ‘cuz if you overcommit to it, you risk losing the bigger picture. That’s the argument, anyway.”

“Huh… I guess I’d be inclined to agree.”

“Same, but I dunno. I don’t think it has to be, like, an absolute thing.” Katsuki shrugged. “You can call it an organism when it’s useful without fully committing to that definition. Y’know, ‘cuz it is useful. It’s actually real fuckin’ hard to further your understanding of shit if y’never pick a framework to analyze it with.

“Plus, there’s a point where this ‘no categorization’ argument just kinda devolves into blanket anti-science bullshit. Like, there’re people out there who think that trying to study the Depths at all is pointless.”

Izuku frowned. “Well, I wouldn’t go that far.”

Katsuki grunted in agreement. “Yeah, but it’s all kinda part of this bigger philosophical argument about the conflict between our desire to understand shit and the actual limits of our understanding. No one can really say where the line is, or if it even exists.”

“I mean, I think there’s a line.” Izuku said. “It’s like when God flooded the Earth. Everyone always asks why he did it, as though that’s something they could understand.”

“Oh, that one actually has a very simple explanation, Deku.” He grinned. “It’s ‘cuz God is a fucking asshole.”

For a moment, Izuku wasn’t really sure how to respond. A few months ago, he would’ve immediately gotten defensive, but now…

The image of the snow-white town interjected itself into his thoughts, and Izuku gripped the fabric of his cloak as he tried to force it out of his head, tried to sever the wave of guilt that tugged at his heart.

Izuku gulped. “I mean… I guess that’s… one explanation for it…” He cleared his throat. “Anyway, uh. How much further is it, by the way?”

“Shouldn’t be long, now.”

And sure enough, just a few minutes later, light slowly but surely began to leak into the forest from above, and soon they reached the threshold. They emerged in a frigid, rocky landscape, and as Katsuki stepped over the fence, he returned to his partially-shifted form.

Izuku looked around at the cold, mountainous area. “Where are we?” 

“Hades Island. About two-thousand miles northeast of Oseryth.”

“What? Kacchan, we’ve been walking for, like, forty-five minutes!”

“I know.” He grinned. “That’s the thing about the Depths, Deku. You don’t feel like you’re movin’ that fast, ‘cuz the Depths move with you. S’part of what makes it so dangerous. Even when you’re standin’ still, you’re still moving.”


They came upon a small opening in the side of the mountain, and as Katsuki ducked inside, Izuku followed. It was a cavern of some kind, and it expanded the further they went. Izuku strained his eyes to see as the space grew darker, and then Katsuki reached into his bag and pulled something out. Izuku heard a cracking sound, and the cave was immediately lit up an otherworldly green. Katsuki tossed on glow stick off to the side, and threw the other down a shaft up ahead.

Izuku raised an eyebrow. “No orb of light this time?”

He grinned. “I just think it packs more of a punch this way.” 

The shaft was around ten feet long, and fortunately, there was already a rope secured in place. Once Katsuki reached the bottom, he looked up at Izuku. 

“You comin’?” 

Izuku nodded, getting down on his hands and knees, carefully easing himself into it. He had to pull his wings tight against his body in order to fit, but luckily the actual process of getting down wasn’t too hard.

One of the first things he noticed as he reached the ground was that the temperature had risen a few degrees. The cavern was humid, and there was an oddly sweet smell permeating the air. 

Katsuki led him down a few makeshift corridors until finally they reached a chamber large enough for them both to stand comfortably. It was pitch black, and Izuku waited quietly as Katsuki fumbled with his bag. 

“You ready?”

“Um.” Izuku said. “For what, exactly…?” 

Katsuki laughed low and under his breath as he proceeded to pull out several more glow sticks, cracking them all at once, then tossing them quickly around the enclosure. 

As the glow sticks flew, Izuku watched the world glitter. He held his breath, his eyes wide. And it hit him right as the second glow stick landed, just what it was he was seeing.

The room was filled with gems. 

Sprouting from the ground and protruding from the walls were enormous, glittering crystals unlike anything he’d ever seen before. The soft, green light of the glow sticks gave the room an otherworldly atmosphere.

“Welcome to Hades’ Treasure Chest, Deku.”

“Kacchan, this is beautiful.”

“You ain’t seen nothin’ yet, nerd.” Katsuki said, approaching one of the larger crystals. He then clapped his hands, just as he did prior to entering the Depths, an orb of light appeared before him. It shone brightly through the crystal, and as it filtered through, beams of light shot out from its sides, bouncing off the other crystals in colors all across the rainbow. 

As Izuku stood at the center of the iridescent chamber, for a minute, he was just speechless. Hands held over his mouth, goosebumps raising on his skin, ruffling the feathers of his wings. Izuku was in awe. It felt like he was standing at the center of some beautiful dream, and the feelings it brought from his heart were genuinely difficult to describe.

Overloaded with emotion, Izuku began to tear up. He turned around and looked at Katsuki, who, upon meeting his gaze, seemed momentarily alarmed. “Woah, what—“ He didn’t get a chance to finish before Izuku threw his arms around him, pressing his face against his chest, tears soaking through the fabric of his shirt.

Katsuki tensed for only a second before he relaxed. Then he wrapped his arms around him, chin resting on the top of his head.

“Cry baby.”

Izuku whined. “Hey, you brought me here! Don’t act like you didn’t know this would happen!” 

Katsuki’s chest rumbled as he laughed softly. “Hey, m’just statin’ facts.” He said. “And it is a fact that you’re a massive fuckin’ cry baby.”

“Rude.”

“Never said it was an insult.”

Izuku just grumbled incoherently against his chest.

“…Y’know, the crazy thing is, the first time I came here, it wasn’t even on purpose.”

“What, really?”

“Yep.” He said. “It was my second time travelin’ the Depths alone. One of the straps on my bag broke, and I spilled all my shit on the forest floor.”

“Oh wow. So you had to stop?”

“I mean… uhhh, what’s that shit Aizawa always says?” He squinted. “Somethin’ like, ‘reasonable people can disagree on whether I should’ve stopped.’” He used air quotes. “If something like that happened today, I’d probably stop. But I was still an amateur, y’know? I’d heard way too many fuckin’ horror stories about people stoppin’ in the Depths, and endin’ up in way over their heads, so I was just like, fuck it.” He shrugged. “Found the first exit point I could and contacted my teacher.”

“Your teacher?”

“Mm.” He said. “More of a friend than a mentor at this point, but yeah. I’d introduce you, but she’s been real fuckin’ busy.”

“Ahh.”

“Anyway, yeah. I contacted my teacher, and once she was done chewin’ me out for keeping my respirator in my bag like a fucking moron, she agreed to come meet with me.”

Izuku giggled. “So you had to get picked up?”

“Like a fucking loser.” He rolled his eyes. “But yeah, I had a few hours to kill, so I did some exploring. And that’s how I wound up finding this place.”

“Wait, so you discovered it?”

“No.” He snorted. “I fuckin’ thought I had. I was real excited about it, too. Then my teacher showed up, and I’m like, ‘you gotta come see what I found.’ And she’s like, ‘yeah, yeah, Hades’ treasure chest. We know.’”

“Aww!” Izuku laughed.

“I was so disappointed.” He sighed. “I thought I was Neil Armstrong…” He paused, running his fingertips across the surface of one of the crystals. “But it turned out I was Christopher fucking Columbus all along.”


When they eventually left the cavern, Katsuki pulled out a map and scanned it for a moment. Izuku glanced up at the sky, noting that it was perhaps nine in the morning. 

“Well, we’re in luck, nerd.” Katsuki said. “‘Cuz the next spot shouldn’t take us more than half an hour in the Depths.” He paused to fold the map up again. “Course, that’s no excuse for you to get careless. Bad shit can still happen, even if you’re only in there for a bit.”

Izuku nodded, and watched as Katsuki shifted once again. 

“You ready?” He asked.

And with that, they were off.

By the ten minute mark, they were back in the dark portion of the Depths, and Katsuki broke the silence first.

“You haven’t heard it again?” 

Izuku shook his head. “No, not so far.”

“Good.” 

After a minute, Izuku commented, “I’m surprised we haven’t run into any animals yet.”

“Oh, they’re around.” Katsuki told him. He jerked his head toward the right. “There’s a lot of Hyleks out this time of year. Little furry creatures that burrow inside the trees. They’re harmless, though. Some people even keep ‘em as pets.” 

The compass veered south, and Katsuki made a rapid course correction. 

“I spotted a couple Saevyrs during the first trip. Those things can be pretty nasty. Real aggressive, opportunistic predators.” He said. “But again, the creatures out here can sense when they’re up against something they can’t beat. They’d never challenge me, and they know you’re mine.”

Izuku’s eyes bugged out a bit, a blush spreading across his cheeks. He knew that Katsuki didn’t mean it like that, but that didn’t stop his mind from going there.

In an effort to distract himself, Izuku asked, “I-Is there anything out here that would try to attack you?”

“Well, yeah.” Katsuki replied. “Just not in the parts we’re traveling through.”

At that, he frowned. “But how can you tell? It all looks the same to me…”

Katsuki hummed, then pointed up. “You hear that?”

“Hear what?”

“The wind.” He said. “Blowin’ through the trees.”

“Oh.” He blinked. “Well, yeah.”

“That’s the easiest way to tell.”

The compass veered north, and Katsuki responded with a sharp right turn.

“That’s why we can’t just wear ear plugs in here all the time. Once the light’s gone, it’s that sound more than anything else that keeps you oriented. If it starts to fade, that means you gotta tread carefully. ‘Cuz if it disappears…” He chuckled softly. “That’s when you know you’re in deep shit.”


When they emerged from the forest half an hour later, it was to a landscape caught between two extremes. On Izuku’s left was a line of mountains and volcanoes that cut the skyline like jagged teeth. On his right, an enormous rift that stretched far into the distance, so deep Izuku couldn’t even see the bottom of it. 

But the most striking part of it all was the way that two opposing forces converged within the crevasse. On the side closed to Izuku, streams of lava and hellfire poured endlessly from the smoking volcanoes, spilling into the rift, disappearing into its depths. On the opposite side, a large river met its end in the chasm, in the form of a massive waterfall.

Izuku stared at it for a long time. There was something about the scene before him than just didn’t look right to him. It seemed like the falloff of light was too abrupt. Darkness wasn’t the result of a presence so much as it was the result of an absence—namely, the absence of light. But as he gazed into the abyss, at the bizarre, inky blackness within, he got the sense that there was something there, something physical.

“It’s got a couple different names, but I like to call it Schrödinger’s Lake.” Katsuki told him, snapping him out of his trance. Izuku furrowed his brow.

“Lake...?”

Katsuki grinned, beckoning him closer to the edge, where he crouched down and grabbed the nearest rock. Izuku came to squat beside him.

“Check this out.” He said, and proceeded to throw the rock into the chasm. As expected, it fell, disappearing into the darkness. Izuku wasn’t really sure what point he was trying to make. 

But then Katsuki reached out and touched it. 

To Izuku’s astonishment, the space that had once appeared empty suddenly gained form, behaving like a sea of black liquid, rather than a dark pit. Katsuki cupped his hands, scooping some of the mysterious substance up. It spilled between his fingers like water, and rippled just the same.

“You shouldn’t try to touch it yourself.” Katsuki warned him. “It’s really hot, and even if it wasn’t, I have no idea how it’d affect you.”

Izuku nodded, staring at it in awe for a moment before grabbing a rock himself. He glanced at Katsuki briefly, waiting for him to give a small nod before he chucked it into the mysterious body, watching it fall into the expanse, much as it had before. Katsuki then handed him a stick, and he leaned forward slightly, poking at the surface, watching the liquid engulf it.

