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The Hand That Saves

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It was a kind of sad genius that appeared like a deformity; it made him distant and withdrawn. His memories were tearing holes in his mind even as they melt like slivers of tin in the embers.

The sky outside was a dying violet.

He could feel it like the bruises on his skin, that deep shade of pain and punctures and torn blood vessels. When he forced open his eyes, the world was black.

“He’s awake,” said a voice from his left. He did not recognise this voice, dark and damp like the dregs of a well.

The sounds of a chair scraping against the floor, rustling of clothes and a clinking of metal. The person on his left vanished. Approaching was a presence so grey and parched, it reminded him of a scab on a wound that hadn’t healed quite right.

“What’s your name?” said a voice like a nail grating dry skin.

“Izuku.”

“Good. Tell me the facts.”

Izuku turned his head to the side, hoping to catch a glimpse of the speaker, forgetting he could not see.

Tell me the facts.” A dip of the mattress and then a rough hand on his face, brushing against Izuku’s skin and over his eyes. “Tell me.

As if rehearsed, the words poured out of his mouth like a pre-schooler memorising multiplication tables. “My name is Izuku. I am twelve years old. July 15th is my birthday.”

Izuku swallowed and winced. His throat hurt.

“And?”

“My family was killed by villains. I am blind,” said Izuku in a very even voice.

“Very good.” Calloused fingertips skimmed down his cheek and he tried not to squirm. Izuku could smell antiseptic and rubbing alcohol. “From now on, I will be your eyes.”

 

*

 

“Izukun.”

He never remembered his dreams, not unless he counted those strange half-dreams he would sometimes have when he first moved in. In those, he usually dreamed of himself getting up and dressed, and so was always disconcerted when he actually woke. It took him moments of groping around blindly before he figured out he was actually still in bed.

“Izukun…”

When he started telling Tomura about his morning dreams, Tomura helped in the only way Tomura knew how. By barging into Izuku’s room at sunrise, yanking him out of bed and threatening to disintegrate all Izuku’s books with five fingers. Tomura had always been an early riser.

Izukun.

A hand slapped Izuku on the back, propelling him into the crisps aisle. Izuku yelped and caught himself before he could topple the whole section. “Do you want us banned from another store?”

“You were taking too long,” Tomura whined. He shifted his feet and scratched his neck in agitation.  

Izuku caught his wrist and pulled it away. The girl manning the cashier had been eyeing them suspiciously for the past ten minutes. It was well past midnight and the area around here was dodgy at best.

They went to pay.

“You’re not getting those crisps, after all?” asked Tomura, sliding his fingers up Izuku’s arm and into the sleeve of his shirt before clinging onto it with two fingers.

Swinging haphazardly in Tomura’s other hand was a basket filled to the brim with assorted flavours of instant noodles and prepackaged snacks, all delicious junk food oversaturated with sodium and preservatives.

Tomura dropped the basket onto the counter with a loud thump.

The cashier jumped.

“How much is everything?” asked Izuku, fishing out his tattered wallet, the one Tomura gave him for his birthday.

 

*

 

Their lives were simple the way that life was no longer simple.

It was the way the wood grain of the doorframe was rough underneath Izuku’s hands and the smell of bleach permeated the entire flat. It was dark poetry dyed white, Tomura scrubbing kitchen furniture with rubbing alcohol until the flesh of his hands break apart and bleed. It was Izuku screaming and flinging his books across the room on his bad days because he could not read. It was Tomura, hand around Izuku’s throat to silence him, stuffing him into their leather sofa in the ruby glow of a dying day. It was Izuku, eyes closed, curling into Tomura’s warmth as he read to him — slowly, clumsily — blood from the scratches on Tomura’s palms smudging the pages until the words made no sense any more.

Their flat looked out to a nearby grassy field, with the chimneys of factories churning black clouds in the distance. Their building had remained unsold — being too filthy after an explosion during the days when the land had been home to coal factories. Above the dirt of an unmarked grave and beneath the shadow of the abandoned refinery was where Izuku, at twelve years old, used to go for walks alone.

To those who saw him, Izuku was pale with dark-green messy hair and was generally a nervous child, both quite small and strange-looking for his age. There was an incident at the nearby school the day Izuku wandered too far. A group of boys caught him fumbling about the back gate and made fun of Izuku’s unusually blank eyes.

Death by suffocation.

Tomura and Kurogiri found him an hour later, curled up among the corpses of what used to be middle schoolers. Izuku swore he had not touched them, not that it mattered.

Tomura cleaned up the bodies and took Izuku home.

Izuku never strayed again.

 

*

 

They walked home now, under the flickering lights of the shattered streetlamps, hands full of bags of groceries. Tomura held onto the back of Izuku’s shirt as they cut across alleys and deserted streets.

Izuku’s senses were better than most.

“What do you want for your birthday?” said Tomura, voice scratchy and distant.

“I’m fine.”

“You’re turning fifteen.

Izuku stifled a sigh. “Muracchi—”

What do you want? ” hissed Tomura, yanking at Izuku’s shirt until he came stumbling into Tomura’s chest. Rough hand enclosed around Izuku’s neck in a familiar hold. Izuku bared his throat a little when the grip tightened.

He wasn’t scared.

“I want to grow taller,” said Izuku, half-jokingly.

There was silence broken by a distant sound of sirens from the main road, a cat meowing from a far away fire escape.

“How tall are you now?” asked Tomura, mouth close to his ear.

“I don’t know.”

Izuku pressed the back of his head against Tomura’s chest, not tall enough to rest it on his shoulder. Tomura’s grip loosened and he dropped his hand.

“I’ll talk to Kurogiri tomorrow,” said Tomura. “He’ll know what to do.”

“You don’t have to,” said Izuku quickly, suddenly remembering how stupid Tomura was sometimes. “There’s nothing anyone can—”

But Tomura was no longer listening. He was staring at Izuku with a thoughtful gaze when Izuku turned to face him. He jutted out the flat of his hand as if to pat Izuku’s head only to slide it back to his chest.

“Muracchi, what are you doing?”

“Measuring your height, so I can tell Kurogiri tomorrow. How tall do you want to be?” he asked, very seriously.

“Maybe up to your—” Izuku froze. He tilted his head to one side, then the other. He heard something. A scream of terror in the distance, to his right. “Did you hear that?”

“Hear what?”

There it was again. A scream so spine-chilling it filled Izuku with urgency, threatening to tear him apart. Before he knew it, his feet already moved.

He dropped the bags and ran.

“Izukun!”

And Izuku could feel it almost like second nature, no more fumbling in blindness or stumbling over irregular steps, just pure raw ability that could bend junctions and pathways to his will, making him feel almost immobile as geography moved like the world was carving out a place just for him, just him.

Then he found them. A group of five rowdy men crowding around a fallen woman and her child, all silhouettes and black pudgy forms, but he could sense them, he could.

“What do you think you are doing?” said Izuku, sounding braver than he felt. He stepped forward, hands balled tight into fists. “Are you going to rob her, hurt her or kill her? Which is it?”

The men turned around, attention on Izuku. “What’s it to you, you scrawny little punk?”

“Get the hell out of here, kid.”

The woman was still on the ground, holding her child close to her chest, sobbing. “My baby! Don’t hurt my baby!”

Izuku gritted his teeth. His other senses took over the one that was lost. The men’s bloodlust stifled the alley in a deep purple fog. The woman’s fear was different, a sickly orange growing steadily redder with each second. That was dangerous, a mother’s love.

There was nothing else for it. With a yell, Izuku charged, fists at the ready. The night sky and ground collided, bricks and walls bowing inwards, inserting themselves between the woman and the men. He heard screams and the snapping of bones, the sound of knuckles against flesh, soles of his trainers crushing on fingers and noses, fists landing blow after blow. He heard hysterical sobs in a far distance, and a quiet voice calling out his name, a hand — four fingers — pulling him into someone’s chest. He smelled blood and antiseptic.

“Stop crying,” said Tomura.

Izuku blinked. Fat tears fell from his eyes and now he realised the sobs from before had been his own. They stayed pushed into each other until he calmed down.

“Why don’t you go make sure the woman is okay?” said Tomura, letting go of him. “I’ll take care of the bodies.”

Izuku nodded numbly and tried to remember which alley he’d stashed the woman and her child. Tomura shoved the bags of groceries into Izuku’s arms.

“Take these with you. When you’re done, head straight home.”

The world was pitch-black once again. Izuku ran one hand along the wall as he walked, the other pressed hard against his eye. Behind him, a loud thump.

“Muracchi?”

Izuku looked over his shoulder. There was someone else in that alley, among the colourless corpses and Tomura’s colour that was turning a sickly shade of blue.

“Muracchi,” said Izuku, louder.

A choke.

“Who is that? What are you doing?”

“Stay right where you are, kid,” said a voice, void of emotion. “There’s a villain I need to finish.”

The air spoke to him from brick walls, the description of a stranger holding Tomura in a chokehold in midair, endless strips of engineered fibre tying back his wrists so he couldn’t move, couldn’t kill.

Izukun,” Tomura bit out.

“Oh? So you know each other, then?” said the stranger.

“Stop it!” Izuku ran towards them. “What are you doing? Muracchi isn’t a villain. Don’t hurt him!”

He felt like he could see everything all at once, but then the stranger turned to look at him and the vibrations died. And Izuku was just a blind boy stumbling over a bunch of corpses, groping helplessly for his eyes in a forgotten alley. He found the stranger’s foot and tugged at his ankle.

To his right, Tomura was choking. “Izukun…”

Please—please, let him go,” stammered Izuku. “It was me! I—I did it. I killed them.”

 

*

 

As the policemen cleaned up the bodies and the paramedics made sure the woman and her child were okay, Aizawa watched the two kids huddled together by the fire escape.

“Eraserhead,” said Best Jeanist, coming to stand by Aizawa’s side. “They seem like regular kids to me.”

Aizawa grunted. “Kids who can’t control their quirks are the worst. You got anything?”

Best Jeanist shook his head.

“None of their names came up in the registry,” said Best Jeanist. “They shouldn’t even exist.”

That twig of a boy, Izuku, had fallen asleep against the other boy’s side. The one called Tomura was picking at his nails absently, but even from here, Aizawa could tell, he was gauging the seriousness of the situation. From the way his pale eyes darted every which way, mapping out the quickest escape route, arm wrapping around the twig kid in an unhealthy possessiveness.

“I’ll go talk to them.”

Aizawa caught him. “No. We have no idea what their quirks can do.”

“They’re just kids, Eraserhead.” Best Jeanist rolled his eyes. “Even domesticated animals bite when threatened.”

“Whatever.”

“Hey, kid,” said Best Jeanist.

Tomura’s shoulders tensed under his scruffy hoodie. He quickly nudged Izuku awake.

“What do you want?” bit out Tomura.

Best Jeanist crouched down.

“I’m just here to talk. I’m Best Jeanist. A hero.”

“I don’t care what you are. Heroes, villains, don’t make no difference to me.”

“No?”

“No,” said Tomura.

Izuku tugged nervously at Tomura’s hoodie. “Don’t say that. He’ll think we’re the bad guys.”

“I don’t care what he thinks.”

“Muracchi…”

Tomura glared past Best Jeanist’s shoulder, straight at Aizawa. “Why the hell are you here now? Where were you when my family was killed? Where the hell were you when the villains stole Izuku’s eyes?”

Muracchi—

“And now you want to capture us and put us behind bars because we did a better job at saving a mother and her child?” sneered Tomura. He got to his feet, ignoring Izuku’s pleas. “You heroes are despicable. You make me sick.”

“Well, that’s settled then,” said Aizawa, stepping forward. “You guys aren’t villain material. Just a bunch of bitter kids who waited around for a hero to save their asses.”

You! ” Tomura lurched forward, palms bared.

Aizawa dodged, stuck his leg out and tripped him. “You got a lot to learn kid.”

Best Jeanist grabbed the back of Tomura’s hoodie and lifted him onto his feet. Then he picked up the strewn groceries before lending a hand to Izuku.

“Come on, then,” said Best Jeanist. “Where do you guys live? Let’s walk you home.”

Tomura slapped the hero’s hand away from Izuku before pulling the boy to his side.

“You—you’re not gonna arrest us?” whispered Izuku.

“Not at the moment, no. Your quirks are unregistered, so we can’t actually prove the deaths of these thugs were your doing.”

“So, what,” said Tomura. “You expect us to just wait around at home until you can prove it was us.”

“No,” said Aizawa. “We’re thinking of letting you go.”

Izuku clapped his hands over his mouth but Tomura narrowed his eyes.

“What’s the catch?”

“That remains to be seen.”

 

*

 

Moonlight seeped through the curtains, sifting like sand through the tattered material. Tomura sat on the sill, pillow shoved behind his back and a phone shoved between his ear and shoulder.

“So, how did it go?” Sensei asked through the phone.

Tomura squinted at Izuku’s form in the half-light. The kid had fallen asleep on the leather sofa in the living room the moment they got back.

“I don’t know, Sensei,” said Tomura quietly. “Izuku played the hero card and killed a bunch of brainless thugs. A couple of heroes showed up but ended up letting us go.”

“It went very well, then,” said Sensei. He sounded pleased. “Everything according to plan.”

Tomura made a noise in the back of his throat, not quite as pleased. His neck still hurt from getting choked by that damn Eraserhead. He’d spent the last three hours scrubbing his skin with antiseptic. The thought of a hero’s fingerprints on his flesh made him gag.

“Izuku-kun killed the thugs I sent, did he?” said Sensei with a chuckle. “How regrettable. I rather liked them.”

“They’re a bunch of useless pawns,” said Tomura.

“Stop by the bar tomorrow. I left a present for you with Kurogiri.”

The sky was turning grey in the east, visible over the dark rooftops. There was a soft murmur coming from the streets below as the city slowly woke up, rising into the air on a gentle swell.

“Thank you, Sensei.”

Just as Tomura was about to hang up, Sensei added, “Oh, and about Izuku-kun’s vision. Tell him he should be able to see better soon.”

“Yes, Sensei.”

Tomura hung up just as Izuku stirred awake. He watched impassively as the kid groaned and rolled off the sofa, knees hitting the cold floorboards. He groped around in blindness, trying to figure out where he was, hands landing on the coffee table and the sofa before pausing. Izuku tilted his head, as if trying to catch movements with his ears.

Tomura tapped the window.

Izuku turned around and got onto his feet, shuddering at the cold. He was wearing Tomura’s sweater, grey wool hanging off one shoulder and hands half-hidden in the sleeves. Wincing as he came towards Tomura, arms outstretched like a toddler learning to walk for the first time.

“Muracchi?” said Izuku.

And for one cruel moment, Tomura considered not answering. How satisfying would it be to just move away and watch this helpless kid grow hysterical and cry out for him, like on that day, three years ago, when Tomura fetched Izuku from the rubble of Sensei’s masterpiece.

“I’m here,” he said.

Relief washed over Izuku’s features and he smiled, stumbling into Tomura, shivering as the chill soaked through his flesh and wrapped its bitter fingers around brittle bones. He climbed onto the sill, into Tomura’s lap, this scrawny little thing , pushing his nose into Tomura’s collarbone, ear against his chest, seeking out Tomura’s heartbeats as though they mattered more than his own. A rusted emotion squeezed at his insides and loosened.

“Can’t sleep?” Izuku mumbled into his flesh.

“No.”

Tomura drew a shaky breath and slid his hand under the frayed edges of the sweater to smooth over Izuku’s hip. When Izuku arched, skin impossibly hot and soft, Tomura remembered that his hand must be freezing. He couldn’t bring himself to pull away. Izuku’s body heat was already seeping into his bones, replacing the chill slowly but insistently.

But then Izuku sat up, skinny legs bracketing either sides of Tomura’s hips, and Tomura’s hands rest on his lower back. Izuku’s eyes were clear and Tomura waited for him to say something for a long moment.

“I’m sorry about yesterday,” said Izuku finally. “I’m glad we got out okay.”

“Those heroes were assholes.” Tomura watched Izuku’s eyelashes flutter. “You still want to be one of them?”

Izuku looked down in shame. His fingers began to fidget with the strings of Tomura’s hoodie.

“Forgive me,” whispered Izuku.

Tomura closed his eyes and leaned back against the cold glass pane. Izuku followed him though, freckled nose bumping into Tomura’s cheek as he pleaded, mouth against his ear, “Forgive me.

“Whatever.” He sighed, lifting his hand to tangle in Izuku’s hair. “How tall did you say you want to be?”

“Maybe, um, as tall as you?” mumbled Izuku.

Tomura frowned. “That’s not gonna happen overnight.”

Izuku chuckled into him. Even Tomura wasn’t that stupid.

Chapter Text

There was no pain on his body, there had not been for a long time, even though his skin were cracked and bleeding from his obsessive compulsive washing. There was only lethargy and numbness. Thinking about last night made his stomach squirm with disgust and uneasiness, the memory of that hero’s hand pressing into his throat sent him spilling out his guts in the bathroom.

Tomura’s palms started itching as he got up to wash them. Try as he might to scrub off imaginary dirt, they wouldn't go away. He could hear the sounds of that strange boy shuffling about in the kitchen by the clinking of ceramics and the opening and closing of the fridge door.

"Muracchi? We forgot to buy orange juice last night," he heard him say.

"What d'you want me to do about it?" said Tomura, irritated. He stalked out of his room and slammed into Izuku, knocking the other backward.

Tomura caught him, as he always did then flung him across the room. “Watch where you’re going.”

“Is that supposed to be a joke?”

Izuku’s back hit the leather sofa with a thump. Tomura leaned over him, words coming out scratchy and dry, “Stay here. Don’t move an inch. Don’t open the door to anyone while I’m gone.” Tomura scrubbed at his own face with the flat of his hand.

Izuku’s mouth hinted at a smile.

“What the hell are you staring at?” grumbled Tomura, turning away.

Izuku caught Tomura’s wrist. “I’m blind .”

“That’s right,” said Tomura. “Sensei found something for that.”

Izuku frowned. “Another quirk? I don’t need another quirk.” Izuku pulled him down and wrapped his arms around Tomura’s neck, mumbling into his throat, “I’ve lost track of all the things put inside me. I—I want only you.”

Tomura took a sharp breath and smelled the smoke in Izuku’s hair, that slow sharp wood scent underlain with a hint of whatever shampoo Tomura got him.

“What would you do if our roles were reversed?” whispered Izuku, all heat and hope. “Would you remember my face? Would you even know ? I don’t know what you look like.”

Tomura tried to get up but couldn’t; Izuku had already crawled up across his thighs.

“Are you done?” grumbled Tomura.

Izuku’s hands dropped down and grabbed at Tomura’s own, brought them up to Izuku’s face, which Tomura could probably trace by memory despite never having touched it. Izuku swallowed and led Tomura’s fingers along his hairline, cold and damp with sweat, down to his temples and over his eyes. When Izuku tried to press Tomura’s palms flat against them, Tomura jerked back violently. “ Do you have a deathwish? ” hissed Tomura.

“Not particularly,” said Izuku shakily, only realising now what he had almost done.

Tomura cursed and got to his feet, tugging both his hands away to where Izuku couldn’t reach, as if even he himself couldn’t be trusted with them.

Izuku sat there, looking unwaveringly hopeful as if he expected something from Tomura who only knew how to receive. Then Izuku leaned back, pulled his knees to his chest and smiled .

Tomura narrowed his eyes. Was the kid trying to start a fight?

“You can’t win,” said Tomura brusquely, and then he was gone, slamming the front door behind him.

 

*

 

“Neither of their names came up in the registry. I have tried different spellings,” said Detective Tsukauchi. “There is no Shigaraki Tomura registered at all , dead or alive. He’s a ghost in our system.”

Aizawa and Best Jeanist exchanged looks, and Aizawa scowled. “What about the other one?”

“Hm, Izuku. That boy is more difficult to pinpoint since even he doesn’t know his own last name. All the Izukus in our system do not possess a highly dangerous quirk, at least not the type that would be able to kill like that.” Tsukauchi rubbed his chin thoughtfully, shuffling through the files. “There is, however, an Izuku that disappeared three years ago. His family was slaughtered. Midoriya Izuku’s body was never found.”

Best Jeanist clapped his hands together. “That’s gotta be him, then.”

Well , there are two problems. Midoriya Izuku was quirkless, and he wasn’t blind.”

Best Jeanist and Aizawa stared at each other then stared at Tsukauchi who smiled at them calmly as if he had it all figured out. Tsukauchi slipped them a picture of a little boy with wide eyes and messy green hair, hugging an All Might figurine close to his chest.

“It’s obviously him,” said Best Jeanist.

“I think you should talk to All Might about this,” said Tsukauchi. “He has encountered many villains. He may have come across one who is capable of handing out quirks. And All Might may also have some idea how to handle a case like this.”

Aizawa groaned into his hands. “I can already guess what that damn bodysuit is going to say.”

 

*

 

A slouched figure dragged his feet into the bar.

“Shigaraki,” said Kurogiri, “how’s the kid?”

“Horrible,” said Tomura as he always did. He sat heavily on the stool in front of Kurogiri who was busy wiping down the counter surface. “Kid’s been acting up. He’s growing more clingy and persistent. Suddenly, he forgets how to change bedsheets and needs me to help him. When we went to the convenience store he forgot to buy orange juice. And he still doesn’t understand that his green shirt look stupid with my red jacket, and still wears them together. Who does he think he is, Father Christmas?”

Kurogiri considered this and then said, “It’s going well, then?”

Tomura sagged against the counter and grumbled, “I wasn’t like this at fifteen.”

“No. You were nasty, secretive and unsociable. You kept trying to disintegrate people even on your good days.” Kurogiri moved on to wipe down the shelves. “Oh wait…”

Shut up .”

“The fact that Izuku-kun is taken by you at all bewilders me,” said Kurogiri. “I suspect he’ll be trying to wriggle his way into your bedroom soon enough. I wonder if Sensei ever expected things to play out this way?”

Tomura’s fist hit against the counter. Oblivious, he said, “Get me a lock. I don’t want him snooping around my room.”

Kurogiri stifled a sigh. “Anything else?”

“Yeah,” said Tomura. “That brat wants to grow taller for his birthday. Can you make that happen?”

“Well, how about I walk you home today? We can stop by the supermarket for some orange juice. Then I can discuss height concerns with Izuku-kun at the flat,” said Kurogiri, moving on to wipe the rows of shot glasses. “Oh, that’s right. I heard you had a run-in with the heroes last night.”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“You know they already have someone tail after you, right?” said Kurogiri in a whisper. “They are watching the bar, now that you led them here.”

Tomura growled and got to his feet. “Where is Father?”

Kurogiri sighed, “In the backroom where you left him. You are welcome to stay down there, if you like. Sensei is sending a couple of brainwashed passersby here, for cover purposes.”

“And Sensei’s present?”

“In the backroom. With the hand.”

Tomura stalked off, opening the backdoor and slamming it after himself.

Kurogiri sighed again.

Sensei was right, as always. An emotionally stunted Shigaraki Tomura couldn’t possibly provide for the boy for much longer.

 

*

 

There was an unmarked book Tomura had once read to Izuku, something that sounded like, Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life, which Tomura had called bullshit the second he read it. He remembered that day well, because it had ended with a lot of wailing and crying from Izuku, and Tomura dropping the book into a bathtub full of bleach.

That violent purity.

Today too was going horribly for Tomura. He had come into the backroom expecting to find the numerous CCTV screens that monitored his little flat empty, but there was Izuku sprawled on the sofa in their living room, with an arm covering his face and a hand shoved down his sweatpants.

Tomura watched Izuku’s movements as the boy’s shallow pants permeated the dark room. He watched in both bafflement and apprehension. And then on his left, the only blank screen lit up and Sensei spoke through the speakers.

“Tomura.”

“Yes, Sensei,” he answered automatically, eyes never leaving Izuku’s rutting form or his flushed cheek pressed into the leather seat.

He ran a hand over his own face and one finger over the edge of the desk.

“That boy is unlike you, Tomura,” said Sensei, as if that explained everything. “You were born right, he was not. When people like him grow older, they take things given to them for granted and they become greedy. They want more, their desires grow endless and unquenchable. They begin to ask for things that others may not wish to give.”

Tomura frowned, trying to ignore Izuku’s cries. He wished Izuku would shut up. “Did I do something wrong?”

“No. You have done very well. But. Now it is time to pass your responsibility to someone else.”

“You’re giving Izukun to the heroes,” said Tomura with dead-certainty.

From the screens, the panting stopped with a choke and then came a desperate sob in the form of his name. Tomura whirled around, confused. “I, why did he—”

“You are more perceptive than people give you credit for,” said Sensei as though he had not heard.

“I’m not stupid,” said Tomura distractedly.

“I know,” said Sensei. “Make sure Izuku-kun drinks from the vial I left you. It should activate one of the quirks I have buried in him three years ago. It will help with his vision.” When Tomura didn’t answer, Sensei asked, “Is there anything you are concerned about?”

Tomura flexed his hands before pulling them close to his body. Father’s hand rested on his lap, a grotesque representation of what had been lost. He didn’t look up as he spoke, “This morning, Izukun said he doesn’t want another quirk. He says he wants only me. What does that mean?”

“Pay it no heed. It’s only nature.”

“Is this him growing up?”

“I’m afraid so, yes. This is the perfect time to test his loyalty, I must say. And Tomura.”

“Yes, Sensei.”

“When the heroes come for him, do try to put up a little fight. Don’t just wave Izuku-kun off. You have cared for him for three years, do display some concern.”

Even as the screen went black and Tomura returned Father’s hand to his face, his eye found the screens. Izuku was crying loudly into the sofa, palms pressed against his eyes, knees curled to his chest. He looked completely miserable. Tomura scowled; he could not understand the reasons for those tears. He could not help but feel that he himself was being punished for a mistake he hadn’t been aware of making.

This feeling was not new.

For the rest of the day, Tomura dozed off in the backroom because it was damp and cool and dark. With his eyes closed, he tried to imagine what it would be like to be blind. There was the humming of the monitors, the trickling of water from the ceiling, his own steady breathing and, of course, Izuku shuffling about the flat through the monitors.

Tomura did not usually do this, preferring to spend time at the front room, grumbling over a drink as Kurogiri hummed to whatever was on the radio. Sometimes, he would loiter outside the bar, kicking up dust around the streets nearby, approaching the kids who were skipping school and watched them run away from him, frightened.

But today was different. He was tired and confused, and there was a stigma in the air that smelled like an end. Not only did that scent feel disgusting on his skin but also felt equally so under it. Scrub at all the bones in his body and it would never disappear.

When he fell asleep, he dreamed that his face was wet and he knew that it was blood because he tasted it, smearing his palms to his cheeks and to his lips. He was crying blood, How utterly ridiculous , and decided to wait for it to stop. But it didn’t. Tear after tear rolled down his face and pooled languidly at the corners of his mouth until all he could taste was iron.

“I can stop it for you,” said Izuku, stepping out of the darkness, and Tomura felt Izuku’s hand over his eyes, the exact texture of his Father’s hand, but the difference lay in the heat.

Tomura knew that the rest of Izuku’s body would be just as warm, flushed against him, Izuku’s breaths damp on his neck and fingers tangled in his hair. When he woke to Kurogiri kicking the chair out from underneath him, Tomura got up and thought to himself furiously, I do not care for you.

 

*

  

Tomura got home the normal way, with him actually arriving at the door to the flat on foot after climbing eighteen flights of stairs, and not via the usual way that was Kurogiri warping him to wherever the hell he wanted to be. All men are not created equal but are made equal in this parody of a society. A ridiculous farce that one day will end, by Tomura’s own hands if Sensei’s words were anything to live by.

But here they were, two members of the league of villains, abiding the law because they were being tailed.

Kurogiri was carrying an orange juice carton close to his chest.

The door flung open, and they were greeted by a flushed Izuku holding a rolling pin in his hand.

“What the hell?” said Tomura.

“Come in, quickly!” Izuku ushered them inside and triple locked the door. “What took you so long? There’s been someone knocking on the door for the last two hours. Hello, Kurogiri.”

Kurogiri nodded and took the rolling pin from Izuku. “Probably the investigators. No big deal. How did you know it was us at the door?” Kurogiri went over to the kitchen to put away the orange juice.

“Muracchi’s footsteps. And you—well, you don’t have any, but—” Izuku tried to reach out for Tomura but Tomura stepped around him. Izuku frowned. “Muracchi?”

“You’ve been masturbating on my sofa,” Tomura deadpanned.

Izuku froze, flushed to the roots of his hair and sputtered, “What? How—”

“How did I find out? I know everything,” said Tomura moodily. He walked over to the sofa and observed it with his eyes.

“I’m surprised you know what that is, Shigaraki,” said Kurogiri from the kitchen. “Anyone hungry?”

“Of course, I know what it is. You gave Izukun that biology book. I had to read to him. I want omelette,” said Tomura. “Izukun, come here. Did you clean the seats?”

Izuku said nothing and remained frozen where he was. His face had drained of all colours.

“Izuku-kun, what would you like to eat?” said Kurogiri, bringing out the frying pan and a batch of eggs.

“I—” Izuku swallowed. “I’m not hungry.” He tried to shuffle to his bedroom but Tomura grabbed him by the collar and slammed him into the sofa. “Let me go!”

“I asked you if you cleaned the seats,” said Tomura, voice brittle to the bone. “And don’t spout that rubbish about you being blind. You’re just lazy, and needy, and greedy. Have you been taking me for granted because I do things for you?” Tomura rummaged through his pocket and tore open Sensei’s package.

Izuku scuttled away, looking like a caged animal. “What—what are you doing?”

“Drink.” Tomura unstoppered the vial and pushed it against Izuku’s lips.

“What—”

Drink it.

Izuku thrashed. “Kurogiri! Help—”

“It’s not poison, if that’s what you’re worried about,” Kurogiri called out from the kitchen. Izuku’s thrashing subsided, and Tomura could feel each intake of Izuku’s breath under him. Izuku’s hair was mussed up and he was shaking, tears were leaking out of his eyes. It was rather pathetic. The shadow that flashed across Izuku’s eyes when Tomura let go looked like shame.

Somehow, they’d ended up on the living room floor with Izuku flat on his back, Tomura straddling Izuku’s chest, and Tomura remembered leaning forward to press his forehead against Izuku’s clammy one. Izuku’s face lit up like a thousand suns, and his shaking hands grabbed Tomura with something akin to relief and adrenaline, but could as well be fear.

Tomura closed his eyes and took a deep breath, trying to recall the words that were taught to him, a string of sentimental lies he could never feel. “I’m sorry. Forgive me. Thank you for being here with me. I only want the best for you. Please trust me.”

When Tomura opened his eyes again, he found Izuku staring up at him like he was the only thing in the world, which was dumb. Because one, the kid couldn’t see. And two, it was just dumb, and it made Tomura feel like collapsing on himself and never see the light of day again.

It was complicated.

“Okay,” said Izuku, finally, more lip movement than word, and Tomura wanted to say something sarcastic like, What? You’re mute too now? but bit his tongue.

They sat up and Tomura shoved the vial into Izuku’s hand, a little impressed at himself that he hadn’t spilled a drop of it. Izuku drank from it in one gulp. Tomura sighed and leaned against the coffee table, running his hands through his hair because he was so sick of this shit.

For a second that could never have happened, he felt something soft brush against his lips. But he could not have imagined it, with this boy pressed up against him, saying, “I’m sorry. I keep making things difficult for you.”

Yes, things were difficult. Yes, he was tired of playing house. It had been three years and Tomura felt that this was just too much for him. It drained him emotionally. It drained him physically. And now he was already losing sight of what all this effort was supposed to accomplish. But then he remembered Sensei and Kurogiri and the cameras. He remembered that Sensei could be watching him even now, analysing him, trying to figure out if Tomura had learned patience at all.

Tomura shook his head. “It’s fine.”

 

*

 

It was well past dinner, and Izuku was splashing about in the bathtub. Tomura had gone to bed early. After clearing up the dishes, Kurogiri came to lean by the bathroom door, arms folded over his chest.

“Progress?” said Kurogiri.

“No,” said Izuku.

“You two seem rather close from what I was able to gauge.” When Izuku did not answer, Kurogiri added, “Have you slept with him?”

Izuku whirled around so fast the water splashed out of the tub. He scowled. “No! Muracchi isn’t like that. He would never—”

“But you wish for it, certainly?”

Izuku hit the water with his fist like a petulant child, not the fifteen year-old that he should be. Kurogiri absently wondered whether all the children raised by Sensei had this in common, and secretly thanked the gods he wasn’t one of them.

“This is the moment where I must advise you against it. A delicate boy such as yourself would not want to sleep with a monster—”

“I’m not delicate , and he’s not—”

“You do not know what he looks like,” said Kurogiri simply.

Izuku plunged his head into the water and came up. “He scrubs himself with antiseptic and bleach. I can imagine what he looks like, thank you. And I don’t care.” He got up and fumbled around for the towel, water trickling down from his body, bedding at his feet. “And it doesn’t even have to be that. I just. Just wish I could feel his sincerity even a little bit.”

“Izuku-kun,” said Kurogiri calmly. “There are other boys and girls who will line up at your feet once Sensei is done moulding you. Pick any that you like. Deflower them as you wish. I have to warn you that your inclination towards Shigaraki Tomura is potentially problematic.”

Izuku dried himself hastily and put on his pyjamas. Backwards. “I know that. Sensei wants me far away from Muracchi now that I’m beginning to change. Why do I have to change, anyway?”

“Because you cannot wish for things to change without you yourself changing.”

“But Muracchi doesn’t change,” said Izuku fiercely.

“That is because he does not wish for things to change. He forces them into reality. And he throws a tantrum when he fails. He is, dare I say, an idiot.”

The pause that followed was awkward, a misplaced caesura in this blindness, heavy with quiet breathing and a creeping sort of immobility. Izuku tried to imagine, not for the first time, what Kurogiri looked like, but all he could see was purple on purple on purple, and yellow mocking eyes piercing through that fog.

Izuku closed his eyes, not that it made a difference. The image was still there. “Have you ever changed, Kurogiri?”

Kurogiri smiled. “Oh, I change everyday. And so will you. Get some sleep. When tomorrow comes, you may find yourself an entirely new person.”

Izuku nodded. He stumbled past Kurogiri, running a hand across Tomura’s closed door as he walked by. He stopped in front of his own as a thought struck him. “What was in that vial, Kurogiri?”

But Kurogiri was already gone.

Izuku went to sleep and dreamed of nothing. Nothing at all. And when he woke the next morning, it was to the terrible ache in his bones and the noises of arguments from the living room. He suddenly remembered a quote from a book read to him long ago, it came to him like water through a sieve, slipping away as quickly as it poured in: If I cannot have you, then I shall hunt for you in the faces of others.  

He lay there gaping at the ceiling.

His body was on fire.

 

Chapter Text

Tomura was tired of playing house in an excuse of a flat in the middle of goddamn nowhere. This little space was slowly suffocating him. He paced the living room, phone to his ear as Kurogiri droned on about some nonsense from his past. A story he told Tomura was of a young noble he used to serve, one with glossy black curls and a careless smile, and his easy sort of cruelty. There were doting parents and indulgent servants, hounds and horses and women, so many women, trying to sell themselves to this man who had been bred thoughtless and privileged from birth.

“And what happened?” asked Tomura.

“He, of course, died an ignorant fool,” said Kurogiri. “He was being watched from the start. There were people who hadn’t thought it fair. The gap between the rich and the poor, the powerful and the weak, is too wide, even in this day and age. It was much worse back then. This, Shigaraki, is the world we live in. It is up to you to change it.”

Tomura thought about what he was meant to do, and wondered if he too was being watched from the start. And how did Kurogiri know. How did Sensei know. How everyone seemed to know, at least about him, while Tomura ran ignorant with this darkness at his back.

“Be patient with Izuku-kun,” said Kurogiri. “It won’t be long now.”

Tomura hung up the phone and flung open the door to Izuku’s room. “Get up. I need to take you down to the—” Tomura froze. There were trails of blood on the bedsheets that travelled all the way to the floor where a naked body lay crumpled in a heap.

“Hey,” said Tomura as he stepped inside. “Get up.

Izuku twitched and whimpered, and Tomura rolled him onto his back. There were scratches everywhere on Izuku’s body, from his arms to his chest, his stomach, his neck and his face. Blood trickled down his face from the wounds over his eyelids. It looked as though he had tried to claw out his eyes.

What have you done?” hissed Tomura. He grabbed onto Izuku and pushed him into a sitting position.

Izuku shuddered, face scrunching up in pain. He stuck his hand in his mouth in order to stifle his groan.

“What’s wrong with you?” Tomura said, yanking Izuku’s arm away.

“My body,” Izuku choked out. “Please make it stop. Please make it stop. I don’t want this.”

Tomura held Izuku close to him as Izuku sobbed into Tomura’s chest. This situation stirred something in his memory. It’s got to do with his quirk, he thought. Just like the first time Sensei gave Izukun his quirk. Tomura had been there three years ago. He had watched this scene play out from the other side of the glass, a little boy restrained against a cold slab, a leather belt tied between his teeth to prevent him from biting off his own tongue.

Only the timbre of Tomura’s voice held any meaning as he tried out these practised words, “I worry about you.” He scowled. Even he could feel that they were empty. He tried again, “I don’t understand you.” That sounded better. Tomura scooped Izuku into his arms and Izuku latched onto him.

This body was full of emotions he did not understand, these little bones that Tomura was holding were ripe with feelings that existed for centuries, centuries older than he was, centuries older than his precious father or his father’s father.

The floor was covered in blotches of blood. A smeared handprint on the edge of the dresser. He ran a finger over a particularly deep gash across Izuku’s shoulder-blade and frowned. Something didn’t add up. He didn’t know what. When the sobs subsided and the sun that slanted through the window hid behind a bunch of clouds, Tomura patted Izuku’s hair awkwardly, the only place he was sure weren’t subjected to self-abuse.

Kurogiri should have remembered to tie Izuku up last night. How could that fog have forgotten?

"Get up now.”

Instead, Izuku pressed closer.

Tomura sighed and lifted Izuku off the floor and sat him on the bed. He went to rummage through the bathroom cabinet for the first-aid kit. When he returned, he picked up the pyjamas Izuku had flung across the room and threw them in the hamper.

Izuku turned his head a fraction in Tomura’s direction, one of his eyes had closed from his swollen eyelid. His other eye remained pale and unseeing.

Tomura dropped to his knees and worked quietly. Izuku’s head would occasionally tilt sideways, or turn the other, as if something about his room peaked his interest. And sometimes, Izuku would glance down at Tomura as if he could see him. But that wasn’t true. Then Tomura felt his phone vibrate in his pocket, and suddenly remembered he was supposed to take Izuku down to the bar.

“Get dressed,” said Tomura. “Sensei needs you to—”

Izuku’s hand caught Tomura by his chin and tilted his head upwards. Izuku’s legs circled around Tomura’s back, keeping him from moving away.

Tomura stared at the bandage taped over the injured eye. “What do you want?”

“Thank you,” said Izuku, voice hoarse from crying. He lifted his other hand to Tomura’s cheek and brushed his fingers from Tomura’s hairline to his eye, his nose, his mouth. Brittle was Izuku’s smile when he whispered, “You look just like I imagined.”

Tomura froze. “You—”

“Your hair is grey,” said Izuku in wonderment. His hands cupped Tomura’s face and he bent down, pressed his lips to the top of Tomura’s head.

Tomura blinked once.

The phone stopped vibrating.

“You can see?” said Tomura.

“A little.” Izuku flushed, legs quivering when Tomura’s hands slid up his thighs.

“Your eyes. They’re still—”

“Yeah.” Izuku’s throat closed up and his voice cracked. “Still blind. I just—I think, Sensei did something. My senses…now they’re—I can hear really good and I can smell really well. And I can see a bit but not with my eyes. It’s hard to explain. When I woke up, everything—everything just hurt. It was like my body was on fire.”

Tomura frowned. “And now?”

“Bearable,” said Izuku.

The phone rang again. Tomura untangled Izuku from him and got up. “We need to go.”

When Izuku stood up, he wobbled.

Tomura watched him and then scowled. There was something wrong. He got right up to Izuku who tried to back away but hit against the bed and almost fell over. Tomura caught him, though, as he always did. “Stay still.”

Tomura jutted out his face and pushed Izuku’s head towards his chest.

“Ow,” said Izuku, forehead colliding against Tomura’s chin.

So that was what it was. “You’ve grown,” said Tomura, conclusively, “a lot.”

 

*

 

“The legs of my jeans are a bit short,” said Izuku, wagging one foot in the air as Tomura locked the front door with a key.

“It should. You grew at least three inches.”

“How is that possible? Does it have something to do with the vial you gave me?” said Izuku.

Tomura shrugged, grabbed Izuku by the collar and dragged him to the fire exit stairs.

“I’ve always wondered why we are so far up.”

“Keep wondering.”

Their footsteps echoed down the empty flights, and Tomura slapped Izuku’s wrist when he tried to run a hand across the dirty rail. Izuku looked at him the same way a kicked puppy would and glanced down at their feet. His face lit up.

“Your shoes are red, and so is mine!”

“Shut the hell up and just walk.”

They emerged at the ground floor and Izuku gaped at the grey sky then at the streetside excuse of a park. There was nobody inside and it was filled with trash.

“This is the world,” said Izuku almost thoughtfully.

“No, it’s a dump.”

But Izuku remained quivering in excitement beside Tomura all the way to the bar.

 

*

 

“Happy birthday, Izuku-kun,” said Kurogiri smoothly when they arrived.

Izuku grinned. “Thank you.”

“What happened to you?” Kurogiri gestured to Izuku’s eye and the bandages that peaked out of his jacket sleeve.

“You forgot to put restraints on him, that’s what,” grumbled Tomura, sitting down heavily on a stool. “He tried to claw his eyes out.”

“Ah, I must apologise for that,” said Kurogiri who did not seem at all apologetic. His misty form trembled slightly and for a second Izuku thought he saw mockery in those yellow eyes.

Izuku pulled his stool close to Tomura and grabbed for him. Tomura turned to look at Izuku impassively, showing no sign of anything out of the ordinary.

Kurogiri picked a glass from the shelf and poured into it a clear liquid from a yellow bottle. “Please do refrain from clawing at your eyes again. That must have been terrifying for Shigaraki, to have found you like that.”

Izuku ducked his head. “Sorry. I feel better now. Don’t worry about me.”

Kurogiri put the ice in the glass. “Izuku-kun, both Shigaraki and I are always worried about you, as you are very dear to us.”

Izuku flushed.

Tomura grunted. “Hurry up. I have bloodstained bedsheets to change.” He took the drink from Kurogiri and glanced sideways at Izuku. “You’ll be meeting Sensei today.”

Izuku immediately got up and turned around. “He’s here?”

“No, stupid. You’ll be talking to him through a screen,” said Tomura. He pointed the drink at an inconspicuous door behind the bar. “Don’t forget to thank him for your height.”

“Shigaraki teaching someone else manners. I am impressed.” Kurogiri chuckled. “Right this way, Izuku-kun. I must say, your growth makes you look rather fetching.”

Izuku stumbled his way to the other side of the counter, tripping a bit over his long legs. “Y-you think so?”

“Yes. When I saw you arrive with Shigaraki, I thought you looked perfect for each other,” said Kurogiri, laying it on thick. “Ah, I said to myself, look at that couple—a pair of death on legs.”

Izuku tried to shove at Kurogiri who easily dodged him by making a hole in his chest.

“Get on with it,” said Tomura impatiently from where he sat.

Kurogiri opened the door and led Izuku down a dark stairway. They walked in silence as the door closed behind them. No more teasing, no more pretend conversation. The dank air around them was rather tense, and finally, Izuku spoke. “Was it on purpose?”

“Was what purpose?” asked Kurogiri innocently.

“You knew I would hurt myself, yet you didn’t—Muracchi said—” Izuku took a deep breath to keep his nerves in check. “Did you really forget to put restraints on me?”

The ground evened out. Izuku could hear clearly the sound of water trickling down a wall, the sounds of monitors humming, and if he concentrated really hard, he could about make out, by using his new hearing, the quiet clinking of ice cubes swirling inside Tomura’s glass. It calmed him down, to feel that man so close.

But then Kurogiri spoke and the illusion shattered. “Although I do occasionally serve as a mentor to Sensei’s children, my sole duty is to take orders from Shigaraki. I do not act without permission, and if he did not instruct me to render you immobile, I could not have done so.” They stopped at the end of the dark hallway in which piled monitors and monitors of blank screens, some broken, others humming on standby. The static glow from one fizzy screen was the only light in the room. “If you would like to blame someone, I suggest you blame Shigaraki. He is often neglectful and irresponsible. However, I also suggest that you forgive him, he is young in experience. He still has a lot to learn and taking care of you is part of that process.”

Izuku clenched his fists until his knuckles turned white. Staring straight into Kurogiri’s eyes, he said, “This too. Why do you keep suggesting that Muracchi doesn’t care about me?”

Kurogiri stepped up to him, silent and creeping like death in sleep. “If he does indeed care for you, we would not be having this conversation, Izuku-kun.”

There was a pause as Izuku stiffened when Kurogiri slid his hand across the bandage over Izuku’s eye. The mist and cold licked at his cheek and crept under the gauze. Izuku flinched away.

“They say that man grows wise for his five senses. But I see that this gift of vision has not made you any wiser,” said Kurogiri, and then he was gone.

Izuku stood alone in the darkness, the sound of his own breath louder than anything else.

A screen switched on.

“Izuku-kun,” said a voice, smooth and cold like the edge of a blade. “It’s nice to finally meet you again. It’s been many years.”

“Sensei.”

Izuku stared at a silhouette of a man reclined in an armchair. He could not make out his face with the very limited sight he possessed. The lighting didn’t help.

“Is everything all right?” asked Sensei, almost concerned. “You sound a little spooked.”

“No, yes. It’s nothing, Sensei,” said Izuku quickly, trying to gain any resemblance of composure. “More than that, I’ve always wanted to thank you for everything you’ve done for me. You have been nothing but kind to me, and it’s—it’s always left me wondering what I’ve done to deserve to be saved.”

“Everybody deserves to be saved, Izuku-kun. Tomura was in a situation much like yours when I reached out my hand. And I must stand correct: it was Tomura who found you and saved you and protected you to this day. Even though, I was the one who healed you from the brink of death, without Tomura, I would not have been able to assist you at all.”

“You’ve always been there for Muracchi,” said Izuku, “and Muracchi has always been there for me, and if it wasn’t for you, Muracchi would never have been alive to save me in the first place.”

“Yes, perhaps this is how these things work. A chain of benevolence from those the world least expect. It only shows that society is wrong in deeming those they cast aside as worthless, or evil, or dangerous,” Sensei paused contemplatively. “Izuku-kun, I believe you will go on to do greater things. I understand that you have always wanted to be a hero.”

Izuku flushed and ducked his head in shame.

“There is no need to be sorry,” said Sensei gently. “Unlike Tomura, I think your ambition is awe-inspiring, that is why I have arranged matters so that you will be able to achieve this dream.”

Izuku looked up, bewildered. “I—how?

“Consider it a thank you gift for teaching Tomura patience. Izuku-kun, you will be going to Yuuei. And this is what you must do.”

 

*

 

It was late in the afternoon. Izuku sat alone in the park on the other side of town. He had kept on walking without a destination until he came across this endless stretch of grass and river. There were people here, children and their parents and teenagers spending their weekend with those that matter to them.

For now, he wanted nothing of it. He closed his eyes and concentrated. His senses grew numb. Sensei had told him about the quirks that ran through his body and how many of them were fabricated. Izuku was nothing but a living corpse, functioning only on these borrowed powers. He concentrated on one and dimmed it down until the darkness was more complete than anything he had ever experience. He no longer felt the wind on his face, no longer heard the children’s laughter, no longer saw the way the flickering lights touched the flowing river, breaking the surface into mutable patterns. He wondered if he could turn off his heart the same way.

What Sensei had asked of him was inconceivable. But he had come out here alone not because he refused to listen, but because he had resigned himself into accepting his fate. He owed too much, deserved too little. And then he wondered if Tomura was looking for him, right now. He wondered if he cared at all.

Izuku just needed time.

He switched on his senses again, but left his vision untouched. He was better off completely blind. There was no point in having everything when he deserved none of it.

“You hear me? I said you’re sitting on my bench,” said a monotone voice, impassive and unimpressed.

Izuku cast his head around, wondering who this person was and who he was speaking to.

“Oi, you.”

“Me?” said Izuku.

“Of course, I’m speaking to you. You see anyone else around?”

Izuku frowned. “Are you making fun of me?”

He could feel the person before him falter. And in an almost concerned voice, the person said, “Why would I make fun of you?”

“Because I’m blind,” Izuku deadpanned. He slanted his head up so that the person standing over him could see. And then he wondered if this was a mistake. What if this person was a bully? Would this stranger make fun of Izuku the same way other people in his own neighbourhood did in the past? Izuku grimaced. He might end up killing someone again.

“I’m sorry,” said the person, voice surprisingly genuine. It sounded so different, from the forced sincerity Izuku had to live with everyday. It squeezed painfully at Izuku’s heart and made his eyes sting with unshed tears. His life so far had been fake, wasn’t it? “Wait. Are you crying? I didn’t mean to— Look, here. You can pet my cat.”

Suddenly, there was a warm furry thing in his arms. It meowed.

“What? I—”

“Look, I don’t mind you here, really. But you were hogging my bench, and I just have an allergy to inconsiderate people. I didn’t realise that you couldn’t see,” said the person in a rush, panicking. “So if you can just scoot over a little, I’ll even share my ice cream with you.”

Izuku scooted to the right, hand awkwardly stroking a lapful of feline.

