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A deadman's gun

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—Chapter 1—

So far

 

 

 

Izuku Midoriya was four, when he came to the realization that not all humans were created equal.

 

His face stung and throbbed, after the beating he took. The tears of the kid he attempted to defend were but a meager consolation in the face of his overwhelming weakness. Was there something he could’ve done different? Was there a way, for him, to come out of that fight victorious? Any way at all? Could he have tried to dodge on the left, instead of the right?

 

Did he even have the possibility to choose a path, or was it simply written in front of him? Was he destined to just walk forward toward his set destiny, head low and weathering whatever the world threw at him?

 

Izuku Midoriya often thought about this concept, about the chaos of life— Why him? Why was he the one to be born without a power? Laughed at, and casted away— He often wondered how things could’ve gone, in different circumstances. Maybe if his mother married a different man, Izuku wouldn’t be like this. Maybe if he was born earlier, or later, he wouldn’t be like this.

 

He often wondered about the possibilities— Every step taken was a step in the unknown. In all its predictability, life had a way to shake things up at the drop of a pin.

 

Like the flapping of a butterfly’s wings, a single choice opening a path into the darkness.

 

Izuku Midoriya unknowingly diverged from the road he was walking on, the day he decided to go home after he met the greatest hero of all time, and got his dream destroyed, instead of lingering around in the city.

 

Izuku Midoriya came home, forcing a greeting for his mother out of his mouth, and climbed up in his room. He put down his backpack at his desk, shed the jacket of his uniform, and then fell face down on the bed.

 

He cried, silent. The words kept looping back in his head, like a broken record.

 

“You can’t be a hero.”

 

I can’t be a hero. I can’t be a hero. I can’t be a hero .

 

“There’s nothing wrong with dreaming, but you need to face reality.”

 

There’s nothing wrong with dreaming, but that is all that it can be. Just a dream .

 

I can’t be a hero.

 

Izuku Midoriya cried, silent, and let the broken pieces of his dream go.

 

Somewhere in the world, a butterfly flapped its wings.

 

 

The week after, Kacchan ended up surrounded by people, even more than usual, after he came back from the hospital.

 

“Dude, were you scared?”

 

“How are the heroes from up close? Were they as cool as they look?!”

 

“Man I bet they all were impressed with your quirk, you already have a foot in the door!”

 

“I’m glad you made it, did it hurt a lot?”

 

Kacchan’s laugh had a strained note in it, but it disappeared, by the time he spoke. “Of course I wasn’t scared! It wasn’t so bad, they kept me in the hospital just ‘cause they are all a bunch of worrywarts, but I’m fine! A stupid pile of sludge ain’t gonna stop me!”

 

Liar.

 

Izuku kept his head low, ignoring the ruckus behind him. He was writing down some notes about Mt. Lady —old habits die hard— but without putting any real effort in it. He focused back on them, tuning out the chattering, until a hand slammed on his desk, making him jump.

 

“Oy, Deku.” Kacchan slurred, irritated. “Still writing this shit? Haven’t you given up, yet?”

 

Try jumping off the roof, maybe you’ll have a quirk in your next life.

 

He doesn’t fight back, when Kacchan slipped the notes from under him, scoffing.

 

“You really are a lost cause.” He said, rolling his eyes. “Here—“

 

He launched the notes in the little group of people. Whoever caught it, started to read it aloud, mocking giggles rising along the words being spoken.

 

Izuku kept his head low.

 

 

The days blurred into one another in a single gray cloud. Monotone, unchanging, uncaring.

 

Words didn’t hurt anymore. (Liar. They do. They hurt all the time.)

 

Punches didn’t hurt anymore. (Liar, liar. They do, they always hurt.)

 

It was a subtle shift. Mom did not realize anything was wrong or different for the longest time. She wished him a good day every morning, welcomed him back with a warm meal. Gave him space as he sat in his room and studied. Izuku moved mechanically, as his soul dried and crumbled a bit more every day. The pain and sadness receded slowly, leaving place to a hole full of nothing in him. One month went by, then two, three—

 

He tried to fight back, at first. He tried to think what he could do from now on. All Might was right, wasn’t he? Just because he couldn’t become a hero, it didn’t mean he still couldn’t try and do something to help people, to bring a change in this world.

 

But what could he do? He was just a kid— A quirkless kid.

 

A quirkless kid in a world that seemed to value and celebrate only those that made noises and colors. The flashier, the better.

 

He was a small, scrawny quirkless kid in a world of superhumans.

 

He might as well be an ant.

 

He stopped thinking about his future. What was the point? All that was in front of him was a boring, anonymous life. He’d go to a high school, get good grades, and then move to a university. He’d find a boring but well paying job, maybe find a nice girl down the line to have a family with.

 

(Assuming any woman could possibly desire a life by his side, let alone have children.)

 

It’d be a boring, normal life, lived under the radar. Kacchan would forget about him, all his classmates would forget about him. At some point he’d die, after living his anonymous, boring life, and become just unnamed dust in the wind. Years of nothing, but a waste of time and space.

 

Why waste energy trying to make plans for the future?

 

Going to school became harder. He didn’t want to leave his bed in the morning, he just wanted to stay there and never move again.

 

During the weekends, he would do exactly that. Mom let him be, assuming he must be studying, but he just spent his free days like that.

 

He could go out there, having fun, (with who? He didn’t had any friend—) but instead he stayed in his bed, a ball under the covers, as the time ticked by.

 

Food stopped having any taste. It all felt bland and uninteresting. Sometimes he simply wasn’t hungry at all, and whenever mom wasn’t home and he had to cook for himself, he couldn’t bother. He just skipped the meal. Much easier that way.

 

The world was gray. Was it always so gray? It was as if everything was covered by a thick layer of dust.

 

Izuku wished he could stop existing.

 

One day he lingered back at school, in the empty class. Just one more day that went by, as usual. His classmates turning him into the butt of all jokes, shoving him around like a doll.

 

A little thing to have fun with. Ah-ah, so funny, playing with the little quirkless toy that won’t fight back.

 

When he finally stood from his desk and exited the class, he took a left instead of the usual right. He climbed the stairs up, the door to the roof opened with a whine of metal in its hinges. The air was crisp as he walked toward the iron railings.

 

Climbing over them was easy. He stood there, on the thin belt of cement between the railings and the nothing. He looked down.

 

Would it hurt if he jumped? Or would he just die on impact? Was the school roof high enough to end it quickly and efficiently?

 

His toes stuck out in the nothing, curling a bit. It would be so easy to take a step forward. So, so easy

 

His phone rung, making him jump in his skin. He slipped, instinctively turning and holding onto the railing for dear life, as one leg hung off the roof, the other just barely propped on the cement.

 

Cold sweat broke on his forehead and his heart shoot up to his throat, beating painfully as he took in a series of short, panicked breaths, awkwardly twisted with his arms circling the bars in a iron lock, one leg swinging into the void. The phone kept ringing. It must be mom, she was the only one that called him.

 

Slowly, shivering, he managed to climb back up, standing on shaky legs, before scaling the railing back on the safe side.

 

Nausea clawed at his stomach violently. The phone stopped ringing as he stumbled back into the school, down the stairs, making it just in time in one of the bathrooms to vomit in the sink. When the spasm of his stomach subsided, bitter liquid trailing down his chin, he slid on his knees on the floor, rough, wrecking sobs shaking him.

 

 

The day after something felt different. Murmurs followed him when he entered in the class. He kept his head low, as usual, as he made a line for his desk.

 

The teacher wasn’t there, yet. Izuku put his bag in the usual place—

 

“Deku.” Kacchan growled, irritated, stepping by his side. “What the fuck did you do, yesterday? Some shithead says that you almost jumped from the roof—”

 

Izuku’s heart skipped a beat, but his indifferent expression didn’t change, as he turned a small look on Kacchan. He looked angry, as usual.

 

“What if I did?” Izuku replied, voice so low it was barely above a whisper. Kacchan recoiled, eyes widening a bit.

 

“What the fuck?!” He replied, much louder than Izuku. “What the hell is wrong with you?! You creepy ass son of a—“

 

“Midoriya.” The teacher’s serious voice interrupted, effectively shutting Kacchan up instantly. “In the principal office.”

 

He still kept his head down as he silently obeyed, exiting the class, feeling the burn of dozens of eyes pointed at him. He still kept his head down as the principal went on a tirade about mental health and asking for help before doing things you will regret, sounding like he did not quite believe in those words himself. He still kept his head down when they finally let him go, and mom was outside, clutching a handkerchief to her face, cheeks red and eyes full of tears.

 

“Dear—“ She sobbed, hugging him. And for the first time in months, Izuku felt something. An almost blinding rage toward those that thought they could meddle— That felt the need to call his mother and tell her that he attempted to kill himself.

 

Couldn’t have they left her be? Was there really any need to let her know?

 

She was babbling something incoherent through her tears, her voice muffled against his shoulder. Izuku realized he was just standing there, hands limp at his side, and he forced himself to hug her back.

 

That’s what you are supposed to do, right?

 

“Hun, why d-didn’t you tell me?” She sobbed, a bit more clear. “I could’ve done something— I could’ve— Oh, Izuku, please, talk to me—”

 

“Mom.” Izuku managed to force out, voice raw. “I’m sorry they made you worry so much. I don’t know what happened— There must’ve been a mistake.”

 

“…What?” She exhaled, pushing gently against him to look up in his eyes. Izuku subtly shifted his gaze away, just barely. “What do you mean?”

 

“I don’t— I didn’t— I would never do that.” He lied, and the words rolled out his mouth with such ease they almost scared him. “ Whatever they saw, it wasn’t me. It was a mistake. I promise.”

 

“…Izuku.” She replied, trembly. “Are you sure? Dear, if there’s anything you need to speak about, I—“

 

“I’m sure, mom.” Izuku interrupted her, forcing a small smile on his face. He wasn’t sure if he succeeded, but she looked relieved, so he guessed he did. “Everything is ok.”

 

 

“…Tried to jump and couldn’t even go through with that.” Someone said from inside the class as he lingered in front of the door. “He really is a Deku—“

 

Izuku stopped going to school.

 

 

He didn’t tell mom. Their mornings went by unperturbed, Izuku would enter the kitchen in his uniform and with the usual backpack. He’d leave it by the door, eat breakfast with mom with the small tv on as they watched the news. He’d wish her a good day, putting the backpack on his shoulders and getting out, taking the usual road to go to school—

 

He’d slip in a small, ignored little alley and go elsewhere after a couple hundred of meters. He had no idea for how long he could keep it up. Surely one of these days someone from school would call to ask mom why wasn’t he attending classes anymore—

 

Or maybe they just assumed mom must’ve gotten him admitted in some kind of hospital after his suicide attempt, and leave it at that. No one wanted ‘student committed suicide’ in their school’s resumé. They probably were relieved the issue was taken straight off their hands.

 

Izuku soon became well accustomed with the most hidden, out of sight roads of the city. Much easier to avoid people asking him why wasn’t he in school, that way.

 

He’d wander with no goal in mind, observing life bustling around him. For the first time in his life, he noticed things that never really registered in his mind, before.

 

Homeless people drifting at the edge of society, avoided by most, just trying to function as well as they could. Snippets of conversations reached his ears, letting him into a world of bitterness and pettiness he never thought about before. People, walking alone with a dead gaze, that mirrored exactly what Izuku saw in his own eyes every time he gazed upon his own reflection.

 

Petty criminals giving heroes a wide berth, sly and capable in hurting others. Heroes complaining about how annoying the work and the people could be, when they thought themselves away from the prying ears of civilian.

 

Humans, singled out because their quirks didn’t align with the general consensus of what a ‘good person’ is supposed to be.

 

Was it any wonder that the criminality rate rarely got down despite how many so-called heroes were out there?

 

The more he looked, the more bleak everything seemed. How dumbly hopeful had he been, but a handful of months prior? How naive, of him, to try see the best in people—

 

To think he could be a hero. That he could make a difference.

 

And yet, he kept going. Despite the fog surrounding him, despite the fact he wished he could just poof out of existence, despite how much he wanted to roll up in a corner, sleep, and do nothing else—

 

One day he helped a old man, deep lines in his face and sadness in his eyes, stinking of someone living in the streets, by buying him food with the little money he had. Another he tackled a robber, gaining a bloody nose and a tearful thank you from the lady that got her purse back.

 

He jumped into a fight when a bunch of kids only slightly younger than him were trying to trample on another just as small kid. He growled a “Stop.” at a mother berating her young child way beyond what should be acceptable, gaining back a hateful look and a stony invite to mind his own fucking business.

 

It did not matter just how… Barren inside, he felt. There was still this tiny part of him that simply could not turn away. That pushed his feet to move on their own. That screamed and yelled, incapable of accepting reality.

 

He kept wandering late into the afternoon. Got home as if he just spent another ordinary day at school.

 

He wandered, and wandered, and wandered.

 

 

“Oh, my—“ Mom said, her concerned tone of voice snapping him out of the usual daze surrounding him, filling his head with a vague buzz of white noise. “That’s terrible—”

 

“What?” Izuku replied, shaking his head vaguely. “I wasn’t listening, sorry.”

 

“The news— They reported an homicide, a pro hero—“ She sighed, a little frown emerging on her face. “It’s always such an unsafe world to be in— Please, be careful on your way to school, ok, dear?”

 

“Ok, mom.” Izuku replied, voice carefully trained to appear normal. “I will.”

 

 

Izuku’s precarious world came crashing, that day.

 

He got back home, at the usual time. Nothing different. Except once he stepped in front of his house, a couple of cars he wasn’t familiar with were parked outside.

 

Paying it no mind, he opened the door, his set of keys jingling. He called out, as usual, to let mom know he was back—

 

When he stepped by the kitchen, the principal of his school and another man he didn’t know were standing there, mom sitting at a table with wet eyes and cheeks.

 

“Izuku—“ She exhaled, trembling, as he looked at them with wide eyes. “Have you been skipping school all this time?”

 

He knew it couldn’t last. He knew. And yet, the three set of eyes trained on him burned on his skin. He looked down, lingering by the door, nervously clutching at the straps of his backpack—

 

The fact he was still wearing the uniform, as usual, made him feel even more out of place.

 

His silence was the only answer they needed. Not that Izuku could deny reality, in any case.

 

“…We will leave you to speak with your son.” The man Izuku didn’t know said, voice low. “If you need anything, you have my number—“

 

They walked past him without a word. The entrance door clicked open and then close.

 

Izuku didn’t move, hands still hanging on the straps of his backpack, face tipped down. He heard the scratch of the chair moving and soft steps in front of him.

 

“You lied.” Mom whispered, voice broken. “You lied to me when you said it was a mistake—“

 

She sobbed, her voice getting higher. “All this time— It’s been a month, Izuku! A full month you’ve been going out, and I thought that you were at school, safe— And instead you were out there, in the streets! Anything could’ve happened to you, do you realize how dangerous it was?!” She angrily sniffed, before continuing. “What have you been doing all this time?! Did you— Did you got yourself in danger? Are you doing drugs? What?!”

 

“No— Mom—“ Izuku finally found words, hands tightening around the straps. “I’ve been— Walking.”

 

“Just walking?! The whole day?!”

 

Izuku shrugged. Something must’ve snapped in mom, because she grabbed his shoulders, rough in a way she had never been before, and pushed him down on a chair.

 

“I don’t want anymore lies!” She almost shouted, tears streaming down her cheeks. “Izuku— I want to know what’s wrong. I want to help you— Please, tell me how I can help you.” She added, her voice lowering, breaking. “I’m not— Mad. I’m worried. Baby, I’m so worried for you— Please, tell me what I can do to help.”

 

Izuku finally managed to look up, meeting her eyes. She recoiled violently. Whatever she must’ve seen in his gaze—

 

“I don’t know.” He replied, flat. “I don’t think there’s anything anyone can do.”

 

“Baby— Don’t say that.” She sobbed, a fresh wave of tears running down her cheeks. “There is always something we can do. I’m sure there must be something we can do— Izuku, please, I need you to work with me— You have to tell me what you feel—“

 

“I don’t.” Izuku bit back, frowning. “I don’t feel anything. I just want to stop existing.”

 

The words rung true to him, and he didn’t think they were so terrible— Much better than outright saying he wanted to die—

 

And yet, mom released a whine, like a wounded animal, hiding her face in her hands as she suddenly fell down kneeling, like her legs simply stopped working.

 

Izuku—“ She wailed, finding his knee with a shivering hand. “Oh, my boy— My baby boy— Why—“

 

He could understand her reaction, maybe— Mom has always been very emotive. But this, this goes beyond that—

 

“Izuku, why didn’t you tell m-me—“ She sobbed, leaning in to rest her forehead on his leg, her voice sounding like her entire world came crashing down. Another sob wrecked her, as Izuku stood there, unmoving, clammy hands a tight fist on his thighs. Her sobs seemed to never stop, until she finally took a deep, trembly breath, calmed herself down, and slowly climbed back up on her feet. She looked like she just came out of a funeral, and yet she forced a small, frail smile on her lips.

 

“It’s ok, baby.” She whispered, gently tucking a stray tufty curl behind his ear. “It will be ok. We will find someone that can help you, ok? Mom isn’t going to let you down anymore, I promise.”

 

Izuku blinked, frowning vaguely. But his confusion didn’t seem to be apparent to her, as she caressed his cheeks almost frantically, staring at him with watery, almost far eyes.

 

“First thing tomorrow morning we’ll go speak with your doctor, ok? I-I’m sure he will be able to point us in the right direction— And then— Then I’m sure we will be able to go back to normal soon. You will be able to go back to school— You’re so smart, I’m sure it will be no trouble for you to catch up—“

 

His stomach gave a painful churn, as he observed her starting to pace back and forth in the small kitchen, like a caged pet, mumbling to herself.

 

He observed, silent.

 

 

Later that night, lying in bed, Izuku stared at the ceiling of his room.

 

The posters and figurines around him were still there, almost mockingly. He kept mulling over mom’s words—

 

Going back to normal— Getting back to school—

 

He felt nauseous at the mere thought. Why should he go back to school? Everyone hated him, there. They probably had the best month of their lives, without Izuku around.

 

What was the point? His life had no meaning either way. He had been condemned from birth. Nothing he could do will ever change that.

 

He was born a Deku, he will die a Deku. Was it really so wrong, that he wished he could stop existing?

 

Sleep eluded him, leaving him jittery and tired, eyes burning with the effort to keeping them open. He felt as if he was slowly losing his mind, forcing himself there, attempting and failing to just don’t exist, even if only for a few hours.

 

He finally gave in, throwing the covers off of himself. The clock on his nightstand informed him it was just barely past three in the morning.

 

He had time. He could go out, maybe taking a walk would tire him out enough to allow him to sleep. Or if it doesn’t, it would at least distract him away from the thoughts.

 

Mom didn’t had to even know.

 

He slipped silent as a ghost out of his room, down the corridor. Grabbed his keys and put on his shoes, not making a sound. Clicked the door open and close oh-so softly.

 

Once more, he hit the streets.

 

 

Musutafu at night looked like a different city.

 

Far less people loitering around, far more unsavoury looking individuals lingering, grouping up in dark corners to speak in low voices.

 

Most of the time, Izuku steps echoed in the dark and silence. He got some odd looks along the way, but no one stopped him.

 

He walked, mindless, moving down on now extremely familiar roads. It maybe looked like a different city— But it still was his city.

 

He didn’t keep track of the time. He figured he could make a loop and go back as soon as he saw the first lights of day over the horizon. He knew he was simply not going to sleep, that night.

 

He got snapped out of his mental fog when he heard a whiny gurgle and a stifled call for help. Suddenly his senses seemed to step in overdrive, and a pungent smell of blood reached his nostrils so strongly he wondered how he did not notice it earlier.

 

He followed, his feet moving almost on their own. The alley was dark and uncomfortable, so tight he barely fit in. Only vague blades of orange light managed to cut in the cramped space, rending visibility extremely low.

 

“P— Lease—“ A watery voice begged, barely understandable.

 

“Should’ve thought about it sooner.” A deeper voice replied, impassive. “Goodbye.”

 

Izuku managed to saw it, in the dark. A crumpled figure on the floor, someone towering over it holding an actual katana, blade pointed down.

 

He’s going to sink the blade in— Izuku realized, faintly, heart shooting up in his throat. He’s going to kill—

 

“WAIT!” Izuku yelled, raw, the words rolling out his throat. “DON’T DO IT!”

 

“Huh— Did you had a sidekick?” The deep voice asked, vaguely interested. “I had no idea— He’s lucky he’s so young, I’m going to spare him— In any case, stand back, kid. I have to purge this world—“

 

Izuku didn’t leave him time to finish the sentence, barrelling down the tiny space of the alley. His move was surprising enough that the man with the katana crashed on the floor, the blade skidding on the cement with a strident noise of metal.

 

“D’you got a death wish, brat?!” The man with the katana yelled, irritated. “I don’t have any business with you! Now scram, let me finish my job!”

 

The man attempted to shake Izuku off, but Izuku grabbed his arm and held on with all his strength, eyes squeezed close. The man growled, his movements hindered by the tight space, until he managed to grab a fistful of Izuku’s hair and violently yanked. Izuku let out a choked grunt of pain, jerked away and releasing his grip enough that the man shook him off, launching him on the floor.

 

“You goddamn brat— Now my prey it’s gone because of you!” The man barked, picking up his katana. “Look how much good it did you, attempting to save that sack of shit. He left you here with me— Now stay put, I’m going to catch that guy—“

 

Izuku rolled on his belly and circled his arms tight around the man’s calf, fingers firm behind his knee.

 

You—“ The man hissed. “Let me fucking go! I’m starting to rethink my choice of not killing you—“

 

He attempted to shake him off, but Izuku held on, even when the man’s tibia painfully crashed against his nose. In a second, Izuku found himself yanked up by the neck, hovering fifteen centimetres off the ground, barely capable of breathing.

 

“A kid might as well become a target, if they don’t step aside.” The man hissed, glacial. “And you’ve refused to do so. You asked for this.”

 

Something sharp poked Izuku’s chest, near his heart. Izuku went limp, and waited to feel the blade sink in.

 

…But nothing happened.

 

“…Why are you not attempting to fight back, now?” The man asked, his voice a mix between perplexity and wonder. “What the hell are you doing, kid?”

 

Izuku didn’t answer. His heart was racing in his chest and he was struggling to breathe.

 

He ran in, unable to stop himself when he knew someone was about to die, but—

 

If it was him, then it was ok.

 

The silence stretched, the tip of the blade still vaguely caressing Izuku’s chest. Then, the man put Izuku down, and took a step back.

 

A weak ray of orange light hit him. The man was wearing a sort of mask, looking more like a ragged bandana, that fell almost all the way down on the floor. His bloodshot eyes were intense, irises a deep red. A scarf, just as red as his eyes and ragged as his mask was rolled around his neck. Messy black hair framed his pointed features, and for what little Izuku could see, the katana wasn’t by far the only blade this man carried with him.

 

Their eyes met, and the man squinted, as he examined Izuku’s expression.

 

“You look like someone that wants to die.” The man said, blunt. “Were you actually with that guy? Or did you just jump in hoping I’d put my sword through your chest?”

 

“Neither.” Izuku replied, voice like gravel. “I just didn’t want you to kill a person.”

 

“So you didn’t know him?”

 

“No.”

 

“Why, then?”

 

Izuku’s eyebrow scrunched in the middle, as he held the man’s gaze. “Because killing other people kinda sucks? Did you miss that lesson in school?” He replied, sarcastic.

 

The man did not reply for what felt like a long minute.

 

“You are a weird kid.” He finally said. “How old are you?”

 

“None of your business.” Izuku quipped back. “Didn’t you want to kill me or something? Go on with it.”

 

The man seemed to frown, under his mask. “I don’t kill children.”

 

“You told me you didn’t mind like—Three minutes ago? You don’t seem all that convinced of your ideals.” Izuku immediately replied, crossing his arms.

 

“I especially don’t kill shitty, sarcastic children.” The man huffed. “If you want to die so badly, jump down a roof. I’m done, here.”

 

The words hit Izuku like a sledgehammer. He tensed violently, finally breaking the contact with the man’s eyes.

 

“I tried, and couldn’t do it, in the end.” Izuku whispered, shifting his hands to hug himself. “Everyone saw it. Saw what a coward I was. They teased me because I couldn’t even kill myself right.”

 

The man stood there, unmoving, despite his declaration of ‘being done’.

 

“…How old are you, kid.” He murmured, low.

 

“Does it matter—“ Izuku exhaled back, tipping his face down. “I’m just— Tired of everything. I want it to stop. I don’t want to exist anymore.”

 

“Do you have family?”

 

“Only my mom— She’d probably be better off without me.”

 

“Friends?”

 

“No.”

 

The silence stretched once more, so heavy it was almost difficult to breathe.

 

“If you really are so done with your life— Why did you run in to save a person you didn’t even know? Why did you care?”

 

“…Killing’s wrong.” Izuku muttered, almost childish. “I just moved on instincts.” He finally looked back up. The man was regarding him almost interested, now. “And you? Why were you trying to kill that guy?”

 

“…I took on a oath.” The man replied, serious. “To purge this world of fakes and false idols. Of people taking the word ‘hero’ and twisting it to fit their selfish desires. Our society is rotten to the core and full of worms, that feasts on a fame that’s undeserved and a glory that they should not claim. I’ve chosen the blades in order to clean this society of those that have stained the ideal of what real heroes are by demanding money for their services and using their quirks selfishly.”

 

Izuku blinked, tilting his head on a side. “That’s a mouthful. And you think that you can do all that alone? By killing people?” He asked, unable to help himself. “I mean, not that you are entirely wrong, in theory— But I don’t think killing is quite the right way to go at this. And working all alone will only make you super slow.”

 

The man sighed, almost amused, shaking his head. “Someone had to do it, at some point. If it wasn’t me, then who else?” He replied. “I don’t pretend you to understand, kid—“

 

“But I do.” Izuku interrupted, flat. “I do understand. There are so many people out there only thinking about climbing a popularity chart, using their quirk inappropriately, not because they want to help others, but because it serves them and their egos. But isn’t a hero supposed to work in order to help and protect? Even if it brought them no glory? No matter the circumstances, or how difficult it will be— A hero should always do everything in their power to help others, even if it meant butting their noses in other people’s business.”

 

“Yes, exactly.” The man said, satisfied.

 

“…So why did you even ask me why I ran in to save that guy? Isn’t that exactly what a hero should do?”

 

The man turned to look down at him with vaguely wide eyes.

 

“Do you want to be a hero?” He asked, careful.

 

“I wanted to.” Izuku murmured. “But I can’t.”

 

“Why not?”

 

“I’m quirkless. I’m weak. I’m just a deadweight.” Izuku listed, shrugging. “I’m useless. I can’t do anything. Even All Might told me I can’t.”

 

The man’s eyes seemed to almost lit up. “You spoke with All Might?”

 

“I met him months ago. Asked him if he thought even someone like me could be a hero— He said no.” Izuku added, flat. “It destroyed my dreams. Becoming a hero it’s all I ever wanted. And now here I am, speaking in the dead of the night with a guy that— You are that serial killer, right? Stain.”

 

“Yes.” Stain replied, promptly. “Since you know who I am, don’t you think you owe me the courtesy to tell me your name?”

 

“…Call me Deku.”

 

“Deku. Ok.” Stain sighed. “Kid. You’re just barely a vague idea in your mother’s head. Go back home, and try to find a way for yourself to live. You’re far too young to have such a strong death wish.”

 

“I don’t want to!” Izuku barked, surprising even himself. “I don’t want— She’d only worry herself sick. She’d live so much better without me around. And no one else cares about me. No one would miss me, I’m ok with dying. I don’t want to go home.”

 

Stain sighed, grumbling. “This is why I don’t like brats— Listen, it’s not a request nor I’m asking you gently. I don’t give a fuck about what you do. Go home or don’t, I really don’t care.”

 

He turned, walking away. Izuku gaped, watching his back get further and further—

 

He followed. He didn’t know why. He didn’t want to think about why he followed. Maybe it was the way Stain didn’t skirt away from him. His sincere, unmoving bluntness in front of Izuku’s words, the same kind of words that but a handful of hours earlier turned his own mother in a sobbing mess.

 

Stain reacted as if he understood. There was something in those deep red eyes—

 

“What the hell are you doing—“ Stain hissed, incredulous, turning just vaguely toward him as they walked down the small alley.

 

“Making sure you don’t kill anyone else.” Izuku promptly replied, tailing after him. It wasn’t a complete lie. “I may agree to a certain extent to what you say, but that doesn’t mean that I will let you just run around gutting whoever you like.”

 

“You goddamn— Get lost!”

 

“Or what, you’ll kill me?” Izuku deadpanned. “Big fucking deal. I’m shaking in my shoes.”

 

Stain turned so suddenly Izuku hit his face against the man’s chest, forcing him to come to a stop. He looked up, meeting flabbergasted red eyes.

 

“You’re the craziest fucking brat I’ve ever met.” Stain commented, vaguely irritated. “Fine. Follow me around. If you can keep up.”

 

And with that, he suddenly jumped, agile like a cat. He climbed up the walls of the alley, using anything at his disposal with an ease that spoke of expertise, disappearing up into the night.

 

Izuku glared. Maybe he couldn’t climb goddamn walls, but he had other weapons at his disposal. Stain was underestimating him— Just like All Might did.

 

He’d show him.

 

Somewhere in the world, a butterfly flapped its wings.

 

 

 

The sunrise came and went, and Izuku didn’t go back home.

 

He picked up some little tricks, in his month of wandering. He wasn’t proud, but he figured the twenty thousand yen he snatched from the guy wearing a rolex and shoes that looked like they could buy about six months of groceries for him and mom wouldn’t miss them too much.

 

He got himself a couple of cheap changes of clothes and a practical drawstring backpack. Some bare necessities easy enough to carry around, a refillable bottle of water. A hat to conceal is permanent mess of curls. Fake glasses. Just enough to tweak his appearance a bit. After all, mom probably ran to the police the moment she realized he wasn’t home.

 

He felt guilt squirming in his stomach. He could not imagine how agonizing it must be, for her—

 

But it’d be better for her in the long run. Izuku was sure of it. She’d move on, and maybe find herself a nice man, without being saddled with the responsibility of caring for Izuku that tied her down to her long absent husband. She could build a much better life for herself. All she had to do was to bear the first painful days, and then she’d be free.

 

He spent most of the morning sewing a little hidden pouch in his new hoodie. It was a bit lopsided, but it’d do the trick, and he put the rest of the money there. He was going to need it.

 

The next step was easy. Public libraries weren’t as busy as they used to be, but they still existed. It was easy enough to convince the clerk that he just accidentally forgot his student ID, couldn’t she just let him in? He was in a real hurry with his homework and going back home to grab the ID would take forever

 

Vaguely satisfied with himself, he sat down at the first computer he could find in a secluded enough corner, opened the brand new notebook and the set of pen and pencils he bought that morning, and got to work.

 

 

Stain worked in a predictable pattern.

 

He’d lay low for long stretches of time, but always appeared in zones with high density of hero work. He’d single out a specific target, patiently waiting for the right moment to strike, and did so rapidly and efficiently, before completely slipping under the radar once more. Rinse and repeat.

 

His modus operandi rarely varied. He’d always surprise isolated victims in secluded, hidden alleys, went in for a quick hit that won him the upper hand, and do his deed. He didn’t linger around, didn’t leave traces, and the very few still alive witnesses reported that he rarely engaged in excessive goading, clearly focused on his objective.

 

It was unclear which kind of quirk he could possibly have. Izuku was ready to bet it must be some kind of incapacitating quirk. Signs of an active fight were rarely found on the crime scenes, which clued him in. If Stain could somehow paralyze his victims, it’d be much easier for him to do his ‘job’ quickly and efficiently.

 

There was something almost— Fascinating, in the way he worked. Part of Izuku protested, at that thought. The man was a monster that took dozens if not hundreds of lives already. Izuku was being stupid. He should stop this, right away.

 

He stifled that small, frail voice, and kept going. If he could show Stain that he had been wrong in underestimating Izuku, then maybe the man would be more prone to answering his questions and listening to him.

 

There was nothing bad in that, right? He was doing something useful, at least. He was trying to help. Beat just walking around like an idiot, or go back home to go speak with some shrink. Or go back to school.

 

Izuku sat and worked until pretty much closing hour. By the time the same clerk he convinced to let him in gently asked him to wrap things up, he had almost filled half of his new notebook already.

 

He obeyed quietly, not before fully clearing the traces of his web searches. He had all the info he needed. Once outside he fished some coins out his secret pouch, got the cheapest and most filling thing he could find at the konbini, and hit the road, munching on his dinner.

 

 

His work came to fruition the night to follow. His mapping turned out to be on point, and when Izuku woke up around midnight from his park-bench nap, it didn’t take him long to individuate the possible next victim and follow.

 

Stain’s face as Izuku emerged from the darkness, a hood over his head to conceal his features from the terrified-looking young pro-hero currently stuck on the floor, was priceless.

 

You—“ Stain let out, voice low. “How in the hell—“

 

“Maybe you leave that guy alone.” Izuku replied, keeping his voice low. He didn’t want anyone to be able to recognize him easily. “And then we can talk.”

 

“Like fucking hell. You’ve ruined one of my hunts already, brat. Ain’t gonna happen a second time—“

 

“Yamashita Suzuki, Hero name: Cloud.” Izuku interrupted, monotone. “Started working in the ‘Raion and Doragu’ agency two months ago. This guy’s pretty much a student fresh out of school, do you really think he deserves to die?”

 

Stain sighed, long suffering. “He intervened three days ago in a robbery and let a civilian die. Great job there, huh?”

 

“Yeah, because the civilian didn’t obey his request and ran into danger.” Izuku snapped back. “Do you think he isn’t tortured enough by that? He’s just an intern, he’s learning. You gotta cut people some slack, man. We are only human. We all make mistakes.”

 

Cloud was pretty much in tears, at this point, his eyes darting between Izuku and Stain looming above him, clearly confused.

 

Stain hesitated, red eyes lingering down on the pro-hero immobilised at his feet and then turning back to Izuku, calculating.

 

“I can give you a bit more motivation to let him go—“ Izuku continued, breaking the impossibly tense silence. “Like, for starters, I can rattle off how I managed to find you so easily— I’m sure the pro-hero with a communicator in his ear would be really happy to rely that info back to his superiors.”

 

Stain’s eyes widened, and he looked back down. He growled, when he spotted the little gray object stuck in Cloud’s ear.

 

Slowly, he put the katana back in its sheath. “Fine, let’s have it your way, you insufferable brat. Come here.”

 

Izuku sauntered toward them, as Cloud’s eyes went even wider.

 

“No— What are you doing?!” He managed to croak. “Run! He’s dangerous!”

 

“It’s ok.” Izuku replied, looking up at Stain from behind his hood. “He won’t hurt me.”

 

“Awfully presumptuous of you.” Stain replied, almost jokingly. And yet, they both knew it was the truth. He offered his muscly arm down to Izuku, leaning in, and after a moment of hesitation Izuku let him circle his waist, as he hooked his arms around Stain’s shoulders.

 

He climbed the wall, one armed, carrying the weight of Izuku as if he was made of paper. Cloud attempted to shout something after them, but they were already too far for the words to make any sense.

 

When Stain finally put him down, they were far from the alley. There was chilly wind, up there, in the dead of the night, and Izuku forced himself not to shiver.

 

It wouldn’t do, to show weakness in front of him.

 

“Now talk.” Stain barked, clearly sore.

 

“I can do better.” Izuku replied, taking his lithe backpack off his shoulders and rummaging in it to fish out his notebook. He launched it toward Stain, that easily caught it mid-air. “Take a look.”

 

With a sigh, Stain obeyed, opening it. He eyes tightened in a squint, at first, but as he kept reading they got wider, a deep frown setting on his features. Izuku waited, patient, as the man skimmed through his notes, before looking back up with a gaze so calculating it almost felt as if Stain was attempting to dismantle Izuku like a third dimensional puzzle.

 

“You— Wrote this.” He said, not quite a question. “You compiled this in two days—“

 

“One.” Izuku replied. “Today, I mostly spent mapping the city alleys and running probabilities in my head. About where you could possibly pop up.”

 

Stain looked at him, mouth slightly open, for long silent seconds. “Kid. Who the actual fuck are you—“

 

“Someone that has nothing to lose, I guess.” Izuku replied, shrugging. “Will you listen to me, now?”

 

Stain stepped closer, giving the notes back almost carefully. “Why go through all this trouble to talk to me?” He asked, quietly.

 

“You—“ Izuku hesitated on his words. When he spoke again, he did so slowly, as if measuring each one. “You didn’t seem surprised by my desire for death. Everyone seems to react with horror at the idea, but not you— Maybe it’s because you are so intimate with it, or because you’ve felt these kind of feelings, before, but I’ve never met someone that just took my words at face value, and didn’t immediately tried to convince me what a ‘gift’ life is.” He spat out those words, bitterly. “But you— You just understood and accepted them, and that— Made it easier to acknowledge that it’s ok for me, to feel this way. And— And maybe I wanted you to acknowledge me, too.”

 

“…Why?” Stain replied, voice so low it almost got lost to the wind.

 

“I guess I just didn’t want to accept to get dismissed by another overwhelmingly strong person as if I’m just a stupid kid that knows no better.” Izuku murmured, steel in his voice. “All Might already destroyed my dream. And I know he didn’t mean anything bad with that— But I still don’t want to live that kind of feeling again. Not again.”

 

Stain was still holding his notebook in hand almost gently, keeping it just a bit stretched toward Izuku. When Izuku took it back, his bandaged fingers relaxed.

 

“I understand how that would hurt you, but All Might was probably right. It would be insanely dangerous, to become a hero without a quirk.” Stain commented, flat. “He was looking out for you—“

 

“I know that!” Izuku snapped, the rage bubbling up his throat like bile in an instant. “I know! But do you have any idea how much it hurt— The person I’ve always looked up to the most— The greatest hero ever telling me point blank to just put my lifelong dream on the shelves—“ Izuku felt the tears run down his cheeks, but ignored them, as the words came tumbling down his mouth. “In that moment I felt— I felt like my heart was taken out of my chest and stomped on— I would’ve much preferred dying trying to be a hero, than live a life like this—“

 

“Is that what you are doing?” Stain asked, quietly. “Are you trying to die a hero by stopping me?”

 

“Maybe yes.” Izuku sniffed angrily wiping away the tears. “What about that?”

 

“But you know I won’t kill you.”

 

“I guess if I pester you enough, you’d finally snap—“

 

“Deku.” Stain suddenly interrupted, making Izuku recoil. He forgot which name he’d given him. “Stop. You are smart, clearly, but I’m not an idiot either. Your story doesn’t add up. Why show me all this information you’ve compiled about me, if stopping me is what you wanted? You could’ve easily gone to the police—“

 

“—Who would’ve laughed in my face.” Izuku finished for him, irritated. “I’m just a stupid quirkless kid. You seem to forget that part of the story far too often.”

 

Stain groaned, dragging a down his face, before his fingers stopped on his chin.

 

“You are a strange kid. What it is that you want? I mean, really want?”

 

“I—“ Izuku hesitated, gaping wordlessly, before admitting softly. “I don’t know. I just don’t want to go home. There’s nothing for me, there.”

 

“So you filled this hole by playing detective— And how long is that going to last, I wonder?” Stain replied, still massaging his chin. “But you— You have potential.”

 

Izuku blinked at Stain’s chest, before looking up. “Excuse me?”

 

“What a waste would it be, to let you become a red splatter on the sidewalk.” Stain continued, almost contemplating. “No. No, kid, what you need is a new purpose. Your old one is gone? Well, time to get off your ass and find something else—“

 

“I tried. For months.” Izuku hissed, irritated. “Nothing feels right. Nothing will ever be the same as becoming a hero—“

 

“You’re still thinking in the box.” Stain locked eyes with him, crossing his arms on his chest. “You’ve got to get out of that kind of mindset. You are a rare breed, Deku. You’re not made to fit in the nice little slot society prepared for you. No, there’s so much more you can do.”

