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So Rare As a Day in Jun

Chapter Text

Dabi had to get out of here, before things got serious. He’d been out on a few errands on the behalf of the League, and he obviously hadn’t expected some lowlife thug to jump out of nowhere and attempt to thieve from some generic jewelry store on the end of the block. From what he had seen himself, whoever the perp was, they’d gone absolutely bonkers when someone had caught them.

It was just another Tuesday afternoon in Dabi’s eyes-- this sort of thing wasn’t especially unusual in this part of the city, as much as it was annoying. He seemed like the only calm face in the screaming flock of civilians rushing past him and pulling them along in their aggressive current. Irritated, he twisted out of their iron grip and stumbled back onto the paved sidewalk, glancing nervously about him and attempting to tune out the roaring ruckus above him. The culprit of the crime had been able to transform, and from the looks of things was fairly powerful, meaning only one thing. Heroes were certainly on their way.

Though Dabi hadn’t been the one to commit the crime himself, he wasn’t about to take any chances. Who knew who would recognize him as a member of the League, and who would blow him off as just another citizen of the city, lost and confused?

There was another clamor above his head. Dabi cringed at the sound of tearing metal, and chunks of building being thrown across the street, where it shattered a storefront and took out a street light. Dabi heard the swooping of wings and the shriek of a nearby civilian, and decided this was the best time to take his leave before whoever this idiot was got trigger-happy. He tore down the street, flipped up the collar of his jacket and braced against the vicious wind coming his direction. What an eventful afternoon this was turning out to be.

He turned a sharp corner and jogged down the street, through the nearest alleyway, his boots scraping away the chalky gravel as he navigated his way back to the bar, only about three quarters of a mile away from the shop he’d stopped at last. The sting of the wind bit at his skin, gnawing away at what hadn’t been stapled over by leather. The noise of the incident down back a few streets was at a distance now, but it still seemed louder than ever.

The fuck does this guy think he is? thought Dabi, bitterly. Is he really this desperate to get his hands on a few fool’s gold bracelets?

The ground shook, and Dabi pressed himself against the wall of the alleyway, waiting for the noise and commotion to pass by him. He could hear that the incident was moving his way now, roaring through the main street and shoving, kicking away cars and roadblocks and possibly even human beings. From what Dabi could hear, the police had arrived themselves-- it was in his own best interests to sit tight in that alleyway and wait for everything to die down, but he knew very well that the heroes were soon to be here as well.

Taking a deep breath, Dabi edged to the far side of the alleyway and peeked ‘round the corner, squinting down the street and checking for danger. The roads looked free of bystanders, which meant he could probably make a break for it and avoid suspicion from anxious citizens, so…

He took a step into the street, and felt his heart jolt into his throat out of surprise as a sizable, solid object whizzed past his head and slammed hard into the center of the road. Gasping, Dabi took a long stride backwards and scrambled to find his senses.

Sprawled uncomfortably out in the middle of the road was a human figure-- far too small to be an adult, and far too thin and frail-looking to be healthy. Dabi saw a mop of dark hair and a mess of fabric, skinny, exposed arms lined with wounds from the fall and their pantlegs torn and wrecked beyond repair. A child. Dabi was looking at a child, and they -- she? -- had been rendered motionless. The batting of wings above him made a stunned Dabi look up towards the rest of the street, where the perp of this ridiculous stunt appeared to be blinded by their own fit of rage, destroying anything and everything.

The child on the pavement stretched their hand out, reaching for safety, reaching for something, or anything, and finally collapsed, their face hitting the pavement hard, and the rest of their arm and their body going slack. The villain standing on the sidewalk could have sworn he saw their outline turn a blinding shade of turquoise.

Dabi glared, struggling to make a decision.

Don’t do it.
This is a mistake.
This isn’t going to help you.

And he bolted, arms outstretched, reaching for the body on the pavement, making the kind of split-second choice he hadn’t made in years.

And even then, that had been for the sake of a child, too.

Dabi turned, swiveled on his heels with the limp body of a child slung over his shoulder, and hauled it, his mind in just enough of a frenzy to be able to navigate its way back to Kurogiri’s bar.

An eventful afternoon indeed.

-

When the child’s eyes opened, the most they could make out was a faded wooden roof above them, and the smell of the cinnamon candle lit on the bedside beside them. The splotches of white and yellow and green in the corners of their vision faded out into nothing as they adjusted to the low lighting of the room they’d been brought to. Blood and adrenaline pounding in their ears as if they had been running a marathon for hours since falling unconscious, and their head screaming in agony, they could only just make out the sound of voices in the room adjacent to theirs.

She struggled to remember just how she had gotten here.

In the next room, Dabi sat seated on a mattress, his hands folded in his lap as he stared coolly up at his employer, who, unlike him, was more than distressed. His mask set away on his own bedside, displaying a face that only Dabi himself got to see as much as he did, Tomura Shigaraki paced the length of the room, his hands every now and then twitching, threatening to scratch angrily at the scarred skin of his neck.

“What the fuck kind of decision was that for you to make, then?” He growled, voice roughly an octave higher than it normally was. “A kid, staying with the League? What’re we gonna do with a kid, Dabi, I’m asking you now before I… I…”

“Relax,” hummed Dabi from his place on the bed, fitting his hands together. “Don’t get yourself worked up over it.”

“How can I not, Ashtray?” spat Shigaraki, turning on him with a fury in his ruby red eyes. “You think I know how to handle children?”

“You think I do either, Fuckhands?” Dabi asked, his voice remaining calm despite Shigaraki once again going into hysterics. "I can't explain it."

(It was the most he could do, remain calm. Should Shigaraki get to the point of no return, he’d be the one to stop it. Even so, he was determined to calm him down as best he could, as the sight of his employer and companion in distress was not only displeasing to Dabi in a personal way, but unnerving for everyone else, and painful to watch.)

“Why’d you have to go and do that?” whined Shigaraki, tugging at his hair in fistfuls and practically trembling in his anger. “We’re the League of Villains, not a goddamn daycare. Did you really think this kid would be safer coming here? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t care or anything, but here, of all places, around people like us? We’re the kind of people you’re supposed to run away from, Dabi, not someone you look to for… for help… God, my stupid fucking head…”

Dabi rolled his eyes, ignoring his spiel and rising to his feet, easing Shigaraki back toward the mattress before he could drop to the floor. “Sit down, Mophead, before you go and faint on me.” He said, and fell to the mattress beside him himself.

“I don’t need your stupid help.” mumbled Shigaraki.