The person sighed as he sat down next to Izuku, thigh brushing against his. “Here, it’s strawberry.”

Izuku flushed. “You—you really don’t have to.”

“You have to. I’ll feel bad forever if you don’t.”

“Er.” Izuku turned his head but wasn’t sure where to look. It was times like this that he wished he could see.

Oh wait, he could. He closed his eyes and concentrated. He turned his vision up only by a little, but it was too late.

When he opened his mouth to speak, it was suddenly full of ice cream. He flinched away and quickly swallowed.

“It’s cold,” Izuku gasped.

“It’s ice cream,” said the person who Izuku could see now was a boy with bluish purple hair and a jagged smile. There were prominent bags under his eyes, making him look perpetually exhausted. All in all, he didn’t look like a friendly person. Not the type who would apologise and lend someone his cat, or even owned a cat, and definitely wouldn’t be feeding a disabled person.

The cat meowed. Izuku went back to stroking it.

“My name is Izuku,” he said.

“Good for you, Izuku,” the boy said and bit into his ice cream.

Fine. So maybe he wasn’t that friendly. Izuku continued to pet the cat. And then, not being able to take the silence any more, Izuku grabbed at the boy’s arm by the jacket.

“Give me some,” said Izuku.

Without any protest, the boy put his ice cream to Izuku’s lips. “Thought you didn’t like it.”

“I like it.” Izuku licked at the ice cream, holding tight to the boy’s wrist so that he wouldn’t move. He could feel his eyes on him, could almost taste his apprehension but also his fascination along with the exploding sweetness of the treat.

Pink began to dust at the stranger’s cheeks, which Izuku found baffling.

“I’m Shinsou Hitoshi,” he suddenly said, voice tight in his throat.

Izuku licked his lips and let go. “Good for you, Hitoshi.”

“What’s up with that bandage, anyway?” asked Shinsou, and then he shoved the rest of the ice cream, cone and all, in his mouth.

“I tried to claw out my eye,” said Izuku numbly.

Shinsou whirled around. “Why?

“Nightmare,” he lied.

“Oh.” And then. “I’ve got them too. Can’t really sleep ’cause of it. My mother says I look like a drug addict.”

Izuku’s lips twitched. He did kind of look like that now that Izuku thought about it.

“I think you look very handsome,” said Izuku and meant it. You remind me of Muracchi, was what he didn’t say. And then there was an ache in his chest he couldn’t quite shake off.

“No, offence. But you’re blind,” said Shinsou.

“Then let me see.” Izuku’s hand that had been grasping at Shinsou’s sleeve slid up to his neck, then his face. “Excuse me,” whispered Izuku. Shinsou stiffened underneath his touch but didn’t pull away. Izuku’s fingers slid along his jawline to his temples and under his eyes. And then he noted vaguely the way Shinsou’s scent changed with a sharp spike of adrenaline and a dark heat. Izuku let his hand fall. “You’re handsome enough.” Izuku gave Shinsou back his cat and got up. “Thank you, Hitoshi. I should get going.”

Shinsou got up too. “On your own? Aren’t you waiting for someone?”

“No. I came here to think.”

“Do you live close by?”

“I live near the abandoned coal factories. I just sort of wandered here. Don’t worry, I’ll manage.”

Shinsou didn’t seem convinced when he said, “Okay.” And when Izuku turned away, he followed him. He followed him out of the park, down the pavement and across the main road. “Dude, are you sure you’re blind?”

“Just because I’m blind doesn’t mean I’m completely useless,” said Izuku. “You don’t need to follow me.”

“That’s not why I’m following you,” said Shinsou. “It’s just, you look like the breeze could knock you over. I’m waiting for it to happen.”

Izuku whirled around, meaning to glare at him, but didn’t realise Shinsou was so close, and the other knocked into him. Izuku staggered backwards.

Shinsou grabbed Izuku and righted him. “There you go. Seriously, how are you alive? You look like you’ve been stretched overnight and haven’t filled out properly.”

“That’s exactly what happened,” said Izuku.

Seriously?” Shinsou looked him up and down and said, “So that’s why your trousers are above your ankles. I thought it was fashion.”

Izuku frowned. “What do you want?”

“I let you pet my cat and eat my ice cream. What do you think I want?” asked Shinsou.

“I don’t have any money—”

“I want your number.”

Oh.

Oh.

“But,” said Izuku, “I don’t own a phone.”

“Then how do you contact your friends?”

“I don’t have any,” said Izuku and then felt bad when he saw, through his vision that was slowly numbing down, Shinsou growing genuinely concerned. He cast around for something to make up for it. “Do you—want to walk me home?”

Shinsou coloured and Izuku could feel the speeding of his heart, and thought despairingly of Tomura and these words: If I cannot have you, then I shall hunt for you in the faces of others.

“Okay,” said Shinsou, flustered. “Let me just, er, put my cat away.”

 

*

 

They took the bus to the other side of town, and Shinsou was horrified at the amount of words that kept spilling from of his mouth. He was a long stretch from talkative, but there was something about this lanky freckly kid pressed against his side that made Shinsou feel like spilling out the darkest of secrets. Perhaps it was the way Izuku was oblivious to what Shinsou could do, perhaps it was the way Izuku offered his trust so easily, or the way he liked to tilt his head around, curious and unabashed, like a kitten. It could be the way Izuku grabbed for him, suddenly initiating contact with him, Shinsou, the guy from whom everybody steered clear like the plague.

As if reading his mind, Izuku asked, “Have you got a quirk?”

Shinsou swallowed. “Yeah.”

“I see. Me too,” said Izuku, dropping his head. “I wish I didn’t.”

Shinsou looked around so fast he got a whiplash.

“Why?”

“I can’t really control it,” said Izuku. “What about you?”

“I can control it,” said Shinsou, and that was that.

“I’ve always wanted to be a hero,” Izuku continued, oblivious to his discomfort. “I wonder if it’s possible at this point, when I’ve hurt so many people. I’m kind of scared of my own quirk.”

Shinsou was tempted to ask what quirk Izuku had, but he was afraid of having to answer to that himself. After all, he understood more than anyone the shame and isolation that came along with it. Shinsou squeezed Izuku’s hand. It was meant to be a sympathetic gesture, but of course, Izuku grabbed at it like a kid starving for touch. He interlaced their fingers together and held onto it before turning to smile at Shinsou.

Shinsou almost had a heart attack.

“Hitoshi, where d’you go to school?” Izuku asked. “I don’t own a phone, but maybe, if you want to meet again, I’ll go visit.”

“Yeah, sure—” He froze, remembering the whispers that went around Yuuei. The talks about him and his quirk and how he wasn’t fit to be a hero. He knew what the other kids were saying. He wasn’t deaf, after all. “Actually. I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“Oh.” Izuku looked dejected.

“It’s not that I don’t want you to,” he said hastily. “It’s just—the security at Yuuei is really tight.”

Oh.” Izuku flushed, turning away from him. When he forced a laugh, it sounded pitiful. “So, you’re going to be a hero, huh? I’m sorry. You must think I’m really pathetic. Not liking my quirk and all.”

“No,” said Shinsou. “I don’t think that.” I’m the last person to ever think that. And his sincerity must have showed, because Izuku relaxed and all but leaned into him, his sigh brushing against Shinsou’s neck. Shinsou stared down at Izuku whose head rested on his shoulder. He watched Izuku’s eyelashes flutter over his freckles, the gentle bow of his upper lip and the long lean collarbones peeking from under his shirt.

Shinsou scrunched his eyes and tried to calm his breathing, now half-horrified, half-hard from his own imagination that unfolded along the lines of, I’m so fucked. He tore his gaze away from Izuku and glanced out the window. The sky outside was a sickening pink.

What a hell of a way to fall in love.

 

Chapter Text

No one got off at his stop, nor was anyone waiting to get on. Shinsou paid the bus fare for both of them, not forgetting to mutter a Careful when they alighted near where the dirt road gave way to pavement.

The sun was beginning to set. They walked passed houses with broken windows, others grimy from disuse. Izuku sniffed the air and crinkled his nose when they went by an open dumpster where several pigeons squabbled for food.

It was far from Shinsou had imagined, and he wondered how Izuku could live in such a place. They turned a corner and Shinsou squinted at a pudgy old man in the distance who was emptying a bucket of murky water into the street where it sloshed into the drain. Izuku, who felt Shinsou’s discomfort, said, “You don’t have to walk me to my door. I can get there just fine.”

“No,” said Shinsou hastily. “I’ll walk you.”

Izuku had a headache. While on the bus, he had turned off his sense enhancement quirk until he saw and felt nothing but Shinsou’s warmth pressed against his side. Now, while they lapsed into silence broken only by the sounds of their footsteps, Izuku hadn’t let go of Shinsou’s hand even though it had gone clammy from sweat. Shinsou didn’t seem to mind, and Izuku could feel his eyes turning to him every so often. He likes me, Izuku thought, He really does like me. This truth came to him like a fact, bringing Izuku sorrow without understanding.

They parted ways by Izuku’s home, an abandoned building, charred and blackened from the dust explosion some time before he was born. Izuku could feel Shinsou’s apprehension, and perhaps even disgust, when he said, “Are you sure this is it?”

“Yeah,” said Izuku. “It must look inhabitable to you, but this—this is where I live.”

“Your family lives here?” asked Shinsou.

Izuku let go of Shinsou’s hand and cast his head around for words that would best describe the person he loved. “I live with the man who saved my life.”

“Right.”

Izuku nodded, feet kicking up dust and shattered glass when he turned away.

“Wait.” Shinsou came up behind him, hesitant but so genuinely concerned that a foreign anger flared up inside Izuku’s chest. I don’t like this, he wanted to yell, Stop making my life feel like it’s worse than it actually is. “If you need to get out,” said Shinsou tenderly, “you know where I live. And if you can’t come, for whatever reason, this is my number. Get to a phone. Call me. I’ll come right away.” Shinsou pushed a piece of paper into Izuku’s hand.

“Does my house look like a dump?” said Izuku, forcing a smile he didn’t mean. “Don’t look down on me. Please. This is where I belong.”

“Izuku,” said Shinsou, and Izuku could hear the frown in his voice. “You live in an unmaintained building. This entire area, it’s for people who—”

“Who what?” Izuku asked, voice coming out sharper than he intended.

“Nothing,” said Shinsou, resigned. “I just.” He grasped Izuku’s jacket and pulled him for a kiss to his cheek that ended up on the corner of his mouth. “It was nice meeting you.”

You too, was what Izuku meant to say, but he felt the coolness of his own skin and the heat of what was racing through Shinsou’s veins. Izuku felt the other’s immediacy, bright and burning, wax candles that would flare and one day go out. “I’ve killed people,” was what left Izuku’s mouth before he walked away.

He belonged here.

 

*

 

The consequences of a history rewritten were non-existent if it was impossible to tell when it had been done. Stories to Kurogiri were like mist, ever-changing but somehow fundamentally the same. Mist held memory the same way it held its shape. That was, not at all, really.

Tomura paced back and forth in the living room, scratching angrily at his neck, while Kurogiri stood to the side, arms folded over his vest.

The three men sat on the sofa, watchful, wary. One of them was a detective, the other an underground hero who could erase quirks, the last was known to most as a royal number, all of them foolish and dead-confident in their knowledge, yet they knew nothing at all.

For a man like Kurogiri who had seen corpses reanimated, bodies twisted beyond recognition, what terrified Kurogiri most was his memory of a clueless child sitting in the circle of a roadside massacre, blind to the bodies that dropped like flies all around him. How many lives had that boy stolen? How many had he slaughtered? What was truly terrifying to Kurogiri was that Izuku would never realise the extent of his sins. And it was truly laughable that these men believed Izuku was meant to do good.

“What are you laughing at?” snapped Tomura. He clenched and unclenched his hands, gaze sliding for a fraction towards the quirk-erasing hero whose eyes seemed to follow Tomura’s every move, analysing him relentlessly, driven for some sort of proof.

“A passing thought, and no more,” said Kurogiri smoothly. He could feel his shape flutter. The sensors he’d set up with his quirk had gone off. Someone had trespassed the building. He straightened.

“I believe it is pointless to stall this any further,” said Kurogiri. “Shigaraki, the ground floor. Your ward has returned. Be careful, he is not alone.”

Eraserhead got to his feet, but Kurogiri raised his hands. “Do you think it wise to appear in front of a boy whose most important person was almost done in by you?”

Eraserhead narrowed his eyes, glancing at Tomura when he said, “His most important person? The boy ran away today.”

“And he came back,” said Kurogiri smoothly. “As much as it is difficult for you to imagine, Izuku-kun is rather taken by Shigaraki. Or did you perhaps assume he ran off because he no longer wishes to live here?”

“Kurogiri,” Tomura warned. When he stomped to the door, nobody stopped him. “I’m going to see Izukun. Don’t follow me.”

Kurogiri waved him off dismissively. The moment Tomura disappeared with the slam of the door, Kurogiri turned back to address the guests. “Izuku-kun has recently come to understand that Shigaraki cannot stay with him forever. Thus is the reason he is upset.”

Eraserhead did not return to his seat and proceeded to scrutinise Kurogiri instead. Best Jeanist remained on the arm of the sofa, legs crossed, staring thoughtfully at his nails. The detective shifted in his seat and sipped his tea.

“We may have,” the detective began, “jumped to conclusions. The flat is fantastically maintained.”

“Ah, yes,” said Kurogiri, collecting the teapot and refilling the detective’s cup. “One would not expect such impeccable housekeeping from a man who lives in a ghost town. Certainly not from Shigaraki who you suspect to be a criminal.” Kurogiri straightened and nodded towards Eraserhead. “To think you almost ended the life of a young man with such housekeeping talent.”

Eraserhead narrowed his eyes. “And who are you exactly, his butler?”

“I own a bar near Hosu,” answered Kurogiri, “where Shigaraki works. He is, dare I say, a long-time acquaintance of mine. We were coworkers at a construction site close to where the incident of three years ago took place. When the whole town got wiped after a catastrophic battle, Shigaraki tried to search for survivors. He found a boy bleeding out under rubble. It was the first time Shigaraki had the opportunity to use his quirk to save someone. He took in the boy and nursed him back to health.”

At this point, the detective was scribbling furiously in his notepad. He looked up. “And he never considered handing the boy over to the police?”

“I may have suggested as such,” said Kurogiri. “However, you must understand Shigaraki’s strong aversion to authoritarian figures and the fact that, according to your legal system, we do not exist. I suppose to Shigaraki, raising Izuku-kun is less trouble than abandoning him. Izuku-kun fails to remember anything before the incident. With difficulty, he has managed to recall only his own name and his birthday, and that may only be because the incident happened while he was celebrating his birthday.”

“How do you know that?”

Kurogiri smiled, as if at a sad memory. “When Shigaraki rescued Izuku-kun, the boy was still wearing his party hat.” He let his smile drop and looked away. “A tragedy, if I have ever seen one.”

The detective nodded solemnly. “You seem like a more reliable character than Mr Shigaraki. Why didn’t you raise Izuku-kun?”

“Unlike Shigaraki, I find myself awfully impartial to children. Shigaraki Tomura may be turbulent, selfish, temperamental and unsociable by nature. But it is due to his unpredictability that he chose to look after Izuku-kun.” Kurogiri shrugged. “I highly suspect he may have seen himself in that boy. Under that apathy, Shigaraki did for Izuku-kun what no one had done for him.”

“What do you mean by that?” The detective frowned.

“You must have looked into the massacre of three years ago?” asked Kurogiri. “Bodies were dropping like flies in that town, even before the attack. I’m sure you were able to find some resemblance to the case of the other night.”

The detective nodded slowly. “The bodies of those thugs were dead before Izuku-kun beat them up. They died from suffocation, just like the civilians from the massacre.”

Kurogiri nodded.

“Are you saying the boy killed those civilians?” said the detective. “That’s impossible. He was quirkless at the time.”

“Was he?” said Kurogiri, pretending to look surprise. “A quirkless boy do not simply develop a quirk overnight. Rather, isn’t it more likely that his family may have hidden his quirk for fear of being ostracised? I mean, that is not uncommon for us who found ourselves cast aside by society. Neither I nor Shigaraki were an exception to this truth. Besides, Izuku-kun is in possession of a rather dangerous quirk, one which even I, who have monitored him closely these past years, am unable to ascertain.”

“So, you don’t have any idea what he can do?”

“Oh, ideas. That I do. But a solid conclusion, I do not.”

The detective shared a look with the two heroes. Best Jeanist nodded, while Eraserhead rolled his eyes. Finally, the detective said, “Do you mind sharing your theories? As we’ve already discussed, the custody over Midoriya Izuku will be given to Mr Aizawa who will take on the responsibility of monitoring his ability.”

“Does neither Shigaraki nor the boy have a say in this matter?”

The detective smiled apologetically. “I’m afraid they have no say, no.”

“Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I want that brat living under my roof,” said Eraserhead.

“And that is the problem, isn’t it?” said Kurogiri coldly. “You will not allow a child to live with the one who wants to raise him. But you consider it wise to hand him over to a man who does not want him, on the basis that he is a hero . Your society is flawed, Detective.”

They stared at him, naive, stupid, unlearned. Easily fooled.

“Are we not outlaws to you?” asked Kurogiri. “Due to the quirks with which we are born, or the circumstances of our births, we are ostracised and robbed of the rights to lead normal lives. We are the consequences of this endless war between heroes and villains. We are the people on the margin of your society. So, do forgive us for not being fond of you.”

Eraserhead was in his face within seconds, stepping right up to Kurogiri. “You’re full of shit for someone so well-spoken.”

Kurogiri chuckled, undaunted. “We do what we can to survive. No shame in that.”

 

*

 

Tomura attacked Izuku halfway up the seventh floor, fingers coiled around Izuku’s throat, one hand pinned him back by the hip. How dare you, were the words Tomura breathed. The scene rolled out like it always did, familiar but not exactly the same, with phrases like I’m sorry, Please forgive me, from one end, and Do you want to die?, I don’t understand you, from the other. And Izuku reached up to circle his hands around Tomura’s wrist, Izuku’s back bending at an awkward angle against the dirty rail. If Tomura let go, Izuku would fall and shatter like a glass doll.

“Muracchi,” Izuku whispered, and the word took Tomura’s anger with it.

Tomura’s grip around Izuku’s neck loosened, and the tense line of his shoulders fell away. Izuku turned on his vision just in time to see the worry flit across Tomura’s face too fast to notice. And it was this hope, this immediacy, that sent the lightning shivers of sensation down Izuku’s spine. Tomura leaned forward and dropped his head on Izuku’s shoulder, because he was tall enough for Tomura to do that now.

Izuku’s mind went blank when Tomura’s hand slipped under Izuku’s shirt, thumb tracing along the angular curve of his hip, and Izuku’s breath caught somewhere down his throat.

“You can’t do this,” said Tomura tiredly. “You can’t just up and leave whenever you feel like it.”

“I’m sorry.”

“You should be.”

Izuku looked at him, following the planes of his face, the dark bags under his eyes, the worry lines between his brows, the hair clumping where Tomura must have been pulling at it in frustration.

“I am,” Izuku said softly.

What seemed like a dozen different expressions flitted across Tomura’s features as he pushed Izuku’s hair back. Then he scowled and leaned down, pressed his scarred lips to the top of Izuku’s head. A familiar gesture that made Izuku blink once, then flush, remembering he’d done the same thing to Tomura this morning.

“Muracchi. I don’t—I don’t want to do this.”

“You have no choice,” said Tomura.

“I want to stay with you.”

“The heroes are here. And you need to talk to them.”

“No, I don’t.” Izuku frowned.

Tomura sighed and closed his eyes. “Tell me what you want. I’ll get it for you.”

“You know what I want.”

And what happened next Izuku would only recall as a flurry of movements and his own selfish desire, Tomura’s hand pushing its way up Izuku’s shirt, their bodies sliding onto the steps, legs awkwardly bracketing hips, fingers yanking at each other’s clothes and hair, and when they finally finally kissed, it was more teeth than tongue, but that was okay because Tomura had allowed Izuku this for one brief moment before he pulled away.

“That’s enough,” Tomura said. “I don’t— You— Like that.”

He scrubbed his mouth with the back of his hand and it came away with blood. Izuku licked his own lip and tasted it there too. Neither of them knew to whom it belonged.

“Now get off,” said Tomura. “If you don’t, I’ll disintegrate your dick so you can’t masturbate to me any more.”

Izuku let out a choked sound and flushed to the roots of his hair. “That’s not— I—” He swallowed and immediately scrambled off Tomura’s lap.

“You need a shower,” said Tomura, dragging Izuku up the stairs.

The evening passed by interestingly enough, with Izuku answering mundane questions, learning that Midoriya Izuku was his full name and hating it. The detective commented on his growth spurt, and the amount of books in his room, and Izuku answered almost grudgingly, “Muracchi reads them to me, sir,” while casting his head towards Aizawa, as if to say, You can never top that.

And then there was Tomura, dropping to his knees, as he cleaned Izuku’s wounds after a shower, while Kurogiri lied that the nightmares were to blame. To take out his frustration, Izuku made them all wear party hats as Tomura brought out his birthday cake. There was, of course, Izuku clambering onto Tomura’s lap, murmuring sweetly, “Feed me”.

And while Kurogiri washed the dishes, Izuku told everyone about the nice boy at the park who walked him home. The way Aizawa tensed up at the name didn’t go unnoticed by Izuku. And lastly, there was their private conversation that only Izuku could hear: Do you think taking the boy away might do more harm than good? from Best Jeanist, and We don’t have a choice, from Aizawa.

“Will you be staying the night?” asked Izuku when it was time for bed.

Aizawa glanced at the clock. “It’s two in the morning.”

“Don’t be a prick, sir,” said Izuku, hands clasped behind his back, leaning in the direction of Aizawa’s voice. “You can sleep with me. I can remember a whole chapter of Faust. I can pretend to read to you.”

Aizawa looked like he wanted to punch something.

Best Jeanist chuckled.

Izuku turned in his direction. “Would you like to sleep with me, sir?”

“No, thank you,” said Best Jeanist. “I have a pet fish to feed.”

The detective nodded. “Very well. Mr Aizawa will see you at Yuuei on Monday. You should start packing, of course. We will send someone to move your belongings to Mr Aizawa’s place.”

Izuku shifted his feet anxiously. “I will be able to see Muracchi on the weekends, right?”

The guests exchanged looks openly in front of Izuku. “Of course. I see no problem in that,” said Best Jeanist eventually.

Izuku smiled. “Thank you, sir.”

 

*

 

It had been a miscalculation on his part.

The last thing Kurogiri expected to see when he came back for his coat after sending off those foolish guests, was the obscenity that happened in the forgotten hour of the morning. In the darkness of the flat, moonlight painted pale streaks on Izuku’s bandaged back, sharp shoulder blades flexing when Tomura ran his fingers up his spine.

“No,” mumbled Tomura, pushing Izuku down on his bed in a quiet desperation of inevitability.

“Just a bit more,” said Izuku, sinking his teeth into Tomura’s neck.

Kurogiri frowned, backing away from the scent of twisted desire, rotten roses and rotten flesh, blood and obsession, a white grin and nimble fingers, love spun like fire and laughter like bells. Kurogiri caught the sad smile on Izuku’s face when he mouthed these words into Tomura’s ear, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.

“Shut the hell up,” Tomura snapped, furious, “or I’ll make you.”

“Make me,” said Izuku, all heat and hope.

Sunday went by with a subdued Tomura helping Izuku pack his necessities, with Kurogiri stopping by in the afternoon to pull Tomura aside, saying, “What happened last night?”

Tomura shrugged him off. “Nothing.”

“I’ll need to report this to Sensei,” said Kurogiri seriously. “I’m giving you a chance to explain yourself.”

“There’s nothing to explain,” said Tomura.

“Did you—sleep with him?”

“Not like that,” snapped Tomura.

“Do you want to?”

“No,” said Tomura.

Kurogiri nodded after hunting for a sign of dishonesty and finding none. “All right, then.”

And then there was Izuku calling out from his room, “Muracchi, where are my slippers?”

“What the hell is your new quirk for?” shouted Tomura. “Damn it.” He stomped off, leaving Kurogiri amidst a whirlpool of calculations.

Kurogiri called Sensei, of course he did, dialling the number as soon as he left the flat. “Sensei, there is a problem with one of the quirks that you forced-activated in the boy. It seems that Shigaraki may not be immune to it after all.”

“Is that so?” said Sensei. “I’ve forced-activated quite a few at the same time. Which one of them are you referring to?”

Kurogiri frowned. “Is Izuku-kun aware he is in possession of an attraction quirk? If so, he might have been using it to get his way with—”

“No. Izuku-kun is only aware of the three we’ve discussed,” said Sensei, “and not the rest.”

“I see. Well then. I’ll keep an eye on Shigaraki, like always.”

“You do that,” said Sensei. “And great performance yesterday, Kurogiri. I applaud you for having the heroes fooled.”

“Thank you, Sensei.”

 

*

 

It was Monday.

Todoroki’s sister dropped him off a street away from school. He walked the rest of the distance, following the power lines on his way there. They looped up and down in his peripheral vision, skinny black against a fantastically blue sky. People nodded at him as they passed, absently polite, preoccupied with keeping an eye on their enthusiastic children, pointing and screaming about his prestigious uniform, Look, Mum! That boy’s going to be a hero! Others brushed past him, barely perceptible, somewhere to go, somewhere to be. Gentle ripples against his consciousness. The trees creaked in the wind and he sneezed.

“If that hero gives you problems, just kill him,” said someone in an alley beside Yuuei’s side entrance.

“I know,” said someone else, voice breathless and sweet. “Give me a kiss, and I’ll be off.”

Todoroki turned his head, and found a boy in Yuuei’s uniform, pale against the red of the brick wall, dark-green hair already slick with sweat, and there was a taller man, face hidden inside a hoodie, bending forward to clumsily peck the boy on the cheek. The boy giggled, turning away.

“Don’t eat unfamiliar things. Do your homework on time. Sleep at least six hours at night—”

“I know. I’ll see you on Friday, okay?”

The man nodded. And then he brought up a hand and slid it across the boy’s face.

“What is it?”

They stayed like that for a moment, silence that stretched like the power lines, taut and dark and suspended.

“My hand looks good on you,” said the man thoughtfully, and the boy laughed, tension falling away. He brought his own hands up to grasp the one on his face, bringing it down to lick a strip up the palm.

Todoroki flushed, tore his gaze away and hurried into school.

The moment he got into class, he got Kirishima in his face, saying, “Hey, Todoroki. What’s up with you? You look kinda sick.”

Todoroki could merely shake his head and stagger to his seat. Who was that boy? What department was he in? Why hadn’t Todoroki seen him before? Aizawa came late to class, which was unusual, and the class had to endure the banter between Bakugou and Iida who did not approve of Bakugou’s feet on the desk. Todoroki swore Bakugou did it just to annoy Iida. And when Aizawa trudged into the classroom, the class immediately went quiet.

“I have an announcement to make,” said Aizawa. He glanced towards the open door and then frowned. “Get in here, Midoriya.”

Things happened simultaneously. The boy from the alley shuffled into the room. Todoroki found himself on his feet. Across the classroom, a chair got blasted into the back wall. Bakugou launched to his feet, accidentally over-turning his desk. The boy, Midoriya, jumped and then cast his head around, worried yet clueless.

“What’s wrong with you two?” said Aizawa. “Sit down, Todoroki, Bakugou.”

Todoroki flushed and quickly sat down. Bakugou remained standing, mouth parted, pale as though he’d just seen a ghost.

“Well, whatever,” said Aizawa. “Stand if you want. Don’t waste my time. This is Midoriya Izuku who entered through a special recommendation. He’s going to be in this class from now on. Midoriya, greet the class.”

Before Midoriya could open his mouth, Bakugou had launched forward. There was a loud explosion and the class watched, horrified, as the new student got blasted into the blackboard, and then Bakugou was over him, screaming, “Deku! You piece of shit! Explain yourself!”

More sparks flew from Bakugou’s palms, and then he suddenly froze, arms and legs crystallised with ice.

“Calm down,” said Todoroki, going over to help Midoriya from the floor. The boy flinched away from him, startled, and then he looked around but not at Todoroki’s face. There was something off with him.

“You’re safe, Midoriya,” said Aizawa quickly. “Don’t do anything stupid. This is Todoroki. He’s just trying to help.”

With Todoroki’s help, Midoriya stood up shakily, turning his head to Bakugou, who continued to growl. Midoriya tried to smile. “I’m not really a dog person.”

The classroom broke out into fits of giggles. And Bakugou yelled over them, “You quirkless asshole! You—”

“Shut up, Bakugou. Or I’ll tape your mouth with Mineta’s balls,” said Aizawa and the class laughed harder. “Once Todoroki unfreezes you, go back to your seat.”

Bakugou, of course, didn’t listen.

So everyone stuck Bakugou against the wall with Mineta’s balls, and Sero’s tape wrapped around his mouth, because Aizawa wasn’t that cruel. An unnerved and confused Midoriya introduced himself.

“Er, hi. My name is Midoriya Izuku. I didn’t know this until recently, so please, just call me Izuku.” Midoriya frowned and shifted his feet. Todoroki thought Aizawa would tell him to hurry up, but he remained uncharacteristically patient. “I have—never been to school. At least, not that I remember. And I don’t remember anything from before I was twelve. I am fifteen years old. I’m here to learn to control my quirk. And, um, I’m blind.”

The class stilled. Ah, thought Todoroki, so that was what it was.

When break came along, Todoroki and Bakugou were called to the teacher’s office.

“Good call this morning,” said Aizawa to Todoroki. “Uraraka was initially assigned as Midoriya’s Buddy. But I’m giving that job to you. So, make sure to look after him. Midoriya can navigate his surroundings quite well, so you don’t have to worry about that. Just make sure no one bullies him, and if he struggles with his assignments, just explain. That’s all.” Aizawa then turned to Bakugou who had remained uncharacteristically quiet. “Now, Bakugou. What’s wrong with you?”

Todoroki returned to a commotion in class and pushed his way to find Midoriya huddled on the floor with a hand over his cheek, and Uraraka standing over him, cheeks flushed and teary-eyed.

“What happened?” asked Todoroki.

“We went over to talk to Midoriya, dude. And Midoriya just up and grabbed Uraraka’s boob,” said Kirishima. “So she smacked him. And now both of them are crying.”

Todoroki remembered Midoriya from this morning, pressed against a wall, hair slick from sweat, legs spread open, licking up the flat of a man’s palm. Todoroki was pretty sure Midoriya wasn’t interested in boobs.

“Are you fucking retarded?” said Bakugou who had returned promptly. Todoroki thought that Bakugou's eyes were unusually red and puffy. “Deku’s blind. If your big ass tits stick out before your hands, of course, he’d end up grabbing them.” He shoved Uraraka aside and pulled Midoriya up by the arm. “Get up. And stop crying like a loser, you fucking nerd.” He pushed Midoriya into Todoroki’s arms. “Todoroki, do your goddamn job.”

Then Bakugou was gone, with Kirishima whooping behind him. “That was so manly, Bakugou, man. I can respect that.”

Todoroki stood there with an armful of another boy, hot and pliable against his chest.

“Why does he call me Deku?” asked Midoriya, breath warm against Todoroki’s cheek.

“I don’t know,” said Todoroki numbly. “I’m Todoroki Shouto. Aizawa’s appointed me as your Buddy.”

Midoriya cast his head to the side and smiled nervously. “Hi, Shouto. I’m Izuku.”

“You all right?” Todoroki asked, glancing at the raw red on Midoriya’s cheek.

“Better now that you’re holding me,” said Midoriya.

Todoroki flushed and suddenly his hands became alien things. He quickly let go. “Sorry.” He stared at the shy curve of Midoriya’s mouth, the freckles on his cheeks, and the pink scar over his left eyelid. Todoroki suddenly felt like running his own hand over Midoriya’s face. It was the creepiest feeling ever. Todoroki cleared his throat. “It’s break. We have around fifteen minutes left. Is there anything I can do for you?”

“Yeah.” Midoriya brightened up. “Do you know Shinsou Hitoshi? Can you take me to him?”

 

Chapter Text

 

Izuku blinked through the haze of pain. He felt like he’d been pulled apart and was forced to do too many things all at once. He had never been around this many people his entire life. They breathed and shared space and talked non stop. Izuku yearned for the times he spent alone in the flat, waiting for Tomura to come home.

For his three years worth of memory, Izuku had never been away from Tomura more than half a day. Now he was expected to survive all on his own for a week. This freedom put an ache in his chest he couldn’t quite shake off. He felt panic like a man too long scrabbling at the bottom of a prison cell when the walls had already been blown away.

Todoroki tugged at his hand. “Class 1C is this way. Are you sure it’s Shinsou Hitoshi you want to see?”

“I don’t understand the concern in your voice.”

“It’s just, well.” Todoroki shook his head. “Never mind.”

Izuku let the subject drop, although he could feel that the conversation was far from over.

People and noise pressed in on all sides, furthering the throbbing inside Izuku’s head. There were students casting curious glances at them, at Todoroki — who carried himself like a prince in disguise, living among peasant children and making every effort to seem like them — at Izuku — who came from another world, an orphan with cataract eyes, unkempt hair and long limbs that made him look awkward and immature.

“Will you be all right this afternoon?” asked Todoroki, adult and polite in tone.

A sharp pain seared across Izuku’s skull. He hastily switched off his vision. The world dimmed.

“We’ve got a technique evaluation this afternoon,” continued Todoroki, oblivious, “I understand you’ve missed three of our course programmes. We already had our quirk apprehension test, a battle trial, and a rescue trial at USJ.”

“I’ll be fine,” Izuku said stiffly and meant it. Of course, Izuku would be fine even if Aizawa were to push him too hard. It was everybody else that might just end up dead. “I’ll be fine,” he said again.

Izuku knew his future now led farther and farther down into darkness. He could sense with perfect clarity that his decisions at Yuuei would give rise to consequences. He did not belong here beside Todoroki, whose world was full of light. Izuku carried within him a destiny and a secret that he had to keep hidden.

Would Hitoshi still want me, Izuku thought in sudden despair, when I have told him that I am a murderer?

“Midoriya?” said Todoroki. “You’ve stopped walking. Are you sure you’re all right?”

“I’m fine,” said Izuku. “I—”

Izuku froze. In that split second, Izuku felt it. Amid the noise and the dust motes that circled the air and the warm sunlight on the back of his head, came the sweetness of Shinsou’s kindness, a calm shade of blue, dulled over time with apprehension and suffering.

Izuku’s arm shot out, grasping the person who had brushed past him.

“Hitoshi,” Izuku breathed, feeling a burst of hope and relief as he flung himself into Shinsou’s arms. “I found you.”

But the body pressed against Izuku stiffened, and the voice that belonged to Shinsou hissed in Izuku’s ear, cold and leaden, “What the hell are you doing?” Shinsou shoved Izuku away.

Izuku crashed to the ground.

“Midoriya!” Todoroki rushed to Izuku’s side.

The hallway had gone quiet. Everybody had stopped what they were doing. Whispers spread like wildfire: Isn’t that the blind kid from the hero course? You think the new kid’s being brainwashed? Dude, that’s Shinsou with the mind control quirk!

Izuku cast his head around, alarmed by this sudden hostility. When he felt Shinsou move, Izuku clawed at Shinsou’s feet. Izuku’s voice shook with confusion and pain, scraping past his clenched teeth. “Wait, Hitoshi—”

Don’t,” Shinsou warned, turned on his heels and ran.

It was like a nightmare. Izuku didn’t even register Todoroki helping him back to his feet, or a crowd of strangers that began to gather around him, insincere in their concern for the new kid they had only heard about. Poor kid, man! Someone should have warned him about Shinsou. What was he even thinking?

Among all the voices, came Todoroki’s, the clearest of all, “Midoriya, are you all right?”

Izuku forced his vision back on despite the throbbing that threatened to split his skull. He looked at Todoroki. His face was as serious as ever, well-meaning but without the slightest gentleness — if anything, it was severe. Justice, or something familiar, lay in that face. The throbbing in Izuku’s head grew worse. Izuku pushed Todoroki away. “I’m sorry, I—I’ve got to go.”

Izuku ran after Shinsou, not knowing why.

He found Shinsou easily enough, of course, Izuku had all the quirks he needed for that. Catching the fall of Shinsou’s receding footsteps, distinguishing them from others, was a piece of cake. Judging the growing distance between them came naturally to Izuku, and closing that gap was just like breathing. Izuku activated his primary quirk, bending pathways and junctions to his will, bringing each corner of the world slamming together.

And there Shinsou was, running straight into him. They crashed to the ground, with Shinsou struggling to get free, cursing furiously, What the hell? I was running the other way— How did you— With Izuku pinning Shinsou to the ground, teeth clenched in pain, fingers coiled around Shinsou’s throat, biting out, Why did you push me away? Are you afraid of me? With Shinsou shoving at Izuku ineffectually before finally giving up, throat bobbing underneath Izuku’s palm when he swallowed, staring up at Izuku in both awe and disbelief, I can’t believe you’re here.

Izuku found himself sliding off Shinsou’s chest as the other slowly sat up, pulling Izuku into his arms, holding on so tightly when just a moment ago he was trying to get away with all his might.

“Hitoshi?” Izuku returned the embrace in confusion.

Shinsou sucked in a sharp breath. “Sorry, Izuku. I panicked.”

“That explains nothing,” said Izuku. “Tell me what’s wrong. Don’t you want to be my friend any more? Is it because of them? The others? I heard what they were saying about you.”

Shinsou’s breath gust out hot against Izuku’s cheek. He could feel Shinsou’s chest move against his, breathing in and out, never slowing down. Shinsou’s hands clenched and unclenched at the back of Izuku’s shirt.

“Sorry,” Shinsou said again.

Izuku blinked. Pain seared across Izuku’s skull, threatening to split it open. Izuku pulled away to clutch at his head.

Izuku. Are you hurt?”

Izuku let out a cry. He could hear the sounds of footsteps heading this way, of voices growing louder. To him, those footsteps were stampeding in his brain. Shinsou’s troubled face, pale skin and sleepless eyes and bluish hair, smeared with sweat and still impossibly bright against the the darkness of the world, was the last thing Izuku saw.

 

*

 

Bakugou was in the Nurse’s Office. There was something inherently out of place about this goddamn thing, and Bakugou knelt there by the bathtub in the single bathroom, the imprint of him on the bathmat. The sunlight that filtered through the privacy window caught at odd moments on his nose, his parched mouth, and the fall of his ash blond hair when he caught sight of himself in the mirror. Bakugou groaned and leaned his forehead against the porcelain of the toilet bowl.

“Man, you’re weaker than I thought,” said Kirishima teasingly.

“Shut your goddamn mouth, you thundercunt,” growled Bakugou.

“Language!” called out Recovery Girl from her office. “I’ve got patients here, and we don’t appreciate your creativity.”

Kirishima snickered. “Well, dude. I better be off. I’ll let Cementoss know you won’t be around for modern lit. I wonder how the new kid will even read. Jeez, do we even have books in braille?” Kirishima whistled and was gone.

The pain struck low at the base of Bakugou’s ribs, like a stitch from running, and he shut his eyes tight. Inside, there was nothing but the knowledge that Izuku was here, and Bakugou was this close. This close. Everything was yammering; his heart, his brain, the powerful mix of the two, and if reason was in there somewhere, Bakugou had never been able to hear it.

He lurched forward, hurling absolutely nothing into the toilet bowl. By now everyone would have heard about the blind kid from Class 1A.

 

*

 

Izuku woke up to the smell of antiseptic and the feel of scratchy cotton against his skin, irritating because Tomura had always been particular about bedsheets and the ones in their flat were of a much higher thread count than this.

Then his mind made the connection as memories came flooding in, making him want to groan and hide his face in his hands.

“Izuku?” said a voice from his bedside that could only belong to Shinsou.

“What time is it?” said Izuku. “Where am I?”

“The Nurse’s Office. It’s already lunch break,” said Shinsou. “You missed second period.”

Izuku frowned. “Modern Literature. Not like I can read anyway.”

“Sorry,” said Shinsou. “Your classmate, Todoroki was it? He was so mad at me after seeing you had collapsed. I’m sorry. I did this to you.”

“No, you didn’t,” said Izuku. His eyes were itching. He lifted his hand to scratch them and froze. “Why—why are there bandages around my head?”

“You, well, your eyes were bleeding. And in your sleep, you wouldn’t stop clawing at them. Nobody knew what to do. They thought you were going crazy. I told them about your nightmares.” Shinsou sucked in a sharp breath. “Mr Aizawa wanted to put restraints on you but All Might thought it was too barbaric. They started arguing. Recovery Girl tried to heal you, but that didn’t work either, so… so I had to use my quirk on you…” Shinsou trailed off.

“Thank you,” said Izuku eventually, deciding he didn’t like the scent of Shinsou’s shame. “Would you come closer?”

A rustle of clothes. Shinsou scooted his chair closer, and Izuku could feel his own brain slipping backwards into sleep, a swirling of darkness creeping across his mind’s eye. His breathing was loud in his own ears, but not as loud as Shinsou’s, who made a huffing noise when Izuku grasped the front of his shirt, yanking Shinsou down on the bed.

“Thank you,” he said again, this time into Shinsou’s chest, right over his speeding heart. “Sorry if I scared you. Stay with me forever, won’t you?”

“You—” Shinsou wheezed. “Why didn’t you tell me you were coming to Yuuei?” 

“I only found out the day I met you,” said Izuku.

The window was open and there was a quiet breeze. Izuku smiled and breathed Shinsou in. People like Shinsou — people like Tomura — they were everything all at once, hope and anguish and longing and something else that Izuku didn’t have a word for at the moment (misunderstood). Their bright colours had dulled with time because the world had forced them to.

“I’m sorry for freaking you out,” murmured Izuku and felt Shinsou’s heart sped up. He caught Shinsou’s hand and interlaced their fingers together.

“No, I’m sorry for freaking out,” said Shinsou.

“So, are we friends again?”

Shinsou groaned and brought their interlaced hands to hide his face. “Why are you doing this?” 

“Do what?”

Shinsou circled his free arm around the back of Izuku’s neck, bringing him close so they were nose to nose. “You’re so clueless, it’s unbelievable.”

Izuku felt the atmosphere change with a rush of desire and forbidden heat. With a painful tug in his heart, he was reminded of Tomura and the things that man could not give, of Kurogiri and his disapproval, of Sensei and his plans for him. What was before Izuku was someone who wanted him as much as he wanted Tomura, and Izuku was a boy who was taught only how to please.

“I’ll give you a kiss for every awful thing anyone says about you,” Izuku said and then kissed Shinsou.

Shinsou opened his mouth in surprise. His tongue was hesitant against Izuku’s, but hot and wet and tasting so overwhelmingly of Shinsou that Izuku couldn’t have mistaken him for anybody else. He pulled Izuku on top of him and Izuku forgot he needed to breathe. It took them a few tries to coordinate angles and noses, to get used to the taste of each other’s mouths, and the feel of their bodies pressed together, quickened breaths loud in their ears.

“Gods, Izuku.”

Hitoshi.

Before long there were fingers tracing skin, hips grinding against hips, unbuttoned shirts and unbuckled belts, Izuku shoving his hand down his own trousers and Shinsou choking at the sight before his fingers joined Izuku to help him get off.

The curtain slid open and they sprang apart, panting still. Todoroki stood there, eyes blown wide, landing on Izuku whose face was flushed, back pressed against the headboard, hair spread out like a devil’s halo, hand still half way down his pants. Then Todoroki turned to Shinsou who sat by the foot of the bed, white from shock, lips red and kiss-swollen, palm slick with spit and pre-cum. Todoroki narrowed his eyes, mouth opened to say something but Izuku cut him off.

“Who is it, Hitoshi?” asked Izuku.

Shinsou shut his eyes and tried to calm his breathing. “It’s—Todoroki.”

“Oh,” said Izuku.

“You—” Todoroki started, then stopped. He turned to Shinsou, then Izuku and back to Shinsou. “You didn’t make him do this, did you?”

Shinsou opened his mouth to protest but Izuku answered instead.

“No,” said Izuku, thinking Todoroki was speaking to him. “At least I don’t think I did. You liked it, didn’t you, Hitoshi?” Izuku cast his head in Shinsou’s direction, concerned.

Shinsou flushed. He wanted to hide in a hole and never come out. How could Izuku be so shameless? The bed creaked, and Shinsou looked up as Izuku crawled towards him, and all that went through Shinsou’s head was, no no no gods no. And then Shinsou got a lapful of this glorious oblivious boy nuzzling into him and murmuring, “You wanted to touch me, didn’t you, Hitoshi?”

Mesmerised, Shinsou leaned in to press his lips on Izuku’s head. Shinsou didn’t know what came over him, he hadn’t thought he was this kind of person, someone who would forget his surroundings and give zero shit about appropriate conduct. Izuku half-chuckled, half-moaned into his mouth when he guided Shinsou’s hand back into his trousers, and when Shinsou opened his eyes again, Todoroki had already left.

This is so fucked up, Shinsou thought. What am I doing?

And that was how it was, really, for Shinsou at least. Izuku was his first real friend and something more. It was hard to draw the lines when Izuku himself didn’t understand boundaries. And while others found this troublesome, Shinsou simply accepted.

In the afterglow, Izuku slanted his head up to meet him, cheeks flushed and a shy smile stretched across his face. And Shinsou couldn’t really regret any of it, not even when Izuku accidentally elbowed him in the ribs while trying to climb over him. Not when Izuku’s hair smelled like shampoo and sweat and all Shinsou wanted to do was bury his fingers in it and lick at Izuku’s ear. Not when Shinsou could still remember the feel of Izuku’s hands, calloused in strange places, not at his grip but at the tips of his fingers, like a scholar trying to feel words out on the page.

He could never forget. These were the hands that had followed him to his sleep.

 

*

 

“No,” said Aizawa, leaning back in his chair. “I’m not transferring your responsibility to someone else.” Aizawa quirked his eyebrows. “Did something happen?”

“I just thought, since Midoriya is close to Shinsou, it would be best to make Shinsou his Buddy.”

Aizawa grumbled, “I don’t see how that’s going to work. Shinsou Hitoshi belongs to a different department. And they might as well be strangers. Midoriya only met Shinsou once, and I know for sure they hadn’t made contact again until today.”

Todoroki frowned. “They are not close?”

“Why?” asked Aizawa. When Todoroki made no attempt to answer, Aizawa continued. “Look, there’s a reason Midoriya joined Yuuei, and I would appreciate it if you keep an eye on him. The teachers are all doing the same. I shouldn’t be telling you this, but I want you to be careful. Midoriya is a dangerous character.”

“Dangerous?”

Aizawa nodded. “His quirk is unregistered, and we don’t know what it can do. The police suspect that the people he had been living with until now are villains but we’ve got no proof. Until we can determine the nature of Midoriya’s quirk, there is no way we can link him to the crimes we suspect was his doing.”

“Wait, sir. Crimes?” Todoroki frowned. “What do you mean? How can his quirk be unregistered? I fail to understand.”

“Midoriya’s family was killed in a massacre three years ago. In the system, Midoriya Izuku is registered as quirkless,” said Aizawa. “You’re smart, Todoroki, do the math. Why was he put in my class? Because I’m the only one who can stop him from using his quirk. Personally, I think Midoriya is too dangerous to be allowed to walk around in a place like this. But my words against the Symbol of Peace means close to nothing. So if you have any complaints, I suggest you bring it up to All Might.”

Todoroki swallowed, his mind circling in a storm of calculations. “Sir, who else is aware of this? Among the students, I mean.”

“Only Bakugou,” said Aizawa.

 

*

 

The air was warm, roasting really, heavy with humidity. It must already be noon.

Bakugou didn’t know how much time had passed. He must have fallen asleep against the cool enamel of the bathtub, because the next thing he knew, there was this sack of bones stumbling into the bathroom, cursing under its breath and unzipping its flyers with long fidgeting fingers.

“What the fuck are you doing?” growled Bakugou, voice hoarse from sleep. “Go piss somewhere else.”

“Sweetie, the bathroom is occupied,” called out Recovery Girl, too little too late.

“No shit,” grumbled Bakugou, getting to his feet, shaking the stiffness out of his knees. He stopped when he realised that it was goddamn Deku, and he was still standing there, hand over his heart, hair tousled, flyers down, lips interestingly swollen.

“Sorry,” said Izuku so softly that Bakugou almost missed it, “I didn’t see you there.”

“Of course, you didn’t. You’re blind, asshole,” said Bakugou. “If you could see, you wouldn’t just stand there with your half-hard dick hanging out.”

Izuku flushed. “My dick isn’t hanging out.”

“It would’ve been if I hadn’t spoken up, retard!”

“Why are you so angry?” Izuku’s brows knitted together and he slowly straightened. And Bakugou hated that they were the same height.

“You weren’t the one almost with a dick shoved in your face,” hissed Bakugou. “What would you know, anyway? With eyes like that, you’d end up grabbing someone else’s dick thinking it’s a goddamn popsicle.”

Izuku bristled, clenching his fists and stepping up to Bakugou with surprising precision. Through gritted teeth, Izuku bit out, “Don’t make me hurt you.”

Bakugou barked out a laugh. “I can knock you over with my pinky, Deku. And you won’t even see what’s coming, ’cause, guess what, your goddamn eyes are as useless as you.”

And Izuku just stopped. His frown eased and the tension in his shoulders fell away. Then he leaned forward, sniffing Bakugou like some kind of animal.

Bakugou shoved him away. “What the hell?”

“Your colour is a little off, don’t you think?” said Izuku, voice suddenly dark. “Are you sad? Have you—recently lost someone?”

“What the fuck are you talking about?” hissed Bakugou, backing away.