 

Izuku blinked, frowning, and speechless. What was Stain even hinting at?

 

“Come with me, the night is long.” Stain added into the silence, stepping away to stand by the edge of the roof, looking down in the city. “Kid like you out there alone? As good as dead. I’ve gotta teach you some things, before you become a human shish-kabob.” And, before Izuku could even say anything, he added. “Don’t start asking me why or how or what-the-fuck-ever. From now on, you shut up and obey my orders, or you’re out. Are we clear, brat?”

 

Izuku stared up at the single red eye he could see from his position. He wordlessly nodded.

 

“Good. Get on my back, now, I’ll find a place to start. Lesson one is how not to move like a goddamn sack of potatoes, so watch closely.”

 

 

 

Izuku went from asleep to fully awake in two seconds flat.

 

He sat on the naked cement floor, looking around. The abandoned, dilapidated basement looked just as dusty as it did the night before. He yawned, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.

 

He was still curled up in the corner, using his backpack as a makeshift, vaguely uncomfortable pillow. Stain was nowhere to be seen, but, in the place he was sitting when they both went to sleep around five in the morning, there were two cups of instant noodles, along with a battered gym bag and the tiniest camp stove Izuku had ever seen.

 

Izuku got up on his feet and got closer. One of the cups was empty, but the other wasn’t, even if it was unsealed. Peeling away the plastic label revealed a sad looking broth and noodles. It was cold and slightly gross, but Izuku downed it in two minutes flat, famished. He licked the last traces of the broth away from his lips, before padding back to his own bag and fish out his water bottle, emptying it. He had to remember to fill it again at the first chance.

 

Stomach quieted down, Izuku took a better look around. The place looked even more disgusting than it did the night prior, with the golden blades of day light coming in from above, dust swinging in the air, thick webs hanging from the ceilings and in the corners. There was a good amount of trash abandoned on the floor, too.

 

Izuku shrugged to himself, kneeling by his bag and emptying it to do a quick inventory. He took a sniff of his clothes. They smelled stale and vaguely sweaty, but it wasn’t unbearable, so he guessed he could go on without changing for another day, at least. He sat down, back against the wall, and opened his notebook on his knees.

 

His pen hovered on the paper and he hummed, before a small, lopsided smile pulled at his lips, and he started to write down.

 

How not to move like a sack of potatoes.

 

He got lost in the familiarity of it all, this habit of writing, making bullet points, analyzing, draw little diagrams— He wrote down everything Stain told him the night prior, not forgoing any detail. He got so engrossed in his work he jumped violently when something moved out the corner of his eye.

 

Izuku turned, eyes wide. Stain took the hood off his face, revealing the now familiar messy black hair, his face covered with a pearl white cold mask.

 

“Lesson number two—“ He said, rough. “Keep your damn guard up, brat. An elephant could’ve sneaked up to you, right now.”

 

“…Yes.” Izuku murmured back, attempting to quiet down his racing heart. Stain huffed and slid the mask off his face, revealing—

 

“You don’t have a nose.”

 

“Yes, amazing observational skills.” Stain huffed, sarcastic.

 

“…Sorry. I guess that’s not so strange, after all.” Izuku replied, looking down at his notebook. “A guy in my class could just— Pop his eyeballs out of the sockets and let them dangle off his face. Was gross as hell.” A sniff. “Not having a nose is not so bad.”

 

Stain let out a little rumbly chuckle, as he stalked silently toward his gym bag. He kneeled by the empty cups.

 

“Glad to see you’re not a picky one.” He commented, shaking the empty cup of instant noodles. “Can’t afford to be, when you’re on the move.”

 

“Huh. Yeah.” Izuku replied, blinking. “Thanks for the breakfast?”

 

Stain hummed, as he opened the gym bag’s zipper and stuffed something from his pocket in it, before launching him a little look. “What are you writing, so intently?”

 

“Oh— What you taught me yesterday.” Izuku shrugged. “Writing things down always helps me memorizing them.”

 

“I see. I won’t tell you not to, but it’s a dangerous habit. Written words can be a double edged sword. If you were to lose that little notebook of yours, it could be a mess.” Stain commented, flat. “Write down, memorize, and then burn it”

 

Izuku looked down at the notebook, clutching it almost protectively. It was a small, thin thing, not many pages at all. Izuku almost filled all of it already. With a sigh, he got up. “Wait, don’t put away that thing yet.”

 

Stain picked up his intentions immediately. He got the little camp stove back out from his bag, and turned it on.

 

They watched the paper rapidly burn, silent, leaving behind only a little pile of ash. Stain distractedly patted the last little burning pieces to fully stifle the smoke.

 

“Looks like you are a wanted brat. Even more than me.” He suddenly said, wiping the ash away from his fingers.

 

“What?” Izuku replied, confused.

 

“Got asked a couple of times by police officers if I saw a boy as tall as you, with messy, curly green hair like yours. Green eyes. Like yours.” Stain shrugged. “I guess when you get a suicidal teenager disappearing in thin air, people are going to get worried.”

 

“…Oh.” Izuku exhaled, frowning. “I… Guess.”

 

“Pack your stuff, we’ve gotta move.” Stain continued. “We can’t stay here anymore, obviously. Unless you changed your mind and want to go back home?”

 

Izuku took a second, before murmuring. “No. I don’t want to go home.”

 

Stain hummed, closing his gym bag and hauling it on his shoulder. He slipped the cold mask back on.

 

“Get ready, then. We’ve got a long way ahead.”

 

 

Chizome leaned against the wall, arms crossed on his chest, and observed.

 

The kid was putting on a different kind of shoes, some cheap looking running shoes, pocketing his bright red ones back in the backpack, along with everything else. He had to admit that, for a brat, he was pretty smart. For what he could see of his few possessions, the kid made sure to bring with him only what was necessary for a life in the streets.

 

But then again, it was not surprising. This boy was far smarter than what his plain-looking exterior let on.

 

He was only barely fifteen years old, if the officers that stopped him this morning said the truth. A boy so young, and yet with so much pain and darkness in his eyes, already— No wonder he choose the chance to run, when it was given to him.

 

Clearly, his life mustn’t have been great. A quirkless kid— Probably got bullied to hell and back. Maybe his parents were divorced? He only mentioned his mother, and who knows which kind of person she was— Wouldn’t be surprising if the boy came from an abusive household.

 

In any case, it wasn’t any of Chizome’s business. The only reason he took the boy with him was because of the exceptional observational skills he shown. What he saw in the now thankfully burned notebook— This kid got a real knack for observing people and dismantling them piece by piece.

 

That, and the fact that the brat could prove to be a real problem, if his stubbornness was anything to come by. It costed Chizome pretty much nothing to keep an eye on the boy and assess him for a bit, and his quicksilver mind could prove to be useful, in the meantime.

 

If anything took a turn for the bad, he could always kill him. He didn’t like the idea much, but if necessary, he’d do it. After all, the kid still had that dark light in his eyes— He probably won’t mind to get killed too much.

 

“I’m ready.” The kid said, carding a hand through his messy hair to push it backward, before putting on an anonymous looking dark blue baseball cap. It did a decent job in hiding his hair. He took out a pair of glasses from the pocket of his hoodie, too, sliding them on.

 

“You’ve got bad eyesight?” Chizome asked, flat. Glasses could be annoying—

 

“Ah, no. They are fake. Just to tweak my appearance a bit.” He replied, shrugging.

 

“Mh. I see. Good choice.” Chizome admitted, eyeing him. It was a small touch, but it definitely helped hiding him in plain sight. “When we are out there during the day, my name is Daiki Ueda, and you are my little brother, Hideki Ueda. Got it?”

 

The boy nodded, silent and expressionless. His eyes were as dark as usual, bags under them. Chizome nodded back and turned, starting to climb back up and out the abandoned building, the kid following closely. They walked in silence for a long while, taking small roads away from majorly trafficked areas, the only noises around them the birds chirping, the distant cars going by, people just chatting as they went by their daily life, ignoring the two unassuming figures walking side by side.

 

“St— Daiki.” The boy suddenly said, rapidly correcting himself. “Just a minute.”

 

Chizome stopped and turned, adjusting the hood over his head and the mask on his face. They were alone, walking by a river bank. The boy took his backpack off his shoulders and rummaged in it. He took out his bright red shoes, and with a determined throw, he launched them in the river. They went down with a soft splash, the bright red rapidly disappearing, dragged away by the currents.

 

The boy wasn’t done. He fished out a small set of keys. He seemed to observe them for a few seconds, a bright All Might keychain dangling from them, before he also threw those in the water.

 

“There. Now I’m dead.” He muttered to himself, before putting the backpack back on. He walked up to Chizome once more, dull green eyes looking up at him expectantly.

 

Chizome said nothing. He just nodded. And they started to walk again, silent.

 

Chapter Text

—Chapter 2—

Bohemian Rhapsody

 

 

 

Inko took a series of deep, regular breaths, before pushing herself out of bed. Her entire body felt heavy, and her eyes sore, after she cried herself to sleep.

 

She wobbled to the bathroom, feeling like she was carrying boxes full of bricks on her shoulders. She splashed her face with cold water, and when she caught a glimpse of her reflection in the mirror above the sink, she almost did not recognize herself.

 

She was pale, eyes red like she just stopped sobbing, hair a nest above her head. She distractedly attempted to put a bit of order to it by carding her fingers through the messy strands, trying to ignore the sensation of having her heart suddenly turned into steel.

 

She needed to keep calm and collected. They had a plan. They were going to face this—

 

She needed to keep calm, for Izuku. She already failed him so much, so gravely— She ignored all the little signs that something wasn’t quite right, and let Izuku slowly slide away, like sand between her fingers. She had a giant red flag flapping right in front of her face all the time, and elected to ignore it.

 

She chose to believe Izuku would never attempt to kill himself, because the possibility was just too painful— She chose to trust him, even if his eyes seemed so dull as he promised he would never do something like that. She chose—

 

And now she was paying the consequences.

 

Gulping down the knot of tears in her throat, she silently walked down the corridor and stopped in front of the door of Izuku’s room. The All Might sign with his name, scribbled in childish, unsure calligraphy, seemed to almost mock her. She knocked softly, waiting for a few seconds.

 

“Izuku, baby, time to get up—“ She called gently, her voice breaking a bit by the end. She took a little gulp of breath in. “Honey— I’m coming in, ok?”

 

She softly opened the door. It took her a moment for her eyes to adjust to the darkness, and she blindly approached the window, opening the shutters to let the light in.

 

When she turned to the bed, her heart fell on the floor.

 

It was empty, covers thrown carelessly on a side.

 

“Izuku?!” She immediately called, loud and panicked. She ran out, peering into the kitchen and living room, finding no one. “Izuku—“

 

His shoes were missing from the shoe rack. His keys weren’t in the bowl propped on it.

 

Short panicked breath rose in her chest as she ran back in his room. His phone was abandoned on the nightstand, and his backpack and wallet were sitting by the desk.

 

“Oh, no no no no no—“ She moaned to herself, tears prickling at the corner of her eyes. “Oh, God, please, no—“

 

She ran in her room, threw on hastily the first clothes she found at hand, and ran out, phone in hand.

 

“IZUKU!” She yelled as she run down the street, toward the park nearby. She ignored the perplexed looks of the people around her, calling him over and over. With trembly fingers she dialled the emergency number on her phone.

 

“Yes, hi— My name is Inko Midoriya— No— My son, he’s gone—“ She sobbed, answering the dispatcher. “He was with me yesterday evening but— I don’t know when he left— No, you don’t understand, he’s only fifteen— No, listen. He tried to kill himself, o-once— Yes. Yes, the last time I saw him he was in bed, around midnight— He left his phone and wallet at home— Yes, there’s one close by, I can go to the station right away. I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

 

She ran like she had never done before, ignoring the pain flaring in her limbs and chest, as she took short, painful breaths. She didn’t care that she was a mess as she entered the police station, explaining in a wheezing panic what happened to the perplexed looking agents. They immediately guided her in the back and gave a form to fill, and one of the agents took notes as she described how Izuku looked.

 

“He’s about one hundred and sixty-five centimetres tall— Curly green hair, always a bit messy, hard to tame, you see— Green eyes and freckles— He’s pretty thin, soft features—Here’s a picture of him—“

 

Time went by in a blur as she unloaded any info she could on the agents. Their promptness was reassuring, if even just barely, and by the time she was done telling anything she could, the agents promised they already launched an alarm along the entire city and various officers were already out there, scouting the streets.

 

“We will find him.” The officer that first welcomed her in murmured, reassuring. “In the meantime, if you remember any detail, or place you think your son might’ve gone to, this is my number— Call me for anything.” He added, pushing a small card in her hand. “If you can, speak with your family and friends, see if they can join the search— Even one more person out there could make a difference.”

 

“I don’t have family— It’s just me and Izuku—“ She sobbed, nervously drying the tears away from her eyes. “B-but— I guess I can go speak with some friends—“

 

“You do that— Don’t hesitate to call us if for anything.” The officer insisted, walking her to the exit. “I’m sure we will find him. Boys at this age can be— Difficult. But I’m sure he will come back soon.”

 

 

She spent the rest of the day knocking at every each door in the neighbour, showing them a picture of Izuku, pleading with them to call the police if they caught even just a glimpse of him— Before she even realized the sun was already setting on the horizon, painting the sky with orange hues.

 

She was nauseous, and exhausted, and just wanted to melt on the floor and cry. But she kept going, desperately stopping any passerby, begging them to please keep an eye out for Izuku—

 

She went far enough to walk in her old district, where the Bakugous still lived. She already called the school to inform them of Izuku’s disappearance, and they promised they would gather info as well— But maybe speaking directly with Katsuki and his parents might help more. She rung the bell, nervously shifting her weight from foot to foot.

 

“Oh!” Mitsuki Bakugou exclaimed, surprised, when she opened the door. “Inko! What a surprise— Are you ok?”

 

Inko forced herself to gulp down the tears. “It’s Izuku—“ She forced herself to let out, trembling. “He disappeared— Either this morning or during the night— The police is searching for him, but— Do you think I can maybe speak with Katsuki?”

 

“Of course—“ Mitsuki replied, concerned, a frown emerging on her face. She put a kind hand on Inko’s shoulder, as she guided her inside gently, closing the door with a soft click. “I’m so sorry to hear that— Is there any way we can help?”

 

“Just— Keep your eyes open? If you see him, call the police immediately—“ Inko exhaled, letting herself get guided. Mitsuki gently walked her in their living room, sat her down on the couch.

 

“I’ll go get Katsuki, I’ll be right back.” She murmured, gentle. Inko distracted herself by looking around, as she instinctively closed her own arms around herself, but seeing the pictures of Mitsuki and her husband, along with a much younger Katsuki, only helped in making her feel even more nauseous and anxious.

 

She heard muffled voices from upstairs, and then silence. A minute later, Mitsuki padded back in the living room, followed by a contrite looking Katsuki, his hands in his pockets. He silently sat down in the armchair in front of her, avoiding her eyes.

 

“Oh my, Katsuki, I haven’t seen you in so long—“ Inko commented with a watery voice, a small frail smile on her lips for a second. “You’ve grown so much—“

 

The boy squirmed in his seat, red eyes still avoiding hers.

 

“Inko said that Izuku disappeared earlier today.” Mitsuki intervened, voice low. “Do you know something that can possibly help find him?”

 

“…No.” Katsuki replied, flat. “They told us during the afternoon lesson. But no one knew anything. He’s been missing from school for a month.”

 

Inko deflated, releasing a little trembly sigh. “Please, dear, try to think— If there’s anything at all—“ She then said, eyes filling with tears. “Izuku, he— He’s been very troubled, lately. I didn’t even knew he was skipping school—“

 

“You didn’t?” Katsuki replied, frowning, surprised. “I thought he was getting looked at by shrinks, after he failed that swan dive—“

 

“Katsuki!” Mitsuki hissed, lightly slapping the back of her son’s head. “Do you think that was appropriate?!”

 

Inko ignored the painful pang in her heart. Surely Katsuki didn’t mean to be so blunt— He was just a kid, kids didn’t always had the best tact.

 

“It’s ok.” She forced herself to say, trembly. “Can you remember if he told you anything? Haven’t you spoke with him at all, in the past month?”

 

Katsuki squirmed in his seat again. “We— We haven’t really talked for ages.” He replied with a stiff shrug.

 

“But… I thought you were friends?” Inko whispered, dejected.

 

“Not— Not really.” Katsuki mumbled. “We haven’t been friends for a long time.”

 

“Oh…” She dragged both hands on her face, letting out a little broken sigh. “I… I see… Do you know of anyone that might’ve spoke with him recently? Some other friend?”

 

“Not really.” Katsuki said again, low. “He doesn’t have friends.”

 

Inko blinked, sight watery.

 

Was Izuku alone, completely alone, all this time?

 

“…Go back to your room.” Mitsuki murmured, flat. “If you think of anything that can help, tell us. But go, now.”

 

Katsuki obeyed without a word, shooting up from his seat like a spring. Mitsuki waited for the steps to disappear up the stairs, before she sat down by Inko’s side and put a gentle arm around her shoulders.

 

“I’m so sorry.” She whispered, weakly, and that was the last push Inko needed. She let out a broken sob, folding in herself. She let herself get guided against Mitsuki’s shoulder, and her wails got muffled against the soft cloth of her shirt, as she cried and cried, Mitsuki gently carding her hand through Inko’s hair.

 

 

“You’re in so much trouble.

 

That was the first thing that mom hissed once he entered the room, cluing him into the fact she was definitely still pissed off. Keeping his face low, Katsuki sat down at the kitchen table, as she slammed a cup of rice down in front of him with enough strength it was surprising the bowl didn’t break.

 

Dad looked up from his paper, blinking confusedly between Katsuki and his wife. “What… Happened?”

 

“Where do I even start—“ She continued, glacial. “Oh, I don’t know, the fact that your son acted extremely rudely in front of a woman whose son disappeared by referring to his suicide attempt as a ‘swan dive’? Or maybe the fact Izuku hasn’t been coming to school for a month and he didn’t say anything— Or, I don’t know, the fact that his childhood friend tried to kill himself, and he didn’t give a flying fuck!”

 

“I—“

 

“No, shut up—“ She immediately interrupted. “Don’t give me any crap. I don’t care if you and Izuku weren’t friends anymore. People drift away, growing up, I understand that— But did you care for him so little you didn’t even try to contact him after he tried to take his own life?”

 

When Katsuki dared to take a peek, he met two set of eyes filled with the same kind of painful contempt.

 

“We might not have been the best parents all the time— But I thought we taught you better than this, Katsuki.” Mom continued in a painful, raw whisper. “That boy tried to commit suicide— And you did nothing.”

 

He looked back down, biting his lower lip. Words tried to climb up his throat, but he gulped them down.

 

“Now eat your damn dinner and then go back to your room, me and your father have a lot to speak about.”

 

The rest of the dinner passed in a silence so tense you could taste it on your tongue. Katsuki never looked up again, finished his meal even if his stomach felt like a knot, and rapidly excused himself from the table. He could hear mom and dad’s voices in a low hiss as he climbed up the stairs, but ignored them, getting back in his room.

 

Ha launched himself face down on his bed, and muffled a frustrated roar against his pillow.

 

As usual, stupid Deku managed to mess things up for everyone. First he pulled the drama queen act by trying to jump from the roof and then skipping school for forever, and now he had to go and disappear on everyone.

The teachers sounded stern, today, as they explained that Deku went missing, and invited anyone with any possible useful information to come forward. No one said anything, but a heated discussion soon erupted during the break, away from any teacher’s ears.

 

“Maybe we should tell…”

 

“Tell what, exactly?”

 

“Oh, I don’t know, the fact that all you guys acted like absolute jerks to him?”

 

“Us? What about you? I didn’t see being all buddy buddy with him—“

 

“Well, at least I left him be—“

 

“As if that’s any better—“

 

The whole thing soon devolved into a full blown fight, with the entire class breaking into little groups. Katsuki didn’t intervene the entire time, rage bubbling in his stomach as he walked away.

 

“Gee, did you think he actually went through with it, this time?” One of his usual lackeys wondered out loud as they followed.

 

“I don’t give a fuck what he does!” Katsuki snarled, irritated.

 

“Whoa, dude, chill— Was just wondering.”

 

“…Maybe we should say something, though.” Another intervened, quietly. “I mean—“

 

“And what, exactly?” Katsuki scoffed. “What are we supposed to say? That he was a whiny, annoying weakling that couldn’t keep his shit together?”

 

“You told him to jump off the r—“

 

“SHUT UP!” He roared, immediately stifling any protest. “It was his damn choice to try off himself! It was his damn choice to stop coming to school, and now it’s his damn choice if he decided to run away! It has nothing to do with any of us!”

 

No other protest came after that.

 

But for how long the silence will be kept? At some point, someone would probably step forward and tell everyone—

 

What? What would they tell? It isn’t your fault if stupid Deku was so dumb to really try jump off a roof— You didn’t push him off that roof, he did it all on his own. You have nothing to do with this.

 

Yeah— It had nothing to do with him. Even if mom and dad thought the opposite—

 

He and Deku weren’t friends, why was Katsuki supposed to give a fuck about him? He was just a useless, quirkless guy—

 

“What if I did?” Deku replied, voice low, so low, peering at Katsuki from under his mess of hair. He looked pale, dark circles around his eyes, and the green of his irises seemed muted, muddy, much different from the bright emerald that Katsuki knew, that would shine whenever they’d play heroes and villains.

 

A stranger, standing in front of him, thin and frail, eyes a desert.

 

What if I did?

 

No, this has nothing to do with Katsuki. It was on Deku.

 

It was all on Deku.

 

 

Days turned into a single, infinite stretch of time.

 

She couldn’t sleep properly, only take short naps, her mind feeding her nightmares and shaking her awake with a scream dying in her throat every single time.

 

Izuku, broken and bloody on the asphalt, eyes empty, blood running from his lips—

 

Before she could even make sense of anything, a week passed.

 

A week, since her baby boy disappeared, alone, with only the clothes on his back to protect him. A week out in the streets, carrying heavy loads of flyers she ordered, Izuku’s picture on it, and a plead to call the police if you caught sight of him. A week scouting streets and calling after him desperately. A week of phone calls to the police with tips that lead them nowhere, and presumed sighting of Izuku that turned out to be dead ends.

 

A week of agony as she discovered more and more of the secret life her son led, without ever uttering a single word to her. Speaking with embarrassed and nervous teachers admitting they could barely remember him. Finding out that Izuku really had no friends, that even his classmates didn’t seem to know him at all.

 

A full week before some of said classmates cracked under the pressure, admitting that there might’ve been a bit of teasing that went overboard, sometimes, in the class.

 

But was it really just ‘teasing’? To push Izuku so far— To make him stop attending school without saying anything—

 

What really happened to him? Could Inko even claim to know her own son, at this point?

 

A week of tears that never seemed to stop, a week of self-blaming as she accused herself. She should’ve seen more, she should’ve done more, she should’ve realized that Izuku was suffering so much—

 

But she didn’t. And now Izuku was gone.

 

She stepped into the police station. A second home, for her, at this point. Without a word the agent guided her in the back, helped her sit down, left her there while she went to call her superior—

 

Inko waited, anxiously. Officer Itou said that they might’ve found a possible lead, but that he couldn’t say more on the phone— She was jittery, almost shivering in her seat, fingers tight on her forearm as she stared at the door.

After what felt like ages, Itou walked through the door with a box in his arms, face pointed at the floor. She could barely keep herself in her seat, as the man carefully put down the box.

 

“We’ve found these— We need you to tell us if you recognize these items.” He murmured, slowly, opening the lid. He put a hand inside, and took out a transparent plastic bag. Inko let out a sob, covering her mouth.

 

“Those are his shoes—“ She managed to sob out, eyes filling with tears, one trembly hand stretched forward as if she wanted to take them. They looked a bit worse for wear, and wet, but she couldn’t mistake them for anything else. “What—“

 

“We also recovered this.” Itou continued, carefully flat, fishing a much smaller bag from the box. A small set of key, with an All Might keychain attached to them.

 

“His keys— Yes, those are his keys—“ Inko let out an undefinable noise, half-way between a broken laugh and a sob. “Did you—Do you think this means you are closer to find him? Where have you found those?”

 

Itou didn’t immediately answer. He carefully put the plastic bags back in the box, closed the lid. When he met Inko’s eyes, there was a thin sheen of tears on his dark ones.

 

“I’m so sorry.” He murmured, genuine suffering in his voice. “I am truly sorry— Miss Midoriya, what we are currently searching for— What we are searching for, at this point in the investigation, it’s a body.” He added, barely above a whisper. “I’m sorry.”

 

Inko blinked, speechless. The words didn’t really sink in, as if her mind refused to accept them—

 

The tears in officer Itou’s eyes finally spilled over, rolling down his cheek, as he never looked away from her.

 

“A— Body?” She whispered, her voice hitching in the knot filling her throat. “What—“

 

Itou didn’t say anything as her eyes filled with tears that soon fell down, as she started to shiver violently.

 

“No, no no— There must be a mistake—“ Inko managed to sob, broken and desperate. “No, Izuku it’s still alive, I know he is— He wouldn’t— He—“

 

Itou took a small step forward. And then another one. He kneeled in front of her, still in tears, and put two gentle hands on her shoulders.

 

Finally, the finality of the truth pierced in her like a spear. Inko was sure her chest must be breaking in two, there was no other explanation for the pain she felt— It was breaking, and she was going to die, accompanied only by the sound she could hear in the distance—

 

It took her a moment, to realize the sound she was hearing was the sound of her own agonized screaming.

 

 

Mitsuki was just about to turn away with a sigh, a silent Katsuki by her side, when a black car gently came to a stop in front of the house.

 

She watched as Inko got off the passenger side, her face low, arms around her own chest. She didn’t even seem to notice them, unsure on her feet, as a man hurried out of the driver side and around the car to help her, an arm around her shoulder. He blinked at them.

 

“I’m afraid this is not the right moment.” He said, clinical. “If you have something to say to Miss. Midoriya— Maybe another time.”

 

“…No.” Inko murmured, her voice like gravel. “No, I want to hear it. I want to know why you are here.”

 

She turned her face up, her red and wet eyes looking like there was a black fire burning in them. Her cheeks were splotchy and she was pale, hair messily framing her plump face.

 

She looked like she aged about twenty years in a single night.

 

Mitsuki gulped nervously. She knew what was about to happen would inevitably destroy whatever chance she had to keep her pleasant relationship with Inko going—

 

But that wasn’t important. The truth was much more so.

 

“Katsuki.” She said, impassive. “Tell Inko what you told me.”

 

Katsuki shifted his weight from foot to foot, face pointed down. “I—“

 

Now.”

 

“I— I’ve been acting really badly toward De— Izuku.” Katsuki finally muttered, voice low. “I’ve been teasing him a lot. I— I think he hated me.”

 

“And?” Mitsuki pushed in the silence, forcing herself to stand still and not run away in shame as she wanted to do.

 

“…I’m sorry.” Katsuki continued in the same tone. “I should’ve realized sooner I was being terrible. I should’ve stopped. I— I want to help search him, if I can.”

 

Mitsuki kept her eyes pointed forward, as she pushed Katsuki’s head down in a bow.

 

Inko’s face was an unreadable mask. When she spoke, her voice was so glacial it could probably freeze hell over.

 

“I knew that already.” She said, eyes pointed at Katsuki. “I’ve realized that when I heard Izuku’s classmate speak about ‘teasing him’ and ‘jokes’— I’m not stupid, I know what that means. I know what you, and all your classmates, must have been doing to my son all this time.”

 

Katsuki flinched violently, without looking up from his bow.

 

“I don’t need your help.” She spat. “I don’t— I don’t need anyone’s help. I don’t need the help of people that cared so little for a boy, barely more than a child, that—“ She gaped, wordlessly, angry tears rising to her eyes, rolling down her cheeks. “I don’t need any of you. Keep your apologies, I don’t want them. I’m going out there, and I’m going to find my goddamn son, because I know he’s still alive. And I will find him. Now, get the fuck out of my sight, I’ve got to get ready to do what any of you couldn’t and save my son.”

 

And with that, she angrily strode away, opening and closing the door of her home with a violent slam.

 

 

Inko has always lived a rather unassuming, peaceful life. She grew up a only child with a stay-at-home mom and a office worker father. She got married at twenty-two, and at twenty-three lost both her parents.

 

Hisashi’s family wasn’t very present, either, and for the longest time it was just the two of them— Their marriage was as calm and unassuming as most of Inko’s life had been, and when she ended up pregnant, the both of them seemed overjoyed at the idea of having a little one of their own— But Hisashi left not long after Izuku’s birth, her only memory of her husband with their son a single picture of him holding the small bundle, baby Izuku sleeping peacefully in his arms.

 

They barely ever spoke anymore. He always sent the money, every month, without exception. Not big riches, but enough for her and Izuku to go by and live a fairly comfortable life.

 

She suspected he might’ve run, intimidated at the prospect of having to raise a child he might’ve been not ready for. Or maybe he really had to spend some time abroad for his work, and ended up finding himself another family, there.

 

Inko stopped holding on hope after Izuku’s fourth birthday, when he didn’t ask why dad wasn’t home to celebrate with them for the first time.

 

It was ok. She had Izuku, after all.

 

Most of her life had been peaceful and comfortable. All she knew was the calmness of her day to day life in a big city, surrounded by all sorts of commodities.

 

But, by god, she was going to uproot her entire life, if it meant finding Izuku, now. She was going to leave behind everything, if it meant having even the smaller chance of hugging her son one last time.

 

She was going out there, and she was going to find him. It was the only possibility she had. Accepting defeat, accepting he might be dead— Was not an option.

 

Izuku was alive. She knew it. She could feel it.

 

She was going to find him, and she was going to bring him back home, and she was going to protect him, this time.

 

She wouldn’t let anything bad happen to him again

 

 

Stony, heavy silences seemed to have become an active part of his life, in this past week.

 

But this one… This one was different.

 

Mom’s knuckles were white on the steering wheel. Katsuki didn’t dare move a single finger, let alone turn to look at her.

 

He had no other choice but to give in, in the end. The entire week, he spent torn between the denial, the attempts to push back against the guilt he felt rising a bit more every day in him, like a tidal wave— And the voices from inside him, urging him to face reality.

 

To admit that— Maybe— He may have not physically pushed Deku off that damn roof, but he might as well have.

 

That, maybe, he played a part in all this— A big part, probably more than anyone else in class did.

 

That Deku was gone, probably after attempting, and this time succeeding, in killing himself. Because he was alone, and scared, and when he was already down they all kept kicking.

 

He could only give up and admit to mom, gulping down angry tears, what he really had done all this time. He had no other choice but to obey his furious mother as she ordered him out of the house, right now, so they could go speak with Inko Midoriya and he could apologize, beg for her forgiveness.

 

The drive back home seemed to last an eternity. When the car softly braked to a stop in front of their house, mom didn’t move.

 

Katsuki didn’t, either. He felt locked in place, like if he only dared to breathe a little too loudly, mom might as well bite his entire head off.

 

He jumped when she suddenly hit the steering wheel with a furious fist.

 

“How could you do something like that?!” She screamed, tears in her voice.

 

Forcing himself, feeling as if all his muscles suddenly turned into iron, Katsuki turned to look at her. Big tears were streaming down her cheeks, face contorted in an anguished expression.

 

“Have we failed this badly?!” She sobbed, desperate. “Have we let you down so much that you felt the need to mistreat someone— No, not just someone. The kid you grew up with— Do you really have so much anger in you that you felt the need to pour it on Izuku until he couldn’t just take it anymore? Until the only way out he saw was death?!”

 

Katsuki gaped, wordlessly, unable to defend himself. Unable to form an answer.

 

He didn’t had any answer. He didn’t.

 

“Do you have any idea how I’d feel if you were gone— That’s what Inko is feeling, now. Her son is gone. Because of you—“ She stifled another sob, pushing a hand on her mouth. “He’s gone—“

 

She sobbed pitifully, leaning down until her forehead went to rest against the steering wheel.

 

Katsuki kept silent, staring at nothing in front of him. The words, slowly, so slowly sinking in his chest.

 

Was Deku really gone?

 

He was—

 

He was.

 

Something prickled in his eyes and nose. He gaped, wordlessly, the only sound around him his mother’s soft crying.

 

Ages seemed to go by as his mind filled with white noise, and his eyes kept burning. When mom spoke again, she sounded exhausted.

 

Broken.

 

“I refuse to let you keep going like this.” She murmured. “You wish to become a hero, and yet, right now, you couldn’t be further from one.”

 

Katsuki flinched violently, but didn’t protest, hands tightening in a fist on his pants.

 

“We are going to tackle this, and you are going to make amends for what you’ve done.” She continued, slowly gaining a steadier voice. “You better clean up your fucking act from now on, Katsuki, because if you won’t start showing me genuine remorse and willingness to become a better person, you can kiss UA goodbye. Am I clear?”

 

“…Yes.”

 

“We’ll see.” She replied, contempt in her voice. “We’ll see.”

 

 

Three days later, a small memorial was held at school. What suspiciously looked like a full blown altar was set in the gym. Katsuki managed to barely take a look at the picture propped on it, at the smile he hadn’t seen in months on Deku’s face, until he just couldn’t anymore, nausea setting in his stomach.

 

There were heartfelt speeches and shared memories. The words flew right above his head, as he kept gliding about like a ghost, deeply sunk in that weird, fog-like sensation of detachment he’s been in for the last few days.

 

It didn’t matter, either way. They were all fake. No one had a real memory of who Deku was, in this place. Speeches meant nothing, since Deku was already dead.

 

He kept his head low and trudged through it, his mother a constant, stony presence by his side.

 

He saw glimpses of his classmates, but all of them had the same kind of expression— Exactly the same expression Katsuki must be wearing. They all sort of wandered around, escaping each other’s eyes, carefully avoiding to exchange any word.

 

In the end, what they were all left with was a makeshift altar, a picture of a person that was already long dead before his heart even stopped beating, and flowers stinking up the place.

There was no one to offer condolences to, because Inko Midoriya didn’t show up for even a minute, leaving them with their awkward memories and the pain of a guilt they all, to a certain degree, shared.

 

Chapter Text

—Chapter 3—

Another brick in the wall

 

 

 

He cleaned the blood from his mouth.

 

“This guy’s a riot—“ One of them laughed, loudly, speech vaguely slurred.

 

“Told you. He’s always here, trying to preach— Or whatever the fuck it’s that he’s doing.” Another answered, looking down at him with a drunken grin. “Hey, dude, ain’t you got a job, or something? Do you have so much free time to spend preaching’ ‘bout things no one gives a shit about?”

 

“If you don’t care, then move along.” He replied, dignified, rising back up on his feet. “You’re not obligated to listen, but I won’t stop.”

 

They all laughed like he just told the best joke ever, leaning into one another and hitting their thighs with a fist.

 

“Are you even listening to yourself?” One intervened, voice trembling with a stifled laugh. “Man, you’ve got some faulty gears in that head— Do you really think anyone cares about— What was it, the purity of heroes? No one cares. Heroes are out there, doing real work, while you’re standing here throwing mud at them—“

 

“If you truly believe that, then you are a fool.” He replied, low. “These so called heroes do not care— They are only defiling the word. They do it for the money, and the fame— They do it so they can appear on glossy paper and blog posts— They don’t really care about what they do. Do you really believe people like that are deserving of being called heroes?”

 

They kept laughing, and laughing. He closed his hand in a fist, nails sinking in his flesh painfully. He kept his head high, staring at them.

 

“Gee, you really believe that shit—“ One from the back of the group, the only one that hasn’t laughed, intervened. “That’s uncool, man. My cousin’s a hero, I don’t appreciate you talking like this about him—“

 

“If you felt my words, then in your heart you know that your cousin is just another phony—“

 

The punch arrived in an instant, but not unexpected. He moved out of the way, this time, grabbing the man’s arm and throwing him on the ground, kneeling by his side. The man attempted to struggle, and then went as still as a statue, when he felt the sharp edge of the knife on his neck.

 

“If you don’t care for my words, move along.” He hissed, glaring down at the man. “You are not obligated to listen, but neither am I to let you use me as a punching bag— If my words hit a mark in you, then do something to change world, like I’m doing.”

 

“Fuck off!” The guy spat. “You crazy motherfucker!”

 

With a sigh, he put the knife back in its sheath. The man jumped on his feet, eyeing him warily.

 

“This guy’s fucking crazy—“ He muttered, taking a step back. “Let’s go, before he goes insane again.”

 

He watched the little group finally move along, muttering between themselves.

 

Chizome sighed deeply, shaking his head, and then resumed his speech exactly from the point he left it.

 

 

Izuku tried to hold it down, but in the end, he couldn’t.

 

He managed to take some steps away, before finally leaning on his knees and eject the content of his stomach on the grass, painful coughs shaking him.

 

“That’s one good meal that you just wasted.” Stain commented from the stairs, not even turning to look. He was lazily leaning back on the steps, long legs crossed in front of him as he kept his eyes trained on a tablet, reading whatever.

 

“I’m aware.” Izuku bit back once the spasm subsided, feeling the disgusting, bitter taste of bile on his tongue. He turned and walked toward his bag, fishing out his water bottle and getting a generous sip. He rinsed his mouth, before spitting the disgusting water on the ground.

 

He dried a bit of liquid away from his lips with his wrist, and then resumed position, starting back exactly from were he stopped in order to vomit even the tiniest little thing left in his stomach.

 

Izuku had long lost track of time, unable to remember how many days they’ve spent in that isolated, rundown little house in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Many days, just the two of them, no other human being in sight.

 

Stain sure knew how to choose a safe house.

 

It was dusty, but comfortable. They got running water from the little creek nearby and even a bit of electricity, after Stain worked for a couple of days on some old, ruined solar panels, managing to turn them functional under Izuku’s curious eyes.

 

When they left the city— They walked for a long time, at first. Walked away from Musutafu until the night fell on them once more. They hitched a ride on a freight train, the chilly air whipping them, and Izuku rolled himself up in his hoodie as much as he could, as his nose stung with the cold. Stain, that ordered him to try sleep a bit, cracked one eye open.

 

“Told you to sleep—“ He muttered.

 

Izuku shrugged, unable to divert his eyes away from the now far lights of the city he could see from the tiny window.

 

“What’s going on through that busy head of yours?” Stain asked with a sigh, opening his other eye and shifting to sit upright.

 

“I’ve— Never been this far from Musutafu, before.” Izuku replied, flat. “Never been this far from home. I just realized how small my world was—“

 

“It was tiny.” Stain chuckled. “There’s so much more out there, brat. You think hopping on a train is a big thing? Wait and see. I will show you the entirety of Japan, from a point of view most people don’t even consider.” A pause. “Keep you eyes open and learn. Then you could write some essay, or something. Isn’t that what they have you kids do in school, these days?”

 

Izuku let out a surprised little laugh, at that. “I guess.”

 

Stain’s eyes were unreadable, as he stared. He leaned back down, crossing his arm on his chest and resting his chin down.

 

“Try to sleep, kid.” He murmured. “We’ve got a lot of road to cover. You need as much rest as you can.”

 

Izuku obeyed, managing to catch some hours of rest— Stain wasn’t lying when he said they were going to cover a lot of road. They silently moved out the train as it came to a stop, unseen, and once they were far enough, standing on a tiny dirt road surrounded by green, Stain whipped out a full blown paper-map, muttering to himself as he observed it for a long couple of minutes, before carefully folding it away.

 

“We’re going to walk a lot.” He said, before gently poking Izuku’s calves with the tip of his booth. “It’ll be good training.”