It was unlike anything he’d ever seen before.

“I’m… so confused.” Izuku muttered. “Kacchan, what on earth is this?”

“S’called hellwater,” Katsuki replied. “It’s what happens when hellfire interacts with a much larger body of freshwater. Basically, it’ll act like either a liquid or a gas depending on the speed of the object hitting it. Like this,” Katsuki thrust his hand down under the ‘surface’ and then stopped abruptly. At that moment, the hellwater engulfing his hand suddenly became opaque, like black tar. He remained still for a moment before he slowly pulled his hand back. Once it was out, Katsuki quickly shook his hand, and Izuku watched, mouth gaping, as the hellwater coating it seemed to evaporate instantly.

“Theoretically, if you were to jump in there, it’d feel like you were falling right up until you got to the bottom.” Katsuki explained. “At that point, the feeling of being underwater would hit you like a fuckin’ freight train.”

Izuku blinked a few times pointedly. “Okay, that… I feel like this is illegal—I mean, in like a scientific sense.” 

Katsuki snorted. “Hell doesn’t follow the same rules as Earth, Deku. That’s just something you’re gonna have to come to terms with.”

“Yeah, but, like…” He squinted. “What rules does it follow? I can get on board with the rules being different, I’m just… trying to work out the logic, here.”

“Well, lucky for you, there are entire fields in academia dedicated to studying how shit works down here.” Katsuki grinned. “They’re called the chthonic sciences. If that’s somethin’ you’re interested in, well…” he shrugged. “There’re plenty of books out there, schools and research groups focused on that sort of thing.”

“Huh…” Izuku said, still entranced as he stirred the surface with the stick. “What happens if you try to swim in it?”

Katsuki winced. “Well, you can…” He said. “But it’s a slippery fuckin’ slope, y’know? You can do it if you’re real careful, but if y’move too fast, you’re pretty much fucked. Sudden movements lead to falling, which leads to more falling, and before you know it, you’re hundreds of feet underwater.”

Izuku frowned. “Couldn’t you just fly out?”

“I mean…” Katsuki squinted. “Technically? But by the time you’re able to start, you’re already pretty fuckin’ deep, is the thing, and as soon as you start gliding, you feel the water again. In theory, you can swim to the surface at that point. Problem is, when you’re that deep, it’s real fuckin’ hard to stay calm. Most people start panicking, which makes you move too fast, which pulls you deeper.” Katsuki stood up, stretching his arms over his head. “So it’s basically just a fuckin’ death trap.”

“Jeez.” Izuku mumbled. “Has anyone ever survived? Swimming in it, I mean.”

“Oh, yeah. Tons of people.” Katsuki replied. “Including me.”

“Wait, seriously?!” Izuku gasped. “You did it?”

“Yep.” He pursed his lips. “Almost fucked it up, too. But luckily I was close enough to the edge when I slipped, so someone was able to grab me and pull me out before it was too late.”

Izuku stood up slowly. “Kacchan, with all due respect… what is wrong with you?”

He snorted. “I did it for a dare when I was young and stupid as fuck. I was kinda drunk at the time, too.” He shrugged. “The fucked up part is, the friend who dared me to do it was both older than me and sober at the time.”

Izuku’s face twisted up in disgust. “Seriously?”

“Yeah.” He scoffed. “So, needless to say, we ain’t fuckin’ friends anymore.”

Izuku just shook his head as he gazed down into the abyss. “Good riddance.”


Katsuki had warned him prior to entering that this trip would be the longest one by far. 

Izuku felt the tension in his body increasing with every step they took, and the longer they went without incident, the more he began to expect something would happen. The sound of leaves rustling, twigs snapping in the distance made him jump, and Katsuki even went so far as to offer to take a detour at the next exit point, though Izuku insisted it wasn’t necessary.

It was almost a relief, when the forest started speaking to him again. It was still terrifying, of course, but at least he knew how to handle it. 

“Lately the ordinary has deepened our grave.” It said, as Izuku stared straight ahead, wiping his clammy hands on his robe. It fell silent not long after, and Izuku felt much of the tension in his body ease away. The worst was behind them, now. The terror had already struck, and that meant he no longer needed to worry.

Right?

At some point, Katsuki began to slow a bit as they were walking, looking around at something Izuku couldn’t discern. Something rustled nearby.

“Shit.” He hissed. “Deku, mask and earmuffs. Now.”

Izuku’s breath caught in his throat, and he froze up for a second before scrambling to pull the mask off his belt. It was designed to come off when pulled, so at least he didn’t have to waste time fumbling with it.

With shaky hands, he quickly pulled the mask over his head, and grabbed the earmuffs next, pulling them apart as he went to put them on.

Then his fingers slipped. 

Ice dropped into the pit of his stomach as he watched the earmuffs hit the forest floor. They were still walking, and once they left his sight, he craned his neck to look behind him, only to find that they were nowhere to be seen. Izuku began breathing heavily in the respirator. 

“K-Kacchan…”

Katsuki looked at him, and paled.

“Shit. Shit!” he hissed. “Barrier up. Now.” That was the only warning he got before Katsuki shoved Izuku in front of him and sealed his large, shifted hands over his ears. It was as though he’d been plunged under water. 

And then he saw it. 

The creature emerged from the shadows around ten feet ahead of them. It looked like some sort of strange, mutant deer, with two extra legs and a few more eyes placed around its head. It wasn’t a particularly intimidating creature in itself. 

What was frightening, however, was the way that it moved. 

It staggered through the dirt and leaves, threatening to topple over with every step it took. It was as though the deer wasn’t moving so much as it was being moved, the way you might expect it to look if someone were to hold an unconscious person upright, while another person moved their legs manually. Each step was careful and heavy, and the creature’s head hung forward limply.

As it got closer, Izuku noticed the strange rippling of its skin, as though many small things had been trapped inside of it, writhing beneath the creature’s flesh. Izuku gagged at the sight, fighting back the urge to vomit inside the respirator.

Katsuki kept his hands over his ears for a minute afterward, and in his heightened state of awareness, he began noticing odd, red patterns on the trees. They came in clusters of blotches, and looked a little like messy finger prints. Only after the patterns disappeared did Katsuki finally take his hands off Izuku’s ears, returning to his place slightly ahead of him as he removed his own ear muffs and mask. Izuku did the same, hooking his mask on his belt again.

“I’m sorry.” He said, voice barely a whisper.

Katsuki shook his head. “Don’t be.” He replied. “I should’ve noticed the signs sooner.”

Izuku tried to swallow the nausea within him. A minute passed before he finally asked, “Um... What was that thing?”

Katsuki glanced at him out of the corner of his eye. “Do you really wanna know?”

Izuku shrugged. “It’s going to keep bothering me if I don’t.”

Katsuki sighed. “Those,” He emphasized the word. “Are called Vassalites. They’re a type of parasitic insect that reproduce by entering a host’s body and laying eggs inside them. Would you like to learn more?”

Izuku swallowed the nausea welling up in his throat. “Uh, no.” He said. “No, I think I’m good, thank you.”

Katsuki nodded. “If you ever meet God, ask him why he felt the need to give us so many creatures that reproduce by layin’ eggs inside other creatures. ‘Cuz I mean, I get that it’s fuckin’ gross and like, viscerally upsetting, but that can only justify so much. At a certain point, it just gets suspicious.”

Izuku frowned. “I’m not really sure what you’re trying to say.”

Katsuki opened his mouth, then seemed to think better of it. “You know what? Never mind. That’s probably for the best.”


When they emerged next, it was at the foot of what appeared to be a mountain that stretched high up into the clouds. Its sides were steep, almost unnaturally so. Izuku felt tired just looking at it.

“It’s just at the top, here.” Katsuki muttered nonchalantly. 

Izuku’s eyes bugged out. “Wait, this one?” He pointed at the mountain. “This one, right here? Seriously?”

“Uhh, yeah?” Katsuki replied. “Why?”

Izuku hesitated a moment. 

“Look, it’s just…” He sighed. “I’m not sure about this one. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I want to see whatever you’re trying to show me, but... Well, I’m not much of a hiker normally, and this just seems…” He grimaced. “A bit out of my league, to say the least.”

“Well, guess it’s a good thing there’s no hiking involved here.”

Izuku did a double take, brows pinched together as he looked at him. It was only then that he realized that Katsuki was still fully shifted.

“Sorry, what?”

Katsuki gave him a blank look. “I just said we don’t have to climb it, Deku.”

Izuku simply stared back at him for a while, blinking pointedly. After a moment, Katsuki lowered his chin and raised an eyebrow. Then, gesturing back at his wings, Katsuki slowly explained, “Because we can fly to the top, Deku.”

A second went by.

“…Oh.” Izuku muttered. Another two seconds, and his eyes went wide. “Oh!”

Katsuki burst out laughing, buckling over and clutching his stomach.

“Holy fuck,” he wheezed. “Did you seriously fuckin’ forget you could fly, dumbass?”

“W-Well—!” He flushed. “I mean, it’s not like I’ve had a chance to recently, w-with the artifice and all!” 

It took way too long for Katsuki to calm down, but eventually, he stood up straight and exhaled fondly. “C’mon. Follow me,” he said, moving a few feet away, so that he could extend his wings fully. “It’ll take like five minutes, tops.”

Izuku stood there for a moment, watching as Katsuki extended his large, black wings and took flight. For a moment, he just stood there, gazing up at him. Though he’d seen Katsuki’s wings stretched out before, he’d never actually seen him fly, and the sight of him moving so gracefully made his heart flutter inside his chest and his face heat up. 

Kacchan really is incredible…

“Well?” He shouted, hovering high in the sky. “You comin,’ or what?” 

Izuku swallowed, shoving the thoughts out of his mind as he, too, took flight, meeting Katsuki in the air many feet above. 


When they landed a few minutes later, Katsuki returned to his normal, half-shifted form with a sigh. He paused to roll his shoulders, stretching his arms above his head, before gesturing for Izuku to follow him. He led him up a short pathway, and one of the first things Izuku noticed was that the closer they got, the warmer it became.

It did not take long to figure out why. 

When they reached the peak of the mountain a minute later, Izuku realized it wasn’t a mountain at all, but rather a volcano. And as he peered over the crevasse at the center, he saw something that took his breath away. Down there, around twenty feet below, was a vast lake of lava, bubbling and popping, and moving around sluggishly, though it didn’t seem to be actively erupting.

The really amazing part, however, was the color. The lava glowed an otherworldly violet and sparkled like amethyst, and when Izuku stood there looking down at it, his heart raced with a mixture of wonder and anxiety that he wasn’t quite sure how to process. It was oddly familiar, however. Almost like…

…When I first met Kacchan. 

Izuku’s breath caught in his throat as it came back to him, an odd sort of nostalgia. He could remember that period, when that conflict raged within him, the knowledge that Katsuki could kill him in an instant, paired with the inability to look away from him. It’d been a while since he’d last felt afraid of Katsuki, though.

He tore his eyes away for a moment, peering over the opposite edge. It truly was a bizarre formation. The steep drop-off on the exterior felt more akin to a skyscraper than a volcano, and the distant sight of jagged rocks thousands of feet below made it almost as intimidating.

The ground around the opening was perhaps a little more than the width of a standard doorway. It was more than enough for the two of them to move around with relative freedom—just not enough for what came next.

“Hey, Deku.”

Izuku turned his head toward Katsuki, and found him standing there with one gloved hand outstretched. He was a bit confused, but he tentatively took his hand.