“Sure, Boss,” Dabi replied, coolly, though his stomach did admittedly twist in discomfort, or perhaps that was disappointment of some kind. “Sure you don’t.”

“I don’t!” shrieked Shigaraki, clenching his fists. “And I certainly wouldn’t have gone and played hero for some random kid on the street, you idiot!”

“From what I hear, you were some random kid on the street, too.” snapped Dabi, turning sharply to face him. “Weren’t you?”

Shigaraki sputtered, his pupils dilated and his muscles stiff. He exhaled quickly through his nose and looked away, dropping his hands to his lap and staring pointedly away at the hardwood floors of his bedroom. Dabi sighed, shaking his head.

“Tomura…”

“It’s fine.”

“No, it’s not. That was fucking stupid of me.”

“I deserved it.”

“Tomura!”

“I said it’s okay, moron.” Shigaraki looked his way, red eyes peeking through a tangle of sky blue hair. He narrowed his eyes. “Look, Dabi, if it had really bothered me that much, I woulda’ killed you off by now, okay? It doesn’t mean it felt good or some shit, but… Yeah, it’s okay. Don’t… Don’t worry about it.”

Dabi nodded. “If you say so.”

“That’s an order, Leatherface.”

“Got it, Boss.” Dabi grinned, running a hand through Shigaraki’s hair.

“So,” Shigaraki said, a smirk of his own forming on his face. “Let’s talk about this girl, then.”

-

The girl in question had managed to escape the confines of her “bedroom,” and was now making the journey from the second floor to the first, her hands brushing against the rough walls of the old building to keep her from tumbling down the wooden steps. She breathed carefully, slow and steady, holding tight to anything she could keep a firm grip on. She shivered underneath the tatters of her black, worn-out, ripped bootcut jeans. It was colder in the bar than it was out on the street. She reached the bottom of the stairwell.

With hardwood floors sleek and polished, and shelves gleaming with various tidy, alphabetized bottles, the first floor of the place looked unnervingly comfortable. The layout was wide, and spacious, and surprisingly cozy, despite the lack of open windows. Across the room, something with the shape of a man stood behind the tall bar, wiping down shot glasses with a clean white rag.

All fear in her body suddenly replaced by overwhelming curiosity, the child crossed the room, latched onto the circumference of a barstool, and hopped up onto it, pulling herself closer to the bar and leaning on her palms, staring shamelessly in the way all children do at the supposed person on the other side of the bar.

Though he had paused in his movements when she’d approached, Kurogiri continued to wipe down the remaining glasses in front of him, before turning to face the girl on the stool. She was comically tiny, compared to even the furniture she’d perched herself on, but he had a feeling there was… something else to her. No little child he could think of would have the fearless confidence to stride up to him like she had.

Or perhaps she was just simply that foolish.

“I trust our guest room was nice and tidy?” asked Kurogiri, swiping idly at a strip of dust on the bartop.

Looking dumbfounded, the child stared back at him, unresponsive. His yellow, flaming eyes turned to slits in what appeared to be humor, as if he was laughing at a private joke of his own. He waited, patiently, tilted to one side, organizing a stack of whiskey glasses to keep himself busy.

Eventually, she spoke up. Her voice was much flatter than any voice Kurogiri had ever heard belonging to a child. It was husky, and a bit quiet, but the League of Villains’ caretaker heard her fine just the same.

“Who’re you?”

Again, the shape of Kurogiri’s eyes rippled. The child on the barstool took this for amusement.

“My colleagues here call me Kurogiri.” He told her. “And what about you, little one?”

She looked immediately down at the bartop, swerving to avoid answering the question in the most obvious way possible, to which the bartender took a step back and nodded, briefly, to himself. He’d overheard how his colleague had discovered this little girl, of course. Theories were blossoming in his head by the second, but he only shook it off and nodded once more.

“That’s fine. We’ll find you one yet.” He told her, and paused as she screwed up her face. “Is something wrong?”

“Toothache.” She told him, and wrinkled her nose.

“All those scrapes and scratches Dabi told me about, and your tooth’s the one thing bothering you?” Kurogiri asked, chuckling briefly. He glanced at the girl’s arms, and clicked his tongue -- wherever it was -- in disapproval at the way her wound, despite being mild ones, had been dealt with. Did he really have to do everything here himself? “I’ll fix you something.”

He knelt under the bar and rummaged in a drawer for a moment, pulling an obscure glass bottle from one of the shelves behind him, glancing at the label and unscrewing the cap, setting it down to tear into an already opened bag of cotton balls. The tiny child sitting quietly at the bar took a deep breath, taking the time to examine the rest of the first floor, squinting hard at the torn poster still taped to the far wall.

“Who else is here?” She asked, absently, as the League’s caretaker handed her a damp cotton. She looked at it, suspicious. “What’s this on it?”

The eyes, once again, seemed to waver, Kurogiri’s shoulders relaxing in amusement. “Bourbon. Put it carefully on your tooth. It’ll hurt you less, in good time.”

She did as she was told, and the villain behind the bar went on to answer her question.

“We here are a… business, of sorts.” He explained, exhaling softly as he reached for an empty glass from his right and grabbed yet another bottle from the shelf, this one with the label torn poorly off its front. “I live here with my colleagues, my partner, and my friends, one of whom saved you this afternoon. His name is Dabi.”

Kurogiri had poured some of the contents of the bottle into a clean glass and passed it to the girl on the barstool. She examined it closely, and looked up at him again.

“Is this bourbon, too?”

Kurogiri chuckled. “That’s apple juice, little one.”

“Oh.” She pulled the glass to her lips and took a long drink, nodding in satisfaction as the bartender continued to tell her about the other residents staying with him.

“Dabi tends to entertain the rest of us here with his shenanigans,” said Kurogiri, with a nod of his head, tossing the cleaning rag from hand to hand and occasionally wiping idly at the surface of the bar, as if it would just never be shiny enough. “so I often find it strange that the one of us he chooses to spend the most time with is the only one who doesn’t often… appreciate… his… sense of humour…” Kurogiri hummed. “But, I suppose, their bond is just as strong, no matter how complicated it is.”

Silent, the girl on the barstool kept her wide eyes fixed on him, sipping her apple juice in content.

“I’ve looked after Tomura Shigaraki since he was your age, maybe younger.” Kurogiri paused, and looked her way. “Just how old are you, might I ask?”

She took her hands away from her glass to hold both her hands up, flex each finger, squeeze her fists together, and then raise two.

“Twelve?” Kurogiri asked. “Practically an adult then, eh?”

She rolled her eyes.