 

Again, he didn’t lie. It seemed like they would walk for forever, only stopping in the shade for a few minutes to drink and eat a couple of energy bars.

 

Izuku was already fairly tired from the long walk the day prior, but he silently trudged on. He wanted to show Stain he wasn’t some delicate little child, that he was ready to take whatever he’d throw at him—

 

But by the time they reached the small little countryside house, as the sun was setting in the horizon, Izuku was so tired he felt like he might just pass out in the dirt. He dragged himself inside, barely capable of lifting his feet from the floor, after Stain forced the door open and hummed to himself, as he observed the interiors.

 

The house had been clearly long abandoned. If the dust wasn’t enough of a giveaway, the corners were nature was starting to reclaim it and the animal droppings on the floor sure were.

 

“Perfect.” Stain commented, letting his gym bag fall on the floor. “Find yourself the cleanest corner you can and rest up. I’m going out.”

 

“Whe—“ Izuku slurred, unable to finish even that single word as he abandoned his backpack near Stain’s bag and collapsed on the floor, eyes half closed.

 

“Setting up some traps. Hunting.” Stain replied, bending down to rummage in his bag. “There are no groceries stores or konbini, here. It’s either that, or starving to death, brat.”

 

Izuku blinked, but before he could even attempt to say anything, Stain added. “I will teach you, but not today. You’re barely capable of moving. Stay here, I’ll be gone for a few hours. You can eat a can of beans in the meantime.”

 

He promptly got out without another word, closing the door that creaked pitifully behind him. Izuku blinked at the run down wood, tiredness clouding his thoughts.

 

He leaned down on a side. Stain’s bag was much bigger than his and, even if there were hard edges digging into Izuku, far more comfortable to use as a makeshift pillow. Izuku deeply inhaled as he closed his eyes, smelling dust and metal, and promptly fell asleep.

 

When he woke, daylight was cutting in through the dirty, crusty windows. Izuku slowly sat, his neck protesting loudly, and confusedly blinked. Did he really sleep the entire night away, just like that?

 

He didn’t had a full night of uninterrupted sleep in ages.

 

A faint smell of smoke reached his nose, as he climbed back up on his feet. He pushed the door open —heavier than he thought— and walked behind the house. Stain was bending down by a little spot of naked ground, near a roughly-shaped circles of rocks, a fire cracking cheerfully in the middle. There was something cooking on it, and it smelled delicious.

 

“Did you ever had venison, before, brat?” Stain asked, not even turning to look at him.

 

“…Can’t say I have.” Izuku replied, slowly stepping by his side and bending down to look at the meat. It looked as delicious as it smelled, and Izuku’s mouth watered as his stomach grumbled loudly.

 

“If it gets you sick, try to puke away from the house.” Stain replied, stabbing a piece of meat with a knife and offering it to Izuku. Izuku carefully curled his fingers around the handle of the knife, eyeing the meat. He blew on it for a few seconds, not wanting to burn his mouth, before taking a careful bite. He struggled a bit to tear the meat away with his teeth.

 

It tasted vaguely like beef but— Stronger, somehow. The meat was tougher than beef, too, and he chewed for a long time, before gulping it down.

 

He didn’t notice that Stain was staring. He met his eyes for a second, before taking another big bite, famished.

 

Stain chuckled to himself, before turning back to face the fire, turning another piece of meat around to cook it better on the other side.

 

“Got a fat one, last night.” He commented, moving the embers with another long knife. “It’s gonna last us a few days— But we will go hunt again. I noticed there’s a stone oven in the back— It’s a bit run down, but it shouldn’t be too hard to make it functional again. I could make some jerky to bring with us on the road. I hadn’t been able to do that in a while.”

 

Izuku listened, as he rapidly finished his breakfast. He almost wanted to lick the juices away from the metal, once he was done, but the knife looked very sharp.

 

He examined it, curious. It was almost as long as Izuku’s forearm, a consistent weight in his hand. The metal, pinked with the juice of the meat, shone under the sun.

 

“Will you teach me how to use a sword, too?” He asked, unable to stop himself.

 

Stain turned to him, tilting an eyebrow. “Not with those noodle arms of yours, no.” He replied, flat. “And not with a real blade, for sure. Unless you want to lose some fingers hard and fast.”

 

Izuku frowned, pouting a bit without even realizing. “I don’t have noodle arms—“

 

Stain grabbed his free hand, raising it above his head and pointedly shaking his arm a bit. It was a stark contrast, the thin line of his arm against Stain’s muscular one.

 

“Well, anyone would look like a noodle, next to you!” Izuku protested, snatching his hand away. “You’re a goddamn wall of muscles!”

 

“I wasn’t born with those.” Stain replied, turning his attention back to the meat. He took the second piece off the fire, examining it for a few seconds, before taking a bite. “Worked my ass off. You do the same, then I’ll think about maybe putting a training sword in your hands. For now, we’ll focus on other things.” He added, pointing at Izuku with the tip of the knife, the meat wobbling on it dangerously.

 

“Like what?” Izuku asked, putting the knife back down by the rocks.

 

“Preparing your body. Basics of self defense.” Stain listed, after gulping down another bite. “D’you think what I taught you a couple of days ago was all? You’ve got a shitton of stuff to learn, brat. It’s going to be a long, hard road.”

 

When Izuku didn’t reply, he added. “You knew what you were in for, when you accepted to come with me, that night.” His voice was low, careful. “I gave you a chance to go back on your steps, but you decided to come with me. This is what awaits you. Sweat and blood.”

 

“I know.” Izuku finally murmured, honest. “I just—“

 

“What?”

 

“I just— Why are you doing this?” He frowned, looking up to meet red eyes.

 

“I told you not to ask why.” Stain replied, sore.

 

Izuku groaned. “Can you blame me for being curious?”

 

“Yes. Because I told you not to ask.” Stain replied, flat. He poked Izuku’s nose with the tip of the knife, with the blunt side. “It was part of our deal. You don’t ask stupid questions, and I won’t have a reason to abandon you in the middle of the wilderness to fend for yourself.” He nodded toward the house. “Now, go make yourself useful and clean that shithole a bit, while I finish eating. I’ve already been too lenient with you.”

 

Izuku obeyed without protests. He knew when to fight his battles, and this one wasn’t one currently worth fighting for.

 

The days passed fast. True to his words once more, Stain spared nothing in pushing Izuku way over his limits. He’d make him run until his feet couldn’t carry him anymore, he’d make him do sit ups until Izuku would roll over and puke, he’d make him lift makeshift weights until he couldn’t feel his arms anymore.

 

He pushed and punched and kicked until Izuku learned how to dodge, how to fall properly, how to shield himself even when his entire body felt like it was about to crumble down and his skin was covered in bruises.

 

He forced him to climb trees even when his hands were sore and bloody blisters opened on his palms. He left him up there, so high Izuku would probably break his neck if he fell, and he had no other choice but to find his own way to get back down without becoming a nice red splatter on the ground.

 

From the first lights of day to the last orange hues in the sky, he relentlessly trained, ignoring his sore muscles and painful bruises.

 

The only pauses he had, so to speak, were those days when Stain dragged him in the forest to hunt. The first time it happened, Izuku’s eyes turned huge as he watched the man assemble a full blown, actual bow.

 

“A bow.” He commented, flat. “Really? Are you that old-fashioned?”

 

Stain scoffed. “Don’t sass me, little brat. This is far more practical than a hunting rifle.” He replied. “I can fold it, it’s lighter to carry, and, most important, quiet. And I can make more arrows on my own. If you run out of bullets, you’re kind of fucked.”

 

“…Fair enough.” Izuku admitted, finding no fault in that logic. “But— Where did you even learn all this stuff? Is there a ‘serial-killer’ school, somewhere?”

 

Stain chuckled, not taking his eyes away from the bow as he adjusted the string. “You’d be amazed to discover the stuff you can learn from the internet.” He replied, giving no more explanation.

 

Those days felt almost like a vacation, even though they were anything but. They were a kind of training in itself, as Stain forced him to always mind his steps, learn how to be quiet like a cat, and working his senses to make the most of them. It took a long while before Stain grudgingly agreed in putting the bow in his hands during a hunt, and even more so before Izuku finally managed to land a hit.

 

“A bit unrefined, but I’ll take it.” Stain commented, as they walked out the bushes to approach the doe that was writhing on the ground, still alive after Izuku’s clumsy hit. He unsheathed one of the knives permanently attached to his hips, carefully grabbing the blade and offering the handle to Izuku. “Your game. You finish it off.” He said, flat.

 

Gulping nervously, Izuku accepted the weapon, kneeling by the doe. He could see the white of her eyes as she kept squirming, unable to get away from them, panicked breaths shaking her rib-cage.

 

Izuku hesitated, shifting the blade from hand to hand.

 

“You are just letting it suffer, now.” Stain said, voice low.

 

“…Sorry.” Izuku murmured, putting a gentle hand on her neck. “Thank you for the food.”

 

The sensation of the blade sinking in the doe’s flesh was unpleasant, making goosebumps rise along his skin. Blood gurgled violently from the deep cut in her neck and, in a matter of seconds, the doe’s eye turned glassy as she stopped moving.

 

“A lost cause.” Stain muttered to himself, almost amused. “I already shown you how to gut and skin game. Finish the job.” He added.

 

Stifling a bit of nausea in his stomach, knowing there was no refusing a direct order, Izuku obeyed.

 

 

 

 

How could they not see it? It was right in front of their eyes—

 

But nothing changed. No matter how much and hard he tried, no one seemed to listen.

 

Were words really so weak they could reach no one? He was taught about the power of words, a concept he got hit in the head over and over by teachers and parents alike— Was it just a big lie they were being fed with to keep them calm and compliant?

 

It would make sense. In this society of corrupted ideals and soiled words, it was no wonder they completely lost any power. It was no wonder just words weren’t enough anymore.

 

It was no wonder they were all subjected to a constant campaign of lies, just so they could all keep silent and act like little, dutiful ants to keep the gears of society going. Not individuals, but cogs in a giant machine, beaten into it to keep things running.

 

It was no wonder that his plead fell to deaf hears. It was no wonder no one was willing to listen, when they were all blinded by these shiny false idols.

 

No. Words were not enough. He understood that, now.

 

Chizome broke away from the mass, leaving behind a hole in the wall.

 

One day, he promised himself, he was going to turn that little, insignificant hole he left behind into a crack, and then another, and then another, until he could make the entire wall crumble.

 

 

No matter how many times the kid fell, he always managed to get up.

 

He had to admit he was— Impressed, by his stubbornness and force of will.

 

Chizome observed from his favorite spot, perched on the lopsided steps of the stairs that led up to the second, dilapidated floor of the house, watching as the kid kept his streak of push-ups going, absolutely drenched in sweat, his arms trembling violently, eyes fogged over and far, as if he was just about to pass out. Which could easily happen, wouldn’t be the first time since Chizome put him under his training regimen.

 

This kid had guts. It was hard, trying not to ponder about what could’ve possibly pushed a child this stubborn on the brink of suicide. What could’ve possibly made him actively attempt to jump off a roof.

 

Either he went through an extremely traumatic event, recently, that shook him enough to push him to try kill himself— Or something must’ve been wearing him down, slowly but surely, for months. Years, even.

 

Even rock crumbles, under the unassuming and yet relentless strength of waterdrops, falling and falling.

 

It was hard, not to wonder— He must’ve been very lonely, with nothing to hold onto, if the only way out he saw was death. Maybe his dream of becoming a hero was all he had left, until All Might himself ripped that away from his hands.

 

This kid was stubborn, and determined. He was absorbing concepts like a sponge, progress showing to the naked eye every each day. He was already starting to look less like a little frail noodle, timid muscles appearing under his skin, and the bruises on him diminished every each day, as he finally learned how to properly dodge hits.

 

What a waste would it have been, truly, to let this kid die. He had so much potential, but of course you’ve got to count on this corrupted society of idiots that couldn’t look past the superficial shine, to abandon such a promising child in the dark.

 

He could understand why All Might told him he should not become a hero— Of course All Might would never throw a quirkless child into danger, being the only true hero he was. And it wasn’t his fault he didn’t had the time to properly get to know the kid, giving a honest answer in the face of the only information he had about him.

 

But the hero world truly lost a treasure, that day.

 

Well, Chizome was willing to pick up the pieces. He honestly expected the brat to give up, at some point, but he was still going, showing exceptional aptitude.

 

At this point, he wasn’t going to leave him behind as he initially planned to do. He didn’t want to see this kid reach a even lower point, risk to have him turn his hopes toward the idiots that called themselves villains and used their powers improperly.

 

Chizome knew he wasn’t a saint. He knew his hands were stained. But he still believed in a better, more just society, and was willing to corrupt his own soul for it. It was leagues above those selfish, egoistic assholes that only used their quirks for personal gain, in his humble opinion.

 

And— It wasn’t bad, the idea of having a young one follow him dutifully, to have a little chick full of potential absorb the rightful ideals most people were blind to. Maybe, one day, when he couldn’t properly hold his blade anymore, his new, little pet project might step in in his stead.

 

But that would be a long time coming, yet. The kid was soft-hearted and tender, still, no matter how much Chizome beat him down, no matter how many times he already made him stain his hands with blood, even if it wasn’t human. He was stubbornly hanging on his own ideals, and even if they overlapped often, they never quite aligned with Chizome’s own.

 

“Ok, look, I really get it.” He said one time, during one of their now usual debates, as they sat around the fire in the deep of the night, a sky full of stars above their heads. “Like, I do. I know what you mean, and I agree, in a sense? It kind of sucks, the whole system— It feels like it needs to be dismantled and rebuilt from the ground up.” A pause, as he took a bite, gulping it down. “But still— I don’t think your way is quite the right way to go at it—“

 

“Because you’re young and naive.” Chizome replied, easily. “Do you think I woke up one day and thought ‘well, I’m going to start killing people, from now on’? No— It was a decision I matured with time, after I repeatedly attempted to get through people in a peaceful manner. I’m perfectly aware that my methods are… Extreme.” A sip of water. “I know what I do is morally reprehensible, and I know that, if there’s a deity above, they’ve long forsaken my soul to hell. But it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make, in order to rectify a system that’s corrupted to the core.”

 

The boy didn’t reply to that, the reflection of the orange flames dancing in his dark, dull eyes.

 

“You don’t have to think what I think.” Chizome added, shrugging. “I don’t want you to be a little obedient soldier, I want you to think with your own head— But trust me, once we’ll go back to the city? You will see with your own eyes. And you will understand. I’m sure of it.”

 

“Maybe.” The kid conceded, careful. “Maybe I will. But— Regardless of what I will see, I still think it’s not right to take a life. And I don’t see myself changing my mind so easily.”

 

“That’s your prerogative.” Chizome huffed, falling backward on the grass and crossing his arms under his head, looking at the white dots shining in the dark. “You truly are a strange kid.” He added, almost amused.

 

“Why do you say that?”

 

“The first time we’ve met— In that situation, I understood you wouldn’t be afraid. You were willing— No, you were wishing for death. But now? You’re in the middle of nowhere with a serial killer, debating the morality of murder like you’re talking about the weather.” A little chuckle. “Either you still want to die, or you just don’t quite understand who you are speaking with.”

 

“…I don’t know if I actively want to die.” The boy replied, thoughtful. “I always— I always kind of feel like if I suddenly stopped existing, I wouldn’t mind too much. I’ve made peace with that feeling, I think— And of course I understand who am I talking to.” A small pause, before he added, softly. “Maybe I’m crazy. No, I probably am— That’s ok. But I don’t think you are— Bad.”

 

Chizome blinked, staring at the stars.

 

“I mean— Of course there has to be something seriously fucked up in you, if you can kill people without batting an eye, but— So what? I’m kind of fucked in the head, too, I think. Pot meet kettle, and all that.” His voice lowered to a whisper. “I don’t agree with what you do, but at least you do it for a strong ideal, and you don’t steer away from your own set of morals. That’s… That’s a bit admirable. I think.”

 

“…You’re seriously a weird kid.” Chizome could only reply, quietly, after long seconds. “Get inside. Sleep. You know what awaits you, tomorrow.”

 

With a little groan, the kid climbed back up on his feet. He heard the soft steps in the grass, and the wooden door creaking pitifully.

 

“…Good night.” The boy said, almost inaudible over the soft rustle of leaves in the wind. The door creaked close.

 

Chizome lied there, in the grass, watching the stars for a long time.

 

 

 

 

He ran, and ran and ran. His mind was fogged over, his breath stung in his chest. He finally couldn’t resist anymore and he came to a stop, leaning on a wall as his stomach rebelled him, spewing it’s content on the asphalt.

 

He did it—

 

He killed someone.

 

No. Not just someone. A disgusting sham— A poor excuse of a human being.

 

A monster, using his status as a popular hero to molest young women in the club—

 

He’s been chasing that rumor for a while. He wanted to see— He wanted to see with his own eyes.

 

His training was impeccable. He knew he was ready. All he had to do was to truly reclaim his first blood sacrifice— Take that first step toward the next part of his life.

 

And he wanted to see— He needed to see if it was true. To finally quell his beating heart and his guilty mind.

 

He went down without even a single word, that disgusting phony— Eyes wide, as if he couldn’t believe that someone would dare raise a weapon against him. He didn’t make a sound as blood spilled from his throat and he slid down the floor, soon lifeless.

 

He was the first one. His first kill—

 

First of many. He could tell.

 

He dried bile away from his mouth, looking down at his trembling hand. It was red with blood— Even if he had been careful, trying not to stain himself too much—

 

But, regardless, he was stained, now. His hands were, his soul was.

 

There was no coming back.

 

This stain, he could never wash away.

 

 

“Two more days, and then we move.”

 

Izuku blinked. The distraction was enough to allow Stain to grab him and throw him on the ground. He bounced painfully before coming to a stop, panting.

 

“That was such a dirty trick—“ He glared, as the upside-down Stain in his field of vision flashed him a lopsided grin.

 

“Told ya— Your enemies will not care for honor or fairness. If they can get any kind of cheap shot, they will. You have to learn how to stay focused.”

 

“Yeah, yeah—“ Izuku sighed, climbing back up on his feet and dusting thin blades of grass off his pants. “Do you actually mean it?”

 

“The moving? Yes.” Stain replied, turning his face up to the sky. “Can’t you feel how prickly the air has gotten? It’s probably going to start snowing soon. I think it’s time we move elsewhere.”

 

Izuku shifted back into position without needing to be prompted, and so did Stain, resuming their sparring session.

 

The man had a point. In the past week the air has gotten significantly chiller, and dragging himself outside their little house every morning was starting to get increasingly more difficult. Not that the old, run-down building was warm, but it certainly was a bit warmer than the outside.

 

“Will you tell me about your father?”

 

Izuku jumped, but this time he avoided the kick coming his way. He squinted, lips pursing in a thin line.

 

“Finally.” Stain grinned, amused. “Took your sweet time.”

 

Izuku huffed, attempting and failing a little feint. Stain just slapped his fist away.

 

“D’you think bad guys are going to ask me that?” He said, tilting an eyebrow.

 

“As I said: They’ll take any cheap shot they can.”

 

They fell into silence only broken by their light huffs, until Stain spoke again. “It was a genuine question, though. You never told me anything about your past.”

 

“Neither did you, so what about that.” Izuku replied, frowning.

 

“Well, I’m an adult, and you are a brat. In a sense, you are my responsibility, now—“

 

“In a very loose sense.” Izuku rapidly quipped back. “You don’t exactly play by the rules.”

 

“True.” Stain conceded with a chuckle, before shifting on the attack again, relentless. “So?”

 

Izuku dodged a punch. “So what? There’s nothing to say. He left to work abroad when I was, like, two weeks old? Never came back.” Izuku shrugged. “I don’t even remember his face, and I don’t think I ever heard his voice. Mom never told me anything about him, but I could tell that she missed him. I don’t know why he just— Up and left like that—“ He rolled away from a kick, rapidly getting back up on his feet. “In any case, he’s like a stranger. Personally, I don’t think I have a father.”

 

“Better an absent father than a shitty one, in my opinion.” Stain commented, dodging just barely a chop directed to his neck.

 

“I guess I don’t have the life experience to decide if that’s true or not.” Izuku replied, curtly. He didn’t have any particular feelings about his father, other than a vague, distant bitterness, but speaking about it— It made him think of mom.

 

How was she doing? Even if he lost track of the time, he was sure a month must’ve gone by at the very least. Maybe a month and a half. Maybe even more.

 

Was she still sad? She must be— But Izuku hoped not. He really hoped she moved on, accepted he wasn’t coming back, and found herself another way to happiness.

 

(Kind of a dick move, in retrospect, wasn’t it? You disappeared on her, just like dad did— Maybe she should just forget men in general. She clearly has horrible luck with them.)

 

God. He missed her.

 

Stain’s knuckles brushed against his cheek as he just barely manage to dodge another hit, losing balance and falling on a side like an idiot. Strangely enough, no reprimand came, and when he turned his face up to meet Stain’s eyes, there was something unreadable in the red.

 

“It’s getting late.” Stain commented, turning away. “Go change out of those wet clothes, I’ll start a fire.”

 

Izuku obeyed, silent, unable to decide if he was grateful for the pause or not. On one hand, his everything hurt, on the other, not having anything to do let his mind free to wander.

 

The last set of clothes he washed were still slightly humid, but it definitely beat the ones on his back, currently drenched in sweat. He changed, before collecting both their dirty laundry in a ball in his arms and silently walking out, toward the creek. If Stain noticed him, he said nothing.

 

He carefully washed everything, trying not to think too much. The water was freezing and soon his hands started to sting and burn, but at least it took his mind away from everything, even if only for a moment. And yet—

 

In how long hadn’t he thought about mom? He avoided the idea like an illness, careful even in his own mind. He let himself get lost in his new life, lulled by the peacefulness of nature around them, going to sleep so exhausted every day he simply didn’t had any energy left to think.

 

But even just mentioning her— It brought it all back. Like a waterfall suddenly erupting in him, the memories spilled in his mind. It felt strange— Almost like watching a movie from afar.

 

But all those things happened to him. All those unpleasant things tightening his chest and roaring in his heart— They happened.

 

Weren’t they exactly the reason why he was there, now, after all? Why he was in the middle of nowhere, living on wild animals and hand washing clothes in freezing water, spending his days getting trained to possibly become a murderer himself?

 

Weren’t those things exactly the reason why he left the safety of home and his mother’s arms, just to escape toward an uncertain, dark destiny? The reason why he was pushing himself over his limits every single day, even if he couldn’t even say why he was doing it?

 

His eyes stung, and he bit down on his lip, stifling the sob he could feel rising in his chest. Still, the tears spilled on his cheeks, and he angrily doubled over on washing the clothes, not even bothering to dry the tear tracks off.

 

Hopefully, the sound of the water running would cover the little hiccups and sobs he couldn’t manage to gulp down.

 

Two days, and then they will leave the first place where Izuku truly felt safe in years.

 

 

It soon stopped having any effect on him.

 

It became easier, holding the blades. It became easier, cutting through flesh like butter. It became easier, so much easier, ignoring their pleads for mercy, the terror in their eyes, the noises they made as they died.

 

A little piece of his humanity left with ever life he took, but it was ok.

 

He was sacrificing it willingly, fully knowing the consequences.

 

For a just world.

 

 

The man at the driver seat smiled down at the kid, a soft little light in his eyes.

 

“You guys must’ve been tired, walking in the snow like that.” He commented, voice low. “Is he your son?”

 

Chizome didn’t bother to correct him. He nodded, silent, face mostly hidden behind the heavy scarf that still smelled stale, and a heavy wool hat. The boy was wrapped in a similar fashion and, if the man wondered why they wore clothes so out of style, he did not comment on it.

 

“It snowed a bit earlier than usual, this year.” He continued, still speaking in a soft tone as to don’t wake the brat that fell asleep, leaning against Chizome’s arm. “I bet it must’ve surprised you two. Hunting trip?”

 

“Mh.” Chizome replied. Better humor the guy that was giving them a lift in the heavy snowfall that was rapidly covering everything in a thick layer of white. “It was his first. I estimated we had still a couple of days more, before snow.”

 

The man laughed. “Happens to the best of us.” He commented, cheerful. “Me and my ‘pa used to take trips like these all the time, when I was a little one. We got surprised ourselves, a couple of times. Glad I happened to pass by! It’s really no fun, getting stuck in the snow.”

 

“Yeah, it really isn’t.” Chizome sighed. They could’ve kept trudging through the snow, but he wasn’t going to turn down a stroke of luck.

 

“Where do you live? I can take a detour and drive you there—“

 

“Oh, we’re not from around these parts— We were supposed to get picked up by my wife, but of course I called her and told her not to come. Her car is really not equipped to deal with the snow.” Chizome replied, the lie easily rolling off his tongue. “If you could leave us by the closest train station, it’d be more than enough. Thank you for your generosity.”

 

“Well, that’s not too far from here— If you are sure.” The man said, frowning vaguely. “I could drive more, it’s really no problem—“

 

The boy hummed vaguely, shifting to lean even more against Chizome’s shoulder and arm. The man smiled again, soft.

 

“The train station will be just fine, thank you.” Chizome replied in even a lower voice, a kind note of finality in it. The man added nothing, just kept driving, as the white engulfed the last strokes of green around them.

 

Thankfully, their driver did not linger around or seemed suspicious at all, once he dropped them at the station as promised. The boy sleepily thanked him after he slid off the truck, rubbing his eyes.

 

“Hope you’ll have a safe trip home!” He greeted them one last time, closing the door and gently driving away. The brat yawned, a hand in front of his face just barely covering his open mouth.

 

“Had a nice nap?” Chizome asked, sarcastic.

 

“The best.” The boy replied, flashing him a still vaguely-sleepy shit eating grin. “Where are we?”

 

“At the closest point of contact with humanity around these parts.” Chizome shrugged, putting his bag strap around his shoulders. “Let’s go check the timetables and see how many trains we’ll have to hop on to get somewhere were we won’t freeze our asses to death.”

 

Luckily for them, they would only have to change train three times, and the first one was just about to arrive. He rapidly bought tickets at the lone little machine in the station. As they sat in the carriage, the boy seemed about to take off his hat, but Chizome stopped him, fingers closing on his wrist.

 

“Keep it on.” He murmured, low. “Even if we are alone, for now, someone might always recognize you. We may never know.”

 

The brat groaned, but obeyed. “Can I at least take the scarf off? It smells like it has been sitting in dust for the last twenty years—“

 

“That’s because it probably was.” Chizome replied, amused, giving a little nod. The boy unwrapped the ugly, vaguely eaten away wool scarf from his face, taking a deep breath. “Less whining. We have to consider ourselves lucky there was some winter gear left behind in that shithole.”

 

“I wasn’t whining, just stating facts.” With a little shrug, he folded the scarf, before pushing it in his backpack. “I’m grateful we had something to defend ourselves with, since someone’s estimation of the snow was completely off mark—“

 

“Oh, give me a damn break— I’m not a living weather forecast.” Chizome scoffed, making the boy release a short little laugh. “At least I knew it was about to snow. You would’ve been just oblivious, out there, if you were alone.”

 

“Touché.” The boy replied, a last little grin soon disappearing from his face. “Where are we going, now?”

 

“If I want to show you how it really is, out there, there’s only one place.” Chizome said, flat, looking out as the scenery zipped by the window. “Tokyo.”

 

The boy didn’t ask any more questions, moving his dull green eyes toward the vaguely opaque window.

 

Outside, the world was a single block of white.

 

Chapter Text

 

— Chapter 4 —

Nightcall

 

 

 

 

The first tuft of hair did not make a sound, falling on the floor.

 

Izuku watched it, distantly, keeping his head tipped down. He felt a gentle tug and then the undefinable sensation of his hair giving up under the impossibly sharp blade.

 

Stain worked quietly and efficiently. Izuku did not move even when the blade caressed the nape of his neck, and soon enough a circle of hair surrounded the chair he was sitting on, his head feeling increasingly lighter.

 

“There. All done.” Stain finally said, and Izuku immediately rose a hand to card his finger through his hair—

 

Well, he didn’t card them through as much as on his hair. It was cut so short he couldn’t even grasp the little tuft, just feel the prickly sensation of them under his palm. It was strange, he wasn’t even sure he ever had hair this short in his entire life—

 

A small, rectangular mirror entered in his field of vision, and Izuku grabbed it, examining his own reflection.

 

The person that looked back at him was— Different.

 

He was slightly pale, dark smudges under his eyes. The freckles were still the same, but his cheeks were much less round and much more hollow. Dull eyes glanced back at him, until he looked up, observing his new hairstyle, very reminiscent of a proper buzz-cut. He groaned.

 

“What now.” Stain sighed, long-suffering, leaning over the sink as he slid the blade over his own cheeks with ease.

 

“Look at the back of my head—“ Izuku grunted, attempting to glance at the reflection of said back in the mirror. “I look like a damn marimo!”

 

The blade stopped on Stain’s face, his eyes going slightly wide, before he barked a laugh.

 

“Real funny.” Izuku grumbled, stepping down the chair, barefoot and cautious to don’t step all over the mess of his own hair. He walked over to the old-looking, western style tub, leaning on it to rinse away the annoying little hairs that were tickling at him.

 

“Change your appearance as often as you can, and people won’t remember you.” Stain commented over the noise of the water running. “We can get a dye, if it bothers you so much.”

 

“It’s really not important.” Izuku replied with a sigh, putting down the shower head and grabbing an already slightly humid towel to dry himself off. “It’ll probably grow back super fast. It always does.”

 

He moved about, grabbing the old looking, dusty broom he saw in the tiny corridor outside and then got back in, starting to collect his hair in a neat little pile.

 

Izuku wasn’t sure how or which strings Stain had to pull, but somehow, they had a real house. Yes, it was minuscule and kind of neglected and the furniture looked to be about forty years old. It could use a deep cleaning. The mattresses felt bumpy.

 

But it was a house. With a bathroom and a kitchen. God, Izuku couldn’t not wait to cook some rice and maybe even a bit of fish. Meat was good and all, but if he had to eat another piece of venison he might just decide to starve himself to death.

 

It felt like a miracle to him as they stepped in, after Stain fished out a set of vaguely rusty keys from under a flower pot that hosted nothing but sad dirt, dragging with it one or two or two hundred spider webs. But Stain took a long time examining every corner minutely, tested windows and doors, muttering to himself while Izuku claimed the bed in the corner, happily testing the old, bumpy mattress.

 

The examination must’ve gone well, because Stain finally settled down his bag, by the door, before nodding toward the bathroom.

 

“It’s starting to grate on my nerves, seeing you with that nest you call hair on your head.” He said, curt. “Let’s go take care of it.”

 

Izuku followed, dutiful, and it took only a handful of minutes for Stain to tame said ’nest’. Izuku kept testing his own hair, reeling in the weird sensation of it, even after he was done collecting the ball of curls in the dustpan.

 

Izuku yawned as he let himself fall down on the naked mattress once more. He was starting to entertain the idea of taking a nap, when Stain finally emerged from the bathroom without the five ‘o clock shadow that appeared during their long commute to Tokyo by train.

 

“Don’t relax too much, brat. We’ve got only a few hours of light to settle down and go get some basics. We will need some dry and canned food, and then a trip to the hardware store.”

 

“The hardware store?” Izuku blinked, confused. “What for?”

 

“This place is decent and well positioned— Got a lot of useful escape routes.” Stain commented, almost to himself. “But I will need to take precautions. Booby trap every window—“

 

“You’re very… Careful.” Izuku commented, dragging himself back up in a upright position.

 

“I have to be.” Stain replied, flat, as he leaned down by his bag and started taking out knives that he secured on his chest, before throwing on an anonymous looking gray sweater. “You don’t get to make as many enemies as I do and survive by being careless.”

 

“Enemies?” Izuku blinked again, frowning. “I mean— I know you’ve got heroes and the police on your tail, but the worst they could do is arrest you— Which kind of other enemies could you possibly have, that you feel the need to booby trap windows?”

 

“Everyone.” Stain said, rising back up on his feet and approaching Izuku. “You researched me. You know phony heroes are not the only kind of people my blade has tasted.”

 

“…I know.” Izuku murmured, eyes turning toward the floor. “Villains, too. Lots of them.”

 

“Then you can understand.” Stain said, flat. “If there’s a war between heroes and villains, I— No, we are right in the middle of it. The perfect target for some crossfire. You’d do well to not forget that, kid.”

 

Izuku stared at Stain’s feet. The man sighed. “Raise your arms.”

 

“Huh?” Izuku asked, as he instinctively obeyed. Stain secured a knife holster firmly around his chest and shoulder, tugging a bit to make sure it was hanging on tight. He took a knife out of one of his own, waving it in front of Izuku’s nose.

 

“This is for emergencies only.” He said, dead serious. “Don’t play with it, don’t think it’s a toy. If I even catch a glimpse of you being irresponsible with it, I’ll take it back, no questions asked. You don’t unsheathe it unless it’s a life-or-death situation. Am I clear?”

 

Gulping, Izuku nodded wordlessly. Stain kept his intense red eyes trained on him a bit longer, before sliding the knife in the holster, under Izuku’s armpit.

 

“Put your hoodie on and be careful about keeping it on.” Stain said, sliding the familiar cold mask on his face to hide his nose. -or lack thereof- “We’re going out.”

 

 

 

Walking back in a city was— Unnerving.

 

Musutafu was a fairly big city, but it paled, compared to Tokyo. For a long time they walked silently along peaceful streets, until they passed some kind of invisible threshold, and suddenly there were people everywhere.

 

Izuku nervously adjusted the baseball cap lower on his head, keeping his eyes down and following Stain’s familiar, military green boots that were vaguely peeling at the tips.

 

He probably had no real reason to worry. Who would spare even a single look toward a kid with a baseball hat and a oversized hoodie, when around him walked by people with hooves instead of feet, wings, or whatever other strange thing their quirk allowed them to do?

 

Still, he kept being real careful about not meeting anyone’s eyes. Besides, he was too busy trying to contain his rapidly growing discomfort at being abruptly thrown in that cacophony of voices, traffic, and loud ads playing on the big screens above his head. He suddenly really missed their rundown little house in the middle of nowhere and the sounds of the forest.

 

Hell, he could even keep eating venison without a peep, if it meant going back to the peaceful rustle of leaves. He might go insane, if they had to spend another five minutes in this crowd—

 

By the time they finally entered a shop, Izuku was on the brim of a full blown panic attack that he was barely holding back. He felt strangely detached and distant as he kept following, dutifully helping Stain pile a stock of food in their shopping basket, hauling it without a lament in his backpack after they were done at the check-out. They didn’t exchange a single word as Stain guided him out toward another shop.

 

They came back to the apartment with their haul a full four hours later. Izuku mutedly put away their groceries in the pantry as Stain sat in the middle of the floor, organizing all the stuff he got at the hardware store, muttering to himself. Once done with the groceries, Izuku climbed on the still naked mattress in the corner, rolling up on a side in a tight little ball, his back turned to Stain. He heard Stain’s tinkering with all his stuff stop for a few seconds. Then he must’ve climbed back up on his feet, going by the little huff, noises of cutlery being moved around and a stove getting turned on.

 

Izuku tuned it all out, getting lost in the mindless white noise filling his head, until he heard the noise of something being put down by the mattress.

 

“Drink up and rest, while you can.” Stain said in a low, flat voice. “We’re going out, tonight.”

 

Izuku stiffly turned on the mattress, took the cup of tea still steaming on the floor by his side and forced himself to drink, before dragging the hood up on his almost naked head and curl up once more, closing his eyes to surrender to a restless, nervous sleep.

 

 

He felt marginally better when he woke up thanks to a little shove. He rubbed the sleep out of his eyes with the sleeves of his hoodie, painfully uncurling his limbs.

 

“What time issit…?” He asked sleepily, stifling a yawn.

 

“Almost two.” Stain replied, voice low. “You better put on another layer, it’s chilly out there.”

 

Izuku stretched and silently followed Stain’s suggestion, putting his other hoodie on top of the one he was already wearing. Hopefully, it’d be enough.

 

“We’re not doing much, tonight.” Stain said, waiting in front of the door. “Just taking a walk, assess the situation. I want you to keep your eyes open, and observe carefully. Tell me anything you think is relevant.”

 

“What do you mean?” Izuku asked, as he leaned down to put his battered, mud-stained shoes.

 

“I mean exactly what I said. Observe, take in details, plan carefully. I know you’ve got a pretty analytical mind in there, so warm it up, because from now on you’re going to need it.”

 

The moment they stepped outside, Izuku’s breath condensed in front of his face, the icy night air fully waking him up. Stain silently guided him off in the streets, rubbing his own arms.

 

“We’re going to need some heavier clothing for this,” He muttered almost unconsciously. Izuku let out the tiniest, relieved sigh. He was glad he didn’t have to say that himself.

 

True to his word, they just walked. Izuku felt a bit awkward at first, unsure what Stain exactly asked of him, but at some point it started to click, the words cascading out of his mouth in a low mutter.

 

“—Shortcut to the apartment, probably pretty dark during the day, too, could be a good place to lose someone chasing— Not very trafficked, a lot of bikes but not many cars— Seems to be a rather old neighbour, most inhabitants will probably be over the age of sixty— The temple could also be a good hiding place, in a pinch—“

 

He kept going and going, not only commenting about the area, but the few people they met. Trying to assess their quirk from any visible sign, and their intention from the expression on their faces. His throat felt dry by the time they got back to the apartment, and Stain had an expression Izuku could only define as ’satisfied’.

 

“Good job.” He commented, mussing his short hair over the hood, the moment the door closed behind them. “I’d say you should lose the muttering, unless you are actually speaking with me, but that aside, you did good. Go sleep some more, kid, you’ve earned it.”

 

 

It never failed to unnerve Izuku, seeing students in their school uniforms as the days started to trickle by. Almost like a sudden whiplash, reminding him that was the life that once belonged to him. Wearing a uniform, going to school every day, studying—

 

But at the same time, maybe that life never really belonged to him. It felt so far, now, and watching kids his age laughing and joking between themselves, happily, made his heart sting.

 

No. That life never really belonged to him. He was always alone, his only company the sound of his own steps as he went and came from school every each day.

 

“They live in a world different from ours.” Stain commented one time, softly, as he must’ve noticed Izuku staring at a small group of middle-school students playing around some swings. “Don’t let yourself get swayed. People like us— We are just different from anyone else.”

 

He had a point. Izuku has always been different, that’s why no one but his mother ever wanted him around. He looked away, and never let himself linger again.

 

They set in a routine.

 

Izuku still kept training, even if they didn’t had the same freedom anymore. They had to make sure to go unnoticed, so most of the day he’d have to spend inside, in order to avoid suspicions and people wondering why a kid his age wasn’t at school, while Stain went outside to do god-only-knew-what to get some money.

 

He didn’t waste any time, even if he was forced inside the apartment most of the day. He took matters in his hands and cleaned it from corner to corner. By the time he was done, the place looked a whole lot different that it did at first. And he found the hole from where the cockroaches kept getting in, so getting that close and placing a bit of poison for good measure should take care of it—

 

He kept doing all the exercises he possibly could in the cramped space of the apartment. Stain even got him real weights to train with, and Izuku was surprised to discover that he could now lift twenty kilograms with a single arm easily. He got a bit excited, the first time, confronting his arm with a perplexed Stain’s. It was still much smaller than his, but definitely did not look like a noodle anymore.

 

He did what he could, but for the most part, he slept the day away. Their days only really started when the sun would set on the horizon.

 

That’s when the real training came back into play.

 

Stain had absolutely no leniency, no matter the fact that they were in the middle of a crowded city. If anything, he expected Izuku to work even harder, forcing him to follow only counting on his own strength as he moved in the city with the ease and agility of a street cat, unseen and unheard. Izuku rapidly collected broken nails and bloody fingers and, one memorable time when he tumbled down a roof, a chipped front tooth.