Before he could react, Izuku’s hand shot out, clamping forcefully around Bakugou’s jaw. Then he leaned in until they were nose to nose. “You know,” breathed Izuku, “even without my eyes, I’m quite good at seeing things. And right now, it feels to me like you’ve been crying.”

Bakugou tried to shove Izuku off, but found that he couldn’t move at all. It was as if his muscles had been locked inside an impossibly tight space.

“Tell me, Bakugou. How can you empty yourself of loss? This ache so bone-deep that you can only stay on your knees and pray to throw it all up, to keep vomiting until that nothingness is gone.” Izuku pushed Bakugou against the bathtub, smiling dangerously. “You know what I think? I think your anger is just an extension of your sadness. You are a coward who is afraid to be sad. How can you be better than me? You can knock me over with your pinky, you say. Unfortunately for you, I won’t even need to lift mine to end you.” Izuku moved away and zipped up his flyers. “Toughen up, Blasty. I’ll meet you on the field.”

Shinsou took this moment to poke his head through the door. He frowned when he saw Bakugou there. “You took a while. Everything all right?”

“I need to find another bathroom,” said Izuku, voice suddenly normal again. “This one is occupied.”

Something painful tugged at Bakugou’s gut as he watched Izuku slip into that bastard’s arms. He looked impossibly harmless, head tucked under Shinsou’s chin, hair loose and curling from the moisture in the air. Only when Izuku was out of sight was Bakugou able to move again.

Bakugou slid to the floor. He felt drained, like Izuku had taken Bakugou’s anger with him.

 

*

 

“You don’t have to say anything,” said Todoroki. Shinsou met him by the changing room when he walked Izuku to the gym.

Shinsou couldn’t meet Todoroki’s eyes, remembering what had happened in the infirmary. If he expected disgust, there was none. “I’m sorry,” he said anyway. “Izuku, he—”

“I know,” said Todoroki, and then, “Well, I don’t. However, I understand your confusion. You’re attracted to him, but so is everybody else. Have you noticed?”

“I—no.”

Todoroki nodded. “Well, I apologise for almost freezing you with my ice. I got uncharacteristically protective. I don’t know what came over me.” Todoroki made his way to the rowdy locker room where his classmates were changing and goofing about. He paused. “You did the right thing, at first, when you ran away. I would have done the same in the face of a tempter. Too bad he caught up to you.”

Shinsou watched Todoroki go and rubbed the back of his neck. He yawned. He was tired and wanted to sleep.

Ever since that weekend, his dreams mostly consisted of Izuku, pale in the darkness, staring at him with unnerving moments of understanding, some kind of deep sadness that Shinsou traced with his fingers and lips before his image shattered to pieces. And that was a nightmare of its own, forcing Shinsou awake at an ungodly hour, only to lay back in bed, wondering if their meeting had been real at all.

Last night, when he’d woken up in his dream, knowing full well that it was so, he found that his bed contained another boy, dark hair and ghostly skin, an endearing combination of shy and sly, stretching across his bedsheets like he had always belonged there.

And it was so bizarre what had happened not an hour ago. It was a dream come true, literally. Shinsou even suspected that he might still be dreaming, and that he would wake up at any moment, and it would be morning, and he would go to school and there would be no Izuku. But when he turned away to leave, Izuku reappeared, running out of the changing room and catching Shinsou by the waist.

“Izuku, what—”

“I almost forgot,” said Izuku brightly, pushing a silver flip phone into Shinsou’s chest. “I got a phone now! You can put your number in. I still have your paper but I can’t actually read it, so you’ll have to do the work.”

And Shinsou did as ordered, muttering an embarrassed, “That makes sense.” He couldn’t help but smile. Shinsou had never been this happy in a long time.

 

*

 

“The gym suit goes this way. This is the back.”

Todoroki helped Izuku suit up. Bakugou had stormed into the locker room a minute ago, going out of his way to shoulder Izuku. Todoroki had felt sorry for Izuku then, who muttered a quick Sorry! thinking it was his fault. He felt sorry for Izuku now, as Izuku struggled to put on his gym clothes, not being able to tell front from back.

Kaminari and Sero snickered from the sideline, dorky and harmless, but Todoroki found it condescending all the same.

“Say, Midoriya,” said Todoroki quietly so that only Izuku could hear, “what is your relationship with Shinsou Hitoshi?”

Izuku brightened. “We’re friends.”

“Only friends?”

“Yes,” said Izuku, confused. “What else could we be?”

Todoroki stared at him, concerned. “Midoriya, what happened in the infirmary—that’s not something that happens between friends. You do understand that, don’t you?”

“What do you mean? I gave Hitoshi what he wanted. Isn’t that what friends are supposed to do?”

“Well, yes, but not like that.” Todoroki sat Izuku on the bench and tried to zip up his suit.

Izuku stilled. “Like what?”

“Like, kissing and things.”

“Why not? I wanted to do it,” said Izuku.

“There are social rules and guidelines, Midoriya,” said Todoroki feeling a headache begin to form. “What you did with Shinsou, you must understand, it’s something you do with a lover. Did you even ask Shinsou if he was ready? Could it be that he was just going along with you because he wanted to make you happy?”

Izuku stood up.

“What’s wrong with that?” said Izuku loudly. “I wanted Hitoshi to be happy, too. Why did you think I did it? And how is this your problem anyway?”

Todoroki looked around. Everybody had stopped what they were doing to stare at them.

“Midoriya—”

“Stop calling me Midoriya! That’s not my name.”

“Calm down—”

“Why are you suggesting that Hitoshi doesn’t want to be my friend? He shared his ice cream with me and let me pet his cat and he walked me home.” Izuku pushed at Todoroki’s chest. “What do you know? All you do is say things that make other people feel horrible. You’re just like Kurogiri but worse. Because you’re not even funny. Why can’t I eat whenever I want, sleep whenever I want, live with whoever I want, and be friends with whoever is nice to me?”

“I didn’t say you can’t—”

Izuku stomped his foot like a petulant child. “And Aizawa was the same, taking me away from Muracchi. And now, you’re here telling me I can’t be with Hitoshi.”

“Midoriya, I never said—”

“Whatever,” said Izuku, stomping his way across the locker room with surprising precision in search for the end of the world. “Hey, you,” he said, grabbing Bakugou.

“The fuck do you want?” growled Bakugou, shrugging Izuku off.

“You want to fight me, don’t you? Then help me put this on properly,” Izuku demanded, thrusting out his arms.

There was a terrifying moment where Bakugou’s eyes narrowed and his palms began emitting fumes, and Todoroki was so sure that Izuku would get blasted across the room.

Bakugou stepped up to Izuku until they were chest to chest, and spat, “Fuck you, Deku.” And then proceeded to help Izuku suit up. “You better not turn out to be a fucking wimp on the field, you goddamn fuckmunch. Or I’ll fucking blast you to the motherfucking moon.”

Izuku snorted.

“Don’t laugh at me, asshole!” snapped Bakugou, zipping up Izuku’s suit.

 

Chapter Text

Was there poison in these dishes Kurogiri had laid out before him?

Taste was never of any importance, and Tomura didn’t see why it should be any different now. Izuku liked to lick his fingers after his meals. Kurogiri had once scolded Izuku for such behaviour: ill-mannered, uncouth, obscene. Tomura remembered Izuku’s tongue sliding over his right hand.

Tomura brought his own fingers to his mouth now, but they tasted of nothing but dust and antiseptic and the blood from his dreams. His hands were always cold. He remembered the sweat that slipped down the sides of Izuku’s face, into the hollow beneath his jaw.

Are you lonely already? Kurogiri had asked before he left. I can see it in your face, Shigaraki. Loneliness is the human condition. The way it tunnels into you allows your soul room to grow. Never expect to outgrow loneliness. If you expect to find people who will understand you, someone to fill that space, you will grow murderous with disappointment.

Tomura took out his phone and made a call. It rang three times before someone picked up. He sat there and listened to the static on the line. There were noises of people shouting in the background.

“Hi,” said Izuku eventually.

Tomura scowled. “What are you doing?”

“I was just thinking about you,” whispered Izuku earnestly.

“Me too,” said Tomura. “About you.”

“I know. That’s why you called, right?”

Tomura didn’t answer. He didn’t know the answer. His scowl deepened.

“The flat’s really quiet,” said Tomura instead.

“Oh,” said Izuku. “Are you lonely? I miss you too.”

“No, the flat is just really quiet,” insisted Tomura.

“Where’s Kurogiri? I thought he closed down the bar for today.”

“I don’t know where he went. He cooked lunch and then went away,” said Tomura.

“Oh. I miss you,” said Izuku, breathless. “I wanna go home. I don’t like being here, Muracchi. I don’t want to wait until Friday to see you again.”

Tomura said nothing. He tapped the edge of the table and listened to Izuku breathe.

“Muracchi.”

“What?”

“Do you remember the time I swallowed the dust explosion when I wandered into the coal factory?” asked Izuku. “How did I do that?”

“I don’t know,” grumbled Tomura.

“There’s this guy who blasted me across the room,” said Izuku. “I don’t know why he hates me.”

“Just kill him.”

“I can’t do that.”

“You can.”

“I shouldn’t.”

“That’s your problem,” said Tomura moodily. “I’m going to hang up now. Don’t call me back.”

“Muracchi, wait—”

Tomura hung up and threw the phone on the table.

Do you not understand why he is so drawn to you? Or are you trying to play a fool? Kurogiri had asked. I have seen how little it takes to turn a person’s life around for better or worse. An event will do, or an idea. Another person. An idea of a person.

Tomura ate his lunch.

The flat was really quiet with Izuku gone.

 

*

 

Midoriya Izuku, a criminal. This boy, a murderer. There was nothing special about him: he moved awkwardly like someone who had not grown accustomed to his own body, bones too prominent under sallow skin, a sharp slash of clavicle and knobbly fingers, toes that were slightly too long, and a face so childishly young. A boy who couldn’t possibly amount to much. Someone Todoroki should feel sorry for.

And yet.

Could Izuku be the bogeyman in the collective Japanese consciousness: the embodiment of anxieties about the disenchantment of its prople? The Americans feared that their youth were bringing guns to school. The Japanese feared that their smart, quiet-mannered students were turning into part-time serial killers.

“Midoriya, I want you to sit out,” said Aizawa.

The class groaned. Some shouted. Others pulled faces.

“We wanted to see what Midoriya’s quirk can do!” said Sero.

“I’ve been looking forward to this all day!” said Kaminari.

Kirishima clapped Bakugou on the back. “Hey, man. Didn’t you say you were gonna fight the new kid? Say something.”

Bakugou stayed uncharacteristically silent and continued to glare at nothing in particular. Others must have found this strange; the girls exchanged looks and the boys turned to stare at Izuku instead. Todoroki watched the class silently.

“It’s far too risky,” said Aizawa, bored. “You guys are not rational enough.”

The class complained louder. What d’you mean risky? What quirk does the new kid have? But we’re curious!

Izuku had been casting his head left and right the whole time, not seeming to pay much attention to anything in particular. He had bent over once, the moment they stepped onto the field, and felt with one hand the soil beneath his feet. Todoroki first found it strange, but then realised Izuku was trying to analyse his surroundings in his own way. His lips moved, but Todoroki was not able to hear what Izuku was muttering from where he stood.

Sero stepped up to Izuku, shoving at him a little. “What is your quirk even, dude? Why is it risky?”

“If you can’t show us, then at least tell us,” said Kaminari encouragingly, elbowing Izuku.

Izuku tried to side-step them but backed right into Tooru, who squeaked and quickly pushed him away. Todoroki wondered if this had anything to do with the Uraraka incident from this morning. He frowned. He didn’t think it was fair.

“Hey, are you ignoring us?” said Sero. “Or have you gone mute too?”

Ojiro caught Izuku and righted him. “Come on, guys. Don’t you think you’re being a bit mean?”

“No way,” said Kaminari, incredulous. “We just want to get to know him.”

At this point, Izuku had wandered off to the side of the pitch, sniffing the air and paid no attention to the conversation whatsoever. Todoroki raised his eyebrows. It was as if he couldn’t hear at all. What was going on? He turned to look at Aizawa, and sure enough, the man was staring at Izuku, cold and analytical. For a moment, Aizawa’s gaze shifted, and their eyes met.

There was a loud thud and a bang.

The class gasped. Izuku skidded on his back across the soil and crashed into the bleachers. Bakugou walked up to him, sparks emitting from his palms. “C’mon, Deku. Don’t you know it’s rude to zone out when people are talking to you?”

Izuku blinked once. “This field is a hundred metre long and sixty-four metres wide. Do you wanna try blasting me to the other side?” said Izuku with neither mockery nor challenge, more like a child asking a friend if he wanted to have a go at the swing.

“Bastard, didn’t you even hear what I said?” Bakugou raised his hand, and tried to blast Izuku in the face.

Todoroki immediately stepped forward but froze when he heard Izuku laugh.

Izuku ducked and slid between Bakugou’s legs, spun around and kicked him. Bakugou staggered but righted himself before he could crash into the bleachers.

“I’m not trying to taunt you or anything,” said Izuku softly, “but you’re so obvious that even a blind person can predict your moves. What are you doing, Blasty?”

“Fuck you,” spat Bakugou and rushed at Izuku.

Izuku did not attempt to block or dodge. “I really don’t understand why you’re so angry all the time.”

And then nothing happened.

“Wait—what the hell?” said Sero.

Todoroki frowned.

Bakugou had run right past Izuku as though he wasn’t there. Confused, Bakugou turned around, saw Izuku standing in the same place and tried to blast him again. There was a loud explosion, and this time, Izuku was sent flying across the field. But wait. He was still standing there, over Bakugou’s shoulder.

“Did he just—” Tokoyami said. “No way.”

“He can warp?” Kaminari called out. “Guys, look! Midoriya can warp!”

“We can see, Stupid,” said Jirou.

“But Midoriya hadn’t moved from that spot at all. It was as if he was in two places at once,” said Ojiro.

“What?” said Kirishima. “A duplication quirk?”

No. Todoroki turned to Aizawa, who was too raptured in working this out as much as Todoroki that he didn’t even attempt to stop the fight. His thirst for knowledge beat even his responsibility as a teacher.

“Please aim properly,” said Izuku from behind Bakugou.

“What the fuck!” Bakugou screamed, red from anger. He whirled around and swung his right fist at Izuku and it connected harshly with Izuku’s jaw.

Izuku yelped and fell to the ground.

“How do you like that, fuckmunch!”

“I wasn’t expecting that,” said Izuku, wincing and cradling his cheek with his hand, “but it didn’t hurt as much as when Uraraka smacked me.”

Kirishima snorted loudly.

Aizawa’s gaze flitted to Uraraka for a second. Uraraka, who had been watching silently the whole time, coloured and shifted guiltily.

Enraged, Bakugou screamed and grabbed Izuku by the hair, yanking him up to a kneeling position. Izuku cried out in pain. “I hate people like you the most. Don’t you know how to die properly?” spat Bakugou. “Goddamnit! I’m gonna fry your goddamn head off!”

He shoved his other hand, palm bared, on Izuku’s face.

“No!” Todoroki found himself shouting in horror with the rest of his classmates.

In a burst of sparks, heat and light, born a loud explosion and a heavy snap and then—nothing. A cloud of smoke had gobbled up the field. Nobody could see what had happened. All stood rooted on the spot in both terror and anticipation.

And when the fumes finally cleared, Bakugou had fallen, face white, body rigid, eyes blown wide. Izuku still knelt there in front of him, covered in soot, cheek red with a beginning of a dark bruise, fingers coiled around Bakugou’s throat, the other hand clasped over Bakugou’s wrist. But what disturbed Todoroki most was the hunger in Izuku’s face, and a flash of maniacal greed that flickered by too fast to notice. His mouth was open, tongue lapping up Bakugou’s palm, as though at a plate after a meal.

Todoroki felt himself flush. The dynamic shifted. All around him, his classmates began to fidget.

“What—” Kirishima started and then stopped. He quickly looked away.

“I should’ve just killed you, you know,” said Izuku thoughtfully, leaning forward to cough out sparks in Bakugou’s face. “It would have been fine. I could say it was self-defence and everybody would believe me. After all, you were the one who tried to kill me.”

Izuku let go of Bakugou’s wrist.

Bakugou’s arm fell limply at his side. Bakugou made no move to throw Izuku off. He just sat there, white and defeated.

Izuku hiccuped. He clasped his hands over his mouth but black smoke crept through the gaps between his fingers. His eyes began to water and he scrunched them shut. “Oh gods.” Izuku gagged. When he leaned away to hurl, the only thing that came out of his mouth were feeble snaps of sparks and light. Then the smoke cleared too and Izuku got up.

“I could’ve died if I hadn’t anything up my sleeves,” said Izuku, disappointed. He cast his head in Aizawa’s direction. “Why didn’t you stop him, sir? Is it because you think trash of society like me deserve to die? Well, whatever. I guess Muracchi was right. Some heroes are absolute trash.”

He left the field.

Nobody stopped him. Not even Aizawa.

Bakugou sat there, head in his hands, refusing to speak to anyone. Not even to Kirishima who rushed over to him. “What happened? It was over so quickly.”

Eventually, when the silence became unbearable, Todoroki said, “I suppose I’ll go make sure Midoriya is okay.”

“Go,” said Aizawa.

When he entered the locker room, he found that it had been turned into a minefield. The lockers had fallen over, others were crushed and more were melted. There were holes in the floor, the benches and the lights were broken. As Todoroki walked further into the room, he saw Izuku’s gym suit flung across the ground. It was torn and had burn marks on them that Todoroki was sure hadn’t been there before. The mirrors were broken, shards of glass scattered everywhere. One of the sinks was on. Todoroki walked over to it, and found with growing horror streaks of blood smeared on silver and white. He turned off the faucet and his hand came up with red.

“Midoriya?” said Todoroki.

There was no answer.

Todoroki walked further into the locker room. He followed the trail of blood smeared across the wall. He felt queazy and could almost imagine how it got there. He imagined Izuku, a mess, leaning on the wall for support as he tried to—

Todoroki stiffened.

The showers.

Todoroki hurried over. And sure enough, once he got closer, he heard the sound of water splashing across the tiles. Finally, he came upon Izuku’s body huddled on the floor, rivulets of cold water ricocheting off his scarred back. It wasn’t a pretty sight. There were blood and burn marks and wounds that were only beginning to heal. The burns looked fresh and raw, like they had only appeared seconds ago.

No, thought Todoroki, no no, that couldn’t be, but even as he thought it, he knew in his gut that it was so.

“Midoriya?” stammered Todoroki, and was relieved to find Izuku’s form stiffen. He was still conscious. Todoroki rushed over to him.

Izuku flinched away. His skin scorched. The freezing water that fell on them sizzled and boiled when they hit Izuku’s body.

“You—is it Bakugou?” said Todoroki as things began to piece together. “Midoriya, look at me.”

Izuku started coughing hysterically. Smoke came out of his mouth and filled the air. Todoroki’s clothes were soaking wet by now. He quickly caught Izuku with his ice hand.

“Look, I’m going to freeze you. Will that help?”

Izuku nodded.

And Todoroki did, encapsulating him in his ice, which began to melt as soon as it touched Izuku. He kept his hand on Izuku’s shoulder, as his ice continued to travel and melt, travel and melt, down Izuku’s scarred back, his heaving chest, down to his stomach, his narrow hips, into the crevices between his thighs and around his—

Todoroki looked away.

Izuku shuddered, grasping weakly at Todoroki’s shirt. “My face too.”

Todoroki nodded. His ice began to condense the moment it slid up Izuku’s face but he kept it going, watching the way it caressed and re-caressed the boy in his arms, more intimate than he had ever been with anyone. He felt himself flush with forbidden thoughts, ones that should not belong in this head of his. The air was stifling. The water made it hard to see and Todoroki closed his eyes.

As if someone had put the images there, he saw in his head the hand that Izuku had once licked had been his own, the body that pressed Izuku into the red of the brick wall was his own, and on that infirmary bed, it was his mouth that Izuku had kissed, his fingers that had tangled in Izuku’s hair, his thighs that Izuku had crawled onto. He shook his head, remaining steadfast to the situation at hand. He should be looking for help. But it was his ice that was holding Izuku together. If he let go, this boy might fall to pieces.

“Am I helping at all?” said Todoroki.

Izuku nodded, eyes closed. He had stopped coughing, and his breaths no longer smoked. They stayed silent for a while.

“Why did you pretend to be okay?” said Todoroki.

“To win,” said Izuku.

Todoroki shook his head.

“You all should be scared of me, you know,” said Izuku. “I’m really dangerous.”

“So dangerous,” said Todoroki, rolling his eyes.

“I am,” Izuku insisted weakly. “I’ve killed people with this quirk. Lots of people. Aizawa is crazy to bring me here.”

Todoroki said nothing.

“Don’t tell anyone but,” whispered Izuku, “but I suspect I might’ve killed my own parents too. Even if I don’t remember it, feels to me like I did.”

“You—why are you telling me this?” Todoroki frowned.

Izuku only shuddered. “I’m cold now.”

Todoroki stopped his ice and watched as the remains melted off Izuku’s body.

“Can you stand?” asked Todoroki.

“Yeah.”

Todoroki narrowed his eyes. “Can you, truly?”

Izuku flushed.

Todoroki helped him wordlessly and neither of them said anything for a long time.

“Thank you,” whispered Izuku way later, when Todoroki had dressed him and towelled his hair, and Izuku had leaned over to place his lips to the top of Todoroki’s head. And everything around him just stretched. Todoroki felt his chest clog up with something that stung and consoled in equal measures. He blinked away the tears that threatened to spill. He didn’t know why, but something about this boy’s sincerity made everything hurt.

Todoroki nodded in return. Dangerous, criminal, this boy? Was there poison behind these eyes, clear and empty like water?

“What is your quirk, Izuku?” said Todoroki quietly.

“I don’t know but I can fold and stretch the world like fabric,” said Izuku. “It feels like that anyway.”

“It looked like you were in two places at once,” said Todoroki.

Izuku brightened. “Did it?”

“When Bakugou blasted you, you went flying, but you were also just standing there like he hadn’t hit you at all,” said Todoroki.

“You want to know a secret?” whispered Izuku.

“What?”

“It really hurt,” Izuku laughed. “While I got blasted into the air, I sort of folded the space around Bakugou so that it looked like I was still standing. You think I managed to surprise him?”

“I think you surprised everyone.”

Izuku took a deep breath, catching Todoroki by the arm when he made to stand.

“Listen, Todoroki,” he said urgently, “This quirk is dangerous. I could’ve easily killed everyone on that field. If I had failed to judge the distance—if there had been someone standing in the way, I could have easily suffocated them, or worse, I could’ve folded them along with that space and—”

“But you didn’t,” Todoroki interrupted. “Bakugou is fine. Everybody is fine.”

Todoroki later explained in a steady voice to the teachers what had happened, truthfully and falsely, making it out to be that it had never been Izuku’s fault. Because it wasn’t. He closed his eyes and remembered calloused fingers tracing over his eyes, the curve of his nose, along the lines of his mouth, Todoroki remembered Izuku’s surprise, and the little gusts of breath that feathered across his face, his eyelids and then Izuku’s lips pressing over his scar. And he thought that he perhaps understood Shinsou a little better.

“Did you even think of asking him?” said Todoroki stiffly.

He watched Aizawa as the man leaned back in his office chair.

“If you asked, he would have told you,” said Todoroki. “Instead, you went and treated him like he’s got something to hide. He’s not a criminal. Just a kid. It’s space manipulation, his quirk is.”

Aizawa shook his head. “That doesn’t explain how he deflected Bakugou’s attack.”

“He didn’t deflect it. He took it,” said Todoroki impatiently. “He ate Bakugou’s explosion.”

“That has nothing to do with space manipulation,” said Aizawa calmly.

“Well, I suppose he aced the technique evaluation, then,” said Todoroki, flinging his arms in exasperation. “He must have found a way to work around it.”

“You’re angry. This is unlike you, Todoroki.” Aizawa stood up and walked over to his bookshelf. “Suppose you’re right. Suppose Midoriya manipulated the space inside his own body in order to take Bakugou’s attack. Why would he do that? Why didn’t he expand the space between Bakugou’s palm and his face so that he wouldn’t get hurt?”

“There was no space between Bakugou’s hand and his face, sir.”

“That may be so,” said Aizawa, turning around and crossing his arms. “Then how do you explain Shinsou Hitoshi and you?”

Todoroki froze. “Sorry?”

“It’s unlike you to be taking sides, Todoroki. And Shinsou Hitoshi is now so taken by Midoriya that he’s following him around after two encounters? I find this suspicious.”

Todoroki said nothing. He indeed did find all this very strange but, he had chalked it up to be his own impartiality towards others. That now he understood Izuku better helped him understand Shinsou’s mindset as well. But was that really it?

“Do you suspect Midoriya of possessing some sort of charm quirk? A persuasion quirk?” said Todoroki slowly. “But that doesn’t explain—”

“Hypothetically, this would be easily explained if there are individuals out there who possess more than one quirk,” said Aizawa.

“You don’t think—” He looked up and saw how Aizawa had raised his eyebrows. “You do. You think Midoriya possesses multiple quirks. Is that possible, sir?”

“The police are basing their investigations on this hypothesis,” said Aizawa. “You’re smart, Todoroki. I want you to find out the limitations of all of Midoriya’s quirks. I will be monitoring him closely as well. Just make sure not to get roped up in this bloody mess.”

Todoroki stared. “Sir, why me?”

“Out of all the students in my class, you’re the most rational,” answered Aizawa.

Todoroki nodded. Still, why did he have the feeling Aizawa was hiding something?

 

*

 

Izuku curled up inside a bathroom stall, body wracking with each take of breath. His throat burned and his eyes stung. He tasted blood in his mouth. He felt so miserable and alone, and was quite sure he was going to die at any moment. Sobbing, his hand shook when he tried to make a call. Hold 1 for Muracchi, Hold 2 for Kurogiri.

He dialled 2.

There was no point calling someone who didn’t want to hear from him.

It rang only once before Kurogiri picked up. “Izuku-kun.”

Izuku closed his eyes and sobbed, both comforted and pained by such a familiar voice.

“Is something the matter?”

“I—” Izuku sucked in a sharp breath. “Kurogiri, I ate an explosion and I—I think something went wrong.”

Kurogiri sighed. “Oh, Izuku-kun, why did you do that? Have they taken you to the doctor? Didn’t you know that Sensei took back your force retention quirk?”

Izuku’s stomach dropped. “What?” he heard himself say.

“Simply, you no longer have the ability to gobble up an attack,” said Kurogiri calmly.

What?” hissed Izuku, feeling utterly betrayed. “Why didn’t you tell me? Did you—did you keep this from me on purpose?”

“What nonsense. Don’t be silly. If you die, Izuku-kun, we will all be very sad. Where are you?”

“At school.”

“Where?”

“In the bathroom on the third floor.”

“I will try to send someone. Please do not wander off on your own,” said Kurogiri. “And Izuku-kun, do call back to report before the end of today. When you’re all better, of course. We are waiting patiently for news.”

Kurogiri hung up.

Izuku leaned his head against the bathroom stall and cried. He was alone in this world.

He didn’t know for how long he was there, for when he came to again, there was a presence crouching over him, blocking out the lights. He was being shaken awake by a bony hand. Without opening his eyes, he sensed yellow and comfort and a dormant power older than written memory, fragile yet unwavering.

“Midoriya, my boy. Is that you?” said the man he did not know the name to.

Izuku stirred.

“Are you hurt? Can you stand? Shall I take you to the infirmary?”

Izuku did not attempt to answer. Every inch of his body ached. His mind was a mess. He just wanted to go home. The balance of the world felt like it was tipping and sliding sideways, the fragile china shattering, the flowers tipping, and then the man scooped him up in his arms.

Izuku was tired. So tired. 

 

*

 

Monday went by too fast to notice. Izuku never called Kurogiri, for he had never woken up. Tuesday, Izuku lay in his new bed, blanket scratchy and cheap, fingers twitching with the beat of the IV drip. Wednesday, his whole class came to visit but Izuku barely responded. Midoriya, I’m so sorry for hitting you, was that what Uraraka said? He remembered her soft hand on his arm. He had turned a little in Uraraka’s direction, and wondered if she had meant it. It was so difficult to tell, this thing called sincerity.

Plenty of humans were monstrous. And plenty of monsters knew how to play human. 

Thursday, he woke up to the sound of the clock ticking, ripped out his IV and screamed. There was no way he could live like this. With this emptiness, this loneliness. How could he? How?

Friday, he wrapped himself around a man and sobbed into his chest. Muracchi, I want to go home, please. Tomura shushed him, petting his head, and grumbled about how Izuku was getting snot on his shirt. And Izuku choked on his own tears and laughter and heartbreak. Pressing into Tomura, he told himself never to forget this scent, blood and bleach and misunderstanding. It was comforting to him in ways he couldn’t explain. I love you, he blurted out, and for a second, Izuku thought he heard Tomura whisper that he loved him too.

(It was a substitute teacher named Toshinori who got the call from the reception. He had stopped by to check on Izuku more often than anyone else. You are not strong, yet you try to be in order to not worry others. This makes you admirable in my eyes, young Midoriya, was that something Toshinori had said when Izuku slipped between sleep and reality? But sometimes we need to admit to our own weaknesses in order to grow, my boy.)

Tomura dressed him for their outing in bright red sneakers, black jeans and a green hoodie, then proceeded to tell Izuku that he looked stupid. And Izuku remembered again how to smile. Tomura took his hand and pulled him to his feet. They were going out for ice cream.

“There’s something I need to tell you today,” grumbled Tomura under his breath, cupping Izuku’s face with three fingers and leaned down to peck him on the cheek, “but you can’t let Kurogiri know.”

 

Chapter Text

 

Kurogiri stood before the screens, hands clasped, head bowed. “Sensei, do you think it wise to tender an invitation to the Hero Killer? It cannot possibly end well. We have Izuku-kun to worry about, and the state of Shigaraki’s resolve at the moment—he is clearly distracted from the task at hand.”

"No, this is good. If we simply tell Tomura all the answers he will not learn. More than that, he will never be able to understand anything. Just as Izuku-kun is part of Tomura’s education, the Hero Killer will make an even better teacher.

“From Izuku-kun, we have taught Tomura more than just patience and compromise. From the Hero Killer, Tomura will certainly learn to cultivate his own ideal. One that truly speaks to him. He must be able to make his own decisions. If all he does is follow blindly he will not grow.”

Kurogiri said nothing for a long time. Giving Izuku to Tomura in the first place had been a risk. Unlike Sensei, Kurogiri did not believe that Tomura was incapable of compassion. Incapable of understanding, yes, but never of feeling it. As twisted as Tomura was, there was always some humanity that lingered in those bones. Good and evil were two sides of the same coin. There was no justice without mercy.

“You are not happy,” said Sensei.

“I am not,” admitted Kurogiri. “What if we are steering Shigaraki down the wrong path? What if everything we have done is for naught? Ever since you brought in that quirkless boy, things have been—”

“Are you doubting Tomura?”

“It is not Shigaraki that I do not trust. It is Izuku-kun,” said Kurogiri quickly. “His cleverness trumps his loyalty. That boy thinks his own thoughts. He has his own dreams. He has grown too quickly. The role Izuku-kun plays in Shigaraki’s life is no longer that of a pet but of a tempter. If Shigaraki is to learn compassion—”

“Then that is what he will learn, Kurogiri,” said Sensei sharply. “Everyone in this world has his task, but it is never a task he can choose for himself, can define and carry out however he wants. For those who live in the shadows of this corrupted society, there is no obligation — none at all, none — except this: to search for yourself, become sure of yourself, feel your way forward on your own path, wherever it leads.”

All at once, Kurogiri felt deep inside him: what Sensei was to Tomura, had given Tomura, was exactly what he could not be and give to himself. Sensei was leading Tomura along a path that would run past and leave behind even him. And Tomura, in turn, was that to Izuku.

“You want him to surpass you,” said Kurogiri.

Sensei hummed, almost sounded satisfied with this revelation.

“But what if he leaves you behind?” asked Kurogiri.

“This world must be destroyed for a new one to be created,” replied Sensei. “I may not live to see the new laws. It will be Tomura and those he chooses to stand by his side. Every person’s true calling is only to arrive at himself.”

Kurogiri nodded. “And what are we to do about Izuku-kun?”

“I’ve got other plans for that boy,” said Sensei. “For now, make contact with the Hero Killer.”

 

*

 

“KATSUKI, WE NEED TO TALK!” shouted his mother.

Bakugou cursed under his breath, and then cursed again, louder, when he stubbed his toe on the doorframe. “I don’t have time for this shit.” He shoved his father aside. “Get out of the way, shitty old man!”

“COME BACK HERE, I SAID!” his mother screamed.

Bakugou stomped his way into his shoes, spun around, and stomped back into the kitchen with his shoes on.

“What do you want, you old hag?”

“When were you going to tell me about this?” His mother shoved her tablet in his face.

Bakugou stepped away. “The fuck?” He squinted and felt his stomach drop.

It was a news article. An article about Izuku.

Young Midoriya Izuku, missing since the Shizuoka Massacre, found living near an abandoned coal factory with the man who saved his life. Now fifteen years old and blind, Midoriya was caught late one night returning from his trip to convenience store. The police have identified him as Midoriya Izuku, a quirkless boy whose body went missing during the Shizuoka Massacre three years ago. Now in the custody of the quirk-erasing hero Eraserhead, Midoriya will be attending Yuuei to achieve his dream to become a hero and learn to control a quirk that has mysteriously developed during the time of his disappearance. The massacre did not only rob him of his family, Midoriya also lost his memory and eyesight…

“Is Izuku in your class? Have you talked to him? Does he remember—”

“What does it matter?” snapped Bakugou, fuming.

“Invite him over for dinner!”

“No, I’m not gonna—” Bakugou made the mistake of looking at his mother. His strong, rash and unreasonable mother was in tears. His father had crept up behind her, arms flapping about like agitated wings, desperate to help. Bakugou swallowed. “Deku’s not in school this week.”

“What? Why not?”

“He’s—recovering.”

His mother suddenly narrowed her eyes. “Katsuki, what did you do?”

“What? Why do you always think everything is my fault?” snapped Bakugou.

“Bakugou Katsuki,” his mother growled.

Bakugou raised his hands. “Fine! So we fought. And he ate my explosion.”

“You—what?” screeched his mother. “How many times have I told you—”

“I didn’t make him! That loser ate it on his own. I didn’t do nothing,” said Bakugou quickly, shouldering his backpack. “Fuck this. I’m gonna be late for school. Leave me alone.” He stormed away before his mother could grab at him. But just before he shut the front door, she managed to demand that he make up with Izuku and invite him over for dinner.

Bakugou was pissed all the way to school. Damn that loser Deku, always cramping his style.

This too. When Bakugou entered his classroom, he internally groaned. Here too were conversations about Izuku.

“Hey, have you seen—”

“Yeah! I can’t believe it. Midoriya, man!”

“He’s been living in a ghost town. That’s practically like being homeless…”

“The fact that he hasn’t always been blind—how do you even develop a quirk that late anyway?”

“And his family. He doesn’t even remember. Poor Midoriya.”

“I never thought Mr Aizawa would adopt him. You saw Mr Aizawa’s house, right, when you went over to visit Midoriya—”

“I heard Midoriya isn’t the only one whose body went missing during the Shizuoka Massacre.”

“Wait, do you think there are other survivors out there who didn’t come back because they lost their memories too?”

“Does Midoriya even know there’s an article about him online?”

“It’s like one tragedy after another. He lost his family, then his eyesight and his memory. And now, he’s got burns all over his body. Thinking about it makes me want to cry.”

“Damn, dude, he’s so brave. When he swallowed Bakugou’s explosion then acted all cool in front of us.”

“Turns out he isn’t that strong, after all. He looked like a mess, plugged to an IV and heart monitor and everything. For Bakugou to single him out on his first day—”

“The hell did you say?” snapped Bakugou. “Don’t talk about shit you don’t understand.”

The class quickly went quiet. Bakugou stalked to his seat. He accidentally caught Todoroki’s eyes, who so far had been silent, sitting at the back of the class with a book in his hand. Bakugou glared.

Todoroki closed his book and stood up. He silently left the classroom.

 

*

 

Aizawa’s house was disorganised and messy with paperwork and dirty bowls curdling putrid water in the sink. Tomura shoved at Izuku’s head as they stepped out of his new room. Izuku only laughed and latched onto Tomura like a parasite. “Let go of me,” grumbled Tomura, remembering all of a sudden why being around Izuku was so uncomfortable and not something he enjoyed.

“I’ve missed you. I thought I’d die without you,” said Izuku.

“Shut up. You’re annoying.” They staggered into the living room where Aizawa waited with a man named Toshinori. Oblivious, Izuku continued to cling onto Tomura, eyes closed, face flushed with an intoxicated smile on his face. Disgusting.

Toshinori stood up. “Midoriya, my boy, I’m so glad you’re feeling better.”

Izuku stiffened for a second before relaxing again. “Oh, Mr Toshinori, thank you, sir. Good morning.”

“Good morning, my boy.” Toshinori smiled fondly.

Tomura narrowed his eyes. There was something off about this man. He didn’t know what. “We’re going. Don’t follow us.”

Izuku elbowed him. “Don’t say that. He will think we’re being suspicious and follow us.”

“I will do no such thing! We have classes to teach today,” said Toshinori, waving his hand. “Isn’t that right, Mr Aizawa?”

“Whatever,” said Aizawa, getting off his armchair and walking away. “Be back by curfew, or I’ll send out an arrest warrant.”

Izuku looked in the direction of the voice, brows knitting. “Can’t I stay over at the flat tonight?”

“No.”

“Can Muracchi sleep here tonight, then?” asked Izuku hopefully.

“No.”

“But—”

No.”

“Come on, don’t you think you’re being too strict?” asked Toshinori hastily.

“Midoriya is my responsibility,” said Aizawa.

“That makes it your fault Izukun got hurt,” snapped Tomura. “Don’t think you’re better than me because you’re a hero.” Catching the expression on Toshinori’s face, which was somewhere between polite interest and pity, Tomura’s glare hardened. He clasped his arm around Izuku and tugged him towards the door. “Let’s go, Izukun. We’re wasting time.”

The moment they were outside, Izuku asked, “You said there’s something you want to talk about?”

“Not here,” said Tomura gruffly. They staggered down the front steps and Tomura cursed. “Use your quirk.”

“I can’t,” Izuku whined.

“You can. For two hours.”

Izuku froze. Tomura tried to tug him along but he remained unmoving like a rock. In the quiet glow of the morning sun, Izuku’s skin was as translucent and pale as a piece of paper, the circles under his eyes as dark as bruises. Tomura thought he now understood what Kurogiri meant when he’d said the two of them were a matching pair. An uncomfortable feeling squeezed at his inside.

“Does anyone ever think of telling me these things?” said Izuku, voice coming out uncharacteristically sharp. “Things like, oh, you can use your sensory for only two hours or you might end up with a brain tumour, or, hey, Sensei took away your force retention, so don’t try eating an explosion.”

Tomura stared. He took out a small vial from his pocket and tried to hand it to Izuku. “Drink this.”

“I’m not drinking from your stupid vial.” Izuku slapped his hand away.

Tomura stifled a sigh as familiar anger threatened to flare through his chest. He was trying to be so patient, so nice, yet all he’d received in return was one frustration after another. He closed his eyes and raked a hand through his hair. His voice came out bitter and disconnected, “What do you want? I’m already doing my best.”

Izuku faltered. “That’s not what I—”

“You’re welcome to go back in there. I’m sure they’ll treat you well. I’m sure you can become a hero or whatever it is that you want to be. I don’t care. No, I won’t care.” Tomura watched the scowl on Izuku’s face fall away and Izuku’s lips begin to quiver. “I’ll tell Sensei to take back everything he gave you, and we’ll see if those damn heroes still want you — dammit — why is it so hard for you to understand? Without Sensei’s help, you’re just a useless kid who can’t do anything!”

Tears fell and Izuku looked violently away, wiping his face furiously with his sleeve, staring at the shrivelled plant in the flowerpot with blind eyes. Tomura stepped forward, pushing the vial into Izuku’s hand.

Tomura watched as Izuku unstoppered the vial with trembling fingers. When finally, Izuku drank from it, Tomura leaned forward to wipe away his tears and pecked him on the cheek where a bruise was beginning to fade. He said, “Everything is false but my affection for you.

Izuku sniffled and hugged him. “Have you been reading without me?”

Tomura nodded.

“Recite something, please?”

He scowled. He tried to remember. Something, anything. Most of the passages he’d come across, he had failed to understand; he recalled them perfectly now because they had given him so much frustration. “‘He had the whole world pressed to his heart,’” said Tomura, “‘every star in the sky shone within him. he had loved and had found himself in the process. Most people love only in order to lose themselves.’”

Izuku relaxed and sighed.

Tomura raised his hand to pat Izuku’s head with his index finger in the air. “‘The communities we have now are just herds. People run as fast as they can to each other because they’re afraid of each other. These people huddling together so timidly are full of fear and full of wickedness; no one trusts the next. They cling to ideals that no longer exist, and throw stones at anyone who is trying to create a new one.’”

“What book is that from?”

Tomura shrugged.

Izuku’s soft chuckles came out in idiotic stops and starts against Tomura’s chest. Slowly, Izuku pulled away only to stand on his toes and kiss the tip of Tomura’s nose. Tomura turned away. Izuku laughed, then handed Tomura back the now empty vial.

“It won’t hurt,” said Tomura, an afterthought. “I asked.”

“What does it do?”

“It’ll suppress one of your quirks for a few hours.”

“Which one is that? Why would I need it?”

Tomura took Izuku’s hand and led him down the pavement towards the bus stop. The sun was young, and children in school uniforms were slowly emerging from their homes, waving their parents goodbyes, to go to school. It was still a weekday after all. Tomura looked behind him and saw in the distance, Aizawa and Toshinori’s blotchy forms disappearing inside a cheap four-wheel before driving off, Toshinori in the driver’s seat.

“Muracchi. Are there quirks inside me that I don’t know about?” said Izuku once they settled on the bus.

Tomura said nothing.

“There are, aren’t there?” Izuku frowned. “I’ve always suspected, but I never— Was that vial for a quirk I don’t know?”

Tomura leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes. He really shouldn’t say anything but— “It’s for a quirk that makes people flock to you and want to take care of you. Sensei was worried about you being on your own.”

“Really?”

“Did it work?” asked Tomura, not that he wanted to know.

This prompted Izuku to go on a long-winded tale about his first day at Yuuei, and the people he’d met, from Uraraka who had slapped him, to Todoroki, princely and polite, and Shinsou, gentle and kind. Tomura stopped him there and got him to clarify about the infirmary, confused and irritated with the way Izuku flushed as he tried to explain what had happened.

“That’s disgusting,” said Tomura.

“Have anyone ever touched you like that, Muracchi?” asked Izuku, leaning into him, pretty much half-sitting on his lap now. “You should try it. It feels really good.”

Tomura continued to stare at Izuku until he couldn’t any more. Izuku had buried his nose under Tomura’s jaw, peppering kisses up his neck, hand smoothing down his chest to rest on his stomach. Tomura squirmed. When Izuku pressed his knee on Tomura’s crotch, Tomura shoved him back so hard Izuku hit against the window with a loud thump.

The other passengers, mostly made up of middle-schoolers, turned to stare.

Izuku hissed, scrubbing at his head.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” snapped Tomura.

“You don’t like it?” said Izuku, incredulous, like it was unimaginable that Tomura didn’t like it.

“Not—that,” insisted Tomura.

“That? It was okay when I kissed you, then?”

Tomura cursed under his breath. “We’re getting out at the next stop.”

“Are we there already?”

“No. We’re getting off because you can’t sit still,” said Tomura, crossing his arms over his chest warily. “Don’t touch me.”

Izuku settled back in his seat too, casting his head frequently in Tomura’s direction, before biting his lip and asking, “Can we hold hands at least?”

Tomura gave Izuku his hand.

Izuku brightened.

You’ve been on the wrong path—the wrong path! recited Tomura in his head, And we aren’t pigs, like you said. We are human beings. We make gods and then wrestle with them, and they bless us.

For the rest of their journey to the city centre, Tomura stayed silent and let Izuku finish his story. There was something that happened with a kid called Blasty. Then there was that Todoroki, again, coming to Izuku’s rescue with an ice quirk when Izuku was about to burn up and die. Tomura checked the time once they arrived at the city that was bustling with life. He grimaced, tugging Izuku along as crowds after crowds did their best to separate them.

“Muracchi, I don’t like this,” said Izuku, wincing when a businessman shouldered him out of the way.

“Shut up. They’ll be gone soon. They’ve got to get to work.”

And sure enough, in less than five minutes, the square was deserted. The rush hour was over.

“This thing, Muracchi, the quirk that makes people flock to me, how does it work?”

Tomura looked left, then right, then dragged Izuku across the street. “I don’t know. Sensei says it doesn’t work on anyone who doesn’t already hold interest in you.” Tomura scratched his neck, agitated. “All it does is amplifies someone’s interest in you, or whatever. Don’t make that face. What does it matter? You’re not supposed to know about it, anyway.”

“Why can’t I know?”

“Kurogiri says you might use it against me.”

Izuku placed a hand over his chest. “I would never.” Then he added under his breath, “I hate Kurogiri.”

Tomura caught it anyway and turned to stare. Izuku paled.

“Me too,” said Tomura grimly.

“Wait, you do?”

Tomura said nothing.

Suddenly, Izuku grinned and caught Tomura around the waist. “Forget Kurogiri. You trust me don’t you? You know I won’t ever use any quirk against you, that’s why you’re telling me, right?”

Tomura squirmed. He didn’t know why he told Izuku.

They got to the ice cream parlour, finally, one which Tomura had researched. This shop was supposed to have more than one hundred flavours of ice cream, and it was open at nine in the morning. Tomura checked the time on his phone. They were right on time. The staffs greeted them as Tomura dragged Izuku to the counter to pick his ice cream.

“Use your quirk,” Tomura muttered into Izuku’s ear.

Izuku flushed at the neck. “I don’t want to waste my sensory limit on ice cream.”

“The hell are you going to waste it on?”

Izuku shook his head like Tomura had disappointed him, which pissed Tomura off enough that he shoved Izuku into the glass display. The staffs jumped, startled, and Tomura watched them begin to panic, scuttling around like worthless ants, until Izuku laughed and pulled Tomura into a hug.

“You’re annoying,” grumbled Tomura.

“And you’re grumpy,” said Izuku. “I want to try all of them.”

“Just pick one.”

“I want the caramel swirl one and the cotton candy one! And also the double chocolate.” And Tomura knew exactly when Izuku turned off his vision, because right after he ordered, he walked into a female staff coming out of the backroom. “Sorry! I didn’t see you there. Not that I can, but my point is—”

Tomura yanked him to the farthest corner of the shop and told him to sit down. Izuku did, clasping his hands on the table and waited for exactly six seconds before getting up to try and follow Tomura as he went to get their orders.

“Stay down,” growled Tomura.

 

*

 

At Yuuei, Toshinori followed Aizawa out of the teacher’s lounge.

“This is a little too much, the police putting a bunch of investigators on their tail and the media releasing a news article without young Midoriya’s permission,” said Toshinori anxiously. "From all that I’ve seen, Midoriya is just a boy, and that Shigaraki is only a kid as well. Temperamental, yes. But he hasn’t been causing any problems with his disintegration quirk, has he?

“Besides, I believe he’s got a good heart for taking in young Midoriya when he himself didn’t have anything going for him.” Toshinori scratched his head. “Young Midoriya has grown up well too. He’s polite and kind, and don’t forget that you met him when he was trying to save a woman and her child.”

“Aren’t you a little bias?” said Aizawa, irritated. “That boy is a murderer. Intentional or not, he killed those thugs. Besides, hundreds of innocent people died three years ago. And the police are convinced it was Midoriya’s quirk that did it. Isn’t it a little convenient that the boy lost his memory?”

Toshinori began to sweat. “You can’t possibly think the boy is faking it.”

“No, but I think that Shigaraki character knows something’s up. Obviously he’s not going to talk. If it goes on like this, Midoriya will sure wind up behind bars for the crimes he doesn’t even know he’s committed.”

Toshinori pulled at his own collar, nervous. “I would like to avoid that outcome if at all possible.”

Aizawa gave him a side-glance that Toshinori pretended he didn’t notice. “You’ve been stopping by often lately. Don’t tell me you found a successor in that boy.” When Toshinori said nothing, Aizawa rolled his eyes. “Yuuei’s sports tournament is coming up. All eyes will surely be on Midoriya, what with the media propagating equality with his return, making him out to be some sort of victim of a tragedy. We’ll see how that plays out.”

When they turned a corner down the hallway, they found Todoroki standing there with a phone in one hand and a fist in Bakugou’s mouth. “Get the hell off me!” snapped Bakugou, kicking Todoroki in the chest. Todoroki flew backward, colliding into the opposite wall.

“What the hell are you two doing?” Aizawa narrowed his eyes.

Todoroki straightened, pushing back his hair and smoothed out his blazer.

“Bakugou came after me and insulted Midoriya,” said Todoroki cooly. “I got offended in his stead. Anyway, Mr Aizawa. I believe I’ve figured out the details of at least three of Midoriya’s—” His eyes flickered to Bakugou and then Toshinori “—circumstances.”

“What the fuck? That sentence makes no goddamn sense,” Bakugou raged.

“I see,” said Aizawa calmly. “Bakugou, get back to class. Todoroki, you come with me.”