“Tomura Shigaraki is unique,” Kurogiri said. “I’ve taken care of him all these years, and yet he still surprises me. He takes a little to get used to, truthfully, however… As stubborn as he is, he can be a good listener when he wants to be. It’ll take him strength to be patient with a newcomer such as yourself, young one, but I trust that as long as you do the same for him, he’ll be alright soon enough. Now…”

“Giri-Giri!”

The child at the bar struggled to keep a solid grip on their glass of juice, startled half to death by the sudden loud voice echoing through the room. She set the glass on the counter and looked over her shoulder, raising her eyebrows at the new face meeting hers. Dressed in her usual uniform, the newest villain to meet the little girl on the barstool looked just as terrifyingly cheerful as always, her blazing yellow eyes immediately drawn to the small shape leaning on the counter.

“Ooh! Newbie!”

“Toga Himiko, I’d advise you not to be so loud, our guest has just woken up and we wouldn’t want to disturb her, would w--”

“My name is Toga! What’s yours?”

Perhaps this wasn’t going to be so bad, after all.

-

“A no-name twelve-year-old?” snorted Dabi. “That ain’t somethin’ you see every day.”

Shigaraki sat perched on the last step of the staircase two and a half flights up, out of the earshot of the other villains downstairs. He leaned his chin on his palm and scratched at his neck with his free hand, tapping a shoe on the wood flooring. Dabi stood behind him, looking down at him expectantly. The only other person to ever have enough patience for Tomura Shigaraki besides his own caretaker had been none other than him, anyways, and that surprised most people beyond their wits.

What could he say? He had plenty of time for his employer. His eccentricity was… something for Dabi to admire, in a way.

“I suppose we ought to come up with something, then.” Shigaraki huffed. “I’d rather die than call a kid ‘little one’ like Kurogiri does.”

“Yeah?” grinned Dabi, lowering himself to the ground to sit next to him. “And what do you suggest, huh? You’re the boss, after all.”

“Shove it.”

“Oh, please make me.”

“You’d fuckin’ enjoy that, wouldn’t you, Patchwork?” Shigaraki snarled at him. The heat that took over his own face was worth it, compared to the taken aback look on Dabi’s. He swept his bangs in front of his eyes and grumbled, leaning on his arms. Dabi, too, had been rendered silent, hands in his lap and seeming to recalculate his choices.

Shigaraki sat up and threw a glance Dabi’s way. “...How about Jun?”

“Hmm?”

“For a name, Ashtray. How about Jun?”

Dabi smirked. “‘Pure?’”

“Shut up and tell me if it’s a good name or not.”

Dabi chuckled and nodded, reaching a hand over to run his hand through Shigaraki’s hair again. “Yeah, Boss, I think that’s a good name. Perfect.”

“Good.” A pause. “And Ashtray?”

“Boss?”

“...Sorry. For the yelling. And the names. And the… everything.”

“Thanks, Mophead.”

Chapter Text

“Ouch!”

She clutched her hand, frowning and shaking off the pain from her own attack. Training with one of the League and having them instruct her was one thing, but training alone and trying to stay on task was entirely another. For the first time ever, she was trying to get her quirk under control, and to her disappointment, it seemed as though it was going to be much more difficult than she’d hoped it would be. This was Jun, age twelve, and the newest “member” of the League of Villains.

Jun rolled her shoulders and her wrists, taking slow, deep breaths and letting the energy in her body course up, through the veins in her arms and her muscles until it reached her fingertips. She squeezed, and bit her lip, squinting her eyes as small, shimmering, teal-blue pixels sparked from her hands, just barely illuminating the guest bedroom in small yet significant bursts. The muscles in her fingers cramped up as she tried to drive it home, and, cursing to herself, she dropped her hands. The glowing, smoking-blue pixelated orbs shed from her palms and evaporated as they hit the ground.

Defeated, she slumped onto the mattress leaning against the wall, rubbing her eyes with the sleeve of the sweater she had borrowed from Toga. It was a pale grey, and made of a soft, comfortable fabric, and though it was a few sizes too big, Jun enjoyed wearing it often. The other day, Toga had presented to her a few pairs of shorts, tights, and shoes to go with it, all of which she’d cheerfully kept.

The guest room she’d taken as her room was fairly bland in terms of decoration, but she didn’t mind. She wasn’t stupid-- Her stay had been nothing but pleasant thus far, but even she knew something was off about the group of people taking care of her. She wasn’t typically one for eavesdropping, but she’d heard enough of their conversations to have theories of her own. None of that mattered much to her, though, not when she hadn’t been bothered much since her arrival. She was certain the other residents of the bar had their reasons for being discreet.

There came a knock on her bedroom door, and before she could reply it creaked open. Jun rubbed her eyes and sat up, waving briefly to the villain with a patchwork face as he stepped cautiously inside, offering a quick nod, and pulling at the cigarette between his lips. Jun pulled herself to her feet.

“How’s that training going, kid?” Dabi asked, and she yawned behind her hand, giving him a shrug.

“Tired.” She said. "I can’t control it. It’s hard. And it hurts.”

Dabi hummed, and dragged over a chair that’d been sitting in the far corner of the room, propping himself up on it. He took the cigarette from his mouth and put it out, crushing it and dropping it into the depths of his pocket in one fell swoop.

“I know it ain’t my business, but we might need to take a closer look at that quirk of yours. It may be a problem if even you have no idea what your powers are, y’know.” He grinned at her, flashing that lopsided smile and giving her a sly wink. “It’s nice of you to want to train to use it, though… Boss was practically trembling with excitement when he realized there was a new quirk in town.”

“He didn’t sound too excited when I got here.” frowned Jun, rubbing at her arms. She remembered the sour tone the man with the hand on his face had spoken with when she’d overheard him in the next room. She’d never felt so unwelcome. Not that she hadn’t ever felt much else.

Dabi chuckled, shrugged his shoulders. “What can I say? It takes him a bit to warm up to people. Hell, my first few months here were a joyride, let me tell you.” He shook his head and exhaled slowly. “He’s not the social type, but he’s fascinated by quirks-- not that he gives his own any credit or anything. He can have a bit of an attitude, but he’s quick, and he’s my boss. I trust him. Care about him.”

Jun smiled, wringing her hands together. “So, when’s the wedding?”

Dabi looked at her sharply, but the laugh and the glare that he ended up giving her was playful. “Alright, alright, don’t be a smartass. I’ve got some stuff Kurogiri wants me to pick up from Giran today. You feel like coming, or are you gonna keep lying on your back for the rest of the day?”