He regretted it almost immediately. 

Because as soon as the Demon’s grip closed around his hand, Katsuki yanked him closer, pulling him into his chest. He grabbed Izuku’s other hand and placed it on his shoulder, and with a wide grin, began to move rhythmically, humming some random tune. Izuku was too busy being terrified to care what it was.

“What the hell are you doing?!”

Katsuki gave a shit-eating grin. 

“Dancin’ with you, obviously,” he replied, somehow managing to puppeteer Izuku into a waltz, even as his feet dragged along the ground.

“Seriously? Here?!”

“Sure, why not?”

“Kacchan!” Izuku looked back and forth between their two potential fates: one a bed of jagged rocks thousands of feet below, the other just a short drop into a pit of molten lava. Though the first was more than long enough for him to fly out of it, the other was not so certain.

“It’s just a little lava, Deku.”

“I’m going to kill you.”

At that, Katsuki just laughed, and Izuku stumbled, jaw clenching as Katsuki twirled him around. His palms were sweaty against the fabric of Katsuki’s shirt and glove, and his heart would not stop hammering in his chest, but ultimately, he decided to just grit his teeth and go along with it. The lip of the volcano didn’t seen particularly stable, after all. Putting up a struggle was just too risky in a place where one wrong move could send you hurdling to your doom.

And so, Izuku gritted his teeth and matched his movements, dancing with him even as he stared up at him with a withering glare.

“Oh, c’mon.” Katsuki rolled his eyes. “Quit bein’ so nervous.” 

“Not all of us are heat-resistant, Kacchan.”

Katsuki pulled him a bit closer. “Deku, you know I’m not gonna let anything happen to you.”

Izuku looked away, grumbling under his breath before falling silent. For a moment, it was just the ambient sound of steaming lava, the soft shuffle of their footsteps, and the occasional sound of a bubble popping, or a rock falling into the volcano, that made Izuku tense up all over again.

“You know, I actually got thrown in there once.”

Izuku blinked. “Sorry, what?”

Katsuki grinned. “It’s kinda like a Wrath Demon rite of passage, I guess.” He shrugged. “This is the hottest volcano in Hell. The idea is that once you’ve taken a swim in there, you can handle pretty much anything.”

Izuku just stared at him for a few seconds, momentarily distracted from the objectively perilous situation they were in. 

“You swam… in a volcano.” He deadpanned.

“Well, ‘swam’ might not be the right word.” He said. “You can’t really swim in it. It’s basically just hot goo.”

“…And this is like, a tradition?”

“Guess so. I dunno who started it, though.” He snorted. “I’d like to meet the first guy who did it. Imagine that—just thinkin’ ‘fuck it,’ goin’ balls to the wall and jumping straight into a goddamn volcano. What a fucking legend.”

“Wait, but…” Izuku narrowed his eyes. “Didn’t that hurt?”

“Oh, it hurt like a motherfucker.” Katsuki grinned. “Didn’t speak to my teacher for two weeks afterward.”

“So did she just… not tell you what she was planning?”

“She told me, like, ten seconds in advance.” He rolled his eyes. “I remember her takin’ me up here, me askin’ what the Hell we were doin’ here. And when she finally told me, ‘you’re going to jump into this volcano,’ I was like, ‘Uh, no, actually. I’m not. Fuck you very much.’” He sighed. “Famous last words.”

“Jeez.”

“Yeah.” He scoffed. “I couldn’t hold the grudge for long, though. ‘Cuz after that, I actually did see a lot of rapid improvement. But damn if I wasn’t pissed for a while.”

“Guess I can’t blame you.” He mumbled. A moment passed by in silence, and Izuku noted that his heart rate had slowed down a bit, thanks to the distraction the story had provided.

That did not last long.

Suddenly, Katsuki dipped him over the edge, causing him to hover right over the lava, one foot in the air, the other precariously placed on the edge. Izuku’s heart lurched in his chest, his eyes nearly bulging out of his skull. Katsuki pulled him back a second later, but his heart was still pounding.

“I hate you.”

“Aw, baby. Don’t be like that.” 

Izuku gave him a bright smile. “Sleep with your eyes open, Kacchan!” He chirped.

Katsuki snorted, but gradually, his movements began to slow, until they were holding onto one another, swaying back and forth beneath the glow of violet light. The fear gradually dulled as their movements stabilized further, and eventually, Katsuki gently pulled away.

“We should probably head out.” He muttered. “You ready?”

Izuku nodded very enthusiastically. 

With that, Katsuki shifted once again, and the two of them set off, flying down the mountain and landing at the edge of the Depths again.

“Hey.” Katsuki said, getting his attention. He looked up just before Katsuki pulled him into a hug, his cheek pressing into his chest. “Sorry for scarin’ ya.” 

Izuku released a long sigh, shaking his head. “I feel like you’re the sort of person who’d go to a public pool and dunk kids’ heads underwater as a joke.”

That made Katsuki laugh. “Well, a baptism’s a baptism.”

Despite himself, Izuku cracked a smile.


Izuku shivered as he walked behind Katsuki. It was quiet, apart from the distant sound of the wind.

Izuku gasped when he caught sight of something moving out of the corner of his eye.

“It’s okay.” Katsuki was quick to say. 

“There’s—“

“It’s just another Hylek. Don’t worry.”

Izuku craned his neck, searching for the creature, but he couldn’t find it in the darkness. Eventually, he gave up, sighing as he turned his gaze back toward the path before them.

Suddenly, Katsuki froze. 

Actually froze.

It was only for a second, but given how adamant Katsuki had been about never stopping, it set off alarm bells in Izuku’s mind before Katsuki even spoke. 

“Deku, I’m gonna need to carry you for this.”

“What? Why—?“ Before he could finish that thought, Katsuki swooped his arm under his knees and pulled him into a princess carry. “Kacchan, wha—“ 

The words died on his tongue when he looked up ahead and saw it. Not too far from them, there were what appeared to be a number of orange eyes, glowing like candlelights in the darkness. 

There were roughly a dozen of them, all arranged in a circle that wobbled, rotated, and receded from time to time. The movements were so perfectly synchronized, Izuku could only conclude that they all belonged to the same creature. He felt Katsuki’s chest grow warmer as they drew closer, and curled into it.

More than anything else, it was the sounds that put Izuku on edge. A constant, mechanical grinding noise, every few seconds punctuated by something else, almost like the sound of steam being released from a massive engine. It evoked images of something overwhelming, industrial; like standing in the middle of a city at night, where the brutalist architecture made your soul feel as heavy as the exposed concrete the buildings were made from. It was that feeling of being small, yet unable to escape—a kind of claustrophobia that follows you out into the open. 

If such a feeling could be encapsulated, wrapped up in the flesh of something living, this creature would be the result.

As they passed, Izuku could pick up the sound of something wet and squishy that he could only assume to be some sort of meat, gnashing between the creature’s teeth, and at this distance the steam-like industrial sounds were loud enough to rattle Izuku’s entire body.

He was tense in Katsuki’s arms, paralyzed in fear beneath the creature’s gaze. It watched them as they passed, but it did not attack them. And once they were a safe distance away, Katsuki set him down again with a sigh.

“What the hell was that thing?” Izuku barely whispered. 

“A cyclogeist,” Katsuki replied. “Like most shit out here, they won’t attack somethin’ stronger than them, but they’re real fast. Sometimes they’ll try to steal prey, if they think they can get away with it. Luckily, that one was already eating.”

“You think it would’ve gone after me if it wasn’t?”

“Mm, probably not.” Katsuki shrugged. “Not while I was carrying you, at least. I mean, maybe it if was desperate, but…” He trailed off for a moment. “Well, y’know.”

Izuku shivered.

“Means we’ve gotta be careful, though; if we’re running into cyclogeists, that usually means we’re gettin’ close to the midnight depths.”

“The… midnight depths?”

“Yeah.” He said. “There’re different regions in the Depths. Like, there’s the daylight depths, where it just looks like a normal forest. Then there’s the twilight depths, where most of the light is gone. After that is the nighttime depths, where basically all the light’s gone. That’s what most of it is.

“But then there’s the midnight depths. It’s where the sound of wind starts to get faint. Technically, I can safely travel there, but I avoid it whenever possible, ‘cuz it’s real easy to get swept into the void depths from there, which is infinitely more dangerous.”

“Why?” Izuku’s eyes widened. “What’s down there?”

“Eh, lots of shit.” Katsuki shrugged. “The thing about this place is, the deeper you go, the more you start to run into creatures that are very specifically adapted to live in the Depths. Which often means they have a kind of creepy, symbiotic relationship with it.” He explained. “There’s a bit of that in the higher regions, but most of the creatures in those parts live at odds with the forest just as much as we do.”

The thought of creatures having a symbiotic relationship with something as vast and unfathomable as the Depths sent shivers down Izuku’s spine. 

“S-So have you ever been down there?” He asked. “In the void depths.”

“Yep.” He said, popping the ‘p’ sound. “It’s happened a few times—not on purpose, obviously. Most of those times, I was able to find my way out before anything too dangerous happened, but…”

“But...?”

“Well, there’ve been close calls, obviously.” He shrugged. “The worst one was actually pretty recent. Happened like, a month before I met you. Got swept into the void and ran into a fuckin’ deepseeker, barely made it out alive.” He shook his head. “They’re like these massive creatures that secrete this weird toxin that fucks with your muscle control and makes you really suggestible.” 

“Suggestible?”

“Yeah.” The compass veered south, and Katsuki corrected it with a sharp left turn. “That’s part of the symbiotic relationship I mentioned. Basically, when you get dosed with that stuff, you’re almost guaranteed to react when the Depths calls out to you.

“And that’s the other thing about the void depths. Like, if you thought that shit was scary before, it’s fuckin’ nothing compared to how it is when you’re down there. The deeper you go, the more likely it is to talk to you, and when it does, it’s so much fucking worse.”

“It’s… kind of hard to imagine it getting scarier than it already is.”

Katsuki hummed. “What’d it say to you when you heard it earlier? Just gimme an example.”

“Uhhh…” Izuku squinted. “Well, at one point it asked me something like, ‘do the shadows still bleed for you?’”

“Yeah, that’s some classic Depths nonsense.” He said, snickering. “Thing is, though, the level of sense it makes is actually dependent on the region. It’s really rare to hear it in the daylight depths, but if you do, it’ll spout literal gibberish. Like, just some fuckin’ sounds.

“In the twilight depths, it can form words, but not proper sentences. It just strings together random words and throws ‘em at you.

“The nighttime depths is where you’ll hear weird phrases like that. Sentences that’re technically correct, but make no fucking sense conceptually—or if they do, it’s a coincidence.”

The compass made a sudden turn, going from pointing north to pointing south in a matter of seconds. Katsuki responded with a quick one-eighty, and they continued on.

“In the midnight depths, things start to get…” He trailed off for a moment, wincing. 

“Kacchan?”

He shook his head. “Well, for one thing, that’s when it starts callin’ your name. So, that’s fun.” He scoffed. “And the shit it says is short, but coherent. Like, it’ll literally just say ‘look at me,’ or ‘follow me,’ or even ‘help me.’” He paused for a second. “It starts affecting your other senses, too. You’ll see movement in the direction the voice comes from. It’s indistinct, but it’s there.”

Izuku got goosebumps just thinking about it.

“It gets worse, if you can believe it.” Katsuki offered a tight smile. “‘Cuz once you’re in the void depths, the Depths is basically in your head. It knows you. And it’ll weaponize that knowledge to try to provoke a reaction.” He explained. “It’s happened to me four times out of the seven or so I’ve ended up there on accident, and it’s legitimately the worst shit ever, ‘cuz at that point you can actually see it.”