 

*

 

The hours with Tomura flew by. Before Izuku knew it, the day had worn out and it was now afternoon. They had so far tried out twenty-one flavours of ice cream, and Izuku felt like throwing up. But he was happy. He hadn’t been this happy in a long time. Tomura still hadn’t brought up the thing he said he wanted to talk about. Izuku had half a mind of asking him, but also the other half was afraid of annoying Tomura. Tomura had been so unbelievably nice to him so far. Izuku supposed living away from each other had its perks.

Still, Izuku wanted to stay with Tomura for as long as possible, if not to make up for the days that they spent apart.

Tomura took his hand and led him out of the ice cream parlour. His other hand was checking his phone. He had been on it quite a lot today.

“Are we taking the bus?”

“No,” said Tomura. “We don’t have enough money for the bus.”

“Oh,” said Izuku, suddenly remembering that everything in this world cost. Including his ice cream.

“It’s Saturday tomorrow,” said Tomura. “I’ll pick you up at nine. The pancake house doesn’t open until ten.”

“Wait. Pancake house?”

Tomura shoved the phone in Izuku’s face. “Is your quirk on?”

“Yeah.” Izuku blinked, not that it made a difference. On the screen of the phone, he saw a picture of a blue cottage-like building with a sign on it. He assumed it said Pancake House or something, since he couldn’t read. “Why—why are we going to that?”

Tomura took his phone away and shrugged. “It’s out of town. The city’s going to be crowded tomorrow.”

“That’s not what I—” Izuku shook his head. “Never mind.”

By the time they got out of the city, the sensory quirk was beginning to act up. Izuku scratched his eyes. He didn’t want to turn it off, though. He wanted to look at Tomura for as long as he could. They were walking down the pavement with the late afternoon sun at their backs. Their shadows stretched across the concrete before them, shoulder to shoulder and hand in hand. His eyes began to sting, but this time it wasn’t because of the quirk. He felt like crying all of a sudden. This was the best day of his life.

“What’s wrong with you?” said Tomura.

Izuku shook his head and smiled. “Nothing.”

But Tomura suddenly stopped, yanking Izuku into his chest. His voice came out icy and cold, “Izukun, turn off your quirk.”

“What? Why—”

“Your eyes, they are bleeding.”

Izuku quickly scrunched them shut and turned his vision off. In his panic, he accidentally turned down his hearing as well. He switched it back up and then heard someone scream. He tried to move but his body wouldn’t cooperate. When he came to again, Tomura was holding him, telling him to stop crying. Izuku’s heart was beating so fast like he’d just ran a hundred miles. His throat hurt as though his voice box had been ripped out.

“What—” he croaked.

Tomura shushed him, sliding his hand under Izuku’s shirt to smooth over his hip. His fingers were startlingly cold but they helped Izuku calm down. When his breaths grew even again, Tomura pulled away.

“I heard someone scream,” said Izuku.

There was a hand on his face wiping away the wetness that was probably blood. Then there was a soft press to his lips, scratchy and dry. A kiss. It had been so brief Izuku wasn’t sure it had happened.

“It was you,” muttered Tomura.

“What? I—”

“It doesn’t matter. Come on,” said Tomura, pulling him along. “Don’t use that quirk any more. It’s no good. I’ll have to tell Sensei.”

Izuku licked at his lips. He tasted blood, and something else there. Everything is false but my affection for you.

The atmosphere around them changed. A cloud had fallen. It was gloomy and dark, and Izuku couldn’t see the way forward. Tomura halted again, and Izuku guessed, at a red light. There was his hand on Izuku’s face again, wiping away something Izuku wasn’t sure was there. There was something on his mouth again, a kiss. This time, Izuku brought his own hands to cup Tomura’s face and hold him there. It was closed-mouth and awkward, nothing like the first time they’d kissed by the stairs, nothing like the one Izuku had shared with Shinsou. But it felt good, even better, and Izuku felt like crying all over again.

“This thing, Muracchi, this quirk that makes people like me. You’re not doing this because of that, are you?” asked Izuku, anxious, once they parted.

“No,” said Tomura, breath warm and damp against Izuku’s cheek. “It doesn’t affect me.”

Izuku slid his hand down to Tomura’s collarbone. “How are you sure?”

“I made you take that vial. I wanted to show you.”

“Show me what?”

When Tomura answered, his voice came out strangled like saying it caused him a lot of pain, “That without that stupid quirk, I’ll still—I’ll still take care of you.”

Izuku’s heart skip. “Muracchi.”

“Those people at Yuuei who were nice to you,” said Tomura, “it’s because of that quirk. I was the one who took care of you. Don’t you forget that.”

“I won’t forget it,” said Izuku, feeling his throat clog up.

Tomura cursed and pulled Izuku into a hug. “The flat’s been quiet without you.”

“I’ve missed you too,” Izuku cried into Tomura’s shoulder, gripping at Tomura’s hoodie so hard his hands shook.

“It gives me a headache, sincerity and all that crap,” grumbled Tomura. “Just because I don’t know how to give you the things you want from me doesn’t mean I don’t want to give them to you.” Tomura pulled away to stare at Izuku’s face. Izuku must look hideous right now, but it didn’t stop Tomura from pressing his lips to Izuku’s forehead. “Your life with me is shitty, and I make you miserable—”

“That’s not true!” Izuku grasped at Tomura’s shirt.

“It’s true. I know that. I’m not stupid. I make you cry. I get angry when you’re around, but I think about you a whole damn lot when you’re gone. With or without that stupid quirk Sensei gave you, it doesn’t change a thing.” Tomura pushed Izuku’s hair back and continued, hurried, like he was running out of time, “I want you to choose me, Izukun. Over anything—anyone. Just, just keep choosing me. You have to. Because I’ll do the same. Whatever happens, I’ll keep choosing you.”

“I don’t know,” Izuku choked, “why you—” His voice broke into a helpless wail, sucked in the next moment with a great gulp of air that wasn’t quite a sob. “I’ll do it. I’ve always—always! I’ll never stop.”

“Good,” said Tomura. “You can’t tell Kurogiri. And you can’t tell Sensei. You can’t tell anyone this, understand?”

Izuku laughed and cried. “I understand.” His chest hurt. “I love you.”

Tomura hugged him and Izuku should be happy, he should. But somehow this felt a whole lot like goodbye.

 

Chapter Text

 

Todoroki walked among his peers, who were making their way towards the bus stop beside the park. The park was where Todoroki would wait for his sister until she got off from work. His conversation with Aizawa today had been fruitful. They now had a plan, and every step towards the future was clear cut.

Aizawa believed that Izuku was more trouble than he was worth, and Todoroki would be lying if he said he didn’t believe it too. The problem was, they were heroes and Todoroki would be hard pressed if he didn’t try to believe the best in others. Todoroki frowned. This. This believing in people went against his very nature. Every fibre in his body was born and bred skeptical, cold and underhanded. You’re just like your father.

“Todoroki, you’re frowning,” said Sero. “Let loose, man.”

Instead of muttering a sorry as he would have done, Todoroki felt agitated at Sero’s carelessness, angry at his own.

He tightened his grip on his backpack straps and walked briskly. A hand clapped him on the back.

“Hey, Todoroki! What’re you doing this weekend?” It was Kirishima.

“Self-training,” said Todoroki.

Kirishima whistled. “Dude, you’re no fun at all! Some of us are planning to go visit Midoriya this weekend. Wanna come along?”

“That’s right,” said Iida, coming to his other side. “It is of utmost importance that we show—”

“Speak normally, dude. We don’t understand you,” said Sero.

“It would be advisable that we check on our classmate,” obliged Iida. “Midoriya has not been in school since his first day. It is our duty to make sure he feels at home and that we do not blame him for wrecking our locker room. Additionally, we must reassure him that here at Yuuei he will have the security and support he needs—”

“It’s not our responsibility to do anything for him,” said Todoroki coldly. “He’s a student here like everyone else.”

Kirishima frowned. “But—”

“Giving him special treatment will only single him out,” said Todoroki. “Either way, I have a feeling Midoriya won’t be staying at Yuuei for long.” Todoroki walked off before the others could get any words in. He’d already talked to Aizawa. It would be over soon enough.

From ahead came a shout and a loud bang. Crowds of Yuuei students were clotting the pavement and Todoroki couldn’t get through. Bakugou’s voice was screaming furiously over them all. Todoroki felt a headache begin to form. He pushed past his schoolmates, muttering an excuse me and a sorry when they glared at him. He found Kaminari at the front of the crowd with his phone out.

Todoroki realised the other students were doing the same.

“It’s Midoriya!” someone squealed. “You’ve read that article about him right?”

“He’s fighting Bakugou even though he’s blind!”

Todoroki turned around so fast he got a whiplash.

Sure enough, there Izuku was, in the flesh, crouching on all fours, back to the phone booth. There were holes in the elbows of his jacket and the knees of his jeans. Smoky scrape marks slithered a long curve on the pavement from where Bakugou stood to where Izuku’s feet rested. Instantly, Todoroki knew what had happened.

Bakugou had seen Izuku and had attacked him, propelling Izuku backwards to where he was currently crouching. Now Bakugou was hurling insults at Izuku who took them silently with only a small frown on his face. There was something different about him, something slightly twisted, but Todoroki couldn’t quite pinpoint what that was.

“You bastard— all this time—”

“All this time what?” snapped Izuku. “What is it that you have against me? First you tried to attack me, then you insulted me, then you hurt me. Now you’re attacking me again? What’s your problem, Blasty?”

Bakugou’s palms exploded. “Don’t call me Blasty, Deku!”

“Don’t call me Deku!” Izuku stood up, hands balled into fists.

“Fuck!” Bakugou screamed. His palms fumed. “I’ve always wondered how the fuck you survived! A quirkless worthless bitch like you of all people got rescued? Un-fucking-believable.” He barked out a sardonic laugh. “Turns out you’ve lived this long by taking a pounding from that old creep’s cock!” Bakugou flung his arm in the direction of the man with silver hair leaning against the bus stop sign. He looked so inconspicuous that Todoroki had missed him.

It was the same man Todoroki had seen with Izuku on Monday morning. So this was Shigaraki Tomura from the news article, the man who saved Izuku’s life. Tomura stood there and made no move to stop the fight. Instead, Todoroki thought he saw his sleepless red-rimmed eyes gleam with something like thrill.

“Muracchi isn’t like that,” said Izuku, flushing bright red. “He would never touch me like that.”

“Then what the fuck was that? You had that motherfucking creep’s tongue shoved down your throat! How the fuck d’you think that made me feel?!” Bakugou charged, hands bared and tried to fire at Izuku, who easily dodged him. He slid through his legs, whirled around and kicked Bakugou in the butt.

“You never learn, do you?” said Izuku.

Bakugou staggered. Before he could right himself, Izuku kicked him again at the back of his knees and Bakugou collapsed.

There had been a split in time Todoroki was sure Izuku wanted to stomp on Bakugou’s hands and break his fingers. Perhaps it was in the way Izuku moved, the slight shift in his footing. But the moment passed and Izuku stepped back. That single moment had taken Todoroki’s breath away, awakened something within him, an urge long suppressed for its cruelty.

“I can feel the vibrations in the air from the way you move,” said Izuku softly, waiting for Bakugou to get up. “Your colour is yellow. Did you know that? But it’s not pretty like Shinsou’s or Muracchi’s.”

“Fuck! Bastard!” Bakugou hurled his fist at Izuku, who simply slapped his arm away, then Izuku’s other hand shot out, grasping Bakugou by the neck.

The man by the bus stop sign suddenly straightened. An amused smile ebbed its way onto his scarred mouth.

Bakugou began to choke. He clawed at Izuku’s arm fruitlessly and the crowd began to stir. Dude, maybe this is going too far? Should we stop this? Midoriya is so owning it though!

“You know what?” said Izuku. “I don’t see how any of my actions concerns you. You’re meddling in things you don’t understand. Who I kiss. Who I live with. Who I love. Why would you care what I do?” Izuku threw Bakugou backwards. Bakugou stumbled and hacked. “Were you the one who saved my life? No. It was Muracchi. So why are you trying to dictate me like I owe you something?”

Goddamn it. Muracchi this, Muracchi that! I bet the only reason he sticks around is because you two have been rubbing dicks!” said Bakugou. “What else are you good for anyway?”

Several people from the crowd clasped their hands over their mouths. From somewhere came Kirishima’s voice, “That’s not manly at all!” Todoroki turned to the silver-haired man whose grin had slipped from his face. His lips were pulled back into a sneer.

“What am I good for?” Izuku had faltered too. There was no longer any fight left in him. All he looked was tired and confused. “Do you really think I’m useless? That’s not true, right?” said Izuku quietly now. “I don’t know why you would think that. I know I can be a burden because I wasn’t born with everything, but why would you ever think that people like me are useless?”

The atmosphere changed. The crowd faltered. There was no longer excitement, only solemnity spawned from the sincerity in Izuku’s voice. When Bakugou had lashed out they all thought it was at someone strong — and now Izuku had turned into a meek, quiet, suffering little boy, acquiescing without a word.

Izuku turned and tried to leave, but Bakugou wasn’t done.

He grabbed at Izuku. “Wait, listen to me—”

“No, leave me alone.” Izuku shrugged him off and walked away.

Then things happened simultaneously. Bakugou cursed and charged after Izuku. Todoroki activated his ice. The crowd shouted at Bakugou to stop. Izuku turned around, confused. The man with silver hair stepped into the fight.

Shigaraki Tomura blocked Bakugou’s attack by grabbing his arm and redirecting his fire. It blasted into the sky. Todoroki noticed the strange way he held onto Bakugou’s arm.

“You know,” Shigaraki Tomura spoke. “I was going to let this go even though you kept insulting me. You’re Izukun’s classmate is what I thought. But you don’t know when it’s game over, do you?”

“Let go of me, fucking creep!” snapped Bakugou.

“Muracchi?” said Izuku. He reached out and caught the hem of the man’s hoodie. “What are you doing?”

“Restrain him, Izukun.”

“What? I—”

Izukun.

“Okay,” said Izuku reluctantly.

Suddenly, Bakugou’s arms snapped to his sides and his body shot straight up like a plank. “What the fuck did you do?” Bakugou growled from forced-tight jaw.

“Sorry,” said Izuku tiredly, still clinging onto the man’s back, “but I took away the space around you. I took it. Doesn’t it feel familiar? I did it to you before.”

Bakugou growled, “You—”

“Because kids like you are a waste of space,” the man bit out and grabbed a clump of Bakugou’s hair, the other hand circled around his throat. “I’m very fast. Faster than you. The moment all my five fingers touch you, you will start to crumble from your skin on down. And within the minute, you will be nothing but dust. So, try not to follow Izukun around any more, okay?”

Then, the man let go. He looked down at Bakugou as if he pitied him, then nodded as if he made up his mind. “You should read more books. One of them has a line that says, ‘When we hate someone, what we hate is something in him, or in our image of him, that is part of ourselves. Nothing that isn’t in us ever bothers us.’”

Then Shigaraki Tomura was gone, and he took Izuku with him. The crowd stared after them in both awe and apprehension.

“Hey,” said Asui from somewhere in the crowd, “I think Midoriya was more handsome in his school uniform.” There were snickers and gradually the tension fell away.

So that was why Izuku looked strange, Todoroki thought, that charm quirk of his was gone.

 

*

 

Tomura had heard Kurogiri say that he was the blind one, and maybe he was, but he didn’t care; in this moment Izuku’s sadness was subdued, glittering barely-visible in his blind eyes as Tomura bent down to pick up Izuku’s torn jacket pooled at his new bedroom door. Izuku brushed past him, hands feeling along the dirty wall towards the bathroom, shadows falling across his eyes, smile curving up his bruised lips when Tomura offered to help him.

“You were right,” Izuku said. “Nobody but you care about me. Without that quirk, everybody hates me.”

Tomura leaned down and kissed the tears from Izuku’s cheeks. “You can use it in school, I don’t care. Just don’t forget what’s real.”

Once Izuku took off his shirt and Tomura sat him on the edge of the bathtub, Tomura dropped to his knees, running his hands up the inseam of Izuku’s jeans before tucking two fingers behind his waistband and thumbing them open. Izuku took a quick shuddery breath and Tomura pursed his lips; “I’m just going to wash you,” he murmured more to remind himself than Izuku. Before Izuku could form a reflexive argument, Tomura leaned up and pressed his lips to Izuku’s mouth.

It was salty from tears and sweat. Tomura’s hand held Izuku’s hip secure on the enamel, and he leaned over to turn on the faucet. The sound of water splashing into the tub made Izuku jump. Tomura snorted and Izuku laughed, a quiet, wary sound. Izuku sought for his mouth again, clenched his fists on Tomura’s shoulders, the sounds of their panting drowned by the rushing water.

“Don’t think I never noticed,” whispered Izuku, pulling away to mouth at his ear.

“What?”

“You—you’re always washing off whenever you touch something,” said Izuku, “but whenever I touch you, you don’t.”

Tomura tugged off Izuku’s jeans and his underwear, then shoved at Izuku’s chest until he slipped off the edge and into the tub with a yelp.

“I know where your body’s been. I don’t for anything else,” said Tomura.

Izuku sucked in a sharp breath. “Muracchi.

“What?”

Izuku bit his lip, flushing, and Tomura knew, or sort of knew anyway, what this boy wanted. What he had always wanted. And for now, he could give him only this, “Not today.”

Suddenly, Izuku was right there, in his face, clutching at his arm, nose in his hair and the crook of his neck, sloshing bath water, sniffing like an animal. His nose was cold, and Tomura shivered once. In the back of Tomura’s eyes there was a flash like gold, something warm and loving. Izuku pulled back; Tomura realised Izuku was breathing hard from arousal. “But we will? Soon?”

Tomura scratched his neck and looked away. “Fine.”

Izuku smiled. “Kiss me?”

“Fine.”

 

*

 

It was early on a Saturday when Sensei called.

Izuku was sitting at the dinner table eating soggy cereal while Aizawa sucked on his fruit juice. Izuku had answered the phone, thinking it was Tomura and then winced when he realised who it was. “Hello, Sensei,” said Izuku, making to stand.

Aizawa’s scarf shot out and pulled him back to his seat.

“Izuku-kun, Tomura told me your sensory enhancement malfunctioned,” said Sensei leisurely. “How are you?”

“I’m doing okay, Sensei,” said Izuku anxiously, “I’m having breakfast with Mr Aizawa right now.”

There was a pause, and then, “Oh? But you can talk, can’t you? I know for certain they haven’t bugged your phone”

“Yes, Sensei, I can—talk.” Izuku swallowed, feeling Aizawa’s stare boring holes into him.

“You haven’t been hurting yourself, have you?” asked Sensei. “You know, there is a video online of you and Tomura from yesterday…”

Izuku froze. His blood ran cold. “Vi-video? What—video?”

“Of your fight with that boy from Yuuei,” said Sensei. He sounded pleasantly impressed. “And you managed to beat him without your sensory enhancement. Incredible, Izuku-kun. I applaud your victory.”

Izuku flushed. “Ah, th-thank you, Sensei. I wouldn’t be able to defend myself without your help!”

“Oh, no no. It is all you, Izuku-kun,” said Sensei.

From across the table, Aizawa stood up just as the doorbell rang. It rang again. Then again. Repeatedly for at least eleven times. Izuku stifled his snicker when Aizawa growled and Sensei concluded, “Is that Tomura, I wonder?”

“Yes, I think so too.”

“Well, enjoy your day Izuku-kun,” said Sensei. “For now, I want you to consider how you can use your abilities to your advantage while at Yuuei. Around this time of year, there is Yuuei’s sports festival which you must attend. Izuku-kun, you will be representing us, the minorities, those who have been marginalised by this cruel world. Just as All Might is the Symbol of Peace, you of the moment is the symbol of hope for us all. Therefore, you must show the world that we who live in the shadows can do great things if given the chance.”

Izuku found himself on his feet, moved by Sensei’s words. “Yes, Sensei. I will do my best.”

“Very good,” said Sensei. “Have a good day, Izuku-kun.”

“You too, Sensei!”

Just as Izuku hung up, a hand slid around his waist.

“Sensei called?” asked Tomura.

“Yes, he—”

“Who is this Sensei?” said Aizawa, unimpressed.

Izuku panicked, “Er, he—”

“Izukun’s doctor,” said Tomura. “Who d’you think cured his fractured ribs and torn lungs after I found him? Mr Miracle?”

There was a rustle of clothes as Aizawa shifted his footing. Izuku imagined the man crossing his arms over his chest, raising his eyebrows. “So this doctor is unlicensed? That’s illegal.”

“Sensei’s perfectly capable. Just because we don’t have the same privilege as people like you, doesn’t mean we’re made of scum. If it wasn’t for him, Izukun would be dead. So don’t go around kidding yourself, thinking you can arrest whoever the hell you want.” Tomura’s grip around Izuku’s waist tightened. “Come on, Izukun.”

 

*

 

Tomura didn’t bother asking Sensei for the vial to halt Izuku’s quirk. Both Sensei and Tomura figured it didn’t matter; Kurogiri was a worrywart.

They went to this Pancake House one town over and Izuku began sniffing the air, saying, “I think I’ve been here before.” Next to the busy street filled with food stands, they passed by a quieter one that had a laundromat and Izuku said, “This place smells like you.” Tomura told him to shut up.

When they finally came to a stop in front of a blue cottage near the park, it was still early enough that there were seats for them. Tomura led Izuku to a table in the back corner when he saw the way the bored-looking teenager behind the cash register light up when he saw Izuku. Tomura ordered, quickly, some stupid breakfast meal, pointing to the picture of a gigantic tower of pancakes almost collapsing from the landslide of canned strawberries, chocolate chips and whatever the hell that white fluffy crap was.

Once the order came, it was the same teenager from the cashier. He looked like he wanted to say something, sleepless eyes flitting from Izuku to Tomura, but Tomura sent him away with one look.

“Maybe you should learn to control that attraction quirk,” grumbled Tomura, pushing the unhealthiest of breakfasts in front of Izuku. “Turn on your vision for a bit and look.”

Izuku blinked, and then, “Holy crap. This—this is pancake? What is in between that thing?”

Tomura stared at the menu. “Ice cream. And that’s whipped cream. Strawberries, chocolate sauce, bananas, sugar filling. And also pancakes.”

“Holy crap,” said Izuku again, picked up his fork and halted. “How—how do I eat this?”

Tomura snorted and waited for Izuku to figure it out. It took him about five minutes and just as many bites before the pancake tower tried to fall apart, smearing chocolate sauce all over the side of his mouth and his cheek and spilling strawberries back onto the plate. Tomura had an urge to take out his phone and snap a photo of Izuku’s messed up face to show to Kurogiri later. Izuku narrowed his eyes at him when he fulfilled this urge.

“Your vision clearly doesn’t help. Turn it off.” Tomura took Izuku’s chin in his hand and leaned in, dragging his tongue up the side of Izuku’s face.

Izuku’s breath hitched in his throat and his face went red. “You— did you just—” Izuku tried to say something, but Tomura wasn’t sure what, it could have been anything, because Izuku was planting a hand on the edge of Tomura’s chair and climbing onto his lap. The kiss was messy and involved way too much confectionary, but nobody was there to stop them for a while.

Then Tomura heard a loud cough, and they separated. It was that same part-timer.

“Sorry, but my manager is telling you to stop,” he said tightly. His eyes were red-rimmed and his grip around his notetaker was white.

“I’m sorry,” said Izuku quietly, ducking his head.

“Whatever.” Tomura pushed the fork into Izuku’s hand. “Finish your breakfast.”

“I can’t finish this on my own,” said Izuku, growing hysterical. “I’ll get fat if I do.”

“You need to get fat, stupid.”

They bickered, and when Tomura looked up again, the kid had gone. For the rest of the day, Tomura took Izuku back to the flat where Izuku lazed about doing nothing, just basking in the familiarity of this wretched place he called home.

“I love you,” said Izuku all of a sudden, pushing Tomura down on his bed, eyes inky bright and curious. “I think I love everything about you. Especially the way you kiss. I really, really like the way you kiss me.”

And it was the fact that Izuku dropped his head then, blind eyes flashing and his expression so completely wrecked, naked with want, for him, and Tomura hadn’t even put a hand on him, that finally broke him. He wanted to give it to Izuku, whatever the hell this boy wanted, but he didn’t know how, hadn’t yet learned to understand how.

But they had days, weeks, and maybe forever to go in which to learn this, once everything was all over, Tomura could choose Izuku again, and by that point, there would be nobody to stop them, and maybe by then, they could—

But not right now. Right now, they needed to fumble, take their time, clumsy with knowledge that their hours together were limited. Izuku moved slowly, so slowly, fingers stroking the line of Tomura’s hip as he kissed each bit of skin exposed, revelling in the fact that he could, that Tomura was here, with him, and he didn’t want to do a thing to spook him. This boy wanted so desperately to impress.

“All right?” grumbled Tomura at some point, combing his fingers through Izuku’s dark hair.

Izuku turned his head, looked at him like he was an idiot. “All right?” he echoed, pushing himself up, his mouth wet and his eyes glittering. “This — you are better than all right,” and there was something in his voice Tomura recognised as a part of himself, an emotion he could perhaps one day learn to understand. He wrapped his arms around Izuku’s waist and pulled him close, wondering if choosing Izuku had been his choice at all.

 

*

 

The weekend came and went without them seeing each other. Unbeknownst to Izuku, the front page of the Sunday papers read, YUUEI STUDENT ATTACKS BLIND CIVILIAN, HATE CRIME AGAINST MINORITY?

On Monday morning, Izuku got to school in Aizawa’s car.

“It’s the reporters,” said Aizawa. “There’s a shitstorm at Yuuei, and civilians have been slandering the school and the heroes in general, ever since your fight with Bakugou went viral.”

“But why are you giving me special treatment by driving me to school?” said Izuku, fidgeting with his seatbelt.

“Protection. The reporters will be hounding on you for answers, and then they’ll twist your truth to their liking.”

“And I’m not allowed to talk?”

“You can do whatever you want, kid,” said Aizawa.

“Just like how you’re driving me to school so Yuuei will look good, right?” said Izuku. “I bet people think you haven’t been taking proper care of me. And they’re questioning the school for enrolling someone as hostile as Bakugou. I bet they’re pitying me because I’m blind.”

Aizawa grunted. “If you’re going to be a smartass, come up with a way to put a stop to this.”

“I wouldn’t want to,” said Izuku brightly. “Right now I feel like you people deserve it. Can I go pet Shinsou’s cat after school?”

“I’ll think about it,” said Aizawa, instead of his usual refusal.

The moment they arrived, Izuku was bombarded by his classmates.

Kirishima shouted, “Midoriya! Are you okay?”

“What? Yeah, I’m okay!”

They began to crowd around him, pushing their way through the hordes of onlookers who tried to get close.

“Did you really go to the pancake house on Saturday?” said someone, Sero, maybe.

“How did you know that?”

“There are pictures of you coming out of the shop,” said Sero. “The girls have been saying that those were fake, and that you were dead!”

Izuku paled. “Dead? What? Why would I be—”

“Anyway, I’m glad you’re okay, dude,” said Kaminari, patting him on the back. “I told Uraraka you were fine, but she wouldn’t believe me.”

“Get out of the way, assholes!” shouted Bakugou, shouldering Izuku harshly.

The other students began to hurl insults at Bakugou, ranging from You make us look bad! to Get the fuck out of here!

“Dude, honestly, they should have suspended you,” said Sero, clapping Bakugou on the shoulder.

“The hell are you all doing, standing around?” grumbled Bakugou. “Aren’t we escorting this motherfucking princess to class?”

There was a moment of silence among class 1A, and then Kirishima said brightly, “Right!”

A girl named Momo came up to Izuku’s side. She smelled nice and seemed to be reading off some list. “Midoriya, my name is Yaoyorozu; I’m the class president. We’ll be escorting you to class to avoid you getting trampled in this crowd. Everyone in position!”

 

Chapter Text

 

Izuku-kun. Have you memorised Yuuei’s floor plans?

Yes, Kurogiri. I’ve memorised every inch of it.

 

*

 

Izuku drew a fish on a piece of scrap paper with a pencil he borrowed from Uraraka. At least he hoped it was a fish. The two things that had soured his good mood were: (1) reading in English class with Present Mic, because Izuku didn’t have the eyes for it; (2) Todoroki, who kept throwing a bunch of erasers at him. He had dodged them the first few rounds, but that only got Bakugou pissed, because the erasers had hit him in the back of the head.

Damn it. Deku, you asshole.”

“Should I have caught it? What is it?” Izuku had asked.

Five minutes later, something whooshed past Izuku’s head again. He ducked. It hit Bakugou again.

“Fuck!” Bakugou’s palms exploded. His chair scraped loudly as he lurched from his seat. “Who the fuck keeps throwing erasers at Deku? At least aim better, damn it! Is your goddamn house a fucking rubber factory?”

Izuku had caught Todoroki by the hem of his blazer after English class, asking, “Why did you do that?”

But Todoroki only untangled Izuku’s fingers from his uniform, swept the pile of erasers on Izuku’s desk into a plastic bag and returned to his seat. There was a certain animosity in the air, accentuated by the friendly atmosphere from earlier this morning. The others were still nice to him, especially Uraraka, Kaminari and Iida, but even those three did not question Todoroki’s actions.

Izuku sat now with his hands in his lap, listening to Aizawa talk. A sports tournament. A grand event. Soon-to-be heroes beating each other to get to the top for fame and money and love.

From the back of the class, Todoroki threw an eraser at him again. Defiance thrummed through Izuku’s blood and he raised his hand.

“What is it?” asked Aizawa, irritated. “This better not be about petting Shinsou’s cat.”

Sero and Mineta snickered.

Izuku only sat straighter. “Sir, I don’t want to participate in the tournament.”

There was a pause as the class quickly fell silent. Izuku knew Tomura would want him to follow Sensei’s orders, willingly, unconditionally. But he wasn’t Tomura, never would be, he couldn’t ever follow anyone with Tomura’s sort of obedience. Izuku had thought about it hard last night and had concluded that his ambitions were important too. As much as he loved Tomura, was grateful to Sensei, he had got his own path to take and—

And well.

“I don’t like the thought of fighting without a reason,” said Izuku firmly. “That’s not the sort of hero I want to be.”

The class grew solemn. Izuku could taste their discomfort in the air. He felt apologetic to them, for ruining their excitement, but his feelings were important too.

“You won’t be a hero at all if you refuse to take part,” said Aizawa. “There will be no sponsors, no fanbase, no agency.”

“I don’t care about that,” said Izuku.

“Your thinking is naive. There are things in life you need to do to get to where you want to be. People who can’t understand that, no matter how good their intentions are, can’t survive in this world.”

Izuku frowned. “But if I take part and I end up killing someone again? Are you sure you’re not doing this to find a reason to arrest me?”

The class shifted. There were suddenly whispers and hushed conversations.

Aizawa narrowed his eyes. “This isn’t the sort of discussion for your classmates to hear.”

“Why not?” said Izuku angrily. “You didn’t bring me here because you think I can be a hero. You’re just keeping an eye on me until you can prove that I caused the Shizuoka Massacre.”

“Midoriya. Go to my office,” hissed Aizawa.

Izuku stood up and left. He went to the bathroom on another floor and fished out his phone and made a call. Kurogiri picked up on the first ring.

“I just announced to the whole class that I’m a murderer,” said Izuku shakily. “What do I do?”

“Well done,” said Kurogiri, voice dripping with sarcasm. “Now trust in your schoolmates to spread this news like wildfire.”

Izuku clutched his phone tightly. “I need to talk to Sensei. It’s about the sports tournament.”

“Sensei is busy,” said Kurogiri. “And so am I, in fact. We have a rather troublesome customer visiting the bar this Wednesday. If you are worried about the festival, Izuku-kun, I suggest that you do not. The outcome of this tournament will only, ah, determine the course of your future.”

“This isn’t helping, Kurogiri,” Izuku all but whined. “I don’t think I want to do it. I know Sensei wants me to, but I’ll be fighting other people for such stupid reasons. And what if I end up killing them?”

“Then that is what will happen. Why are you so concerned? If you do not take part in this, Sensei will be very disappointed in you, Izuku-kun, and so will I. Sensei has been your benevolent benefactor thus far; he has never asked you for anything. Can you not do this for him?”

Izuku faltered. Kurogiri was right. How ungrateful he was, how terrible a human being, to pretend to stick to some sort of unyielding creed like he even had a clear vision ahead of him.

“Yeah, you’re right.” Izuku swallowed. “I’ll do it.”

“Very good,” said Kurogiri, and Izuku could hear the smile in his voice. “Now, Izuku-kun, you are a clever boy. By now you must have figured that there are other abilities hidden within you?”

There was a clinking of glasses and Izuku guessed Kurogiri was arranging his shelves. He wondered if Tomura was there.

Izuku paused. “You mean—my quirks?”

“Yes.”

“How did you know that I—”

“How did I know that you know?” Kurogiri chuckled. “Why would I not know? Why did you think Sensei gave them to you if he did not want you to find out about them?”

Izuku suddenly felt stupid. “Well, I just thought that—that you, and Muracchi and Sensei have been keeping things from me.” He pressed his phone closer to his ear. “I’ve always felt like an outsider.”

“Oh, Izuku-kun. Sensei only wanted you to figure them out on your own,” said Kurogiri. “So, tell me, which one of them have you discovered? Sensei will be very pleased to hear about them. He may even give you a call.”

“Oh, well—” Izuku flushed. “Apart from the three quirks Sensei has told me about: the space manipulation that I was born with, the life longevity, and the sensory enhancement, I think I also have some sort of speed quirk.”

“A speed quirk, you say?” asked Kurogiri.

“Yes. And a quirk that helps me sense the vibrations in the air. I don’t know what that is, but it helps me catch movements during my fights with that Blasty guy.” He suddenly frowned. He should probably mention the one Tomura told him about, but how could he do it in a way that wouldn’t get Tomura in trouble? No, it was too risky. “Also, I’ve come to realise that normal people use their eyes to understand things. They look at people’s faces to know what others are feeling. But, Kurogiri, it’s never been a problem for me even though I’m blind.”

“So, you believe it is due to a quirk that you are able to do this,” asked Kurogiri.

“I see emotions in colours, and I’m blind! It’s got to be a quirk.”

“And you’re quite correct,” said Kurogiri.

“I am?”

“Sensei will be pleased to hear you have figured out two and a half quirks on your own.” He gave a mocking sigh. “If Shigaraki were to have just half of your intelligence, my life would be so much easier.”

There was a sound of breaking glass in the background, and Tomura’s voice grumbling, “Shut up. I’m not stupid.”

Izuku’s heart skipped.

“I will inform Sensei of your findings. In the mean time, Izuku-kun, train well with your discoveries. Quirks are extensions of your body, even if they were given to you later in life. In order to control them, you need only think.”

“Thank you, Kurogiri,” said Izuku. “I don’t know if Sensei will call me, so please tell him I’ll do my best. And please tell Muracchi that I miss him.”

“Very well,” said Kurogiri. And then he hung up.

Izuku planted his forehead to the wall of his bathroom stall. Would he even get to see Tomura this Wednesday? It was unlikely. Maybe he could visit them at the bar and help them out with this troublesome customer.

Izuku shook his head. He should be focusing on determining and controlling his collection of quirks. He had to do his best at the sports tournament. He straightened his uniform, unlocked the door and walked right into Todoroki standing in front of the stall.

“What—”

Todoroki shoved him back inside. “So you knew about them,” said Todoroki coldly, “And here I thought you were innocent. I thought you were just a guinea pig, someone who needed protecting. But you’re working with them.”

Izuku frowned. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You’re working with the man who can grant quirks,” bit out Todoroki.

Izuku blanched. “How did you—”

“So I’m right. You’re a villain.”

Anger flared inside Izuku’s chest. He hurled his fist at Todoroki. It hit him square in the jaw. Todoroki staggered and tried to steady himself.

“How villainous of you,” said Todoroki, “resorting to violence.”

“I’m not a villain!” He shoved Todoroki out of the way and tried to push past him.

There was a quick scuffle. Todoroki shot out his ice. They ended up slipping on it and fell out of the stall. Izuku tried to run, but Todoroki caught his ankle and Izuku face-planted the floor. He struggled, kicking wildly and ended up stomping Todoroki’s on the face. Todoroki groaned and rolled over.

Izuku scrambled away and scrunched his eyes, grasping at the space around Todoroki with his mind, crumbling it up until Todoroki’s body had nowhere to move.

“Don’t make me hurt you again,” said Izuku, getting up and wiping his face. His hand came away with blood. “I can crush you, right here, right now, take away all of your space because it’s such a waste on people like you. Then I’ll tell them you attacked me. I’ll tell them I panicked and lost control.” Izuku’s foot found Todoroki’s body lying on the ground, and rolled him onto his back. “I thought you were different. Instead you’re just like everyone else. You threw things at me today, and Aizawa pretended not to notice. Both of your behaviours were unacceptable.”

Todoroki sputtered.

Izuku frowned. He released the folded space around Todoroki’s upper half so he could talk.

“I was—gauging your speed,” said Todoroki hoarsely. “You’ve got some sort of speed quirk on you. And—some sort of movement sensory.”

Izuku stilled, and then, “I knew it.”

“You didn’t know?”

“No. How could I have known?” Izuku grinned, feeling something maniacal and violent stir inside his chest. “D’you know what else I’ve got?”

“What?” said Todoroki cautiously.

“An attraction quirk,” whispered Izuku. “I haven’t tried it out yet, maybe I should use it on you.”

Todoroki struggled, but there was no space for his legs to move. They were locked in place as if by invisible ropes. Izuku laughed, crouching down beside him and patting Todoroki on the shoulder.

“Shouto, the truth is, I don’t like you either. I’ve never really liked you,” said Izuku. “You’re all rich and princely, and probably’s never gone a night without proper food, and that really annoys me. But that’s not why I’m doing this. I want you to know that I gave you a chance. I thought we could be friends, but you attacked me and made really hurtful assumptions—”

“Midoriya—”

Izuku covered Todoroki’s mouth with his hand. “That’s not my name. You know what you’ve got to do? You’ve got to get rid of your prejudice if you want to be a hero. Everything in this world isn’t black and white. I know I’ve killed some people, but I’ve saved some too.” Izuku shrugged. “And I think about it everyday, about the people who died because of me, about how I don’t deserve to be here, but also how unfair it is that people like you look down on people like me.” Izuku grabbed Todoroki’s jaw harshly. “Stay still.”

He closed his eyes and saw Todoroki in colour, blue and white and red, lost and pure and suffering, a deep shade of barely controlled anger buried under a cold surface. That was a different quirk. He tried again.

Attraction, he thought, what was that like? It was more than just interest, rooted far into a person’s being — their likes, their dislikes — how could he manipulate them? He imagined a magnet at the core of Todoroki’s colours, a glowing golden leash in Izuku’s mind-hand. He yanked, watched the gold ignite into friction of sparks in his mind, and then he opened his eyes.

Todoroki had stopped struggling. His colours had changed. The blue had dulled, the white was tainted pink, and the red was lost. Something else had replaced this last, something that felt like Shinsou when Izuku had kissed him, like Tomura’s fingers coiling around his throat, and Bakugou’s burst of insanity when Izuku had overpowered him.

“Shouto?” he asked, anxious. “How do you feel?”

“I’m sorry,” Todoroki suddenly said, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”

“Whoa,” said Izuku. He scrambled away, spooked. “Did it really work? Or are you just pretending? I wouldn’t get it past you to try and fool me.”

Todoroki said nothing.

“If I release the space around you, will you attack me?” asked Izuku.

“Only if you want me to.”

“No,” squawked Izuku. “I don’t want you to. Don’t attack me. You’ve been trying to analyse me, haven’t you? My quirks? Can you tell me about them? Tell me what you know.”

“What do you want to know?” asked Todoroki.

“About the attraction quirk. How does it work? It’s supposed to help me adjust to life at school, but all it’s done is give me trouble. Especially with that Bakugou guy — he really hates me.”

Todoroki nodded and tried to nuzzle against Izuku’s side. “I know that it’s an emitter type quirk where range is not applicable. Distance doesn’t negate the effectiveness of your quirk, and judging from your interactions with others so far, what this quirk does is peak a person’s interest in you and compromise their inhibitions. A person’s level of interest varies in shape and form. For example, Shinsou Hitoshi. He most likely already found you attractive, and the quirk amplifies his intimate interest towards you while compromising his inhibition to refuse you.”

Izuku flushed. “Oh.”

“Example number two, Bakugou Katsuki. His interest towards you takes form of animosity, or a deep-seated inferiority complex. Your quirk enhances his displeasure and prohibits his already compromised ability to keep his anger under control.”

“Well, that explains a lot.” Izuku chuckled darkly. “I’ll learn to control it, then I’ll turn it off when I’m around him then. Well, thanks. I’ll release you now.”

He did.

Suddenly, there were hands in his hair, mouth against his cheek, and Todoroki’s breath heavy in his ear. Izuku squirmed, falling onto his back. The ice was melting, seeping into the back of his uniform.

Izuku shoved him off.

“Sorry,” breathed Todoroki. “I’ve noticed that classmates like you far quicker than people normally decide to like someone. Have you noticed? They’ve only met you twice, Izuku, but they are worried about you. That’s why they asked me to come after you. They didn’t think it was fair, what the police are doing.”

“Is it—is it because of this quirk that made them like me?”

“Perhaps,” said Todoroki. “However, I do understand their thinking. They feel responsible for your well-being while you’re at Yuuei. They want to help you just like me.”

“Like you? But you hurt me.”

“I apologise for attacking you,” said Todoroki quickly. “I felt betrayed. I thought that perhaps you’re indeed working with a villain organisation like Mr Aizawa suspected.” He tried to slow his breathing. “Please turn down your quirk. It’s incredibly difficult to keep myself from thinking about you.”

Izuku got up and said, almost cruelly, “Maybe you should stay that way. If you want to protect me like you say you do, then don’t tell Aizawa what happened.” He straightened his clothes. “You hurt me, Shouto. I can’t trust you right now, so you’ve got to earn my trust.” He turned to leave and said, “Also, don’t follow me.”

Later, while standing in front of the teachers’ lounge, Izuku wondered (only absently) what he had done.

 

*

 

Sensei. Hello?

Ah, Kurogiri. What is it?

I’m terribly sorry but the boy called. It seems he does not want to take part in the tournament.

Now that won’t do. I have raised him so well. Every other villain knows that the boy who has been making the headlines is our property. They will all be watching to see what else he can do.

Like so, Sensei. I managed to convince him to take part, as you have instructed. Also. Upon prompting, he admits to having discovered some of the quirks you have hidden inside him.

Hm, his progress is faster than I have envisioned. This may complicate things. What about his peers? Other than that Bakugou boy, are there any other potential recruits?

Other than the other one I have mentioned, I suspect we will be seeing a lot of Endeavour’s prodigious son, according to our source.

Ah, yes. That will be very interesting. Let us wait and see how Izuku-kun handles them. The eyes you have lurking in Yuuei are doing a great job, I must say.

Thank you, Sensei.

Very good, Kurogiri.

 

*

 

As soon as Izuku stepped into the teacher’s lounge, Aizawa said, “Why the hell are you soaked?”

“I was coming out of the bathroom, and Shouto attacked me,” said Izuku.

“Where is he?” said Aizawa, concerned.

Something akin to agitation clawed at Izuku’s chest. He bit out, “I don’t know, sir. He probably went back to class—”

“Midoriya Izuku!” said a lively voice from behind Izuku.

“Oh, hello, Mr Toshinori.”

There was a pause, awkward and unprecedented.

“Toshinori, who? I am All Might!”

Izuku frowned. He touched the arm that settled him in the chair and his frown deepened. Muscly, warm, strong and bulky, nothing like Mr Toshinori’s scrawny ones. Still he remained unconvinced. Their energy and colour were exactly the same.

“Are you sure?” he asked.

A signature All Might laugh echoed around the lounge. “Am I sure? Hahaha! Of course I am! For I am, All Might!”

“Okay,” said Izuku simply. He was feeling dizzy. His brain must be playing tricks on him. He did try to manipulate that attraction quirk for the first time after all. He stuck out his hand. “It’s very nice to meet you, All Might, sir.”

All Might shook it enthusiastically, almost dislodging Izuku’s shoulder.

“Er, why am I here? Is it about detention? I heard Bakugou’s receiving two weeks worth of it for attacking me,” said Izuku, “but since I fought back, do I—”

“No, Midoriya, my boy!” said All Might. “I am here to counsel you on the sports tournament! I want you to compete to the best of your ability! Now I hear that you do not wish to participate? I understand how you feel, so I won’t force you!”

“Er,” said Izuku.

“That’s not it,” said Aizawa, irritated. “You can’t bail out of this tournament, Midoriya. You see, Bakugou came first in the national entrance exam, which means that he has to give an abjuration speech at the beginning of the freshmen event. But, at the moment, his reputation with the general public is utter shit, so the media is demanding to hand over the abjuration to you.” Aizawa paused. “It’s already been decided. You have to participate.”

“Okay,” said Izuku easily.

He could feel Aizawa and All Might exchange their confusion.

“What the hell happened to your high horse objection?”

“I changed my mind,” said Izuku. “After Shouto attacked me, I realised there’s going to be fighting anywhere I go. That’s the reality. I know that the police and the school didn’t really allow me to attend Yuuei because they want to give me a chance, and that’s been eating me up for a long time. But right now, I don’t care what they think. I have a dream to fulfil, I have to prove to everyone that people like me can do good in this world too, even if it means fighting without a cause.”

All Might clapped him on the shoulder. “Well done, Midoriya my boy! There’s a difference between those who always aim for the top and those who don’t. It may feel slight at first, but it’s that slight difference that makes the biggest wave in society!”

Aizawa got up and trudged to the door. “I’ll go check on Todoroki.”

 

*

 

“Why did you attack him? I told you to be careful,” said Aizawa, walking Todoroki to the infirmary.

Todoroki said nothing. He only shivered. His pounding heart refused to calm down. He couldn’t get Izuku out of his head.

“You felt betrayed, didn’t you?” said Aizawa.

“No, I—”

“Your plans to draw out his abilities have failed. Your judgment is growing dull, Todoroki,” said Aizawa. “I thought you were more rational than this.”

Todoroki shook his head. His chest ached with something he couldn’t name.

 

*

 

The sky outside was painfully blue and clear, yet Izuku would never know.

After his talk with All Might, Izuku went to look for Shinsou. Maybe they could have lunch together. He felt bad for not contacting him for a whole week. He hadn’t even given Shinsou his number, and he’d forgot to call to let him know.

He was a terrible friend.

Izuku found Shinsou quickly enough, tall among the crowd that had gathered in front of class 1A, where Bakugou was having a shout-down with some guy with white hair and bulging eyes.

“Found you,” he said and laughed.

Shinsou stiffened in his arms. And if Izuku had expected a hug or a kiss, all he received was a cold shoulder. Shinsou shrugged him off and tried to walk away.

“Hitoshi, where are you going?”

Shinsou ignored him.

“Hitoshi,” Izuku called after him, managing to follow him out of the crowd. “Hey, Hitoshi. Are you mad? I’m sorry I haven’t called, lots of things came up and— ow!

Shinsou had suddenly stopped walking and Izuku crashed into his broad back. Shinsou turned around, and Izuku looked at him with an expression of insane hope.

“You’re a cruel one, aren’t you?” spat Shinsou, and Izuku flinched just from how hostile he sounded. “Talking to me like nothing’s wrong. You’re so annoying.”

Izuku opened his mouth and then closed it. His heart had fallen to the bottom of his feet and his eyes began to sting even as his ears still didn’t believe what he’d just heard. He tried to cling onto Shinsou, begged for him to at least explain, but all Shinsou did was scoff and shoved him away, saying bitterly, “I should’ve listened to Todoroki. Instead I went ahead and fell for you. Get a clue, won’t you? I don’t want to see you right now, so get out of my sight.”

When Izuku refused to let go, Shinsou pushed him away and stormed off, hands in his pockets, head thrust downwards. Izuku stood there, feeling confused and alone and misunderstood. No, he wouldn’t let it go this easily. Izuku ran after Shinsou, caught him and turned him around.

“Hitoshi, please tell what’s wrong,” said Izuku.

Leave me alone,” Shinsou spat.

Suddenly, Izuku’s mind went blank. His hands let go of Shinsou even though his brain screamed at him to hold on. He tried to activate his quirk, any quirk, he needed to move, to go after Shinsou, to make up with him.

It began to rain.

 

*

 

“So. A moisture control quirk?” said Kaminari.

Todoroki nodded.

“Oh, man.” Kaminari whistled. “When I saw that Brainwash dude use his quirk on Izuku, I was about to electrify him out of it. Thank god I didn’t. Izuku would’ve been fried.

Izuku shivered under three layers of towels. All Might was here, standing beside Recovery Girl, as Aizawa scrutinised them all. The only reason Kaminari was here was because he had realised before anyone that it was Izuku who was making it rain, thus was able to act promptly by punching him.

“I didn’t know I had it.” Izuku winced. His jaw hurt.

“What a day for discoveries!” said All Might.

Todoroki, who had been inching closer, tried to touch Izuku’s hair, but Izuku swatted his hand away. This did not go unnoticed by Aizawa.

“Brainwash’s got the right to be mad, you know,” said Kaminari good-naturedly. “So stop looking like a kicked puppy.”

“But I don’t know why he’s mad,” mumbled Izuku.

“Maybe you should ask him,” said Kaminari.

“I did!”

“Oh yeah, you did.”

Todoroki rolled his eyes, and Izuku sneezed.

The door to the infirmary opened, and Tsukauchi stepped in. “Sorry to keep you waiting. There was traffic.”

“No problem at all, Tsukauchi!” said All Might.

After the adults exchanged a few words, Tsukauchi brought a chair to sit across from Izuku who sat shivering at the edge of the infirmary bed. Izuku could feel his warmth and friendliness, familiar yet not, and that eased his nerves a little.