 

But he was expected to follow, no matter the reason, and so he did, nursing his numerous little injuries back to health during the day.

 

(Except for the tooth. Not much he could do about that.)

 

It became a little bit easier every night. And, in a sense, it turned to be… Liberating.

 

Izuku felt like the city had no secrets, for them. They could move in the dark, away from prying eyes, and no physical barrier could hold them back. It was a weird sensation, to know that he didn’t have reasons to worry anymore. He could just go anywhere he wanted, as long as he kept himself hidden in the shadows. The world was at his disposal.

 

He was starting to even enjoy it— To look forward about getting up from his mattress in the corner as the last light of day died in the sky and few, timid starts started to appear in the polluted dark. To go out and run, jump and climb, feel the almost pleasing burn of his muscles as he worked them, to feel the chilly night air enter his lungs and come out in little puffs in front of his face.

 

But that peace— It didn’t last very long.

 

It all turned one night like any other. They were surveying the streets as they usually did, silent, only ever talking in hushed tones when it was really necessary. They heard a scream in the distance and exchanged a single look, before dashing.

 

The scene from above felt almost movie-like, but the terror in the woman’s voice was real. As they arrived, they could see a hero brawling with a duo of villains in the street below, empty of any other person.

 

“Oh— That’s The Demolisher—“ Izuku muttered, voice low. “Can transform any limb in a wrecking ball complete with chain—“

 

His heart shot up in his throat when The Demolisher did exactly that. Let one of his arms shift to hit one of the villains— The swinging ball of iron zipped above the woman’s head, that managed just in time to duck.

 

“Is he insane?!” Izuku hissed, incredulous. “He could’ve smashed her head like a mature tomato—“

 

Stain leaned down on a single knee by his side, voice glacial. “That’s what they do, kid.” He said. “They don’t care about the collateral damage, about how much money they will cost to people— They don’t care if someone gets hurt— All it matters is to fill those numbers. Brings those villains in, get the reward. Like an office worker punching a card every single day, paying no mind to anyone else—“

 

“They can’t all be like this—“ Izuku replied, frowning, without taking his eyes away from the battle. One of the villains was down, the other attempting to run away hastily— The Demolisher rolled the chain around the unconscious villain to bring them with him, as he went in pursuit of the other one.

 

“He’s— Just going to leave that poor woman behind.” Izuku murmured, not even a question. Stain sighed.

 

“Go down there, make sure she’s ok.” He said, flat. “I know you want to. Be careful, keep your face hidden. If I see someone come in your direction, I’ll whistle.”

 

Izuku didn’t wait a second more, rapidly climbing down the building. When he landed a few meters away from her, the woman whimpered.

 

To be fair, he probably didn’t look very trustworthy— Clad from head to toe in black clothing and dark boots at his feet, a heavy hood concealing most of his features, a dark bandana rolled over his mouth and nose to help keep his face hidden even more.

 

“It’s ok.” Izuku murmured, raising both gloved hands up, palms toward her. “I don’t want to hurt you— Are you wounded? Do you need an ambulance?”

 

“I— Think my ankle might be broken—“ She let out, faint, her wide eyes pointed at him. “Who are you?”

 

“It doesn’t matter.” Izuku replied, practical. “If it’s broken, you better not move— Do you have a phone? You should call the emergency number.”

 

She fumbled with her purse, fishing out a phone with trembling hands. When she seemed to hesitate Izuku gently took it away from her hand, composed the number for her and connected the call, before giving it back. She seemed unable to tear her eyes off of Izuku as she faintly answered the questions of the dispatcher at the other side.

 

“They— Will arrive in a few minutes.” She exhaled, softly, after closing the call. “Who are you?

 

“No one.” Izuku replied, getting back up on his feet.

 

“W-wait, don’t leave me here alone—“ She immediately sobbed. Izuku stood still for a few seconds, before speaking softly.

 

“It will be ok.” He promised. “I’ll be watching you from above to make sure you’ll be safe until the ambulance is here, ok?”

 

She tried to call after him with a feeble ‘no’ that immediately died in her throat, replaced by a surprised gasp as Izuku rapidly scaled the wall back up, disappearing into the dark to step by Stain’s side once more.

 

They silently watched over her, until the ambulance arrived. Izuku saw her glance up one last time, before she let the paramedics help her up in the vehicle.

 

“Ok.” Izuku finally conceded, flat, after the lights disappeared into the night. “He acted like a jerkass. But that doesn’t mean they are all like this. Neither that you should kill them.”

 

“We will see.” Stain replied, unfazed.

 

 

 

Chizome let the leash run loose.

 

The kid was relentless. Ever since that night, when he first had a little taste of what these so-called heroes truly cared for, he seemed even more hellbent in demonstrating that most heroes weren’t so bad—

 

But the real world kept slapping him in the face.

 

It was admirable, still, how he just wouldn’t give up. Every night they’d go out, patrol the street. Almost every night the kid would jump in a situation were state sanctioned heroes did not.

 

Stopping a brawl between a bunch of drunkards there, interrupting petty crimes at every angle, jumping in to stop a drug dealer, leaving him tied to a pole for the police to collect— The list kept going and going.

 

Chizome let him do as he pleased, keeping a watchful eye from above. He only had to intervene a couple of times in order to don’t let the kid get seriously hurt, but for the most part, he let him accumulate experiences. They’d go back to the apartment at the first light of dawn, and he’d let the brat drag himself to the bathroom to lick his wounds, both literal and metaphorical.

 

Every night he’d have a taste of why the system simply didn’t work. And yet, he stubbornly refused to see Chizome’s points.

 

He let him cry his tears, after they watched the police haul away a man whose face had been thoroughly punched in.

 

“What will happen to them?” The kid asked, quiet and somber, as they watched the two crying kids getting gently escorted toward another police car.

 

“Who knows.” Chizome replied, with a little shrug. “I doubt they are going to let them go back ‘home’, at this point.”

 

“…Why did no one intervene?” The kid whispered after a long silence, trailing a finger on his own blood-stained knuckles. “They were crying for help—“

 

“That’s the limit you hit when you have to abide to rules set by a government.” Chizome said, crossing his arms on his chest. “They had no concrete proof, even if they all knew— So they had no choice but to let those kids keep living with that monster.”

 

The boy released a soft growl, both hands closing into fists. “That’s not right.”

 

“No, it’s not. It shouldn’t be like this. But that’s how it is— That’s what I’m fighting to change.”

 

The kid turned, eyeing him from behind his hood, eyes an infinite pool of sadness.

 

“There must be any other way—“ He tried to protest, weakly.

 

“Well, I guess a hero could decide to act and intervene ignoring the rules completely— They would probably more efficient. But that’s called being a ‘vigilante’.” Chizome replied, tilting his head on a side. “You know. What you are.”

 

The kid’s eyes went wide, as if he only now realized that for the past three weeks he’s been acting as a full blown vigilante.

 

“Turns out intervening when necessary is considered illegal, depending on the circumstances.” Chizome continued, sarcastic. “Who would’ve thought, huh?”

 

“I—“ The kid tried to say, only to fall silent, eyes moving as he reflected. He slowly turned away, a frown setting on his features. “I still don’t think killing is right.”

 

“You don’t have to.” Chizome replied, flat. “You set your own rules, brat.”

 

The kid didn’t speak another word for the rest of the night.

 

Yes, Chizome was keeping the leash loose, let the kid do his thing. Trying to spoon-feeding him the truth simply wasn’t going to work. The brat had to taste things on his own skin, to understand, exactly like Chizome did before him.

 

It wasn’t long before he started to teach him how to properly use the blades. The brat just wouldn’t stop, night after night, and Chizome wasn’t going to waste all the work he poured in him so far, even if it might’ve been far too early to put a real sword in his hands.

 

Tokyo was a dangerous, unforgiving place. And if Chizome had to train on his own— It didn’t mean the kid had to do the same. He could at least make that a bit easier for him. Give him a way to properly defend himself as he kept pushing and pushing, unable and unwilling to give up or stop.

 

Time flew by, as they watched the cold recede and give way to a timid start of spring from their small apartment. Out there, kids the same age as the brat were about to start a new chapter of their lives, full of hopes and dreams for the future. Here, in their own small world, Chizome watched his little chick open bloody sores on his hands by training endlessly with the wooden blade in their little living room/kitchen, all furniture pushed aside to give him space. His dull eyes were set forward, always looking toward something Chizome was not part of.

 

It was ok. Let the kid do his own thing. He’d come around.

 

The leash was loose, but it was still there.

 

 

 

Tensei was very tempted to just take the entire box and throw it out the window.

 

This case was just endless— New calls kept piling in every night, new sightings, new blurry photos— And yet, nothing could be done.

 

Curse the day I accepted to work on this.

 

He had enough on his hands, with running the entirety of the Idaten office— But when he first heard of it, he just couldn’t let go.

 

It wasn’t by far the first time he had to deal with a vigilante…  But it was certainly one of the more sneaky ones he’d ever seen at work.

 

Most vigilantes Tensei dealt with in the past had the tendency to be flashy, call attention to themselves. It wasn’t hard, with those kind of outlaws, to find them and deal with them. Most were frustrated people that could never succeed in becoming a hero through the proper channels, and could be swayed to try again with more conviction. Those were probably Tensei’s favorites— He had a couple of them legally hired in his office, after all. They were just people that were dealt a bad hand in the past, but with enough hard work and help could be easily be brought back on the right tracks.

 

Others tended to be a bit more— Extreme. They’d have attitudes that could not mesh well with the work of a hero, tended not to make big splashes, preferring to work undisturbed for as long as possible, and when caught they’d inevitably end in prison due to their excessively violent acts.

 

This vigilante… Seemed to have the same genuine intentions of the former, with the far more careful, stealthy attitude of the latter.

 

No One’, the people started calling him. Apparently due to his constant answer to the question ‘Who are you?’

 

No One wasn’t excessively violent, although there were a couple of episodes that could make you think otherwise— But they seemed to be outliers in his modus operandi. No One seemed to favor peaceful resolutions when possible, and when it wasn’t he’d go for the least possible amount of damage to people and proprieties.

 

No One didn’t seem to like his fame nor searched for attention. He’d pop in on the scene, do what he must, and then disappear silently. His outfit was consistently described as ’normal’. No flashy costumes or masks. Just black boots and pants. A black hoodie that covered his features and a black bandana on his face. Black thick gloves and black knees and elbows protection.

 

The perfect kind of outfit to slip unseen into the dark of the night.

 

Also, No One was recently spotted carrying an actual, honest-to-god wakizashi secured to his hip, although he never seemed to have made use of it since it was first noticed.

 

And— That was it. He didn’t seem to have any particular area of interest. He’d pop on a side of the city one night, right on the opposite side the other. Not a single police agent nor hero ever managed to follow him, and those few who tried and succeeded for a short while found themselves suddenly in a hospital with big bumps on their heads and no memories of what hit them.

 

He didn’t seem to target specific crimes, either. He’d intervene where he was needed, regardless of who was involved, from beating up members of a drug cartel to leaving a kid that run away from home and got lost in front of a police station.

 

No One also never showed an explicit, obvious quirk. There were many theories running wild among those that were involved in the investigation, but there simply wasn’t a certain conclusion about what No One’s quirk could do.

 

Tensei, personally, leaned on the side of those that theorised some kind of invisibility or masking quirk, that allowed No One his stealthy, traceless escapes. Would explain how he managed to knock unconscious anyone that tried to follow him without being noticed in the slightest, at the very least.

 

It seemed simply impossible to catch this guy. Tensei was always up to try reform some vigilantes and shape them into full-fledged heroes, but No One truly seemed like a lost cause, after months of failures and dead ends.

 

“Hey, chief—“ He got distracted, jumping when one of his underlings, Yamamoto, knocked on the doorjamb of his office. “You look like you’ve got a bit of cabin fever. Why don’t you go out for a patrol, tonight?”

 

Tensei groaned, stretching his spine, hearing a series of little pops. “You’re not wrong.” He admitted with a sigh.

 

“Looking over that case again, huh?” Yamamoto commented with a lopsided smile, approaching the desk.

 

“For the— I don’t know, probably one thousandth time.” Tensei muttered, massaging his forehead. “Tons of sightings, no new leads, as usual.”

 

“Well, all more the reasons to go take a walk in the real word—“ Yamamoto laughed, abandoning a small pile of papers on his desk. “Who knows, maybe you could stumble into the guy in some back alley, or something.”

 

“Wouldn’t that be funny.” Tensei deadpanned, before rising on his feet and grabbing his helmet. “You’ve got a point, though. I think some action will help.”

 

 

He made three easily avoidable, very stupid mistakes, that night.

 

The first was spotting a man that suspiciously looked like the hero killer on a roof, and let himself freeze in obvious surprise.

 

The second was following first, and only secondly trying to call for reinforcements, giving him the time to destroy his helmet with a scarily precise series of knives-throws, effectively cutting Tensei off of communication.

 

The third, was not immediately running away.

 

Tensei went down like a puppet after he felt all his limbs lock into place, as if they suddenly turned into iron, completely outside of his control. He tried uselessly to turn, get up, move at all— But he couldn’t. The blood run down on his face from the cut on his cheek, as the hero killer emerged from the dark, towering over him.

 

“Got a big one tonight, huh.” He commented, flat. “And to think I wasn’t even out and about to hunt—“

 

Tensei gritted his teeth, trying uselessly to fight against his own body. Stain’s eyes burned like fire as he looked down at him.

 

“Oy, wait a minute!”

 

Tensei twitched in surprise. The voice that just spoke seemed to come from above— And sounded quite young, too. Much to his shock, Stain rolled his eyes with a little sigh.

 

“Here we go…” He exhaled in… Exasperation?

 

Another twitch shook him when a second figure landed from the darkness above. Someone completely dressed in black, a hood shadowing their features, and a wakizashi attached to their hip—

 

No way. Tensei thought to himself, eyes going wide. No fucking way—

 

No One was much smaller in person that the unfocused, blurry pictures of him could led to believe. He probably wouldn’t even reach Tensei’s shoulders, if they were to stand side by side.

 

“Do you know who this is?!” No One asked, affronted, gesturing vaguely down at Tensei.

 

“ ‘Course I do.” Stain replied, long-suffering. “Brat—“

 

“No, don’t you ‘brat’ me.” No One interrupted, crossing his arms on his chest and impatiently tapping a foot on the ground. “Give me one good reason why you should kill Ingenium.”

 

His height, his voice, his mannerisms—

 

Stain just called him ‘brat’—

 

No. Goddamn. Way.

 

Is No One a kid?

 

“Really, now.” Stain deadpanned, unamused. “He’s the epitome of what’s wrong with the hero system— He’s the head of a huge company, as if heroes can be controlled like office workers— And you ask me for reasons?”

 

“That’s not a reason, though.” No One replied, shifting to put both hands in fists on his hips. “He’s working with what he has. And he’s doing a damn good job of it—“

 

“Just last week one of his lackeys let a shop burn to the ground—“

 

“Yes, one of the other heroes working for him, not him.” A pause. “He’s a good one, and you know it.

 

Tensei could speak, if he wanted. He could. His paralysis didn’t seem to extend to his tongue or vocal chords—

 

But he simply had nothing to say, as he followed the rapid-fire exchange like he was watching a game of tennis.

 

Stain groaned, dragging a hand on his face. “Why can I not go back in time and slap myself in the face—“ He muttered, low, before adding. “You— Are such a pain in my ass. It’s like having a semi-suicidal Jiminy Cricket on my shoulder all the damn time, with you.”

 

“A— What, now?” No One replied, confused.

 

“You’ve never seen that old animated movie— Nevermind.” Stain sighed, waving a hand. He put his katana back in its sheath, looking unamused. “Fine. Watch, this is going to bite the both of us in our butts in two months top.”

 

“I’ll take it.” No One said, satisfied. “Dude. Be more careful, next time.” He then added, clearly addressing Tensei, before the both of them scaled the building up to the roof they came from like a couple of really strange lizards.

 

Tensei just stayed there, speechless. Even if he hadn’t been still paralyzed, he might’ve not moved regardless. He was sure his brain might just leak out of his nose, for hard it has been blown.

 

No One was a kid. Tensei was ready to bet his goddamn right hand about that. He sounded young, he acted young—

 

No One was familiar enough with the hero killer to address him with not only absolutely no fear, but a certain amount of cheekiness as well. And the hero killer seemed to keep No One’s opinion in a regard high enough to have his mind changed by him on the spot.

 

No One had a wakizashi, an old-fashioned weapon, much like Stain’s signature katana. They moved in similar ways, as they scaled the building, quick and agile—

 

Holy shit. Holy fucking crap. Tensei thought, wide eyes staring at polluted dark sky. Are those two working together? Is Stain teaching No One? Could a man like him even think to take a disciple under his wing? Is No One willingly working side by side with a serial killer?

 

No answer to his mental questions came, as he finally felt the tenseness leave his limbs. He could move again, and he dragged himself slowly upright, sitting in the alley and carding a hand through his sweaty hair.

 

What the actual fuck is going on?

 

Chapter Text

 

—Chapter 5—

Ballata per la mia piccola iena

 

 

 

The boy suddenly went pale and still, like a rabbit freezing in front of a wolf.

 

Chizome blinked, watching him out the corner of his eye. He watched as the boy slowly put down the bowl he was holding, fingers shivering minutely. He watched as he brought his right hand to his lips and nervously nibbled down on his fingers, worked all the tiny, lithe scars on them under his chipped tooth. Almost like a toddler sucking on his own thumb.

 

From the battered, small tv came the sounds of fireworks going off. His green dull eyes were transfixed on the screen, his soup going completely ignored. The over-enthusiastic voice filled the room for long minutes, until the boy suddenly got up on his feet, with a stillness that spoke of an imposed calmness, and turned away, walking toward the tiny corridor connecting the living room to the bathroom.

 

A minute later, came the sound of retching. Chizome sighed softly, getting up and walking to the bathroom himself as the sound of the flushing water filled his ears.

 

When he stepped in, the boy was curled up in a corner, a nervous ball of limbs, face hidden in his knees.

 

His hair was still much shorter than it was when they first met, but it was rapidly growing back.

 

“I’m ok.” He whispered, flat, before Chizome could even ask. “I just need a minute.”

 

He waited, leaning on the doorjamb. Behind them, from the living room, the tv yelled.

 

“And the winner of the obstacle race is— KATSUKI BAKUGOU!”

 

 

 

In the days that followed, the kid just stopped talking altogether.

 

He was far away, like a ghost, his eyes plunged in a darkness so deep it was reminiscent of the kind of look Chizome saw on his face during their first meeting.

 

He’d still work his own routine. Train, sleep, go out at night, do his vigilante thing. Rinse and repeat. Day after day, silent, a shadow moving about.

 

Chizome wasn’t sure what to do about this, other than leaving him be and keeping a watchful eye over him as he’s been doing in the past few months. But he could feel it—

 

The boy was slipping through his fingers. Turning even more reckless, like he didn’t care about his own life.

 

Which, to be fair, he probably didn’t.

 

All that work— Chizome sighed to himself, dragging a hand over his face.

 

They had a silent, mutual deal. Don’t ask about the past, don’t tell about it. Putting aside that one time he purposefully asked after the boy’s father, Chizome uphold his side of the deal. Neither of them cared much for that, preferring to move forward.

But now, the deal was definitely biting them in the ass. Whatever baggage the kid brought with him must’ve increased in weight tenfold. And there was apparently nothing Chizome could do about it.

 

He watched over him, silent, and hoped whatever funk the boy fell into would soon go away.

 

 

“You…” The man laughed nervously, sweating profusely and trembling. “You think yourself so sneaky, don’t you? You think we haven’t taken notice— But we have. Everyone has.”

 

“If you have to speak, do so clearly.” Chizome replied, flat and unimpressed, pushing the blade on the man’s neck a bit more. He let out another, trembly hysterical chuckle.

 

“The kid.” He released with a wheeze. “That brat that follows you everywhere— The heroes and the police might be too stupid to realize, but us? Oh, no, we have long taken notice. We’ve been looking at him very closel—“

 

The sentence died in a wet gurgle as Chizome slid the blade in and sideway with a single, smooth motion. The man’s eyes went glassy and he stopped moving in a few seconds.

 

Chizome forced himself to slow down his breathing, closing his eyes.

 

One… Two… Three… Four… Out… One… Two… Three… Four… In…

 

His heart was beating in his throat like a painful knot. He opened his eyes again, glaring down hatefully at the still bleeding corpse, before cleaning the tip of his katana on the body’s pants and put it back in the sheath. He turned, rapidly climbing up. He and the kid got separated after the damn brat went in pursuit of one of these idiots even after Chizome tried to call him back, as another goon tried to step in his way—

 

Where could he be? Goddamn stupid kid— Never listening, always doing whatever stupid bullshit runs through his head— If he let himself get dragged intro a trap, I swear to god, I’m going to gut him myself—

 

He searched and searched, jumping from roof to roof, but found not a trace of the kid nor the guy he was chasing. The sky was starting to lighten and, with a furious growl, Chizome had no choice but to start the walk back home.

 

They had a protocol, in case they got separated, but it never happened before. Much to his dismay, the door was untouched and the apartment empty, once he got inside as the first rays of sunlight peeked over the horizon. He approached the bathroom window, removing the trap, and then he nervously got out of his suit, launching it in a ball in a corner, securing his katana on his hip as he paced back and forth.

 

The kid slid through the bathroom window, as per protocol, almost an hour later. He dragged the hood off his head and removed the blood stained bandana from his face. His face was a triumph of purples and blues, dried smears of blood under his nose and chin, and  the right side of his face was swollen, almost closing his eye shut.

 

“You should’ve seen the other guy—“ He said, almost jokingly, after days of absolute, utter silence.

 

The slap echoed in the tiny bathroom. The kid turned his face right back to him with a betrayed look, eyes huge, as he rose his hand to rest it on his cheek—

 

“Are you even thinking?” Chizome hissed, furious, grabbing the front of the kid’s hoodie in a tight fist, shaking him. “You fell in a obvious trap— Even a toddler wouldn’t have fallen for that! What the fuck are you doing?!”

 

“I—“ The kid uttered, voice trembling. But Chizome continued, shaking him again.

 

“I don’t know what the fuck has gotten into you this past week, and I don’t even care—“ He growled. “But I won’t allow you to waste any more of my time or work, you’ve done that more than enough.”

 

“Wha—“

 

He let the kid go with a violent shove, sending him against the sink, after ripping the wakizashi away from his hip. The kid stood there, mouth open and hands collected against his chest, as Chizome stalked out the bathroom.

 

It didn’t took him much to gather the kid’s measly possessions and stuff them into his backpack. After a few minutes, he also got out the bathroom, wobbling on his feet, clearly confused. He stumbled a couple of steps back when Chizome launched the full backpack against his chest.

 

“Change out of your suit and then get out.” He hissed, low. “We are done.”

 

“W— What…?” The kid exhaled, eyes huge.

 

“You heard me.” Chizome replied, impassive. “You’re clearly not fit for this. You’re letting whatever shitty personal issue you got cloud your judgment and get in the way of your work. You’re a constant nuisance for my work, jumping in with your silly moral hangups and causing me trouble. This is it. You’re out.”

 

The backpack fell on the floor. The kid stumbled forward, grabbing Chizome’s forearm.

 

“W-wait—“ He hiccuped, eyes filling with tears. “I’m not— I’m sorry— I won’t— I’ll be good, I promise! I- I won’t be a nuisance anymore! I’ll do whatever you say, just, please—“

 

Chizome pushed him away, glaring down.

 

“You’re too soft hearted. Needy. You’re not fit for this life. I don’t need a brat that can’t let go of his childish hopes and dreams to hold me down.” A pause. “I put enough money in your bag to cover the trip and any expense you might need. Go back home, brat. You’re not needed, here.”

 

A sob wrecked the kid as he folded in himself, hands pushed on his chest. Big tears hit the floor as he shivered there, unmoving. After a good full minute, Chizome stomped his foot down, making him jump.

 

“I told you to get out!” He exclaimed, as the kid turned his bruised, tears covered face up to him, lost and desperate. “Get changed and go! If you’re not gone in the next five minutes, I’ll throw you out myself!”

 

Releasing a pitiful whine, the kid turned away, stumbling back in the bathroom. Chizome stood there, unmoving, as he heard the water running for a bit, and then the kid re-emerged in the living room, face clean from blood and wearing a set of anonymous every-day clothes instead of his black vigilante outfit. He was shivering, avoiding Chizome’s pointed eyes, tears still streaming down his face as he picked up his backpack and hugged it on his chest, approaching the door. He hesitated there for a second, turning a little hopeful look toward Chizome, but when Chizome ignored him he made a small sound, like a mouse being stepped on, and finally got out.

 

Chizome watched him run away from the tiny kitchen window.

 

The kid’s wakizashi was in his backpack. Hopefully, he won’t have to use it.

 

 

 

Izuku ran and ran, his lungs burning and his legs hurting. He ran until he could not anymore, until his limbs gave in, and he finally stopped, stumbling under a bridge, in the shadows, away from prying eyes.

 

He let himself fall back, squeezing his full backpack against his chest, wheezing, painful breaths running through his throat and lungs, burning along the way. His face stung and throbbed, but he still pushed it forcefully against the coarse texture of the backpack, releasing a broken, loud whine, muffled in it. It felt like a dam just broke in him, more whines climbing out his throat as sobs wrecked him and a fresh wave of tears rolled down his cheeks. He simply could not stop, lamenting like a wounded animal, feeling like his chest was crumbling into tiny little pieces with every sobs and painful hiccup of breath he managed to get in.

 

Useless, useless, useless— Couldn’t even manage to do this right— Useless dead weight, no one needs you, you are just a stupid deku, no one will ever want you— You just ruin anything you touch, you can’t do anything right, you’re just a nuisance—

 

He cried and cried until he simply didn’t had any more tears, until his sobs became dry and slowly subsided, and his eyes stung painfully without having anything else to give. He slowly stretched his sore legs in front of him, resting the backpack in his lap, staring at nothing.

 

He was tired. Completely spent. His head simply stopped being capable of forming a coherent sentence. He slowly looked around. There was a dark corner behind a pillar of the bridge, even more hidden.

 

He forced himself to wobble back up on his feet, dragged himself there. He put the backpack down, rolled on a side in a tight little ball, resting his head on his bag, and fell asleep, his chest hurting with every little beat of his heart.

 

 

When he woke, it took him a long minute to remember and understand why he was so uncomfortable and his nose was full of the smell of dust and dirt.

 

He slowly dragged himself in a sitting position. His body hurt after the beating he took, and his face felt even more swollen. He couldn’t see out of his right eye anymore.

 

Tears rolled down his cheeks, eyes painfully stinging. Apparently, he still had some to give.

 

What the fuck do I do, now? He thought to himself, desperate and bitter. I fucked up once again. Good fucking job.

 

With a sigh, he dragged himself back on his feet, painfully sore. He stumbled toward the water. It looked and smelled disgusting, so he took a deep breath and held it, before splashing his face. The chilly sensation brought him a tiny amount of relief, but only for a few seconds. He peered at his reflection in the muddy water, grimacing.

 

His face looked like a misshapen blueberry, for how swollen and blue with bruises it was. He couldn’t go around like this.

 

He walked back to his backpack, rapidly found his dark blue hat and a scarf. He put it low on his head, wrapped the scarf around his nose and mouth. As long as he kept his head low, no one should notice how beat up he was.

 

He put the backpack on his shoulders, dusting the dirt away from his knees once he stood once more. Slowly, he walked away, climbing back up toward the road.

 

It was probably mid-afternoon, going by the position of the sun.

 

He started to walk.

 

He didn’t even know why— But he couldn’t just stand in the middle of the road. So he walked, keeping to the side roads away from the more trafficked areas. People that passed by didn’t spare him a second look, too busy with their own lives, chatting with one another.

 

He didn’t want to think, but he had no other choice. He was alone once more, with nothing to his name but a backpack with some clothes, a bottle of water, and whatever money Stain gave him—

 

He choked on a sob, tears filling his eyes.

 

Don’t think about him, don’t think about him, don’t think about him—

 

“Go home. You’re not needed here.”

 

Going home? Could he even do that anymore? Going home to what?

 

Mom probably wasn’t sad anymore— At this point she’d just be rightfully furious, if he came back with his tail between his legs. She’d be so angry, that he wasted so much time, missed the start of high-school, caused her so many worries, only for him to come back, beaten into submission once more.

 

No. He couldn’t go home. He had no home anymore.

 

Maybe— Maybe he could try to go back to the little run-down house in the forest. He was happy, there— He knew how to survive, now, and he could go there, no other human in sight, just him and—

 

Him.

 

But— He didn’t really know how to go back there. Stain always took care of the moving, and Izuku trusted him blindly, following like an idiot puppy desperate for praise.

 

That’s what Izuku was, wasn’t he? Just a dumb brat, a little kid so starved for attention he followed the first person that showed him even the tiniest amount of interest. He followed like a dog on a leash, eager to serve, and now that the leash was off he didn’t know what to do with himself anymore.

 

He couldn’t keep being a vigilante. He didn’t had a home to retire to and tend to his wounds anymore. He didn’t had support, nor enough money or gear. He didn’t had someone watching his back at all times.

 

Without Stain, he was nothing.

 

Without Stain— He was just a dumb, quirkless kid.

 

He was who he was.

 

This was who he was. A fifteen years old, that run away from home months ago after attempting suicide, that followed an infamous serial killer and let himself getting trained by said serial killer, working side by side as a vigilante with him in the busiest city of Japan for weeks and weeks—

 

Oh—“ Izuku exhaled, blinking, stopping in the middle of the road. He was staring ahead, but he couldn’t really see what was in front of him. “Oh— What— What have I done?” He asked to himself, voice breaking.

 

But no answer came.

 

 

The room was minuscule, basically a broom closet, but he couldn’t care less. He paid upfront, the guy looked sketchy as hell but accepted his proposition, even if Izuku looked like a punching bag, so Izuku wasn’t going to complain.

 

He had enough money to last him a bit, if he made sure to be careful with his expenses. The room would serve him just fine, while he took a bit of time to decide what to do.

 

The sheer magnitude of the realization— Truly understanding what he had made of his life left him breathless and devoid of energy. He just wanted to curl up in a corner and sleep.

 

Possibly, never wake up.

 

In the end, he just run in a circle. He was back there, contemplating. What would be the best way to kill himself? He could slash his arteries, it’d be quick enough— Jumping off a building was too messy, and there was the concrete possibility they’d never recognize his body. Bleeding himself out would at least leave behind a corpse they could give back to mom, so she could grieve—

 

But did he want that? Did he want her to grieve? Maybe it’d be better if he jumped into a river. The water could drag his body far into the ocean, and no one would have to know he was dead. Mom wouldn’t need to go through the pitiful operation of having to identify Izuku’s body, arrange a funeral for him, and cry herself dry over a picture of him, or something—

 

With a sigh, he fully opened his backpack and emptied it with a single decisive shake, so he could re-organize his few possessions—

 

Something heavy fell on the tatami flooring with a muted thud. Izuku blinked, finding himself staring at his wakizashi. Slowly, as if he was scared he’d get burned if he touched it, he tentatively slid his fingertips over the handle. He grabbed it, unsheathing it with an ominous little metallic sound. The blade shone under the orange, weak light of the lamp hanging from the ceiling.

 

He didn’t pack his wakizashi— Hell, Stain ripped it away from him angrily as he told him to get out—

 

Izuku blinked, eyes going wide. Stain packed his bag—

 

Stain put his wakizashi there.

 

Why?

 

And not only that. There was an holster, too.

 

Why?

 

Izuku silently shed the hoodie he was wearing, securing the familiar holster on his chest, and fixed the wakizashi on it, before covering the whole thing with his oversized clothing once more.

 

Stain gave him a precious, expensive weapon, with the clear intention of having Izuku wear it at all times. A safety measure against their many enemies, maybe? A way to let Izuku have at least a small amount of protection against the world?

 

But— Why? Why would he care? He purposefully chased Izuku away, told him what a dead-weight he truly was—

 

… Or did he?

 

He got angry after Izuku fell for a stupid trap, even if he came out of it alive. He got angry— Because he disobeyed and ran after that guy, even after Stain yelled at him to stop.

 

Could it be— Could it be that Stain was trying to protect him?

 

Part of him scoffed. Told him to stop dreaming. Stop acting like a love-sick puppy—

 

But— What if that was what happened? What if Stain tried to chase him back home, so Izuku could be safe?

 

The wakizashi was heavy on his chest.

 

He had— He had to make sure— He had to find out.

 

Izuku postponed his death. A few more days weren’t going to make that much of a difference— And he knew exactly where and how to gather some info to maybe clarify this for him.

 

And if he was wrong— Well, then he’d make the choice between the river or cutting his veins open. Death wasn’t going anywhere.

 

 

No one wanted to believe Tensei, at first.

 

“A kid?”

 

“C’mon, that’s ridiculous—“

 

“you’re just making assumptions—“

 

“He can’t be a kid, have you seen the things he does?!”

 

But Tensei did not give up. He knew what he saw, and heard.

 

He knew that No One was a kid. He was absolutely certain—

 

And it didn’t sit well with him. At all. He not only owed that child his life— He owed him to go to the bottom of things. To try save him.

 

A kid following a serial killer, probably getting trained by him? How did that happen? Was he coerced in some way? He must’ve been— Or maybe Stain picked him up between the midst of the villains. Stain wasn’t new to acts of vigilantism himself, and his death toll included more villains than heroes, despite his infamous name of hero killer.

 

There were so many realities of poverty— So many people forced to work for clans and villains in order to survive— And these people often had families of their own.

 

Maybe Stain picked up the child up after he went on a rampage on a group of villains. For all his violence, there were no children between Stain’s victims. He was a monster with his own set of rules.

 

Maybe he saw potential in the kid. -He surely had plenty, going by his actions as a vigilante.-

 

Maybe he just wanted someone to follow in his steps, and a lone, convenient kid was just what he needed.

 

But— There must be more to it. Stain actually abided by No One’s request to spare Tensei’s life, and No One seemed averse to his mentor’s method of dealing with heroes— That smelled less of a teacher-disciple relationship and more of something that put the both of them on equal footing.

 

Maybe No One was Stain’s biological child. It certainly was a possibility—

 

And— Discovering Stain was somehow involved made sense. Those strange, violent outlier episodes in No One’s track record— The fact that he seemed to have a protective shadow that allowed him an escape even when he was followed—

 

Stain must’ve been looking after the kid all this time— But why?

 

The more Tensei thought about it, the less sense it made, but— He needed to do something.

 

There was a child, out there, running around in the middle of the night doing dangerous vigilante stunts, with a serial killer as his guardian. By god, Tensei would find this child, even if it was the last thing he did.

 

For a while he was the only one in the investigation team following the ‘child’ lead. The other heroes and agents were simply too incredulous about his outrageous declaration, and kept focusing on other traces. Tensei stubbornly doubled down on it, sleeping three hours a night for days, as he read over a worrying long list of children that would be under the age of eighteen that disappeared between the last ten years.

 

It was an ungrateful, depressing job. There were so many all along the country— Ten years was a long time to cover.

 

Empty coffee cups collected on his desk, and he delegated all the Idaten related work he could, in order to chase the lead.

 

Slowly, some of the others involved in the case started getting around to his idea. Tensei worked his throat raw to reiterate over and over his encounter with Stain and No One— No One’s mannerism and speech pattern, his size, and his voice—

 

Soon enough he wasn’t the only one looking into the depressingly long list of vanished kids. They slowly started to shrink the realm of possibilities based on age and gender, on registered quirks, possible health issues— But there were still so many names to comb over, it was unreal.

 

Tensei had no idea that a crucial piece of information, what was truly about to turn this investigation upside down, came in the form of a small, determined woman that wouldn’t leave them alone.

 

She came one day, asking to speak with whoever was responsible of the investigation of the vigilante called No One. The agents at the desks tried to convince her to release a statement if she thought she had some useful info, but she refused to do so until she could speak with someone higher up on the chain.

 

She came day after day, asking the same thing, refusing to just release a mere statement. She insisted in wanting to speak directly with the investigators, stating that she was going to get directly involved in this.

 

This happened for an entire week, until Tensei just so happened to walk into the station right by her side, unknowingly. He was just about to get his usual badge, scratching his head and yawning, when he heard one of the agents sigh patiently.

 

“Miss, we’ve been over this— We can’t let you in. If you want to release a statement—“

 

Tensei’s eyes went wide, and he turned.

 

The woman was small, but held herself with the posture of a soldier. She had dark green hair cut short, shorter than Tensei’s own, and soft cheeks that hinted to the possibility she might’ve been a soft, plump woman, once. She still carried some weight, but had the look of someone that lost a lot in a very short time. Her green eyes were lit with a mix of determination and desperation, her mouth a thin, unamused line.

 

“You know what my answer to that is.” She replied, glacial. “I will be waiting all day. I will be waiting my entire life, if necessary.”

 

Tensei shifted his weight foot to foot, grabbed his badge, and approached her.

 

“Miss— My name is Tensei Iida.” He introduced himself, holding a hand out.

 

“Mister Ingenium!” One of the agents hissed, exasperated.

 

“No, let me take care of this.” Tensei replied, holding a hand up. “I will take full responsibility.” He turned toward her once more. “My hero name is Ingenium, you might’ve heard of me—“

 

“Of course I did.” She snapped, not taking his hand.

 

“Then, I want to let you know that I am currently involved in the search for the vigilante called No One.” Tensei said, stubbornly keeping his hand stretched forward. “I’ve been involved since the case was opened. I would like to hear what you have to say.”

 

She examined his face with the gaze of a hawk, before taking his hand.

 

 

 

He guided her in his momentary office at the police station. What she saw inside, with the piles of files precariously perched on every flat surfaces, the map of Tokyo were every single sighting of No One was pinned, along with blurry pictures printed and fixed on a white board, must’ve been satisfying enough to her, because she resolutely nodded, sitting down in the chair Tensei offered her.

 

“My name is Inko Midoriya.” She immediately started off, practical. “Almost seven months ago my only son, Izuku, disappeared.” She rummaged in the little suitcase on her lap, taking out a picture and offering it to Tensei. “As of his last measurements, he was one hundred and sixty-five centimetres tall. Green curly hair, green eyes, freckled cheeks.”

 

Tensei hummed, taking the picture. “Can I keep this?”

 

When she nodded, he walked to the white board and fixed the picture there. The kid in it smiled back at him with soft features and bright green eyes, wearing an All Might shirt. Once done with that, Tensei walked toward the stadiometer in the corner, and adjusted it to the one hundred and sixty-five mark, observing it, pensive.

 

Yeah. Height looked about right.

 

“So you think your son might be the vigilante called No One.” Tensei said, turning back toward her.

 

“I don’t think.” She replied, voice low. “I’m certain of it.”

 

“What makes you so sure?” Tensei asked, serious, walking around his desk and dragging his laptop close in the clutter.

 

“Izuku, he— Ever since he was a little kid, his biggest dream was to become a great hero like All Might—“ She started, forlorn. “But he could not.”

 

“Why?”

 

“He’s quirkless.” Midoriya replied, locking a pained gaze with Tensei. Tensei jumped, surprised, fingers stilling on the keyboard.

 

He’s quirkless.

 

No One never shown any kind of quirk—

 

Could it be…?

 

“…Please, go on.” Tensei invited her, softly, starting to type in notes once more.

 

“It was a hard hit on him, but he was only four— I thought that, with time, as he grew, he would forget about it. Find himself another road to follow— His admiration for heroes never went away, but I thought nothing of it. It was just a passion, a hobby.” A pause. “But for him, it wasn’t. In his room I found… This stack of notebooks filled to the brim. Quirk analysis, pattern studies, strategies to deal with villains— Izuku, he— He’s very smart. On the cover… There was written ‘analysis for the future’.”