Izuku shivered. “What do you mean ‘see it’?”

“Deku, imagine this.” He said, gesturing vaguely. “You’re stumbling through the dark, trying to find your way out of this goddamn eldritch location, and suddenly, you see your fucking doppelgänger right there in your periphery, just fucking staring at you, while it gleefully taunts you about every insecurity, every traumatic memory you’ve got. And you just gotta keep walkin’ as though it ain’t there. What would you do?”

For a second, Izuku just stared up at him, mouth slightly open. “I mean… realistically?”

“Sure.”

“Probably pee my pants.”

“Yeah, that’s fair.” Katsuki nodded. “Now, imagine you have to deal with that shit when you’re injured, gettin’ chased by a deepseeker, and dosed on a drug that makes you wanna do everything you’re told to.”

“Wait, seriously? You heard it then?” Izuku gaped. “How are you still alive?”

“I got lucky.” He said. “Thing about deepseekers is they’re real territorial. When I was runnin’ from the one that dosed me, I ran through another one’s territory, which led to them attacking each other. It was enough of a distraction to keep me from looking long enough to find my earplugs.” 

“That’s insane.”

“Yeah, well—this is pretty much the domain of insane shit.” Katsuki said. “Only a handful of people have escaped after gettin’ dosed with deepseeker venom. I remember hearing a story once, ‘bout a woman who managed to escape by bashing her head against a tree to knock herself out ’til the venom wore off.” 

Izuku’s eyes widened. “I can’t see how that’d be anything other than another death sentence.”

Katsuki snorted. “It’s a big fucking gamble, that’s for sure. You risk somethin’ else finding ya, and y’have no idea where you’ll be when you wake up. You might still be in the void depths. If you’re real unlucky, you could end up deeper.”

“There’s a deeper region?!”

“Oh yeah. See, that’s the thing about this place, Deku—every time you think it can’t get worse, it fuckin’ does.”

“No kidding…” Izuku muttered. “So, what is it, then? The nightmare depths? The murder depths?”

Katsuki laughed. “It’s actually just called the Quiet.” 

“Somehow, that’s even worse.” Izuku grimaced. “What’s down there?

“Who the fuck knows?” Katsuki replied, grinning. “It’s sorta like the event horizon of this place, in the sense that, as far as we know, no one’s ever made it out alive.”

“Couldn’t they send, like, a robot or something?”

“The Depths is hostile to technology.” He shrugged. “If it wasn’t, we’d use it to develop some sort of large rapid transit system. But anything you put out here gets swept away, and most electronics just don’t work.” He explained. “A lot of real smart people have been studying this shit for a very long time, but the situation hasn’t changed much. At this point, in order to travel out here safely, you either gotta be strong yourself, or be accompanied by someone who is.”

Izuku went quiet for a while, taking a moment to process the information. While they walked, he noticed their surroundings getting a bit lighter as they entered what he supposed would be referred to as the twilight depths.

“Well, what do they think is down there?” He eventually asked.

“In the Quiet?”

Izuku nodded.

Katsuki sighed heavily, looking up in thought. “I mean, it’s all just conjecture at this point. Some people think there’s somethin’ hidden there, like maybe some kinda treasure, or some sorta Lovecraftian horror.

“Others think there’s nothing there, and the reason people don’t come back is just ‘cuz the Depths is too powerful at that point. Like, it’s just the logical conclusion of the pattern we’ve already seen. The Depths knows more and can affect you more the deeper you go.” He shrugged. “Maybe at that level, it becomes impossible to ignore for some reason. There’re as many theories as there are people theorizing about it.”

“But what about you, specifically?” Izuku asked “What do you think is down there?”

“Me?” Katsuki smirked. “Personally, I think it’s God’s porn stash.”


They entered through a hollowed out cavern in the hillside, where the walls were lined with faintly pearlescent stone and the distant sound of the tide resonated throughout its body. Even at night, the ambient light still managed to leak in, casting the cavern in a wash of blue and pink that made the whole area feel like a dream.

The light gradually became brighter as they approached the opening. 

Katsuki stepped out first, and then offered Izuku his hand. “Careful. It’s slippery.”

Izuku nodded, taking Katsuki’s hand as he stepped down. His feet still skidded, but Katsuki was quick to react, wrapping his other arm around his lower back and lifting him off the slick part. The experience of nearly falling made Izuku’s heart pound in his chest. He took a few deep breaths once Katsuki set him down on the ground.

“Y’good?”

Izuku sighed, nodding his head. 

“Great.” Katsuki smiled. “In that case…” He inclined his head toward something behind him, and as Izuku turned around, all the breath he’d just recovered seemed to flee his lungs once again.

They were inside a small cove, where the smooth stone formed walls around them and made it feel as though they were enclosed in their own private world. But most striking was the sea itself.

It was early nighttime, and as the tide washed in and out gently, it seemed to sparkle. Izuku inched closer, hands over his mouth as he saw that the waves were carrying what looked like small, bead-sized balls of light that swirled and glittered beneath the night sky, almost like…

“They call it the sea of stars.” Katsuki said, suddenly standing right beside him. He pointed somewhere in the distance. “You see all those trees surrounding the water?” 

Izuku nodded.

“Those are kaizen trees.” He said. “Mature seeds glow when they’re immersed in water. During the summertime, they release ‘em, and the waves disperse them all around the coasts, where they’ll either take root, or attract certain animals that’ll carry them away.” He approached a tree at the far end of the cove. “Here, watch this.” 

Katsuki grabbed a low branch and began to shake it lightly. Izuku watched in awe as the seeds rained down from the branch, lighting up in a bright, bluish tone as soon as they hit the water. 

“The fresher ones are brighter.” Katsuki said, hopping off the rock and approaching Izuku again. As seemed to be the theme for the day, for a moment, Izuku was just speechless. He stood there, his mouth covered by his hands, staring out at the sea with wide eyes. “Here, take off your shoes.” Katsuki told him, as he did the same. 

Once they were both barefoot, Katsuki beckoned him over to a large boulder near the edge, where he sat down, rolling up his pants and putting his feet in the water. Izuku followed suit, sitting beside Katsuki. He wasn’t as tall as him, and so while Katsuki’s feet were immersed up to the ankle, the water only touched the bottoms of Izuku’s feet, and only his toes ever breeched the surface.

They sat there for a few minutes in comfortable silence. Izuku stared down at the water, entranced. As it swirled around, the seeds seemed to congregate around their feet like a bed of starlight. 

He sighed, resting his cheek on Katsuki’s shoulder, felt the heat of his skin through the fabric of his shirt, and started giggling.

Katsuki tensed slightly. “What?”

Izuku lifted his head to look at him properly. “I just think it’s funny, is all. You act all tough, but deep down, you’re a romantic.”

Katsuki just glared at him, though his cheeks were tinted red. “Fuck you.”

“I don’t hear you denying it.”

For another minute, it was quiet. 

“I just… wanted to give you a reason to come back.” Katsuki eventually said. Then, a bit quieter, “…Or a reason to stay.”

Izuku looked at him, at the strangely vulnerable expression on his face. Katsuki didn’t look back, simply kept his eyes fixated on the water. The red glow merged with the ambient blue, leaving a sort of lavender halo around his head.

“Kacchan…” He whispered, lacing his fingers through Katsuki’s. “I’ll come back. I would, even if it was just you down here. Even if this whole place was a wasteland, and you were the last thing alive here… I’d still come back for you.”

Katsuki looked at him again, a small grin on his face. He shook his head, laughing softly. “Deku… you really gotta be more careful with your words. If I didn’t know better, a line like that would make me think you were in love with me.”

Izuku froze, the word echoing in his head. 

Love.

Love.

Do I… love Kacchan…?

He gulped, and opened his mouth to speak. For a second, it just hung there. Izuku cleared his throat.

“Um. So, how would—“

“Ow!” Katsuki suddenly shouted, startling him. “Fuck!” He yanked his feet out of the water, revealing a fish that had latched onto his big toe. “Motherfucker!” Katsuki grabbed the thing, yanking it off, and hurling it back into the water. 

“Are you okay?!” 

“Yeah, just—hang on.” Katsuki grumbled. Izuku leaned forward, and saw that his toe was bleeding. It wasn’t severe, but it was enough to warrant Katsuki standing up and angrily limping to his bag, pulling out a first aid kit. He cleaned and bandaged the bite, cursing under his breath as he did.

Once he was done, Izuku asked once more, “Are you okay?”

Katsuki sighed. “Yeah,” he rolled his eyes. “Fuckin’ forgot about those little bastards.” He muttered. “They eat the seeds, but they’re dumb as shit, so sometimes…” He shrugged, gesturing down at his foot. “Well, y’know.”

Izuku nodded, awkwardly shuffling in place. 

“Whatever. It’s getting late, anyway.”


When they returned, they had circled back to almost the exact same point they’d departed from. They rode the train back quietly, and it was only then, when the danger was behind them, that Izuku really felt the high of their adventure. As they entered Katsuki’s apartment, Izuku could barely hold back the smile on his face. 

Katsuki showered first, and Izuku second. After he dried his hair and put on his pajamas, he came out of the bathroom to find Katsuki lying on the couch bed. He wasn’t sure what to say, so he just approached him with an awkward, questioning smile. Katsuki provided no explanation. He just patted the space next to him. Izuku only hesitated a second before he climbed in beside him. 

They lay on their sides, facing each other. Katsuki spoke first.

“Have fun today?”

Izuku nodded, smiling. “Feels like I just saw the whole world in one day.”

“Oh, there’s plenty more I could show ya.” He said. “I chose those places mostly ‘cuz they’re all really close to the Depths. If there was more time, I could show ya shit that’d blow that the fuck outta the water.”

Izuku laughed. “Well, I hope I’ll get to see them soon.” 

Katsuki hummed. “There’s one place in particular that I skipped today. Somewhere nearby.”

Izuku raised his eyebrows. “Oh, really?”

“Mm. It’s not the most visually spectacular, but it’s special.” He paused, grabbing a stray lock of hair and brushing it out of Izuku’s eyes. “When you get back, I’ll take ya there.”

When I get back.

He shoved the lingering anxiety into the back of his mind.

“Well, I’ll look forward to it.” He smiled. “Today was… honestly, probably the most fun I think I’ve ever had. Thank you, Kacchan.”

Katsuki hummed, and for a while, just gazed at him quietly, a wide grin on his face. It made Izuku a little self-conscious.

“Wh-What?”

“Nothin.’” Katsuki replied. “Was just thinkin’ ‘bout how a few months ago I had to convince you I wasn’t gonna torture children.”

Izuku blinked a few times, and then started giggling again. “Yeah… frankly, just from the way you kiss Triplet, it’s kinda hard to imagine you doing anything like that now.”

Katsuki blushed slightly. “Oi, you saw that?!”

He could barely contain his laughter. “I did.”

“Didn’t anyone ever tell you not to spy on people, you fuck?” Katsuki glared. “Quit fuckin’ laughing!”

“I’m sorry,” He wheezed. “M’sorry. I just think it’s funny, is all… and sweet.”

Katsuki rolled his eyes.

“You know, for a Demon, you’re not very demonic.” 

Katsuki looked him up and down, and then his eyes seemed to darken. “Oh, I can be demonic.” 

Izuku shrugged—as best he could while lying on his side, at least. “I just don’t see it.”