“Now, Izuku-kun,” said Tsukauchi soothingly, pulling out his notepad. “I want you to answer my questions truthfully. I did not contact Mr Kurogiri about this; I figured you wouldn’t want me to.”

“I don’t mind,” said Izuku, who believed that Kurogiri would have been able to go through the interrogations better. What if he slipped up and got them in trouble?

“Ah, well, since I’m already here,” said Tsukauchi. “I’d like to know how long you’ve had these quirks.”

Izuku shifted restlessly. “I—I don’t know.”

“Midoriya,” said Aizawa. “Do you understand the situation you’re in? So far, we’ve postponed your interrogations in order to—”

“Izuku couldn’t have had them for long,” said Todoroki suddenly.

“Sorry?” said Tsukauchi. “And, ah, you are…”

“Todoroki Shouto. I heard Izuku on the phone with a man named Kurogiri earlier today. He was trying to figure out an array of quirks. He didn’t sound like he knew about them. I couldn’t let this opportunity go, so I cornered him. We fought,” said Todoroki. “He tried using one of them for the first time on me today—”

“Shouto,” hissed Izuku, reaching out to smack his side.

“Do you want to end up in prison?” said Todoroki, catching Izuku’s hand. “Now everyone’s got proof that you’re in possession of multiple quirks. That connects you to the villain who can grant quirks—”

“Sensei isn’t a villain!” snapped Izuku.

All Might stiffened.

“Hm?” said Aizawa. “What’s this? So you do know the man who can grant quirks.”

Izuku blanched. “I—I’ve never met him. I only ever talked to him on the phone.” He knew he was digging his own grave. “I know Muracchi brought me to Sensei after he found me, because Sensei was the one who cured me.”

“How did this man cure you?” asked Tsukauchi.

“I—I think he gave me a quirk that kept me alive when I was bleeding out. A quirk that kept my heart beating. Somehow.”

“A life longevity quirk,” said Todoroki. “That was what I heard Izuku call it.”

Izuku grimaced.

“Are you aware of any other quirks?” asked Tsukauchi.

“The question we should be asking is,” said Todoroki calmly, “whether Shigaraki Tomura know the whereabouts of this quirk-granting villain, since he was the one who brought Izuku to that man three years ago.”

Shut up, Shouto.” Izuku clenched his fists on his towels. “This has got nothing to do with Muracchi. And Sensei isn’t a villain.”

“Oh, Midoriya, my boy,” said All Might gravely. “How wrong you are.”

Izuku faltered. “What do you mean, All Might?”

“I have fought him,” said All Might, putting a hand on Izuku’s shoulder, “and he has fought me. The man you call Sensei has ruined many lives. He is the only villain who has ever escaped me. I’m afraid you have been fooled all along.”

“But that can’t be,” said Izuku shakily. No, this wasn’t true. He’s got to think. Think.

What should he do? Even if All Might’s words were true, he needed to find out from Sensei himself. He’s got to give his benefactor the benefit of the doubt. But should he even care that Sensei was deemed a villain by these people?

It could just be a misunderstanding.

After all, the heroes had almost killed Tomura for the same reason. The only reason Tomura was spared was because of Izuku. Because he was a kid, and they had thought, a kid couldn’t possibly have done this. It must’ve been a misunderstanding. No, these people standing before him were bias, prejudicial trash of society wearing bright pretty masks. He couldn’t trust them, none of them, not even All Might the Symbol of Peace.

Izuku burst out laughing. Peace? When ever was there peace?

“Izuku?” asked Todoroki, concerned.

Izuku brought his knees to his chest and cradled his head. “Sorry. This is all just too much for me.” He wiped the tears of laughter away and pretended he was crying. “I’m sorry. I’m really tired. And I don’t know anything about this villain. I just know that the people who have ever been nice to me are being called criminals. First Muracchi, and now Sensei—” He hiccuped. “It’s like my whole world has been—has been thrown upside down.” He sobbed.

“I think this is enough for now,” said Kaminari shakily. “I know I’m supposed to be here as an eye witness to Izuku’s moisture thing, but this is his second day at Yuuei and we’re not really leaving a good impression, picking on him like this. We’re just like Bakugou right now.” Kaminari patted Izuku on the back. “If Izuku isn’t a villain before, this is the perfect timing for him to turn into one.”

Izuku sobbed louder.

 

*

 

The evening sun filtered in through the grimy windows, making patchy patterns on the walls, reflecting off the smoke from the camomile incense Aizawa had lit. It made everything look warmer than it really was, soft oranges and yellows, shadows softer and corners fuzzier. Izuku sat at the dinner table across from Aizawa, not feeling like eating anything. His throat was parched as a result of using the moisture control quirk.

Thanks to Kaminari, they had ruled out Izuku’s involvement with any villain organisations. Izuku still didn’t know what Kaminari’s deal was, coming out of nowhere, getting things done and then leaving like none of this was a big deal.

It was Kaminari again, knocking at Aizawa’s front door. Dude, you need to get your mind off all this bullshit, Kaminari had said right after school, How about I pick you up from Aizawa’s place later tonight? I’m sure he won’t mind— Oi, yo! Sir! I’m taking Izuku out tonight. Will be back before ten. Promise.

Kaminari sidled up to Izuku now, warm against his shoulder as they stepped outside. He slung an arm easily around Izuku’s shoulders, saying, “I happen to know where Brainwash spends his evenings when he’s in a bad mood. Wanna go chat it out with him?”

They headed to a PC Room across town in a stolen car — when Kaminari said stolen, he meant he borrowed it from his dad who was too drunk to care — Izuku in the passenger seat, Kaminari smoking at the wheel.

“You smoke?” asked Izuku. “Isn’t that illegal?”

Kaminari laughed, easy and carefree, like everything else about him. “Who cares? People break rules all the time. So, what’s your deal with Bakugou, man? That bastard hates your guts.”

Izuku frowned. “I don’t know. Todoroki said it’s got something to do with my quirk going bad.”

“Speaking of attraction,” said Kaminari loudly, “how did you get Tododo wrapped around your pinky so quickly? He was throwing erasers at you, then he was all touchy by lunch time.”

Izuku flushed. “I tried using the attraction quirk for the first time. On him. That’s terrible of me, isn’t it?”

Kaminari snorted. “And you just left him like that? That is downright hilarious.”

Izuku suddenly felt a little better about it. “He was going to run off and tell on me. I didn’t want that. Do you think it’s wrong?”

“Wrong? What d’you mean, wrong? If I had that quirk, I’d use it all the time!” said Kaminari. “I have this huge crush on Uraraka, dude. But I don’t think she likes me much.”

Izuku smiled. “But you’re so nice. She’s got to like you.”

Kaminari suddenly parked the car. He got out and opened the door for Izuku.

They were here.

“While still on the subject of attraction,” said Kaminari. “This thing you got going with Brainwash.”

“Yeah?”

“There’s an 80% chance that you two will screw, 20% will just be a screw up of emotions, tears and grudge-holding. But from the looks of things, that 80% chance is really small tonight.”

“I’m not sure that’s how percentages work.”

“Don’t be a smartass.” Kaminari rapped him on the head. “Just get in there.”

 

*

 

Even without Kaminari’s help, Izuku located Shinsou easily, immediately picking out his swirl of colours and messed up emotions. Izuku’s heart ached in his stead.

“Hi,” said Izuku softly, entering the cramped private gameroom where Shinsou was sitting cross-legged among stacks upon stacks of mangas and DVDs.

Shinsou looked up, eyes widening and then narrowing just as quickly. Izuku felt Shinsou’s emotions flutter, boredom, hope and hurt. “What do you want?” asked Shinsou, there was no hostility in his voice, only insane sadness.

Izuku fidgeted with his jacket sleeve. “Why are you mad at me? Please tell me.”

There was silence. Shinsou put down his manga. The pale pink in him flared bright red. Anger. “The man you were making out with at the pancake house, was he the one who saved your life?”

“How did you—”

Was he?

Izuku flinched. “Yes,” he breathed. “He was.”

Shinsou nodded, locking his jaw. “You tell me, Izuku,” he whispered, voice breaking under the strain of frustration, “how I’m supposed to compete with that.”

 

Chapter Text

 

Sensei. The boy has finally made contact with the Symbol of Peace.

Very good, Kurogiri. See to it that Izuku-kun does not forget his task. He may need a little incentive.

Yes, Sensei. I understand.

 

*

 

Tomura swirled his glass and watched the drink slosh onto the counter.

He took sick satisfaction in seeing Kurogiri frown. This mist of a man could do nothing but frown, because he was ultimately beneath him. He had known this since the start but had only come to understand what it meant.

“The police has been to see Izuku-kun after the activation of his moisture quirk,” said Kurogiri, “They have confirmed the connection between the boy and Sensei. According to our source, further protocols are delayed due to the Symbol of Peace’s involvement.” Kurogiri wiped the spill with a rag. “All Might is under the impression that Midoriya Izuku is innocent.”

“I don’t care,” said Tomura.

From the start, the reason Sensei had chosen Izuku was for this. Tomura had put so much time and effort into Izuku only for Sensei to throw him away.

Tomura scowled.

He hated All Might. He hated that Izuku had met that man. He hated knowing that Izuku was now at the mercy of those scum heroes. But—

But it was what Sensei wanted.

Tomura was not stupid; he knew that he would never be as clever as Sensei or Izuku. That was why—that was why he couldn’t understand them. Everything Sensei had done had always worked out in their favour, so there was no reason — no reason at all — for Tomura to feel so, so

Tomura tried to calm his breathing.

“You have not been honest with yourself lately, Shigaraki Tomura,” said Kurogiri. “What is it that you are hiding?”

Tomura glared into his drink. The ice had long melted away, and he had no intention of finishing it.

“‘I believe in the possibility of happiness,’” recited Tomura, “‘if one cultivates intuition and outlives the grosser passions, including optimism.’” Tomura put down his glass. “What the hell does that mean?”

Kurogiri sighed and placed down his rag. “There are more pressing matters to discuss than your new hobby. Are you prepared to meet the hero killer?”

What are you willing to sacrifice to right a wrong?

 

*

 

Darkness had descended by the time Izuku made it back to Aizawa’s house, dragging along his bloodstained jacket, which he dumped on the dining table before Aizawa.

“You’re covered in blood,” said Aizawa from behind his newspapers.

“Mine,” said Izuku, trudging blindly towards the bathroom.

Shinsou had refused to let Izuku talk, trying to send him away just as he opened his mouth. You don’t have to. It’s not a competition. These words never got to leave his mouth, instead Izuku had knocked over stacks of DVDs and mangas just to get to where Shinsou was, blind — more ways than one — in his attempt to reconcile with his friend. He had planned to take the attraction quirk away, if it meant Shinsou would stop hurting.

Your feelings for me are not real, he remembered telling Shinsou this, and the next thing he knew, a sharp pain slammed into his jaw, sending him sprawling out of the booth.

“Don’t tell me my feelings aren’t real,” Shinsou spat, emerging and shaking with anger.

“But—”

“Leave,” hissed Shinsou.

“Hitoshi, listen to me—”

Don’t let me use my quirk on you.”

If Izuku hadn’t believed Shinsou was capable of violence, he had been wrong.

Izuku scrunched his eyes and groaned. He’d screwed up. If he had just let Shinsou hit him without taunting back, he might get to still talk to him afterwards. Instead, Izuku’s first reaction was to hit back just as hard. He shuddered, remembering the way Shinsou’s body stretched beneath him, the way his sharp teeth sunk into Izuku’s wrist, the way the flesh of Shinsou’s throat felt when Izuku had squeezed—

You don’t understand, you’ll never understand, Shinsou had said, and it had pissed Izuku off even more. Someone like you—

“Someone like me?” Izuku had spat back. “What d’you mean? Of course, I understand.” Izuku snatched Shinsou by the collar. “You’re the one who doesn’t understand a thing. You think you’re in love with me? You think you’re in pain?” Izuku said. “Don’t be stupid, Hitoshi. All of this are just shadows of the real thing! You’ve got no idea what heartbreak feels like. Everything between us so far is a lie.”

Izuku had laughed at Shinsou’s rage, for no reason at all but to be cruel. He was starting to hate this quirk, this hellish quirk that was more trouble than it was worth. Izuku remembered bending down until their foreheads touched. When he turned off his attraction quirk, Shinsou’s colours immediately dulled and he stopped struggling.

Izuku let out a sob. “When you wake up tomorrow, Hitoshi, you’ll find that you don’t like me as much as you think you do. And you won’t be in pain any more.”

When Izuku released him and left, Shinsou did not fight back nor run after him. This was how it was supposed to be since the beginning. Shinsou wouldn’t have liked Izuku at all, if it hadn’t been for that stupid quirk.

When Izuku stepped outside, Kaminari took one look at him and sighed. He opened the door for Izuku and patted him sympathetically on the back. Izuku had fallen asleep a little later, temple bumping against the coolness of the passenger window. I never meant to hurt you.

Outside, it had begun to rain.

 

*

 

At Yuuei, things were the same. Or as the same as things at Yuuei could be. Everybody was nice to him, except for Bakugou who was half-nice, but also very pissed that he had to serve detention everyday until the sports tournament. Bakugou was half-nice in that he wasn’t really around to pick fights or shove Izuku out of the way, which left Izuku feeling a little bit lost, especially now that his routine at school had begun to settle and Shinsou was certainly out of the picture.

Izuku had sensed him once or twice passing through a corridor or on the other side of the cafeteria, but Shinsou’s emotions had dulled so much that his colours became parched and almost unrecognisable. There still was profound sadness that lingered inside him, a loss he couldn’t quite shake off, which Izuku was sure had nothing to do with them not being friends any more. It was like he had been born that way, hating and wishing for rain.

In this sense, he was just like Tomura.

This realisation made Izuku feel empty on the inside.

Hadn’t he all this time chased after Shinsou in search for some passion-ridden afterimage of Tomura? It was crazy how much Izuku had been led astray by his own heart that even his head couldn’t keep up. He found himself chuckling darkly into his cereal on Wednesday morning.

With the sports tournament approaching, more media gathered at Yuuei. They stopped Izuku before he entered school.

“I’ll be giving an address at the sports tournament,” said Izuku into what he hoped was a mic. “Anything you need to know about me will be answered there. Thank you.”

When Izuku turned to leave, a lady reporter grabbed him. Then the crowd suddenly catcalled as Bakugou shoved his way through the media, throwing insults at them in his wake. Izuku twisted out of the woman’s grasp and flung himself at Bakugou.

“I—”

“Come on, you loser,” growled Bakugou, tightening his hand over Izuku’s and dragging him into school.

The media called after them in both rage and confusion. Why are you two holding hands? Aren’t you rivals? Aren’t you supposed to hate him? Hey! Bakugou screamed something particular graphic back at them, throwing Izuku into Todoroki’s arms, about to go out and beat the sunlight out of the catcallers. Their classmates managed to calm him down before anything could happen, and the first period began shortly after. For the rest of that day, Izuku thought a lot about Shinsou and Tomura, even as he talked to Todoroki about his quirks.

“You were right about Blasty, I think,” said Izuku. “I turned off my attraction quirk, and he didn’t blast me away. Or do you think it was just because he was still half-asleep?”

Todoroki was leaning particularly close to him as they stood beside the vending machine. When he spoke again, his voice sounded pleading. “You’ve turned off your attraction for Bakugou. Will you please turn off mine?”

“No.” And then, “If you can get Shinsou to talk to me again, then maybe I will.”

Todoroki took Izuku’s wrist. “I highly recommend you steer clear from him. These wounds are only beginning to heal. He’s got very sharp teeth, hasn’t he?”

“Don’t worry about it,” said Izuku.

“That’s exactly the point, isn’t it? I cannot stop worrying.”

“Er, I think I’ll go help Blasty print out flyers,” said Izuku, untangling his arm from Todoroki’s hand and backing away.

Todoroki frowned. “That’s a very bad idea.”

“Don’t worry. He shouldn’t bite now.”

 

*

 

He was proud, Bakugou was, proud and pissy and scary-talented. Izuku didn’t so much as hate Bakugou as he was baffled by him, by his rage, his hatred. And if there was fear thrown in there, Izuku didn’t recognise it.

“Hey, Blasty!”

Bakugou tilted his head back from where he sat, a swivel chair beside the printer that was whirring out flyers for the sports tournament. His legs were propped lazily on the computer desk.

“The hell do you want, thundercunt?” grumbled Bakugou.

“That’s not very nice.” Izuku frowned. “Do you need any help?” He made his way into the room, and heard Bakugou let out a low snarl. The glass door closed behind Izuku.

“Do I look like I need your help, fuckmunch?”

Izuku grinned and went to where Bakugou’s voice came from. His foot hit against the leg of Bakugou’s chair. “I should’ve got detention too.”

“You go tell that to Aizawa,” said Bakugou. All of a sudden, calloused hand grabbed Izuku’s face, tilting his head downwards. “My face is down here, dipshit. Stop staring at the crack on the wall like a goddamn retard.”

Izuku snickered. “I’m sorry. You do realise I can’t see you anyway right?”

Bakugou yanked at Izuku’s hair. “It’s just good manners.”

“You talk to me about manners?” Izuku asked, bending down to rest his hand on the back of Bakugou’s chair and waited for Bakugou to tell him to fuck off.

But Bakugou only growled.

Izuku felt his own face soften. “I should have got detention too. It’s not fair that Aizawa— ow!

Bakugou swivelled his chair around and kicked Izuku in the ribs. “I don’t need your pity, asshole!”

“I’m not pitying you.” Izuku rubbed at his side.

“Get the hell out of here, Deku. You piss me the fuck off.”

“Why are you always so rude?” Izuku snapped. “I don’t understand why you hate me. As far as I’m concerned, I never did anything to hurt you.”

Bakugou got up and kicked his chair back. It rolled away and hit the wall. He let out a snarl, but if Izuku had expected a fight, Bakugou only shouldered past him to get to the printer.

“As far as you know,” Bakugou said under his breath.

Izuku frowned. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Bakugou gathered his papers and left the room.

Izuku sighed and ran a hand through his hair. For the rest of the day, Izuku tried not to care.

Later that night, he called Kurogiri but nobody picked up. Izuku came out of his room, phone still in hand, and walked into Aizawa who was putting on his scarf.

“Where are you going, sir?”

“Hero business,” said Aizawa.

Izuku frowned. “At two in the morning?”

“A villain’s been cutting down a bunch of heroes, surely you’ve heard,” grunted Aizawa. “That bastard’s been sighted near Hosu. And I’m on night patrol.”

Izuku perked up. “Can I go too?”

“No.”

“Please? If you’re going near Hosu, then I wanna see Muracchi.” Izuku frowned. “Neither Kurogiri nor Muracchi is picking up. I’m worried.”

Aizawa narrowed his eyes. “I’m sure they can take care of themselves.”

“But—”

Stay.” Aizawa left, leaving Izuku standing alone in the middle of the hallway.

 

*

 

“Did you tell the boy?” said Best Jeanist.

“Why should I?” said Aizawa.

“He has the right to know, don’t you think?”

“As far as I’m concerned, this has nothing to do with him.”

 

*

 

Tomura’s shoulder spurted blood from the wound inflicted by the hero killer’s blade. He clutched at it and locked his jaw. He glared at the man who stood over him and pulled his mouth back so that his teeth showed. Behind the bar, Kurogiri was leaning against the counter, panting, his body riddled with blood immobility.

“You criminal filths have nothing to show,” sneered the hero killer. “Tell me. What have you done to right this world?”

“Who the hell cares when this world is filled with trash?” snapped Tomura. He got to his feet and spat on the floor. “Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I want to have you around. I was only interested to hear what you’ve got to say. But if you’re gonna get violent for no reason, then you’re not as smart as I thought you were.”

“Shigaraki—” Kurogiri started.

Shut the hell up.

The hero killer twisted his remaining blade and stepped forward. “Violent for no reason? You’re a funny man. I am never violent for no reason.”

“Get the fuck out of here. You attacked me—”

“I tested your mettle. Those at death’s door always express their true colours.” The hero killer grinned without humour. “You’re an odd one, you know. A sprout of a crooked creed dwell inside you. You want to crush All Might, you say? Society is trash, you say? I agree with you to that extent. But until you are able to ascertain your very own ideal, what reason is there to destroy this world?”

Tomura narrowed his eyes. The wound on his shoulder throbbed. In the dim glow of the scruffy bar, Tomura thought of Izuku and that brat’s stupid ambition and his foolish smile. He thought of the flat they lived in, white on white on white, airy linens and book shelves that reached from the floor to the ceiling and eyes that could not read. He thought of his own hands that had disintegrated the hero killer’s blade, the same hands that had wrapped around Izuku’s thin arms. He thought of Izuku looking up at him, blinking indistinctly, morning light catching on his eyelashes. Have you been reading without me?

“I want to create a world,” said Tomura, “where the underprivileged aren’t looked down upon. This world where the weak must succumb to the strong is not good enough for me.” He sat heavily on the stool and turned his back to the hero killer. Recite something, please? Tomura chuckled, cold and bitter to the dregs. “Heroes became scums the moment their simple acts of providing protection to the weak started meriting compensation. Peace, they say. Justice, they say? I’m gonna take the heap of trash that’s been covered by a lid of vague platitudes and demolish it.” He clenched his hand before him. “And seeing as All Might’s the lid of that trash heap, I’m gonna have to remove that lid to do my work. That is my creed.”

There was silence, broken by the sounds of their breaths. Footsteps closed in on Tomura’s side and another stool scraped the floor. Blades and chains clinked together as the hero killer sat down beside him.

“A world where the strong do not take advantage of the weak? So, you are the man of the people,” said the hero killer. “Just looking at you, I would have thought otherwise. Well, I wonder what fruits will our alliance bear.”

Tomura blinked through the haze of pain.

 

*

 

“Dude, are you sure this is okay?” said Kaminari.

“Why not? We just have to get back before Mr Aizawa does.”

Kaminari lifted one hand from the steering wheel to scratch his head. “That’s true but—what if it’s dangerous?”

Izuku frowned. “If it’s dangerous then all the more reason I should be there. Isn’t that something heroes are supposed to do?”

“Er, well. That’s true,” said Kaminari. “I’m just a little scared of, er, this hero killer guy. He only targets heroes but what if—”

“You can just drop me off, Denki,” said Izuku. “I’m only gonna go check on things at the bar. Kurogiri did say they have a troublesome customer coming in.”

There was silence. And then, “Izuku, dude. You don’t think—you don’t think that this troublesome customer can actually be…”

Izuku paled. “No way.”

“But you said the hero killer was sighted near there and—”

“But why would Kurogiri and Sensei bring in a villain—” Izuku stopped. “There’s got to be an explanation. I’ll just…ask Muracchi…but it’s not like it’s true, anyway, so…”

Kaminari suddenly stopped the car. The wheels screeched loudly on the asphalt.

Ow! What—”

“Dude, isn’t that Aizawa and — whoa! — Best Jeanist, the number four hero!” Kaminari gaped. “What are they doing standing in front of that building? Well, not like you can see, but…”

“What? Where?”

Izuku quickly activated his vision. There Aizawa was, standing with his arms crossed, back to the main road, beside Best Jeanist. And if Izuku wasn’t wrong, he could see Mr Toshinori there as well, leaning against the boot of the police car. Izuku frowned. What was Mr Toshinori doing there on hero business? Two policemen stood with him while Detective Tsukauchi sat in the driver’s seat talking on the police radio. Izuku felt his stomach lurch when he realised that the building they were in front of was the entrance to Kurogiri’s bar.

“But—” he swallowed.

Kaminari suddenly reversed his car and drove away.

“Wait! Where are you—”

“I’m just gonna park the car over here, dude. Unless you want them to see us,” said Kaminari. “Oh gods, I’m sweating like crazy. What if the hero killer shows up? We’re so dead. Look, look, look, this is what we’re gonna do.” Kaminari tried to calm his breathing. The car swerved sideways as he parked it inside an alley with a dead-end. “I’ll, er, show up in front of Aizawa and pretend I’m taking a stroll—”

“At 3 in the morning?”

“—and while they’re distracted, you go inside the bar and warn your friends, got it? If the heroes and the police are here, then the hero killer must be close by. And in case he’s inside the bar, all the more reason you need to—”

“But how do you even know the bar’s there when I didn’t even say—”

“It’s obvious from the look on your face!” said Kaminari. He opened the door.

Izuku got out too. His heart was pounding madly in his ears. Kaminari’s plan was crazy. What the hell was going on? Izuku fumbled with his phone. He tried calling Kurogiri again but again no one picked up. This made him even more anxious. It also made him brave. He was going to get to the bottom of this. But first…

 

*

 

The glasses on the shelves shattered in a sudden rush of violence, shards shredding Tomura’s palms. They hit the floor in keen, quick notes after he plucked them out, his skin bled.

Kurogiri sighed. “Must you destroy my bar?”

The hero killer laughed, low and grating. “He is quite invested, isn’t he, in keeping up appearances.” He whipped out his blade. “I might as well help you out with this little charade while we wait for your asset to show up.”

The door to the bar suddenly burst open just as the hero killer swung his blade at Tomura, who dodged, barely, by throwing himself onto the floor. Pain seared across his injured shoulder and he groaned.

“Muracchi! What’s going on?”

“What great timing you have.” The hero killer turned on his heels to face Izuku.

Izuku balled his fists and gritted his teeth. “You—what did you do to Muracchi?”

“Nothing he doesn’t deserve,” said the hero killer, swinging his blade at Izuku.

Izuku yelped and dodged. Just like with Bakugou, he slid through the hero killer’s legs, and clumsily grasped at the space around the moving blade, meaning to halt its movement but instead snapping it right in half. It fell on the ground, slicing into the floorboard. Izuku gulped.

“What keen eyes you have for a boy so blind,” said the hero killer.

“Get away!” shouted Izuku. He stepped back until his foot hit against Tomura’s body, lying limp on the floor. “Muracchi…” Izuku fought back his tears and raised his fists. “Don’t come any closer. I’ll fight you.”

The hero killer tilted his head and dropped the hilt of his broken blade. “Oh, but I’m not here to fight. I’ll be keeping an eye out for you during the sports tournament, Midoriya Izuku. Do not disappoint me.” His gaze slanted towards Kurogiri who stood rigid among shattered glass. “Kurogiri, if you would be so kind and send me back to Hosu.”

“Yes, of course,” said Kurogiri tightly.

Dark purple mist sprouted in front of the door and engulfed the hero killer. The last Izuku saw of him was a sickening grin. A cold hand circled around Izuku’s ankle. He turned around and dropped onto his knees beside Tomura.

Blood pooled behind Tomura’s back, colouring the tips of his light hair a dark red. Izuku could barely hear the footsteps that were stampeding into the bar. He registered voices, Aizawa’s, Best Jeanist’s, Toshinori’s… and all Izuku could do was stare at Tomura, who blinked blearily up at him.

“Why did you come?”

“You weren’t answering your phone, so I…”

Tomura brought his hand up to Izuku’s face bringing him down until their noses touched. “It’s Kurogiri. He brought the hero killer; you can’t trust him,” whispered Tomura so only Izuku could hear. “And the heroes, they knew a villain was here, didn’t they? They were standing outside, weren’t they? I waited, and waited. Why didn’t they help me?”

Defiance boiled in Izuku’s veins as he wrapped Tomura in his arms, blood soaking into the sleeves of his shirt. Izuku shook his head. “You’re right but don’t worry about that now. Muracchi, you’re losing so much blood.”

Izuku watched Tomura’s eyelids flutter, watched a hint of a smile twist the corners of his scarred mouth, felt Tomura’s cold hand on his scalp as his fingers tangled in Izuku’s hair. Izuku kissed him, before letting the paramedics pull him away.

Sitting in the pool of Tomura’s blood, all Izuku felt was hatred that rotted into his very core. Heroes were truly despicable.

 

*

 

What are you willing to sacrifice to right a wrong?

“You were just standing there! Why?” Izuku screamed through his tears. “I can’t trust any of you, plotting to take down Muracchi when he was the one who needed your help.” Izuku scrubbed angrily at his face, the dampness of Tomura’s blood on his sleeves smearing across his face. “Why didn’t any of you believe me when I said Muracchi is innocent? If I hadn’t gone there while you were all busy planning to raid the bar, Muracchi would’ve been dead, and it’d be your fault!”

The grown ups sat solemnly inside Tsukauchi’s office while Izuku stood raging in the middle of the room. Kaminari was by the glass door, shaking with nerves and covered in cold sweat.

Toshinori fidgeted in his chair. “We sincerely apologise, Midoriya my boy.”

“My name isn’t Midoriya, and your apology isn’t enough,” snapped Izuku. “What sort of heroes are you? Time and time again, you keep disappointing me. First you tried to kill Muracchi, and then you tried to arrest us, then you separated me from him, and tonight you were just content to let him die because you don’t like him?”

“That’s not why—”

“No, Mr Toshinori,” said Izuku heatedly. “This has nothing to do with you. I’m talking to the trash of society who are claiming themselves to be heroes.” Izuku snapped his head in Aizawa’s direction, hoping his pale eyes would bore holes into the man. “I hate you. I’ll become a hero greater than you, greater than even All Might, and I’ll tear the fakes like you to pieces.” Toshinori choked. Aizawa narrowed his eyes. Izuku gritted his teeth. “I protected Muracchi from the hero killer tonight. I can do it again. And I won’t protect only Muracchi. I’ll protect anyone whose life you try to ruin with your so-called justice! I’ll protect this whole world from filth like you! Keep your eyes on me and don’t you dare blink, Aizawa. You’ll be sorry soon enough.”

 

*

 

The afternoon sun tilted into the glass at an angle that made Tomura squint. He could make out a yellow garden, barks and leaves baked lifeless.

A week had passed.

“Have you eaten?” asked Izuku. His steps clicked across the hospital room when he entered.

Izuku sat down at the edge of the mattress and dropped his schoolbag at his feet. Izuku took off his shoes and scurried under the blanket beside Tomura, who turned his head just a little in acknowledgement.

“You should eat something,” said Izuku softly. “You’re so pale.”

Tomura said nothing.

Izuku sighed. “The sports tournament is tomorrow. I’ll win for sure. I’ll win and I’ll show everyone how wrong they are about you, about us, about the heroes that they think are so great.” Izuku pecked him on the cheek. “Please cheer up.”

Tomura stared at their interlaced hands and frowned. “Kurogiri came by today.”

Izuku stiffened.

“He’s renovating the bar the hero killer trashed with the compensation money he got.”

“The police guarding your room just let him in to see you?” asked Izuku coldly.

Tomura shrugged.

“Incompetent idiots,” hissed Izuku. “I told Tsukauchi he can’t be trusted and yet—what’s so funny?”

Tomura had snorted. He was now shaking his head.

Izuku’s face softened. “I know I shouldn’t talk like this. They probably have this room bugged.”

“I’m tired,” said Tomura, laying down on the hospital bed. He hated being here. He hated having to pretend to be traumatised and sick and weak. The scratchy linen of the sheets made it hard to stay still. The wound on his shoulder was nothing compared to the stitches that irritated his skin.

Izuku slid his fingers over Tomura’s bare feet, making him squirm in discomfort. The brat was marvelling, like an idiot, at Tomura’s calves, then he traced his fingers up Tomura’s knees carefully, pressing his mouth to them.

“What the hell are you doing?” grumbled Tomura.

Izuku looked up at him, from where he crouched between Tomura’s thighs, and smiled shyly. The blanket had pooled at the foot of the bed. Sliding his hand into Tomura’s hospital garb, Izuku bit his lip and asked, “May I?”

Tomura looked away. “Whatever.”

Izuku grinned and scooted up to kiss him, easy and sweet, hands stroking Tomura to hardness, across nerve-endings, spiking his desire and madness. Tomura didn’t know that this was possible for him. He heard his own quickened breaths mixed with Izuku’s moans, even though Izuku wasn’t the one being touched. Tomura pushed his head into the pillow and scrunched his eyes.

“Relax,” Izuku whispered. “Don’t be afraid.”

I’m not,” hissed Tomura.

“Are you close?”

“I—” Tomura swallowed.

Then the weight on his chest disappeared. And he opened his eyes to Izuku’s head disappearing between his thighs.

“What are you—” Tomura bit his lip and groaned loudly when Izuku suddenly took him into his mouth. He saw white light shining through his eyelids, a spike of promise and pleasure, and he came, sweating and panting like an animal. When his breaths calmed down again, he opened his eyes to Izuku looking down on him, bright-eyed and curious, mouth slick and swollen.

“That was disgusting,” said Tomura, refusing to look at him.

He could hear the smile in Izuku’s voice, as the boy snuggled into his uninjured side, saying, “No, it wasn’t. Did it feel good? Was that your first time?”

Tomura squirmed.

“I love you, Muracchi,” whispered Izuku. “I’ll do anything for you.” He wrapped his arms around Tomura’s waist and pecked him on the cheek.

Tomura could feel Izuku’s own hardness rubbing against his side and he tried not to take notice.

“Will you win?” grumbled Tomura.

Izuku chuckled into his ear, sending goosebumps down Tomura’s neck. “Of course, I’ll win.”

“I don’t mean just the tournament,” he said.

“I’ll win everything, and I’ll give everything to you,” whispered Izuku.

The words squeezed painfully at Tomura’s chest, disorienting him for a moment. He tried to get back on track, tried to recall everything he should say. He turned his head to face Izuku, grimaced at this brat’s flushed face and red lips, and leaned in to kiss him. Izuku reciprocated with a noise of surprise, and then Tomura had his mouth full of Izuku’s tongue. Tasting himself in the back of Izuku’s throat, he grimaced and pulled away to breathe.

Brushing Izuku’s hair back, the most gentle he’d ever been, he leaned in again and mouthed against Izuku’s cheek, “I want All Might’s power. You’ll get it for me.”

Izuku smiled, starry-eyed and sickeningly in love. “Anything for you.”

 

*

 

Tomura has been procured by the heroes. I could not speak freely when I visited him since the police have installed listening devices in the room.

This is uncalled for, Kurogiri. I wonder what went wrong?

Sensei, I believe it’s most likely Izuku-kun. He has been acting—

No, no, that cannot be. I have engineered the boy so perfectly. This has to be Tomura’s own doing. He is finally thinking for himself but at the most inconvenient time.

That is very unlikely—

You have been underestimating Tomura’s growth, Kurogiri. Do not look down on him. We have planned it so that his recruitment of the hero killer will fail, however, that was not the case. What is more, the hero killer went along with the plan upon Tomura’s disclosure. That is beyond expected; we did not account for Tomura to succeed since the very beginning, therefore we failed to look at the variables of the events that followed. Izuku-kun showing up had been part of the plan, renewing his resolve and loyalty was our objective, but the heroes taking care of Tomura’s injuries and antagonising you in turn were not. Do you not see where I am going with this, Kurogiri?

Sensei, you do not mean—

I do. I am afraid Tomura has turned against you. He no longer trusts you.

But I—

Renew his trust, Kurogiri. You cannot look after him if he no longer trusts you. And if you were to fail, I will be very disappointed.

Yes, Sensei. I understand.

 

*

 

It was time.

Todoroki cornered Izuku in the locker room right before they were called to their freshmen stage. He pushed Izuku into the lockers, ice hand coiled dangerously around his throat.

The boys in the class stopped and stared.

“You’ll release me from this quirk,” said Todoroki coldly. “It has been fun and games so far, however, today I cannot afford to be swayed by your influence.”

Izuku squirmed.

“Hey. You can’t threaten him like that before the game,” said Ojiro hastily. “That’s a little unethical.”

“That’s right! That is not fair play,” said Iida.

Todoroki snapped, “This has nothing to do with you. Izuku’s been—”

“Been what?” said Izuku, who broke into a grin. “Weren’t you the one who’s always been thinking about me?”

“But that’s because you influenced me with your quirk,” hissed Todoroki.

Izuku suddenly frowned, taking care to look sincere about it. “Shouto, I released you from my quirk ages ago.”

Todoroki faltered. His grip around Izuku’s neck loosened. “What—since when—”

“Since Muracchi was hospitalised. I realised I don’t need anyone else but him. I wanted you to stop following me around because I can’t afford to be burdened by you but,” Izuku paused, “it seemed like that didn’t stop you from following me.”

Todoroki backed away.

Izuku rubbed at his throat. “I didn’t tell you, Shouto, because I thought you might be embarrassed to find out that your feelings for me are real.”

Todoroki flushed and quickly turned away. “That couldn’t be.”

“It’s the truth.” Izuku shrugged. “If you don’t believe me, why don’t we go find Aizawa right now? We’ll force him to use his quirk on me, and then you’ll know.”

Among his peers came waves of whispers and confusion. What the hell are they talking about? No idea, dude. Isn’t Midoriya’s quirk space manipulation? What did Todoroki mean by influence? Wait—feelings for Midoriya?

Izuku patted Todoroki on the shoulder. “You’re strong and smart and so self-aware. My quirk probably didn’t have that much effect on you since the beginning, that’s what I think. You can defeat me no problem, can’t you? You basically have two quirks while everybody else has only one. If that doesn’t give you the advantage then I don’t know what will. So stop worrying about something as insignificant as your attraction towards me.”

Todoroki turned even redder as whispers grew louder among his peers. Izuku held back a grin and stepped away just as Bakugou appeared out of nowhere and punched Izuku in the chest. Izuku staggered with a yelp.

“My mum told me to give this to you,” grumbled Bakugou.

Izuku cradled his chest and then froze. What he had thought was a punch was actually Bakugou handing him a present, which was a homemade cookie, now crushed to pieces.

“Er, thank you. What is it?”

Bakugou rubbed his nose and turned away. “Some stupid ass good luck cookie with a note that says ‘I’ll be cheering for you, Izuku-kun’.”

Izuku blinked. “Shouldn’t she be cheering for you?”

“That’s what I’d like to know,” growled Bakugou.

“Tell your mum thank you! She probably knows that you’re gonna win in the end, since you never back down to anyone—”

Bakugou smacked him across the head. “Asshole! I know what you’re trying to do. Stop rubbing at everybody’s ego and tripping them up! You’ve got something up your sleeves, don’t you?”

“I’m just trying to be nice, since I unintentionally stole your abjuration!” Izuku winced.

The alarm went off, alerting that it was their class’s turn to appear in the arena. The door to the boy’s locker room opened, and Momo poked her head in.

“Come on, guys. Are you ready?” She asked.

“Yes, ma’am!”

“Let’s go!”

“Woohoo, everyone!”

“Yeah!”

They entered the arena to deafening cheers and boos and Present Mic screaming out of the speakers. The boos were for Bakugou who was just short of giving everyone, including those watching at home, the middle finger. Izuku laughed and latched onto Bakugou like they were the best of friends.

“Come on! Don’t throw me off. If they think we’re friends, they’ll hate you less,” said Izuku enthusiastically.

“Why, you—” Bakugou fumed.

“Your mother is watching, right?”

That got Bakugou to calm down. He looked away from Izuku but didn’t shove him off.

“Why the hell would you care?” he grumbled.

“I have no idea,” said Izuku as they made their way to the centre stage. “I wish I can hate you properly, but for some reason…” Izuku trailed off as the heroine Midnight began to speak. He tried to locate Shinsou in the crowd without using his vision, since he had to be economical with it, and found him to the side of the stage, skulking by himself.

He let go of Bakugou and edged his way towards Shinsou without really meaning to. He tripped his way through the crowd that quickly parted for him when they saw that it was the blind boy from class 1A who had not only survived the Shizuoka Massacre but also recently stood against the hero killer. Izuku knew what they were thinking, he could feel them, their emotions and curiosity and awe and fear lapping at him like waves as they parted.

He stopped right behind Shinsou, and he was suddenly nervous. He had meant to call out, to touch Shinsou, to do something, not just stand frozen like an idiot. But Izuku’s heart was pounding madly in his ears, and he was afraid. What if Shinsou pushed him away? Rejected him? Why of all times did he decide to approach Shinsou now? He was an idiot, oh gods.

Izuku had been so focused on his worries that he hadn’t realised Midnight had called for him. He was taken out of his reverie only when his schoolmates nudged him.

“Hey—”

“Midoriya, get on the stage!”

“You got to give your abjuration.”

“Why are you hiding behind the tall guy?”

Izuku flushed. “Oh, sorry. I’ll go now.” He was so embarrassed that he stepped right into Shinsou, who turned around, and Izuku could almost taste his surprise that spiked the air. The swirls of colours in him flared bright and then dulled just as quickly.

Izuku had lost all sense of direction.

“Er, where’s the stage?”

His schoolmates snickered. Some snorted.

“It seems our favourite boy cannot find the stage,” said Midnight to the spectators who oohed and cooed. “How adorable. Can someone please help him? You, tall guy. Help him will you?”

Shinsou’s emotions fluttered like a candle in the wind, surprise, embarrassment, nervousness. Izuku flushed.

“Er,” said Shinsou. He tentatively tugged at Izuku’s sleeve, careful not to touch him. “Okay?”

Izuku swallowed. “Okay.”

“Well, this way,” said Shinsou softly, and all Izuku wanted to do was throw himself at Shinsou and kiss him.

Shinsou led him towards the stage, and then said, “Careful not to trip on the stairs. Okay?”

“Okay,” Izuku said and then tripped on the stairs.

 

Chapter Text

 

In words a man may pretend to abjure his empire but in reality he will remain subject to it all the while.

The spectators erupted into cheers and applause as Izuku stepped onto the stage.

Todoroki stood beneath and felt insignificant compared to this boy adored by the whole of Japan.

This bright-eyed pasty-limbed creature stood before the crowd, long legs quivering, bony hands clenched around the microphone. He was the hope for the weak, the farce of equality and the symbol of all things good and right with this society, revered not for who he was but for what he represented.

Todoroki knew what they all thought. He understood how much people had come to adore Izuku, even if Izuku himself remained ignorant to the influence he now possessed.

If I am to love him, thought Todoroki, I will be one of the many. If I want to protect him, I will be one of the many. If I am to follow him, I will be one of the many.

But as Todoroki watched, he felt closer to Izuku than the many cheering for him. He also knew that there was at least one among the spectators who looked at Izuku with reproachful eyes. My shitty old man, thought Todoroki, if I am to look at Midoriya with anything but adoration, with anything but my will to protect, I will be no different from the man who tormented his children and ruined his wife.

So Todoroki straightened his shoulders and forced a smile, and hoped his shitty old man was watching. I will follow this boy. I will follow him, if only to deny you.

 

*

 

On the stage, a shadow passed over Izuku’s face and fear left him. The spectators promptly quietened at the change in his demeanour. When he spoke, it was with a voice soaked in disappointment.

“You do not know me, but you have heard of me,” said Izuku. “You have read about my story in the newspapers, or in the articles online, but you—” Izuku chuckled darkly, “—you don’t know anything about me. So, I’ll tell you.”

 

*

 

I’ll tell you that I’m nothing special. I’m one of those people whose stories you would normally cover your ears from, whose faces you would close your eyes to.

I didn’t want to fight without a cause, or hurt anyone for someone else’s entertainment. You may think this is fun, but to me, it’s not. People like me are already fighting every day. We fight against our own fate, against the justice system that threw us aside, against common prejudice, against being born wrong.

Tomura watched Detective Tsukauchi walk into his hospital room and scowled.

“Are you watching the tournament?” asked Tsukauchi.

“What d’you think?” grumbled Tomura, turning away to glare at the screen attached to the wall.

What is a hero? Is it a profession? Is it a lifestyle? Or is it someone who acts benevolently to lift others from despair? Three years ago, I was saved by a man who had been cast aside by society. This man, who others saw as villainous, took me in and raised me without asking for anything in return. Is this man not a hero?

Tsukauchi pulled out a chair and sat down beside the hospital bed. He nodded towards the screen. “The boy thinks highly of you.”

Tomura’s grip tightened around the remote controller, thumb and pinky in the air. “He’s a brat that only spouts nonsense.”

“You have raised him well,” insisted Tsukauchi.

A week ago, this man was hospitalised because the pro-heroes refused to save him. They believed him to be too villainous and waited for him to die.

Tomura snorted loudly, and almost could not hide his glee when he saw Tsukauchi freeze.

“Ah,” said Tsukauchi, “this is potentially problematic.”

“It’s the truth,” said Tomura dryly. “Izukun never lies.”

Tsukauchi’s phone started ringing. He got off the chair and gave Tomura a weary smile. “We, the law enforcement — no, the hero society as well — are going to be in deep trouble once the truth gets out. You have raised him too well.” Tsukauchi began walking towards the door while he answered the phone, “Yes, hello. Tell Midnight to stop the boy immediately.”

I’m sure you’ve heard about it. I’m sure you’ve heard that I stood up bravely to the hero killer, protected an unnamed civilian and bought time until the pro-heroes arrived. But the truth is, I snuck past the pro-heroes in order to save this man 

Tomura eyed Tsukauchi’s back, and his hands itched. How easy would it be to disintegrate that stupid man right now and turn him to dust. Instead, Tomura tore his eyes away from the detective as he left the room, turned to the screen that was currently zoomed in on Izuku’s flushed face as Midnight tried to take the microphone away from him. Something disgusting in Tomura’s stomach stirred, and before he knew it, the remote controller had crumbled to dust.

The foundation of this society is built on lies. Believe me; I am one of their lies.

 

*

 

The crowd roared through the radio in Kurogiri’s bar. They demanded that Midnight let Izuku speak.

Kurogiri raised his non-existent eyebrows. Any system which attempted to question the current state of the world now would only be considered demonic; they would deal in sounds instead of sense, in caprice instead of reason, in darkness instead of light.

The boy could try, though Kurogiri doubt he would succeed.

How come pro-heroes are revered, celebrated and paid for their acts of violence, while people like me suffer under prejudice for our appearances and the quirks we possess? Izuku’s voice echoed throughout the bar. How can the school, the teachers, the media and my peers expect me to come up here and propagate that men are created equal and that I had been given a chance to pursue my dream when this is not true? How am I supposed to give out hope to those who were born ‘wrong’ when the world is unwilling to change?

“Kurogiri,” said Sensei from the only humming monitor.

“Yes, Sensei.”

“What do you think?”

Kurogiri bowed his head. “That the boy is premature in his ambition. The world cannot be changed simply by words alone.”

“But the fires in people’s hearts, Kurogiri, can be kindled by sincerity.”

“Sparks,” insisted Kurogiri. “Sparks are not wildfire.”

 

 *

 

We are the ones who have been robbed of our voices. We are the ones who were thrown aside and stomped upon because of things beyond our control. We can’t be who we want to be because the world doesn’t give us the opportunity to.

Izuku sat in the corner of the quiet waiting room and nobody talked to him. He could feel their eyes, afraid and disturbed, mostly. But there were few who looked at him with something else in their hearts, which Izuku found odd. Curiosity and gratitude on Todoroki’s part, glee and anticipation from Kaminari, wariness from Iida. And anger from Bakugou.

What was new, anyway.

It was better to let them know early that he was different from them, that he had set his sight someplace to which their seeing eyes were blind. With his speech earlier, now everyone knew where his loyalty lay, now the heroes knew they could never ever truly own him.

Izuku sat back. His handcuffs clinked against the cold steel of the bench. He sighed.

I consider myself lucky, and this troubles me. Because luck implies that not everybody in my situation is given the same opportunity, and this  this is unacceptable. So, look back and remember the ones you have baselessly cast aside, ridiculed, feared and ostracised because of trivial things like their quirks, their appearances, their ambitions, their beliefs.

Izuku heard footsteps stalking from the other side of the room. Bakugou’s presence closed in on him. A hand grabbed his head and yanked him back violently by the hair. Izuku winced but kept silent.

“Asshole,” growled Bakugou. “You ruined the tournament for everyone.”

Izuku wet his lips.

“D’you even know what bullshit you were spouting?” Bakugou raised his voice. “You sounded just like that motherfucking hero killer.”

“Do I?” said Izuku quietly.

Bakugou ground his teeth and shoved Izuku down on the bench. The back of Izuku’s head smashed against the cold steel. He heard people yell his and Bakugou’s names in the distance.

Bakugou snarled next to his ear, “Do you? What the fuck is wrong with you? D’you know what they’re gonna do to you? D’you even fucking care?”

“What does that have to do with you?” gasped Izuku, wincing through the haze of pain. “Even if I don’t care, why would you?”

The questions halted Bakugou for a beat. The fingers in Izuku’s hair disappeared. There was a weight on his chest that could’ve been hands, could’ve been feet. The handcuffs clinked under him, cold ridges dug uncomfortably into his back.

“I don’t care,” said Bakugou from somewhere above him.

“Of course, you do,” replied Izuku. “You’re angry. I make you angry.”

“That’s because you’re a goddamned retard.”

“Maybe.” Izuku shrugged. “Maybe you’re angry because I’m not the type of retarded you’re used to. Maybe you’re angry because you care about me more than you think I care about myself. Maybe you’re angry because I’m not, or don’t know how to be. Whatever it is, I believe it’s time you direct your anger someplace else, Katsuki. Stop being angry at me. Stop being angry at the people I love. Why aren’t you angry at the people who gave me no other choice but to spout what you call bullshit?”

“Why the hell would I—”

“Bakugou, that’s enough,” said Todoroki coldly. “Aizawa told us to stay away from him.”

The weight on Izuku’s chest disappeared and he could breathe again.

 “I don’t fucking care. This retard is gonna get himself disqualified. Some hero he is! I can’t fight him if he’s—”

“Me, a hero?” Izuku snorted. “Did you really believe they gave me an actual chance?”

There was a pause. A wave of confusion washed over the entire room.

And then, from Todoroki, “What do you mean?”

Izuku sat straighter and spoke loud enough for everybody to hear.