 

Tensei flinched minutely, but said nothing. She took a deep breath, before continuing.

 

“I never realized he was still thinking about it— I never realized so many things about him. He was always an obedient, calm child. A good student, all high marks— He never gave me reasons to worry for him, but I should’ve.” A little sigh. She angrily wiped tears away from her eyes. “I should’ve. He went through so much that I did not know of— His classmates bullied him relentlessly for years, due to his being quirkless. Who I thought was his best friend turned to be his worst tormentor, constantly berating and humiliating him, even inviting him to commit suicide—“ A angry sniff. “During the months leading to his disappearance, he slowly changed. He became more quiet, less lively. He would eat less— I thought nothing of it. Teenagers can be so moody, right? But then— He tried to jump off the roof at his school.”

 

Tensei flinched again, more visibly, this time. She looked at him, her eyes almost speaking, as if saying ‘this is nothing, yet.’.

 

“He convinced me it was a mistake, that the people at school saw something else— I let myself get convinced.” Her voice turned bitter, like poison. “I didn’t want to see— I didn’t want to see the truth. Without telling me, he stopped going to school. I figured he was just absolutely done with the people that pushed him to the brink of suicide— And who knows what he’s been doing out there, that entire month. But one day the principal came by, asking me how Izuku was doing after his suicide attempt— And there I was, completely clueless that my son spent the last month of his life wandering the streets alone.”

 

“When he came home, I confronted him, I— I was so crushed, in that moment, realizing what I’ve been blind to the entire time— I was already planning ahead about what to do to help him, and in doing so, I only made yet another mistake. I should’ve spoke with him— That night, he went out. He never came back.” She crossed her fingers in her lap, looking down at them. “After a week of desperate searches, the police retrieved his shoes and keys from the riverbank. They declared him dead, but they are still searching for a body. Everyone thinks he succeeded in killing himself— But I knew my son was alive, so I set on my own search.”

 

“Turns out there’s a lot you can discover when you have the time and desperation to spend your entire life searching for your lost son.” There was self-deprecation in her voice, a cold smile on her lips. “I found out a little episode that went mostly under the radar— A young pro-hero, an intern, met a certain infamous figure, one night. A man, named the hero killer Stain.”

 

Tensei’s mouth went slack, and her expression turned almost smug.

 

“That night, this young pro-hero was almost about to lose his life to the hero killer— But someone intervened. The pro-hero couldn’t see his face, as it was concealed, but he noticed two things he told me he could not forget. His voice, the voice of a kid, and his bright red shoes. Like the ones retrieved in the river bank. Like the shoes Izuku always wore. The pro-hero said that the kid and the hero killer exchanged words— The kid advocated for Stain to spare the hero’s life, and, amazingly enough, Stain accepted. He said that the kid approached Stain, and upon his attempt to tell him to run away, the kid replied ‘He won’t hurt me.’

 

“They went away together— And that was all this pro-hero could tell me. That was enough for me to know— That the kid must’ve been Izuku. It’s just like him, to step in front of a serial killer in order to help someone. The reason why Izuku willingly went with Stain, I do not know for sure, although I have a theory— In any case, I went after that single lead. I searched and searched and searched, followed that faint lead that seemed to end nowhere— until I miraculously found someone that remembered seeing a tall, well-built man that always kept his face covered and a teenager with green eyes and freckles on a train to Tokyo— Now, imagine my surprise when I get to Tokyo and find out that a new vigilante appeared in town. A vigilante that seems hellbent in helping as many people as he can, a vigilante that seems to always follow around a dangerous serial killer— A vigilante that seems to be rather young, too. Probably a kid.”

 

“…How do you know these things?” Tensei asked, slowly. “We’ve been keeping the investigation under a tight wrap—“

 

“I got out there, I got my hands dirty and spoke with the lowest of the low.” She replied, promptly. “I dealt with people that stained themselves with heinous crimes for information. I’m not a saint, Mr. Iida. I’m ready to do anything to get my son back. Now, let’s play a guessing game— On a side we have a child that is desperately trying to play hero, even if he’s doing it illegally, and on the other a famous serial killer whose ideas he preached included a distaste for current society’s obsession with flashy quirks that make for a good show— And then there’s my son. That has dreamt of being a hero since he was two years old, who is quirkless, and has been cruelly and mercilessly teased and bullied for it— My son, meeting a man that probably wouldn’t see him as a useless deadweight on society just because of his lack of a quirk, a man that, in his twisted ways, believes in heroes more than anything else— Now, I wonder. Would you ask me again why I’m so sure that the vigilante called No One is truly my son, Mr. Iida?”

 

 

His head spun violently, and in a second he was on the floor. He tried to move, get up, but failed miserably as the world around him went round and round—

 

“A big false step, there, hero killer—“ A voice above him, a cruel chuckle. “I wonder, could it be that you were distracted? It’s not like you, to make mistakes like these.”

 

He drunkenly patted down his thigh, searching for the knife there— A stabbing pain in his hand and he grunted, pain cutting his head in half.

 

“Nu-huh, no little games. You are ours, now. Do not worry, we will have plenty of time to play. The night is long.”

 

Chizome tried to look up, hissing. “By the time the sun rises, you pieces of shit will all be dead.“

 

“Oh, we will see—“ The man replied, a cold smile on his lips. “We will see.”

 

That cold smile was the last thing Chizome saw, before a blinding pain overcame him, turning his world dark.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

—Chapter 6—

Space Oddity

 

 

 

The panic threatened to overcome Izuku the moment he finally heard those words.

 

He stayed still, absolutely unmoving in his dark corner, while simultaneously trying to calm down his increasingly erratic breathing.

He heard steps, and dared to minutely turn around, seeing one of the men walk away.

 

An idea rapidly formed in his mind- If I can dash over and surprise him from behind— He might not be alone for long— I could threaten him— I know I won’t be able to kill anyone, but he doesn’t

 

Taking a deep breath, he unsheathed the wakizashi carefully. He gripped it tight despite his vaguely clammy hand, and went on the move, steps silent like a cat.

 

The man released a choked gasp when he felt the extremely sharp blade on his neck.

 

“Don’t move.” Izuku hissed, voice low and gravelly. “I have my blade on your artery, right now— Do you know what arteries do? They carry a lot of blood— I wonder how fast you’d bleed out if I cut it into two nice neat halves.”

 

The whimper was enough for Izuku to know he hit the mark. The man slowly rose his hands, after Izuku ordered him so.

 

“I want to know where your group has taken Stain. And you better give me a damn address, or—“ And he pressed the blade on his neck a bit more.

 

“Fine, fine, fuck!” The man exclaimed, going even more tense. He rattled off an address— Izuku knew where it was. The port. Of course, there were lots of groups active in that zone, with the traffic of goods that constantly came and went— “Why the fuck do you care, anyway?” The man added with a growl, surprising Izuku.

 

Right. He didn’t have his usual ‘night’ outfit on. He was just wearing a long-sleeved shirt and jeans with his battered running shoes, hat and scarf to conceal his face, only leaving a thin strip open for his eyes.

 

“Let’s say I have my own unfinished business with that guy.” Izuku hissed, before knocking the man unconscious with a swift hit. He guided the man down with one hand, putting his blade away with the other.

 

The spot wasn’t too far from there, but he’d very likely have to deal with a big group of criminals, all of which were equipped with their own quirks. He was laughably unprepared, both in numbers and weaponry, only having the wakizashi at his disposal.

 

Biting down on his lower lip, Izuku patted the man down. He found his phone, and promptly smashed it to bits. The more he could delay the chance someone warning the rest of the group about him, the better.

 

A pack of cigarettes— Keys— Oh, this one was interesting— He fished out a stun-gun from the man’s trousers. He pocketed it, might come in handy. The guy had a knife, too. A small thing, but sharp enough. He snatched that as well.

 

Once done, he dragged the man into a dark corner, out of view. Hopefully, he’d sleep long enough to give Izuku time to act. That done, he went for the address, wasting no time. Climbing up was a bit more slippery without the gloves and boots he was used to, but he pushed through.

 

The moon was exactly at its peak, once he reached the place. He moved around, careful, examining the perimeter of the small building.

 

Three guards outside— Less than I thought— Window in the back looks cracked, could easily serve as a point of access— I should be able to fit in—

 

It didn’t take him much, in the clutter of crates and containers, to find a piece of wood. He threw it as far as he could, causing enough noise to attract the attention of the three men outside and make them move away from their spots as they called threateningly for whoever was hiding to come out, and he slid over toward the already damaged window he saw.

 

It was at ground level, so he kicked it, hoping the noise of broken glass wouldn’t reverberate too strongly, and then slid inside. A sharp piece of glass opened a cut in his side and he hissed as he landed in the dark room.

 

He immediately felt the warmth of blood sliding from the wound, but ignored it. The place was dark, the orange artificial light coming from outside just vaguely outlining what seemed to be a storage room of sort. He moved about, guiding himself with his hands, and he hit something propped in the dark with his fingers, sending it cluttering on the ground. He froze, ears strained to catch any noise from the outside, but nothing seemed to move. Releasing a little breath, he patted blindly until he made contact with something long and sleek— He followed the shape up and down, until he hit something hard, and then felt— Was it a sword handle?

 

Izuku grabbed it and pulled. A familiar metallic noise welcome him.

 

Stain’s katana— So he really is here.

 

He silently secured the weapon onto his back and then moved on, until he finally found the door and cracked it open.

 

The corridor outside seemed empty, so he dared peek out more to look at the other side, only finding boring cement waiting. He slid out, closing the door softly, and stood still for a second.

 

What am I doing? What’s even the point of this— If they want to kill Stain and, let’s face it, they probably do, they must’ve done it already by this time— I’m probably just heading to a painful death. I mean, that was what I wanted to do in the first place, but— ‘Painful’ wasn’t exactly in my plans.

 

He sighed, shaking the thoughts away. He had no time to linger on them, and if he had to walk toward his own death he might as well just do it. He moved with careful, silent step, feeling the long sheath of Stain’s blade hitting his calf with every step.

 

It was a small building, a series of doors left and right— Looked like a storage of sort. He had to fully walk to the end of the dark corridor to hear some voices, and he stopped by the door, listening in.

 

“…Long it’s gonna take?!” Someone asked, sore. “It’s giving me the creeps—“

 

“Boss said they were about half an hour away, just a bit more.” Someone else responded, patient. They moved on, with loud steps, and Izuku slowly, carefully pushed the door open just a sliver, peering in the crack.

 

The main room was just a giant square of cement with high windows and containers along the walls. Izuku’s heart skipped a beat when he saw Stain, face bloodied and arms raised above his head, tight in a knot. A rope was keeping him hanging from the ceiling.

 

They completely stripped him of his many blades— Or so they thought. If Izuku was right, they must have no idea of the small blades hidden in the soles of his boots.

 

If Izuku could cut the rope keeping him immobilised, Stain would surely be able to free himself from the knot with those— He tried to take in more of the room from his position, watching the two men doing a full round of the room while observing the windows carefully. Izuku couldn’t see anyone else.

 

That’s it? There are only five guards watching over him? These guys are crazy— He thought to himself, incredulous. He waited for the two guys to walk by the door once more, to have them in a position were they’d be keeping their backs toward him, took a deep breath and slipped out.

 

He wasted no time nor hesitated. Silent as a cat he slid into the shadows and climbed the closest container, flattening on it like a snake. He didn’t move as he waited for the men to do another round.

 

Once they returned to a position Izuku could take advantage of, he slid forward as much as he dared. He bid his time, keeping his breathing slow and controlled. The rest of the group was probably coming, so it was a race against time—

 

He finally got to the spot he laid his eyes on. A dark triangle between two containers. He took a slow, deep breath, fishing the knife he snatched from the man he interrogated out of his belt.

 

I only have one shot at this— Fail it, and it’s game over.

 

The thought wasn’t reassuring, but he willed his hand to be still. He stared at the rope, carefully took the blade between index and middle finger.

 

Aim. Throw—

 

It wasn’t a perfect throw, but it was enough. The rope got slashed, only a thin strip of it keeping Stain’s arms stretched upward. Stain immediately looked up at it, eyes going wide, and yanked. The rope gave in with a snap but the knife, that kept flying, clanged loudly against a container in the silence. The two men turned around, eyes wide, just as Stain was leaning down to free himself from the knot.

 

One of them raised his arm— Izuku had no idea what he was capable of, so he jumped off the container as he took the stun gun out of his pocket, took aim and pulled the trigger. Immediately two curly strings shot forward, hitting the guy that was shook by a series of spasms and went down like a sack of potatoes.

 

The other man turned in the split second all of this happened, pointing shocked eyes at Izuku. He shot forward with incredible speed, and Izuku barely had the time to see the flash of something metal before pain exploded in his temple. He hit the ground painfully, but rolled on his back and sat up, forced to stumble backwards on all fours to avoid a second hit, a blade coming out of the man’s palm grazing past his nose. Izuku grabbed his wakizashi and threw, opening a shallow cut on the man’s ribcage as the blade flew past him.

 

The man grinned madly when Izuku rushed to grab the katana on his back and managed to stop another attack just in time with the sheath, a loud clang resounding in the empty space. The man yanked the katana out of Izuku’s hand and unsheathed it—

 

“Nice throw, kid,” Stain uttered from behind the man, who suddenly locked like a toy and fell down on his knees, unable to move.

 

Stain’s tongue darted away from the stained blade of Izuku’s wakizashi, and he calmly walked forward.

 

 

He couldn’t think as he covered the short distance between them, rage clouding his mind.

 

The kid looked up at him, or tried to. His right eye was still shut by his swollen bruises, and now his left was squinting, too, as blood ran down his face from the open cut that started on his temple and went up a good five centimetres, straining his green, vaguely curly tufts of hair.

 

The man, locked on his knees, shivered as he tried to move and failed. Chizome slid the wakizashi in his belt and then calmly leaned down to take his sword back, away from the dirty hands of this useless goon.

 

“You— How—“ The guy tried to say, looking at him from the corner of his eye as sweat broke on his face.

 

“Close your eyes, kid.” Chizome ordered, flat, and the kid obeyed, turning his face away as the man’s head went flying after a single, precise cut, spraying the kid some more in blood. Chizome pushed the rest of the body to the side with a foot, retrieving the sheath of his katana and putting it away, securing it on his back in the usual spot. He kneeled in front of the kid, moving his arm up to put the wakizashi back in his holster. The kid’s left eye was bloodshot, the sliver of green a contrast against the red of the blood still running down his face, as he looked back up at him, silent.

 

“How did you find me?” Chizome asked, voice low and careful.

 

“…Listenin’ ” The kid slurred, lips shining with blood, and added nothing else. He looked like he just came back from a war.

 

Silent, Chizome ripped away a big piece from his bandana and carefully wrapped it around the wound on the kid’s head. Once done, he leaned down some more and, as if reading his mind, the kid raised his arms, hooking them around Chizome’s neck. He rested his head against his shoulder, not making a noise as Chizome slid an arm under his legs and lifted him.

 

This kid is so small—

 

“Hang on tight.” Chizome murmured, grabbing his katana once more, as he walked toward the main entrance and kicked it open.

 

Before the sun even rose, they were back home.

 

 

 

Tensei soon learned that Inko Midoriya was a force to be reckoned with. She didn’t joke, when she said she was ready to do anything to get her son back.

 

Part of Tensei still wasn’t sure if the true identity of No One really could be Izuku Midoriya— She brought enough coincidences on the table it was hard not to agree with her, but at the same time it was hard to imagine that a quirkless fifteen years old could do the things No One did.

 

“I don’t think you quite understand.” She replied, once Tensei softly objected with that. “You don’t know my son. He can do anything he puts his mind to. Do not underestimate him.”

 

When he told her of his personal encounter with Stain and No One, she listened intently. Her eyes filled with tears, but her voice was firm, if pained, when she spoke softly.

 

“Of course— Izuku is a gentle, generous boy, at heart. Even if he’s walking a dark path— His convictions won’t be swayed so easily.”

 

She spoke of him with a fondness entrenched in regret. It was clear she missed him desperately, and whenever she wasn’t busy helping in anyway she could with the investigation, she would often sit alone, a picture of herself and her son, hugging and laughing, in her hand, tears streaming down her face.

 

It was hard not to be swept in her pain. More than a couple of times Tensei sat by her side, silent. Just letting her know that she wasn’t alone.

 

“What will happen, once we’ll find him?” She asked one time as it was just the two of them in the office, deep into the night. The last few days proved to be frustrating, as it seemed that No One was suddenly laying low, making no new appearances.

 

If he moved out the city, it could be a mess—

 

“It’s hard to say.” Tensei replied, slowly. “He’s got a laundry list of crimes to answer to—“

 

“He’s only fifteen—“ She tried to protest, her voice trembling.

 

“If the judge will consider the gravity of these crimes enough, they might postpone a trial until he’s of age. In that case, I doubt he will escape prison time. But— If we find him soon enough, if— If he doesn’t add more to this list, we might convince the judge to lessen the penalty based on his age. It’d be a permanent red mark on his records, but he still should be able to live a relatively normal life, once we will get him the help he needs—“

 

Inko remained silent for a long time, before murmuring. “I know you’ve taken ex-vigilantes under your wing, in the past. Do you think it could be possible—?”

 

“…I can’t make any promise, m’am.” Tensei replied, honest. “There are many factors at play, here— He’s just a child, so I will not be legally able to issue him a mentoring-based provisional until he’s an adult. I could try to intercede for a lenient punishment until then, but, frankly? I do not know him. I do not know his mental state, or how he will react and think, which attitude he will have once we will capture him— Interceding personally will put not only me, but the entire name of my family and our office at stakes.” A sigh, as he scratched his head. “There’s nothing more that I want, right now, than to get your son back with us safe and sound. But regarding what the future will have in store for him— I simply cannot say.”

 

She sighed, trembly, drying the tears away from her eyes. “I see. Thank you for your answer.” She murmured, raw pain her voice.

 

Tensei wanted nothing more to reassure her that everything would be alright, but he simply couldn’t. With every day that went by and No One stayed hidden, the chances of Midoriya to get himself out of trouble in the least painful, messy way just got dismantled bit by bit.

 

Please, if it’s really you out there, Izuku— Tensei often prayed to himself, eyes finding the picture of the young boy fixed to the white board. Please, don’t hide from us anymore. We just want to help. Please.

 

 

As soon as they got back at the apartment, Chizome carefully put the kid down on the mattress in the corner.

 

“You can let go, kid.” He said, when the boy kept his arms firmly gripped around his shoulders. A little, trembly breath, and the hold relaxed, allowing Chizome to raise back up. He wasted no time, moving about in the tiny apartment to gather everything that was necessary.

 

“This is going to hurt, I’m sorry.” He murmured as knelt back by the kid’s side, that never moved, eyes closed and breath ragged. He cradled his head to put a towel under him, before undoing the knot of the makeshift bandage and peeling it away, revealing the deep cut in his scalp. He carefully cleaned it, the kid squirming with little moans under his hands.

 

The kid let out a choked scream when the needle pierced his skin.

 

“Sshh, it’s ok—“ Chizome said, soothing. “It’ll hurt for just a bit, but then it’ll be better, I promise.”

 

He sutured the wound as rapidly as he could without doing a botched job of it, fingers flying expertly enough. Tears were rolling down the kid’s face, pooling at his temples, but he didn’t let out any other sound aside from the occasional little whimper. Once done, Chizome cleaned it once more, and bandaged it properly.

 

“Sleep, now.” He said, carefully patting the un-wounded part of his hair a single time. The kid didn’t make a single noise, his breath soon going even, a frown set on his features. Chizome fished a bag of frozen peas from the small, beat up fridge and carefully kept it on the kid’s face.

 

He’s been badly bruised for hours, but at least, hopefully, that might help the swelling a little bit.

 

He sat there until the bag was fully thawed, and threw it back in the fridge. The bruises were still there, but at least the kid’s face looked less bloated.

 

Hours went by, and he let the kid sleep. He didn’t move even a single time, the only reassurance Chizome had that he wasn’t actually dead the steady rising and falling of his chest. As the afternoon came to a close and the kid still kept not even stirring, Chizome tested his forehead, finding it hot.

 

And a fever too. Fantastic.

 

He removed the bandages from his head, but the sutured wound seemed clean. Confused, Chizome looked him over from head to toe. The kid was pretty much covered in blood after getting sprayed, but there was more, a consistent stain on his left side. Mentally slapping himself for his stupidity, Chizome cut the shirt off of him, revealing a gash in his side, that he just let fester for hours.

 

He got to work once more, cleaning it deeply even if the kid started to whine painfully. He broke out the needle and thread again, rapidly closing the second wound as well. By the time he was done, the area around the mattress wouldn’t have looked out of place in a operating room.

 

He didn’t like the idea of leaving the kid alone, but he needed supplies. Fresh bandages and disinfectant. Probably wouldn’t hurt to give him some antibiotics. Some packs of instant ice. Food easy to keep down.

 

He got himself ready, slipping on the usual cold mask, but hesitated by the door.

 

If the brat woke and found himself alone… He’d probably not react well.

 

He turned, grabbing the thin block of post-its on the kitchen counter and wrote down a short message, sticking it to a water bottle and leaving it by the kid’s bedside.

 

His errand didn’t keep him away for long, but by the time he came back the kid actually woke up, and downed half of the water bottle by the look of it.

 

He looked up, pale and with dark smudges under his eyes— Or well, eye, since his left was now covered by the bandages. His right eye wasn’t swollen shut anymore, but his face still looked like a triumph of colors.

 

He was sitting with his back propped on the wall, hands resting limp between his legs, stretched in front of him.

 

“Hey.” Chizome broke the silence, carefully putting down the bag on the table, fishing the box of antibiotics and launching it on the mattress by the kid. “Take one of these, I’m going to make some soup.”

 

The kid ignored the box, staring at him. When he spoke, his voice sounded like gravel. “Are you just… Not going to say anything?”

 

“About what?” Chizome replied, carefully, starting to fiddle around the stove.

 

“You chased me away— Telling me all those things— Because— Because you knew that—“ He gaped, wordlessly, before continuing. “Were you trying to protect me?”

 

Chizome didn’t turn, silent. The silence stretched, painful and heavy, for what felt like an eternity.

 

Please—“ The kid sobbed, his voice breaking. “Just one word. Yes or no. Tell me the truth—“

 

“I wasn’t lying.” Chizome replied, instead, dodging the question with about as much finesse as bull in a china shop. “You are a nuisance, and a constant source of trouble.” He ignored the sob coming from behind him, as he added. “Take the damn medicine.”

 

“W-why?” The kid hiccuped, angry. “What if I don’t?”

 

“Take the medicine, brat, I’m not going to repeat myself—“

 

The box of antibiotics hit the back of his head.

 

Chizome took three deep breaths, before turning and picking the box up from the floor. He approached the mattress and knelt down by it, as the brat glared at him, big tears rolling down his cheek.

 

“Take. The damn. Medicine.” Chizome hissed, grabbing the kid’s hand and thrusting the box in it. “This is the last warning.”

 

He stared, unmoving, until the kid angrily sniffed and, with trembling hands, popped a pill out the packet, swallowing it dry.

 

“There.” He growled back, pushing the box against Chizome’s chest. “I took the damn medicine. Hope you’re happy.”

 

And he turned, lying down the mattress on his right side, showing Chizome his back stubbornly.

 

By the time the soup was done, the kid was asleep again, so he just stored it in the fridge and silently watched over him. The fever must be bothering him, because he started to squirm often, sweat breaking on his forehead. Chizome knelt once more by his side, testing his forehead and finding it burning still.

 

Forgot to get a damn thermometer— He scolded himself, frowning.

 

The kid cracked his eye open, wet and unfocused.

 

“Mom…?” He murmured, weakly. Chizome went still.

 

…What are you doing?

 

“Where…” The kid’s eye darted around slowly, breath wheezing in his throat. “Home… Left my stuff— There…”

 

What the hell are you doing?

 

“Left… All there— The money, too—“ The kid kept going, slurred. “Can go back, maybe… Go through with it—“

 

Chizome sighed. “Kid. Settle down. It’s not important.”

 

“But…” a little frown. “Can go back— Kill myself, this time—“

 

“…Sleep.” Chizome let out, voice scratching in his throat. “Just sleep. It’ll be fine. Sleep, now.”

 

The kid blinked, staring at him, unfocused and far, before closing his eye with a little sigh.

 

Just what the fuck do you think you are doing?

 

 

 

When Izuku finally woke with a clear head, he blinked at the ceiling, confused.

 

He slowly pushed himself in a sitting position, his body sore and slow and his side stinging painfully. He poked his face, finding that it didn’t hurt so much anymore, aside for a vague feeling of discomfort. He carefully tested the left side of his head, fingertips riding up until they bumped into the bandage sticking on his scalp. He tentatively poked at it, hissing when the wound under it protested in pain.

 

“Don’t fucking touch it, you idiot.”

 

Izuku looked up, meeting the unamused red eyes of Stain. The man moved to lean down by his side, forcefully tilting Izuku’s head on a side to rip the bandage away. A strange sensation followed.

 

“How come you get to touch it and I don’t?” Izuku grumbled.

 

“Because my hands are clean and I’m medicating it, dumbass.” Stain replied, flat. “It’s healing nicely, the one on your side too— But I had to spend the last two days spoon-feeding you food and medications and hauling your ass to the bathroom while you mumbled nonsense at me, so I’d appreciate it if you could refrain from messing my work up with your dirty-ass hands.”

 

That… Made sense, about the strange, almost dreamlike flashes of confused memories he couldn’t really put a order to.

 

Once Stain was done medicating and bandaging his wounds again, Izuku attempted to stand, and found himself surprised when he realized that, general soreness aside, it wasn’t too hard. He walked around the tiny space of the living room, carefully testing his limbs, as Stain leaned back against the sink.

 

“This is what this life leads to.” He suddenly said, nodding toward Izuku. “This how things are, and how they will always be. I’m going to give you another chance, kid— If you want to stop, and go home, this is the time to.”

 

Izuku stopped by the window, glancing out. An old lady was passing by, her dog on a leash sniffing curiously around, and he stared at her, silent, until she disappeared from view.

 

“Even if I did, and I don’t—“ He finally replied, careful. “I still couldn’t. Do you realize how absolutely fucked my life is?” He turned toward Stain, searching his face. “I ran away from home and turned into a vigilante with you at my side. How many witnesses are out there, that saw the both of us together? Hell, Ingenium saw us together, speaking like old friends—“

 

“Are you saying it’s my fault?” Stain asked, tilting an eyebrow.

 

“No. I’m just saying— That’s pretty damning evidence.” Izuku shrugged. “I go home, then what? Probably gonna be kept under house arrest until I turn eighteen, and then they’d throw me in a cell and leave me there to rot for the rest of my life. Doesn’t sound much more inviting than getting slashed in the damn face by some random goon.”

 

“You can’t be so sure.” Stain objected, careful. “If you come forward now, there might be a chance they will be lenient with you, since you are so young.”

 

Izuku sighed, shaking his head. “You can’t be sure of that, either. And, frankly, I’d rather not risk it.” His voice lowered, as he added. “I’d much prefer dying in battle than wasting away in a prison cell.”

 

“Izuku.”

 

He jumped, eyes going wide, mouth hanging slightly open.

 

“That’s your name, isn’t it? Izuku Midoriya. Those officers told me way back, when we were still in Musutafu.” Stain continued, impassive. “This might truly be the last chance. Are you sure you want to continue?”

 

“…Yes.”

 

Stain closed his eyes with a little sigh, shaking his head. The silence turned heavy, and Izuku turned back toward the window.

 

It was a beautiful day, outside. A pristine blue sky with soft little white clouds peppering it every now and then.

 

“Let’s go out.” Izuku said, the words out of his mouth before he could really reflect.

 

“What?”

 

Well… Might as well finish that thought.

 

“It’s a beautiful day. Let’s go out.” Izuku continued. “We both look like vampires. Some sunlight could be nice.”

 

Stain didn’t comment. When Izuku turned, his mouth was a thin line, eyes unreadable.

 

“What do you want to do?” He asked in the end, with a little sigh.

 

“Let’s go see the Tokyo Tower.” Izuku hummed, a small smile pulling at his lips. “I want to see the Tokyo Tower.”

 

 

They got ice cream on the way back. Izuku ended up eating the both of them, because Stain launched him an unimpressed look over his cold mask when he came back with two cones.

 

“Right.” Izuku chuckled, sitting on the bench and demolishing both of them.

 

“You’ve been on a soup based diet for two days, you are going to make yourself sick.” Stain reprimanded with a little tired sigh.

 

The bandage under his hat itched, but Izuku forced himself to ignore it. “Worth it.” He replied with a shrug, savouring the cold treats.

 

“So, was the Tokyo Tower of your liking?” Stain asked, sarcastic, crossing his legs casually.

 

“Mmmmh— A little underwhelming.” Izuku admitted. “They always hype it so much— I mean, it was still pretty cool! But not as mind-blowing as I thought.”

 

Stain scoffed but added nothing, bobbing his foot propped on his knee. Izuku focused on the ice creams, although he admittedly was starting to feel rather full, so he trashed the cones with a little unhappy frown. He didn’t exactly liked to waste food, but not much he could do about that.

 

He leaned back against the bench, tilting his head up and relaxing— Just relaxing. He blinked, a small smile pulling at his lips as he stretched his arm up, pointing at the sky.

 

“That one looks like a bunny!”

 

He saw Stain stare at him out the corner of his eye.

 

“What?”

 

“Look, the cloud.” Izuku insisted, face pointed up. “It looks like a bunny. Those are the ears, and then there’s the the tail— See?”

 

“…All I see is a cloud.”

 

Izuku let out a little huffy laugh. “You have to use your imagination.”

 

“…Why?” Stain asked, utterly perplexed.

 

“That’s how it works!” Izuku replied, snickering. “Have you never played trying to see things into the clouds?”

 

“Can’t say I have.”

 

Dude.” Izuku huffed, incredulous. “That’s like, a staple of being human. C’mon, try.”

 

With a sigh Stain turned his eyes up at the sky. A long minute of silence went by, before he said, flat. “It’s just… Clouds.”

 

“Try a little harder— That one, looks a bit like a train, right? It even has the little puffs of smoke—“ Izuku replied, pointing vaguely. Stain squinted, tilting his head on a side.

 

“…I guess I see it a bit, now.” He admitted, vague.

 

Izuku smiled to himself as he kept pointing at the clouds shifting in the sky, trying to coax something out of his grumpy companion. He only half-succeeded, but he decided to take this little victory. -or at least, that’s how it felt in his mind-

 

“The sun will set soon. Can we go back, now?”

 

Stain was starting to look rather jittery, which was pretty understandable. Izuku gave in. He wasn’t going to push too far, when he already got so much.

 

The walk back was silent, but— Relaxed. Izuku looked down at his feet as they walked, the silence fishing up thoughts and questions from the back of his mind. Not having any distraction, as usual, just ended up biting him in the butt.

 

Did he take the right decision? Stain gave him another way out— Should he have taken it?

 

They hadn’t cleared their fight at all, either. If Izuku could even define it a fight. It just all happened to fast, and it stung so much in him, but he wasn’t sure bringing it all up was a good idea— Maybe he should just let it go.

 

Still, he wondered… Did Stain… Care? Izuku just couldn’t figure him out— One day he yelled at him, trying to chase him away, the other he spent every waking hour nursing Izuku back to health—

 

He accepted to go out in the daylight and take a stroll in a highly crowded area just so Izuku could see the Tokyo Tower and eat ice cream—

 

He just didn’t make any sense.

 

Maybe you should just— Stop trying to make sense of him, and accept him as he comes. Izuku thought, peering up and staring at the back of Stain’s head, covered by the familiar hat. You’re both kind of seriously fucked up— But at least he understands.

 

Yeah—

 

At least, he understands.

 

Chapter Text

—Chapter 7—

Not your kind of people

 

 

 

 

 

 

“So, your first month in school must’ve been quite the busy time! I saw you at the sports festival— You did well.”

 

Katsuki shifted the stress ball in his hands. It was starting to rip open— He’d need another one soon.

 

“Why don’t you tell me how school is going? Are you connecting with your classmates?”

 

Dr. Okimura was a no-nonsense woman. Katsuki definitely appreciated that— It took them a few attempts to find the right therapist, but she immediately clicked, luckily.

 

“It’s going— Well.” He replied, slowly. “It’s pretty cool. I’m learning a lot, and the class is— Nice, if a bit loud. There are a lot of chatterboxes. I can’t say I have connected with any of them, though—”

 

She chuckled, amused. “Well, it has only been a month— There’s still time. If you find yourself troubled in trying to relate with your peers, just remember the exercises we went through.”

 

Katsuki nodded, shifting the stress ball in his hands again. “If I can say—“

 

“Yes?”

 

“I don’t think— I did particularly well, at the festival.”

 

“Why not? You’ve placed first in the obstacle race and second at the cavalry battle and tournament— That is a good result!”

 

Katsuki shook his head. “I know— But I’m still frustrated with myself. I feel like I could’ve done more.”

 

Dr. Okimura hummed, tapping her pen on her notebook. “I see. Well, it’s ok to feel a bit frustrated at times— Has it been bothering you? Interfering with your daily life?”

 

“Maybe. I don’t know.” Katsuki sighed, scratching his head. “It’s not— Like it was before. It doesn’t cloud all my thoughts and make me get tunnel-vision— But it still creeps up on me, at times.”

 

“I think it’s good for you, to accept the frustration, as long as it doesn’t brings back up the excessive rage— A bit of frustration and desire for self-improvement it’s ok.” She took a candy out of the usual basket, unwrapping it and popping it in her mouth. “If it starts to really bother you— You can always give me a call, we can book an extra session.”

 

“I don’t think it will be needed, but I’ll keep it in mind.” Katsuki replied, softly. He already felt a bit lighter, admitting those feelings to her.

 

“Good. Now, your mother has told me you’ve been getting nightmares, lately— Do you want to talk about it?”

 

Katsuki stopped, fingers tight around the stress ball. Dr. Okimura waited, patiently silent, pushing the basket of candies toward him.

 

He leaned in, taking one blindly and launching it in his mouth, depositing the stress ball in his lap to distractedly fidget with the wrapper.

 

“It’s— They started again after what happened at the U.S.J.” He finally started, voice low. “Some of my classmates got hurt— Just superficial wounds, but—“

 

“Brought up memories?” Dr. Okimura asked softly when he trailed off. He nodded.

 

“It’s— It’s not like I’ve been able to stop thinking about it every single day— But it was starting to feel less painful— But now it’s just— Back.”

 

“The same nightmare? The one were you accidentally kill him?”

 

“I don’t accidentally kill him, I do it voluntarily—“

 

“It’s just a nightmare, Katsuki.” She interrupted, gentle.

 

He stopped. Took a deep breath, counted up to ten, then continued.

 

“Anyway— Yes, it’s that nightmare.”

 

“I see— I suppose that are no news from that front, huh.”

 

“No.” Katsuki murmured. The candy wrap was a tiny ball between his thumb and middle finger so he threw it in the trash, picking back up his stress ball. “Police still searching for a body. Miss Midoriya is still gone god knows where—“

 

Dr. Okimura sighed. “Katsuki, I told you, you need to close that chapter of your life— I understand that without a proper closure it’s very difficult. But you need to move forward. You don’t need a funeral or a tombstone in order to grieve.”

 

“I just— I can’t just close it like that.” Katsuki replied, frustrated. “I don’t want to forget—“

 

“You don’t have to forget. But you need to let yourself grieve.”

 

“I don’t know how!“ He snapped, squeezing the stress ball.

 

Dr. Okimura gave him some seconds. He composed himself back, before speaking again.

 

“Sorry. But— I really don’t know how.”

 

“If you wish, you could offer some prayers— Maybe make a little personal altar?” She offered, pensive. “Or, if that’s too strange or depressing for you— You could write some letters.”

 

“Letters?” Katsuki replied, confused. “But— He’s dead.”

 

She smiled gently, crossing her fingers.

 

“Yes. But you can still offer words, can’t you?” She replied, soft. “You need to let those feelings out, Katsuki. I know it’s a very touchy subject for you, and you won’t need to show me nor anyone else— But writing to him, letting your feelings out, could be a good outlet for you. You’ve already shown a disposition for writing exercises, after all.”

 

Katsuki didn’t reply, eyes pointed down at his lap as he squeezed the stress ball.

 

“Think about it— As I said, you won’t need to show me, nor anyone else. But think about it.”

 

Katsuki nodded, silent, and she mercilessly shifted the subject away. The rest of the session went on on far safer topic as they spoke a bit of his school lessons and some of his classmates, of how his parents were doing after the divorce—

 

But as he got out the building, he fell silent. Pensive.

 

Letters…

 

“Hey, little champ.” Mom said once he climbed in the passenger seat and secured the safety belt on. “How was your day?”

 

Katsuki shrugged, wordless. She examined him for a few seconds, before a small, melancholic smile rose to her face.

 

“One of those days, huh.” She said, gentle, carding a hand through his hair. “It’s ok. I’m going to make curry for dinner, really spicy, what do you think?”

 

Katsuki nodded his appreciation before turning toward the window. She silently started the car, the radio playing softly to give them background noise.

 

Once home Katsuki went straight upstairs to his room, softly closing the door behind himself. He sat at his desk, ripped a page off a random notebook, grabbed a pen and then stared at the thin lines on the white page.

 

How to even start a letter?

 

He tapped the pen on the desk, nervously.

 

You are overthinking it. Put that pen down and write something

 

He put the pen down. Hesitated long enough to let a dot of ink widen on the pristine white sheet of paper.

 

He sighed, looking down at the dot. Irritated by the sight of it, he turned the sheet of paper on the other side, and put the pen down again.

 

I’m sorry.

 

He stared at the signs shaping those words, silent. Then immediately continued writing.

 

When the page wasn’t white anymore, but filled to the brim with the words ‘I’m sorry.’ he put the pen down, stood and moved to the bed, falling on it belly up. He grabbed his pillow and pushed it against his face until he could just barely breathe.

 

He didn’t move until mom knocked on the door, asking him if he wanted to eat now or later. He got up, after taking a deep breath, and glanced at the sheet of paper still sitting on his desk. For a moment he was tempted to crumble it in a ball and toss it away—

 

He gently slid it back in a notebook and put it in a drawer, then got out of his room to join mom for dinner.

 

 

 

Inko closed the door of her tiny apartment and then launched her suitcase on the floor, enraged. It opened with a violent thud, spilling the content all over the floor. She pushed her hands closed in a fast against he burning eyes, taking a series of deep breaths.

 

The last three days have been— Frustrating, to say the least. Izuku didn’t make a single appearance anywhere in the city. She spent the last few nights wandering, hoping to stumble into him, praying to be given a chance, a single one, to speak with him—

 

But no new sighting was made, no reports, nothing— The worry was eating her away on the inside, metaphorically and literally. She could feel her stomach ulcers flaring up again.

 

God, what if Izuku and that— Man moved out the city? Or what if he was hurt? Or worse

 

She chased the thought away fiercely. No, Izuku was alive, she knew it. And she would find him before anything really bad happened to him.

 

With a deep sigh she moved her hands away from her eyes and knelt by the mess on the floor, collecting everything and putting it back into the suitcase.

 

The first ray of sun started to timidly peek out from her window. Another unsuccessful night—

 

She needed to sleep, at least a few hours. She rapidly prepared a cup of instant ramen, just to put some food in her system, before rolling out the futon and lying on it, eyes heavy.

 

But despite how tired she was— Sleep just seemed to elude her. It was nothing new, she had long gotten used to the long hours spent in bed hoping to finally slide down in the gentle arms of unconsciousness, to no avail.

 

She patted on her side, finding the suitcase and popping it open, taking out her wallet. She slid the picture out of it, white lines creased in the paper for how many times she folded and un-folded it.