He raised an eyebrow, holding Izuku’s gaze for a few seconds. And then, in one sudden flash of movement, Katsuki lurched toward him, rolling Izuku onto his back and straddling him. It was like all the breath had been sucked right out of Izuku’s lungs. He lay there, his cheeks dusted pink as he stared up at the Demon above him, his soft skin and sharp features painted in the cool wash of the city lights. 

It was moments like these that reminded him just how handsome Katsuki actually was, all hard lines and sharp edges, wrapped up in an aura of something smooth, ethereal. As he sat there above him, dark horns poking through spiky, blond hair, tail swaying gently behind him, Izuku couldn’t help but feel mesmerized. As he leaned in toward him, the soft glow of his eyes shone beneath his lashes, creating subtle patterns on his eyelids in the dimly lit room. 

And to see him like this, watch the way his muscles shifted beneath his skin, catch the brief glint of his sharp canines whenever he licked his lips… well, it was nothing short of entrancing.

Katsuki always looked at him as though he were winning a game Izuku never knew they were playing. Always two steps ahead of him, like the apex predator the creatures of the Depths instinctively knew him to be. 

Katsuki’s eyes left a stain on his soul that Izuku could never scrub away. 

Though even if he could, he wouldn’t want to.

After a moment, Katsuki began to laugh, low and deep in his throat. 

“Y’know,” he purred, fingers ghosting beneath Izuku’s chin. “You talk a lotta shit for a guy who keeps throwin’ me looks I could feed off of.”

Izuku’s breath caught in his throat, his face burning hotter as he realized just how much of an open book he was being. He quickly turned his head away. “I-I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Katsuki chuckled, grabbing him firmly by the chin, turning his head back toward him. “Oh you don’t, huh?” His free hand traveled down Izuku’s body, lingering at his hips, drawing lazy circles there.

Izuku squirmed a bit, “No.”

Katsuki cocked his head. “You sure about that?”

He chewed his lip, averting his eyes as he nodded. He held his breath as Katsuki hummed, leaning in closer. 

“Well…” he murmured. 

There was a moment of silence that seemed to last an eternity, as Izuku waited with bated breath to see what the Demon would do next.

And then suddenly, Katsuki stood up. 

By the time Izuku’s mind registered the shift, he was already standing several feet away, his hands stuffed into his pockets casually. Izuku blinked several times, propping himself up on his elbows, his brow furrowed. 

Katsuki just shrugged. “I guess that’s that, then.” 

He turned on his heel and began to walk away. 

For a few seconds, Izuku was so shocked, he couldn’t even form words. He found his voice just as Katsuki was about to disappear into the hallway.

“W-Wait!”

Katsuki stopped, looking over his shoulder at him, one eyebrow arched.

“Why…” Izuku gulped, sitting up fully. “Why’d you stop…?”

“Why?” Katsuki parroted, turning to face him. “Well, ‘cuz you said I was wrong, of course.” He spoke with this overly dramatic, feigned innocence. 

Izuku simply stared at him for a moment. “But… that’s—“

“—Just a little miscalculation on my part.” Katsuki interjected, leaning back against the wall casually. “You see, Deku—I was under the impression that you wanted me.” He placed a hand over his heart. “But since that apparently ain’t the case, I guess the right thing to do here is to just back off. Wouldn’t you agree?”

Izuku blinked a few times. “Back… off…?”

“Yeah,” He took a few steps toward him. “Y’know, you might not be aware of this, but all that touching and kissing shit I do? That’s actually not, like, platonic.” He ran a hand through his hair. “It actually means I wanna do stuff with you involving this.” Katsuki suddenly grabbed his dick through his sweats. Izuku’s eyes widened as he followed the movement, watched as he lingered there for a fleeting moment before he released it, sliding his hand back into his pocket.

Izuku was paralyzed, his eyes wide, face hot enough to break a sweat. He swallowed the excess saliva that had suddenly begun to well up beneath his tongue.

Katsuki licked his lips. “It’s really my bad, y’know?” He then said. “I should’ve expected this. You are an Angel, after all. I’m sure the sex ed up in Heaven leaves a lot to be desired.”

Izuku squirmed, gripping the sheets on either side of him. “Kacchan…”

“But that’s alright.” He continued. “It’s a shame, but it’s whatever, y’know? I’ll just…” he shrugged, taking a few steps closer, until he was standing right at the foot of the bed. “Go back to my room, jerk off like I usually do. No big deal.”

An involuntary whimper escaped Izuku’s throat.

“Oh, sorry—does hearing about me jerking off bother you? My bad.” Katsuki grinned, sinking one knee into the mattress as he leaned toward him. “Well, don’t worry, nerd. I’ll be sure not to tell you about how I like to…” He hummed. “Wrap my hand around my cock and stroke it, while I fantasize about you, down on your knees, sucking me off.”

Izuku swore he could hear threads popping from where his hands gripped the bedsheets. 

“Won’t tell you about how I sometimes like to imagine you down on all fours, takin’ it like a good boy.” He purred. “My hands wrapped around the roots of your wings, using ‘em like a fuckin’ harness to pull you back onto my cock.” Katsuki’s tongue darted out, licking his lips as his eyes raked over his body. “Wouldn’t wanna make you uncomfortable, right, De-ku?”

Izuku made a small, broken, wheezing noise that sounded vaguely like Katsuki’s name as he squirmed even more, thighs rubbing together as his body heated up beneath the Demon’s gaze.

“Hmm, yeah?” Katsuki rasped. “Y’know, you really gotta be more careful about the kinda signals you send, Deku.” He smirked. “‘Cuz if I didn’t know better, I’d think you were gettin’ turned on right now.”

He whined, eyes starting to tear up. Katsuki grinned even wider, clearly enjoying his struggle.

“What’s wrong, De-ku? Somethin’ I said?”

“I… fine, I take back what I said earlier, okay?” He glared weakly. “Will you stop this now?”

“Stop what?”

Izuku clenched his jaw. “You’re definitely a sadist.”

“Oh?” Katsuki cocked his head. “Are you suffering, Deku?”

“I hate you.”

“Aw, don’t be like that.”

“Wh-What do you want from me, Kacchan?!”

“Oh, Deku… baby.” He purred. “I don’t want anything from you. I just want you.”

“But you have me,” Izuku almost sobbed. “Kacchan, I’m right here!”

“That so?” He raised his eyebrows. “Then I was right after all, huh? You do want me.”

“Obviously!” 

He paused for a moment then, staring down at him with a self-satisfied smirk on his face. Then he slowly removed his knee from the mattress, taking a wide stance at the foot of the bed. “Well, in that case…“

In a flash, Katsuki grabbed his ankles, dragging him down the mattress. Izuku yelped as Katsuki continued to pull until his hips were situated right on the edge, and he only barely managed to raise his barrier before he dove down and kissed him, lips smacking as Katsuki immediately went for the kill, kissed him like he was trying to consume him. Katsuki swallowed every little sound that escaped him, sucked in every breath he released until he felt lightheaded.

When they eventually parted, Izuku gasped, trying to hold back the urge to moan as Katsuki kissed down his jaw and neck, his hands rubbing up and down his thighs. Even through his clothes, Katsuki’s touch was overwhelming. “Ah, Kacchan—“ He choked back a whine when Katsuki sealed his lips over his neck, sucking the skin there until his toes curled. “I… I don’t know if I’ll be able to…”

Katsuki pulled back a moment later, humming. “Well…” He murmured. “Luckily, there’s plenty of shit we can do without direct contact.”

Izuku gulped, still panting a bit. “L-Like what?”

He slid one hand up into his hair, grabbing by the roots and pulling slightly. Then, Katsuki rolled his hips down into his, and Izuku nearly choked, because he could feel him. Katsuki’s cock pressed against his own through the fabric of their thin pants, hard and swelling up further with each passing second. Izuku’s thighs began to shake as Katsuki grinded against him, pulling his head to the side and leaning down, until his lips just ghosted over the shell of his ear.

“You okay with gettin’ a little messy, Deku baby?”

Izuku bit his lip. He didn’t trust his voice, so he just nodded, and felt Katsuki grin against his ear. 

And then, in one quick movement, Katsuki flipped their positions, lying on his back with Izuku straddling him. He grabbed his ass, claws biting into the flesh through his pajama pants. And when he used that hold to pull Izuku flush against his hips, he nearly choked, struggling to keep his balance as this body flooded with heat. In this position, he could both feel and see the outline of Katsuki’s cock, hot and swollen, straining against the fabric of his sweatpants. 

“Fuck,” He groaned, reaching under his waistband, adjusting himself. He had to pull his sweatpants up toward his waist just to keep everything contained as he grabbed his cock, laid it flat against his body. Izuku’s eyes widened, and he seemed to notice. “What?” He asked, with a grin on his face that said he knew exactly what.

He flushed as Katsuki returned both hands to his ass and rolled his hips up into him. “Got somethin’ to say?”

Izuku shook his head.

“Really?” Katsuki rasped. “‘Cuz it seems like you’ve got somethin’ on your mind.”

He shook his head again. “I-I’m not going to—ahh—feed your ego, Kacchan…”

He snorted. “Aw, well. That’s okay.” He said. “I think watchin’ you cum in your pants for me will have basically the same effect.”

Izuku glared weakly, fighting to stifle the sounds that threatened to spill past his lips as he pulled him down harder. Even through the layers of clothing, it was intense. The feeling of his dick, all hard and grinding against Katsuki’s, was so far removed from anything he’d experienced before, it was genuinely difficult for him to describe. Like warm tea on a cold morning, or a hot bath after a long day, only infinitely more concentrated. It made him want to collapse forward, bury his face in Katsuki’s shoulder, and just let the Demon take care of him. 

He would’ve been perfectly content to just stay there, panting and shaking while Katsuki worked him like that, groped his ass and dragged him back and forth on his cock. But it felt like almost as soon as he’d started, Katsuki stopped. Releasing his hold on him, he folded his arms up behind his head and stared up at Izuku, pupils blown wide, as if he were expecting something. 

Without his hands on him, Izuku wavered, and planted his palms on Katsuki’s chest over his shirt to keep steady. He blinked a few times, and when he met Katsuki’s eyes, it took a moment for his brain to catch up. “Wh-Why’d you stop…?”

“‘Cuz I wanna see you do it.” Katsuki said, looking him over. “You ever touch yourself, Deku?”

Izuku tensed, some of that initial embarrassment rushing back to him. He averted his eyes and shook his head quickly. He could’ve sworn he felt Katsuki’s cock swell up bit more after that, but he couldn’t be sure.

“Well… guess that just means we’ll both be learning what you like.” He rasped. “C’mon baby, start off slow. Roll those hips against me. Whatever feels right.”

Izuku shivered as Katsuki’s words washed over him, nodding and squeezing his eyes shut. He leaned forward on his hands, doing as he said and rolling his hips down against him. A whimper managed to slip out, and he felt Katsuki’s cock twitch in his sweats. 

When he finally worked up the nerve to open his eyes, he glanced up at Katsuki and found him staring back intently, his lips wet and parted, his eyes dark, roaming up and down his frame as he watched Izuku stumble through the process of learning his own body in real time.

He eventually settled into a rhythm of sorts, leaning forward on his hands as he moved his hips languidly against Katsuki’s. His eyes locked on the point where they met, where Izuku’s pants were beginning to feel a bit damp as he rubbed his cock against Katsuki’s. Where Katsuki’s cock was hot and hard and pulsating in his sweats, long, thick, heavy against his body. When he finally met his eyes again, Katsuki smirked, arching his hips up into him.

“Mm, that’s right.” He purred. “That feel good, Deku?”

