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Snow, wind, biting at his exposed skin.

 

He pulls his hood up. Under his sweatshirt is that tight red vest, doing very little to protect him from the cold. His arm is still bleeding sluggishly into the sleeve of the sweatshirt. There’s probably still glass in the wound.

 

He longs for his mother’s embrace. He wants nothing more than for her to appear and wrap him in a tight, warm hug, and to never let him go.

 

He trudges on. His socks are soaked now, but it hardly matters. He’s nearly there, and he can’t feel his feet anyway.

 

The apartment they’d commandeered was one on the fourth floor of a tall, luxury apartment building. They had western Christmas decorations up in the lobby, being so close to the embassy. Tokyo is pretty far from Musutafu, but the League is in the city, so he is too.

 

Hawks had proved a surprising ally. He wasn’t able to overtly help Izuku, but without his intel, Izuku never would have been able to approach the League of Villains. Toga had immediately bought his story, but the rest of them were still mulling it over.

 

That they let him leave alive was a miracle. Perhaps it was a sign they had already accepted him into their ranks, although that was unlikely. To them, he’s still a little hero brat, nevermind his sob story about false accusations and getting revenge on his former friends.

 

It hurts to think of them. Class 1-A especially, but really everyone at UA. They all think he’s betrayed them, save a very small subset of teachers that doesn’t even include All Might.

 

All Might. He already misses those private lunches, after-school training sessions, impromptu movie nights. All of it, every moment of it, he constantly turns over in his head. It seems memory will be his only company for the foreseeable future.

 

The only ones he knows for sure are in on it is Aizawa, Nezu, and Tsukauchi, if he counts. None of them approved, but they were ultimately unable to stop what the Hero Public Safety Commission had set in motion.

 

The lobby of the apartment building is warm. He gets some odd looks, but nobody approaches him, tells him to leave. He almost wishes they would. He could turn around and walk all the way back to Musutafu, where it was sure to be warm and…

 

He walks into the elevator. There’s an old woman already there, struggling to press the right buttons, arms weighed down by grocery sacks. Her hands shake, fingers stiff from the storm.

 

“What floor,” he asks.

 

“Seven,” she croaks, then clears her throat. He presses the four, then the seven. The elevator doors slide shut.

 

She thanks him when the elevator stops at the fourth floor. He nods. She invites him over for tea and mochi sometime - “I haven’t seen you around, you must be new… My son lives on the fourth floor, too, I’ll introduce you…”

 

He declines. The elevator doors slide shut once again.

 

He’s in apartment 48B. The official owner is his first victim, a nonexistent Kobai Miyuki. The Commission will reveal her death to the press in one week’s time, as well as the identity of her murderer. That will be his debut, in a way.

 

Until then, he has the lavish apartment to himself. He’s sure it’s bugged, of course. Definitely by the Commission, quite possibly by the League as well. Even in “his own home,” there is no rest.

 

The phone rings about half past midnight. He’s only just settled into bed, but he’s comfortable, and still very, very angry, so he lets it go to voicemail. The answering machine beeps once, then crackles to life.

 

“Hey, Miss Kobai,” Shigaraki rasps. “Hah. Tomorrow morning, before sunrise. I’ll be waiting at the place we discussed. If you’re late, or if you try anything funny, you’re dead. Don’t test me, little hero.”

 

Izuku turns the machine off. He doesn’t bother setting an alarm; he won’t be getting much sleep tonight anyway.

 


 

Toga doesn’t leave him alone. He hated the emptiness of the Commission safehouses, and then the stolen apartment, but he would prefer all of that to this. Here, there isn’t even the illusion of privacy.

 

“Goodnight, Deku,” she trills. “Sorry I’ll have to watch you sleep… but you won’t mind, right?”

 

“Of course not,” he grumbles, genuinely ired. She just laughs, even when he slams the door in her face. It won’t keep her out for long, but long enough to get changed, and maybe even long enough to take a sponge bath.

 

He’s still pulling his shirt on when Toga busts back in, humming loudly. It’s a children’s nursery rhyme, he thinks, but he can’t remember the words.

 

She takes the chair in the corner, and he flops into bed. It’s not as comfortable as the bed from that apartment, or even his bed in the dorms, but it’s passable. 

 

There’s a nightlight in the corner of the room, a little cloud plugged into the outlet that paints the wall blue. His bed is a mattress with one layer of fitted sheets, and one rather raggedy blanket. It smells smoky, and it reminds him of his father - only a distant memory now.