Jun hopped to her feet and rushed to find the boots Toga had offered her, scraping under the bed to retrieve a pair of socks to go with them. Dabi snorted and headed from the room, the sound of his steel-toed boots thudding the whole way down each flight of steps. The newest member of the League of Villains soon followed him, holding on tight to the wooden railing to keep from tumbling to her certain doom.

The first floor of the bar, to Jun’s surprise, was less than crowded. Nearly empty, in fact. Dabi stood by the door, adjusting the sleeves of his trenchcoat. Jun recognized Shigaraki sitting at the bar, idly tapping an empty whiskey glass with a finger, and Kurogiri, standing behind the bar, cleaning dishes. The handman’s head turned to glance at her in the doorway, and gave her a small wave. She offered him a small smile, and waved back.

Shigaraki’s gaze moved to the villain in the doorway. “Stuff from Giran?” He asked. “And you’re taking her with you?”

“Don’t sound so surprised, Mophead,” exclaimed Dabi. “She’s tough.”

Jun glowed with pride, deep maroon eyes flashing. Her long, raven hair had been tied up in the tritails Toga had taught her how to do, after promising her that she would bleach and dye her hair for her when she had the time. Toga’s crimson ribbons looked positively charming in her hair.

Shigaraki glanced from Dabi to Jun, and turned back to the bar. “...Keep an eye out.” He said, eventually.

“Of course, Boss. See ya’, Mistface.” Dabi waved, and opened the door for the newest villain-in-training.

“Safe travels, you two.”

They stepped out onto the pavement, where Dabi peeked around the corner, made sure the coast was clear, and nodded, the two of them heading off into the breezy street. The chaotic part of winter had finally concluded, and now, the city was in its final stretch to springtime.

“See?” Dabi said, giving her another lopsided, sideways grin. ‘You’ve got friends here, Pigtails.”

-

As the obscure door to the building closed, the bartender turned to face the young man on the barstool before him, setting a stack of plates and bowls down and folding his arms.

“Tomura Shigaraki--” Kurogiri began.

“I get it,” huffed Shigaraki. “I know. I get it. I get it. I fucking get it.”

Kurogiri tossed his head. “You should at least allow me to finish my sentence before speaking, Tomura.” He sighed. “But what’s the problem, anyways? Is it Jun? You seemed perfectly fine with her when we last spoke.”

“I don’t fucking know!” cried Shigaraki, the first few embers of fury glowing behind his eyes, the bow of his untamed temper beginning to strain. “You people expect me to be prepared for this kind of thing, to fucking expect it, to be able to handle it like it’s no big deal? A month ago, everything was fine-- we were on the down low, we were getting settled away from those stupid UA idiots, and now there’s a child hanging around the goddamn League of Villains? They’re gonna think we’re going soft, Kurogiri! This kid isn’t safe around us, either. This is fucking insane!”

He stood up from his seat and kicked the stool against the front of the bar, huffing, breathless, and reaching with his arms to scratch anxiously at the wrecked skin of his neck. He ground his teeth, growling at the pain that came with opening up a recent scratch wound. Kurogiri’s eyes narrowed, displeased at how the truth had been kept away from him. He was the caretaker of the League, after all, and he took the responsibility of looking after his colleagues and friends like his family, no matter their sinister morals and ideals. They were all, in fact, of the same mind.

“Tomura Shigaraki,” The bartender ordered, resting his palms on the surface of the bar. “I must insist that you calm yourself. Remain standing if you so wish, but please, do not reject my advice. And do stop harming yourself, please. You know how much it bothers me.”

Breaths shallow, Shigaraki silently obeyed, lowering his hands from his throat and putting them instead in his pocket, leaving his thumbs away from the fabric of his favorite black jeans.

(Most of the jeans -- and clothes, in general -- that he wore were black. This particular pair of pants was simply the least ruined of the selection he possessed.)

“It’s evident that that child wishes to look up to you. She’s a curious one, for sure.” Kurogiri said, absently pouring another glass of whiskey, though who it was actually for was unclear. “If you are, perhaps, thinking that she will be the one to reject you, I encourage you to observe the way she interacts with the likes of our colleagues, such as Dabi, or Toga. She speaks to them as if they were her own age. That’s something rare to see in anyone at twelve years old, of course, but, then again, as far as we know, she wasn’t fairly normal even before Dabi discovered her during that obnoxious incident.”

Shigaraki grumbled. “Dabi talks to her freely, like it’s no big deal… Like she’s not just some seventh grade girl hanging around a bunch of fugitives…”

“He talks to her freely because it is no big deal, Tomura.” breathed Kurogiri. “What does her age matter to you? She’s just another one of us now. Mustard was fourteen when he first came looking for us, was he not? He’s not even old enough to drive just yet.”

The villain shook his head, taking his hands out of his pockets and turning on his heels, heading for the stairs up to the second floor in silence.

“Tomura.” said Kurogiri.

Shigaraki paused.

“Please, if you do get the chance, I encourage you to try and explain to Jun that you are, in fact, not her enemy, but her friend, and her guardian.”

He went upstairs.

-

“So!” Giran’s greeting to Dabi was just as upbeat and happy-go-lucky as it normally was. He strode across the dimly lit lounge to meet him, patting him on the back and exchanging some complicated handshake. He had a cigarette in his mouth, but not the kind that Jun had seen Dabi smoking. “Looks like you finally decided to show up, man. Lucky you. We got some good stuff in last morning. Come check it out; see if you can find anything that’ll be useful to you.”

Jun stayed close behind Dabi, observing closely. She’d seen Giran once before, standing at the top of the stairs in Kurogiri’s bar and watching while he spoke to the League’s caretaker. He just didn’t look like he was one of the pack, dressed in his expensive clothes, with his peculiar glasses, with the pistol on his belt that he never used. He may have done regular business with the people she was coming to know back at the bar, but as far as Jun was concerned, she was perfectly content with staying an arm or two’s length away from him and his unnervingly cheerful demeanor.

“So’s… This must be the kid ‘Giri mentioned over the phone, am I right?” Giran parked himself on the sofa of the lounge, having pulled an obscure white box out from another room. Dabi sat across from him, and nodded to the empty place beside him. Jun hesitantly sat down, quiet.

“Yeah, that’s her.” Dabi grinned her way. “This is Jun.”

“Pleasure to meet you,” Giran nodded her way. “Must be fun to be hangin’ out with the bad guys?”

Jun furrowed her brows. “‘The bad guys?’” She repeated, quietly.