Izuku couldn’t find it in himself to form words, so instead, he just nodded, ducking his head and blushing.

“Good,” he licked his lips, spreading his legs a bit more. “Just keep rubbin’ yourself up on my cock. That’s it. Doin’ so good, angel.”

“Hahh—“

“—Oh? You like when I call you angel, huh?” He grinned, putting one hand on his hip—not directing him, just following Izuku’s movements wherever they led. Katsuki’s other hand slid down his body, grabbing the tip of his own cock through his pants, rubbing a bit before he released it. Izuku felt him throbbing against him.

“Ahh, Kacchan,” he choked out. “F-Feels…”

“You close?”

Izuku wasn’t really sure what he meant, so he just wrinkled his brow, and doubled his efforts.

“Fuck.” He hissed, finally grabbing his ass with both hands again, pulling him harshly down into him, so fast Izuku fell forward, forearms flat against Katsuki’s torso as he whimpered and moaned helplessly. “Look so fuckin’ hot like this, angel.” He said it like it was a dirty word. Izuku felt Katsuki’s voice vibrating deep in his chest, felt his body shaking with it.

“Better be fuckin’ ready, nerd, ‘cuz when you get back, I ain’t holdin’ back on you.” 

The heat in Izuku’s stomach began to build, and every word out of Katsuki’s mouth added fuel to the fire. He gripped his shirt tight, holding on for dear life when Katsuki suddenly lurched forward, sitting up until Izuku could feel his hot breath wafting against his ear.

“Bet I could fuck you ’til you forgot what you are. How’s that sound?”

Izuku couldn’t take it anymore. He felt the tension rising, like wind-up toy reaching its limit. Something was coming, and he wasn’t really sure what to call it, but at that moment, he wanted it more than anything else.

“Shit,” Katsuki rasped. “Can’t fucking wait to watch you Fall on my cock, angel.” He emphasized the word with a hard buck upward, and that was all Izuku could take.

His body tensed, thighs trembling and straining to spread further as the warm feeling inside him burst, spreading throughout his entire body. His wings stretched outward involuntarily. “Kacchan—!“ he borderline sobbed, his dick twitching in his pants, spilling into the fabric, leaving behind a wet stain as evidence. Izuku was floating, every inch of his body tingling. 

The sight of it seemed to set Katsuki off. Izuku felt his claws digging into his ass harder as he snarled, and he watched hazily as Katsuki’s horns seemed to extend, his hands growing just a little bit larger as he thrusted up against him. Then he groaned, thick cock pulsating in his sweats. He continued to pull him back and forth against him as he came, soaking through the material a little more with every harsh grind. Izuku was so entranced, he didn’t even care that the oversensitivity was starting to hurt.

In the aftermath, they were both left panting. It took Izuku a while to even become aware of his surroundings again.

“Hey.”

Izuku jumped, opening his eyes. Katsuki was back to his normal, half-shifted form, and when he met his eyes, he felt a residual tremble run through his frame. 

“You okay?”

“I, uhh…” Izuku blinked a few times. “Y-Yeah, just, umm…” He winced. “Sticky?”

“Yeah, no shit.” Katsuki snorted. “I meant more like, y’know. In your head.” 

“Oh! Uhh…”  Izuku thought about it, scanning his emotions. There was definitely some guilt mixed in there, some fear and embarrassment. He wasn’t really sure how to feel or act now that it was over. But on the whole… “I…” He bit his lip. “I don’t think I’m… that much more conflicted than I’m used to being with you…?”

“Well, I guess that’s good.” Katsuki smiled. “Wasn’t really sure what to expect there. Like, would you be fine? Would you have a breakdown before the cum in your pants even finished cooling? Felt like it could go either way.”

“Yeah, I uhhh… might get back to you on that once it starts feeling… real?”

Katsuki snorted. “So after it cools, then?” He raised an eyebrow. “‘Cuz at that point, shit’s kinda too real.”

Izuku laughed awkwardly. “Yeah, I… would like to get cleaned up sooner rather than later.”

Katsuki hummed. “We could take a shower together.” He suggested, pitch dropping lower.

Izuku blushed, dropping his forehead against Katsuki’s shoulder. “One thing at a time, Kacchan.”


It came up around an hour later, as he was lying in bed with Triplet snuggled up against him, purring softly as he stroked her silky, black fur. Katsuki was sitting beside him, holding a touchpad, presumably voting on something. After a few minutes, he set it aside with a sigh. 

“It’s midnight.” He said. “Should probably go to sleep soon, so you’ll be rested.”

Izuku nodded slowly. He wasn’t sure why exactly, but at that moment, he suddenly remembered Katsuki’s words from earlier, at the sea of stars.

‘If I didn’t know better, a line like that would make me think you’re in love with me.’

He never did get a chance to ask.

Izuku bit his lip, and cleared his throat. “Um… c-can I ask you a question…?”

He blinked. “Sure.”

“How, umm… How would I know…?” Izuku hesitated, falling silent for perhaps a moment too long. He was staring at Triplet, mostly to avoid looking at Katsuki. But then he heard that telltale intake of breath that always preceded speech, and it spurred him to continue. “I-I mean, if I was, you know… in love.”

His shoulders drew up as he curled into himself reflexively. When he finally gathered the nerve to look up at Katsuki, he found him staring back. From the look on his face, it seemed he’d genuinely caught him off guard.

After a minute, Katsuki sighed, shifting onto his side to rub and scratch Triplet’s head. He made a sound, somewhere between a huff and a laugh.

“You’re askin’ the wrong guy, nerd.” He eventually said. “I’m not that good at, like… describin’ feelings and shit.”

Izuku hummed, and fell silent. The unease persisted inside of him, unresolved. Eventually, Katsuki spoke again.

“But honestly… who cares?”

Izuku looked up at him. “Sorry?”

“No, just…” He shrugged. “Who cares what you call it, y’know? Personally, if it feels right, I think that’s enough.”

For a moment, neither of them said anything. Then, Izuku exhaled.

“I… guess so.” He mumbled.

“I mean,” Katsuki said. “For me, personally, I just try to act in ways that line up with how I feel. Y’know, actions speak louder, and all that crap.” He muttered. “It’s easier for me to just show people how I feel. That’s kinda what today was about.”

He nodded, chewing his lip. Then he froze. 

“Wait, so then…” Izuku’s eyes widened. “You mean to tell me that whole trip was like… a confession?”

Katsuki flushed, averting his eyes, rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly. “I-I mean, when you put it like that, I fuckin’ guess… so…?”

“So you…” Izuku gulped. “… Love… me?”

Katsuki didn’t say anything. He just gave him a look, subtle but meaningful, before he went back to petting Triplet. 

Izuku cleared his throat awkwardly. “And how long have you felt this way…?”

He scoffed. 

“I dunno, Deku. I can’t like, identify a specific point a where one second I didn’t and the next second I did.” He shrugged again. “Falling for someone is a process, not an event.”

“I-I see.” Izuku said, his voice small, and his cheeks hot. “Sorry, I’m just trying to, um… B-Because I’ve never… really had to…” he stammered. “You know, I just don’t know how to, uhhh, classify these sorts of things, or—“

“Then don’t.” Katsuki said, soft but firm. When Izuku worked up the nerve to look at him again, he found Katsuki staring right back at him. “Like I said, in the end… it doesn’t really matter what you call it. Don’t get yourself all fucked up over it, alright?”

Izuku relaxed a bit, nodding his head.

“Good.” Katsuki said. Then he glanced down at Triplet again. “Oh, and just so you know, you’re about one and a half belly rubs away from getting bit.”

“What are you—ow!”


The next morning found Izuku sitting at a round table in a room with Katsuki, Aizawa, and a pink-haired woman he’d never met before. 

“Midoriya, this is Hatsume.” Aizawa said, gesturing toward her. “She’s an engineer from the MagiTech workers syndicate.” 

“Ah! Nice to meet you.” Holding his barrier, he extended his hand toward her, and winced at the bone-crushing handshake he received. 

“Wow, a real live Angel!” She shook his hand up and down so vigorously, his whole body moved with it. “I’ve always been so fascinated by you guys! Hey, maybe if you’re free after this, we could meet up and I could run some experiments on—“

Katsuki severed the handshake with a firm hand chop. “No experiments on Deku.”

Hatsume winced as she retracted her hand. “Possessive, huh?”

Katsuki simply narrowed his eyes.

“Anyway,” Aizawa began, already sounding exhausted, “I’ve brought her in because she was one of the main engineers behind this.” He slid something across the table, and when he lifted his hand, Izuku saw a small, metal object. It looked a bit like a pill capsule, but had a button on the side and what looked like a tiny LED on top. 

“What is this?”

“It’s called a gravity seed.” Hatsume said.

“Okay…?” Izuku frowned. “What does it do?”

“The main reason Demons can’t enter Heaven is because of its gravitational lock.” Aizawa explained. “The whole place is essentially built to reject Demon souls, to the point where just setting foot in Heaven causes the ground to immediately collapse.”

“And this… counteracts that, somehow?”

Hatsume nodded. “It’s a major breakthrough! You see, up until recently we couldn’t figure out what—“

“—Hatsume, we talked about this.” Aizawa interjected, throwing her a look. She rubbed the back of her neck sheepishly, and averted her eyes. 

After a second, Aizawa set his sights back on Izuku. “Sorry,” he told him. “We’d like to tell you how it works, but we want to avoid revealing too much information, just in case.”

Just in case things go wrong, Izuku’s mind supplied. Just in case I get caught.

“But you won’t withhold any info that could put him in danger.” Katsuki said, as a statement of fact rather than a question.

“Obviously not.” Aizawa rolled his eyes.

“Um, so… what do I do with these, exactly?” Izuku asked.

Hatsume pulled one out of her pocket and leaned over to show him. “See this button here?” Izuku nodded. “Just push it, twist the capsule, and that’s it.” She demonstrated, and the LED at the top began to glow red. 

Izuku nodded. “Okay. So… should I hide them in the ground, or close to it, or…?”

“Hiding them in or near the ground is preferable, but not required.” She said. “It’ll latch onto just about anything, as long as it hasn’t been blessed. They’re also waterproof.”

“And how many do I need to plant?”

“Ideally, three, but it’s possible to make do with one.” With a grimace, she continued, “There’s… one other thing, though.”

“Um, what’s that?”

“The efficacy is dependent on how far away the seeds are.” She explained. “You can think of it like a tripod. The further the legs are from each other, the more stable it is.” 

Izuku’s palms started to feel sweaty, and he wiped them on the bottom of his cloak as he asked, “H-How far are we talking, exactly?”

“Well… if you think of the first circle of Heaven as being like a clock, then ideally, you’d place the three gravity locks at twelve, four and eight o’clock, respectively.”

Izuku gulped, gripping the fabric of his cloak. And suddenly, Katsuki’s gloved hand was covering his.

“Deku,” He said. “You don’t need to go that far.”

Izuku took a deep breath and nodded slowly, his grip relaxing a bit.

“Maybe now’s a good time to talk about safety measures.” Aizawa said, standing up. He went and grabbed a box off the shelf, and then slid it across the table to Izuku. “Here.”

Izuku opened the box to find a thick, silver chain, with a translucent pendant. 

Is this…?

“It’s an artifice.” Aizawa said. “A more powerful kind.”

“Ohh. So that’s what I was sensing over there.” Katsuki snorted. “Christ, Aizawa. Feels like there’s an entire fuckin’ soul crammed into this thing.”

“…What does it do?”

“Why don’t you put it on and find out?” Aizawa suggested. 