 

In the picture, both she and Izuku were laughing, hugging one another—She couldn’t even remember what they were laughing about, just the sound of his voice—

 

One of the last pictures she had where Izuku had been genuinely happy. Soon after that he started getting more quiet, smiling much less—

 

Tears rose to her eyes, and she let them fall freely as she traced the lines of Izuku’s cheek in the picture with a fingertip.

 

What happened to you? She asked to no one. What made you finally snap? Why didn’t you tell me? Oh, Izuku, I have so many things I want to tell you— I want to tell you how much I miss you, how important you are— I want to apologize for having failed you so terribly— I want to hug you tight again, hear the sound of your voice— I wonder if you have grown in these months? A boy your age— You must have. Maybe you became taller, your features became more sharp— Maybe your voice changed a bit, too.

 

Do you miss me? Do you ever wish you could come home? Are there things you want to tell me? I can’t live with these questions anymore— I just want you back with me, honey—

 

Are you scared, out there? What did that man do to you, to convince you to go with him? Whatever it is, I’m sure we can solve it— Just come back to us, dear, it’s all you have to do—

 

With a deep, trembly sigh she dried the tears away from her cheeks, before closing the picture near her mouth, putting a little kiss on it.

 

“I will find you.” She murmured, slowly. “I will find you. Everything will be ok. I promise, dear.”

 

She fell asleep, dark and restless dreams plaguing her mind.

 

 

The night seemed to go by uneventful again, like the five that preceded it.

 

Shouto was at his wits’ end. He knew this week was going to be bad, but he didn’t imagine how low his damn old man could possibly stoop to.

 

Shouto kept following, silent, pretty much tuning Endeavor out. He just kept going and going.

 

Anger was boiling permanently in Shouto’s stomach, unstoppable and endless. Endeavor apparently couldn’t be happy with the fact that Shouto placed first both during the cavalry battle and the tournament— No, he had to constantly berate him because he still upheld his promise to never use his fire side.

 

He continuously turned deaf to Shouto’s replies, just repeating himself over and over. Shouto had been more than clear with him, told him in no kind terms what he thought of him and the power he oh-so-kindly passed onto Shouto—

 

He sighed, dragging a hand on his face. Two more days, and this hell would come to a stop. Just two more days. They were nothing, really. He had to endure— He still had his own plans to follow, Endeavor or no Endeavor.

 

“Shouto.” The usual voice snapped, flat. “You’re not paying attention.”

 

Shouto looked up, unimpressed.

 

“Really? Who would’ve thought.” He deadpanned, just as flat. “It’s almost as if people might decide not to listen anymore when you tell them the same things over and over, strangely enough—“

 

Endeavor stopped and turned, and Shouto had to abruptly stop too, in order not to bump in his chest. He looked up, meeting the familiar, enraged azure eyes.

 

“Maybe if you’d listen—“ He hissed. “I wouldn’t need to waste my time repeating myself.”

 

“Maybe if you’d listen I wouldn’t have to waste time repeating myself!” Shouto snapped back, annoyed.

 

They stared at one another in the deserted street, stubborn. Shouto tensed when suddenly the big, scorching hot hand closed in a iron grasp around his wrist. Endeavor dragged him off the main road, in a small alley.

 

“Hey!” Shouto tried to protest, pulling back. But it meant nothing against his father’s overwhelming strength. Shouto stumbled forward and barely managed not to lose his balance when Endeavor launched him deeper into the alley.

 

“I’ve had it with you and your attitude.” Endeavor hissed, looming over Shouto as the orange flames flared around him, making high shadows dance in the small space of the alley. “You’ve been nothing but a waste of time the entire week, acting like a spoiled brat—“

 

Shouto didn’t move, suddenly frozen on the spot. There were varying levels of anger his father’s voice could reach, and he was intimately knowledgeable of them all—

 

This one? Meant no good.

 

“Now, I’m going to give you a minute to clear your head, and once we’ll go back out there, you will start to act properly.” Endeavor continued. “Why would I have wasted my one nomination on you, otherwise, huh? Maybe I should’ve asked for that other boy, Bakugou, or whatever was it—“

 

“Maybe you should have.” Shouto snapped back, unable to keep his mouth shut. “Maybe you shouldn’t have intimidated every single hero office in the country to tell me they changed their mind and couldn’t accept me for the week, giving me no other choice but to come to you.”

 

The slap snapped sharply in the hair. Shouto stumbled sideways under the force of the hit, hitting his shoulder against cement painfully.

 

“You ungrateful brat—“ Endeavor hissed, furious, looming even more. “Do you know how many students in your school would kill for a chance like this? And here you are, throwing accusations back in my face—“

 

Shouto didn’t have the time to answer, even if he opened his mouth.

 

“Hey!” Someone yelled from the entrance of the alley. “Stop it!”

 

Endeavor turned around like a lion that just saw a zebra, but whoever it was, they didn’t move at all, apparently unfazed.

 

“What?”

 

“You heard me—“ The person replied, taking some steps forward, coming into the light of the fire. Shouto blinked.

 

His voice and size— He must be around Shouto’s age. The boy was wearing an extremely baggy hoodie and a bandana around his neck covering his nose and mouth. He had a dark blue hat as well, that looked like it was sewn back shut on a side. He wore it so low his face was pretty much not visible.

 

“What the hell is wrong with you?” The boy said, putting his hands on his waist.

 

“Wha— Do you know who I am, kid?” Endeavor replied, flabbergasted.

 

“Yeah.” The boy replied, promptly. “Endeavor, the flame hero, number two in the rankings since pretty much forever— I knew you weren’t the most approachable of heroes, but man, I never imagine you’d be such a jerk.”

 

The flames flared even more, rendering the air around Endeavor suffocating.

 

“Don’t give me that face.” The boy continued, impassible. “You were yelling and hitting your own son in a dark alley, looming over him menacingly— What makes you think that’s ok?”

 

“It’s none of your business how I decide to raise my son—“ Endeavor replied, growling. “Now get lost, kid. Scram.”

 

“You made it my business when you decided to do that where anyone could see you, you jerk.” The boy replied, starting to sound angry. “Stop treating him like that!”

 

Shouto was just gaping, wordlessly. No one—

 

No one ever jumped in his defense like this, before.

 

He wanted to yell at the boy to leave it be, run, before he made Endeavor even more pissed off— But his voice simply wouldn’t work.

 

Endeavor turned, facing the boy, taking some steps forward.

 

“Who are you?” He asked, furious.

 

“No one.” The boy replied with a shrug.

 

Endeavor went suddenly still as a statue. He only moved his head slightly, as if he was examining the boy from head to toe.

 

“…What an interesting response.” He said, slowly. “I’ve been warned— About a vigilante active in this city. About your height, probably very young— The people in the streets call him No One.”

 

The boy went possibly even more still than Endeavor did.

 

“What are you doing butting your nose in other people’s business in the middle of the night, kid? In a deserted street?” Endeavor continued, flat. “And why cover your face like that, I wonder?”

 

It happened in the matter of a blink. Fast as a lighting bolt, the boy opened his hoodie, revealing a holster secured on his chest.

 

Shouto saw a flash of metal and then his father releasing a grunt of pain. The boy bolted, surprisingly fast, and Shouto looked down at the sight of sudden red on his father’s leg, where a wound suddenly opened, blood rapidly dripping down.

 

“Shouto! Follow me!” Endeavor ordered, furious, dashing after the boy. Shouto followed, eyes wide and words dying in his throat. They looked around once back in the main street. Suddenly, Endeavor rose an arm, fire erupting from it, directed upward. Shouto followed with his eyes, noticing the boy that was scaling the building agile like a cat— That was until the fire licked at him, making him jump and lose his grip, falling backwards. Heart shooting in his throat, Shouto rose his ice to guide the boy’s fall to the ground, letting him slide down.

 

“Are you insane?!” He finally managed to croak out. “He could’ve broken his neck!”

 

“He’s a vigilante, and he attacked first—“ Endeavor snapped back, furious.

 

“He’s just a kid! Like me!” Shouto screamed back, tears prickling in his eyes. The boy was attempting to stand back, now, trembling on his legs. He was keeping a hand on his left side, as if clutching a wound, even if there were no obvious signs of one.

 

“He’s a criminal!” Endeavor roared, flames flaring on his arm. “If you can’t properly do your job, then stand back!”

 

“NO!” Shouto screamed, and a wall of ice rose in front of the boy, stopping the onslaught of flames just in the nick of time. “Stop! You’re going too far! That would’ve burned him to a crisp—“

 

He met his father’s eyes, a hiccup hitching in his throat in fear. Endeavor seemed mad with rage, looking like words simply weren’t making sense for him anymore.

 

“Run!” Shouto yelled at the boy, that was standing there, frozen, a puddle of melted ice under his feet. “He won’t listen to reason! Run, now!”

 

Endeavor fully turned toward him, snarling. “Are you helping him?!” He yelled, furious, raising an arm—

 

The boy didn’t run. The boy released a furious roar, like an angry, cornered animal. Incredibly agile once more, he was onto them in a second, Endeavor turning toward him as his hand was just an centimetre away from Shouto’s face—

 

He screamed in pain when the blade connect with his face vertically, opening a deep gash running down from his forehead to his chin, cutting right in the middle of his eye. Endeavor doubled over with a roar of pain, clutching his face as blood run through his fingers.

 

The boy didn’t waste time, grabbing Shouto’s wrist with his free hand, the other clutching a now blood-stained wakizashi. He ran, dragging a silent, shocked Shouto with him, pulling him in another alley, pushing him through an impossibly thin space between two buildings. They were squeezed together in the complete dark, and Shouto could feel the boy’s heavy breathing against his neck even through the bandana covering his mouth.

 

Another scream, and then Endeavor started to yell after him. Shouto couldn’t help but release a small whimper, and the boy immediately pushed a hand on his mouth, pressing down.

 

Sssh—“ He hissed, before falling silent himself. They stayed there, pressed together in the dark, as Endeavor called after Shouto again, utterly furious— They saw the orange light reflect in the alley, but then it moved away, and with it, Endeavor’s voice.

 

They didn’t move for what felt like an eternity. Finally, the boy took the hand away from Shouto’s mouth, and then gently pushed him back. Shouto slid out first, the boy following rapidly, the both of them catching their breath for a few seconds.

 

“…Are you ok?” The boy asked, concerned.

 

“Am I ok—“ Shouto squeaked, voice scratching in his throat painfully. His eyes darted to the blade he had in hand. “You— I—“

 

Silent, the boy opened his hoodie once more, sliding the wakizashi back in the sheath with a soft click.

 

“You—“ Shouto tried again, and failed.

 

“He was going to kill you—“ The boy uttered into the silence, low. “I saw it into his eyes— Or, if he didn’t kill you, he would’ve hurt you horribly. I— I couldn’t just stand there and do nothing.”

 

“Why do you have a wakizashi—“ Shouto managed to croak out, voice high.

 

“The streets at night are dangerous.” The boy replied, almost sardonic. “Dude. You need to go to the police right away.” He then added, serious.

 

“Wha—“

 

“I mean it.” The boy interrupted, the concern back in his voice. “That— Is that how your father usually treats you?”

 

Speechless, Shouto nodded.

 

“That’s horrible—“ The boy replied with genuine sympathy in his voice. “That’s— That’s illegal! You need to go to the police and tell them everything—“

 

“I can’t—“ Shouto sobbed, feeling his eyes burn again. “Nothing would change—“

 

“No. Listen, ok? There are good people out there that will help you—“ The boy replied with passion. “I know of a place— There’s a police station in particular where a pro-hero is working right now— His name is Ingenium. He’s a good person, ok? He will listen to you. I can bring you there right now—“

 

Shouto felt his head heavy, like it was full of cotton. He looked at the boy, and could only see a bit of his eyes under the brim of his hat—

 

They were green.

 

“It’ll be ok.” The boy said, gentle, taking Shouto’s wrist once more. “I promise they will listen to you. Let’s go.”

 

Shouto let himself get guided, silent. The boy moved with ease in the dark, avoiding the main streets, with the gait of someone who knew exactly where they were going.

 

“Are you… Really a vigilante?” Shouto asked after a while, voice raw.

 

The boy didn’t reply.

 

“What’s your name?”

 

“I don’t have one.” The boy said after a beat. His voice sounded sad, like he truly believed what he just said. “Here, it’s just to the right once you’ll get out this alley. Tell them you need to speak with Ingenium, tell them No One sent you. Don’t speak with anyone but Ingenium, ok? And tell him the truth. He will help.”

 

“Wha— What does that mean?” Shouto replied, lost.

 

“Don’t worry about it.” The boy said, gentle. “Just tell them that. They will know.”

 

He let Shouto’s wrist go, standing expectantly in front of him.

 

He was a bit shorter than him, Shouto noticed, blinking.

 

“Go.” The boy whispered. “And— Todoroki.” He added, after a second, indecisive. “I saw you at the sports festival— You are really strong, but you could be even more strong if you allowed yourself to use your full potential. What you have— It’s not your father’s quirk, ok? It’s yours. No one else’s. There are people— There are people out there that would kill to have even a sliver of your strength. Don’t throw away your chances like this.”

 

And with that, he turned, disappearing into the dark.

 

 

 

Tensei was just about to finally close shop for the night, tired and sore, when an agent entered without even knocking. He looked pale, eyes wide, and he gaped wordlessly. He made a vague gesture with his hands, and then after him came a boy.

 

It took Tensei a second to recognize him. Shouto Todoroki looked pale as a ghost, eyes vaguely wet, a disoriented expression on his face.

 

“Huh—“ He said, voice raw. “I— I was told to speak with you— A boy told me to tell you that No One sent me?”

 

Tensei let his phone, that he was just about to pocket, drop on the desk with a loud thud, mouth hanging open.

 

“Excuse me?”

 

“He— I couldn’t see his face but, huh— He was covering it with a hat and a bandana— And— Well, he had a wakizashi with him. And he told me to tell you that.” Todoroki continued, blinking. “I— Can we please speak privately?”

 

“YES!” Tensei pretty much shouted, rushing around his desk to free a chair for Todoroki to sit. He nodded at the agent, that silently retreated, closing the door on his back.

 

Todoroki sat down, tense. He immediately squirmed, clearly uncomfortable, hands in fists sitting in his lap.

 

“What happened? Why did he tell you that? How did you meet him? What did he had to say?” Tensei asked, unable to contain himself. Todoroki looked up at him utterly confused and lost, and Tensei forced himself to calm down, clear his throat, take a deep breath.

 

“I’m sorry.” He apologized, voice lower. “I’ve been working on this case for a while, now, and I’m a bit frustrated. I’m Tensei Iida, hero name Ingenium. And you are Shouto Todoroki, of course. You are in class with my younger brother, he has told me much about you.”

 

Still looking uncomfortable, the boy accepted his hand, shaking it.

 

“Now, please, tell me anything you can about No One— We need all the info possible—“

 

“I—“ Todoroki said, eyes darting around the room. “I— To be honest, I don’t have a lot of informations— But— That boy he— He saved my life, tonight.”

 

Tensei froze, staring.

 

“He— He told me to come here, and speak with you. Specifically you. He told me to say that, about the fact that No One sent me— So I could speak with you immediately.” Todoroki continued, looking up at Tensei with a deep frown, eyes watery. “He told me— You would help.”

 

“Help— With what?” Tensei asked, voice soft and careful.

 

Todoroki didn’t speak for long seconds, tears collecting in his eyes. But they didn’t spill, as he released small, broken sob.

 

When he started to speak again, Tensei was forced to take his chair and sit down, silent.

 

That night— Turned to be a really long night.

 

Chapter Text

—Chapter 8—

Stand by me

 

 

 

 

“…This is all we can say about the case.” Ingenium’s voice came through the tiny tv, vaguely distorted. Dead serious. “We please ask you to respect the family. It is a difficult time for them, much more than it is for all of us. We won’t be answering any questions.”

 

A roar of disappointment erupted from the crowd of reporters, but Ingenium moved down and away from the microphone, ignoring it. Police officers started to herd them away, and the camera cut to a young woman outside, holding a microphone.

 

“So, that was Ingenium’s statement— It must surely be a tense time for him, as the current head of the Iida family—“ She commented, looking into the camera as the crowd of reporters started to pour outside from the doors behind her. “There is certainly a common sentiment of disappointment at Ingenium’s refusal to give any statement regarding the rumours that indicate that the vigilante, currently known as No One, as being involved in the scandal that hit the now ex number-two hero, Endeavor, and his family—“

 

A series of blurry pictures of the kid appeared on the screen, as she kept talking. “No One has certainly grown to be quite the talk in the streets of Tokyo and on internet forums, with his activities in the past few months. With many supporters on his side, very believable rumours imply that the vigilante might’ve been responsible for bringing Endeavor’s abusive tendencies to the light, on top of causing the wound that now permanently scars the ex number-two’s face during a scuffle in the middle of the streets of Tokyo, two weeks ago—“

 

Chizome turned the tv off with a groan, massaging his eyes tiredly. His vague hopes that the whole affair would die down on it’s own were just being squashed with every each day that went by.

 

He pretty much had a heart attack, when the kid came back home from what should’ve been just a walk (“I won’t get myself in trouble, I promise! I know I’m still recovering, but I’m going insane, in here—“) telling him that, whoops, I might’ve slashed Endeavor’s face open and urged his son to go to the man that’s been hunting the both of us down relentlessly in the past months and tell him what a piece of shit Endeavor truly is.

 

(He was not proud of the kid, he was not. Besides, he should’ve plunged the damn wakizashi into Endeavor’s heart, that guy was a piece of shit of the worst kind.)

 

Needless to say Chizome hadn’t been amused in the slightest by that, scolding the brat for his recklessness, and promising him he’d find a proper punishment for being so damn stupid in the days to follow— In the meantime, they laid low for another week, giving the kid time to finally heal enough that Chizome could take the stitches out of his wounds. They both scarred pretty ugly, jarring lines in his skin. Still, the kid’s hair was growing like a bush, and it probably would soon cover the one rising up from his left temple well enough.

 

The first night they went out again to finally stretch their limbs with a little patrol, chaos exploded. Rumors got out there, that Endeavor was now being arrested on a series of charges— And that the person responsible for this was No One.

 

It definitely was a surprise, coming back to their apartment before the first light of day could even peek out, turning on the little tv and finding out the absolute chaos

 

Chizome highly doubted the rumor of the kid’s involvement was released voluntarily. Ingenium looked absolutely, royally pissed during that second week, every time some reporter would try to approach him for a statement. It was clear that the whole affair was meant to be kept on the down-low, but somehow, the voices got out. The already interested following that the kid collected became even wider, theories and ideas travelling wildly on the internet. Chizome was almost amused by those, reading the absolutely crazy theories about who No One could be, why he did the things he did, and why he was seen so many times with the hero killer.

 

The fact that they obviously worked together truly split the interested fanbase in half. On one hand, there were those that applauded No One’s decision to work side by side with a figure as controversial as Chizome, citing the fact that the two of them together might truly be able to shaken the core of the hero system— And on the other, there were those that condemned Chizome’s actions without exception, wondering why someone as clearly well intentioned as No One was would work side by side with a serial killer.

 

The whole affair was starting to blow out of proportion, and Chizome felt a bit more suffocated every single day. Ingenium was on the war path, his desperate searches becoming increasingly more aggressive and desperate every night— Villains who had a bone to pick with Chizome were also out there, trying to hunt them down, though they had much less positive intentions than Ingenium and his team. Eyes on the streets were always searching for them, and both he and the kid truly had to amp up the stealth lately, in order to attract even less attention than usual.

 

A circle was rapidly tightening around them, and the kid— The kid was as reckless as ever, collecting more wounds on him, small or big, superficial or deep— It didn’t matter to him, nothing did, and he kept trudging forward stubbornly, night after night.

 

He had been turning more and more brazen lately, losing that dark light in his eyes, gaining a new one, burning with determination.

 

The kid looked like he was starting to enjoy it.

 

Chizome dragged a hand on his face, slowly. He was plagued by this strange feeling in the depth of his stomach, that only kept growing as he watched over the kid launching himself into dangerous situations, again and again. Something undefinable, a sense of uneasiness, that nipped at the back of his mind endlessly.

 

The door opened, jumping him out of his musings. The kid entered with two big plastic bags full of groceries in his hands, a cold mask covering his features and the usual, dark blue hat on his head—

 

“Is— That an Ingenium jacket?” Chizome asked, flabbergasted.

 

The kid snickered, putting down the bags by the sink and starting to empty them. “There was a raffle just as I was paying for the groceries, so they gave me a number— And I won.” He opened the zipper down, revealing the wakizashi secured to his chest, as usual. “I changed in the bathrooms— It’s actually a good fit, don’t you think? It’s big enough, but very light, it’s perfect for the season, I was starting to cook myself in those hoodies—“

 

“You are unbelievable.” Chizome groaned, pushing the palm of his hands against his eyes. “Of all the things— An Ingenium jacket.”

 

“It’s not too bad! Actually, someone my age wearing hero merch makes sense, does it not? It’s a good disguise for the day.”

 

Chizome hated when the kid made sense. He grumbled something undefinable, making the brat snicker again as he finished putting away all the groceries. He took off his hat and mask, launching them on his mattress, and then made a stilted gesture, as if he wanted to scratch the scar on his head, but stopped himself right on time.

 

“You looked pretty grumpy when I got in— What’s up?” He asked, instead, pushing the offending hand in a pocket of his brand new, dashing jacket.

 

“Nothing. I was listening to the news. You’re still being named left and right.” Chizome replied, unamused. The kid hissed through his teeth, a guilty expression that wasn’t guilty at all rising to his face.

 

“I’m sure they’ll calm down soon enough.” He replied, unconvinced, with a little shrug.

 

Chizome wasn’t. But he kept silent, as the kid shed the jacket and picked up his weights, starting to do his usual routine of exercises.

 

 

 

“…Tell him we all miss him a lot.” Tenya finished, voice low. “You’ve given him the notes, right?”

 

“I did, Tenya.” Tensei replied, tired. “And I will. I’m sure he misses you all, too.”

 

Tenya hummed in the receiver, pensive, before adding. “Is it true what the news are saying? The fact that vigilante—“

 

“You know I can’t tell you.” Tensei interrupted, gentle. “I understand that you are curious, but I have to keep radio silence on this.”

 

“I know.” Tenya sighed. “It’s just— This whole situation is crazy—“

 

“Don’t tell me that—“ Tensei groaned, making him chuckle. A soft knock on the door, and then it opened. “Gotta go, little bro. Bye.”

 

“How is that kid doing?” Was the first thing Inko Midoriya asked, upon entering the office like she owned the place.

 

—Wasn’t too far from the truth.—

 

“As well as expected.” Tensei sighed, massaging his eyes after he put his phone down. There was a permanent headache that placed itself behind his left eye and hadn’t left in the past four days. “He’s pretty shaken, but he’s holding on. He’s brave.”

 

She hummed, a sincere expression of concern on her face. She’d been asking after Todoroki ever since the whole scandal exploded, clearly worried for him. Tensei gave her as many bits and pieces as he could, and she would take any info in with honest interest.

 

He guessed this poor woman’s motherly instincts needed to go somewhere.

 

“Those cookies you made— He said he liked them.” Tensei added, a little lighter. Her eyes lit up.

 

“Oh! That’s good to know, I can definitely make more!” She immediately said, taking out a small notebook from her usual suitcase and writing down something. “I could try more flavours, maybe white chocolate chips—“

 

“…He’s been asking after No One, too.” Tensei said quietly, and her hand stopped mid-way on the paper. “He wishes he could help with the investigation. He’s very grateful for his intervention, now that things are fully set in motion—”

 

She sighed softly, closing the notebook, a melancholic expression emerging on her face. “I see.” A small, sad smile pulled at her lips. “Maybe Izuku finally has a real friend, then.”

 

Tensei hummed, non-committal. Finally, they set down at the desk, in front of one another, comparing notes as usual. But their work time was soon cut short, as another series of knocks came, and then an agent poked his head in, eyes wide.

 

“Huh, sir, we’ve got— A special visitor.” He said, indecisive. Tensei groaned, slapping both hands against his face.

 

“What, now?” He asked, exasperated. At this point he’d just expect anyone to walk through that door—

 

A big hand patted the agent’s shoulder, and then All Might entered, leaning down a bit as to don’t hit the door jamb with his forehead, wearing his signature mustard yellow suit.

 

Maybe not just anyone

 

Tensei shot up from his seat like a spring, eyes wide, as All Might, a grave expression on his face, held a palm up.

 

“Please, sit down.” He said, quietly. “I’m truly sorry for disturbing your work— But I’ve been granted some time off due to the strenuous circumstances, and I couldn’t help but immediately come here. I know you are currently handing the issue of young Todoroki’s— Family situation, Mr. Iida, and I was wondering if I could maybe visit the boy, speak with him a bit—“

 

“Of course—“ Tensei replied, voice low. He made a vague hand gesture toward the agent, that nodded and slipped out. “We are going to call a car to escort you right away.”

 

“Thank you very much— I understand that it is a delicate matter, and I don’t wish to trouble you. If there’s any way I can help—“ All Might said, almost indecisive, looking out of place in the chaotic office, a bit hunched in on himself.

 

“We’re handling it, for now, but if any need arises I would be glad to call you.” Tensei said with a little sigh. Having All Might on their side would certainly help. “For now— Please have a seat, while we wait for your ride.”

 

All Might was looking around curiously, now. Tensei knew how the office looked, and felt a bit self-conscious, but then All Might said, almost a whisper.

 

“So it’s true that you are handling the case of that vigilante that recently rose to popularity—“

 

Tensei groaned. “Don’t remind me— That was an information that wasn’t supposed to get out of here under any circumstance. We are currently holding an internal investigation to try determine who could be the leak—“ He muttered, massaging his forehead. All Might hummed, sympathetic.

 

“I understand. It’s certainly a thorny situation.” He said, gentle. “Can I help in any way?”

 

“I don’t think s—“

 

“Yes.” Inko Midoriya suddenly intervened, voice like steel.

 

She hadn’t spoke a single word ever since All Might stepped in the room, wide eyes pointed at him. All Might turned to her, almost surprised, like he hadn’t noticed her. She stood, Tensei making a vague gesture as if stopping her.

 

“Um—“ All Might said, looking down at the tiny woman now standing in front him, clearly confused.

 

“Ms. Midoriya—“ Tensei tried to say, but she held her palm up toward him.

 

“No, listen— My son idolized you above all else—“ She said, looking up at All Might with a light of desperation in her eyes. “If there’s someone that can convince him to come forward, it’s you.”

 

“Inko—“ Tensei tried again with a deep sigh, but she kept going.

 

“This is my son—“ She said, walking toward the white board and peeling away the picture of Izuku Midoriya sticked on it. “He’s fifteen years old— Months ago he disappeared. And I know that he is the vigilante called No One.” She walked back to All Might, giving him the picture with a vaguely shivering hand. “Please— I’m so worried for him— He’s been through so much, and he’s only trying to do what he thinks must be right— Please, if you could release a statement, inviting him to come forward— Maybe he—“

 

All Might accepted the picture, careful. He visibly went tense as he looked down at the picture, fingers tightening on it.

 

“What— What did you say your son’s name is?” He asked, slowly.

 

“I didn’t. He’s Izuku— Izuku Midoriya. He’s a good boy, he’s just being misled—“ Inko murmured, her eyes filling with tears. “He always wanted to be a hero more than anything else— But he doesn’t have a quirk. And I’m sure he must’ve been coerced in some way, to act the way he is— But he’s trying so hard to do the right thing, help people. We’ve been searching for him desperately, but he keeps escaping from us. If you could ask him— If you could ask No One to turn himself in, I’m sure he’d listen. He adores you so much—“

 

Tensei finally moved from the spot he froze to, a sting of pain in his chest. He closed the distance between them, put a gentle hand on Inko’s shoulder as she let out a little sob, drying the tears away from her eyes.

 

All Might was still staring at the picture.

 

“I— That is not a bad idea, but—“ Tensei tried to say, slowly. “You don’t— You are not obligated to get yourself involved, sir—“

 

Inko glared at him like a hawk, but she didn’t had the time to protest.

 

“No, I— I’d be glad to help.” All Might replied, his voice suddenly raw. “Please— Tell me more about him.”

 

 

The kid let his chopstick fall down, as he stared at tv, shocked.

 

“…We all just want to help you.” All Might continued, somber, standing high on the podium, the flashes of cameras going madly. “I know you have pure intentions, but the way you are acting is not right, and I’m sure you must be aware of it. Please, turn yourself in, now— You have so many people that want to support you and help you. I am one of them. Please, allow me to do what is right, and help you.”

 

And then, All Might bowed. He bowed.

 

Chizome stared at the tv with wide eyes, before slowly turning toward the kid. He was gritting his teeth, a furious expression on his face. Suddenly, he rose to his feet, closing the tiny distance between them and the small tv, grabbed it and smashed it on the ground with a furious roar.

 

He stood there, over the mess of plastic that once was their tv, panting heavily.

 

 

They all held their breaths for days, waiting, hoping—

 

But all they got in return were only more sightings No One, engaging in increasingly dangerous situations all over the damn city.

 

 

It smelled vaguely like ozone, when they stepped out the black mist in what looked like an empty bar.

 

No— Not empty. The strange, gas-like man was there, too, along with another man, tall and lanky, with stringy silver hair and what looked like hands hanging all over his body.

 

“Finally—“ The guy with the hands said, his voice scratchy. “You have no idea how hard it was to track you two down.”

 

Chizome tilted his head on a side, as the kid kept silent and close to his side, his face hidden by his usual vigilante attire.

 

“Your teleporter told us of your proposition— You want us to join your ranks?” He asked, slowly.

 

“That is right.” The man with the hands replied.

 

“You are part of the gang that raided UA…” Chizome said, tapping his fingers on his thigh. “Are you not? What exactly is your goal?”

 

“For starters, we kill All Might.” The man replied, tilting his head on a side. “And then we destroy everything we don’t like. Those brats from UA—“

 

Chizome stared at him, unimpressed, before a little scoff came out his mouth. “We shouldn’t have come. You’re the kind of person I hate the most.”

 

“…Excuse me?” The man with the hands asked, voice lowering.

 

“You heard me. There’s no point in bloodshed without an ideal— You’re just a brat throwing a tantrum.” Chizome replied, cold. “You must know of his work—“ He added, nodding toward the kid. “What made you think we would join you?”

 

The man with the hands sat straighter, leaning in menacingly—

 

“Sensei. Shouldn’t we stop this?” The fog-like man asked, slowly.

 

A voice from a screen propped by the wall answered back.

 

“That is quite alright.” The voice was deep, scratchy. “This is what education truly is about… To let him seek for answers himself, reflect on his shortcomings— Besides, I am sure Mr. Stain understands perfectly. After all, he’s got a young one of his own, that he’s teaching, too, isn’t he?”

 

Chizome did not reply, glaring at the screen. The man with the hands got on his feet—

 

It all happened in an instant. Chizome darted, drawing blood from the teleporter first and licking the small blade, immediately immobilising him against the counter of the bar. The man with the hands growled furiously, charging forward—

 

The kid moved instantly, too, as if they were an hive mind. He was behind the man with the hands, now, as he seemed to blindly focus on Chizome, and the kid was free to throw a small blade that grazed the guy’s shoulder deep enough to draw blood— Chizome caught it, licked it, and then sidestepped as he let the man with the hands tumble down and crush, paralyzed by his quirk.

 

“Son of a bitch— You’re so strong—“ The man with hands growled, face down on the floor. “That happened way too fast—“

 

A scratchy sigh came from the screen. “I’d appreciate it if you could let my disciple live.”

 

“I’d appreciate it if your disciple didn’t waste my goddamn time with this bullshit.” Chizome spat back. “His waste of his own powers just makes him another target in my mind. He really should’ve thought this through, before summoning me here.”

 

“As I said, he needed to learn.” The man from the screen replied. “I’m sure it will be a formative experience, for him. I personally apologize for the waste of you and your young pupil’s time, Mr. Stain. If you could let Kurogiri go, he will be happy to escort you back from where you came from, no harm no foul.”

 

Chizome turned vaguely toward the kid, that nodded minutely. They regrouped, the kid taking his knife back and putting it away, as they stepped behind the counter, by Kurogiri’s side.

 

Chizome released the effect of his quirk on him, and the mist man, Kurogiri, released a little trembly breath. He silently opened another portal, and they stepped in.

 

They popped on the other side, exactly from the rooftop where Kurogiri first appeared, gently inviting them.

 

“Thank you for your time.” He said, now, perfectly polite. “We will not bother you anymore.”

 

“See to that.” Chizome replied, cold.

 

 

 

Izuku woke at the usual time. He did not waste a second, getting up from his mattress to go fiddle around the stove and prepare dinner before they’d go out for the night.

 

Stain was sitting by the window, looking outside, silent. He’d never been exactly talkative— But in the past few days he’d been even less so, often falling into long silent spells, his expression far, like he wasn’t really there.

 

Izuku wasn’t privy to his thoughts— He’s never been. Stain was a private person and, aside from his convictions that he was ready to declare at any possible occasion, there wasn’t much else he would say, regarding himself. It worked out for them— They lived in the present, day by day, not in the past.

 

There was really not much to talk about.

 

When Izuku put their simple meal on the table, Stain finally got away from the window, sitting at the tiny table.

 

“I actually have some business, tonight.” He suddenly said, flat, after gulping down a bite of rice. “And since I still have that punishment pending—“

 

Izuku groaned.

 

“No, shut up.” Stain grumbled, pointing at him with his chopsticks, squinting.

 

“That was ages ago—“ Izuku tried to protest. “Can’t you just let it go?”

 

“No, because you’re an insolent brat that never learns.” Stain continued, unamused. “We are going to take it easy, tonight. Let the rumor mill calm down for a day. I have some business to discuss, and you are going to come with me and listen. Learn.”

 

“Learn what?” Izuku asked, sighing.

 

“Diplomacy.” Stain promptly replied. “And since it’s a punishment and I want you to actually don’t be a stubborn idiot, you are going unarmed.”

 

“What?!” Izuku exclaimed, eyes going wide. “Dude—“

 

“That’s my decision. Now shut up and eat.”

 

Pouting, Izuku obeyed. They rapidly ate and put the dishes away in the sink to be cleaned later, and then proceeded to change in their night-attire, a well oiled machine.

 

True to his promise, Stain took away his wakizashi and knives, leaving them in a neat little pile by Izuku’s mattress.

 

Then he put his palm forward.

 

“What?” Izuku grumbled, annoyed.

 

“When I say unarmed, I mean unarmed.” Stain replied, flat.

 

Huffing, Izuku slid out the blade secured in his boot—

 

“The other one, too.”

 

He obeyed, increasingly irritated. Fully devoid of any weapon, Izuku crossed his arms.

 

“There. I hope someone turns to me into sashimi, so you will regret leaving me defenseless.”

 

Stain rolled his eyes. “Don’t be dramatic, idiot. I won’t leave you without weapons, if I didn’t knew it’d be a safe situation. Nothing is going to happen, you will just have to listen.”

 

Izuku was annoyed, but there wasn’t much he could do. He guessed that, as a punishment, it was working pretty well.

 

Stain guided him, and he followed, silent. A routine for the both of them, at this point, jumping from roof to roof, moving into the dark— It took them almost forty minute before they finally stopped.

 

They were at the outskirts of the city, in a pretty shady neighbourhood. Most buildings were empty and dilapidated. Stain guided him in a little dark alley, with a view to an old, overgrown park.

 

“Stay here, the meeting’s a bit further. You will have a good point of observation from here.” He murmured, voice low. “Don’t move for any reason, unless I tell you to, got it?”

 

Izuku hummed, vague, eyes scanning the area. It seemed completely empty—

 

“Izuku.”

 

He jumped, surprised, turning his wide eyes on Stain. He had a deeply serious expression on his face, red eyes unreadable under his mask.

 

“…What?” Izuku asked, when the silence stretched.

 

“Nothing.” Stain murmured, giving him a stiff head pat. “Be good, ok?”

 

Izuku frowned, perplexed, but before he could ask what he meant, Stain already turned and walked away. He stayed still in the dark, peeking out as he watched his mentor walk to the middle of the little round plaza in the park. He watched, eyes going wide as Stain slowly started to took all his knives off of himself and deposit them down at his feet. The katana was the last to go. He detached it from his back, slowly, and just as slowly he leaned down and put it on the ground as well.

 

What… Is he doing? Izuku couldn’t help but ask himself, confused, fingers tight on the wall he was hanging onto as he peered from the dark.

 

It happened too fast for him to even react. Suddenly, something rubbery got him, tying him up tight. Izuku made a strangled noise of surprise and uselessly tried to squirm away, as more of the rubbery substance stretched upward along his body, imprisoning him even more.

 

A deafening whistle echoed in the dark from right behind Izuku, and suddenly, as if coming out of nothing, heroes and police officers appeared around the little plaza, a circle around Stain.

 

Izuku watched, gaping wordlessly and eyes impossibly wide, as Ingenium stepped forward, closer to Stain.

 

“Away from the weapons, raise your arms.” Ingenium ordered, almost softly. Stain obeyed without a word, face downward, raising his arms palms forward, and stepped over the little pile of blades to walk closer to Ingenium.

 

“Your wrists.” Ingenium said, and Stain slowly offered his arms, letting the hero cuff him in the heavy suppressing cuffs.

 

Finally, Izuku understood. Air came to lack for a second—

 

He’s turning himself in— He’s turning me in— He’s doing it voluntarily, he didn’t tell me anything—

 

“WHY?!” Izuku screamed, furious, betrayed. He squirmed more violently against the restraint around him, trying to step forward. “WHY?! WHY?! WHY?!”

 

“Boy, please—“ A female voice came from behind him, softly. “Everything is ok. You’re safe, now, you don’t have to fight anymore. We will bring you home—“

 

“WHY?!” Izuku screamed again, voice burning in his throat, a roar so loud it shook everyone present to the core— But he couldn’t see that, his eyes full of tears, his sight unfocused and watery. “WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME?!”

 

He tried to push forward, but whatever was keeping him prisoner was extremely though. Izuku roared and screamed, thrashing against his bindings to no avail. Voices were around him, making no sense, hands on him, even if he tried to fight back, thrashing and biting, trying to chase away the touches he didn’t want, screaming and screaming and screaming

 

No answer came. Stain did not reply, keeping his face low, turned away from Izuku.

 

 

 

A cold drop of sweat ran down Tensei’s temple, under his helmet.

 

“Now.” Stain’s voice growled from the dark. “I just want to talk, so behave. Step back here with me, don’t try to call for reinforcements. It will only be a little chat.”

 

Taking a deep breath, Tensei obeyed. He slid backward into the dark, Stain’s blade never leaving his neck. Stain circled around him, carefully keeping the tip of his katana on Tensei’s artery, until they were standing in front of one another.

 

“You wanted to talk.” Tensei said, mouth dry, voice careful.

 

“Yes.” Stain replied, red eyes burning. “I have a proposition for you.”

 

Tensei blinked, shocked. A proposition?

 

Stain didn’t make propositions— Stain did what he damn well pleased, claiming the lives of whoever he deemed unworthy, no matter the circumstances—

 

But he hasn’t been doing that at all, lately, hasn’t he? Ever since he started working with No One—

 

“…I’m listening.” Tensei murmured.

 

“I will turn myself in peacefully.” Stain said, voice flat. Tensei’s heart skipped a beat, but he stayed silent, as Stain continued. “In exchange for one thing.”

 

“What— Thing?” Tensei forced himself to ask, even if his voice came out a bit choked.

 

“The kid.” Stain continued, not a change of inflection in his voice. “He may have been acting as a vigilante all this time— But his hands are clean. He never claimed a life. Promise me he will be given a pardon and a chance to be helped, and I will be all yours.”

 

Tensei went absolutely silent for long seconds, heart beating madly in his throat, before he finally managed to utter. “Why?”