“What’s her quirk, Dabi? Better be somethin’ good, for you to be keepin’ her around, right?” Giran laughed, leaning on his arm and sorting lazily through the white box full of gadgets and gears, the nonchalance in his mannerisms and movements enough to make one’s blood run cold.

“She’s training.” Dabi replied, adjusting the collar of his jacket. He examined his fingernails, glancing up every now and then as if he were on a time limit. “She’s good company.”

“Right,” Giran hummed, and muttered something to himself, pulling some complicated, spherical gadget out of the box sitting at his feet. “Now then. Let’s talk about this…”

Jun tuned out of their conversation, and stared off at the wall.

-

The day had passed. Dabi and Jun had returned from their visit to Giran’s. Even Kurogiri hadn’t been able to get a word in edgewise to either of them, both of them bombarded by Toga the second they made it in through the door, declaring that now was the time for her to bleach and dye Jun’s hair. She’d been dragged away almost instantly, but by this point, that wasn’t something that bothered the League. This was Toga at her best, after all.

By ten o’clock, the rest of the League had retired to their own rooms upstairs, either to unwind or get some extra rest in (after all, at this point, they had to take shifts, keeping watch on the street just outside the bar to watch for any suspicious-looking faces). Shigaraki had revisited the bar, accompanied not by Kurogiri, but by his third glass of alcohol just that day. It soothed his nerves beyond explanation, and that was certainly something he needed, given his usual state of mind and situation. And heroes thought they had it bad… Pathetic…

Time ticked by, and he found himself sinking deeper and deeper into a lost state, unable to handle the parade of thoughts trampling his brain to the ground, worsening the migraine he had come to ease in the first place. The conversation he’d had with Dabi when he’d returned to the bar was driving him mad with frustration now. He just needed a break from all of it…

That stupid fucking teasing. Why’d it have to be Shigaraki? Wasn’t his gullibility enough to satisfy Dabi? And with all those stupid nicknames… Well, he supposed he’d been the one to start it, but somehow the retaliation hurt more than he’d ever expected it to. Just not in the way he’d expected it to hurt.

Shigaraki groaned over his glass, holding his head up meekly with one arm, failing to acknowledge the other presence in the room as someone joined him at the bar, haphazardly rummaging through Kurogiri’s belongings until she found what she was looking for. Jun once again rounded the bar and perched herself on the barstool adjacent to Shigaraki’s, small barglass and jug of apple juice in hand. It was enough to snap the villain next to her back into focus.

“Jesus, kid…” He breathed. “Scared me to death…”

“Sorry.” whispered Jun, nose buried in her glass already.

He shook his head, breathing out in what could have been a laugh if you’d squinted. “That’s either that juice Kurogiri keeps buying, or you’re drinking something you’re not supposed to way too fast.”

Jun grinned and shrugged.

“That better be juice, then,” sighed Shigaraki. “I’m not having a tween alcoholic on my hands.”

They each turned their attention back to their beverages, Shigaraki with his hard liquor, and Jun with her kid’s drink. The face of the League glanced at her, and found himself taken aback. He sat there, letting the silence draw out for a few good, long moments, before managing to find his voice.

“Your hair.” He said. “I don’t know if you noticed, but it’s blue. Like…” He swept away his own bangs, glancing at the sky blue color. “Really… blue.”

“Yeah.” Jun grinned, looking proud of herself. “I asked Toga if I could do it like yours.”

“Oh.” Shigaraki mumbled. “It… I think it suits you better than it suits me, kid.”

“Nah.”

Shigaraki exhaled slowly, pulling Father away from his face and setting it down on the counter to chug the rest of his liquor, aching for that relaxing sensation. Out of his peripherals, he could see her two maroon eyes on him, watching him carefully, inspecting him closely with her usual shameless stare. Kurogiri had to get her to stop that…

“I like your mask,” She commented. “But I like your eyes, too. They’re cool.”

Shigaraki snorted. “Thanks, kid.”

Jun looked away, and leaned on her arms. “I mean it.”

Again, they fell into silence, silence that bridged between uncomfortable and relaxed. Shigaraki glared hard at his empty glass; Jun swirled her own beverage around her glass; the sound of the other League members upstairs the only noise in the room. At last, Shigaraki’s mind had cooled, taking a break from busying itself with various schemes, concerns, and feelings. He found himself, for the third time, startled out of his train of thought by the girl on the barstool next to him.

“Thanks for letting me stay here, Mister Shigara--”

“Tomura.”

“Huh?”

“Call me Tomura. S’easier. And you’re not one of my employees. You don’t have to call me that.”

“Oh… Well, thanks for letting me stay here.” Jun swallowed. “I know I’m not the most useful person to have around, and I know you’re not that happy about it, but I’m still happy. I like it here. You guys are nice to me. And you’re funny, too. Dabi’s funny.”

Shigaraki snorted to himself.

“I just…” Jun sighed, shrugging, the most content a child of twelve could be. “Thanks.”

A pause lasted maybe fifteen seconds.

“I don’t think you’re useless, kid.” Shigaraki said. “And I’m not about to kick you out. It’s like Kurogiri said… You’re one of us now. One of the League.” A sigh. “It’s dangerous, but I guess it is what it is. I'll be here.”

“...Yeah.”

More silence.

“Tomura?”

"Hmm?"

“Could you and Dabi help me learn about my quirk tomorrow?”

“Sure, Jun.”

Chapter Text

The League of Villains had attacked the USJ. They worked for All For One. They had created the Nomu, horrifying creatures with quirks nearly too powerful to stop, and used them to their advantage, against the students of UA High School, against pro heroes, and to rid the area of any pesky civilians, or possible, unnecessary casualties. In the eyes of the public, they were vicious monsters, hellbent on ridding the planet of not just the famous Symbol of Peace, but any do-gooders who fought to bring justice to the world.

And perhaps all this was true. Perhaps they really, truly were just what they called themselves: villains. After all, they wouldn’t lie about their true ideologies, their true reasons for throwing themselves headfirst into ridiculous, nearly fatal situations. They wouldn’t waltz towards death or jail if they weren’t getting something out of it for their own sake. They’d attacked fledgling heroes, established heroes who saved people for a living… Such monsters.

But now they had a child on their hands, and this offered a glimpse into an entirely different side of the members of the League.

There was a noticeable change in them. Albeit it was behind closed doors where no heroes or people of the law could see, but it was noticeable nonetheless.

Jun had somehow managed to turn thirteen since her first arrival. She was built skinny, yet she had enough muscle to keep herself safe should she ever leave the bar alone (not that anyone would dare let her do such a thing just yet). One side of her head had been shaved, courtesy of Toga, and long, dyed sky blue hair fell in waves over the better part of the left side of her face, falling eventually by her waist. What little of a wardrobe she had came in dark colors that matched her deep maroon eyes or her hair. And, she was spunky, despite being a fairly quiet child.