Izuku hesitated for a moment, and then shrugged, leaning forward to hook it around his neck. He looked around and saw Katsuki staring at him with wide eyes. “Uhh, how do I look…?”

“You don’t.” Katsuki said, cracking a grin.

“Excuse me?”

“You’re fucking invisible.” Katsuki said, his grin growing even more. “Holy shit, Aizawa.”

Katsuki waved his hand in the air until it smacked right up against the side of Izuku’s head. “Ah—Hey!”

“Still solid, though.” Katsuki noted. 

Izuku glared at him, before remembering that he was literally invisible. He sighed and took the artifice off, placing it back in the box as he looked up at Aizawa. “Um. Thank you.”

“You still need to be careful, though.” Aizawa told him. “I think it’s safe to assume this won’t work on an Acolyte. Stay aware of your surroundings. If you see one, get away before they can get too close.” He lowered his voice slightly. “We still don’t know much about them, but I think it’s safe to assume that if you’re close enough to feel their presence, they’re close enough to feel yours. If that happens, drop everything and focus on getting out as fast as possible. Even if we’re wrong, it just isn’t worth the risk.”

Izuku nodded solemnly, a chill running down his spine at the mere thought of it.

“Any questions?”

Izuku chewed his lip, thinking for a moment. When he couldn’t come up with anything, he shook his head.

“Well, I have one for you.” Katsuki chimed in. Izuku looked up, and was met with a grave expression. “Are you really sure about this?”

Izuku hesitated. “What? I-I mean, of course.”

“No, I’m serious, Deku.” Katsuki said, leaning a bit closer. “I would hope you don’t need me to tell you this, but this ain’t a trivial fuckin’ task. This is a dangerous mission.”

Izuku smiled nervously. “It’s just a walk through heaven, Kacchan.” He said, though the words left a bitter taste on his tongue. “It’s… not that different from what I normally do.”

“It is different, Deku. You know that.” He sighed. “You’re a fucking fugitive now. If this goes wrong, you could get killed, or worse.”

Izuku didn’t respond. He just stared down at his lap, wringing his wrists. 

“Honestly,” Katsuki continued, “I don’t think you should even try to plant all of them. Put one down at soon as you set foot in there, and then get the fuck out.”

“That’d make invading much more physically demanding.” Hatsume noted.

“Speaking as one of the Demons doing the actual invading, I don’t care.” Katsuki told her. “We’ll make it work. We can plant more during the actual invasion.”

“It’s not that easy, unfortunately.” She shook her head. “The gravity seeds require at least thirty-six hours to become effective.”

“What the fuck? Why?”

“Any faster than that, and we run the risk of them being rejected entirely, according to our models.” She shrugged. “Believe me, I know it’s not ideal, but this is the only method we’ve come up with that doesn’t require shutting down the entire gravitational lock system.”

Katsuki glared at her for a while, and then sighed heavily. “Fuck.”

After a moment, Aizawa spoke up.

“If Midoriya were to get caught, would the seeds be easy for them to disable?” He then asked.

“No. That would be difficult, unless they were able to find them within a relatively short period of time.” She explained. “So, at least if he were to get caught, you’d still be able to rescue him.”

“Yeah, in thirty-six hours.” Katsuki scoffed. 

Aizawa sighed, rubbing his temples. “Well, regardless, I’m leaning toward Bakugou’s perspective, here. We shouldn’t take unnecessary risks.”

“Fucking thank you—“

“—That said,” he interjected. “If the opportunity to plant more arises, I won’t say you shouldn’t take it.”

Izuku nodded, chewing his lip.

After a second, Katsuki exhaled sharply. “Well, my recommendation stays the same. Get in and get out.”

Aizawa shrugged. “I suppose that’s just a judgement call you’ll have to make yourself, then.”


The trip to Earth was a quiet affair, for the most part. Izuku couldn’t really find it in himself to hold a conversation, given how anxious he was. Part of him wanted to run away, and another part just wanted to get it over with. 

But before he could even think about entering Heaven, he first needed to wash off the ‘aura of Hell,’ as Aizawa had called it.

The hot spring was tucked away in a mountainside resort, where the trees were thick and the water bluer than the sky. A small waterfall fed into a gently-steaming pool, and the altitude counteracted the summertime enough to leave the air cool. 

Izuku toed off his shoes, setting them aside before coming to stand before the hot spring, fidgeting with the hem of his cloak.

“Well, go on then.” Katsuki said, standing just a few feet behind him. “Undress.”

Izuku flushed. “Um…” He turned to look at him. “C-Could you maybe turn around, please?”

He released a long, dramatic sigh, as though the thought of doing so physically pained him. Still, he did as he asked, and turned around.

Izuku made quick work of his clothes, haphazardly folding them up on a nearby boulder before stepping into the water. It was hot, and he probably would’ve liked to ease into it a bit slower, but the fact that Katsuki was waiting on him spurred him to move faster. Izuku winced slightly as he quickly got in to hip-height, and then slowly waded deeper into the water.

“Okay!” He called. Katsuki turned around, and went to sit on a large rock near the edge.

As seconds ticked by and the initial shock of the heat wore off, Izuku sighed as he felt some of the tension ease from his muscles. He sunk down until his chin touched the water, stretched his arms and wings out. After a moment, he dunked his head under, letting the warm, spring water flow through his hair. He came up for air, and brushed his wet hair back. 

But all the while, he felt Katsuki’s eyes on him. Izuku glanced at him nervously a few times, at the way he sat there on the boulder, his legs spread, one elbow propped up on his knee and his chin resting in his palm. Katsuki’s eyes followed his movements with a subtle heat that had Izuku flushing, crouching down until the water reached his nose.

“H-How long did he say I should stay in?”

“At least fifteen minutes.” Katsuki drawled. “Minimum.”

Izuku sighed. It’d been less than five minutes, and he was already starting to squirm under Katsuki’s attention. He turned his back on him, and tried to focus on the pleasant warmth of the spring.

A few minutes went by, and then suddenly, Izuku felt the water behind him shift.

“Hey.”

“Ah!” Izuku tensed, spinning around to find Katsuki standing right there with him, grinning. Undressed. Naked. “K-Kacchan!” 

Katsuki laughed lowly, crowding him against the side of the hot spring. 

“I-I don’t think we should do anything in here! It might not work if we do!”

“What do you mean by ‘do anything’?” Katsuki teased. “What are you thinkin’ of doing, huh?”

Izuku gave him a tired look. “Kacchan, you’re naked.” He said. “You know exactly what I was thinking. In fact, I’m willing to bet that making me think that was part of your motivation for getting in here in the first place.”

Katsuki stared at a moment, and then grinned, rolling his eyes. “Yeah, okay. You got me.”

“Unbelievable.”

Katsuki laughed. “Sorry, nerd.” He shrugged. “You’re just too fun to tease.”

Izuku sighed, shaking his head.

For a minute, it was quiet.

“Really, though.” Katsuki said, his expression suddenly much more serious. “It’s not too late to back out of this, Deku.”

Izuku stared at him for a moment, and then started to laugh a bit, under his breath. Katsuki’s brow furrowed.

“Kacchan…” He mumbled. “You know I can’t just back out of this.”

Katsuki frowned. “The hell? Of course you can.”

“And what?” He interjected, his brow wrinkling. “Just leave him there? Just let All Might die?”

“Deku,” Katsuki took a few steps toward him. “You know this ain’t the only option.”

“It’s the fastest one, though.” Izuku said. “And I’m partly responsible for him being there.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?”

Izuku shrugged, gazing down at the water. “If I hadn’t pressured him to teach me things he wasn’t supposed to, he might not be there right now.”

“Yeah. Key word being might, Deku, ‘cuz you don’t know that.” He scoffed. “And he’s a fucking adult. If he didn’t want to teach you something, he could’ve just said no.” 

“Well, what other choice did he have? He had to teach me those things once I started working with you!”

“And who’s fucking idea was it to work with me, huh?” Katsuki shot back. “Deku, don’t be fucking stupid. We both know your mentor’s been in some shit for a while.” 

Izuku opened his mouth to retort, but the words never came. He sunk down until his chin touched the surface, and stared vacantly at the water. 

Katsuki sighed.

“Look, I get it, okay?” He muttered. “I know what it’s like to have survivor’s guilt, or whatever. But you gotta find a way to shut that voice up, ‘cuz it ain’t gonna do you any good.”

Izuku sunk down to his nose, and for a minute, Katsuki was silent.

“Is that really all this is about?” He eventually asked. Izuku didn’t move. “Deku…?”

The image of the town came to mind, bleached white and devoid of life. Izuku closed his eyes, then stood up again.

He whispered, “…What would it say about me if I backed out now?”

Katsuki’s brow furrowed. “The hell d’you mean?”

“I mean,” He took a deep breath. “If I refused to help, even after seeing that… place.”

Katsuki’s eyes widened as he stood there, staring at him. Then, he cursed under his breath, turning his back on him as he slid his hands into his hair, gripping it harshly by the roots.

“K-Kacchan?”

“I fucking knew I shouldn’t have shown you that shit. Fuck.”

“No, I’m grateful you did!” Izuku said. “Kacchan, I need to make this right, I’m partially re—“

“Stop!” He shouted, turning around sharply. “Just fucking stop! Deku, don’t you dare try to put that shit on your shoulders. You’re not fucking responsible for the crimes of the regime you live under. You’re a fucking victim of it, just like we are.”

For a minute, Izuku couldn’t even look at him, much less formulate a response.

“Okay, y’know what? Fuck this. We’re callin’ it off.”

“What?!” Izuku paled. “No, please!”

“M’not gonna let you risk your fucking life over some fucking misplaced guilt!” 

“Kacchan, wait!” He cried. “I’m sorry!”

Katsuki threw him an incredulous look. “I don’t want you to be fucking sorry!”

“Well, how am I supposed to feel when I see something like that?!”

“Angry, Deku! You’re supposed to be fucking angry, because anger is productive!”

He faltered, his brows pinching together. 

“W-Well, I’m still doing it, aren’t I?” He then said. “If it gets the same result, I don’t see why—!“

Katsuki took a step closer, planting his hands on either side of the ledge behind him, boxing him in.

“It is not the fucking same, Deku.” He snapped, his volume lower, but his tone even more resolute. “When you’re pissed off about injustice, you become a rebel. When you feel guilty about it, you become a fucking martyr.”

Izuku froze for a moment, speechless. For a very long time, neither of them spoke. Katsuki just stood there, staring him down. Eventually, he backed away, moving over to the far end of the hot spring, his back turned. After a moment, Izuku followed him there. Holding his barrier, he placed his hand on his back.

“…I’m sorry, Kacchan.” 

“I just told you—“

“—No, listen. Please.” 

When Katsuki didn’t say anything else, he took that to mean he was listening.

“I think…” Izuku began, his voice so very small. “I think sometimes I have a hard time with stuff like this. I’m just… so used to shame and guilt that I sometimes just sort of… default to it.”

Katsuki sighed, and turned around, grabbing the hand that had been on his back. “You can’t do that for shit like this, Deku. It’s too fuckin’ dangerous.”

“I know. I know it is.” He swallowed. “But… please. I have to do this. I don’t want to waste any time. This is too important.”

For a very long time, Katsuki just gazed down at him, his eyes searching. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, he asked: “If you had to choose between saving yourself and saving All Might, who would you choose?”

Izuku’s breath caught in his throat, eyes widening. He stared at Katsuki for a moment, and then looked away.

“That’s what I thought.” Katsuki said, with a bitter smile. 