 

“I have to say, it was surprising when you came to join us,” Toga says. He rolls over to face the wall, but she doesn’t get the memo.

 

“I mean, you really seemed like one of those righteous hero types - not that that’s a bad thing! It was cute on you, Deku… But I never expected you to turn villain.”

 

“Me neither,” he says without really meaning to. He swallows. “Er, I mean…”

 

“I get it,” she says, and he rolls over again, wanting to see the look on her face. She looks deeply sad for a moment, face dripping in tacky blue light. “You think that people love you, just like you love them… and then they betray your trust. It’s horrible.”

 

He can’t bring himself to say anything. Toga Himiko looks like she’s about to cry, and for a moment, he thinks she will. Then she smiles, wide and sadistic.


“But then… there’s nothing holding you back anymore, is there?”

 

“No,” he says, rolling over again, closing his eyes. “I guess there’s not.”

 


 

Shigaraki is actually one of the first to begin trusting him, behind Toga. All it takes is a (scarily genuine) speech about how he’s been ostracized and shunned from hero society, and a (far less genuine) promise to get revenge on all of those that have wronged him.

 

He tells them how he broke himself, over and over again, all for people who didn’t care about him in the end. He tells them how he was bullied, told to just kill himself all his life. He tells them how hard it’s been to hold back his anger, and how the accusations from his own friends and family wasn’t even the final straw.

 

He tells them it was All Might, asking for his quirk back from the little traitor. He tells them that he refused, and that the former #1 Hero retaliated by beating him, threatening his life if he didn’t give it back.

 

He tells them that he ran, then, and won’t look back. He tells them that he won’t rest until the world burns, taking his former friends with it.

 

He doesn’t tell them the truth, because the truth hurts far more than these lies ever could.

 

Still, something he says must resonate with the man, because his red eyes begin to shine, and his chapped lips curl into a wicked smile. He pats Izuku on the shoulder with four fingers, thumb tucked into his palm. 

 

“We’re the same, then,” he says, grin widening. “You took your time, but we ended up on the same path after all…”

 

“I suppose we did,” Izuku says, and it takes all of his effort to keep his voice from shaking. Face to face with the leader of the League of Villains, this really is the point of no return. Just then, Dabi returns, hands tucked in the pockets of his thick winter coat.

 

“Did the perimeter twice, no heroes in sight. He’s telling the truth about that, anyway.”

 

Shigaraki laughs. “Oh, he’s telling the truth. Either that, or he has a death wish… That being said, if I find out you’ve lied to me, I’ll hunt you down and make your death long and painful.”

 

“Deal,” Izuku says drily. He’s already signed on for a far worse fate.

 


 

It’s hot now, the summer settling in early. It’s harder to hide his face with just a surgical mask, but he does what he can. Musutafu is gorgeous, the cherry blossoms coating the ground in pink snow.

 

Sweat drips down his face. The boxes in his arms are heavier than he expected them to be, but he can’t risk using his quirk. After the sports festival display last year, it would be too recognizable…

 

There’s a gun store a block away, a one stop shop for antique hunting rifles, modern pistols, shotguns, and really anything else capable of firing a lethal shot into someone’s chest. Ammunition, too, of course.

 

Twice took care of the purchase, leaving Izuku and Toga to pick up the goods. She took one box, and Izuku has the other three.

 

This was unforeseen. He’s already thinking on what to write in his next notebook, how to convey to Aizawa how serious a threat the League poses again…

 

He isn’t supposed to drop one for another week, but he might have to do it early, depending on Shigaraki’s plans for these weapons. Only he and Kurogiri know the full scope of the League’s plans, and they don’t like sharing.

 

“Hey, Deku,” Toga says, pulling from his trance. “You look distracted… What’cha thinking about?”

 

“Just remembering old times.”

 

It’s a blatant lie, but he’s gotten much better at lying recently.

 

“What, with your old hero friends?”

 

He nods, then realizes she may not be able to see his face over the boxes piled high in his arms.

 

“Yeah. They… There were some nice moments. Even after what they did to me, it’s nice to think about… about what could have been.”

 

Izuku has already missed so much of his class’s progression. Aizawa is rarely able to send him messages, and when he does, they must focus on the essentials, condensing information as much as possible… There’s been no chance to talk about Class 1-A.

 

He does know that they’ll be preparing for their year two sports festival in a few weeks. He remembers their first year: Kacchan’s violent enthusiasm, Todoroki’s bold determination, Ochako’s nervous excitement…

 

Everyone was ready to give it their all. Not just the hero course kids, even. Anyone was allowed to sign up, and many fierce contenders were from Gen-Ed, or Support…

 

He wonders how it will go this year. Who will win? His friends will be in their second year now, but he’ll probably watch all three sections of the festival on TV.