“The status quo right now, this hero society, the government needs it maintained. That’s the only reason they accepted me into Yuuei, the reason they released news articles about me, the reason they painted me in such a good, noble light.” Izuku paused. “They want me to assure people that the world is fair and just, that the heroes are good and the villains are bad, that those caught somewhere in between don’t matter.”

There was another pause.

“They never planned on letting me be a hero,” continued Izuku. “They only pretended to be on my side in order to use me.”

“And they will throw you away once they no longer need you,” said Todoroki.

“I—yes.” Izuku cast his head down.

Todoroki sat beside Izuku, and footsteps closed in as the others began to gather around them.

“Is that true?” asked Kaminari.

Izuku nodded.

“You were aware of this from the start,” said Todoroki.  “They never gave you a choice, and perhaps—you wanted to know how it feels to live a normal life. Even for a little while.”

Someone took Izuku’s hand. Todoroki.

“The things you said today, you wanted them to know that they can’t own you, that you won’t let them use you. You wanted the world to know that they have been lied to. Perhaps, you wanted to save it.”

If only the world was black and white, things would be easy. But people cannot be categorised so easily into heroes, villains and civilians. From my experience, there are heroes who are villainous, there are civilians who are heroic, and there are villains out there who became villains because the world drove them away. So what are you all doing, worshipping heroes and cheering on violence when you should be full of shame?

“People may hate you now,” said Todoroki, “since you have chosen your side.”

“I know,” said Izuku.

“Some may remember you as the boy who bit the hand that saved you.”

“They didn’t save me.”

“Is that a fact?”

“It’s the truth.”

How can you pretend to know my story when you have heard only parts of it? How can you be allowed to judge and discriminate and call us villainous when you are the ones robbing us, hurting us and shunning us? Villains know their acts are villainous, but are heroes aware of their own actions?

“But there may be people who love you, too,” said Todoroki, “since you spoke up for them.”

“Are you one of them?” said Izuku.

Todoroki smiled. “Perhaps.”

By this logic, who is more evil then? I hope this weigh heavily on your conscience as you watch the future generation of heroes step on each other as they climb their way to the top.

 

*

 

Toshinori and Tsukauchi stepped into the room. “Midoriya my boy, you will come with me.”

Izuku looked up and his classmates dispersed.

“Have the police decided what they’re going to do?” asked Todoroki.

“Yes, but that won’t be discussed here,” said Tsukauchi. He walked over and unlocked the handcuffs. “Sorry about this. Seems like Mr Aizawa and my subordinates went a little overboard.”

“You think?” muttered Bakugou under his breath.

Tsukauchi pretended not to hear him. “Midoriya will come alone. You two wait here with your classmates.”

Izuku got up and left without looking back.

They entered Toshinori’s office and Izuku was struck by a sense of familiarity that threatened to choke him. Heart pounding madly, he dashed straight to the person waiting on the couch.

“Muracchi!” Izuku threw his arms around Tomura.

Tomura did not return the hug. Metal clinked loudly against the glass table and Izuku froze.

“They handcuffed you, too?” gasped Izuku.

Tomura grumbled some more, “Whose fault d’you think it is?”

“Sorry,” said Izuku, who didn’t sound too apologetic.

Tomura brought up both hands and circled them around Izuku’s throat.

Izuku held his breath, felt the rise of panic not from himself but from the two grownups in the room. Izuku pressed his throat into Tomura’s palms and grinned.

“Wipe off that disgusting smile,” growled Tomura. “You said you were gonna win, but you ended up getting disqualified.”

Izuku giggled against Tomura’s cheek. “I haven’t been disqualified yet.”

Toshinori cleared his throat. “Er, and that’s why you two are here.”

Tomura shoved Izuku off his lap, and Izuku immediately settled comfortably on the couch.

“You see,” Tsukauchi began, “the law enforcement have found evidence that will put both of you behind bars. The principal of Yuuei has decided that Midoriya is more of a risk than he is worth keeping.”

Izuku frowned. “Oh.”

“Why the hell are you telling us this?” asked Tomura. “Aren’t you on their side?”

Tsukauchi and Toshinori looked at each other.

“That is — ah — a little complicated,” said Tsukauchi. “What I mean to say is that, even number one heroes like All Might has ideals that do not fit into the current state of the world. Or, I believe this to be true, anyway. And rumour has it that he has come to Yuuei to look for a successor. You see, All Might is retiring and he—well…”

“He’s looking for someone to inherit his power,” said Toshinori. “Midoriya my boy, what you did today was admirable. In fact, everything you have done has been admirable. You always try to do the right thing, and no matter how many times you fail, you never give up.

“You stand up for yourself and for other people for all the right reasons, and even though your views can seem extreme, they are understandable, perhaps even justified. You give people hope; unlike many heroes who strive to gain everybody’s love, you are not afraid to be hated as long as it is for the right reasons. Today, you have made your position clear, and while public opinion is divided, I believe the very thing you have come to represent, this indiscriminate equality of which you have spoken, is more essential than ever to the foundation of a just society.”

Izuku shifted on the couch. “And…what does this have to do with—”

“I want to help you, Midoriya my boy. I have found a way that will prevent Mr Shigaraki’s arrest and allow you to become a true hero.” Toshinori paused. “Ideally, I would rather speak to young Midoriya alone, but—I believe that you will tell Mr Shigaraki everything anyway.”

Izuku flushed. “You’re right.”

“What the hell does any of this have to do with All Might?” grumbled Tomura impatiently.

Colours and emotions flashed behind Izuku’s eyelids. Toshinori’s presence multiplied tenfold and tremendous strength pulsed through his veins. Izuku sat frozen as everything came together in an inner explosion of revelation and glory.

In All Might’s booming voice, Toshinori declared, “That is because I have chosen young Midoriya as my successor.”

 

 

“What the hell d’you think you just did?” hissed Aizawa.

“You forced my hands, Aizawa,” said Toshinori. “I wanted to wait and see how the tournament would play out before making my decision, but you weren’t going to give young Midoriya even that opportunity. Now that I have found a successor in him, even the principal will find it difficult to drive him away.”

“Endangering yourself and the world. Is that what you want?”

Toshinori shook his head. “You left me no choice. I only wanted to protect him.”

 

*

 

Tomura disintegrated the handcuffs, shoved his fists in his pockets and got to his feet.

“Where are you going?” said Izuku.

“Home,” said Tomura.

Izuku’s shoulders sagged. “You’re not gonna stay and watch the tournament?”

“No. Too many people,” said Tomura. “You secured your spot in the tournament and now All Might’s protecting me. Isn’t that hilarious? If people are this easily swayed by words, what’s gonna stop them from changing their minds? If I don’t get out now, they might decide they want me dead and try to kill me for no goddamn reason.”

Izuku bit his lip. “Can’t I go with you?”

Tomura said nothing for a while.

Then there were hands on Izuku’s face and mouth on his cheek.

“You still got work to do,” murmured Tomura. “Didn’t All Might say he’ll give you his power after you win? You gotta win.” He added, “But don’t be reckless. I doubt he’ll keep his promise if you end up killing the other students.”

Izuku clutched at Tomura’s hoodie and slotted his face into the crook of Tomura’s neck. He grumbled, “Then I wish they’d all drop dead. I’ll win if I’m the only one left.”

“They’ll try to pin it on you. Even if you didn’t do it,” said Tomura.

“Say, Muracchi, d’you think I really killed my parents?” asked Izuku quietly. “I mean, it was me who killed all those people in Shizuoka Massacre, wasn’t it? Don’t say no, I know it was me. D’you think I did it on purpose? Or was it an accident?”

Tomura stood absolutely still for a long time. Then his arms circled around Izuku’s waist and held him close to his chest. Izuku felt Tomura’s throat bob against his jaw when Tomura swallowed.

“You didn’t kill them,” said Tomura eventually, “the quirk did.”

Izuku frowned. “Yes, but the quirk is mine.”

“It’s yours, but it isn’t you.” Tomura pulled away and walked to the door. He opened it and paused. “Win. Win and come back to me.”

Winning.

Winning was easy.

It was smiling at the right person, stealing a kiss from Todoroki’s cheek and sweetly threatening the well-being of the other students right before the race. It was getting Todoroki to panic, erecting an ice wall while Izuku space manipulated himself to the other side of the cliff. It was riling up Bakugou into a rage of madness and washing away the nitrogen from his palms with artificial rain.

It was brushing against Shinsou in the cavalry race and giggling at his brainwashed army. It was Bakugou knocking out Monoma’s teeth for spouting bullshit, was Izuku kissing away Todoroki’s daddy issues, leaving him rock hard and losing in the middle of the arena.

Winning was—was stealing the hearts of the spectators with a single wave while his peers seethed with jealousy. Winning was swallowing a piece of All Might’s hair and getting shoved into an alcove after the games; it was wrapping himself around Tomura who had all this time—all this time waited for him.

Suddenly he was right there, clutching Izuku’s arm, nose in his hair and the crook of his neck. Tomura’s mouth was cold, and Izuku shivered once. In the back of his eyes there was a flash like gold. He pulled back and realised Tomura was breathing hard; his own breath came short but had been since he was snatched away.

“Did you get it? All Might’s power?” he asked.

“Are you going to kiss me?”

“No,” said Tomura, but then he did, long and cool like waves breaking over the shore. Izuku rested his hand on Tomura’s chest while he licked beads of sweat from Izuku’s upper lip. “We’re going home.”

The air around them was moist and heavy, weighted with the potential for rain.

“I love you,” said Izuku.

I know.” Tomura growled into Izuku’s throat, “We’re not doing this here.

Breathing was difficult with Tomura pressed so close to him; it felt a little bit like what drowning must feel like, and Izuku’s hair stuck in clumps to the back of his neck. Tomura ran four fingers through damp strands and grimaced.

“You reek. A shower is what you need.”

“I can’t leave now,” whispered Izuku. “I just got All Might’s power. If I disappear, it’ll seem suspicious.”

Tomura stepped away from Izuku and breathed heavily through his nose. Izuku followed him, toddler-like and desperate. When Tomura spoke, his voice sounded strained, “D’you want this or not?”

Izuku sucked in a sharp breath. “I do.”

Little gusts of breath danced across his face, his eyelids and then Tomura’s mouth was pressing roughly against his own. “Then come back with me.”

 

*

  

He was—nobody.

A blind, filthy boy with clothes clinging to his skin and grit under his fingernails. But Tomura cleansed him, as he always did, washed away the darkness from his back and sins from his hair, lay him down on top of the mattress like a newborn, still red and raw with eyes slick with wonderment.

And then—and then Tomura pressed a kiss on the angular slide of Izuku’s hip, lingering and thoughtful. Izuku’s hand flew to Tomura’s hair, bewilderment spiking adrenaline as Tomura licked him to hardness. His fingers held Izuku’s hips down, lips closing over the head and Izuku’s fingers clenched against Tomura’s skull and he groaned, thrusting into that wet heat.

Without sight, it was almost too much, Izuku’s skin oversensitive and the sound of their breaths deafening in his ears. And then he was coming hard down Tomura’s throat.

“Why—you—” Izuku choked, half-dazed and wondering if any of this was real.

Izuku tugged on Tomura’s wrist until he gave in, and Izuku pulled him up his body to get to Tomura’s mouth, kissing I love you into the swell of his scarred mouth like Morse code. When he kissed back, it was fervent, something said over and over again, into slack compliance, obedient and mindlessly open underneath Tomura’s lips. That was when Izuku realised that Tomura was repeating his name, Izukun, pressing it into his flesh again and again like he needed him to keep it safe.

And this was the way betrayals were made, in the taste of himself in Tomura’s mouth, in the movements of his ribs against Tomura’s chest, pale and warm, the intoxicating smell of antiseptic and the muskier smell of sex, clumsy from inexperience and desperate desire.

He was—nobody until Tomura made him.

“Now give it to me.”

To which Izuku said something stupid like, “Okay.”

So, Tomura kissed it from him, All Might’s power and everything he’d won. Later that night, Izuku would fall asleep draped peacefully over the man he loved like a bony blanket, to Tomura muttering, “You’ll keep choosing me.”

When Izuku woke in the morning, it would be to an empty flat, to helplessness, to heartbreak—

To Tomura gone.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

There was a boy with tired green eyes and a smile that died on his lips. He pulled his knees to his chest and watched his life flicker by. Sunlight slanted through the blinds, painting the room in splashes of gold and silver. Dust motes circled the air like million little diamonds which glittered at odd angles then disappeared.

I lived for you.

There was a blanket that smelled of home and heartache which pooled at his feet when evening rose. He didn’t know how many hours had passed or on which day of the week tomorrow fell. Raindrops raced down the window like cars and below on the streets people bustled by. They looked like working dung beetles under their black umbrellas and transparent rain coats.

Disgusting.

Footsteps padded into the room and hot water sloshed from a bowl. Wet towel on his flesh and before long he was scrubbed clean of sweat and cum stains.

“Ah, man. You still look like shit,” said Kaminari from the foot of the bed.

“They should be here soon,” said Todoroki, throwing the towel into the bowl. “The others are waiting in the living room. Bakugou almost destroyed your kitchen, did you know? Anyway, you should get dressed. Izuku?”

Izuku said nothing.

Todoroki got up and went to rummage through the wardrobe. “If it hadn’t been for Shinsou, we would still be looking for you.” He gathered in his arms a pair of jeans, a black t-shirt and a grey hoodie. “When you didn’t return to Aizawa’s place the night of the tournament, we all got worried, did you know? Even All Might showed up and everything — oh, right, underwear.” Todoroki placed the clothes on the bed and went to rummage through the drawers. “Both Bakugou and I got called to the Principal’s office. For some reason, they believed we knew where you went."

“Wonder why they didn’t think to check this place?” said Kaminari. "It’s like they’re not telling us things and expect us to cooperate. Aw man, I shouldn’t have called out to you guys when I saw you walking around in the bad part of town. Feels like I’m getting myself into some dark shit.”

Todoroki calmly dressed Izuku while Kaminari chattered on as if the state they had found Izuku in had not horrified him at all. Bakugou had thrown a mighty fit and tried to start a fight. Shinsou mind controlled him to go sit the fuck down. Just as Todoroki finished dressing Izuku, commotion erupted in the living room. There was a loud boom followed by Bakugou’s yell and then Aizawa’s irritated voice. Todoroki sighed.

“You wait here.”

Noises rose and Toshinori’s voice tried to hastily calm everyone down. A lump formed in Izuku’s throat. He turned on his side and covered his ears with pillows. The bedsheet still smelled like Tomura.

“You’re not fucking taking him!” yelled Bakugou. “Some good you did, asshole. Should’ve seen the state he was in when we found him.”

“That’s not the sort of language you should be using to your teacher,” warned Aizawa.

“Do I sound like I’m speaking to you as my teacher, you shithead guardian?” snapped Bakugou.

“I never wanted him,” said Aizawa.

“And like hell he wanted you,” said Bakugou. "Brainwash, you’re taking Deku home.”

“Wait, what?” said Shinsou. “I can’t—”

“Why the fuck not?”

“My home situation—it isn’t, er…”

A pause.

“Please, don’t look at me,” said Todoroki. “I can’t bring Izuku with me either. Under other circumstances—”

“I’ll do it,” said Toshinori. “I would like to become young Midoriya’s guardian.”

Izuku jumped off the bed, grabbed a book off the shelf and threw it across the room. It hit the wardrobe with a bang.

Oi, oi! What are you doing?” Kaminari panicked.

Izuku snatched up another one, flung it against the window. Shards of shattered glass pierced his feet as he stalked wildly towards the desk and picked up his desk lamp.

“Holy shit, Izuku—” Kaminari squawked.

Izuku whirled around and threw the lamp at the door just as it burst open.

Shinsou ducked. Todoroki stretched out his arm to block the projectile. Bakugou snatched the lamp from midair and flung it back at Izuku.

The bulb smashed against Izuku’s forehead, cutting into his brow. Metal and steel and wires crashed on the floor at Izuku’s feet.

Bakugou cursed and reflexively stepped forward. But it was Todoroki who reached Izuku first.

A strange bitterness rose up in Izuku’s chest and he shoved Todoroki’s hands off him, saw confusion in those mismatched eyes and Izuku gave Todoroki the filthiest look he could manage. It took Todoroki a few seconds before he understood Izuku’s anger.

“I apologise,” said Todoroki quickly. “It’s not that I don’t want to look after you but if I take you back with me, I’m afraid that—”

Oh, for fuck’s sake,” hissed Bakugou. “You act like you’re his friend—both of you, and yet—” sparks flew from Bakugou’s palms. He turned to Izuku. “Deku, you’re going home with me.”

“No,” said Todoroki. “I think Mr Toshinori is a better option.”

“I would be glad to have young Midoriya live with me,” said Toshinori.

“No fucking way,” said Bakugou. “I don’t trust you, old man. You’re just a goddamn substitute teacher. And you’re fucking quirkless.”

Fed up with being treated like baggage, Izuku walked up to Bakugou who let his eyes roam Izuku’s face and rested on his forehead.

Bakugou scoffed. “You were supposed to block that, fuckmunch. Wipe off the goddamn blood and let’s go.”

They got in a police car with Tsukauchi at the wheel. Toshinori tried to make conversation with Izuku who closed his eyes and rested his bleeding forehead against the coolness of the window. Night lights flashed by blurring sceneries of brothels and neon signs. And then they entered the better part of town where everything became quiet and dark.

“My mum’s gonna lose her shit over you,” Bakugou grunted at some point, yawned and slouched into the crinkly leather seat. “She’s probably gonna kick me out of my own bedroom, god fucking damn.”

Izuku said nothing.

Bakugou’s house wasn’t big but it was a proper house, with two stories and a porch and everything houses were supposed to have. Izuku was greeted by a hug from a teary woman and an awkward pat by a moustached man. Bakugou cursed at them, shoved Izuku into the bathroom and barked at him to take a shower. Then Bakugou stomped back downstairs to bark some more at his parents and the police. Izuku turned on the shower and the sound of splashing water drowned out the commotion for which he was grateful.

Then the bathroom door slammed open just as hot water ran out. “Get the fuck out, it’s been forty minutes.”

Izuku did as he was told and stood facing Bakugou who was holding a freshly washed towel. He looked Izuku up and down, watched water pool around Izuku’s feet and a strange, almost sad, look passed over Bakugou’s face.

Izuku dried himself with the towel Bakugou flung at him and put on borrowed pyjamas. Izuku’s things would be arriving from Aizawa’s house tomorrow.

“You’ll be sleeping in my room,” said Bakugou. “The hag’s making me take the goddamn floor.”

That night, Izuku lay on the bed and Bakugou slept on the floor. They woke up in the afternoon to the weekend and late lunch. Izuku refused to leave his room and stopped noticing the determined, hopeful look Bakugou’s mother had been giving him.

I did everything you told me to.

It was on a Thursday that Bakugou finally lost his shit. Kaminari and Todoroki came to visit.

“It’s been two weeks since you’ve been living here,” said Kaminari. “You look even more dead than the last time I saw you. I mean, you’re not even flinging furniture any more. Oh yeah, Todoroki is talking with Mrs Bakugou in the kitchen.”

Izuku played with the hem of his pyjamas and turned pointedly the other way.

“Still not gonna talk? Fine,” said Kaminari. “But you know the police have been trying to track down the man you slept with. Even if he isn’t exactly a villain, he’s officially a criminal for what he did to you. They’ve now got legitimate reason to arrest him.” Kaminari sighed. “By the looks of it, they still got no idea where he is. Or maybe you want him arrested? I dunno, man. Can’t tell what you’re thinking these days.”

Izuku lay back in bed and pulled the duvet over his head when he heard more footsteps. He closed his eyes and willed himself back to sleep only to have the blanket wrenched out of his hands.

“Get up,” said Bakugou sternly. “Get the fuck up.”

A hand grabbed him by the hair and dragged him out of bed. He heard a lot of screaming and explosions. And then he was left lying with his cheek on the cool floor.

“He can’t just stay in bed all day!” Bakugou snarled from somewhere far away. “What the fuck, woman. He doesn’t even eat. He’s—”

“Katsuki, I know you’re worried about him,” hissed his mother, “but hurting him isn’t going to solve anything!”

“I was just—”

The bedroom door closed on their voices. There was a gentle but firm hand on his head. It was cold.

“Izuku?” said Todoroki. “Are you all right?”

Todoroki sat him up and Izuku squirmed away from his touch.

“Bakugou is running out of patience. Mr Toshinori has come by everyday, did you know? He’s genuinely worried about you. Perhaps you should consider going to live…with him…” Todoroki trailed off.

Tears welled up in Izuku’s eyes and he bawled into his knees. You lied to me.

“Izuku?” Todoroki patted his back. “Please, don’t cry.”

The next time Izuku woke up, he was back in Bakugou’s bed. It was some time during the night and the room was empty. Bakugou must’ve taken the couch in the living room instead. Izuku heard in the dark a heavy roaring inside of himself. He trembled with indescribable feelings of fear and urgency. Izuku quickly got dressed and snuck out the window. He jumped off the second story and landed nimbly on his feet in the backyard.

Cigarettes. Izuku smelled it before he recognised him.

“There you are,” said Kaminari, stepping out of the shadow. “C’mon. You want to see for yourself, don’t you?”

Izuku got into the stolen car and they drove off in silence. He continued to grow restless but eventually the car slowed down, Kaminari parked in an alley by the flickering sign of a massage parlour.

“You go on,” said Kaminari, tapping another cigarette out of the case. “The bar is just a street over. Or what’s left of it, anyway. Don’t take too long. I’ve got school tomorrow.”

Izuku got out of the car, didn’t bother to close the door behind him and heard Kaminari mutter, asshole.

Rubble and planks and woodwork waited for him. There was nothing there. There was nothing left. But Izuku went on, as though under some kind of compulsion, through the alleys and into the street where nothing waited for him. He stopped and listened in front of the remains of Kurogiri’s bar, and then he went inside like a sleepwalker roaming through a wasteland, compelled by a pressure from somewhere outside of himself.

Before him was a charred wooden door gaping in the grey light. He knew there was no one on the other side but he went in anyway, dragged his feet in the dust and stumbled over the rubble. Still, he had to see for himself.

He stumbled over planks and broken bricks into the desolate room; there was a murky smell of stones and damp cold. A pile of sand, a black charred bar, otherwise all was empty. Izuku suddenly realised, somehow he knew deep inside him, that the bar hadn’t been used since the incident with the Hero Killer.

Izuku stood there, miserable and alone, with bitterness in his eyes and with a life he didn’t understand.

Had he—really, truly—been abandoned? He refused to believe it. But if he didn’t believe it why was he acting like this? I did everything you told me to. I lived for you. You lied to me. Youliedtomeyouliedtomeyou—

“What a waste to leave you behind when you are still so valuable,” said the voice from the dark.

Izuku whirled around. His mouth went dry.

There blocking the doorway was the Hero Killer.

“How impressive you were at the tournament, how impactful, how passionate,” said Stain, stepping forward and unsheathing his sword. “Such a shame to leave you to rot.”

Izuku locked his jaw. He wouldn’t run. He wouldn’t fight.

Stain twirled his blade in his hand and flung it at Izuku who did everything he could not to flinch. But the blade twirled past Izuku’s shoulder and punctured the dartboard at the far wall.

“Lack of self-preservation does not a courage make,” said the Hero Killer in mock disappointment. “Feel better soon. You’ve still got a world to change.”

And just like that, Stain bounded into the shadow and disappeared. Izuku blinked once and wondered if he’d imagine it all. The blade was still stuck to the dartboard. Izuku yanked it out from the wall and took it with him.

He wandered aimlessly for a while to wherever his feet took him. As the sun began to rise, Izuku found himself in front of the abandoned building which was his and Tomura’s flat. He went inside. The door to his flat was unlocked. Izuku’s ears perked up and his heart raced when he heard noises from the other side. He flung the door open, heart in his throat, and came face-to-face with Todoroki.

“Where have you been?” demanded Todoroki, dragging him into the flat and shoving him down on the couch. “I’ve been looking for hours. I was sure you would come here.”

Izuku felt like crying. It wasn’t Tomura. He wasn’t here. Izuku gripped the blade tighter, felt the edge dig into his palm, split open his skin.

“Stop it, Izuku!” said Todoroki, yanking the blade out of his grasp. “You know he isn’t coming back. He’s used you and thrown you away.” Todoroki grabbed Izuku’s shoulders and peered into Izuku’s tear-stained face. “He isn’t here, but I am.”

Izuku inclined his head in Todoroki’s direction.

“I worry about you,” said Todoroki. “Please, forget him and live your life. Do you realise that the entire world is waiting to hear what you’ve got to say? You’ve split the world in half — you did that. One half adores you and the other half that hates your guts is losing rapidly. Please, stop this. I beg you.”

Izuku opened his mouth. Nothing came out but a helpless wail. He sobbed into his hands and kicked his feet like a stupid idiotic child throwing a fit. He tasted the blood from his palm, smelled the iron, felt the wetness and he knew—knew—he was still alive in this cruel world. Everything had been taken from him—everything. He couldn’t ever let them know. He couldn’t, he wouldn’t. Todoroki, Shinsou, Bakugou, Mr Toshinori… every single one them, they would cast Izuku aside if they knew!

But then Todoroki’s hands on his shoulders disappeared. His footsteps went further away and when Todoroki spoke, his voice was metallic.

“No,” said Todoroki, horrified at his own revelation. “That can’t be true. That man—he didn’t—did he?

Izuku panicked, felt his limbs move as his body lunged desperately for Todoroki, begged him with his unintelligible cries. Don’t tell anyone.

“He stole your voice,” said Todoroki.

 

*

 

Bakugou didn’t know what Izuku was so upset about.

Everyone turns up eventually — alive or dead, religiously or chemically altered. Bakugou had seen it once in his life. After Izuku’s initial disappearance, vanishing no longer seemed like a freak occurrence: the sudden removal of someone from your life was always a possibility.

 

*

 

Todoroki returned Izuku to Bakugou, and the three of them schemed in secret. After much patience and many explosions, Todoroki managed to convince Bakugou to keep quiet about Izuku’s muteness until they could figure out what to do.

“Although I still think it would be wiser to tell the grownups about this, I want to try respecting Izuku’s decision,” said Todoroki in resignation. “I understand Izuku may not want to further add to the crimes that man has committed—”

Izuku kicked Todoroki.

“—has been accused of committing, I mean to say.” Todoroki cleared his throat. “Anyway, I suppose what Izuku is trying to say is that there is no clear evidence that Shigaraki Tomura is willingly working with the villain organisation. For all we know, the organisation could be using him just as Izuku’s been…used.”

Bakugou scoffed. Sparks flew from his palms. “So admirable, aren’t ya? Your stupidity is so fuckin’ admirable I wanna bash your face in right now—”

“None of that, please,” said Todoroki firmly. “Izuku, you mustn’t cry any more. And you must also stop looking for that man. Wandering around on your own when you are so helpless—what if a civilian recognises you and stops you for a chat? How are you going to explain to them what happened to you?”

Izuku shook his head.

“That’s right, you can’t,” grouched Bakugou. “’Cause you don’t fuckin’ have the voice for it!”

Izuku tried to throw a punch at Bakugou who easily deflected it. He flung Izuku back onto the floor and pinned him down.

“Nor do you have the eyes to defend yourself,” spat Bakugou, “worthless piece of shit.”

Izuku kneed Bakugou in the stomach. When Bakugou rolled over with a pained yelp, Izuku snatched the alarm clock from the bedside and smashed it on Bakugou’s head.

Only, he would have done if Todoroki hadn’t stopped him.

“Stop provoking each other, seriously!” Todoroki said, annoyed. “You two are ridiculous. I do not want to witness either of your death, so I’m going home.”

And he left, just like that.

“You’re so fucking retarded, I can’t stand it,” grumbled Bakugou when they went to sleep that night. “How can you still want to protect some asshole who used you as a convenient fuck?”

Izuku flipped over on the bed and stomped on Bakugou who was sleeping on the floor. Bakugou grabbed Izuku’s ankle and yanked him down. They brawled with gnashing teeth and clawing nails until both of their limbs ended up tangling and their lungs were stealing each other’s air. Izuku closed his eyes, panting still, and flopped his head down on Bakugou’s racing heart. Bakugou lay half under him, one arm draped over Izuku’s back, the other still wrapped around Izuku’s neck in a loose choke hold.

“I hate how you’ve been living,” muttered Bakugou some time later, when Izuku no longer could tell dreams from reality. “You came back all fucked up in the head. Watching you make me so fucking miserable.” Bakugou ran the pad of his thumb across Izuku’s drooling mouth, messy and soft like a child’s. “What a goddamn loser.”

Izuku woke up with a jolt to find their positions reversed. Bakugou’s head was heavy on his stomach, callous fingers tangled in Izuku’s shirt as if to keep him from getting up and leaving. It was almost endearing, Izuku thought, if he had the heart to feel anything other than Tomura’s absence. Izuku lay there and breathed and thought of Tomura. It hurt so much that it was dangerous.

For the rest of the weekend, Todoroki visited only once. It was to tell them that he had managed to convince Mr Toshinori that it would be best for Izuku to stay with Bakugou for the time being. Izuku leaned over the dining table and kissed Todoroki on the cheek.

“Gross,” grumbled Bakugou.

“What’s that for?” said Todorki, flushing. “Is that a thank you? I’m glad you are feeling better. You no longer look so—lifeless. I suppose it is true that the current living arrangement is doing you some good.”

Bakugou snorted and crossed his arms over his chest.

“It’s doing you good, too,” said Todoroki to Bakugou. “Living with someone who requires your patience and ability to read between the lines can teach you to be a little kinder.”

“Stop pretending to care.”

Todoroki frowned, concerned, as he got up. “But I do. Well, anyway, I will see you at school tomorrow Bakugou. Izuku, rest well.”

That evening, Izuku ducked Bakugou’s punch and stole a piece of his fish. Bakugou roared out in rage. Izuku snorted and kicked Bakugou back into his seat. Finish your dinner, was what he meant. And Bakugou seemed to get it and postponed the fighting for the next hour. His parents watched their interactions both in awe and confusion. And then later, when Bakugou was in the shower, his mother came up to Izuku and said, “I’m glad you’re fighting back, Izuku.” But Izuku knew she meant, I’m glad you’re helping me keep him in line.

Izuku didn’t like that—he hated it. The idea clawed at his insides, made him squirm with disgust. I am a fraud. He ducked his head to excuse himself and barged into the bathroom where Bakugou just got out of the shower. All I’m good at is fucking things up. Izuku locked the bathroom door and shoved Bakugou back into the shower.

“What the fuck?”

Izuku turned the shower to almost boiling, slanted his head to meet Bakugou whose breath caught in his throat at the tormented look on Izuku’s face. Izuku caught Bakugou’s wrist, brought his callous palm up to Izuku’s cheek, traced those dangerous fingers from his hairline to his eyes, his nose, his mouth. Bakugou’s breaths grew short and heavy, almost animalistic, and Izuku smiled because he knew he had won long ago.

Bakugou made a noise like the dying wheeze of a wounded animal. “Why—you—”

Comfort me, Izuku’s mouth moved. Let me ruin you, was what he meant.

And Bakugou dropped to his knees, running his hands up the inseam of Izuku’s shorts before tugging down the waistband. Izuku took a quick, shuddery breath and Bakugou’s laugh was self-deprecating, almost as if asking, Why the fuck am I doing this? But Bakugou’s fingers were already curling around Izuku’s length, and next second, he leaned in, pressing his mouth to it, hot breath gusting out.

Bakugou’s hands held his hips against the cold wall while his tongue traced patterns on his shaft. Izuku clenched his fists feverishly, and the sound of his strangled panting drowned by the pelting shower. Bakugou worked quickly and decisively, and Izuku grew lightheaded, blood thundering in his throat and ears. It wasn’t enough. Izuku realised this as his mind raced, ghosts of images, of memories, which made Izuku’s thoughts trip over themselves in surge for some fierce, formless fulfilment. Muracchi, Muracchi, Muracchi—

His hands uncurled themselves and one tangled through Bakugou’s wet hair, yanking his head back. Bakugou made an angry sound but Izuku shoved his dick back inside his mouth so roughly he surprised even himself, a faint spike of alarm at his own cruelty somewhere in the back of his brain, but then it was gone. Bakugou groaned around it, muscles of his throat fluttering, and finally Izuku’s harsh breaths weren’t the only ones echoing against the walls.

Bakugou struggled as he tried to get enough air, but one of his hands was pumping to the same rhythm of Izuku’s cock pummelling his throat. Izuku only backed off to fuck into Bakugou’s mouth again, hips snapping forward, his hand still fisted in Bakugou’s hair.

Bakugou moaned loudly as he came, cum splattering at Izuku’s feet. Then with chest heaving, both his hands came up to grip the backs of Izuku’s thighs. Izuku breathed out a name and lost himself in it, hips jerking as Bakugou swallowed around him. His thoughts failed when his orgasm ripped through him.

“Asshole,” Bakugou rasped, and Izuku realised he’d sunk to the floor too, still shaking with the aftereffects. Izuku reached out and touched Bakugou’s face and felt him lean in, drop his head onto Izuku’s shoulder, burrowing his face into his neck and inhaling sharply.

Izuku patted Bakugou’s head, pelting water turning cold, and Izuku slanted Bakugou’s face to meet his, slotted their mouths together. Comfort me, he said.

 

*

 

The morning was bright and the birds chirped like the world wasn’t fucked up. Izuku felt sick as he rolled out of bed and into Bakugou’s arms who caught him before he fell. Izuku laughed without humour and clung onto Bakugou, pushing his face into Bakugou’s neck, nibbling lazily at his collarbone.

“I need to get ready for school,” grunted Bakugou. “Get the hell off me—and put some clothes on.”

Although Bakugou sounded irritated, he didn’t try very hard to push Izuku away.

The silence stretched for five, six, seven heartbeats and Izuku took this as an invite to wrap his thighs around Bakugou who righted against the desk. Then Izuku slid his hands up the back of Bakugou’s shirt and kissed him. Bakugou let it happen, let Izuku kiss him and touch him and didn’t say anything, not a word, not until after Izuku’s hips bucked and Bakugou reflexively jerked back in kind.

“Is this—really okay?” asked Bakugou. He sounded worried, hesitant—it didn’t suit him.

Izuku grinned and grind into him because that was easier than admitting he didn’t know the answer. They continued rutting against each other, lazy and pliant, until Bakugou’s mouth was hanging open, eyes scrunched shut in an expression of pure bliss. You like me—maybe you’ve liked me even before you’ve met me. I want to know why. After they got each other off their bodies were slick with sweat and Bakugou was late for school. Izuku planted a sloppy kiss on his cheek and laughed silently when Bakugou groaned in disgust.

“What d’you want now, fuckmunch?”

Dress me, mouthed Izuku, I’ll go with you. And just like that Bakugou’s expression morphed from anger to something sad and painful. Just as suddenly though, all of that softness disappeared behind the usual violence and denial.

“Fine, whatever,” he grouched.

 

Chapter Text

 

Tomura stood on the rooftops of the world and watched Kanagawa fall with a flick of his wrist. Hero offices crumbled to dust and houses dropped like sacks of bones. Static cackled through radios, gas stations burst aflame, schools, shops, hospitals charred to ashes. The sky bled red and green above him, peppered with dust clouds in shades of fresh bruises.

When Tomura cracked his knuckles, a storm ravaged the whole of Chiba. Blood flooded Narita runways, corpses bobbed like corks along the shore of Okitsu, children toppled down concrete slopes, bones smashing against Ubara cliffs like shipwreck potteries. When rescue helicopters flew through fallen prefectures, Tomura blew at them. He laughed insanely as engines ripped from cockpits, rotor blades spun off drive shafts, news reporters impaled by smouldering skyscrapers like barbecue meat.

Kurogiri watched Tomura in silence, glowing yellow eyes observing every move.

They had Yuuei surrounded.

The only way in and out was through Yamanashi.

 

*

 

Izuku went to school with the sun bright in his face and the sirens blaring at his trail. Bakugou walked beside him, fists shoved in his pockets, silent. The world pulsed around him, scratchy and grating against his eardrums like sandpaper. Izuku turned off his sensory until they entered Yuuei.

He refused to step into the teacher’s office. He cupped his hands over his ears, closed his eyes and curled into a ball as Bakugou screamed at Mr Toshinori. Izuku stayed that way until fingers pried his arms away and he lifted his head to Todoroki staring down at him.

“I’m surprised you returned so soon,” said Todoroki who was panting.

Izuku realised he must’ve ran here.

The teacher’s office burst open. Bakugou stalked out of it, halting for a moment when he saw Todoroki.

“You didn’t tell me Izuku was coming,” said Todoroki.

“And how’s that your business?” grouched Bakugou, not meeting Todoroki’s eyes. “Deku, gimme that.”

Izuku’s grip tightened around Stain’s blade.

“C’mon, asshole,” said Bakugou, prying the blade out of Izuku’s hand, “give it here — goddammit!”

Izuku side-stepped him. Bakugou’s scowl fell. The next thing Izuku felt was the bruising grips of Bakugou’s hands, one white-knuckled around his arm, the other yanking harshly at Izuku’s hair. Izuku scrunched his eyes at the impact when Bakugou pushed him into the wall. Izuku opened his mouth to let out a sound that should’ve been a cry but wasn’t.

Izuku swung Stain’s blade in front of him, felt the edge dig into his palm, felt Bakugou’s torso press into the flat of the blade until they were chest to chest with a slice of cold steel between them. Bakugou kissed him, and Izuku’s heart lurched a little.

Bakugou kissed him like the night before, sharp and scalding, blood pumping through their veins and shower roaring in their ears. Izuku’s head buzzed until Bakugou pulled away. Their mouths made wet slick noises that made Izuku flush.

“You’re a dumbass,” Bakugou said before disappearing into the teacher’s office with Stain’s blade.

Izuku slid to the floor, hands over his mouth, pretending he didn’t notice the colour of betrayal tainting Todoroki’s white.

"That is unacceptable,” said Todoroki, strained, glaring at Bakugou when he returned. “That was unacceptable. I didn’t leave Izuku with you so that you could—”

Bakugou bristled. His palms began to smoke. “I don’t need your bullshit right now, fucked-face.”

Todoroki’s nostrils flared. He straightened his shoulders as his voice darkened, “For all your talk about hating that man for what he did to Izuku — aren’t you just doing the same thing?”

Sparks flew from Bakugou’s palms.

“Shut the hell up, you goddamn hypocrite,” he snapped. “We both know the real reason you’ve been hanging around Deku. Hell, the whole world knows at this point, dipshit.”

Todoroki’s emotions spiked from hurt to rage to panic.

Bakugou turned to Izuku and said, “Deku, this fucktard has been sticking around you because he’s lost his place at the top 1% when you got his dick hard during the tournament—”

“That wasn’t it!” yelled Todoroki, flushing to almost the same colour as his scar. He grabbed Bakugou by the collar and shoved him against the vending machine. “You — you can’t possibly understand —”

Bakugou barked out a laugh. “Understand? Of course, I understand. You orchestrated that big fight against your dad after humiliating yourself during the tournament. You parroted Deku’s speech to make it sound like you’re his lackey. You deliberately turned yourself into a joke so that—”

Todoroki’s fist smashed into Bakugou’s face. Bakugou’s head crashed into vending machine, cracking the glass display.

“Loser,” spat Bakugou before hurling his knuckles at Todoroki.

Izuku turned on his heels and left. He was sick of everything.

 

*

 

The first thing Izuku registered was the smell of stale cigarettes. And then he noticed Kaminari was there, leaning against the rusty railing, head thrown back to a world flung upside-down.

Kaminari was smoking when Izuku emerged onto the gym rooftop with the wind yapping at his clothes and hair.

“Hey, heard you’re back,” said Kaminari casually. “Social media, man. They know everything.”

Izuku slid to the floor, back against the railing, and Kaminari sat down next to him. Why aren’t you in class? Izuku wanted to ask but couldn’t. Kaminari put out his cigarette on concrete. He smelled like smoke and rain.

“A lot’s changed since you were gone, dude. Prefectures keeling over like dominoes. Villains running rampant. Bodies dropping like flies,” said Kaminari. "But yeah, sorry I couldn’t visit more. Got into a nasty fight with my shitty old man. He found out I’ve been using his car.”

Kaminari lifted his head and Izuku’s breath caught. Kaminari’s right eye was purpled and puffed shut. Blotchy red and green of popped vessels sprinkled around the inky rim. His bottom lip was cut badly, and there was a stained bandage over his ear.

Kaminari flinched at the suddenness of Izuku’s movement when he lifted his hand to feel Kaminari’s face.

Izuku felt his throat clog up.

“I’m glad you’re back,” said Kaminari in a hurry. “Now you can fix things.”

Izuku looked away. How? He had no idea how.

“The world’s gone to shit, and the pro-heroes think that man is behind it,” said Kaminari sombrely. “I suppose you wouldn’t know, though, considering everybody was told to keep you in the dark — don’t look all pissy now. It’s not like you would’ve cared anyway.”

Izuku pursed his lips. Kaminari was right. Even now, he couldn’t have cared less. Kaminari went ranting on about things which had happened within Yuuei as well as without. There were still no sightings of Tomura.

“I heard Todoroki visited you a lot,” said Kaminari after a long pause.

Izuku grimaced, mind flashing to what Bakugou said. He had been used. This — this was why he shouldn’t have given people like Todoroki a chance to begin with. Incapable of empathising with the plights of commoners, Todoroki who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth would just backstab you in the end. Izuku ran a hand over his face. His heart ached with emotions so deformed they were no longer recognisable.

“So, you’ve heard what happened to him and his dad?” Kaminari asked.

Izuku said nothing.

With a shrug, Kaminari said, “Some say the whole thing was staged to gain publicity. But it’s kinda obvious that most of it was real. I mean, why would Todoroki reject his dad just to be made fun of by everybody else?”

Izuku didn’t know what Kaminari was talking about. He didn’t care.

Kaminari lit another cigarette. “He chose to follow you. That’s got to mean somethin’.”

Todoroki could follow a unicorn for all he cared. Izuku was no leader anyway.

They said nothing as Kaminari made his way through his second cigarette.

“I think he cares about you, you know,” said Kaminari quietly.

Izuku frowned, confused for a second. And then his stomach lurched when he turned to Kaminari who smiled at him lopsidedly. He was talking about Tomura.

Izuku tried to play dumb, give him one of those what d’you mean? looks, but Kaminari blew smoke in his face and snickered when he choked.

“I really do think he cares,” said Kaminari, “I mean, sure, that man might’ve taken your voice and disappeared, but why go through all the trouble of swapping it for your eyes?” Kaminari took a long drag and sighed. “You can’t have everything, you know. Something’s gotta give. Those 20/20 eyes don’t look free to me.”

Izuku’s heart stuttered. You know? he wanted to say. The shock on his face said it for him.

Kaminari scoffed. “It’s not that hard to guess. You never used to turn your head to look at things. And now you do. You stare and you blink and your eyes crinkle like half-moons when you face the sun. No blind person do that, man.” He put out his cigarette. “Still, I’m kinda surprised nobody’s figured it out yet. You planning on telling anyone soon?”

Izuku turned away. How was he supposed to tell anyone anything?

Kaminari got to his feet just as the bell rang. “You’re lucky as hell, you know that?”

Izuku blinked.

“Sure, the government thinks he’s criminally insane and now they convicted him for statutory rape. But don’t you think you need to take responsibility for that? He gave you what you wanted even though he knew it’d be at his own expense.” Kaminari stared at Izuku in the eye until he had to turn away. “If I were you, I wouldn’t insult his efforts by moping around. I’d want to work my ass off to give him the whole world. Or do you care for that man so little that him disappearing would make a difference?”

 

*

 

Tomura had been the one to suggest they take away Izuku’s voice. Even Kurogiri thought that that was cruel.

“Perhaps you should consider returning it to him,” suggested Kurogiri after they burned Nagano prefecture to the ground.

“I don’t care,” Tomura seethed. “He can die for all I care.”

Kurogiri watched Tomura stomp out of the warehouse, then returned to the list of potential recruits. He stifled a sigh. Tomura had been terribly moody ever since they left Hosu behind. When questioned, Tomura refused to tell Kurogiri how he’d succeeded to obtain One For All three months before the initial plan. Sensei had been pleased with Tomura’s progress but Kurogiri felt that things were amiss.

Their plan was going far too smoothly where Tomura was concerned.

 

*

 

Izuku was lounging in the library when Todoroki found him. It was just a few minutes after the lunch bell rang, and Izuku looked up from the piles of books which surrounded him.

Todoroki sported a bruise across his cheek and he stared down at Izuku with mismatched eyes hunting for clues to where he stood. Does Izuku still consider him a friend, or would Izuku renounce him the way Todoroki did his own father?

Izuku went back to his book, tracing strange symbols with his fingertips, revelling in the feeling of Todoroki’s sinking heart. He slowly picked up the pen he’d borrowed from the librarian and scribbled coltish letters on his palm.

He showed it to Todoroki.

Teach me.

Izuku felt proud at the sight of Todoroki’s widened eyes, at his mouth wrapping around a gasp, at the way the flush on his cheeks concealed his flowery bruise.

“You can see,” Todoroki breathed his revelation like a prayer.

Izuku waved his palm pointedly and scooted over so Todoroki could sit beside him.

Todoroki made his way gingerly around the piles of books, scanning the covers briefly before the answer lit up his face.

“You’re learning to read,” said Todoroki. “But when exactly did you get your sight—”

Izuku clasped a hand over Todoroki’s mouth, shushing him. Then he clasped another hand over his own mouth.

“When you lost your voice?” said Todoroki.

Izuku nodded.

“Then that means —”

The relief that washed over Todoroki’s face told Izuku everything he needed to know. Izuku placed a hand over Todoroki’s heart, felt his breath quiver, felt his pulse quicken. Izuku smiled but only a timbre of it held any sincerity.

They have not abandoned me — I will not abandon you.

 

*

 

Kaminari’s words played inside Izuku’s head, and his heart started aching less. You’ve got someone who cares for you to the point that he’s willing to break the world in half to give you a better future.

Izuku wondered sometimes why he liked some people more and others less. He spent the next several days trying to find a way to ask Kaminari this, and what he got was a snort.

Kaminari made fun of his sloppy handwriting, called it a scrawl, commended him for his efforts but then said, “Do I look like your love therapist?”

Izuku’s shoulders sagged.

Kaminari threw himself onto the picnic bench and sighed. His black eye had dispersed into greenish purple like the sky outside these days. It was morning break and they had hidden themselves in the garden behind the gym.

“Is this about Todoroki again?” asked Kaminari.

Izuku shrugged. It was about people in general. But mostly about Todoroki, yes. Izuku had a hard time liking Todoroki than he did most people. Even now, he struggled to be nice to him even though Todoroki was teaching him to read. He’d like to know why.

“Well, he’s kinda cold, isn’t he? Like, the kind of cold that can’t be measured by temperature?” said Kaminari thoughtfully. “Ugh — I dunno, dude. You probably hate him because you’re in love with someone else.”

Izuku blinked. Kaminari never mentioned Tomura by name, and Izuku knew it was out of consideration of Izuku’s own bruised heart. It made him feel warm. Kaminari was so unassumingly considerate that anyone could have mistaken it for stupidity. He wondered if Kaminari’s cunning subtlety spawned from violence behind closed doors. This possibility made Izuku sad.

Kaminari flicked a leaf off the table. “What about that man, then — what don’t you like about him? They’re probably the same things you hate about Todoroki.”

Izuku had never thought about that before. Or, at least, he’d never tried to compare anyone with Tomura … not consciously anyway. Izuku blinked again when the words returned to him: If I cannot have you, then I shall hunt for you in the faces of others.

Izuku rubbed at his chest. It was starting to ache again.

“Did you watch the news last night?” Kaminari changed the subject.

Izuku grimaced. The Bakugous didn’t let him listen to the news, afraid that those unexplained natural disasters would upset him. As if Izuku cared. As if they had already assumed that Tomura was behind everything.

Izuku shook his head, got out his notebook and worked on his alphabets. He’d been trying to write a letter to Bakugou. He hoped to give it to him by Friday. That was the day after tomorrow.

“Well, apparently,” Kaminari went on, “the rescue team from Saitama discovered a black box from one of the helicopters that crashed in Chiba. And, well, the footage captured a group of people — one of them look kinda like that man.”

Izuku looked up so fast his joint popped.

“It was a footage dated two months ago,” said Kaminari, “He probably isn’t in Chiba any more—”

Izuku gathered his things and got up.

“Where are you going?” Kaminari squawked.

Izuku snagged Kaminari by the collar and dragged him along.

Dude, why are you—”

They went to the computer lab. Izuku glared at Kaminari until he pulled up the footage which was uploaded onto the internet.

And then Izuku stared and stared and stared at the screen until his eyes stung. There he was, Shigaraki Tomura, faceless and unnamed, skinny as a skeleton, shoulders hunched, face masked by a grotesque dismembered hand, laughing voicelessly as the footage spun and spun and spun out of control.

At least he was enjoying himself, thought Izuku bitterly. That’d make one of them.

 

*

 

Kurogiri dropped their luggages on the floor. A thick layer of dust coated everything. The climb had taken them a good four hours from the village at the foot of the mountain.

Tomura prowled around, checking the doors, the windows and finally the cabinets, which were almost all bare, except for a few blackened pots and pans. There wasn’t much to see, two rooms which weren’t even properly rooms, a mouldering curtain that was supposed to serve as the partition between them, a sad little shed through the back window, and only one bed.

“You’re sleeping on the floor,” growled Tomura, “or outside, I don’t care.”

“Very well,” said Kurogiri.

Tomura checked the signal on his phone. There was none.