A perfect villain in training, really, not that she entirely had much of a grasp on what this responsibility would mean in the future. However, considering the way she was growing to look up to the people surrounding her, there was no doubt that, when the time came, she would rise to the challenge.

Whenever that time was.

-

“Close your eyes,” commanded Toga, armed with a mouthful of pins, a comb on the vanity, and a pale pink hairbrush in hand.

The first time little Jun felt right at home was in Toga’s bedroom, sitting in front of her slightly foggy vanity mirror with her hands folded in her lap and the older villain in the room hovering over her, bonding over sticking bobbies in Jun’s hair. Now age nineteen, Toga had taken up the role of Jun’s hairdresser, perhaps to satisfy Jun’s love for experimenting, or perhaps simply because she enjoyed playing with hair, and Magne hadn’t been around since…

Toga bit down on her tongue to evade the thought and shook her shoulders free of its captivity, pulling a clutch of Jun’s hair back, sliding a bobby pin into place, and tidying up her pale blue hairline. Both girls exchanged grins in the mirror as Toga pulled away a strand of baby hair. They’d been quiet for a while now, with Jun’s mind drifting through space as per usual, and Toga determined to give the newest member of the League a style she enjoyed. Perhaps, if she weren’t a fugitive of the law, she could do this more often, to more than just a little girl like Jun.

But, for now, as long as she got to play with her knives, and as long as Jun approached her with hopeful eyes each morning, she was satisfied with her everyday routine.

Toga stepped away from Jun’s seat and beamed, proud with herself, in the mirror. “Yes, girl! That looks so cute on you. I gotta remember that… Braids can be so tough sometimes…”

Jun admired her french-braid-and-bun style in the mirror, a large, shiny smile on her face and little glints of white glimmering in her deep red eyes. The regal look made her feel powerful in an unexplainable way.

“Thanks, Toga.” She admonished, the dimples in her cheeks deepening with her broad, affectionate smile.

“Oh, sure.” replied Toga, pulling at the hem of her skirt in the vanity glass, turning this way and that and reassuring herself that she looked just so. She pouted, disappointed in the way her sweater refused to cooperate in the slightest, and twirled a strand of hair from one of her teddy bear buns around a thin, slender finger. “Big Sis taught me this one. My hair just ain’t long enough to do it on my own anymore. My hands are too shaky to cut it just right, y’know?”

The girl on the stool hummed in acknowledgement, once again sinking into another mindless train of thought. The names “Magne” and “Big Sis” did float around frequently in the bar, and she didn’t miss the way it tended to put a bit of a damper on the conversation they’d been having beforehand.

Jun stood up from her seat and shuffled to the selection of clothes Toga had pulled out of her own dresser for her. Most of it was just a size or two too big -- either Toga was a tiny little thing, or Jun was a human chameleon when it came to clothing -- but she’d managed to find a few things that could stay around her waist, and cling to her shoulders without falling off half of her slender torso. Toga hovered over her shoulder, making helpful comments and yammering on and on about fashion this, celebrity boy-toy that… For a wanted criminal, she sure did manage to keep up tight with the news.

Toga shut the door and continued to blab on and on and on as Jun picked various things from the mound of articles of clothing on the hardwood floor and tried a few on for size until she found something that suited her well. She pulled on a pair of tights underneath her borrowed shirts and fiddled with the clasps on a few different underpieces until she discovered the one that fit her. By the time she was done, Toga had concluded her tales and had begun to bounce with excitement.

“You look so cute!” She squealed, hands clasped together and eyes thin with excitement.

Jun opened her mouth to thank her, and found herself interrupted by a call from downstairs, feeling as if it was right in their ears.

“You two! Breakfast!”

“Coming, Giri-Giri!” shouted Toga in return, and extended her hand to the girl in the middle of her bedroom. “Come on, let’s go. I’m practically starving, and Kurogiri makes the best damn french toast in Japan!”

Jun’s stomach rumbled; complying, she took Toga’s hand.

-

And then, there was the second time Jun felt at home, sitting by herself at the bar one lonely evening, accompanied only by Kurogiri at the bar, his companion in the next room fiddling with his costume in the bathroom mirror. Jun spun her empty glass of juice round with one finger, oblivious to the split glass in the rim until, eventually, as Kurogiri had silently predicted, she pricked her finger. Before he could get a lecture in, she yelped.

“Shit!”

“Jun!” gasped Kurogiri, nearly dropping the cleaning rag in obvious surprise. He placed his hands on the bartop, his flaming yellow eyes wide enough to be ovals. “Who taught you that word?”

“She’s thirteen, dear, and staying with the lot of us…” came Mr Compress’ voice from the bathroom. The smile on his face was evident in his the way he spoke. “I don’t think it should be any surprise to know just who taught her that word. My money’s on Shigaraki, really… Dabi knows when not to act up… for the most part, anyways. Could have been Mustard, I suppose…”

Kurogiri huffed. “I should have known this would happen.”

“What’s the big deal, darling?” chuckled Atsuhiro. “She lives with the League; it was bound to happen.”

“But she’s only a child!” Kurogiri said, exasperated, gaze turning to the silent child on the barstool, watching him expectantly. He both admired and disliked how content she always seemed, compared to the way Tomura had been at her age… But, he supposed, the less screaming there was, the better.

That aside, there was always a mischievous glow in her eyes when she was silent, a terrifying concoction of Shigaraki’s sharp mouth, and Dabi’s casual wit.

“Please!” exclaimed Atsuhiro, appearing in the doorframe of the bathroom. “I’ve heard worse. You can’t expect much else, can you? And what’s so bad about it, dear? She’s got the others beat with her insight in our midst.” He cast a friendly wink Jun’s way.

“Yes, yes…” Kurogiri folded his arms and looked at her, smoking yellow eyes narrowed in what seemed to be amusement. “She really is one of us now, then.”

Jun grinned, and asked for another glass of apple juice.

-

The third time was in the middle of the afternoon, when all but two of the bar’s residents had left for some kind of group mission, leaving Jun to wander about the place looking for something to do. Eventually, she wandered into the one room she’d yet to explore, and found that it belonged to Mustard, a member of the League she hadn’t truly been able to have much of a conversation with. He preferred to keep to himself, it seemed, and to be honest, Jun really couldn’t blame him. It was easy to overexert yourself when it came to the League.