 

“Why— Why the fuck do you care?!” Stain hissed, irritated. “I’m giving you a damn chance to catch me with no fuss— Do you want to take it or not?!”

 

“Words means nothing, a proposition means nothing if you can’t give me a good reason why I should trust you—“

 

Stain growled. “It’s a simple question, Ingenium. Can you grant the kid a pardon, or not?”

 

“It’s— It doesn’t depend on me.” Tensei replied, honest. “If it was up to me, sure. But it’s not a decision that’s between my hands—“

 

“You fucking heroes and all your stupid rules— No wonder the system is so corrupted.” Stain scoffed, irritated. “Don’t give me that bullshit— I know you have much more weight that you are trying to sell me— You already got All Might involved in this, after all.” A pause. “Good fucking job on that, by the way. You only managed to piss that kid off even more.” He added, sarcastic.

 

Tensei released a deep sigh, squaring myself. “I simply cannot promise you a full pardon— But No One has many allies. What I can promise you is that we will fight tooth and nail to give him a chance. We won’t let him get thrown in a cell for the rest of his life, even if I will have to hire a full team of lawyers myself.”

 

Stain silently stared at him for what felt like an eternity. “I guess that’s all you can offer me.” He then said, slowly.

 

“Yes. That is my word, and you know I mean it— Now, you.” Tensei replied, voice low. “What do you have to give me back? To assure me this is not an attempt to swindle us?”

 

“…It’s a dangerous world.” Stain murmured. He slowly took the blade off of Tensei’s neck, sheathing it, and Tensei released a little relieved breath. “As long as it was just me— I was ok with it. But there are so many people out there that want me dead, and the kid is getting caught in the crossfire. His life is in shambles, and he refuses to see it— He needs something.” A pause, his voice lowering. “He needs something that I simply cannot give him. It’s time he goes home.”

 

Tensei stared, speechless. There was a deep sedated regret in Stain’s voice, red eyes pointed downward. He was completely open, it would be so easy for Tensei to attack now, and immobilise him—

 

“Have you— Grown attached to him?” Tensei asked instead, softly.

 

“I may be a monster— I’m fully aware of that.” Stain replied, whispering. “But there’s still something human in me.”

 

They stood there, in front of one another, for long, silent seconds.

 

“Ok.” Tensei murmured. Offered his hand. “I accept your proposition.”

 

Stain took his hand, and they shared a hasty shake, before they let go.

 

“How do you want to do this?” Tensei asked, practical. “Does he know—“

 

“He doesn’t.” Stain replied, promptly. “He would never agree to turn himself in. No, we have to take him by surprise. You need to have someone that will be capable of rapidly immobilising him from head to toe, or you will have no chance to catch him. I think you’ve already realized what a slippery little shit he can be.”

 

“…I have a couple of candidates in mind, for that.” Tensei replied, flat. “You already have a plan in mind, don’t you?”

 

“Yes. I know how to strip him of all his weapons and put him in a spot open enough for you to catch him by surprise.” Stain nodded, crossing his arms on his chest. “Listen well, here’s what we’ll do—“

 

 

“LET ME GO!”

 

Chizome let himself get pushed in the car without a word. The kid was still putting up a hell of a fight, squirming and thrashing against the heavy, quirk-suppressing cuffs on all his limbs, attempting to bite whoever would try to put a hand too close to his face. He was absolutely enraged, almost animalistic, eyes wild and tears streaming down his cheeks as he roared and screamed against the men that were trying to drag him to another police car, the operation constantly interrupted by the kid’s thrashing.

 

“Can’t you tell him something?” Ingenium asked with a sigh over the noise of the kid’s screaming, keeping the car door open and peering inside to look at Chizome.

 

“You think he’d listen to me?” Chizome replied, flat. “Right now, he hates me more than anything else. Be thankful I had the foresight to take his blades away from him.”

 

Ingenium groaned, pinching the bridge of his nose, his helmet nowhere to be seen. He looked at Chizome once more, eyes searching his face.

 

“You better keep your fucking word.” Chizome hissed, low. “Or I swear to god, I will break myself out of prison, and I will come for you.”

 

“I will keep it, don’t worry.” Ingenium murmured. He stood upright, giving Chizome one last nod, before closing the car door. Chizome heard the sound of the doors locking around him, and then the car softly rumbled to life.

 

He let his head fall on the backrest with a long, trembly sigh, as they drove away, the kid’s roars becoming an indistinguishable noise in the distance.

 

Chapter Text

 

—Chapter 9—

I’ll keep coming

 

 

 

 

 

Tensei knew Inko Midoriya would get angry, but honestly, he would never regret his choice to keep her in the dark regarding this operation.

 

When they opened the car door, Izuku Midoriya was pressing himself against the furthest possible corner from them, immediately glaring hatefully as soon as the door opened. He bared his teeth, tears still streaming down his face.

 

He looked nothing like the capable, mysterious vigilante Tensei logically knew he was. He just looked like a kid. A pale, unhealthy looking kid, with a pretty visible chipped front tooth and an angry red, jittery scar that run up from his left temple along his scalp. He looked angry, betrayed, and possibly terrified.

 

Forcing him in the car had been bad enough. Tensei had absolutely no intention to repeat the experience, if he could help it. He waved away the two officers hovering behind him nervously, before bending down, resting his arms on the car seating.

 

“Midoriya—“ Tensei said, gently. If the boy was surprised by the fact he knew his name, he didn’t show it. “You know who I am. I just want to help, ok? I know you must be scared— But nothing bad will happen to you, I promise. Please, just get off the car— No more screaming or fighting. You know it’s useless. Just behave, and I’ll take those cuffs off of you as soon as possible— Please?”

 

Midoriya didn’t reply, turning his face away. Tensei sighed, slowly climbing in the car himself.

 

“Please—“ He pleaded again, voice lowering. “Don’t make this any harder than it has to be, for you—“

 

What Tensei did not expect was for the boy to shift, quick as lighting, on the seat, hitting Tensei in the face with both his feet, despite the tight cuffs keeping his legs rigid and immobilized. The double kick was strong enough to push Tensei back, out of the car and falling on his behind on the asphalt. He immediately felt the taste of blood in the back of his throat, as some rolled down from his nostrils.

 

“No!” Tensei almost yelled, when some agents immediately got closer with worry. “Stand back! It’s nothing—“

 

His nose throbbed painfully, but Tensei could tell it wasn’t broken. He peered inside the car again, meeting a pair of absolutely icy, furious green eyes.

 

“Ok, that was stupid of me—“ Tensei admitted, licking a bit of blood away from his lips. “But I’m not going to give up. If you are stubborn, so am I. We can stay here all night— Or we can go inside, where I will be able to get those heavy cuffs off of you, get you something to eat and drink— Your choice.”

 

The silence stretched, but Tensei didn’t move, although he definitely took care in keeping a safe distance, this time.

 

“You sent Shouto Todoroki to me.” Tensei said after a long, long silence, softly. “You sent him to me, because you knew I would help. Because, and I hope I’m not being conceited, you thought you could trust me with that— So why can’t you trust me, now? I want to help you just as much as I wanted to help Todoroki.”

 

Midoriya’s expression didn’t change, even if the tears finally stopped rolling down his cheeks. His green eyes moved a bit, as if he was searching Tensei’s expression.

 

“Please.” Tensei pleaded, voice barely a whisper. “Please, just come with me. It will be ok, I promise.”

 

Finally, slowly, Midoriya slid forward, with a bit of difficulty due to his constricted limbs. Under any other circumstances, Tensei would’ve tried to help him, but he had the distinct feeling Midoriya might just bite a finger off his hand if he tried to touch him. So he slid backward, giving him space. Midoriya finally slid out, stumbling on his feet as much as the short chains allowed him to.

 

“Over here—“ Tensei murmured, making way, patiently waiting for Midoriya to follow. Those chains were so short he could only take minuscule steps. “Don’t—“ He immediately hissed when some agents seemed to step forward. “Don’t touch him. For the love of god, don’t fucking touch him.” Tensei added, forming an almost protective barrier between the boy and the crowd of adults surrounding him. Midoriya seemed unfazed by it all, walking a bit hunched forward due to the weight of the quirk-suppressing cuffs on his forearms, cold green eyes pointed straight ahead. The tear tracks on his cheeks shone red and blue with every lazy spin of the rotating light on the hood of the car.

 

They moved slowly toward the back entrance, dozens of eyes pointed at the boy.

 

Tensei bid his time as he guided him, painfully snail-like, inside the station, all the way down a corridor, inside an interrogation room. It seemed to take ages, but that wasn’t important— What he needed to do, now, was to build a bond with Midoriya, convince him he could trust Tensei.

 

“—I’m going to take the cuffs off, now.” Tensei said once they were inside, and he closed the door behind his back. “I’ll start with the legs. Stand still for a minute.”

 

Careful as if approaching a scared, wild animal, Tensei came a bit closer. Midoriya didn’t move, eyeing him warily. Constantly keeping Midoriya in his peripheral, Tensei kneeled in front of him, rapidly undoing the quirk suppressing cuffs. They came off with a clang of metal and, not wanting to give him the chance to grab them and do something with them, Tensei put them under one of his armpits, standing slowly.

 

“Your arms, now.” Tensei murmured, gentle. Still with a cold, piercing gaze, Midoriya offered his arms. The cuffs came off, and Midoriya massaged his wrist, as Tensei also put those away.

 

“There, that’s much better, isn’t it.” Tensei murmured, soothing. “Now, if you sit d—“

 

The door opened with a bang. Tensei flinched, and turned around—

 

“Iida—“ Commissioner Ono exclaimed, his eyes going wide. “I’ve— Oh my god, you crazy motherfucker, you actually did it.”

 

“Commissioner, please—“ Tensei replied, pointedly, glaring. Midoriya already took three steps back at the noise, guarded.

 

“Why the hell is this walking hazard free? Did you just take off his cuffs?!” Ono continued, making Tensei almost growl. God, how much he did not like this old son of a— “Put them back!”

 

“There’s no need.” Tensei replied, reasonable. “He’s not a danger.”

 

“My ass, he’s not a danger—“

 

“And in any case, he doesn’t have a quirk—“

 

Ono grumbled, dragging a hand on his face. “That, we will have to see for ourselves.” He replied, flat. “Now put those damn cuffs back on, or I’ll do it myself.”

 

“I won’t— This is my case.“ Tensei tried to protest, firm.

 

“Very well, then. You’re in my headquarters, Iida, and the safety of my men lies on my decisions.” Ono replied, cold, approaching Tensei and ripping the two sets of cuffs away from him. He turned toward Midoriya, that took some more steps back, replying with an honest-to-god growl. “Now, keep this little animal still.”

 

God, Tensei wanted to punch this guy.

 

“There’s no need to call him that, nor to put the cuffs back!” Tensei snapped, irritated.

 

Ono looked at him, unimpressed, before uttering “Fine,” and letting the cuffs go—

 

But they didn’t crash on the floor. Instead, they seemed to fly on their own volition, darting for Midoriya and closing around his limbs once more. Midoriya didn’t had the time to react other than letting out a surprised little gasp He hit the wall with his back as he tried uselessly to dodge backwards, and was now looking down at his cuffed limbs, before looking back up at them, a light of pure betrayal in his eyes that were filling with a new wave of tears.

 

Ono wasn’t done. With a sharp hand gesture, Midoriya was suddenly dragged forward, toward him, like an invisible force was pulling him. He sobbed and tried to squirm away when Ono grabbed his arm tight, pushing him down the metal chair propped by the table and securing the cuffs on the iron hook on it. Midoriya tried to pull to no avail, as the table was anchored to the floor.

 

Without another word, Ono turned toward the door. Tensei looked furiously between him and Midoriya, words failing him as the boy avoided his eyes, tears streaming down his cheeks once more.

 

In the end, rage boiling in the back of his throat, Tensei followed Ono. The heavy iron door closed behind them.

 

“You just undid whatever little work I was capable of doing, trying to build a bond with that boy!” Tensei almost yelled, furious. Ono turned just as they stood in front of the glass wall that allowed to look into the interrogation room.

 

“You don’t have to build any bond with a criminal—“

 

“He’s just a kid!” Tensei snapped, enraged, pointing inside the room with his entire arm. “Look at him! Do you think he’s a dangerous criminal?!”

 

The boy was sobbing pitifully— They could hear him through the speakers. He was hunched forward, tremors and little spasms shaking his shoulders, tears rolling down his nose and falling on the table.

 

Ono sighed, shaking his head. “You’re too soft, Iida.” He murmured. “You know how deceptive looks can be— And I need to ensure the safety of the people in the headquarters. What we have in that room is a dangerous individual that has escaped arrest for months, and had a clear relationship with an infamous serial killer. I’m not risking my men’s lives so you can play little child rescuer. Do what you must, but do it with some damn common sense.”

 

And with that, he turned and walked away, leaving a silently fuming Tensei behind.

 

 

The rest of the night did not go any better. Tensei’s attempts to apologize to Midoriya for the Commissioner’s action fell on deaf ears, as Midoriya now angrily avoided Tensei’s eyes, his face an expressionless mask. At the very least, he didn’t seem to put up a fight anymore as he got dragged up and down the station for a quick check-up, nor when they had the doctor examine his feet, confirming that Midoriya had two joints, and was, in fact, quirkless.

 

Tensei honestly wasn’t sure if the fact that the boy now let himself get pulled and pushed around like a silent doll was any better than the kicking and screaming.

 

The fact he was confirmed as quirkless spread like wildfire in the station; many simply could not believe it, falling absolutely shocked. Tensei himself had been vaguely surprised— He knew, logically, but it was still hard to believe that this kid just jumped in dangerous situations for months, with nothing but his normal human body and his wits as weapons—

 

And, well, actual weapons, but that was another matter entirely.

 

After the check-up confirming Midoriya’s lack of a quirk, the boy was stripped of his vigilante suit, that was rapidly whisked away to be catalogued as evidence, and dressed in with an anonymous white t-shirt and gray pants. The quirk-suppressing cuffs were swapped for normal ones, finally freeing his legs at the very least— By the time the boy was back and chained to the table in the interrogation room, his eyes seemed to have turned— Off. Like all life was seeped out of them, as he sat hunched like he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, the dull green pointed downward.

 

Tensei’s attempts to speak with him fell unheard once more. He tried to kneel by his side to look up at him, speaking in a soothing tone, apologizing over and over for the fact that they had to treat him that way— He tried to plead with him for a word, a nod, anything to let Tensei know that he was listening, to please just work with him, so they could try to solve this situation as fast as possible—

 

But the boy kept stubbornly, resolutely silent.

 

“…Fine.” Tensei finally sighed, dragging a hand on his face. “I’ll give you some time alone. If you change your mind, just give a shout— I’ll come right away.”

 

When he clicked the iron door shut on his back, Tensei leaned on it with a groan, letting his head fall back against it and glaring at the ceiling.

 

“Hey, chief—“ One of the agents that closely worked with him in the search for No One, Chida, called after him, a sympathetic little smile on her face. “It’s not going well, huh.”

 

“It could’ve been.” Tensei hissed, frustrated, carding a hand through his hair. “It could’ve been, but Ono had to butt his nose in—“

 

“Oh, fuck.” She hissed softly, frowning vaguely. “When did that happen?”

 

“Pretty much as soon as we came in.” Tensei growled. “I was starting to gain that boy’s trust— And then he came in and undid it all, treating him like the lowest criminal scum.”

 

She groaned. They were both intimately knowledgeable with the stubborn, inflexible and old-fashioned attitude of the Commissioner. He’d been a pain in the ass since the start, not happy with the fact that Tensei, someone he considered ‘an outsider’, took the lead in the search for No One, butting his nose in with demands and generally being an ass.

 

Tensei managed to handle him, so far, taking his attention away from his team so they could work in peace. But he was the Commissioner in charge at the headquarters— And Tensei could do nothing to stop him, if he wanted to intervene directly in the situation.

 

Chida pinched the bridge of her nose, a deep crease between her eyebrows. Then she turned to look into the room through the class, her eyes lighting up with pity as she looked at the boy.

 

“God, he looks so sad— Who would treat him like a criminal?”

 

“Ono, apparently.” Tensei grumbled, sourly.

 

She opened her mouth, but she didn’t had the time to say whatever she was about to say, because another agent popped his head in from behind a corner.

 

“We have some trouble.” He called, and Tensei hissed a soft curse, before promptly following.

 

He was very unsurprised, when he stepped into the main hall, and found an absolutely enraged Inko Midoriya waiting, hands on her hips.

 

“Why are your agents refusing to let me in?” She asked the instant her eyes landed on Tensei.

 

Maybe I should take my chances and send a text to Tenya, let him know I love him a lot. Tensei couldn’t help but think. She might just skin me alive.

 

“Let me take care of this.” He softly told the two agents that were hovering around her. “We need to talk.” He added, locking eyes with Inko. He nodded toward the corridor he just came from, and she followed, a deep frown setting on her face.

 

Once they were left alone, Tensei stopped and took a deep breath.

 

“We have him.” He finally said, voice low. “We have your son.”

 

He watched, as a series of expressions rapidly went by her face— There was shock, at first, wide-eyed and open-mouthed— Then absolute relief as her eyes filled with tears— And then came the anger, keen and hyper focused, as her deep green eyes locked onto Tensei like the gaze of a wrathful god.

 

“Why are you only telling me now— How long? What happened? Why wasn’t I informed?” She immediately hissed, baring her teeth.

 

“A few hours.” Tensei admitted, voice low. “There was an operation— We’ve caught both him and Stain.”

 

“Why wasn’t I—“

 

“Because—“ Tensei interrupted, firmer. “For how much I understand your worry and appreciate your help, you are still only a civilian. Not a registered hero, not a police officer, but a normal citizen. If I had abided by the rules from the very start, I should’ve never involved you in the investigation in the first place. I should’ve taken your statement, any information you could’ve given me, and then send you out the door.”

 

She closed her mouth with a snap. The betrayed look in her eyes— Looked just like her son’s.

 

“But I involved you, because I understood— The pain of a mother that lost her only son. I know how hard it is to just stand by and wait, the time seems to never go by— So I wanted to give you a chance to do something.” Tensei continued, honest. “But this operation was too dangerous. I couldn’t risk having any civilian nearby.”

 

“…What happened?” She asked, in a low, tense tone.

 

“Stain came to me.” Tensei replied, voice lowering. Her eyes went wide. “With a proposition. He would turn himself in peacefully, in exchange for a promise—“

 

“A promise?”

 

“The promise I would try everything in my powers to gain a full pardon for the boy. To give him a chance and the help he needs.”

 

“I—“ Inko whispered, eyes moving feverishly. “That man— He really did that?”

 

“Yes.” Tensei murmured. “I couldn’t be completely sure his intentions were sincere, that’s why I couldn’t involve you— But he was honest. He gave himself up willingly, created a chance for us to immobilise your son so he couldn’t try to run. He upheld his part of the deal, and now I’m trying to do the same with mine, but— It’s proving difficult.”

 

“What do you mean?” The frown was back on her face, now. She was torturing her own fingers, probably unconsciously.

 

“Izuku isn’t very— Cooperative.” Tensei sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. “He hasn’t spoken a single word ever since we’ve arrived, no matter how much I’ve tried to coax him.”

 

There was a moment of silence, and then she let out a trembly sigh. “Fine. I understand why you didn’t want me involved—“ She said, slowly. “But now, bring me to my son.”

 

Tensei knew there was nothing he could do to deny that request, short of putting some quirk-suppressing cuffs on her and leaving her in a room. So he nodded with a sigh, and made way. He stopped just a few steps away from the glass.

 

“Inko—“ He called, gentle, as she stopped behind him. “It’s bad.” He murmured, honest.

 

“…I’m aware.” She whispered, her voice breaking. “Let me see him.”

 

He gave her one last look and a weary nod, before finally taking those last few steps toward the glass.

 

The moment she stepped in front of it, a mangled noise came out of her throat, barely stifled by her hand pressed on her mouth.

 

It wasn’t a nice scene. The boy looked— Broken. Sitting at the table with his cuffed hands chained to it, face tipped downward. From this angle the scar on his scalp was perfectly visible, an angry red jagged line that shone between his short green hair. He was pale, dark circles around his dull eyes. His mouth was slightly open, as he nervously fidgeted over and over with the tip of his tongue against his chipped tooth.

 

He looked thin and unhealthy, despite the definite lines of the lean muscles visible under his skin. His fingers were covered in little scars and his nails looked chipped and broken. The scar on his head was the most obvious one, but with a bit of focus it was easy to notice lighter ones peppering his skin.

 

Iz—uku—“ Inko sobbed brokenly, one hand splayed against the glass, the other pressed on her mouth as tears streamed down her face. Tensei closed his eyes, took a deep breath.

 

He carefully put a hand on her shoulder, giving a brief squeeze.

 

“He—“ She sobbed again, sniffed, and then took a deep, trembly breath, trying to calm herself down enough to be able to speak. “He hasn’t said— A-anything?”

 

“He—“ A sigh. “I think— I think there was far more to his relationship with Stain than we have imagined. I think he feels deeply betrayed by the fact Stain gave the both of them up— That mustn’t be easy for him. I already made some calls, and specialists will come, but— Until then— We can only try to have him speak.”

 

“Can I— Can I try?” Inko murmured, her hands on the glass closed in a fist.

 

Tensei hugged himself, mouth a thin line. “You have to understand— He might not react well to you.” He said, low and honest.

 

“… I still want to try.” She whispered.

 

Tensei waited a handful of seconds, before giving a brief nod. They moved to the door, and his hand hovered on the handle.

 

“I need you to obey my orders, when we’ll get in.” Tensei said, serious. “If I tell you to get out, you get out. Are we clear?”

 

There was clear resentment in her eyes, but she still answered with a low “Yes.”

 

Taking a deep breath, Tensei opened the door. Midoriya did not reach in the slightest, keeping his face down.

 

“Midoriya—“ Tensei tried to call, but he ignored him. “There’s someone that wants to speak with you.”

 

Inko, that seemed frozen by the door, took three timid steps forward, eyes full with tears. She seemed to gape wordlessly for long seconds, before she softly called him. “Izuku—“

 

The reaction was immediate. Midoriya’s face snapped up, eyes impossibly wide. A broken whimper escaped his lips, before he desperately tried to yank his hands free, the chains clanging at the same time as the chair he was sitting on loudly fell sideways when he shot on his feet.

 

“Izuku, it’s ok—“ Inko tried to reassure him, voice trembling. “It will be fine, ok? Please, calm down—“

 

He yanked again so sharply that Tensei flinched. But the cuffs stayed on his hands, stubborn, and the chain firmly attached him to the table. Finally, he bent down on his legs, crouching against the table leg in a little ball, arms awkwardly twisted up as he tried to hide his face against his bicep, shivering.

 

“Honey—“ Inko sobbed, moving another step forward. “You don’t have to be scared—“

 

Midoriya’s breath was short and heavy. Tensei had done his job long enough to recognize the onset of a panic attack.

 

“Out, now.” He said, gentle but firm. Inko hesitated. “Now.”

 

Mercifully, she obeyed, tears rolling down her cheeks as she stumbled out the door. Tensei approached slowly, crouching down by Midoriya’s side.

 

“You have to breathe.” He ordered. “I understand. But you have to breathe, now.”

 

He stayed there, speaking slowly and carefully, trying to guide the boy out of his attack.

 

“She’s just worried for you.” Tensei murmured when he seemed to have calmed down. “She missed you a lot. You have nothing to fear from her.”

 

Midoriya still did not say anything, and when Tensei collected the chair and propped it back on the right side by the table, he stiffly got back up on his feet, sitting down and crossing his arms on the steely surface as much as the cuffs allowed him to, resting his head down on them silently.

 

 

A change came three hours later in the form of the symbol of peace.

 

All Might arrived looking forlorn. He silently watched the boy from the glass for a long time, before asking if he could try speak to him.

 

Tensei figured nothing could possibly worsen the current situation, so he gave his tired ok.

 

—He was wrong—

 

All Might entered, incredibly silent for a man his size.

 

“Young Midoriya.” He called, soft.

 

Midoriya did not look up, shocked, the way he did with his mother. Instead, his limbs locked like iron as he went obviously tense, keeping his face down on his forearms. Unmoving.

 

It made Tensei think of a coiled snake, ready to strike as fast as lighting bolt at any second.

 

“I was told you’re refusing to talk.” All Might continued, gentle. “But— You know there is no point. You are a smart boy, surely you understand— If you’d work with us, things could go much smoother. We could solve any problem—“

 

Tensei jumped from the other side of the glass when Midoriya snapped. He got up so fast the iron table bolted to the floor actually jerked a bit when Midoriya was held back by his chains. He landed a kick on All Might, who stepped backward, shocked, as the boy lost his balance and fell awkwardly down, arms twisted up. He shifted, pure rage painted on his features, standing up once more and uselessly trying to free himself.

 

“WHAT PROBLEM CAN YOU SOLVE?!” Midoriya screamed, furious. “WHAT?! TELL ME!”

 

“Young Midoriya—“

 

“THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT!” Midoriya continued, voice like gravel yanking and yanking against the chain. “YOU STARTED ALL OF THIS! AND NOW YOU WALTZ IN AND TELL ME—“

 

His voice broke as tears spilled down his cheeks. He finally stopped trying to break the chains. His wrists looked angry red.

 

“— ’S your fault—“ The boy sobbed, sliding on his knees. “You told me— You looked m-me in the eyes and told me— That I could never be a hero—“ He continued, broken. “You told me— To give up— And I tried— I tried to give up, I tried to end it all— But no one understood—“

 

He coughed, pitiful, breath heavy as he continued. “No one understood— Only he did— And n-now— Because of you— He gave up— You ruined my life two times—“ A broken, desperate chuckle came out his lips, shaking his shoulders. “You couldn’t be happy with just the first time— N-no— You had to come and ruin it again—“

 

“I—“

 

“Shut up.” Midoriya hissed, his voice suddenly cold and steady. “Get out. I don’t want to listen to you.”

 

Long seconds of tense silence went by, before All Might silently retreated. The instant he came out the door, Inko Midoriya was in front of him, rage coming out in waves from her.

 

“What—“ She hissed. “—Did that mean—“

 

All Might looked— Chastised, as he took a deep breath, and started talking.

 

 

Morning came and went, and with it did psychologists and specialists, trying to speak with the boy. He only gave back snappy, sarcastic responses that led to absolutely nowhere.

 

“He’s completely uncooperative—“

 

“He needs to be willing to work with us—“

 

“We can’t force him—“

 

“Until he comes around, there’s nothing we can do—“

 

He got asked if he wanted to speak with his mother, and he quietly said no. He got asked if he wanted to speak with All Might, and he laughed, cold.

 

He got asked if there was anyone he wanted to speak with, and his answer chilled Tensei’s blood in his veins.

 

“I would like to ask Stain why the fuck he thought any of this was a good idea, but I guess he doesn’t really give a fuck, so there’s that.”

 

Inko Midoriya was a constant presence outside the glass window, watching and listening, holding herself up with a dark scowl on her face. Neither she nor Tensei were particularly happy about what All Might revealed to them, about his first encounter with Midoriya— But while Tensei understood All Might’s position, the woman looked disgusted and betrayed, turning away from him without a single word, and refusing to speak to him from that point on.

 

Tensei kept coming and going from that glass window. During the night, as they recorded Stain’s quiet, long confession, they were given an address, and an explanation of how to defuse the booby traps. The apartment was opened, pictures taken, items took out and brought into the station as evidence. Tensei looked as agents started to transport in everything. From clothing to cutlery to cans of food— Normal every-day items, unassuming and innocent looking. And then there were the weapons. Knives of every shape and size, an apparently endless amount— And No One’s now signature wakizashi, found propped on the floor by a naked mattress.

 

Tensei looked at the pictures. It was a tiny apartment, just a main room serving as a kitchen with a mattress in the corner, one small corridor connecting a single bathroom and another room, barely more than a broom closet, with another mattress. It looked shabby and dark, not enough light coming in from the outside, but it was clearly lived in.

 

They spent months, living there, under everyone’s noses— Tensei thought to himself, almost shocked. It was hard to imagine the young, unhealthy looking boy and the serial killer, sharing that minuscule apartment with a domestic routine of their own. A dysfunctional, broken little family in it’s own tiny world.

 

But that was what happened. Stain confessed everything, starting from the beginning, telling them of his casual encounter with the young, suicidal boy— Telling them of how impressed he had been with that stubborn kid that shown a quicksilver brain and absolutely no self-preservation. About his decision to take him in.

 

When asked why, he told them how he wanted to keep an eye on him, at first. The kid was trouble, he could’ve easily ruined Stain, he knew too much— And Stain was adamant about his own morals, so he couldn’t just kill the boy for no reason. His initial intentions were to keep an eye on him, assess him, and then dump him at the first occasion when he’d be sure the kid wouldn’t cause him trouble. But that changed with time.

 

He told them of Midoriya’s training. How hard he worked even when he was so fatigued he could barely keep his eyes open. How he kept going under the rain and in the wind and in the cold, stubborn and determined.

 

He told them of how he shaped the kid, in body and mind. The boy had talent, and aptitude, he said. I knew I had a treasure in my hands, and I wasn’t going to waste it, he said.

 

He told them of how he started to manipulate him, slowly but surely, so the kid would come to his side of things. He told them of how he pushed the boy toward the whole vigilante shtick, so he could accumulate experiences, for the future. How he wanted to shape him to follow in Stain’s footsteps.

 

And then he told them of how he realized that wasn’t going to happen. The kid would not bend, stubborn in his own ideals. He told them that he kept egging him on, pushing him to get more and more involved into danger, so maybe one night someone would finally off Midoriya and take him off Stain’s hands.

 

“He was no use to me anymore,” Stain said, shrugging.

 

There was something that did not sit well with Tensei, about that—

 

Why come to Tensei with that proposition, then? Why admitting to him that he actually cared for the kid?

 

It took his tired, sluggish mind, to realize that some parts of Stain’s confession must be lies. He was trying to take full responsibility of the boy’s actions— He was trying to clean Midoriya’s ledger as much as possible, so it could be easier for Midoriya to come out of this unscathed.

 

And for how much he knew how dangerous Stain really was, and how much pain he caused to the families of those whose lives he claimed— Tensei couldn’t help but feel pity for him, and a vague sense of admiration for what he was doing for the boy. So he kept his mouth shut, keeping that secret between the two of them.

 

It was almost lunchtime, when Tensei stepped back in the interrogation room.

 

Midoriya’s tactic changed. He wouldn’t avoid people’s eyes anymore. Now, he just stared, unmoving, cold and piercing green eyes like needles, a scowl on his face. He’d follow any single movement like a hawk, almost as if he was the one in a position of power.

 

Despite being a quirkless fifteen year old chained to a table.

 

Tensei deposited a couple of sandwiches wrapped in paper towels and a paper cup full of water near him. Midoriya ignored them.

 

“You should eat.” Tensei said, softly, as he sat at the other side of the table, in front of the boy. He crossed his fingers under his chin. “Stain told us everything. We’ve seized your apartment, and all your items and weapons have been taken in as evidence. We have all we need— Now it’s up to you. You can either decide to keep being uncooperative, or you can work with us, so we can clean this whole mess up.”

 

“Why did he give up?” Midoriya asked, voice low and flat, angrily staring at Tensei, still ignoring the food.

 

“What do you think?” Tensei asked back, softly.

 

Midoriya glared even more. “I think he’s a quitter.” He hissed. “I think he’s a fake— All those ideals he preached, that moral code he stuck to so adamantly— All bullshit. All he needed was to hear All Might ask, and there he goes running like a lapdog.” A pause. “I can’t believe I fucking trusted that guy. He’s just like everyone else.”

 

“Like what?” Tensei softly pushed, and Midoriya growled.

 

“Like you. Like mom— Like every single fucking shithead in my old school— Y’all think quirks are everything, and discard people like me like we are garbage— I thought Stain understood.” His voice lowered, and he glared down at the table. “I really thought he did— But he didn’t.”

 

“There might be people out there, thinking that way, but I assure you that neither me nor your mother—“

 

“Did you not?” Midoriya interrupted him, firm. “All those people out there, theorizing about who I was, what power I had— Not a single one ever thought that I might not have any. And you were the same, didn’t you? You and all your men—“

 

“I didn’t—“

 

“You put quirk-suppressing shackles on me. You needed to have a doctor checking me out to believe.” Midoriya continued, cold. “Don’t fucking feed me bullshit. I know the thought never even passed through your head.”

 

Tensei kept his eyes locked into Midoriya’s firmly, willing his expression not to give anything away.

 

“Why do you despise All Might so much?” Tensei asked slowly. Midoriya chuckled.

 

“Ask him.”

 

“I did. He told me.” Tensei replied. “And I understand your anger, and frustration— I really do. But what do you think he should’ve said?”

 

“He could’ve given me a chance!” Midoriya snapped, enraged, slapping both hands on the table. The cup of water trembled dangerously, but didn’t fall. “He could have given me one single chance! It’s all I asked for! But no one— No one ever did— No one tried to give me a chance. Not my family, not my so-called friends, not my teachers— Not All Might—“ He sobbed, but kept going, angry. “And even when I was so desperate I just wanted a way out— Even then, all I heard were platitudes and empty words. Not a single chance— I had— I had to stumble in a serial killer, to finally have someone give me one—“

 

“So— You went with Stain because of that.” Tensei said, low.

 

“Because he looked at me like I was a person—“ Midoriya sobbed, tears dropping on the table. “He didn’t belittle me— He didn’t laugh in my face— He looked at me, and saw who I was— He gave me a chance— And I took it.” Green eyes full of tears locked with Tensei’s. “Why— Why did he betray me like this? I thought he understood— I was— For the first time in my life I was happy—“

 

Tensei kept his mouth shut, letting the boy cry his tears. He didn’t tell him what he really thought— That his happiness wasn’t real, but an illusion he was hanging to, in order to deny the bleakness inside himself—

 

But this boy— Genuinely cares for Stain. Tensei thought to himself, grim. His feelings are real. He truly bonded with him— He truly feels betrayed— His suffering is real.

 

Stain’s attempts to take all the blame made even more sense, now— He must be aware that the boy grew attached to him as much as Stain did with the boy. He must be aware that this kid would never swear against his actions, would never deny his vigilante identity, because it was a point of pride for him— The world shouted at him that he couldn’t do anything, and this boy was screaming right back that he was here, he was real, and he was doing the things everyone told him he couldn’t do.

 

Stain’s attempting to imply he completely manipulated and coerced the boy might be the only way for this kid to come out this story with a clean slate— And if they told him what Stain said, he was surely going to deny everything.

 

And that, in Tensei’s mind, was maybe the most tragic part of all of this— Tensei’s heart stung as he silently watched Midoriya sob. He couldn’t tell the boy how much Stain truly cared for him, because it would completely dismantle Stain’s own confession. He couldn’t tell him that Stain didn’t decide to turn himself in because of All Might’s words, but because he wanted Midoriya to have a chance at a better life.

 

He couldn’t tell him that Stain gave up everything— His freedom, his creed, his life— Just so Midoriya could maybe one day truly be happy.

 

One day, in the future, when charges might be dropped, or a pardon might be granted… Maybe, then, Tensei could finally tell the boy about the true nature of Stain’s sacrifice— But until then, he could only watch, as Midoriya tortured himself with the pain of a perceived betrayal.

 

“You should eat.” Tensei finally sighed, standing. The boy glared at him, tears streaming down his cheeks, and then turned away. Tensei watched him for a few more seconds, before silently exiting the room.

 

Inko was silently weeping, a hand on her mouth, her other arm around herself. All Might was there, too, and Tensei had no idea at which point he might have arrived, but going by how pale he looked, it wasn’t hard to guess he heard enough.

 

They stayed silent, as they watched the boy stubbornly ignoring the food and water in front of him, his face down, tongue nervously fidgeting on his chipped tooth.

 

 

The silence was tense. Kurogiri kept distractingly wiping down some glasses— A useless endeavor, seeing as they were already pretty much sparkling.

 

Shigaraki was fidgety and nervous, never a good sign. Suddenly, he stood up.

 

“Ok, I made a decision.” He said, an air of finality in his voice. “Let’s fuck some shit up.”

 

Kurogiri groaned. If he had a bridge of a nose to pinch, he would have. “What?”

 

“Stain.” Shigaraki said, clicking his tongue. “I don’t like that fucker. I don’t like that, even though they’ve arrested him and that stupid brat that follows him around, he’s still as popular as ever— Let’s show him who’s boss. We’re going to claim his little beloved pupil’s life in front of him.”

 

“…And, exactly, how do you plan to do that?” Kurogiri asked, perplexed.

 

Shigaraki grinned.

 

Chapter Text

 

—Chapter 10—

Can’t say goodbye to yesterday

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chizome was starting to wonder what the hell was going on, out there.

 

At least two days must have gone by, at this point. Maybe more. It was hard to discern the passage of time closed in a cell with no windows. But people with meals came and went four times, so he guessed his estimation of the two days was pretty accurate.

 

After he worked his throat dry with his confession, no one spoke a single word to him. He didn’t ask any questions, either. There was nothing to ask— He turned himself in, he gave his statement, and now he was going to rot for the rest of the eternity in a prison cell.

 

(He wondered if they’d let the brat visit him— That was, assuming the kid would even want to visit. But— No, better squash that train of thought. It wasn’t a possibility he should entertain. He would only be setting himself up for disappointment.)

 

But, admittedly— He was starting to get curious. Why hadn’t they moved him in a max-security prison, yet? What was happening? It was hard not to linger on these questions—

 

Even harder, when Chizome could only assume that the reason he hadn’t be moved yet must be because there was trouble with the kid— Because, honestly, only two things should’ve happened. Either the kid would be freed of all charges and Chizome would be escorted in his new permanent home— Or he would not, and Chizome would have a roommate from the moment the kid turned eighteen.

 

In either case, he should’ve long been moved. It wasn’t normal that he was being kept in this limbo for so long—

 

He sighed, letting his head fall back on the uncomfortable cot, mentally cursing the heavy, quirk-suppressing cuffs snuggling tight around his forearms. He would have loved to cross his arms behind his head, but his movements were extremely limited.

 

The worst thing he expected was already setting in—

 

Boredom.

 

(It wouldn’t even be so bad at the end of the day, hadn’t it been for the fact that having nothing to do meant he had nothing to distract him. His worst enemies, right now, were his own thoughts.)

 

There were only so many hours he could sleep— And the silence of this room was oppressing.

 

Thinking back on it— Maybe they were purposefully keeping him there. Keeping him plunged in doubts. Just to break him some more.

 

(But he was, he was already broken. The kid broke him down a long time ago, without him even realizing.)

 

(He really couldn’t bring himself to regret it, though.)

 

He closed his eyes, forced his mind to clear. Meditation was the one thing keeping him sane, right now, so he turned back into the familiar exercises, breathing slowly—

 

The vague smell of ozone came in before anything else. Chizome’s eyes snapped open, memories emerging to him— But before he even had the time to really identify them, he heard a familiar noise, just as he sat on the cot— A dark fog appeared in the small cell, and from the portal came out two familiar, if unwelcome, figures.

 

Chizome stared at them, unimpressed. Shigaraki was playing with a katana— His katana, carelessly shifting it from hand to hand with only four fingers.

 

“Oh, how the mighty have fallen.” Shigaraki sing-songed, sarcastic. “How’s life in a prison cell? You’ve got to tell me everything—“

 

Chizome did not raise to the bait, unimpressed. In front of his silence, Shigaraki huffed.

 

“Gee, is that how you treat a party member that came here to save you?”

 

“…I’ll believe that when I’ll see that.” Chizome replied, flat. “Also, maybe I don’t want to be ‘saved’.”

 

Shigaraki gasped theatrically, putting a hand on his chest. “What a bold statement! So you want to just rot in a prison?”