“Kacchan, you can’t just ask me to choose between my life and the life of someone I care about.”

He snorted. “Okay, what about someone you don’t care about?” Katsuki shot back. “Remember the second time we met, when you were ready to fucking die just to stop me from taking those two girls to Hell?”

“They were kids!” Izuku said. “Kacchan, this isn’t fair, you can’t just—“

“—I can, actually.” He interrupted. “Deku, I need you to have a basic sense of fucking self-preservation.”

“Why are you so—!“

“—Because I fucking love you, you piece of shit!”

Izuku froze, his mouth still open. After what felt like an eternity, Izuku said, “Kacchan, I lo—ow!“

Katsuki flicked his forehead. 

“Don’t say it back, asshole.” He grumbled. “Not now.”

His mouth moved, but no sound came out. He sunk down in the water again, up to his chin.

“Here, how about this.” Katsuki sighed. “You take exactly one gravity seed with you, plant it the first place you can, and come right the fuck back. And then, if you really mean what you were about to say just now, then you can say it.”

Izuku stared up at him for several seconds. “Kacchan, that’s—“

”—Those are the terms.” He said. “Take it or leave it.”

Izuku hesitated, but eventually he gave in, shoulders slumping. “…Fine.”

“Okay?” 

“Okay.”


They got out a few minutes later, and dressed themselves in silence. 

Izuku stared at the single gravity seed in his hand, and curled his fingers tightly around it.

“I guess I’ll be off, then.”

“Wait.” Katsuki said, stepping toward him. He gave Izuku a look as he closed in, one that Izuku had learned to recognize without words. It said, ‘I’m about to touch you, so get ready.’

He felt a finger beneath his chin first, tilting his head up slightly before Katsuki leaned down and kissed him. It was a slow kiss, a sweet one. It brought Izuku’s senses to life without making him feel like he was about to implode. The kind of kiss you could build a life around.

When Katsuki pulled away, the look in his eye was soft in a way Izuku couldn’t recall seeing before. His palms cupped his cheeks as he leaned in close, resting his forehead against Izuku’s.

“You’ll come back to me, Izuku.” He murmured, as though he could speak it into reality. “You will. You hear me?”

Izuku was so startled by the naked vulnerability in his voice, it took him a moment to respond.

He gulped. 

“Of course, Kacchan.” He whispered, fingers wrapping around Katsuki’s wrists.

They stayed that way for a moment, looking into each other’s eyes. When they eventually parted and said their goodbyes, Izuku breathed a sigh of relief upon taking flight.

He thought for sure Katsuki would find out, but apparently not. He was in the clear, now—with one gravity seed stowed away in his pocket…

…and the other three hidden safely in his mouth.


Izuku arrived at the station with the invisibility artifice around his neck, and the gravity seeds pressing into his cheeks.

He looked around the corner nervously, making sure that no Acolytes were around before he quietly ran to the platform, boarding the shuttle along with a couple other people.

Whether or not invisibility would be enough to get him through to the inner circles was unknown, but it didn’t seem likely. Even if it was, testing it wasn’t worth the risk. Izuku needed to keep his head down, stay silent.

The shuttle arrived at an entry point at the first circle, and Izuku quickly ducked into a nearby alley. There, he scanned his surroundings once again before he took out the first gravity seed—the one he’d kept in his pocket—and dropped to a squat beside a trashcan. He pressed the button on the side and twisted it. A brief flash of light confirmed that the device was active, and he quickly set it down behind the trashcan, out of sight. 

Izuku stood up again, brushing off his clothes. He paused for moment to look around again, and as he stood there, Katsuki’s words echoed in his mind.

Get in and get out. 

He bit his lip, felt the other three gravity seeds inside his mouth as he flattened himself against the wall, his heart pounding.

Izuku knew he should quit while he was ahead. He peered around the corner, watched as a couple of Angels stood waiting for the outbound shuttle. It arrived a minute later, the doors opening, letting a few people out before the others began to board. He shifted back and forth between his feet, looking around nervously. 

Just go. Just get on the damn shuttle! He could almost hear Katsuki shouting.

But he was already here. He had three more seeds.

And he knew he could do so much more.

With a shuddering breath, Izuku backed into the alley again, checking his surroundings once more as he considered his options. They’d warned him not to go anywhere they might expect him to go, which naturally ruled out the campus and dorms. The library seemed like a safe bet, and it usually wasn’t too busy this time of day. Taking a deep breath, he poked his head out and looked both ways before he set off toward it. 

Despite the artifice, he was still careful to stick to low-traffic areas, keeping quiet and moving through the shadows whenever possible. He passed a couple of people, but no one ever looked at him. With a bit more confidence, he entered the building behind another Angel, and immediately ducked to the right. 

He headed toward the end of the library, into the parts which technically penetrated into the inner circles, and backed himself into the corner there. He stopped to look around yet again before he took out another gravity seed. He wiped it off on his clothes, then activated it and slid it behind the bookshelf there. Already, he felt more accomplished.

Just one more, he thought. I know I can do just one more. 

A fair distance from the library, there was a park located near an exit point. It wasn’t technically on the campus grounds, but it was close. 

It’s an open area, though, he reasoned. I’d be able to spot any Acolytes way before they were close enough to sense me.

Nodding to himself, Izuku quickly exited the library, and set off for the park next. He once again kept to back alleys and side streets, and his trek went undisturbed.

Once he reached the park, Izuku found a soft spot in the ground beside a tree, activated the third gravity seed and quite literally planted it in the ground. 

He stood up slowly, his back pressed against the tree as he looked around. There were a few people out walking, but no one Izuku knew. He briefly wondered if he should try to plant the extra gravity seed somewhere. The hospital was a fair distance away. 

That’d be a good place…

Izuku shook his head. The hospital was definitely out of the question. If there was one place outside of the innermost circle that he could expect to encounter an Acolyte, it would be there.

He sighed, and ultimately decided to just leave.

The closest platform was nearby, but he’d get there even quicker if he cut a bit close to campus. He knew, at least rationally, that it was risky, but it was also a path he knew well, and he could easily see his surroundings. Izuku shut out his lingering anxiety and set off in that direction, making his way up the grassy hill at the other end of the park, which separated it from the residential neighborhood beyond. 

It was quiet. It had been ever since he’d arrived. It was a little unnerving, but when he actually thought about it, it wasn’t that weird, given the time. It was around eleven in the morning; most people were either in class or working, which naturally meant that most of the streets would be empty. 

He wasn’t planning on passing All Might’s house. He’d been planning on altering his route slightly to avoid it, but when he reached the corner, he stopped, looking around cautiously. His eyes fixated on the turn. Just a few more steps and he’d be able to see it.

He wondered if the light in the study would still be on, and swallowed. Just a peak, he decided, quietly inching toward it. One last look, and then I’m gone.

He carefully poked his head around the corner, and then froze. 

There was a second that went by which seemed to stretch on for an eternity, during which all he could do was stand there, paralyzed as he stared at it.

All Might’s house was on fire. He could smell the smoke from where he stood, watching the angry, red flames swallow the structure. 

“What…?” He said, barely a whisper. “Why?”

It’s a trap, his instincts told him. They’re trying to lure you in. Don’t fall for it!

Izuku nodded to himself, swallowing roughly. 

I need to get away. They’re probably waiting just behind the fence, ready to ambush me, as soon as I’m close enough for them to sense. He started backing away, stumbling slightly. I just need to—

He took one more step back, and froze once again.

The house was no longer burning. 

It stopped, the moment he’d gotten a certain distance away. Like he was out of range for the illusion.

Which means…

All the blood drained from his face as the cold realization washed over him. 

Which means I’ve already gotten too close.

Izuku bolted. He went straight for the nearby forest he’d been planning to cut through anyway, and did not look back. He couldn’t even hear his own footsteps. Only the blood rushing in his ears as the trees blurred past him. 

He emerged at the nearby creek, just a minute away from the closest platform. He was making a beeline for the bridge, when a flash of what looked like white and gold in his periphery spurred him to duck underneath it and hide, instead. He sat there in the shadows, heart pounding in his ears as he carefully peeked in that direction, but all he saw was brown and green.

Maybe it was just my imagination, but what if it wasn’t? What will I do if they get closer, and—

“Midoriya.” A voice said.

A familiar voice.

It was like he’d been doused with a bucket of ice water. He remained still for a second before the shaking started. Slowly, he turned around.

And there he was.

All Might.

There was a large bandage wrapped around one of his eyes. His feet were bare, his body thin—even thinner than he had been before, if that were even possible—and he was kneeling on the jagged, rocky ground beneath the bridge. The subtle sound of a chain clinking alerted him to the fact that his wrists were shackled, and Izuku’s heart lurched when he noted that the handcuffs were stained with blood, his wrists bruised and discolored.

His wings looked different, too, and Izuku realized, with shock and horror, that they’d been clipped. 

“Help me!” He called out weakly. “Please!”

Izuku felt a bead of cold sweat roll down his neck. There was a metallic taste on his tongue, and somehow he knew that the gravity seed was not to blame. His vision wavered as nausea churned his stomach so hard, he almost fell over. 

Because this is a trap, he realized. It has to be a trap. It’s too convenient not to be.

And if there was any doubt left in his mind that the Council was capable of unrepentant cruelty, it died at that moment, when he looked at All Might and felt something inside of him break.

The look of pain on his face was far too visceral to ignore, especially when he turned around, and showed Izuku the massive wound in his shoulder.

“All… Might…?” He choked on the words.

“Please, Midoriya. I don’t have much time before the soul bleed starts again, and I can’t—“ His wrists pulled against the handcuffs in vain. 

Izuku knew what he was asking.

He knew it was a trap.

But he also knew it didn’t matter, anymore. It was too late for him to escape.

Izuku wiped his tears away, and stumbled closer. He reached for the hem of his cloak, intending to tear off a piece of the fabric.

“No, it’s alright, just use—“ he gestured up toward the white gauze wrapped around his head and eye. “My eye’s healed already.” Izuku gulped, and nodded. He got down on his knees, rocks scraping up his skin. And as he got closer, he actually felt a glimmer of hope. It really did look just like All Might. Maybe it really was him, and they could escape together. 

He carefully undid the bandage, unravelling it from around his head. All Might didn’t say anything else. All he heard was the sound of water flowing through the creek.

When he finally managed to unravel the bandage completely, All Might leaned forward, giving him access to the wound.

But there was no wound, only white fabric. 

Izuku wasn’t holding white gauze, but rather a length of crimson silk.

And finally, the sob he’d been holding back this whole time broke free.

I’m so stupid.

I’m so, so fucking stupid.

Izuku wiped his eyes on the red fabric as he sat back.

In that moment, he felt the full weight of the Acolyte’s presence come rushing back, as though it had been contained within the illusion. He stared at the water as it flowed through the small stream.

“I think you dropped these.” He said, holding his hand out.

Izuku’s eyes went wide, and for a moment, the world went silent again. Because there, resting in the Acolytes palms, were the gravity seeds. All three of them, misshapen and destroyed. And suddenly, it hit him.

Oh, I see.

One by one, snow-white finger tips dropped the gravity seeds into the stream. 

They knew all along, he realized. From the moment I landed at the station, they knew.

Escape was never an option.

And despite the situation, the epiphany wrapped around him like a warm blanket. They’d been following him the entire time, slowly closing in. Making sure he couldn’t escape.

Making sure he couldn’t be saved.

And in a dark way, the realization comforted him. Because at least he knew it wasn’t his fault. 

They’d played right into their hands. It was always going to end this way. 

The creek swept away the last gravity seed