Curled up in the corner of a room plastered with various old posters, Mustard had his 3DS open and turned on, his thumbs tapping away at a particularly engaging round of Pokemon X. So engaging, in fact, that he didn’t even notice Jun as she walked in and took a tour of his bedroom, closely examining the posters taped to the walls, depicting cover art for plenty of different games from a few ranging console producers.

“Come on!” mumbled Mustard, kicking his foot outward in annoyance. He cast one glance upward, one down, and jumped, startled, throwing his head back into the wall behind him. “Jeez… Don’t scare me like that, man…!”

“Sorry.” Jun said, in the sort of way that didn’t really imply whether she truly meant it or not. She looked at the 3DS in his hands. “Tomura has one of those, I think. What’re you playing?”

“You… you call him Tomura?” Mustard asked, setting the handheld console down to pull off the gas mask over his face. He brushed sandy hair out of his eyes and glared up at her through his bangs. ”Nobody calls him Tomura except Kurogiri… He goes apeshit.”

“Dabi calls him Tomura.” She replied. “Sometimes. And he doesn’t go apeshit.”

“Yeah, well, that’s ‘cause he’s Dabi.” sneered Mustard. “Fuckhands puts him on a pedestal all the time… Don’t tell him I said that. I value my limbs.”

Jun frowned. “Don’t call him Fuckhands and maybe I won’t.”

He snorted, folded his arms, analyzing the youngest League member closely. Eventually, he shrugged, and moved over from his spot against the wall.

“I’m playing Pokemon.” He said. “I can teach you, if you want. They’re gonna be gone at least until it’s time to eat. Hope they bring back something decent… Shoulda’ gone with ‘em, but no, I got stuck with babysitting duty..”

Jun made the difficult decision to ignore this and moved to the wall, sliding down until she could hug her knees to her chest. “What’s Pokemon about again?”

Mustard gave her a double take, his expression one of both undisguised horror and utter disbelief. “What a sad, sad question!… Look, I’ll show you, and then you can try it. All I’m doing is grinding for level-ups right now, so it’s not like any of the enemies’ll be very hard unless you meet another player. Probably just a bunch of one-hits.”

Jun nodded, doing her best to pretend like she understood a word he’d just said. She leaned her head on her knees and watched the screen as Mustard’s avatar wandered blindly around a darkened virtual forest, walking circles in patches of tall grass until a sharp sound effect startled Jun out of her trance.

Mustard held the 3DS up, and showed her the screen. “I started a battle. Hold this, and I’ll tell you what to do.” He shrugged. “Maybe you’ll end up better than me. Who knows?” He handed her the console, and pointed at the selections on the lower half of it. “Pick ‘Attack’ and use ‘Flamethrower.’”

She complied, and grinned as her small, ratlike opponent’s health bar dropped down to nothing, initiating an animation that signaled defeat.

“Hey!” Jun smiled. “I did it.”

“Not bad.” Mustard nodded. “Not bad. How about we find another trainer this time?”

-

Eventually, there was the fourth time, by which point Jun had settled perfectly into her new living situation. Despite her young age, she wasn’t afraid of any of the League, nor did she see them as captors, or her enemies. They had been family from the moment she’d been brought through the door to the bar, as far as she was concerned. Of course, she made a point of avoiding those who weren’t too keen on hanging around young teenagers-- namely Spinner, or Twice, but both of them had yet to succeed in terrifying her to the core. She was the strangest goddamn child of thirteen any of them had ever seen.

That wasn’t to say many of them had ever been exposed to someone the age of thirteen, but you get the idea.

Jun had developed a bad habit of slamming the door to her room. Sometimes, it was because she’d gotten angry, and others, it was simply because it’d slipped her mind on her way by the door. Either way, it usually resulted in a collective panic from the League, each member fearing the worst in response to the obnoxiously loud sound. It didn’t take very long before every one of them had gotten sick of thinking the building was under attack by pro heroes that’d somehow managed to track down their location for the second or third time.

Several of them sat around the bar now, and simultaneously cringed as, a floor above them, a bedroom door was slammed. Spinner gave Mustard a disgusted glance from across the bar. He shrugged in return, and went back to nursing a morning glass of orange juice that may or may not have contained the smallest splash of vodka. Shigaraki flipped through a comic book with the cover torn off, ignoring the commotion from upstairs as best he could.

“That kid gets on my nerves.” complained Spinner, already on the verge of a temper tantrum. It was a hot, sweltering day, and the heat had already put the League in a bad mood. Hot days meant all of them were just one half-assed insult away from mauling one another. Today was no exception.

“Thirteen.” Mustard replied.

“What?”

“She’s thirteen. Thirteen-year-olds get on everyone’s nerves.” He said. “And you get on mine, Ninja Turtle.”

Spinner stood up from his seat and opened his mouth to retaliate, but found himself immediately shut down by a sharp wave of a gesture from Kurogiri behind the bar, with an additional “Gentlemen, please.” in an obvious warning tone. The reptilian huffed and drooped down onto his own barstool. Idly, Shigaraki turned the page of his comic, the sly manner of the single movement enough to rile the croc up again.

“Why’re you so interested in having a toddler around all of a sudden, anyways?” He whined, snapping his fingers (talons? Claws?) to get his attention. Though his exterior remained quite calm, Shigaraki’s blood was already beginning to boil at the reptile’s nuisance outbursts. It was too damn hot...

“Thirteen.” whispered Mustard, again, earning him a glare from across the bartop, which he cheerfully ignored.

“I wouldn’t recommend starting tension between yourself and your own teammates, Spinner,” advised Kurogiri. “You mustn’t forget our mission. We’re taking our time to step back and regroup, and perhaps increase our numbers. If we were to turn against ourselves, nothing would ever ge--”

“Can it,” spat Spinner, and turned to the young man with a hand on his face. “I want an answer from you. What’s the big idea? Why a kid? Why the hell did Dabi even bring her here in the first place-- I know he would have told you if there really was some big reason. So what is it? You weirdos suddenly got some ulterior motives or something?”

“Back off,” Shigaraki hissed, looking up through his mask and through his bangs, his voice dangerously low and his fingers curling into a fist on the bartop, the heat combined with Spinner's persistence finally striking his last nerve. “or I’ll turn you to dust in under a minute, you Hero Killer wannabe.”

“Fucker!” Spinner growled. “I’m doing the world a service by continuing his legac--”

“Do the world a service and go fuck yourself.” snarled Shigaraki, standing up from his stool and grabbing the comic book off the bar. “You people’re already pissing me the hell off. I’m going upstairs. Kurogiri-- don’t serve Scaleface here another drink for a week.”