“Tell the others they can sleep wherever the hell they want,” said Tomura, “just don’t bother me. And don’t bother the people at the resort or in the village. Don’t cause trouble. Not yet.”

“Of course,” said Kurogiri.

“Now leave me alone,” said Tomura.

He waited until Kurogiri left before heading over to the luggages. He rummaged through them, growing more feverish with each second.

His mind played tricks on him often, lied to him, muddled up his memories. Ever since he had taken One For All from that brat, Tomura was not the same. He battled everyday with this power, this clean white light in the midst of all this filth, screaming hope, screaming glory, screaming lies lies lies

Muracchi.

Tomura whirled around.

Muracchi, the brat was giggling in a soft high voice, gripping at the sleeve of Tomura’s shirt with sweaty fingers, yanking him forward into him, Muracchi.

“What the hell are you doing?” Tomura snapped.

Izuku’s laughter swished like silk, teeth white and glowing, seeing eyes crinkling like crescent moons, I love you.

“I—”

“Shigaraki Tomura,” said Kurogiri.

Tomura blinked.

Dingy rooftop, empty sky, and a sea of lights below them. Edge like a precipice, air shoving them back and forth sluggishly. The moon was bright.

“You were sleepwalking,” said Kurogiri calmly. “You were going to—”

“I’m fine,” Tomura snapped, and that was the end of it.

 

*

 

Bakugou was a scowler which came as no surprise.

Izuku ran a finger over the crease between Bakugou’s brows as the latter snored quietly on the sofa.

So—

So, he liked Bakugou, couldn’t stay away from that pissy proud attitude because it reminded him of Tomura who was just as talentless at admitting to his own deficiencies. Izuku felt drawn to Bakugou’s anger, no matter how hazardous, because within his sure-fire flames flickered Izuku’s passion-ridden image of Tomura.

He hated yet forgave Todoroki’s silent forcefulness and incapability to feel because those were the attributes he despised most in the man he loved.

And Izuku had loved Shinsou most, not for who he was, but for the familiarity of his suffering. Sombre voice, slouched shoulders and dark bags under his eyes, a boy — a man ostracised for being born wrong. He loved Shinsou’s tenacity, the will to keep fighting because those were the things Izuku loved most about Tomura.

Kaminari was right.

Everything led back to him.

 

*

 

Izuku chewed on his bottom lip.

A field trip.

The world was going to shit and Yuuei still wanted them to go on a field trip. Not going would be admitting defeat, true, but going meant that the ego of the heroics department was bigger than its concern for the safety of its students.

Not that Izuku cared.

“Oh, sorry, not sorry,” Monoma snickered after elbowing Izuku on his way to the cafeteria.

Izuku took Bakugou’s hand before he went after Monoma. Izuku smiled as Bakugou muttered, “That fucker,” and kissed Bakugou’s knuckles to distract him.

“Gross,” said Bakugou, yanking his hand away.

They queued up for their udon special from Lunch Rush, and Izuku smiled at the students who greeted him. After receiving his lunch which Bakugou made sure to half-slosh onto his tray because Bakugou just couldn’t help being an asshole, they went to the seats which Todoroki had saved for them.

It had become a regular thing, Izuku, Bakugou, Todoroki and more often than not Kaminari. Sometimes Jirou joined them when she felt like it, and usually when she did, Yaoyorozu and Tooru tagged along. It was a tight squeeze on those days, but it also was a friendly one with sarcastic jabs and empty threats, dumb jokes and laughter.

Izuku wondered if it was because his table was often annoyingly loud that Monoma became increasingly hostile. Hostile enough to knock over allegedly blind student who was balancing a tray of scalding hot soup.

With a sharp, resounding clatter, Izuku fell to floor, uniform stained and flesh scorched and reddening.

“What the fuck!” Bakugou yelled.

“Oh, sorry,” said Monoma.

“Like hell you are, asshole!” Bakugou’s palms smoked.

“Midoriya, are you all right?”

“Izuku, can you stand?”

Students rushed over to help him, but Izuku remained on the floor, cradling his burned arm. Todoroki pushed past the crowd of students which had begun to form, wordlessly enveloping Izuku’s arm with his ice and lifting Izuku from the floor.

Bakugou was still yelling at Monoma whose grin only stretched wider the more Bakugou got angry. He was provoking Bakugou, Izuku realised and was surprise to feel a sort of possessive anger lighting up his insides.

“So, how does it feel to get beat up by villains every year?” Monoma taunted.

Izuku shut his eyes and concentrated. He activated his quirk and zeroed in on Monoma.

When Izuku opened his eyes again, Monoma’s face had turned red and his grin had fallen. He was staring at Izuku, eyes wide and fanatical. His face lit up when Izuku and Todoroki approached.

“Ah, Midoriya, then what about you?” he said shrilly, “How does it feel to get your ass pummelled by a villain?”

The students gasped.

Todoroki went rigid.

Izuku locked his jaw. He amplified the quirk, imagined that golden leash around Monoma’s throat, pulled it taut and yanked it so close to him that even Monoma staggered under the weight of clashing turmoils. Izuku could feel his cold anger boil over, felt his sense of inferiority multiply tenfold, felt the desperation, the need to come out on top, the desire for admiration, for greatness, for love spill through the cracks in Monoma’s mind.

The next Izuku saw was Monoma rushing forward, screaming through his tears, hurling his fists at Izuku, beating him, yanking at his hair, kicking him to the ground. He saw Todoroki trying to snag Monoma from him, saw Bakugou abandoning his nitrogen-slicked palms in fear of misfiring and instead dashing to help Todoroki throw Monoma off. Izuku curled into a ball on the floor, burned arms over his head as Monoma tore at his flesh, yelling and crying and spitting.

And so thank the gods for this muteness because his laughter would have given everything away. Izuku laughed and laughed into his knees and nobody heard him. Finally, he heard a voice that tore away any amusement from this impulsively constructed chaos.

Shinsou.

In a moment of madness, Monoma had answered Shinsou’s provocation.

“Go take a fucking walk to the principal’s office,” commanded Shinsou.

Izuku’s heart thumped loudly in his ears.

Monoma got off Izuku without a word and staggered away, eyes blank and unseeing.

Izuku breathed through his nose and slowly loosened that imaginary leash, releasing Monoma from his attraction quirk without disturbing Shinsou’s mind control. His arms stung and his scalp hurt. Izuku thought he might be bleeding from both.

“Izuku, can you hear me?” said Todoroki, hand rubbing his back.

Izuku uncoiled and slowly sat up. He blinked at his arms. They were indeed bleeding from the gashes inflicted by Monoma’s nails. His uniform was torn with buttons missing, his bones started to ache all over.

Bakugou swore loudly.

Izuku looked up. Amidst the worried faces watching him, his eyes locked onto Shinsou’s who was furthest away. For a second he thought he saw Shinsou’s sleepless eyes widen like Izuku’s own. Izuku wanted to say something, call out to him, say thank you, say I love you, say forgive me.

“That fucker, I ought to—”

Izuku yanked Bakugou forward, bringing him down to his knees between Izuku’s legs. Katsuki, he mouthed, winding his fist in Bakugou’s shirt, eyes still locked on Shinsou.

Bakugou shifted reflexively, toward the precipice, muttering, “Fuck,” before bringing their mouths together, breathing Izuku’s breath into his lungs. His hands were everywhere, calloused fingertips skimming ever so gently down Izuku’s sides, softly through his hair, pulling them closer together.

Izuku watched Shinsou flush, saw a flicker of hurt flash across his eyes almost too fast to notice, observed his trembling fists which opened and closed, opened and closed, and then Izuku closed his eyes, satiated for now by the knowledge that Shinsou liked him still.

He smiled into the kiss.

 

*

 

“Duuuude,” said Sero, clapping Bakugou on the shoulder, “didn’t know you were gay.”

Bakugou grunted and returned to his textbook. They had a quiz next lesson.

A few of his classmates snickered and elbowed each other. They meant no ill-will and fuck if they did he’d blast them across four fucking galaxies. Izuku was at the back of the class, revising with Todoroki who whispered god-knows-what to him in hushed rhythm.

Bakugou didn’t care. He seriously didn’t.

Somebody, believe him.

The first time Bakugou thought Izuku was beautiful that nerd was strolling into the classroom like goddamn Jesus resurrection. Bakugou had blasted him off his feet, watched Todoroki help Izuku stand on coltish legs and just knew when Izuku smiled that this boy wasn’t the wimp he knew.

Later, Bakugou would feel the coil of Izuku’s hand tighten around his throat, see the predatory grin etched onto his face, and then once the smoke cleared, Izuku would lick the soot from palm like a cat after a meal. And fuck if that wasn’t one glorious sight.

But—

“This isn’t who you are,” Bakugou wanted to say after he found Izuku covered in bite marks and cum stains.

Even later still, Bakugou would sit by the sofa of his living room while Izuku stared blindly through the half-opened window, wind carding through his hair. Bakugou saw the hardening line of Izuku’s jaw, the twitch of the muscles in Izuku’s throat, his pale eyes looking off into the horizon but not seeing anything.

You don’t know who you are, thought Bakugou.

 

*

 

It was Friday.

Bakugou groaned under Izuku, red eyes impossibly warm, pupils shot and heat rising from his skin. Izuku shifted forward, saw the sunset reflected in Bakugou’s eyes and brought their mouths together, breathing something like sex, smoky and hot, into his lungs. Izuku’s fingers unbuttoned Bakugou’s shirt, one leg wrapped around Bakugou’s back and pulling them closer together, rolling his hips against Bakugou’s desperately.

Izuku pushed him to the floor, one hand pinning him down, curtains dancing uneasily above them, back and forth, back and forth, like waves along a shoreline, and Bakugou, his red lips parted, eyes rolling back into his head.

Later that evening, Izuku gave Bakugou the letter he wrote and watched him cry.

The words were simple enough, honest and straight to the point.

I like you.
Thank you for looking after me.
Stay with me forever.

Through angry tears streaming down his flushed cheeks, Bakugou said something strange.

“Obviously,” croaked Bakugou. “I’m not losing you again.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

At midnight, Kurogiri received the news from his eyes at Yuuei.

Target secured. Quirk: Explosion

It surprised him, this. Izuku was doing his job.

 

*

 

Mr Toshinori hunted Izuku down for their private hero training. It was long overdue and Izuku moping around wasn’t going to cut it any more. In the nicest way possible, Mr Toshinori told Izuku that there were more important things than Izuku’s broken heart. The entire world depended on him.

“Have you forgotten why you wanted to be a hero, my boy?”

The sun was bright in their faces, and somewhere in the country, Tomura was murdering civilians by the hundred.

Izuku shook his head. It wasn’t that he had forgotten. It was that he no longer saw a point in becoming a hero if it meant losing Tomura. Before, Izuku had believed he would be able to cope with it, because being a hero was the right thing to be, but now, when the world had pitted him against Tomura who had set up camp on the other side of the moral spectrum, he was no longer sure. Something like sacrifice, something like the greater good, maybe they were just lies so that the heroes could sleep easier at night.

Mr Toshinori trained Izuku after school on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. They had the gym to themselves. Their activities didn’t go unnoticed by the other students. Bakugou called it fuckin’ favouritism. Todoroki never gave it a name. Either way, words went around school that All Might had finally picked his protege. On the days when the students ogled too much, when there were far too many eyes observing them, Mr Toshinori and Izuku would go to the beach.

“You are terribly out of shape, Midoriya my boy!”

They started with strength training which somehow turned into garbage collecting. Izuku didn’t particularly care. He dreaded the day Mr Toshinori would announce that Izuku was ready to activate One For All. He didn’t have it any more.

Izuku missed Tomura. He missed him so horribly every bone in his body ached, every breath became his name. Tomura’s absence made smiling difficult, but Izuku forced one from time to time anyway. He still had a job to finish.

Walking home on a Friday, Bakugou took Izuku down a new path. He stopped by an abandoned property with a broken door, boarded up windows and no roof. The walls crusted with rust, or old blood, if Izuku wanted to be grotesque. Bakugou let go of Izuku’s hand to point up at one of the grimy balconies.

“That flat, on the fifth floor,” he said, voice thick and unreadable, “you used to live there with your mum.”

Izuku stared at Bakugou, wide-eyed. Bakugou averted his gaze by nodding at a house with a broken red roof at the end of the street.

“That used to be my house. We moved away right after the funeral.”

Funeral. The word ricocheted around the inside of Izuku’s skull like a bullet. Whose funeral?

Then Bakugou looked at Izuku right in the eyes. He held his gaze until Izuku had to be the one to turn away.

“Your funeral, Deku,” he said. “Yours and your mum.”

Izuku said nothing. He couldn’t. And even if he could, there were no words for the way his bones shook, the way his heart clanged like a cathedral bell, the way his ribcage imploded like a collapsed chapel. Izuku bit down a sound which wasn’t quite a sob. He would deal with it. He could. The feeling wasn’t new. Hadn’t Izuku always suspected, hadn’t he always known?

A mother-killer. A matricide. Wasn’t this the very reason he wanted to be a hero? Because of this — an unremembered sin, so poisonous, so acidic — this guilt.

Your quirk isn’t you, Tomura had said. Did he know? Did Sensei know? Was this why they never told Izuku the truth? They saved him. They cared for him when they had no reason to. They would never abandon Izuku now. How could Izuku had been so stupid? He had one job to do. The sooner he finished it, the sooner Izuku would see Tomura again.

 

*

 

Bakugou leaned against his study chair and growled, “You aren’t gonna change your mind are you?”

Izuku looked up from the photo album Bakugou had given him. These photos were evidence of a life Izuku couldn’t remember.

“I’m not an idiot,” said Bakugou. “If you could, you’d run back to that bastard in a heartbeat. You don’t give a damn about this world. The world which he’s tearing apart, by the way.”

Izuku closed the album and got off the bed. His slippers clacked across the floorboard. He held Bakugou’s gaze as he made his way towards him. Bakugou held his breath as Izuku kneed his legs apart and climbed onto his lap, calves bracketing Bakugou’s hips. He kissed the top of Bakugou’s head, working his way down to his eyelids, the top of his nose, his cheeks, his mouth. A beginning a snarl ripped from the back of Bakugou’s throat. Izuku’s chest trembled from suppressed laughter.

“Answer my question, dumbass,” he growled, turning his head away. “It’s not funny.”

Izuku licked his lips. He mouthed, Will you come with me? He worded it as a question, a request, needy and shy. But it wasn’t. Not really. Izuku was long past asking people for things. He couldn’t afford it. This was a demand. Izuku needed verbal confirmation of a vow Bakugou made to him from the dregs of survivor’s guilt.

“I don’t like that bastard,” said Bakugou. His throat bobbed when he swallowed.

Izuku let his eyelids fall. His lips quirked into something like a smile. Do you like me?

“Yes,” said Bakugou, mouth following Izuku’s when he made to move away. “I do. I like you.”

Izuku’s smile widened.

Bakugou averted his eyes. He stared at Izuku’s hand, clasped over his own. “I promised my mum I wouldn’t let you out of my sight. Now that we’ve got you back.” Bakugou squeezed his hand. “I’ll go wherever you go. I can’t watch over you if I’m not with you.”

I like you too, Izuku mouthed through the kiss. 

 

*

 

Over the weekend, Bakugou rang up Todoroki. They took Izuku to the cemetery. They lay flowers by his mother’s headstone, then Bakugou fucked Izuku over his empty grave. Izuku was alive — he made sure Bakugou understood that. Follow me, or lose me again.

“Deku,” Bakugou groaned, his mouth slick and loose from the kiss.

Izuku held back a whimper, his arms thrown over his head, hands clutching the black marble of his headstone.

Bakugou was half in the present and half in the past, yesterday’s child, back when he thought Izuku had died again and again in his nightmares every night. Bakugou and his parents had gone hiking on Izuku’s birthday and were the only ones who had survived, who lived to dream about everyone else who had died.

Bakugou braced his hands on either side of Izuku’s head, panting above him. It was wrong — Izuku knew this. They both did. Bakugou bit harder, fucked harder, spoke harder than Tomura did, and Izuku didn’t love Bakugou, not like he loved Tomura, never like he loved him.

Bakugou was no hero, of course. Izuku wanted him to know that. Hero, Izuku thought. It was a four-letter word. A word he needed Bakugou to stop believing in. Your guilt must make everything taste like ashes.

 

*

 

“You two could have just gone there by yourselves if you had wanted to — to partake in something so obscene,” spat Todoroki on Monday morning. “Both of you are shameless. I can’t— just, leave me alone.”

For the next two weeks, Todoroki refused to look at either of them. His anger was cold. Izuku found it amusing in a cruel sort of way. Every time their eyes met by accident, or when Izuku caught Todoroki’s gaze, Izuku went out of his way to hold his attention, until Todoroki turned red and fled from the room. The hurt in Todoroki’s eyes made Izuku feel less alone.

But then, the third week arrived, and Todoroki came to school with a bruised eye and burns and blisters on his arms. News spread like wildfire of the Todorokis’ family feud. They fought, once again, over the matter of Midoriya Izuku. Endeavour was under the delusion that his youngest son could be saved from following a blind orphan who opened his legs to the super-villain’s protege.

Izuku passed Todoroki a note during third period. Can you still be dissuaded from my side?

The answer he got back was simple: No. It showed resolve and absolute certainty that Todoroki believed his choice was limited. Of course, it wasn’t. Endeavour wouldn’t give up so easily. Endeavour didn’t know what giving up was. That was why he had created Todoroki Shouto in the first place — if he couldn’t win, he had to make sure at least a part of him would. But Izuku would very much like Endeavour to give up. Todoroki believed he had chosen his path, that he had no other choice but to follow Izuku to the ends of the Earth. Izuku just needed to make that a reality.

And anyway, it was cute — how much Todoroki wanted to believe from the deepest part of his beaten soul that there would be a place for him in the new world order.

When morning break came, Izuku walked with Todoroki to the vending machine.

Why don't you run away? wrote Izuku in his notebook.

"My father will find me and drag me home," said Todoroki grimly. When he crouched over to dig the green tea out of the flap, Izuku placed his palm on Todoroki's head.

Izuku's body shook with mirth when Todoroki looked up at him, annoyed. His eye was puffy and purpled, his arms bundled in bandages. Izuku dug his fingers into Todoroki's scalp, hand tangling in his hair. If he concentrated hard enough, Izuku could ignore the red and pretend the straggly white strands belonged to Tomura. His heart ached again. Suddenly, nothing was funny any more.

"Izuku," gasped Todoroki. He was wincing below him, cheeks flushed, tears sticking to his lashes and the corners of his eyes.

Izuku let go.

Todoroki held onto his drink, grip white-knuckled. He made no move to stand. His face slanted up to Izuku, openly ogling at him, panting heavily. Izuku cast his head around in panic. Had he accidentally activated one of his quirks? His space manipulation remained deactivated. Then what was holding Todoroki hostage — the attraction quirk? No. Not that either.

Shakily, Todoroki reached out as if for Izuku's hand but at the last moment his cold fingers grappled at Izuku's belt. Izuku would have yelped if he had the voice for it. Todoroki lurched forward, teeth fighting against zippers, hot wet tongue licking at Izuku's half-hardness through his trousers.

The clicks of cameras went off just as Izuku shoved Todoroki off him. He backed away, glaring first at the General Department girls with their phones out, then at Todoroki, kneeling on all fours, heat rising from his neck to his cheeks, bandages unravelling, mouth parting for air.

It was all an act — this. Todoroki had known the girls were standing there, he had known what they would do, and he had used both Izuku and them in the hopes of getting back at his dad.

Is this a game to you? Izuku all but hissed.

And the smile quirking at the corners of Todoroki's mouth made Izuku's blood boil.

"Is it not to you?" asked Todoroki, voice hoarse. "What's wrong with this? I am literally sucking up to you as you would expect. It just so happens that this is also exactly what my father doesn't want. Do this for me, please, and I'll—”

Izuku stormed off. How could he trust Todoroki when he was going to use Izuku at every turn? Todoroki was dangerous. He was out of control.

 

*

 

"Wow, dude," said Kaminari with a laugh. "You've broken Tododo with your sex appeal."

Izuku threw a ruler at him. Kaminari ducked with a yelp. The ruler ricocheted off the wall and hit Kaminari's phone with a satisfying crack.

"You broke my phone," squawked Kaminari. "I didn't even finish that video!"

Izuku huffed. He crossed his arms and threw himself into the desk chair. They were in an empty classroom. It was half an hour after morning break, and Izuku had refused to return to class. Kaminari had been the one to find him fifteen minutes in.

"To be fair, Tododo does have a point," said Kaminari.

Izuku threw him a glare.

Kaminari prattled on, "I mean, how is this different from that time you humiliated him during the sports festival? Sure, this time he instigated the whole thing, but it's him who's getting humiliated, not you."

Izuku pursed his lips. Even if Kaminari was right and Todoroki was the one who sought to be humiliated, Izuku just didn't like that he—

"Admit it, you just didn't like that Tododo is three moves ahead of you," said Kaminari, plucking the words right out of Izuku's thoughts.

Izuku grimaced. He was right.

"When am I ever wrong?" scoffed Kaminari. "Look, y'know my dad. He works in the underworld, trading illegal arms and, like, other illegal assets — but my point is, it's a dangerous world I grew up in. I'm astute to these things. Trust me, okay? It's better to have someone as clever and as powerful as Todoroki submissive to you, than have him subverting you."

Izuku scribbled angrily on the desk: I can't have him around if I can't trust him not to use me.

Kaminari flung his arms in the air. "Then use him! You know what his problem is. Solve it for him, or help him solve it. Then he'll stop playing you to solve his own problems." Kaminari got up. "The prejudice's got to stop, Izuku. He grew up in a rich family. So what? He looks proper. So what? Todoroki Shouto is the least prideful out of all of us, y'know. D'you see anyone else lining up to pledge their allegiance by offering to suck you off for the cameras?"

Izuku flushed.

"Todoroki's won this round. Even if you had accepted his advances, he still would have won. All he needed was to show his dad how much he wants to, er, y'know, be on your side. You rejecting him is just a bonus. What would Endeavour think of his son pledging allegiance to someone who doesn't even want it?" Kaminari tapped the desk with his cracked phone, before making his way to the door. "Anyway, you owe me a phone."

 

*

 

For the rest of the week, nobody was willing to talk to Todoroki or look at him in the eye. Todoroki dealt well with the isolation. All the girls flushed whenever they saw him, and the boys gave him an even wider berth. Sometimes they made locker room jokes about how they wouldn't want to get jumped on by Endeavour's son.

All the pity and awkward smiles were given to Izuku. There were giggles behind cupped knuckles and mirthful side-glances, but for the most part, everyone saw Izuku as a bright, upright protege of All Might who had the misfortune of having Endeavour's son whoring after him. And anyway, everyone who knew anyone who knew Izuku at all would know that Izuku was dating Bakugou. And even that — even that was a charity case.

Midoriya Izuku was dating a boy with anger issues because he was too nice to reject him. And Midoriya Izuku was still somewhat in speaking terms with Endeavour's son, even though Todoroki tried to jump him, because Izuku was too polite to cut ties with him. Poor Izuku, the blind orphan boy, the victim of his own goodness.

At the very least, Kaminari found the politics of all this funny enough to make Izuku feel that maybe it wasn't actually that bad. At the very least, Bakugou didn't turn back into a tyrant and ban him from staying over at Todoroki's house for the weekend. Bakugou wasn't happy, though. But on some level, he must have understood that it was something Izuku had to do.

Mrs Bakugou had been worried for Izuku. She even volunteered to go have a word with Todoroki's dad to make sure he wouldn't beat the crap out of Izuku when he turned up on his doorstep. But Izuku had only smiled — he couldn't do anything more than that, really. No one but Bakugou, Kaminari and Todoroki knew of his physical muteness. Everybody else believed it was a psychological thing.

"Deku'll handle it," grouched Bakugou over dinner. "It's more of a safety thing for the half-half bastard. Something might happen this weekend if Deku isn't there to stop it."

"Then why don't you go with Izuku?" said Mrs Bakugou. "Todoroki is your classmate too. And—”

"Damn it, woman. Deku told me he'll handle it," said the grouchy son.

Izuku smiled behind his chopsticks. He leaned over and pecked Bakugou on the cheek. Bakugou muttered, "Gross."

Mrs Bakugou looked at them dubiously, but her eyes softened. Mr Bakugou coughed behind his fist, ears reddening. Neither of them had grown used to the fact that their son had the patience to actually like anyone for more than three seconds without wanting to blow them the hell up. But here was their son, dating the quirkless childhood victim who he bullied almost to death. They still couldn't wrap their heads around it.

"Well, if Izuku-kun says so," said Mrs Bakugou, glancing at Izuku, hoping almost that Izuku would miraculously regain his speech and answer her.

Izuku smiled uncomfortably and ducked back behind his rice bowl.

 

*

 

Once we get this over with, you will not undermine me ever again, Izuku wrote on a piece of paper torn from his notebook.

"Of course," said Todoroki tightly. He was nervous, Izuku could tell. "My sister Fumi knows you are going out with Bakugou. She thinks very highly of you and so — we can't let her think there is anything remotely sexual going on between us."

There wasn't. But they were going to make sure Todoroki's father thought otherwise — that the creation he was so very proud of fell in love with a cheater like a mistress to a corrupt politician. Or whatever. Izuku didn't care for logistics and analogies. He knew what he needed to do and he would do it as clinical and as professional as the situation allowed. And then, he would make sure Todoroki Shouto would never lay a hand on him ever again.

Todoroki was quickly reddening in the glow of the Saturday sunset. He brought up a hand to scratch his neck where stray strands of white hair was tickling his neck. His pinky caught on the collar of his green polo shirt, flipping it upside down.

"I, erm," stammered Todoroki. This was a first. His sandals pattered on the gravel beneath their feet, kicking up the dust around his ankles, thighs disappearing under his loose khaki shorts. "Thank you for doing this. I didn't think you would allow for it. That is, for the path I have chosen, I believed I was supposed to walk it alone. I had hoped you would be there but I know it isn’t a guarantee." Todoroki's eyes bore holes into Izuku. It made Izuku's chest hurt. "I know you don't love me, so thank you. Is there anything you need before we do this?"

Izuku reached out to straighten Todoroki's collar, averting his eyes to his reddened ear. He could feel Todoroki's shallow breath against his cheek and the dampness of sweat when his fingers brushed his neck.

Just your loyalty, mouthed Izuku. He could perhaps like Todoroki like this, when he was honest, grateful and full of suffering.

 

*

 

Acquisition in progress. Quirk: Half-Cold Half-Hot 

 

*

 

Tomura had already replayed the video fifty-six times when Kurogiri returned.

They had set up camp in the woods by the borders of Edo where there was enough signal from the radio tower which Tomura decided not to destroy. The clearing was made by his hands alone. The trees decayed to give them the berth they needed to set up their temporary settlements. Kurogiri had gone to get them food, and the recruits went away to collect wood and to make fools out of themselves by the stream.

Tomura reclined in his foldable chair and watched the scene replay over and over on the screen. Izuku had grown so tall, his body lithe, muscles taut and flexing, cheeks hollowing out and jawline sharp as a razor.

“He’s got your mannerisms,” said Kurogiri, “all of them to my dismay. Are you proud?”

“Shut up,” said Tomura, closing the tab.

“You’ve seen the video. He thwarted that boy at every turn. It bewilders me that Izuku-kun would have no taste for someone so fit and fetching even after his heart has been squashed and trampled by you who lack both qualities.”

Shut the hell up,” hissed Tomura, turning to glare at Kurogiri.

A hazy yellow smile flickered on Kurogiri’s foggy face. “The others are murdering the fish and the rabbits and the squirrels by the stream, if you are wondering.”

“I know. I sent them.”

“Does none of them hold your interest?” said Kurogiri.

“Why would they?”

“What do you make of Miss Touga? She is very young, like Izuku-kun. And she is quite creative. She paints.”

“She’s insane,” grouched Tomura. “She paints in blood.”

Kurogiri raised his non-existent eyebrows. “Whereas you, of course, paint in watercolour?”

Tomura stifled a sigh and with it the urge to burn the whole forest down. One For All pulsed within him. He could do it if he wanted to, if the screaming and the wailing and the screeching would just—

Stop.

Tomura opened his eyes. He was breathing heavily. He was on his knees. A circle of decay was spreading fast around him.

“You are, I think, losing control,” said Kurogiri quietly. “Perhaps, it was given unwillingly. Did you force it out of the boy through coercion?”

“It was given willingly,” spat Tomura. “That is the point of the power.”

“It isn’t if you tricked him, Shigaraki Tomura,” said Kurogiri, “Perhaps, you should—”

“Why d’you care?” Tomura stood up on shaky legs. “You’ve never cared about that brat. Don’t start now.”

“I do care. When it is affecting you. Sensei wouldn’t approve—”

“Sensei isn’t here. Shut the hell up unless you think you can control it better than I can.” Tomura stalked forward, hand outstretched.

Kurogiri immediately backed away.

“Twice has recently come in contact with a certain Monoma Neito from the mental ward in Kamino. You might want to meet him,” said Kurogiri, changing the subject. “You do recall the harassment video recorded from Yuuei’s cafeteria a few months ago. Monoma Neito is the boy who attacked Izuku-kun. It just so happens that the situation might not have been as clear-cut as it seemed at first. The brat, as you call him, might have had a hand in provoking —”

“So, what? We left those quirks with him for a reason. He can use it however he wants. If he poisons Yuuei from the inside, that’s better for us.”

“Yes, but my point is: Monoma Neito’s quirk might be of interest to you.”

“To me, or to Sensei’s successor?”

Kurogiri’s tilted his head. “Should I be aware of a difference?”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

On his way back from the convenience store, Kaminari ran into Shinsou. He banged out of the backdoor of the Pancake House in his neon-pink uniform. The ice-lolly dropped from Kaminari’s mouth as he guffawed.

“What the hell, dude?” cried Kaminari in between bouts of laughter. “No wonder Izuku dumped you!”

Shinsou’s eyes widened. “What?”

Kaminari stilled, and suddenly he remembered he had never talked to Shinsou in his entire life and Shinsou probably had no idea who the hell Kaminari was.

But then Shinsou glanced at Kaminari’s hand and asked, “Were you texting someone?”

Kaminari quickly hid his phone. The screen was cracked from where Izuku had flung the ruler at it.

“If you’re not busy, I need to speak to you,” said Shinsou. And after an awkward beat where Kaminari neither agreed nor declined, Shinsou added mechanically, “And you can answer, obviously. I’m not going to brainwash you.”

Kaminari regarded Shinsou with narrowed eyes as he considered how best to approach this situation. He decided quite promptly that he would carry himself with an air of nonchalance and use conflicting arguments to confuse his opponent. Ideally, to minimise the risk of potential mind-control, he’d have to answer all the questions before Shinsou could ask them.

It should be easy. This was obviously going to be about Izuku. When was anything not?

“You can start by telling me how you knew I’d be here,” said Kaminari. “And if this is about Izuku.”

“I saw you from the window, so I asked for a break,” said Shinsou, thumbing at the shop. “And yes, I suppose.”

Impulse decision, then. Nothing too thought out nor planned, which meant Shinsou was probably going to take a while before he figured what he wanted to say and how to say them.

“So what d’you wanna know about him that you can’t ask him yourself?” asked Kaminari, then, after he realised he actually couldn’t be bothered to wait, he said, “Izuku is doing worse than he looks, thanks for asking. I mean, he’s dating that violent-ass Bakugou who thinks he can just up and grope Izuku whenever the hell he wants. But not like you care, right? I mean, you certainly don’t seem to care that Izuku’s still in love with you.” Kaminari paused to let that sink in. He checked his nails and didn’t care if it made him look sassy, because he couldn’t figure out how to look nonchalant without channeling the spirits of the nonchalance masters that were the entire female population. “Anyway, how’s Uraraka? You started dating her after the Tournament. Too bad Izuku doesn’t have nice tits like hers, or you might’ve forgiven him for falling in love with that super-villain before he met you.” Kaminari shrugged. “Well, whatever. Bye, dude.”

As Kaminari made to leave, Shinsou grabbed him by the arm. Kaminari turned around with raised eyebrows.

“What do you mean he’s in love with me?” said Shinsou. “He’s dating Bakugou.”

Kaminari snorted, yanking his arm out of Shinsou’s grasp. “Are you that naive or just plain stupid? You don’t honestly think the world is that clear cut, d’you? And why the hell do I have to give you love advice?” He flung his arms in the air, nonchalance be damned. The bar to femininity had always been set too high, anyway. “D’you seriously believe Izuku would choose Napalm instead of, I dunno, what are you, Dark and Brooding? I mean, don’t get me wrong, Napalm’s got decent qualities too even though he’s violent as hell. He accepts Izuku just as he is, for instance, and didn’t go around throwing tantrums just ‘cause our Victim of the Year turned out different from how he was imagined. But yeah, that’s the only reason they’re together. ‘Cause Bakugou actually wants Izuku as he is, two-way heart and all. Being in love’s got nothing to do with it, man.”

Shinsou took a step back, expression twisting in pain. And honestly Kaminari didn’t care. Shinsou could feel hurt all he wanted. Shinsou got Uraraka, and Kaminari had been so furious about that when he first found out, because Kaminari had already called dips on that chick, for fuck’s sake.

“That dumbass knows he can’t have you,” Kaminari went on. “For some stupid reason, he thinks you deserve his complete and utter devotion, not that half-ass obsession he’s got going on, so that’s why he backed off. But, not like you care, right? You got Uraraka.”

Shinsou swallowed. “Does he know? About me and Uraraka?”

“Of course not. And I ain’t gonna tell him. He’ll be so fucking devastated when he finds out. But whatever, right? He’s been through worse. You saw it,” said Kaminari shrilly, and from the way Shinsou averted his gaze, hands trembling, Kaminari knew he had successfully slammed that memory back into him: of the night they had found Izuku, violated, naked and alone, wrapped in sheets crested with come stains. “Y’know, I always wondered … when he went to find you at that PC Room, how different things would’ve turned out if instead of beating him up, you’d tried to work things out.”

Shinsou looked up, eyes wide.

“You were his first friend, and probably could’ve been so much more.” Kaminari was laying it on pretty thick, but whatever. Time to make Shinsou angry and then laugh at him. “It’s too late now. If there’d been any chance for Izuku to get with you, he completely blew it. I know you prefer your love a little less stained by someone else’s come, and all that.”

Shinsou’s eyes flashed, and Kaminari’s back slammed against the wall, Shinsou’s arm digging into his jugular.

“I don’t care about that,” hissed Shinsou.

Kaminari coughed, sputtered, then, leaning his head against the wall, he let out a laugh. “You sure, man? Didn’t you take a rain check when you figured your relationship with him ain’t gonna be all sunshine and hail Shinsou?”

Kaminari raised his palms and sparks flew out threateningly. Shinsou hesitated then stepped back.

“Honestly, I don’t care. I don’t swing that way, and I don’t intend to.” Kaminari straightened his shirt, and picked up the bag of instant noodles he’d dropped. “But Izuku’s my friend. And I mean an actual friend, not like the way you were friends with him. So you better not try anything when you already got Uraraka.” Kaminari gave him a shit-eating grin. “We both know you’re all start and no finish.”

Then Kaminari left without looking back. Taking out his phone, he finished his text and pressed sent. He knew full-well that Shinsou wouldn’t listen to him. In fact, Kaminari counted on it. The faster Shinsou made his move, the faster all this stupid shit would be over.

 

*

 

Upon receiving the news from his eyes at Yuuei, Kurogiri’s mouth stretched into a smile. 

Acquisition in progress. Quirk: Brainwash

Two good news in one day. How quaint.

 

*

 

Something in Todoroki was broken beyond fixing. Every fibre in his body was born and bred skeptical, cold and underhanded. He did not know how to trust anyone because he hadn’t yet learned to trust himself.

He knew only of walls and barricades because they were of his own making. They were things against which he leaned when life tired him, when all the worlds came crumbling down yet still he must remain on his feet. They closed in on him sometimes, these rules he had built to box him in, they shifted and moved like a labyrinth, and when all that which he knew turned against him, he put one foot in front of the other and carried on.

He watched Izuku now and did not like what he saw. Izuku moved about the house with imperious grace, marred only by a clumsy gait of someone unused to sight, and Todoroki seethed at the injustice of it all. Izuku smiled with ease, pale eyes crinkling into half-moons, fingertips running over every single surface of the living room, head nodding along to the ebb and flow of Fumi’s voice as he let her talk at him.

It was intimidating and unsettling to see, Izuku shrugging on that easy charm with an amiable face when he meant none of it. Endeavour glared at Izuku with deep stern eyes, silent and burning, yet apparently unconcerned that Izuku lived and breathed like he owned the place. Todoroki must wonder if Fumi had talked their father into submission, but quickly discarded such notion. If their mother’s ice could not quell their father’s heat, Fumi’s snow surely could not dampen him.

Fumi danced from one topic to the next, from all the news she’d read about Izuku to all the kids in her class, the quirkless ones, the ones with edges rough and bruised, who had now banded together through their idolisation of Izuku. They played with blindfolds and crayons, dotting their cheeks with coloured freckles. Izuku’s shoulders trembled with laughter as he inclined his head, easy and accepting, yet with a lingering sadness to him. Fumi paused before she switched her praises to gentle questions about his school life, only to answer them herself.

“Fumi, why don’t you let the boy speak?” their father’s voice boomed.

Todoroki narrowed his eyes, not sure if he was being cruel or stupid. From the look on Fumi’s face, Todoroki knew she wasn’t sure either. Endeavour knew that Izuku couldn’t speak.

Izuku’s back was tensed even as he skimmed his fingertips over the gold-coated trophy cups that were copper and brass beneath. But then Endeavour threw something at Izuku, a flash of black and white, and Todoroki jumped to his feet.

It turned out to be a marker pen which Izuku plucked out of the air with his back still to them. Then he craned his neck in Todoroki’s direction with an odd smile on his face, like he thought it was cute that Todoroki wanted to protect him from a goddamn pen.

Todoroki flushed and fumed, feeling his ears redden at the edges, and the laugh Fumi let out did not help nor did his father’s gaze. He eased himself back into his end of the sofa, schooling his face into the cold veneer he’d perfected at the age of ten.

Izuku plopped himself into an armchair, crossing his long legs with an air of loftiness that made Todoroki seethe at evolution. This boy, risen from the ashes time and time again, worked his way through life like he had never been humiliated beyond reckoning. Even if this was a facade Izuku had put on for Fumi and Endeavour, it felt real even to Todoroki, and he could not decide if he should be impressed or offended.

And because Endeavour knew nothing of subtlety, he asked, “Are you working with the League of Villains?”

“Dad!” cried Fumi.

Ah. So that was why their father had let Izuku into his house. As long as it helped Todoroki along to his goal, he would not care.

Izuku fished out his notebook from his back pocket, uncapped the marker with his mouth and scrawled onto a blank page, making sure not to look as he wrote. His handwriting, still clumsy like a child’s, came out even more crooked and half-formed, but the words more than made up for it:  

No, but I slept with one of them.

Fumi slapped her hands over her mouth, not because it was news to her, but because she couldn’t believe Izuku had literally spelled it out for them.

If only she knew, thought Todoroki sardonically, if only she knew of half the things Izuku had the audacity to do while the world looked the other way: getting fucked in the graveyard; getting fucked over then left behind; getting off in the school infirmary; getting off in an alleyway, lewdly licking a strip up a palm. Todoroki fisted his hands. How was Izuku still functioning? Disfunctioning?

Unfazed, Endeavour grunted, “So you don’t consider yourself manipulated or abused like the reports say. You side with them still.”

Dad,” said Fumi in a hushed tone.

Izuku’s smile had frozen on his face, and it took him several seconds to thaw it. But when he did, something about him had changed. His pale eyes burned with cold fire and when he grinned at their father, it felt less like easy humour and more like a gnashing of teeth, sharp as a razor.

Izuku leaned back in his armchair and uncrossed his legs. The action wasn’t meant to be taken as lewd but it made Todoroki flush all the same. Then Izuku looked in Todoroki’s direction, one hand sliding up his thigh to flip the pages of his notebook, and Todoroki was caught between love and hate. He would never understand why the world tried to ignore this boy, swept him under the rug simply because they weren’t fond of being reminded that their justice had screwed over people like him, because who could walk away from Midoriya Izuku? Why would anyone want to? And the hateful part of Todoroki was seething at how effortless it was for Izuku to charm people over to his side.

Izuku flipped the notebook around to show them what he had to say for himself, and Fumi let out a laugh. 

I’m hungry

“I think it’s time we get started on that dinner, don’t you think?” said Fumi brightly, getting up from the sofa. “Izuku, would you like to help me prepare the vegetables? And Shouto, you too. Come on.”

Izuku rose to his feet with that same imperious grace, and Todoroki’s knees knocked together like two icecaps when he stood.

Todoroki caught Izuku on their way to the kitchen and took him aside. Izuku pressed his back into the wall beside the wooden chest, and Todoroki felt his world tipping when Izuku arched his eyebrows, as if he was inviting him into his personal space.

Todoroki sucked in a sharp breath because this had never happened before, and he wasn’t sure if he was reading the signs correctly, or his mind was just too stricken to make sense of anything. For all he knew, Izuku could be goading him at how useless Todoroki was at solving his own problems, and how even Todoroki’s family now liked Izuku more than they liked him.

Then Todoroki heard heavy footfalls behind him as his father came into the corridor, and Izuku rolled his eyes, hooked a finger into the belt loop of Todoroki’s shorts and tugged until their bodies collided. Todoroki slammed his hands on either sides of Izuku’s head to prevent himself from crushing him completely, and there was an odd quirk of Izuku’s mouth that made him wish he hadn’t.

The footsteps stopped just outside the living room, and Todoroki could feel his father’s gaze burn holes into his back.

So they just stood there with Todoroki breathing heavily on Izuku like a lumbering dog. He felt big and clumsy and damnably stupid, just short of backing out, and he probably would have if it wasn’t for Izuku’s finger curling around his belt loop.

“I,” he croaked, “I don’t know if I can do this.”

And what the hell. This was supposed to be the other way around, Izuku, shy and unsure, and Todoroki manipulating him into getting the job done. But if that had truly been the case, how far could Todoroki have pushed before he himself got cold feet? He knew for certain that his stupid sense of righteousness would have kicked in and he’d be berating himself for having been no less corrupt than his father who had ruined his mother, or Shigaraki Tomura who had trampled on Izuku’s heart.

And it was sickening, if Todoroki let himself think about it, that he was only swapping one evil for another. Izuku’s heart followed Shigaraki Tomura, and after Todoroki went through with this, he would be following Izuku in turn. That was the deal.

Todoroki’s moral crisis wasn’t resolved as much as it was thrice ridiculed into oblivion when Izuku rolled his eyes, scoffed, then ducked out under Todoroki’s arm. His instincts, a habit spawned from constant battle with loss, made him whirl around, grab Izuku and throw him back against the wall. All the while, his father’s glare scalded and blistered, brighter than noon. I will spurn you at every turn, thought Todoroki heatedly, and—

Izuku’s own pale eyes flashed white-hot brilliant like a light bulb exploding, saying, See, you can do it if you try. He pushed at Todoroki’s chest until he stumbled back, and then they went to help Fumi with dinner, walking past his father with easy disregard.

 

*

 

Dinner was tensed. Attempts at conversation fell onto deaf ears, and Todoroki knew his father had not taken well to that brash possessiveness he had displayed. Yet any triumph he should feel was marred by the knowledge that it had been real.

“Would this not be easier if you use your quirk on me?” Todoroki might have said at some point in between slicing up the carrots and the daikons, and Izuku had answered with a sarcastic smile as if to taunt, Oh, but Shouto, why don’t you try working hard for once in your miserable life?

Todoroki swore that was what that smile meant, because immediately afterwards, Izuku had flung his knife into the sink and threw himself into a chair and just sat there like an invalid until dinner was ready.

Fumi struck small talk now with Izuku who nodded and smiled, eyes crinkling occasionally to show his amusement during the funny parts of Fumi’s tales. Todoroki kept staring at Izuku, he couldn’t help it, and Fumi had to kick him under the table and tell him to finish his dinner before it got cold. At some point, he’d stopped registering his father’s eyes because Fumi’s gaze began to bother him more.

“We could be the Weather Gang!” said Fumi.

Todoroki spat out his tea.

“You know,” Fumi went on, "since I can make snow, Shouto can make ice, you Izuku can make rain, and—”

Todoroki coughed louder, trying to drown out her next words.

“—Dad can make fire.”

Their father grunted, unimpressed.

Izuku grinned and bounced in his seat. Todoroki doubted that his excitement was just for show, because as much as Izuku hated Endeavour, it was in only an abstract sense. Izuku hated heroes like Endeavour for perpetuating a society where the divide between civilians, villains and heroes widened everyday. And one of Izuku’s weaknesses was that he actually liked people; the idealist in him always starving to be a part of something bigger than itself.

Todoroki scowled. It was unfortunate that Shigaraki Tomura got to him first.

Or perhaps it had been a good thing. Without that man, Izuku would’ve been washed out by the system long ago, crippled before he could even make his stand. And that — that was a thought Todoroki lashed out violently against; Izuku as a statistic, a death count on TV.

By this logic, Shigaraki Tomura was a necessary evil.

“Shouto,” said Fumi quietly.

Todoroki blinked. He looked up then followed Fumi’s gaze down to his hand.

His tea had frozen.

Todoroki thunked the mug thoughtlessly against the table to thaw it. The ceramic shattered, leaving his tea standing in the shape of the broken container.

Izuku snorted at his idiocy. Todoroki fumed, getting up to throw away the frozen tea, but Izuku caught him, and then, time stopped.

Todoroki watched as Izuku threaded their fingers together, cold against his own heated one. Then Izuku lifted their hands over the table, hovering Todoroki’s palm above the chunk of ice. Todoroki felt his panic rise and tried to tug his arm away. Izuku stopped him with a small noise in the back of his throat, manoeuvring Todoroki’s hand back on the ice.

The room seemed to have gone still, thick with silence. This — this was almost as low as Todoroki could go, allowing Izuku to coax him into submission, to break his own code and use his fire side in front of his father. The mere thought of it almost had him running if not for Izuku’s other hand skimming up his thigh like a promise.

Todoroki’s breath hitched.

When Izuku unthreaded their fingers, Todoroki’s heart gave an almighty lurch as his fire broke through the barricades, setting itself loose upon the world. Ice turned to meltwater, wood charred to ashes, his father’s face burned bright with pride and fury.

The flames perished.

Todoroki was panting, flushed in the face, horrified and throbbing in his pants where Izuku’s hand had kneaded him to hardness.

“Fuck,” he swore, voice husky and hoarse from the strain.

Well done, Izuku had the audacity to whisper, and Todoroki saw red. He glared at Izuku who looked off to the side with his charade of blindness. The quirk of his lips made it clear that he found this whole situation amusing, that Todoroki throwing caution to the wind, breaking down his barricades, using his fire to thaw fucking frozen tea, amused him in that detached our-classroom-goldfish-has-just-died way.

Todoroki slapped Izuku’s hand off his crotch and Izuku raised his arms in the air in the act of pretend surrender.

“Is this a game to you?” growled Todoroki.

Izuku’s face lit up at those words, and Todoroki’s mind reeled back to that day by the vending machine when Izuku had spat those same words at him. Todoroki paled, stricken from the mock-innocence that had now replaced the manic gleam in Izuku’s eyes.

“He was just trying to help, Shouto,” said Fumi without understanding, and everything burned. Because what did Fumi know about Izuku? What did she know about her own brother? Not a single fucking thing.

And then there was his shitty old man, eyes burning across the table. Pride shining bright through his outrage like he had won a battle that he had no actual fucking part in. Todoroki’s mind whirled to a screeching halt, thoughts slamming their breaks on the only thing he could do to beat his father still.

Izuku made a startled noise in the back of his throat when Todoroki grabbed his shoulders, knocking him into the back of his chair. Their knees knocked together, and Todoroki kissed him hard enough that he almost bit down on his lips, and it made everything tilt and slide sideways like vertigo, like his entire world was crashing down on him. Their teeth clicked together and their noses bumped hard and it was sloppy, artless, out of control and Izuku had brought him to this point.

Then his sister’s voice cut across all that pent up heat and anger, cold like when they had been children and she had shot snow into his shirt. Fumi’s grip was tight around his collar as she yanked Todoroki away from Izuku. And the last thing Todoroki saw before Fumi shoved him out into the corridor was Izuku, back curving into his chair, his hair tousled, his cheeks flushed, his mouth slick-red and loose from Todoroki’s kiss.

“What were you thinking?” said Fumi shrilly.

Todoroki didn’t answer right away. He was still trying to get that image out of his head.

“Hey!” Fumi snapped her fingers in front of him, and that got his attention. “What is going on with you, Shouto? Why did you do that to Izuku? You know he’s dating Bakugou! And he was only trying to help you. You didn’t need to humiliate him like that in front of Dad!”

Todoroki blinked. “Humiliate him?”

“Yes!” Fumi flung her arms in the air. “You out of all of us should understand best the things he went through! You told me that you were there after he—” Fumi cut herself off. ”Look, Shouto. That was out of line, and you know it."

“I wasn’t trying to humiliate him,” said Todoroki, still dumbstruck by that one impossible thought. “I wouldn’t be able to do it even if I tried.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Fumi frowned.

Todoroki opened his mouth and then closed it. He couldn’t explain it even if he wanted to. People like Izuku just weren’t capable of humiliation. They simply refused to be humiliated no matter what was done to them or what they did to others. How could Todoroki explain that and not sound like a complete asshole? The last thing he wanted was to turn Fumi against him. She was the only bright thing in his life.

“Please, don’t hate me,” said Todoroki.