 

“I have my own plans.” Chizome replied, because it sounded better than a dry ‘yes’. “What do you want?”

 

“Well, I have my own plans, too!” Shigaraki replied, cheerful. He fumbled with Chizome’s katana a bit, undoing the knot on the sheath to secure it on his back.

 

What an amateur.

 

“Kurogiri, how does he look? Tied up enough?”

 

Kurogiri took a second, white eyes in the dark lingering on the bulky metal contraptions circling Chizome’s forearms, before answering, flat. “He’s got pretty heavy quirk-suppressing cuffs. I’d say he’s safe to move.”

 

“I told you I don’t want to be saved—“ Chizome hissed, irritated. “Get fucking lost.”

 

“Oh, buddy. Buddy, buddy, old pal.” Shigaraki laughed. It made Chizome’s skin crawl. “Just because my plans include you, it doesn’t mean we’ll actually save you. Kurogiri?”

 

The black fog engulfed Chizome, even if he stood and tried to put some distance between himself and the two men— But the cell was very small. The darkness was all he could see for a second— And when he emerged back, a war was raging around him.

 

Smoke was everywhere, rendering visibility impossibly low. He could hear the crackle of fire in the distance, and indistinguishable shouts, as well. Shigaraki grabbed his arm with four fingers, roughly pulling him.

 

“Over here— The real game is just about to start.” Shigaraki said, sounding clearly delighted into the utter chaos. “Oh, here it is— The classical damsel in distress. Well, wrong gender, but—“

 

Chizome’s heart stopped beating for a second. Shigaraki dragged him deeply into the chaos, making him realize that the war was actually raging right in the middle of the police headquarters— Walls were crumbling down all around them, big rubbles in the way, even if the corridor they were walking seemed to be empty.

 

And then, the creature. Chizome could hardly define it as human. It was human shaped, for sure, but it was enormous, easily four or five meters tall, dark skinned and with it’s brain out in the open. It didn’t seem to have eyes. It was just standing there, unmoving in the middle of a corridor, hunched over in the space too tight for it— And then he saw it.

 

In the creature’s two fists, as if it was holding a doll— The kid.

 

He seemed to be unconscious, blood running down from his forehead along half of his face, limp in the creature’s hands like a literal doll.

 

“What will you do, now, I wonder, Mr. Hero Killer.” Shigaraki goaded, clearly enjoying himself. “Powerless and unarmed, forced to watch your precious pupil getting killed— I wonder how would the kid look, if the Noumu squashed his head open like a mature tomato—“

 

Chizome only needed a second— The tiniest moment of distraction on Shigaraki’s part. He grabbed the handle of his katana and yanked, Shigarki stumbling on his feet as the trusty blade slid out the sheath with a sharp metallic noise. Shigaraki turned, gritting his teeth, a hand already rising up—

 

The extremely sharp blade opened the skin on Shigaraki’s palm like butter, blood immediately rolling down as the guy howled in pain and clutched the hand to his chest, hitting a wall with his back when he instinctively walked backwards.

 

Too bad the space in the corridor was so tight, otherwise Chizome could’ve gained enough momentum to fully cut half of Shigaraki’s hand off.

 

“You fucking—“

 

“Don’t get mad at me for your own stupidity.” Chizome replied, pointing the blade at Shigaraki’s stomach. “Now— I wonder who could be faster between me and the two of you— And I think I know the answer. So, unless you want to be holding your own guts in your hands by the next ten seconds, I’d advise you to tell— Whatever that thing is to let the kid go.”

 

“You are in no position to demand things—“ Shigaraki replied, petulant, but Chizome interrupted him, starting to count down from ten, clearly enunciating ever each number, alway keeping the kid in the corner of his eye—

 

“—Always have to ruin everything—“

 

“Seven… Six…”

 

“Alright, fine!” Shigaraki snapped, irritated. “Noumu—“

 

Somehow, the creature seemed to understand. It’s hands opened, and the kid fell down on the floor like a broken toy.

 

“Now, tell it to step away.” Chizome ordered, flat. “And then the both of you idiots, get the hell away from my sight— Then, I might decide not to gut you in your sleep at the first occasion.”

 

Shigaraki uttered the word again, and the creature retreated into the darkness of the corridor, where lights seemed to have stopped working.

 

“You’re really no fun.” Shigaraki groaned, before disappearing into the black mist.

 

Chizome let out a trembly breath of relief as the last dark particles disappeared. Then he turned around, and ran up to the kid, kneeling by his side as he dropped his katana carelessly on the floor. With a little difficulty due to the cuffs, he turned the kid around.

 

There was a cut in his scalp, the source of the blood on his face, but it seemed to be only superficial— He groaned when Chizome moved him. He was as pale as ever, wearing a baggy dark gray t-shirt and soft pants. He wasn’t wearing any cuffs—

 

(Good sign? It probably means they trust him—)

 

“Kid— Wake up.” Chizome called. “I can’t leave you here like this, I have no idea of what is going on—“

 

But the kid didn’t wake. Groaning, Chizome fumbled around to haul him on his shoulder like a sack of potatoes, before grabbing his katana once more. He wasn’t going to go around unarmed, when a clear attack was being launched on the station.

 

He eyed the dark corridor where that thing disappeared into, and then turned around and moved back to where he came from. As he ran, awkwardly leaning on one side to keep the kid from sliding down, katana clutched in front of him, he noticed that the smoke was becoming thicker.

 

He didn’t know the planimetry of the place, nor what was awaiting him— He just knew he wasn’t going to walk in a dark corridor toward that monster.

 

He popped up in a big room, after shouldering a solid steel door open. The noise was much louder there, fires crackling in corners, and he could see human shapes move about in the thick gray of the smoke.

 

“—Over here!” Someone yelled in the chaos. Chizome could see their arms flailing wildly. “Bring any wounded outside!”

 

His shape must be indistinguishable as well, Chizome realized. He was at a crossroad— On one hand, he needed to get the kid out of here, and leave him in safe hands— On the other, he knew how this looked: Dangerous criminal, armed with his signature weapon, transporting his unconscious pupil on a shoulder—

 

“Damnit—“ Chizome hissed to himself, low. But he had no other choice— If they stayed there too long, doom by smoke inhalation was the next logical step.

 

But this conundrum was solved for him in the worst possible way. Something crashed into him violently, and Chizome felt the weight of the kid being lifted off of him— He turned with a roar, swinging and hitting something— But it moved too fast, whatever it was, and Chizome could only watch as he crashed to the floor— Could only watch as what appeared to be a winged creature, not much different from the dark skinned one he saw earlier, grabbed the kid with claw-like feet, and awkwardly flapped outside between the surprised screams of the onlookers—

 

That Shigaraki fucker had more— Chizome thought feverishly, rushing back up on his feet in pursuit. I’m going to kill him— Him, and that stupid-fog guy, and the man behind the screen, too—

 

His chase was soon cut short. His eyes landed on a familiar figure on the ground, rubbles trapping his legs up to his waist— Tensei Iida looked up at Chizome with a shocked expression, gaping.

 

“You—“ He coughed, before continuing. “Are you responsible—“

 

“No.” Chizome hissed, turning his katana around and sinking it down to let it stick in the floor, ready to be grabbed. “They took the kid— Can you get these fucking things off of me?” He asked, offering his forearms.

 

“I—“

 

“Yes or no, Ingenium! They took the fucking kid!” Chizome almost shouted, furious.

 

“I have— The remote—“ Ingenium coughed again. “Pocket— Trapped—“

 

Roaring, Chizome got to work. The rubble seemed to weight nothing as he pushed and moved them as quickly as possible. Ingenium finally managed to slide out, dragging himself with his arms— Both his legs seemed to be broken, but he wasted no time in turning on a side, searching his pocket. Chizome kneeled near him, offering his arms, and the cuffs went off with a whirr of internal motors activating, clanging loudly on the floor.

 

“Go— Save him—“ Ingenium murmured, breathless. Chizome wasted no time, grabbed his katana once more and dashed

 

He ignored the shouts that immediately chased him the moment he emerged in light of day, through the thick smoke— The light was steely looking, dark clouds angrily hovering up their heads, but the world was dry, sign it hadn’t rained—

 

Chizome saw the winged creature, up in the sky, making circles as if waiting for an order. It wasn’t too far— And the little figure between his feet was definitely awake, now, clearly squirming in it’s hold.

 

It wasn’t too far, but it was definitely too high up— Maybe he could try hit it’s head with the katana by throwing it, but he needed to be closer— He climbed up the nearest building, keeping his blade tight between his teeth to free both his hands— And as he climbed, he noticed it.

 

There was blood on his bicep.

 

He cut that thing, when it crashed into him— The blood must’ve sprayed without Chizome even realizing. A grin pulled at his mouth, as much as the katana currently held tight between his teeth allowed him, and he finally reached the roof of the building. He took the blade, awkwardly secured it on his back after tearing a piece of his own pants off to use as a belt of sort.

 

“HEY!” He screamed, face up to the flying thing, now much closer— This one had a brain just hanging out in the open, too, but it had eyes. Expressionless and dumb looking. “HERE, YOU STUPID THING!”

 

The kid immediately turned down to him when he called after the creature. Wide eyed and shocked, Chizome saw his lips moving, but he couldn’t hear anything from there— The creature tilted it’s head on a side, dull eyes pointed at Chizome, and then started to dive down his way, whizzing past him but never actually coming close enough, some tantalizingly close meters away from the secure firmness of the cement roof. The creatures turned mid-air, doing a U-turn, and it was clearly going to just fly by once more, maybe to examine Chizome from a safe distance, so Chizome gritted his teeth, stood ready on the very edge of the roof, and hoped his timing would be right—

 

He licked the blood on his bicep. The creature immediately went rigid and started losing height, his claws releasing the kid— Chizome had already leaped after him. Grabbed the kid mid-air, held him tight against his chest, protective arms around him, and twisted his body— Thanks to the angle of the jump he first crashed in the close building just in front of the one he scaled, his shoulder giving a painful protest, and then they fell down in the road, his entire back stinging with unbearable pain when they crashed into hard asphalt. His mind went fuzzy for long seconds, senses completely haywire—

 

“—Ain?” A little sob. “Wake up—“

 

He painfully opened one eye. The kid was hovering on him, a worried twist to his eyebrows, green eyes vaguely wet. He released a little trembly sob, when their eyes met.

 

“You— I think your shoulder’s broken b-but it’s not too bad—“ The kid rambled, hands hovering indecisively around Chizome’s shoulder. “I— I’m going to go call for help—“

 

He’s ok, he’s ok, thank god he’s ok—

 

“No—“ Chizome coughed— It was painful, to speak. “You have to hide— They are after you, I don’t know why—“

 

“Those creatures—“

 

“No, those are just— Pawns, I’m sure.” Chizome continued, slowly attempting to sit up, even if the kid tried to keep him still. “They seems to be just— Mindless soldiers— No, it’s Shigaraki—“

 

The kid’s mouth snapped shut, eyes widening.

 

“That guy?” He murmured, confused. “But—“

 

“You have to go— Find a good spot and hide there— Don’t move until you are absolutely sure the situation has calmed down—“ Chizome muttered, slowly shifting forward on his knees. He was pretty sure he must have some internal damage.

 

“I’m not leaving you here!” The kid sobbed, stubborn, both hands tight on Chizome’s arm.

 

“Goddamn stubborn brat— Can’t you just do as you are told, for once in your life?!” Chizome snapped, worry clawing at his pained insides. “The police is in shambles and I’m already incapacitated— How am I supposed to protect you, like this?!”

 

The kid let out a strangled noise, half-way between a gaps and a sob, eyes as big as plates as he stared up at Chizome, tears pooling in the corners—

 

Whatever he was about to say, Chizome would never know. Another creature, a different one, with four soulless eyes and long limbs suddenly came running incredibly fast, right for them— Chizome grabbed the kid, ignoring the stabbing pain in his abdomen, pushing him out of the way—

 

Goddamnit— He thought to himself, sight swimming as the pain inside him flared even more. This shit really fucking hurts—

 

 

The lack of cuffs -finally- was slightly better, but it didn’t really change much.

 

They moved him away from the small room with the glass window -that looked like a mirror to him, but he wasn’t stupid, and he watched movies. He knew people were observing him from the outside- into another just slightly larger room, with a tiny table and stool, and a cot in a corner.

 

“It’s not a cell—“ Ingenium said, sounding vaguely unconvinced. “But— Well, you need a place to sleep and we can’t let you out, for now, so—“

 

It was basically a cell. Izuku didn’t mind, he rolled up on the cot, on a side, hugging his knees against his chest. He ignored Ingenium, that hung around silently for a bit.

 

“If you need to go to the bathroom just knock on the door— There will be guards stationed outside at all times. They will escort you.” He finally said, voice low. “Or— If you need anything else, really. Just tell them.”

 

He finally got out, blessedly leaving Izuku alone.

 

He was so tired— His head hurt after he cried so much in the span of hours. And he was famished, after he turned down the food and water that they brought him in the room with the mirror. His stomach was cramping painfully, but he ignored it.

 

Maybe he would die of hunger and thirst, if he refused to eat. Not an inviting perspective, to be fair, but since he decided to give up plenty of chances to go in a relatively painless manner, in the past, this was what he was stuck with.

 

But do you really want to die? Something inside him squirmed. Do you really want to waste Stain’s sacrifice like this?

 

What sacrifice? He’s a quitter—

 

You’re not this stupid. You know why he did this—

 

Yeah, because he loves All Might soooo much, of course he gave in—

 

But that’s not it, and you know it—

 

Groaning, Izuku turned and sat on the cot, squashing those tiny voices inside him, clutching his head—

 

He was tired, and hungry, and sore— He felt like he could sleep for the next ten years, and his scars itched so much

 

And the anger— The anger that had been supporting him so far, giving him the strength to stubbornly put his foot down and refuse

 

He could feel it leaving, bit by bit. A cold, desolated sense of submission was slowly pooling in his stomach.

 

He was starting to be tired of fighting— He didn’t want to fight anymore— He didn’t want to do anything—

 

He just wanted it to stop

 

Why did he gave up like this? Why did he betray me like this? We could be out there, right now, free to do what we want— We could be out of these suffocating rooms and sad gray walls, running from roof to roof under the moon— But he gave up—

 

He gave up— And now everyone wants me to give up, too—

 

He collected his knees against his chest, resting his face against them.

 

He thought of mom, calling his name with tears in her voice— He thought of Ingenium, that was so obviously trying to connect with him—

 

He thought of All Might, that looked crushed when Izuku snapped back at him. With guilt in the blue lost under the black— With an unsure voice, so much different from the reassuring, booming tone that belonged to the hero Izuku once loved beyond everything—

 

We are worried. We just want to help.

 

That’s what they were saying, wasn’t it?

 

Maybe I don’t want your concern, nor your help. Izuku thought to himself, stubborn.

 

Time flew by, slow.

 

 

The hours sort of— Blended, as Izuku kept refusing the food and water, even if the sight of it made his stomach cramp even harder and his dry mouth tingle. It became easier after a bit, after he started to feel constantly nauseous and light-headed. He woke up at some point, confused and unsure of when exactly he fell asleep, and found himself tied up to his cot, an iv line inserted in his arm.

 

He didn’t even try to tug himself free. He was just too tired— And he was aware they must’ve tied him up because they knew he would’ve instantly gotten the line out of his arm, had he been free to move.

 

So he just stared at the ceiling, discontent, hearing the drip drip of the saline solution hanging on a pole by the cot.

 

He guessed it had been naive of him, hoping they’d just let him slowly kill himself. Of course they’d intervene.

 

The door opened softly, an exhausted looking Ingenium stepping in. He got the plastic stool sitting by the table and dragged it by the cot, sitting down.

 

“You’re not stupid.” Ingenium said, without much preambles. “You know this stubborn silent protest you are putting up is pointless. Now, I have some actual food with me—“ He added, shaking a little paper bag. “If you promise me you’ll eat, I’m going to untie you.”

 

Izuku silently stared at him, unimpressed.

 

“Midoriya, please—“ Ingenium sighed, massaging his forehead. “Everything could be so much better, if only you’d work with us. I’m trying, ok? I really am— I’m stalling as much as I can— Do you know what Tartarus is? Is the highest-security prison in the country— Only the most dangerous villains are kept there, and getting permission to visit an inmate is pretty much impossible unless you have a damn good reason to. Stain was supposed to be moved there the instant we recorded his confession— But I’m stalling. I’m keeping him here. Because I want to give both of you the chance to say goodbye.”

 

Izuku blinked, the surprise winning on his face. He was simply too tired to keep up his poker face.

 

“I know you are angry, and you feel betrayed, right now— But I refuse to believe you wouldn’t at the very least want see him one last time, before he’ll get shipped off. I’m pulling all the strings I can, Midoriya, but they are starting to snap— And I don’t know how much longer I will be able to. If there’s something you wish to say to him— Now it’s the time to start cooperating.”

 

Without even waiting for an answer on his part, Ingenium started to undo the leather cuffs around Izuku’s ankles and wrists. Izuku slowly sat, massaging his wrists, green eyes pointed at Ingenium—

 

He let the paper bag fall in Izuku’s lap. “Now eat, please. I’m begging you.”

 

Izuku finally broke eye contact, looking down at the bag. He slowly opened it, revealing—

 

“…Cookies—“ Izuku choked on the word, his unused voice coming like gravel. “Chocolate chips— Did my mother make these?”

 

Ingenium said nothing, sitting with his elbows resting on his knees.

 

“They are really good.” He commented softly as Izuku hesitated. “One of the best batches she made.”

 

Slowly, Izuku fished a cookie out the bag. It was slightly misshapen, obviously home-made— When he bit into it, the flavour exploded on his tongue, as a sheen of tears covered his eyes.

 

Ingenium released a trembly little sigh, slowly.

 

 

 

He was starting to crumble, bit by bit. Part of Izuku resented it, tried to protest loudly, stubbornly—

 

But he was still crumbling, being chipped away at by the hours passing and the people around him.

 

And he had to admit— Ingenium was right. He did want to see Stain one last time, before they’d be separated forever.

 

I’m only doing it for that. He tried to convince himself. Just so I can ask him why. just for that— And then I’ll find my own way of doing things—

 

He jumped, when he heard a crash in the distance, interrupting his weary thoughts. It was so loud the walls trembled— And jumped again when another one filled the air, even closer. Izuku turned, wide eyed, before padding toward the door and loudly knocking on it.

 

“We can’t open right now!“ One of the guards outside yelled back, clearly tense. “Stay inside and don’t move, we’ll take care of t—“

 

The rest of his sentence died in a choked scream. Izuku stared at the metal, wide-eyed, and took three slow steps back—

 

Something came through the door so violently it opened a hole in the metal, a shrapnel whizzing past Izuku’s fast enough to open a cut in his head. Blood immediately started to roll down his face, as he stared at a dark, big fist retreating from the hole in the door, his back pressed against the wall. Then, the door was tore off it’s hinges with a painful whine of iron, and Izuku dashed just in time to avoid it, when the creature on the other side threw the twisted metal against him.

 

He grabbed the pole still sitting near his cot, holding it with both hands as he turned around to face the enemy— The creature was huge, easily three times his size in height only, packed with muscles, most of it’s head composed of just a jaw and a brain—

 

The little pole could do nothing to hold up against it— Izuku tried to hit back, but the creature grabbed it and twisted it in a fist like it was nothing.

 

The last thing Izuku saw before falling unconscious, was a big fist coming right for his head.

 

 

When he came back to he was flying. It took him a moment to realize he wasn’t dead, but prisoner, of another one of those weird creatures, leaner than the first, but with two giant leather-y wings.

 

“Let me go!” He tried to protest, pulling against the claws tight around his chest. The creatures tilted it’s head like a bird, looking down at Izuku with an empty, soulless eye, before tightening the grip around him. “Goddamnit—“

 

The sensation of gliding in the air was unpleasant, and Izuku uselessly tried to squirm against the firm grip. The creature kept flying in circles, making him slightly nauseous— Until a familiar voice vaguely reached his ears.

 

Izuku looked down. One one of the building, on the roof—

 

“Stain?” Izuku asked to nothing, shocked. He let out a choked noise when the creature suddenly dove for Stain, but avoided the roof, whizzing past him at high speed— The sudden turns made bile rise up Izuku’s throat, his head spinning, and suddenly the claws around his chest weren’t there anymore.

 

He was falling— Something crashed into him, arms closed around him tightly as he got jerked around and then finally came to a stop. Izuku didn’t move, breathing heavily as his head slowly cleared, and he dared to look up—

 

He was lying on top of Stain— Stain’s shoulder suddenly looked strangely misshapen, and Izuku confusedly looked around, trying to understand what happened— They were in the middle of the road, now, people running away in the distance, yells and sirens coming from somewhere—

 

“Stain. Stain—“ Izuku tired to call, choked. A little sob hitched it’s way out of his throat. “Wake up—“

 

One of Stain’s eye cracked open, vaguely unfocused.

 

“You— I think your shoulder’s broken b-but it’s not too bad—“ Izuku babbled, slowly kneeling by Stain’s side. He looked around— No one in sight. “I— I’m going to go call for help—“

 

“No—“ Stain coughed, raw. “You have to hide— They are after you, I don’t know why—“

 

“Those creatures—“ Izuku replied, confused. He had no idea what was going on—

 

“No, those are just— Pawns, I’m sure.” Stain added, slowly sitting up even if Izuku tried, and failed, to keep him down. “They seems to be just— Mindless soldiers— No, it’s Shigaraki—“

 

Izuku stared, wide eyed. Shigaraki— That guy from the so called league of villains? What did he want?

 

“That guy?” He asked, frowning. “But—“

 

“You have to go— Find a good spot and hide there— Don’t move until you are absolutely sure the situation has calmed down—“ Stain muttered as an answer, still moving as he kneeled, ignoring Izuku’s hands on his arm, trying to keep him still.

 

“I’m not leaving you here!” Izuku protested, disbelieving. As if he was going to just up and leave Stain there, when he was clearly hurt—

 

“Goddamn stubborn brat— Can’t you just do as you are told, for once in your life?! The police is in shambles and I’m already incapacitated— How am I supposed to protect you, like this?!” Stain snapped, anguish in his voice.

 

Izuku went still, a small sound coming out of him. He looked up, meeting Stain’s red eyes, shining with something Izuku never saw before— He opened his mouth, not even knowing what he should say, just that needed to say something— But Stain roughly grabbed him and literally launched him away. Izuku rolled and hit a wall with his back, as an indistinguishable series of grunts filled the air.

 

A metallic low screech attracted Izuku’s confused attention. He blinked, eyes landing on Stain’s katana lazily spinning on the asphalt— Why was it here? How did it get here?

 

He shook his head, chasing the curiosity away. This was not the moment— He grabbed the weapon, raising to his feet as he launched a cursory look around him. There was yet another one of those creatures— Smaller than the first one he saw, with longer, leaner limbs, and four soulless eyes. He was looming over Stain, as Stain attempted to push back against the clawed hand that was trying to land on his face with both of his, but the creature kept gaining centimetres on him—

 

Izuku charged, both hands on the katana’s handle, and swung in the way Stain had drilled into him— The creature’s arm flew away, cut off clean, but it didn’t seem to react with pain nor surprise, just vaguely tilted his head on a side as Stain slid backwards on all fours, away from it, panting.

 

“Stay back!” Izuku screamed, pointing the katana at the creature— But it didn’t seem to understand, limping on three limbs toward Izuku—

 

“That thing’s not human, kid!” Stain yelled, raw. “Don’t hesitate!”

 

But Izuku hesitated. He rolled on a side, dodging just in time the pointed claws— The creatures turned sharply, suddenly opening it’s mouth and shooting forward a net-like tongue, trapping Izuku. Izuku was dragged toward it, squirming uselessly in the slimy hold—

 

Stain jumped on the thing’s back, grabbed it’s head firmly, and twisted— The creature’s neck made a creaking, snapping noise as the head turned at an unnatural angle, and the creature went down like a puppet, his tongue relaxing and allowing Izuku to slide out of it.

 

“You’re— Too soft hearted—“ Stain laughed, his voice watery. He coughed. “Don’t know— How I thought I could convince you—“

 

Izuku turned toward him, a small smile on his lips, ready to quip back— But the smile slid off his face instantly, as his eyes landed with horror on Stain, straddling the creature’s neck with a hand on his stomach—

 

Or what little was left of it. There was a bloody, gory hole in Stain’s guts, blood rolling down abundantly. He coughed again.

 

“Bastard’s— Got really sharp claws—“ He rattled weakly. “Pierced through me— Like I’m made of damn butter—“

 

Izuku let the katana clang on the floor as he rushed forward, catching Stain’s weight before he could fall face-first into asphalt. He grabbed him by the armpits, dragged him away from the creature to rest with his back against a wall. Frantic, Izuku tried to stop the bleeding with his own hands, making Stain hiss in pain.

 

“Kid— Stop—“ He murmured, coughing again. “It’s ok— We all have to go, at some point—“

 

No—“ Izuku sobbed, eyes filling with tears. “No, you can’t— I— You—“

 

“It’s ok—“ Stain whispered, stiffly raising a hand to pat Izuku’s hair. “It’s ok— Better like this— Prison cells— ‘re boring—“

 

Izuku sobbed again, the tears rolling on his cheeks— A slow clap surprised him from behind, and he turned, eyes wide.

 

“How heartwarming.” Shigaraki commented, cold. “So that’s why you let yourself get arrested— You wanted to protect the kid. I have to say— I’m quite disappointed. Big bad like you, getting your heart melted by a child—“

 

Izuku didn’t let him finish. He roared, absolutely enraged, and dashed toward him, picking up the katana on the fly. Shigaraki dashed for him, too, Stain’s weak voice calling from behind (“NO—“) just as Izuku sidestepped Shigaraki’s right hand at the last second, twisted, and cut.

 

The arm went flying much like the creature’s arm did— But Shigaraki had a reaction, unlike it, screaming in pain and rage as he tumbled down, holding the bleeding stump to his chest, kneeling on the asphalt.

 

“YOU GODDAMN BRAT!” He screamed, furious. “I’M— I’M GOING TO FUCKING KILL YOU—“

 

“I think that’s quite enough.”

 

Kurogiri appeared from a portal by Shigaraki’s side. Izuku growled at him, tightening his hold on the katana.

 

“The noumus are down, and the police is coming this way, with All Might as well. We have to retreat.” Kurogiri explained, patient.

 

Shigaraki growled, panting heavily, as he stared hatefully at Izuku from behind the hand on his face.

 

“You—“ He hissed. “This is not the end. I’m going to get back to you, little brat— And then you will pay—“

 

And with that, they both disappeared in a cloud of dark smoke.

 

Izuku dropped the katana like it was burning his palms, dashing back to Stain.

 

“It’s— You heard them, the police is coming—“ He rushed to say, kneeling by his side. “Hang on a little more, ok? They— They will heal you and then—“

 

Stain stared at him, breathing weakly. It seemed to wheeze in his throat with difficulty, the air that painfully made way in his lungs.

 

Please—“ Izuku sobbed, features twisting in desperation. He put his hands on Stain’s shoulders, leaning on him, as the tears rolled down his cheeks. “Please, please, don’t— Don’t leave me—“

 

A warm, calloused hand landed on Izuku’s cheek, gentle. A broken sob escaped his lips, when the rough thumb stroked softly.

 

“It will be ok— You have good people on your side—“ Stain whispered, voice barely there. “Trust in them— You— You are so much stronger than me— When I was your age I just— I saw the things I didn’t like, and I instantly gave up— But you, you aren’t like that— You’ve got what it takes to make a change— A real one, not like me—“

 

Izuku sobbed desperately, shaking his head, but Stain continued. “You— Have changed me—“ A weak little laugh. “If you could do that— Then it’d be easy to change the world, too—“

 

“N-no—“ Izuku sobbed, hands tightening on the cloth of Stain’s shirt. “I don’t want— I don’t want, not alone— Please—“

 

“But— You won’t be alone—“ Stain whispered, smiling weakly when their eyes met. “You were never alone, Izuku— I’m sorry I let you believe that you were— I— I turned myself in because— I realized I was only hurting you— And I didn’t want that— I wanted you to be happy— I wanted you to have a chance— Something better than anything I could possibly offer you—“

 

“Stain—“

 

“Chizome’s— My name—“ He replied, coughing. Trembling fingers moved up, to card through Izuku’s short curls in slow caress. “Don’t cry anymore— Things will be better from now, I promise— You’ve made a real impact on the people around you— And when— When you can do that— People will follow. You just have to— Believe in yourself more—“

 

The tears kept rolling down Izuku’s cheeks, as he stared, unable to break the eye contact with him— Chizome’s red eyes looked— Human, for the first time ever since they’ve met.

 

“I was— Happy.” He murmured, his voice just barely there. “With you— You made me— Happy—“ He was the one to finally look away, blinking weakly at the sky. “Do you think— I will still be able— To try tell— The shapes in the clouds—“

 

His voice trailed off to a sound so weak Izuku barely caught it, and then stopped, as the hand on Izuku’s hair fell limp. Red eyes became glassy, and his chest stopped moving. Izuku’s entire body felt like it was just about to crumble down, a keen noise of pain coming out of his mouth, as he leaned down fully on Chizome’s unmoving chest, as he nested his head under Chizome’s chin, wailing like a wounded animal, grabbing the unmoving hand in his and squeezing desperately.

 

Time stopped making sense, and he couldn’t stop— He couldn’t stop the tears, he couldn’t stop the sobs wrecking him and the wails coming out from the depth of his chest, fingers tight on Chizome’s shirt, around his hand. He didn’t move, he didn’t want to move, he was ok with staying there, just staying there until his body gave in and he wasted away, away from the pain that was burning him from the inside out—

 

A soft touch on his shoulder, a broken little sob.

 

“Izuku—“ Mom called, her voice trembling, pained. “I’m so sorry—“

 

Slowly, Izuku moved, just a tiny bit to look up at her with his unfocused sight. She was weeping, her lips trembling. Gently, she leaned in, stretching a hand forward Chizome’s face. She softly closed his eyes.

 

“I’m so sorry, honey.“ She whispered, sincere pain in her voice. Izuku didn’t move for long seconds, and then he turned, launching himself against her chest and squeezing his arms around her, as she hugged him back with a sob. He pushed his face against her shoulder, and screamed until his voice cracked and wouldn’t come to him anymore. Cried, until he simply stopped having any tears to give.

 

Rain started to fall on them. A drop there and then, and then the sky opened, pouring, washing away the blood and soaking them to the bone, as agents moved frantically around them, confused voices calling back and forth that could never reach Izuku’s ears. He was shivering, when he softly pushed against mom’s chest so he could turn slightly in her embrace.

 

When he looked back at Chizome one last time, his eyes closed and raindrops rolling down his face, Izuku finally saw that he was smiling.

 

 

 

 

 

—Epilogue—

Wish you were here

 

 

 

 

 

“Congratulations.”

 

Izuku looked up from his homework, blinking. He didn’t even hear the door open, he was so engrossed in his work.

 

Toshinori made his careful way through the cluttered room, expertly dodging the mess of books and notebooks on the floor.

 

“Can I sit down?”

 

“ ‘Course.” Izuku replied, offering the second chair by the desk. The tall man perched himself on it, knees awkwardly collected as much as his long legs allowed. “Congratulations— For what?”

 

“Well, you are officially a free boy, now.” Toshinori chuckled.

 

“Oh, that—“ Izuku carded a hand through his hair. It was starting to get way too long and unmanageable, the curls often shadowing his eyes— He was probably due a haircut. “Guess you hadn’t heard of that yet, being out of town and all—“

 

Toshinori hummed vaguely. As of last week, all charges against Izuku had been officially dropped.

 

It had been a long battle. For how many willing and loving allies he had on his side, there were just as many opponents ready to tear him apart. The case resonated along the whole country, the story of the quirkless boy that, backed in a corner, saw no other way to prove himself but to follow a dangerous serial killer— His identity and actions as the vigilante named No One became public dominion along the line. ( Which drove Tensei up the wall. “A pr nightmare on legs, is what you are.” He lamented. “I’m going to find who the fuck keeps leaking these information and nail them to a wall, I swear to god.”)

 

The public uproar, caused by that leak, would probably go down in history. So many people advocated for him, as the case dragged and dragged, as he had no other choice but to come and go from the courthouse to his room at the long-stay psychiatric unit he was recovering in. The debates sparked seemed to never die down, as the quirkless community rose, loud and clear, to finally make their voices heard.

 

And, in the end, the way he finally weaselled himself out of all accusations— Was a legal loophole. The team of lawyers, hired with the kind contributions of the Iida family, argued and argued in circles, until they finally proved, without fail, that every single one of Izuku’s actions couldn’t be considered illegal, as he was quirkless, and thus unable to break any law against vigilantism perpetuated with un-lawful quirk usages.

 

It would’ve been almost funny, and maybe it was to him, a bit, as he had to close himself in a bathroom and laugh for ten minutes straight after the judge finally declared him free of all charges.

 

The months leading to the sentence had been— Difficult. He had so much to unpack that the permanent hospitalization in the psychiatric unit ended up being the only solution possible. And it had been a difficult hike up a ninety degree slope— The summit was still far, but he was getting there. And Toshinori knew that— He’d been there for a lot of hikes, side by side with Izuku.

 

“How is it going? Having troubles catching up with the school subjects?” Toshinori asked, kindly.

 

“Nu-Huh.” Izuku replied, shaking his head lightly. “I’m getting ready to tackle the exam and graduate early. Tensei is pretty much vibrating for how impatient he is, at this point— He’s been insufferable ever since the sentence, he can’t wait to, and I quote: ‘cut the crap short and finally put you to some real work’.”

 

Toshinori chuckled. “Yeah, I bet he is.” He commented, fond. “I’m glad to hear that. I heard from your mother that you went on some friendly outings, lately?”

 

“Yeah, fun story—“ Izuku chuckled, grinning. “You know how I’ve been talking with Todoroki on the phone— Turns out that nice lady from room three-hundred and one, that I made friends with, is his mother.”

 

“What?” Toshinori blinked, surprised.

 

“Yeah! Imagine my face when I finally convinced him to try contact her and speak with her— And one day, as we were in her room, reading, he knocks and enters.” A pause. “Actually, imagine Todoroki’s face. That was funny.” He chuckled again. “Anyway, I left them alone, of course— But after a couple of hours he came knocking on my room, to hang out with me. And one thing led to the other, and my therapists encouraged it— So during weekends he visits his mom in the morning, and then we go spend some time together outside the hospital in the afternoon— I could never go far due to, you know— But now that I’m free, I can come and go as I please, as long as I don’t miss my therapy.”

 

A relaxed silence fell on them, after Toshinori hummed in understanding once more. Izuku let out a little sigh, playing distractedly with a corner of his textbook.

 

“Todoroki said he wants to introduce me to his friends, now that I can go out to the city center— I’m a bit nervous, if I have to be honest.” He murmured, voice low.

 

Toshinori smiled, lopsided, dragging the tuft of blond hair away from his face. “I’m sure you will be fine. I think I know which friends he wants to introduce you to— You will be fine.”

 

Izuku sighed, squaring himself, giving Toshinori a little resolute nod.

 

“I— Also heard that young Bakugou has been visiting, lately?” Toshinori asked after a long pause, very carefully. Izuku tapped his pencil on the notebook softly.

 

“He— Yeah. We’ve been able to speak, lately— You know, just speak normally, about light topics. Like normal people.” He sniffed. “It’s still kind of tense and stilted but it’s— Nice.”

 

“Are you happy about it?”

 

“…Yeah.” Izuku replied, soft and honest. “I’m glad. He gave me— These letters he wrote for me, when he thought I was— They’ve helped me understand him a lot.”

 

“That’s good.” Toshinori exhaled, relieved, before chuckling vaguely. “I’m sorry I kind of grilled you— With how busy it has been, lately, I just couldn’t catch up with everything. I really wanted to know how you were doing.”

 

“It’s ok.” Izuku replied with a shrug and a vague smile. “I hope whatever kept you busy went well.”

 

“It— Went.” Toshinori sighed, making him laugh. “Anyway, there was another thing I’d like to speak with you about, if you have time— I won’t want to disturb your studies.”

 

“I think taking a pause won’t hurt— I’ve been hunched over this book the entire morning.” Izuku replied, stretching a bit. His back popped.

 

“Ok…” Toshinori murmured, careful, almost to himself. “It starts with a long story, forgive me— It’s the story of two brothers.”

 

Izuku kept silent and listened, as Toshinori told the tale of the two brothers— A history that was still going up to present day, with Toshinori being the most recent link in a chain—

 

“That’s— Incredible.” Izuku murmured once Toshinori was done. He brought a hand up to his lips, pulling distractedly. He poked a bit at his chipped tooth with his tongue, too. “I could never imagine that such powers could be out there— But—“  He looked up, squinting vaguely as he locked eyes with Toshinori. “Why are you telling me this? You— You don’t want to ask me to inherit this power of yours, right?”

 

“I’d be a liar if I didn’t admit that the thought crossed my mind— And if you were to tell me that you’d accept, then I would happily and willingly do so.” Toshinori replied, pacific. “But no, I won’t insult your intelligence by asking you that, at this point. You’ve got your own path you’re walking on, my dear boy. No, what I wanted to ask you for was help.”

 

“Help?” Izuku asked, blinking.

 

“I’m searching for a successor, and I’d like to hear your opinion on it.” Toshinori said, smiling. “Now that you are free— I was wondering… If you’d be willing to come with me at UA, after the winter break. If your mother gives us the ok, of course.”

 

Izuku grinned, smiling his little chipped tooth smile.

 

“I don’t think she will have anything against that— You might get Tensei barking up at you that you are trying to steal his disciple, though.” Izuku replied, amused.

 

“I think I will live.” Toshinori laughed. His expression suddenly sobered, after he took a little satisfied sigh. “It’s— I’ll leave you be in a minute, but there was a thing I wanted to give you.”

 

Izuku waited curiously, as Toshinori slid out an old, battered wallet outside his pocket, opening it and carefully searching between the slip of papers that sticked out vaguely.

 

“I— I just so happened to have the chance to get some copies of these.” Toshinori said with a soft, indecisive voice. “I know that this stuff is not available to the public, so I thought— I don’t know, I thought you might want them, but you don’t have to take them if you don’t—“

 

He was handing some pictures to Izuku. Izuku accepted them, perplexed, turning them around to look—

 

It took him a moment, to realize what he was looking at.

 

Chizome was much younger in these pictures. Not much older than Izuku— Couldn’t be older than twenty. He had a serious, piercing expression, standing between a man with his same red eyes and a woman with his messy dark hair.

 

He looked— Normal. But that bite that Izuku knew so well— It already was in his gaze.

 

“As I said— You don’t have to take them, if you don’t want.” Toshinori repeated, clearly nervous.

 

“No—“ Izuku croaked. He took a second to clear his throat, before continuing. “No. I— I’d like to keep them. Thank you.”

 

“You’re welcome.” Toshinori whispered.

 

They stayed in silence for a while, as Izuku distractedly fingered the corners of the pictures.

 

There were very few people that would accept the words that he was about to say— Fortunately, Toshinori was one of them.

 

“I wish he could be here.”

 

“I know, my boy.” He replied, gentle, patting Izuku’s hair. “I know.”

 

Izuku sighed, shifting with his chair to get closer and rest his head against Toshinori’s shoulder. “Can you stay a bit longer?”

 

“I will be happy to do so.”

 

Izuku nodded, moving away. He slid out his private notebook from between two heavy textbooks and slipped the pictures in there— Except for one. He leaned over his desk, and pinned it on a little space on the cork board hanging on the wall, before sitting back by Toshinori’s side and resting his head back on his shoulder.

 

He closed his eyes, focusing on the soft sound of Toshinori’s breathing. A lean arm circled Izuku’s shoulders gently, squeezing him closer.

 

It was a hard road. But things would be ok.