 

Well, as long as he’s not busy blowing up buildings, stealing weapons, or leaving encoded messages for the Hero Public Safety Commission on the inner workings of the League of Villains and their allies.

 

If it weren’t for the frighteningly vast network of villains in their contact books, the League would have been ambushed and arrested by now. But the Commission wants to take those other villains out first, so there will be no retribution when they come for the League.

 

He wishes they would hurry it up. To put it all too simply, he misses his friends.

 

“I understand,” Toga huffs, shifting her crate from one arm to the other. “But you have new friends now, Deku. We won’t abandon or betray you, would we?”

 

“Well, I know you wouldn’t,” he says. He almost believes it, to be honest. Toga, homicidal as she may be, is the least likely of his “new friends” to snap and kill him. The more he thinks about it, the less comforting it seems.

 

“Aw, you’re right,” she coos. “I wouldn’t betray you, Deku, not ever…! And if I did, I’d kill myself for it!”

 

“Uh, thanks.”

 


 

“So, Sensei? What’s the verdict?”

 

He can’t do this. Each face in the room stares at him with a different emotion, but the tension is shared among each member of his class. There is desperation, a deep yearning for the truth.

 

He doesn’t say anything. Aizawa Shouta takes the long walk to the front of the room without a word, and without any expression showing on his face. He stares upon nineteen children, his husband staring back at him from the other end of the room. 

 

“Midoriya Izuku… was not the traitor,” he says. Before anyone can celebrate, he continues: “However, he is no longer operating on the right side of law.”

 

The class breaks out in quiet, confused murmuring. Yaoyorozu raises her hand. It takes all of his strength to keep a steady voice, to mask his own fear and confusion.

 

“Yes, Yaoyorozu?”

 

“Wh… What do you mean by that?” she looks close to tears, so very unlike her. She and Midoriya weren’t very close, from what he knew, but he also knows that she is a caring person at heart, and Midoriya is a very easy person to become attached to.

 

“Yeah, what does that mean? He didn’t do something illegal, did he? I mean, if he wasn’t the traitor…” Kaminari looks extrememly guilty. He had been among the group that had discovered Midoriya’s notebook, the catalyst that pushed him into the dire situation he’s in now…

 

He’s memorized the story already. It’s only been a day or two, but he knows it by heart. For the rest of his life, he will never forget it. He clears his throat and prays for forgiveness.

 

“Regrettably, the officers in charge of the interrogation weren’t exactly gentle with Midoriya. They nearly killed him, and when an officer with a lie detector quirk was able to prove his innocence…”

 

He can’t do this. He can’t, he can’t look these kids in the face and lie to them about what he’s done, how he couldn’t protect their classmate, their friend.

 

“Is he okay?”

 

Uraraka stares at him with wide brown eyes, fierce and yet budding with tears. Of course, she is worried about his health. She really is a good friend.

 

“He’s alive, and on the run from the police. He nearly killed three officers, and it appears he’s experiencing an altered mental state. We’re unsure what his motives are, where he’s going, or how long this episode will last. We hope to capture and treat him for his injuries and possible mental instabilities.”

 

His class looks horrified. While he’s made a point not to water things down for them in the past, it hurts to tell them such a gruesome lie without softening the blow even a little.

 

Someone is crying. It might be Uraraka, but his eyes won’t focus enough to help him figure it out. He trusts Hizashi will do something about it.

 

He wonders if Hizashi knows yet. If he doesn’t, Shouta will sure as hell being telling him as soon as possible. He may be loud as shit, but he can keep a secret, and he deserves to know the truth.

 

They all do. But there are only so many rules he can break.

 

“Aizawa-sensei! Can you let us know when he has been found? I would like to know that he is safe!”

 

It’s Tenya speaking from the back of the room, where he and Hizashi are huddled around Uraraka. Midoriya, safe… Shouta only wishes it were that easy. 

 

“Yes, of course. I’ll keep you updated as much as I’m allowed. I also have to ask that if you see Midoriya, or if he tries to contact you, that you let me or another teacher know immediately.”

 

The bell rings, and the hall outside fills with chatter. Nobody moves. Hagakure raises a hand, then Kirishima, then, reluctantly, Bakugou. Even those without questions of their own seem anxious, while those closer to Midoriya seem downright horrified. None of them are okay with this.

 

Especially not Aizawa Shouta, who knows things will only get worse from here on out.