Fumi touched his arm. “Shouto, why would I hate you?”

“Because I think I love him,” he croaked. “I think I’ve loved him for a while now. And I don’t know what to do about it.”

Fumi’s anger drained and her face fell into a look so close to pity that Todoroki had to turn away. Tears burned at the backs of his eyes.

“Oh, Shouto,” she said softly.

“I want,” he stopped himself, because he wasn’t sure what he wanted, what he was allowed to want. ”He doesn’t love me. But he doesn’t love Bakugou, either, even though they are dating. So why can’t I have him too?“ His voice broke. ”I also hate him, Fumi. I hate him as much as I love him. And I’m starting to think that it’s because he doesn’t love me back."

Fumi hugged him, and Todoroki never thought he could cry like this.

“I want — I need him to just look at me,” he said shakily. "He treats me like he doesn’t see me, Fumi. And don’t you dare make a joke about him being blind right now.”

“I wasn’t going to,” said Fumi, rubbing his back.

Todoroki sniffled against her shoulder and closed his eyes. His tears were hot and didn’t know what he was supposed to do. “When he looks, he sees someone that he hates, and I don’t know what I’m supposed to do to fix that."

“You worry me so much, you know that?” said Fumi softly after Todoroki had calmed down. “You’ve always been so conflicted about right and wrong, and when I watch you, Shouto, it’s like I’m holding my breath.”

Todoroki pulled away to scrub furiously at his damp face.

“Why?” he asked.

Fumi cupped his cheek tenderly. “Because you have this look on you like you’re always a breath away from breaking.”

“But I’m fine now,” Todoroki croaked and then winced because he didn’t sound fine.

“You do that all the time, too. Always trying to be brave.”

“I’m not. Really.” And that, he supposed, was Fumi’s point. That he wasn’t, but he tried, and was always a day from achieving.

“I think, I’ll go stay over at my friend’s place tonight,” said Fumi, and she was smiling at him like she was in on some secret from which Todoroki was excluded. “All this hopeless pining’s got to stop, I think. What I don’t know, or see, or hear, won’t disturb me.”

Todoroki flushed. “Why would you do this?”

“Because you’re my little brother, Shouto. And you love him, so.” Fumi shrugged. “I don’t owe that Bakugou boy anything. And to be honest, I think you’re better for him anyway.”

“That—” Todoroki wheezed ”—has nothing to with it."

“Oh, yes, it does. All my students seem to think so,” said Fumi gravely. "They’ve been scouring the internet for pictures of you and Bakugou, you know? Team Bakugou! Team Todoroki! They’d shout during recess, and—”

“What? What? Your students are, like, seven years old!”

“Yes, and they’ve all seen that video of you on your knees.”

Todoroki swore. He hadn’t thought about that. Seriously. Why were children even allowed on the internet?

“Don’t worry. They think you were trying to propose,” said Fumi, patting him on the back. “Or, that’s what I told them, anyway. Honestly, Shouto, I thought you were just mad at Dad and was trying to use Izuku to get back at him.”

Todoroki’s heart gave a lurch like he’d missed a step on the stairs. Because, yes, that was exactly what that was.

He was a horrible human being.

 

*

 

When they returned to the kitchen, Todoroki felt like he’d slept through the whole weekend and had woken up on Monday thinking it was Saturday.

There seemed to be have been some sort of dramatic quirk showdown of which the conclusion were as thus: Izuku sitting petulantly in his chair, arms crossed, face smug yet stern, and Endeavour, drenched from head to sole, also still in his seat, flaming beard and shoulders smoking pathetically under the rainclouds Izuku had conjured to hover over Endeavour’s head.

And one of them — Todoroki didn’t know who — had gone out of his way to set up a parameter by lining wads of tea towels all around Endeavour’s chair in order to contain the fucking rain.

“Please, can someone explain,” said Todoroki mechanically, “what is going on.”

 

*

 

Cleaning up was a quiet affair. Fumi had packed her things and left the house with a wink. Endeavour had retired to his study, leaving Todoroki and Izuku to mop up the floor and wash the dishes.

All was fair in love and war, Fumi had said, but Todoroki had a hard time finding fairness in such things. He and Izuku had not spoken a word to each other. Halfway through cleaning up, Izuku did that thing again where he abandoned the chores to go fling himself into a chair.

This time, Todoroki caught him before he could get too far. Izuku stumbled into him. Todoroki ignored the drumbeat in his chest as Izuku’s eyebrows cocked meaningfully.

“I’m not going to apologise for attacking you,” said Todoroki, which sounded a lot like an apology already. “You should have seen it coming.”

Izuku scowled but didn’t leave, just continued to watch him, and it wasn’t fair because even though Todoroki was a few centimetres taller, Izuku seemed to be looming over him, overwhelming him with his presence alone.

The last beam of the sun caught on Izuku’s eyelashes when his eyelids flickered shut. He tilted his head, silent and waiting. Todoroki’s heart pounded madly against his ribs, and when he moved forward to kiss him, Izuku stepped away, eyes fluttering open, a smirk stretching across his mouth.

Then he threw himself into the chair, one arm hooked over the backrest, watching from the other side of the table as Todoroki, flushing from humiliation, went back to completing his chores.

“You taunt me, and you goad me, and for some reason, I am still tolerating it.” He scrubbed furiously at the last plate in the sink, rinsed it under the hot water that reddened his hands, then stacked it beside the others to dry on the wrack.

Clothes rustled somewhere behind him, and Todoroki whirled around to see Izuku shrugging off his jacket and dropping it on the floor. Todoroki’s breath caught in his throat as Izuku curled his finger with a smile.

“What?” said Todoroki thickly. “You want me to go over there, and then what? You’re just going to mock me again?”

With a look half-resigned, Izuku took off his shirt and flung it at Todoroki. The fabric hit his chest and fell to the floor. Izuku leaned back into his chair again, raising his eyebrows like he was daring Todoroki to try misinterpret that.

Todoroki bit out, “You’re going to have to start jerking off in front of me before I can believe anything you’re trying to say.”

Izuku bent over the chair to pluck a box of condoms from his jacket, and there was laughter in his eyes as Todoroki launched across the table to shove his tongue into Izuku’s mouth. The kiss was hot and messy, with Todoroki tangling his fingers into Izuku’s hair, and Izuku slanting his face up to meet him, kissing back.

Izuku pulled away a second later to roam his eyes over Todoroki who was panting on top of the table, crouching over Izuku on all fours. And something about it must’ve awakened something in him, because Izuku’s pupils dilated behind that glassy stare and his breath stuttered in his chest.

Izuku scooted his chair to the side and watched Todoroki crawl over the table towards him. Izuku let out a noise like a growl, yanking Todoroki until he fell heavily onto his lap. Todoroki kissed him brutally, and Izuku hissed and bit and growled, hand fisted so tightly in Todoroki’s hair he knew Izuku would have a handful still when he pulled away from him.

And Todoroki really should have seen it coming, because Izuku had been watching him today like he hadn’t seen anything like him before, like he’d watched Todoroki soothe his burns in the locker room, break into his flat just to wait for him to come home, scrub sweat and sex stains off his body, and cook him dinner, but had never really seen him for who he was.

And now Izuku had, somewhere in the midst of a tongue in the back of his throat, hands fisting together in the fabric of Todoroki’s shirt, he had taken a time to look at him.

It was enough to give Todoroki that swooping, tipping feeling inside, the one where he was falling, falling, falling, rushing down until Izuku’s hands around his ribs caught him. Frenzied and heady with desire, they kissed until their lips turned numb, until the friction through the fabric of their pants didn’t cut it any more.

Todoroki pulled away to take off his shirt, hooking his legs around Izuku’s hips to grind down on him. Izuku rose up to meet him, breath stuttering.

There was a moment where Izuku raised his hand to brush Todoroki’s hair out of his eyes that had him falling head over heels again, and Todoroki could believe almost completely that Izuku loved him back.

Then Izuku wrapped his arms around his shoulders, pulling his mouth back down to his. They kissed for awhile, the shameless, interactive kind of making out with open mouths and licking tongues. And this was the first time Todoroki had ever kissed somebody, yet he didn’t think any other kisses would be able to top this one. Izuku hummed, moving down to mouth at his neck, sending little aftershocks rippling all across his skin.

Later, they stumbled out into the living room, quietly laughing, as Izuku pushed Todoroki down into an armchair then moved away to start unbuttoning his own jeans. Todoroki watched with bated breath as his trousers pooled at his ankles. Izuku stumbled out of his underwear, kicking all his clothes into the trophy case.

Izuku rolled his eyes at Todoroki who still had his shorts on. Tearing impatiently at the box of condoms, he sauntered over to Todoroki.

“Wait,” said Todoroki, sitting up and catching Izuku around the wrist.

Izuku let out a noise of frustration. His cock was hard and already dripping wet, red around the head and throbbingly hot when it slid against Todoroki’s chest. Izuku hissed at the contact, twisting his arm out of Todoroki’s grasp to wrap his fingers around his erection, jerking himself off right there before Todoroki’s eyes.

It sent Todoroki’s mind reeling back to that first time in the Nurse’s Office, when he had pulled the curtain open to Izuku thrusting his tongue into Shinsou’s mouth to the same rhythm of their hands inside Izuku’s pants. And then that time at the flat, after Izuku’s world had ended, and Todoroki had to be the one to clean him up while everybody else looked the other way. And lastly, the image most recent in his mind: the muscles which rippled beneath Izuku’s back when his grip tightened over his gravestone, his pale legs parted quiveringly, eyes scrunched shut as he braced himself for Bakugou to take him.

“You do it,” Todoroki blurted out, and Izuku froze. "I want you to do it.”

Izuku’s eyes darkened, and Todoroki knew he’d won. Because this — this was how he would win against them all.

The next thing Todoroki knew, Izuku was tearing him out of his clothes, flinging them across the living room and spreading his legs so far apart that Todoroki was made to hook one knee over the armrest.

Todoroki flushed to the roots of his hair, his own hardness swollen and leaking pathetically over his stomach for all the world to see, and Izuku’s breath caught as he backed away to take in the sight, burning gaze daring him to even move an inch.

“Please,” said Todoroki shakily, and he wasn’t sure please what. Don’t look, he wanted to say, but that wasn’t it. He wanted Izuku to look at him, needed him to look and want him still. Because this was him sinking as low as he could go to get everything he wanted, and he had never felt this humiliated in his entire life. He was at the mercy of a boy who could easily sneer and spurn him if he so wished.

Izuku glowed under the light of the corridor, tall and lithe, muscles taut without an ounce of fat to his bones. His eyes flashed as they took in every inch of Todoroki’s body.

Todoroki’s grip dug into the armrests; all his walls had been torn down with nothing left for him to hide behind, and so all he could do was grapple at the things closest to him. (The truth was this: Todoroki had always been at Izuku’s mercy. It had started from the moment he went and decided for himself that Izuku was the answer.)

Izuku’s mouth shaped around his name in wonderment, and that had Todoroki parting his thighs further, hand flying to his erection, gripping and stroking it to ease the throbbing. Izuku hissed and was back on him within seconds, hips falling between Todoroki’s own as he stared headily up at Izuku who gyrated his own rigidity onto Todoroki’s as if that was its only purpose.

Izuku slid his hand beneath him to lift Todoroki’s hips higher, fingers digging into his ass, nails grazing the crease between his cheeks. Izuku lined his cock and then slid into him slowly, and Todoroki cried out as Izuku stretched him beyond his limits.

Izuku dipped his head and kissed Todoroki, inky hair falling in rivulets over his eyes and curling damp from sweat around his ears and neck. He was so beautiful like this and Todoroki couldn’t believe that Izuku wanted him.

This — this was the sort of attention he hadn’t known he craved, that he hadn’t even known existed. He knew only of the sort that was always followed by the back of a hand, the look of stern disappointment, the feeling of failure, but never — never had he felt anything like this. Just plain and primal desire, the basest of base, and Todoroki wanted more.

He wrapped his legs around Izuku, lifting his pelvis from the sofa. Izuku snarled, slamming the rest of his cock into him, and Todoroki screamed out his name, heady with pain and promise. Izuku panted over him, heavy breaths falling onto his face, eyes scrunched shut like he needed a moment to calm down, like Todoroki was making him crazy.

“Izuku,” said Todoroki hoarsely, hand coming up to cup Izuku’s cheek, “use your quirk on me, please.”

Izuku’s erection jerked inside Todoroki, and he pulled out only to slam back in. Todoroki sobbed, his own hardness pulsing between them, pre-come splattering against his belly. Izuku yanked Todoroki’s hair back, digging his teeth along the contours of his throat, and Todoroki knew the exact moment Izuku activated his quirk because the only thing he remembered after that was a burst of pleasure, white-hot and never-ending.

 

*

 

Todoroki recalled that night only in snatches. Him pleading and screaming himself hoarse, nails raking across Izuku’s back, head thrashing wildly, toes curling into the fabric of the seat. Him sobbing Izuku’s name as he came again and again, all inhibitions replaced by the lightning in his veins.

Him on all fours, catching their reflection on the trophy case, expressions wrecked and wanting, and then coming just from that.

He thought he remembered seeing something like his father’s eyes burning in the light of the corridor, but then Izuku had snatched him by the jaw, grip savage and bruising, shoving his tongue down Todoroki’s throat. Todoroki might’ve tried riding him once or twice before Izuku snarled, flipping them over to pummel his cock into him.

The only thing Todoroki knew for sure was that they had fucked until sunrise.

 

*

 

Something in Todoroki was broken beyond fixing. He had not yet learned to trust himself or anyone else, yet he had given everything to Izuku anyway.

In the morning, the birds chirped and the sun shone like the world wasn’t spiralling to hell. Body aching and soul half-dead, Todoroki woke up on his futon in his room with no recollection of how he got there. He crawled over to his drawers and pulled out whatever he could reach. And what he could reach were a pair of sweatpants and an old Yatta! shirt.

He put them on while still on all fours, then, piecing together of what was left of his shattered dignity, he pushed himself to his feet. He bit back a scream as pain shot up his back, then stumbling and bruised, he braved the world.

Todoroki went out into the living room just in time to see Fumi come in through the front door. He let out a shout that should have sounded something like, “Wait, don’t come in yet!” but all that came out of his mouth was a feeble croak.

“Good morning!” said Fumi from the doorway, kicking off her shoes.

Todoroki stood there pallid and shaken, waiting for the world to end. There were clothes strewn across the living room and shredded condom wrappers scattered all over the place. Todoroki’s underwear was hanging from a fucking lamp.

Izuku took that moment to waltz out of the kitchen half-naked with a pudding cup in one hand and a pudding spoon in his mouth. He smirked, patting Todoroki’s dick as he brushed by on his way to Todoroki’s room. He gaped at Izuku whose arms and ribs bore purpling bruises in the shape of Todoroki’s handprints. His back had been scratched red and raw while his shoulders blistered in little divots in the shape of teethmarks.

After Izuku disappeared down the corridor, Todoroki swallowed and turned back to meet Fumi’s horrified eyes.

 

*

 

“Why can’t you just put on a fucking shirt?” hissed Todoroki, because if he tried to raise his voice, it would just crack miserably.

Izuku’s eyes widened as if he wasn’t sure when Todoroki had gone from princeling to foulmouth. But seriously what was the point? Every child in this whole fucking world could go on the internet right now and watch Todoroki try and fail to suck Izuku off.

But it hurts, Izuku mouthed, indicating the scratches and the marks, the fabric chafes.

And yeah, that effectively shut Todoroki up. But he was still mad, though. Mostly at himself.

Izuku was bruised. Izuku was beautiful. Izuku was so fucking unfair. Izuku had that way of bringing people to his side, and he had used it against Todoroki, because, somehow, Fumi adored Izuku still and blamed Todoroki for everything.

“Is that my phone?” said Todoroki, stalking and wincing over to where Izuku sat by the computer desk. "What are you doing with my—”

Izuku raised a finger and Todoroki halted. Then, to Todoroki’s horror, the sound of his own voice rang out from his phone. It was sobbing uncontrollably over the vulgar slapping of skin, “You’re like a god, Izuku!

Todoroki swore, and then, “Delete it!”

Izuku handed his phone back to him, and Todoroki nearly dropped it. The wallpaper had been changed from a cherry blossom tree to a photo of Todoroki leaning back into Izuku’s chest, his dick throbbing wet in front of the camera, while Izuku’s own was pushed up to the hilt inside Todoroki’s ass. He had his head turned to the side, capturing Izuku’s mouth with his own, and Izuku had his arms hooked under Todoroki’s knees, spreading his thighs for all the world to see. And Todoroki could, he thought, remember something like this happening, which made him swear loudly, because what he remembered was that he had enjoyed every second of it, and had kept asking and asking from Izuku who had given all that he could.

Todoroki’s dick twitched inside his sweatpants just from the memory alone, and he was furious with himself. He looked up from his phone and the smile Izuku gave him made him want to set them both on fire. For the minute that Todoroki was glaring at Izuku, the phone had locked out. When he opened it again to delete the photo, he was met with a different image on the lock screen.

This one was taken by Izuku who was sitting in the armchair with his knees to his chest, and Todoroki was kneeling on the floor in front of him, kissing Izuku’s feet like he worshipped the ground he walked on. Todoroki did not remember having done this. It must have happened in one of the quieter moments where the pleasure and pain hadn’t peaked to mark the event to his memory.

“I can’t believe we did all this,” said Todoroki shakily, even though he had a feeling it might have been just him who had wanted to take those photos. Izuku couldn’t have known his passcode.

He got back into his phone, saw that lewd picture of him with his legs open again, and his skin crawled. How could he have been so shameless? Why did he think letting Izuku take away his inhibitions was a good idea? And how could Izuku have gone along with it like he hadn’t found what Todoroki had done disgusting? Then something occurred to him.

“Thank you,” he blurted out, “for deactivating that quirk, after— you know.”

Izuku scribbled onto the post-it lying on the desk, We ran out of condoms and you were coming dry.

Any illusion of dignity he might have convinced himself he had recovered shattered at that moment. Todoroki hid his face in his hands, wishing for the world to end. Why was Izuku still here? Why hadn’t Izuku run away?

Izuku tore the post-it off, smacked it on Todoroki’s arm, then scribbled onto another one, You were great.

And Todoroki didn’t know what he was supposed to do with that information. Izuku was treating him like he needed a pat on the back for his efforts or something. This was stupid. But then he looked back at Izuku who seemed to be holding his breath, waiting for something. Todoroki’s eyes widened.

“I wish I had remembered it more clearly,” said Todoroki with difficulty. “Because you were great.”

Izuku smiled, cheeks flushed, eyes fluttering shyly as he ducked his head to gaze out the window. And maybe, maybe all of this had been worth it.

 

Chapter Text

 

They raided Kamino’s Mental Asylum, fleet-footed and silent as the night. Or that was before Touga had stabbed the nightshift nurses with the syringes, and they screeched and wailed and whined, then Dabi and Twice had made it their mission to release the criminally insane from their underground cells, setting them loose upon the world.

Tomura glowered but said nothing. He would deal with them later, the members and the rampagers both. Maybe they would make a game out of it, call it Japan’s First Regional Hunt, or Nationwide Hide-and-Seek.

The shrieking started in his head again. Tomura clutched at it and thought feverishly of words, any words, to drown them out: I came into a place void of all light which bellows like the sea in tempest when it is combated by warring winds.

Lurking within the shadows of the medicine cabinets, Kurogiri’s glowing eyes were fixed on Tomura even as he opened the portal to allow the members to return to camp.

Tomura quickly dropped his hands and set his face to stone. When I had journeyed half of life’s way, he chanted, I found myself within a shadowed forest, for I had lost the path that does not stray. A light-haired boy with wide quivering eyes and mouth taped shut pressed himself further into the wall. His body was bound tight like a sausage by the straitjacket of Touga’s own design. She smacked her lips on the boy’s mouth and disappeared through the portal last.

“Monoma Neito,” said Tomura, grabbing him by the collar.

The boy stumbled into him, wobbling, whimpering, sweaty and pale. Tomura tugged at Monoma’s scalp until his face slanted up and he could see into those moist frightened eyes. Tomura showed him all his teeth.

“How does it feel to be locked up after getting tricked by the brat who, as you so claimed, got his ass pummelled by this villain?”

Monoma sobbed then wet himself. Tomura struck him across the face hard and heard something crack. Monoma whimpered, not dead. Disgusting. The number of showers and bottles of bleach Tomura would need to feel clean again.

“What do you plan to do now, Shigaraki Tomura?” asked Kurogiri calmly. “Other than return to scrub your own skin raw, I mean.”

“Get us to Sensei,” said Tomura. “I need his quirk right away. His body can go to science.”

 

*

 

Amid the flickering screens and whirring monitors, Sensei listened to Tomura’s plans. Sensei was proud, he told Tomura so and granted him the means to accomplish his goals.

“I am pleased you have bothered yourself with the details, Tomura,” said Sensei, voice deep and low. “It will not be long before the Symbol of Peace falls. I hear from Kurogiri you have been struggling with One For All.”

“I’m handling it,” said Tomura as calmly as he could. In his head, he chanted, He goes seeking liberty, which is so dear, as he knows for who it renounces life.

"Causing massacres left and right is not handling it. If it becomes too much, then perhaps—”

“I’m not giving it back to him.” Tomura rose from his seat. “It doesn’t belong to him. Not to a brat like him.”

Sensei pursed his lips. “You have learned nothing of compassion. You care very little for that boy. You go so far as to take away his voice so that his pain will go unheard. I see now that Kurogiri worries for nothing.”

Tomura clenched his fists and didn’t let his triumph show. He knew it. Kurogiri had been spying on him. Tomura had been right to acquire Monoma’s quirk. He could not trust Kurogiri with the schemes beneath the plans.

 

*

 

“What is your plan?” said Kurogiri, prowling after Tomura.

The voices were quiet now. But Kurogiri wasn’t.

“You already know that,” he grouched, tearing off his clothes to get into the shower.

Kurogiri hovered by him, unrelenting. “Yes, but this one is either new or not a plan at all. You have copied my quirk, and now what?”

“You don’t need to know everything,” hissed Tomura, and then, "I’ll be taking it out for a—”

“Swing? Spin? Ride? You treat this like a game,” said Kurogiri with a disappointed sigh. “Some things will never change.”

Tomura thought of Kurogiri’s true loyalty and said, “No, some things never do. Tell Touga and everyone to go ahead with the rest of tonight’s plan.”

Kurogiri’s foggy face twisted grimly. “I assume this plan has something to do with the poor mutilated squirrels and rabbits we have strung to rot and reek over the stream.”

“Yes,” deadpanned Tomura. “And you’ll be the one to carry them. Touga knows where they need to go.”

 

*

 

Now clean and alone at daybreak, Tomura teleported himself into Yuuei where all was quiet like someone had slipped a sedative into the water system.

One For All pulsed through his veins like poison. It lumbered and slumbered and lay in waiting for the world to lull his mind into a state of uncertainty, of loneliness, of sleep, and then it would try to take over, to own him, to sway him, to get him to hurt himself.

Tomura entered Izuku’s classroom. It was empty and dead and begging to be destroyed. But Tomura wouldn’t. Not yet. Not now. Tomura had looked at the class register. He had seen the pictures too. He knew where Izuku sat.

Taking out the book and the note and the gift, he stashed them all inside the desk. He turned on his heels and stopped. He thought of the flat they used to live in, white on white on white, airy linens and book shelves that reached from the floor to the ceiling and eyes that saw nothing.

Tomura cursed under his breath. He whirled back to glare at the desk, yanked out the chair and sat down in Izuku’s seat. He was breathing heavily for some reason, heartbeats loud in his ears. Gingerly, he lifted a hand to run across the desk. Tomura tried not to think pointless thoughts like how Izuku had sat here, how it had been weeks since Tomura had seen him, months since they had — since they had been together.

He jerked his hand away. He hesitated. Again. He scrubbed at his sleepless eyes. Tomura was tired, so tired of this game he played to get him through each day, this touch and go, this meaning yes when saying no, this wanting to give yet not knowing how.

“Izukun,” said Tomura with a staggering breath, abrupt and heavy like a scrim of fog falling upon the silence.

Outside the window, the sun was rising. There had been a day just like this one with Izuku looking up at him, blinking indistinctly, morning light catching on his eyelashes. Recite something, please?

“‘There is greater sorrow’,” murmured Tomura to no one, “‘than to be mindful of the happy time in misery.’”

Folding his arms on the desk, Tomura lay his head on them. Just for a second, he would close his eyes and allow himself these tender thoughts before returning to face the bloodshed of his world. Surely, this cursed power would allow him this.

He did not know for how long he lay there, or if he had fallen asleep. But when he came to, there was a man standing behind the teacher’s podium. Tomura had a feeling he had been watching him for a while.

“It’s Sunday, my boy,” said Toshinori. “If you’re planning to invade the school, then come on a school day. There’ll be plenty of children to abduct then.”

Tomura sprang to his feet with a sneer. “Don’t mock me. I have no interest in your snotty, sweaty spawns.”

Toshinori regarded the desk Tomura had been resting on. “Not a single one?”

“Izukun isn’t yours,” said Tomura. “Just because I lent him to you doesn’t mean he’s yours.”

Toshinori’s eyes flickered with the pretence of understanding which made Tomura bare his teeth.

“Why are you here, Shigaraki Tomura?” asked All Might’s frail human form. “Tell me what you seek inside Yuuei if not to destroy it.”

Tomura considered this. He breathed in deep and tried to calm down. A memory came to him, words and phrases which had frustrated him then, which he felt he understood now.

“I seek what all men seek,” he said bluntly.

“And what’s that?”

”’All men seek happiness. This is without exception’,” recited Tomura. ”’Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves’.”

Toshinori blinked, surprised by something. Tomura knew not of what nor did he care. He had stayed too long. He was ruining his own plan. He must leave.

“So that’s why you’re here. Because you seek happiness,” he said incredulously, mockingly even.

Tomura frowned. “Because I miss him.”

That made Toshinori scowl. He stepped out from behind the podium, that pathetic feeble creature who called himself the Symbol of Peace while in a bodysuit.

“And so you came here despite the risk of getting caught,” said Toshinori darkly. “You came here because you believe by doing so you’ll be able to ease your own pain.”

“Yes,” said Tomura with great difficulty. He didn’t like agreeing with All Might.

The two-faced man’s voice cracked like a whip, “And what about his pain? What about the boy you left behind in the cruel manner that you did?”

Tomura rounded the desk with a snarl, “I had no choice! It needed to be done as I had done it. I did it for him.”

“You tricked the power from him and used it to cause destruction,” said Toshinori darker still. “He wouldn’t tell me but I know it’s been taken from him. You say you did all that for him. But both you and I know he wouldn’t have wanted all those people killed.”

“I needn’t explain myself to you, old man,” said Tomura, clenching his fists.

“Are you being controlled?”

“No,” said Tomura with a scoff. What a fool, no brain and all brawn. And now, not even that last. “No more than your students are. No more than Izukun is. I am me, and he is himself. Surveilled, yes, at all times. By them then, and by you now.” He paused. “But maybe this is a form of control. Yes. Docile bodies they make of us for the preachings and the—” Tomura blinked. ”The voices are listening."

Toshinori frowned. “The voices?”

“They come with the power,” said Tomura. “Tell me you know how to quiet them. You’re one of them, and they want to kill me.”

“The power you stole—”

“It was given.”

“—is not to be used for evil, not to terrorise or destroy, not to take innocent lives,“ said Toshinori, distressed. ”What you did goes against everything the power stands for. You have angered the predecessors who have fought with their lives and souls to protect the world from people like you."

“People like me,” snarled Tomura. “I get to decide what that means. Not you. Not society. Not the dead ones turning in their graves like that wretched woman who calls herself my grandmother yet wants me dead! She is the one to blame. She drives me mad. People wouldn’t have died in hoards and masses if it wasn’t for her and you and the rest!”

Toshinori paled, mouth gaping like one of those fish Dabi had gutted out of the stream. “Your grandmother? Who—”

“The one that came before you,” said Tomura impatiently. “I don’t know her name. A Shimura. I see it in her eyes, they’re just like Father’s eyes. Tell me how to contain her.”

Toshinori stood rigid and stricken at that name. But Tomura didn’t care. It made no difference to whom this wretched power used to belong, his grandmother or not. If it meant something to this skeleton of a man, if it hurt him and horrified him, then all the better. All Tomura cared about now was how to silence the voices. Tomura dug his nails into his arms. His skin was crawling again.

“Her voice is almost as loud as yours, but softer still than Izukun’s,” explained Tomura, voice strained. “Amid your pointless preachings of justice and the likes, she comes to me in my sleep, walks me to the edge of the cliff, leads my hands into the firespit, tempts me with the promise of a peaceful end.” Tomura paced around the room, knocking into desks and chairs, angry and agitated. “I did what I had done to survive, so that I can finish what I started, so that I can see him again.”

“So you didn’t mean to cause all that destruction,” said Toshinori as if it mattered.

“I did, you old fool,” spat Tomura. “It was my decision to destroy. I made those choices, the voices didn’t. They don’t control me.”

This was getting nowhere. Toshinori clearly didn’t have the answer.

“That’s not what I mean. Of course, they were your choices,” he said sternly. "Those deaths are on your hands. But I need to know that you would’ve chosen to act differently if not for—”

“Well, obviously,” grouched Tomura, halting by Izuku’s desk just short of knocking it over. “The worst of it wouldn’t have happened if I’d known how to contain the madness.” Something moved at the edge of his vision. He spun around and saw a wisp of light, a ghost of a memory, running, giggling. Muracchi, recite something, please? Tomura blinked and it was gone. “‘You can’t keep comparing yourself to other people — if nature has made you a bat, you can’t decide you want to be an ostrich’. Yes, I still would’ve destroyed. To induce fear. To strike chaos. To inspire faith. But on a smaller scale — few enough to be forgiven."

“Forgiven. Forgiven by who?”

“By him.” Tomura skimmed a finger on Izuku’s desk. “But, he’ll forgive me still. I know it. His is the only voice that doesn’t want me dead. He wakes me from the worst of nightmares to remind me of what I’ve done, what he has suffered by my hands, that I’ve yet to return to him.” He paused when his voice threatened to tremble. He cleared his throat. “He kills me slowly that way. But that’s what he always does, whether from within or without. I know how to handle him: his begging, his whining, his wanting.”

“Wanting?”

“Love, so he says. From me.”

“And do you — love him?” asked Toshinori.

“That’s none of your business,” said Tomura who puffed out his chest all the same. “But yes, I do, or I will once I figure out how to do it properly. I plan to give everything to him: love, hope, sight, voice, happiness. And return this power also.”

Toshinori’s eyes widened. “You will?”

“Yes. After I use it to kill Sensei, and then to kill you.” Tomura flashed a savage grin. “Izukun respects you too much to do it himself but it needs to be done for a new world to be created.” At the horror on Toshinori’s face, Tomura’s heart danced with glee. He continued, “You and Sensei are two sides of the same coin. That’s what I’ve learned. If I kill one and not the other then the world will be unbalanced. We need a world where neither of what you and Sensei represent exists. A world that is not so hinged on morality is what we need.”

That seemed to snap Toshinori’s back to his senses.

“A society with no morals is no society at all,” said the two-faced man.

“You misunderstand,” said Tomura, gritting his teeth. “I don’t mean an immoral world, but a world that isn’t so incapacitated by right and wrong that it is incapable of becoming anything else. I will create a world with justice but also without. A world left at peace by peace itself.”

“And you plan on creating this world by killing me and — the man you call Sensei.”

Tomura rolled his eyes. Finally, the fool understood. ”Yes. Because you are, after all, the lid of vague platitudes which suppresses this trash heap called society. And Sensei is the other side of that coin. Or the dregs of it if you will.”

Then Tomura showed him all his teeth. There was a look of horror on All Might’s frail face, but it left Tomura dissatisfied and increasingly aggravated. All Might seemed to be horrified at something which, Tomura felt, had to be completely besides the point.

This was confirmed when Toshinori said, “You haven’t been sounding at all like yourself. My boy, what happened to you?”

Tomura turned his back on the Symbol of Peace, because he could, because he had the power to do as he so pleased. He made a show of opening the portal so that it erupted behind him like wings instead of Kurogiri’s boring vortex ones. Then the wings snapped around Tomura like a book slammed shut, and just like that he teleported himself out of Yuuei.

 

*

 

Beside the laundromat and a few blocks away from the Pancake House, Tomura stepped out of the portal and into the secondhand bookstore. Consider your origin. The bespectacled woman behind the counter looked up. She nodded at him like all in the world was well. You were not born to live like brutes but to follow virtue and knowledge.

“I need a book on docile bodies,” said Tomura, “I forgot where I’ve read it.”

The woman adjusted her glasses. “Did you bring your money this time?”

 

*

 

Toshinori immediately fumbled for his phone after Tomura left.

“Did you all hear that?” said Toshinori.

On the other side, Aizawa grunted, and Tsukauchi said, “This is troubling.”

“Either he’s killed off his own comrade to steal that warping ability or he’s achieved it by some other means.” Though that wasn’t what most worried Toshinori, it had to be pointed out first. “Can we make contact with Kamino to check on Monoma Neito—”

There’s been a report of a raid a few hours ago,” droned Aizawa. “From the loose cannons Best Jeanist managed to recapture, it seems the League of Villains had broken them out. Fifteen injured from stab wounds. Five casualties from artillery punctures to the neck and the heart.

“By a quirk or a weapon?” said Toshinori.

Syringes,” said Tsukauchi.

Toshinori felt a little green. “And what of the boy?”

There was the dreaded silence which seemed like answer enough.

Missing,” confirmed Aizawa.

Toshinori cradled his head in his hands. “Tsukauchi? I need you to look into something.”

Shimura Nana, I got it,” said Tsukauchi. “I’ll dig up anything I can find and bring them to you during debriefing. I’ll ask my partner to look into adoption agencies active from now all the way back to seventy years ago just to be safe.

“Thank you, Tsukauchi,” said Toshinori.

After the detective hung up, Aizawa stayed on the phone, silent and contemplative.

“Something’s different about him this time, Aizawa,” said Toshinori. “You heard him. His speech patterns, and the way he — something’s bothering him.”

He’s bothered a lot people by slaughtering them and their families with your power which you had given away on a goddamn whim,” said Aizawa savagely.

Toshinori winced. “If Shimura Nana truly was his grandmother—”

It changes nothing. So you think your power is making him speak like he’s from the 17th century. What gives you the idea that I care? I don’t give a damn if he speaks dead languages or to the dead people in his head,” grunted Aizawa. “But if he starts inscribing runes or carving alien patterns onto public properties, then that’ll be useful for us. Maybe we’ll be able to use them to lead us to their new hideout because stopping them is what matters. And let it be known that you fucked up, Yagi. There’s no way in hell we’ll be able to get your power back.

“He says he’ll give it back,” said Toshinori but that just sounded pathetic as if they were at the mercy of the League of Villains. And they were, in a sense. “He also says he will kill All For One. Maybe they aren’t on the same side.”

He still murdered people. We can’t side with someone like that.” Aizawa hung up.

Someone like that, thought Toshinori in despair, was his master’s grandson, the boy he had failed to save. Fumbling with his phone, he called the principal. They needed to raise security measures surrounding Yuuei. Not that it would help. With that warping ability, the villains could invade and destroy the school any time. The only reason it hadn’t been done was because of Midoriya Izuku alone.

At the very least, Toshinori had been right about that, even if he had been dead wrong about everything else. He sank down into the teacher’s chair.

Even so, he was glad he had fought so fervently for Midoriya’s place here at Yuuei. It ended up being the only thing which had protected them for so long. And judging by Shigaraki Tomura’s sentimental visit, the students and the teachers would continue to remain safe for a little while longer.

 

*

 

Meanwhile, Sunday morning at the Todoroki Household went by a little like this:

Fumi had stormed off right after she had returned, threatening her brother by pain of death to scrub clean every single surface of the living room. Their father had gone out at daybreak after receiving a disturbing phone call from his sidekicks regarding the mutilated animals and death threats which had been dished out to some hero agencies but not all.

Endeavour’s office seemed to have been gifted with a bespoke rotting rabbit-slash-squirrel with their flesh turned inside out. What Izuku found so funny, and what made Todoroki flush, was the thought of Endeavour storming past all the shredded condom wrappers and strewn pieces of clothing in order to leave his house. In the impossible chance that Endeavour hadn’t heard or seen them fuck, he would have known for certain then.

Upon interrogation, Izuku confessed quite confidently that Endeavour had come into the living room last night and seen his pride and joy get his ass pounded by a super-villain’s whore. Todoroki inquired rather feverishly for details regarding their sex position and the volume and pitch of his own voice at the moment his father had discovered them. Izuku informed him as best he could that Todoroki had been riding Izuku like a show pony on the rug before Izuku had flipped them over only for Todoroki to immediately ejaculate so hard he’d smeared his own face with semen.

Don’t worry, wrote Izuku, that happened within the span of ten seconds and your father left immediately out of disgust.

After Todoroki had calmed down from his bouts of shame and trauma, tearful in the face and shuddering, he pulled his knees to his chest and whispered, “This. This is what I wanted. I wanted to show him that he doesn’t own me. And I, I saw it through.”

In that moment, Izuku wished that he could speak, that he could comfort Todoroki in a way that wouldn’t spook him, that didn’t involve touching which would only remind them of the things they had done last night.

Izuku sucked in a sharp breath. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. Izuku was meant to finish the job and then leave. Staying wasn’t part of his plan.

He should have just left that quirk on and then left the house after he was done with Todoroki. That would have benefitted them more, angered Endeavour more, perhaps, to the point of disowning his son. To see his proud creation bruised and battered, naked and alone, begging to be fucked still by a boy who had abandoned him to plead to no one. Surely, that would’ve done the trick.

And yet, Izuku had stayed, had turned off his quirk and carried Todoroki to his room, had gone to retrieve a damp towel and returned to wipe him clean as best he could just as Todoroki had done for Izuku after — after Tomura had left him.

“I thought you said it would be for just the night?” said Todoroki, voice breathy, when Izuku bent down from the chair to lift Todoroki’s head from his knees and pushed his mouth chastely to Todoroki’s own. It was just for a second, yet the way the tight knots of Todoroki’s muscles came undone made Izuku’s heart give a happy lurch.

You look so sad, whispered Izuku.

“I don’t need your pity. Really,” Todoroki said, eyes following Izuku’s lips.

Cupping Todoroki’s cheek, Izuku mouthed, Not pity.

“Then what?”

You. That was the only answer he knew.

Todoroki’s eyes darkened and his breath stuttered. He followed Izuku imperiously from the floor when Izuku sat up. Todoroki followed him all the way into the chair, climbing onto his lap, and just sat there watching Izuku unblinkingly, their noses almost touching.

Izuku laughed, pushing Todoroki’s hair from his face and felt his breath hitch against Izuku’s chest. He looked like he was about to cry, and Izuku couldn’t quite fathom why, so he turned Todoroki around, rearranging them until they sat facing the same way. Todoroki snuggled into his chest and Izuku rested his chin on Todoroki’s shoulder. They turned on the computer and surfed the internet for hero news.

A few minutes later, Izuku heard quiet sniffles but didn’t comment on it, not that he could anyway. Instead, he placed a kiss into the crook of Todoroki’s neck whose silent sobbing stuttered to a stop. When he raised his arms to scrub his face, the backs of his hands came away damp. He hastily wiped them against his shirt and Izuku pretended he didn’t notice.

There were news on every site regarding the mutilated animals. It was kind of strange that the press were so concerned with that when Izuku thought the news about the raid of the mental asylum, which had been pushed to the side, was a little more important.

“Did you read that?” said Todoroki, tensing in Izuku’s arms. “Monoma Neito went missing.”

Izuku frowned. He still wasn’t that great at reading.

“Your— I mean, the League of Villains released the criminally insane. Do you think they abducted Monoma?” said Todoroki.

Izuku didn’t know. But the thought left a bitter taste in his mouth. What was so important about Monoma that Tomura had to go and collect him and not Izuku? His stomach twisted and his heart burned with jealousy. What if Tomura had taken interest in Monoma? What if Sensei and Kurogiri thought Monoma was more useful than Izuku?

Todoroki’s placed his hand over Izuku’s own which had curled white-knuckled around the armrest.

“I’m sure Monoma’s quirk would come in useful,” said Todoroki calmly. “Perhaps the man you call Sensei wants to take his quirk for one of his plans. Or, perhaps the League of Villains have seen the video of you getting harassed and want to exact revenge on your behalf. More revenge than getting put in the asylum.”

With a little difficulty, Izuku unclasped his hand from the seat, turning it palm up and entwining his fingers with Todoroki’s.

Todoroki preened, and Izuku bit back a chuckle. He definitely liked Todoroki better this way, compliant, submissive and willing to please.

“Can you—can you go back to that image?” said Todoroki, voice all of a sudden unsettled.

Izuku went back a page. He gaped. He had overlooked it in the haze of emotions, but now that he’d seen it he couldn’t get it out of his head. His heart swelled ten sizes bigger despite the horror of what he saw.

The article reported the mutilated animals at Endeavour’s hero agency, connecting the dots that were the uncanny likeness of Endeavour’s bespoke animal to his half-and-half son. The photograph showed a graphic image of the white rabbit which had been stitched down the centre to the squirrel with its guts turned inside out, splaying the redness of its flesh. The chimera was hung from the second floor window, stabbed through the head with a note that read: You touch what’s his, you DIE! xoxo. The note was written with neon-pink ink in a jarringly cute handwriting that was signed at the bottom with an arrow through the heart.

Todoroki’s nails dug painfully into Izuku’s hand. “Do you think he knows?”

Izuku’s own heart pounded madly in his chest. His mind whirled and whirled and refused to stop. It was in a girl’s handwriting. Was she part of the League of Villains? Izuku had heard from Kaminari the conspiracies regarding the new members on Tomura’s team. He had tuned out for the most of it because the thought of Tomura surrounded by other people that wasn’t Izuku had hurt him too much. But if this was the work of the League of Villains, it must mean that Tomura had been watching him and that he cared.

Even though Izuku was grinning from ear to ear, even though his hand was starting to turn blue from the lack of blood flow, Izuku couldn’t help but snort. How petty.

“He’s going to kill me when he sees me, isn’t he?” said Todoroki despairingly. “Then what about Bakugou? Why hasn’t he gone after Bakugou?”

Izuku rolled his eyes and promptly put up the video of Todoroki trying and failing to suck Izuku off in front of the vending machine.

Todoroki cleared his throat, stole the mouse and closed the tab.

“Yes, well. That makes sense.” He released Izuku’s hand and tried to smooth out the red crescents left behind by his nails. “I suppose he would have gone after Bakugou by now if someone had filmed you and him having sex in the cemetery—”

Izuku pinched Todoroki’s side. He didn’t want to think about that.

Todoroki grunted yet went on still, “Then how about that time you and Shinsou were getting off in the Nurse’s Office? Or that time Bakugou had kissed you in front of everyone in the cafeteria — ow! Too bad the video was conveniently cut right after Shinsou had brainwashed Mono—”

Izuku bit hard into Todoroki’s shoulder. Todoroki screeched and whirled around and bit Izuku on the neck, then at his jaw while laughing, then playfully at his cheek. Izuku squirmed, giggling silently, until Todoroki went for his mouth, catching his bottom lip between his teeth, then kissing him. Then they sat there, limbs tangled pliantly, making out and blushing from the slick noises their mouths made.

The door slid open and they sprang apart thinking it was Fumi. They hadn’t even started cleaning up yet. But it turned out to be Endeavour and their mood quickly soured like the stench of decay that came with him.

Endeavour’s eyes burned with fury, with anguish, yet best and worst of all, with disappointment. He threw the rotting chimera into Todoroki’s room where the squirrel’s entrails smeared and splattered on the tatami.

“Get out,” Endeavour’s voice boomed, deep and roaring, worst than a judge’s final sentence, “you are no longer my son.”

Without another word, Todoroki slid off Izuku’s lap and rose gracefully to his feet, every inch of him a prince. Izuku marvelled at him before catching himself and quickly shrugged on his shirt. Izuku grabbed the phone off the desk, then made a show of taking Todoroki’s hand. They pushed past the Number Two Hero, laughing and shoving at each other and running out onto the streets where Todoroki moaned, “We forgot our shoes!” And Izuku just laughed, voiceless yet heard.

 

*

 

Not knowing where to go, they decided to stop by an ice cream parlour on their way to who-knew-where, and Izuku used his fame to get them free desserts.

The owner didn’t seem to like Todoroki much but Todoroki only shrugged it off as he secretly took Izuku’s hand under the table. Izuku let him do it because Todoroki had just been disowned by his father and was taking it like a champ.

Honestly, Izuku would’ve quite liked to instigate a kiss too if he wasn’t also fearing for his own life. If all these speculations were true and Tomura had indeed been watching over Izuku all this time, Izuku was sure he would get skinned alive like those animals if Tomura found out he had gone and done more than rub dicks with Shinsou that one time. Which felt like forever ago, by the way.

After thanking the owner for the ice cream, they took a wrong turn, or perhaps a right one, because they found Kaminari trading wads of cash and brokering information with a group of shady men. Kaminari noticed them out of the corners of his eyes and just went back to prattling for money. After they patted each other on the backs and the men had gone, Kaminari whistled, checked his nails then his cracked phone, kicked up some dust and then walked over to where Izuku and Todoroki were hiding.

“Here to broker information or to swap blows, my friends?” said Kaminari in his business voice, slapping them on their backs the way he had done with those men. “Oh, you’re lost? Well, boys, why don’t I lead you back to where civilisation is?”

Then with one look over his shoulder, he quickly dragged them onto the main street.

“What the hell?” he hissed, then again, “What the hell? And where are your shoes? Do I want to know?”

“My father has just disowned me,” said Todoroki loftily.

Kaminari gaped, then quickly narrowed his eyes. “You trying to make me jealous?”

That immediately wrong-footed Todoroki who gave Kaminari a very constipated face.

“Don’t look at me like that, man. It’s like someone’s shoved their dick up your ass.”

Todoroki immediately coloured, turning to Izuku like for some reason those words made Todoroki think of him, but Izuku couldn’t figure out why so he just shrugged. Really. He didn’t know why. Please, someone, believe him.

No way,” said Kaminari, horrified. “And you wonder why your dad disowned you?”

“No, truly. I don’t wonder,” said Todoroki, red in the face. “I know why. The disowning part was the point of the fucking, you see.”

Kaminari took a breath to calm down. “Todoroki Shouto just swore, but okay. So what’re you gonna do now? You got a place to stay? ‘Cause you definitely cannot stay with me, man. You’re the Number Two Hero’s son, or used to be, but my point is, my town ain’t for you. You wouldn’t be comfortable waking up with a dagger halfway through your skull.”

“I doubt I would be waking up from that,” said Todoroki.

“Yes. That’s the other problem with my place,” said Kaminari. “Well, I’m glad things worked out for you guys. I’m gonna go, dude. See you on Monday. Hopefully.”

Before he left, Izuku gave Kaminari the phone and Todoroki balked.

“Why are you giving him my—”

Kaminari’s face lit up. “Aw, thanks, Izuku! You remembered. I always knew you’re a caring friend. I mean, I only had to tell you, like, five times that you owe me a new phone.” Kaminari ruffled Izuku’s hair. “You know what? Let’s go on a date sometime next week. A very platonic date. I’ll give you the details on Monday. Bye!”

Then Kaminari ran off with Todoroki’s phone.

 

*

 

“Were the mutilated animals truly necessary?” said Kurogiri. “Our reputation seems to have plummeted from an extremely high vantage. We were colossally feared and now we are merely petty.”

Tomura rolled his eyes and returned to his books. Kurogiri had been going on for two hours already. Tomura was certain Kurogiri was close to reaching today’s quota for questioning Tomura’s authority.

“Twenty-three,” said Tomura, scratching his neck.

Kurogiri stilled. “So you noticed.”

“Clockwork,” said Tomura like that explained everything. It did to him. “Yesterday, twenty-four. Tomorrow, twenty-two.”

“When did you figure it out?”

“At seventy-eight,” said Tomura.

That was the day after they had left Izuku behind. Tomura had a lot of time to himself then. He had stumbled upon Kurogiri’s scheme quite by accident. In between finding a new hobby which didn’t involve scolding a blind brat for making a mess or scrubbing every inch of a flat with disinfectant Tomura had started counting all the times Kurogiri questioned Tomura’s decisions.

At first he had deemed it coincidental that the number lessened by one each day, yet like clockwork, it happened the next day as well as the day after that. And that was how Tomura figured where Kurogiri’s loyalty truly lay. Kurogiri had come up with an exact strategy to slowly win Tomura’s trust, but his own precision had failed him miserably.

“You got one more today, so go for it. And then leave me alone to read,” said Tomura, clicking his pen to underline a phrase he didn’t understand. He would ask the bookkeeper tomorrow. He could do such things now that he had the power to teleport on his own.

Kurogiri went for it, “You, Shigaraki Tomura, are no better than the boy for whom you claim to no longer care. You might fool Sensei but you do not fool me. You have misused your new comrades to settle your lovespat. You are a brat, just as he is, acting on your emotions and nothing else.”

Tomura seethed but didn’t let it show.

“Are you done?” he bit out.

“No,” said Kurogiri. “Let it be known that I do not care for Sensei as much as I am concerned for how you would fare in a world without the man who had saved you when no one else did. Not only do you rely on Sensei’s power still, you are easily distracted by the pettiness of a child. That, and not Sensei’s will, is what propels me to question every of your decision. Consider that before you make haste with your plans to dispose of me.”

Tomura considered it. Then he realised he didn’t much care.

“I’ll do it later,” he grouched, waving his pen at the door, “now leave me alone.”