“Tomura Shig--”

“You heard me.”

He stormed upstairs, furious, hands twitching by his side and the comic book in his grip hanging loosely by his two fingers. He navigated his way to his room and kicked open the already ajar door, tossing the comic onto the barren mattress and kneeling to the hardwood, scouring the darkened bedroom for what he was looking for. There, by the computer monitors plugged in on the floor… Shigaraki dug through a pulled-out drawer as carefully as he could manage, picking up both metallic objects daintily, along with the cords that came with them.

He stood from his place on the floor, and took a deep breath, and then another. This was just another miserable summer day. He didn't have to let it get to him.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Okay.

Stupid Spinner and his stupid borrowed cause. Nothing about him was original, except his stupid beady eyes and his stupid green scales. At least Dabi had the decency to be himself around the League. At least Dabi wasn’t some direct copy. At least Dabi had his own ideas, his own strategies, and his own methods.

At least Dabi didn’t insult the girl.

At least Dabi didn’t look at him like he was a ticking time bomb, waiting to go off, like everyone else did.

He relaxed. He was fine. Spinner was fine. They were teammates. Friends, even. He could make it up later, somehow.

God, how he hated hot days.

Shigaraki’s blood had cooled, and the adrenaline stopped pumping in his ears, and his urge to scratch at his neck fell dead. He left his room, and wandered down the hall, carrying the mess of cords and the two metallic consoles in a heap in his arms. He stopped at the second to last door on the second floor of the bar, tapped it three times with his foot. Footsteps raced hurriedly across the floorboards on the other side, and the door creaked open. Crimson eyes found maroon through a hand-shaped mask.

He held up the two 3DS’ in the curve of his palm, the charger cords wrapped firmly around the crook in his arm. “Heard Mustard taught you how to play Pokemon.” He said, a small smile in his voice. “I thought I’d see how good you were.”

Jun grinned, and opened the door to her room. “You’re on.”

-

There was another time time, too.

Dabi stood alone on the front porch, veiled by the shadow of the late, late evening and the wall to his left. He supported himself with an arm against the bricks, his fingers propping his cigarette up against his lips. Heat filled his chest and pushed out the cold night air as he pulled from it, sighing. This job was fun when the action came, but for the most part, all it did was stress you out.

Today, Shigaraki had locked himself up in his room. Again. How many times had it been now, really?

Dabi would have loved to say it didn’t matter to him much at all, that his boss was just a shortcut to his monthly paycheck, but that would have been a straight white lie. Of course, he was a villain, and those types of people aren’t particularly truthful at the end of the day, but even that…

He’d done enough lying to himself for a lifetime, at least.

Every so often, Dabi knew he’d let Kurogiri into his room to talk to him, but that never went down well. At least, it never seemed to, with the way Kurogiri’s mood had suddenly worsened after their hour-long talks. He doubted his boss would ever talk to him about what was going on. Dabi cared about him, but he knew he was just too stubborn. He wasn’t even sure if Shigaraki saw him as a friend or not. He might as well have just been another employee.

Behind him, the front door to the bar opened. Dabi glanced Jun’s way as she stepped out next to him and gave her a smirk, waving briefly to her. She beamed and waved back, joining him on the front step.

He took the cigarette from his mouth and dropped it onto the pavement below him, crushing it underneath his boot and sweeping the ash out onto the street in front of the two of them. He exhaled and returned to an idle stance. Out of his peripherals, he could see Jun watching him.

“Why’re you out here so much?” She asked.

He shrugged. “Sometimes I need to smoke. It calms me down. Lets me think.”

“Whenever I come out though, you throw them away.”

“Well,” Dabi sighed, digging his hands into his coat pockets and leaning against the brick wall beside him. “Smoking can be dangerous, with the chemicals in it at all. I don’t want you around it and getting sick left and right. It can be deadly.”

Jun looked up at him with wide eyes, mortified. “Then why do you do it?”

He smiled and reached across, poking her in the shoulder. “I’ve got stuff I gotta take care of sometimes. It’s easier to do it with a cool head. Don’t ever let your guard down, okay, Pigtails? Be tougher than I was. Stay grounded without doing dangerous stuff to your body.”

She seemed to ponder over this for a few moments, before nodding. “Okay. I can do that, I bet.”

“Bet you can.” Dabi chuckled. “Counting on you, kid.”

There was a long pause between them, the only sound being the wail of an ambulance’s siren barreling heavily down the street. Eventually, Jun looked up at him, a mischievous grin spreading like a wildfire across her face.

“You know, I bet Tomura would like it if you stopped smoking.”

Dabi rolled his eyes and scoffed to disguise his surprise, reaching over and ruffling up her hair, pulling it down over her eyes. “Hush! Let’s go back inside.”

Chapter Text

”Go, Jun! You need to run. Go get help. I’ll be fine!”

“But… you’re…”

“Go! Please!”

-

The first time Jun ever saw what the real world was going to be like for her happened nearly a full year after her thirteenth birthday, and a whole year after she had first met the League.

Her stay with the lot of them had been surprisingly peaceful, despite what some might have thought. Of course, they weren’t exactly the type of people you’d label as “normal,” but to Jun, they were family. She didn’t mind the chaos that followed them everywhere. In fact, she might have even said she enjoyed it. But still, even before the first incident she’d been exposed to, she’d always been acutely aware of some… odd things happening around her.

It wasn’t her place to question the League’s living situation. She knew enough about the way their world ran, the ideology they fueled themselves on, and their ideas about the public to know they weren’t exactly the most popular people. And Kurogiri’s bar was a comfortable space, anyways, so who was she to put pressure on them?

But, it was strange, how none of them seemed to leave the building for more than at least an hour. It was strange, how when Jun got up in the middle of the night to find something to drink, one of the League would always be up, downstairs, sitting by the window, nearly dozing off, leaning on their arm or, in Kurogiri’s case, flipping through some novel he’d pulled off the bookshelves in his and Compress’ room.

It was strange, how often she’d come downstairs at eleven PM, searching for a snack, and find Shigaraki curled up in front of the television, flipped to the news channel, with his hands scratching furiously at his neck and tearing at the roots of his hair.

It was strange, how often Dabi would be there with him, huddled close on the ground, staring so feverishly, horrified, at the screen.

The times when Shigaraki had been alone were the worst kind to watch, but she had never been able to catch a bit of what the people on the news had been saying.

As much as Jun had tried to block all of this out and insist to herself that all was well, something had seemed off. She knew that the League of Villains were just what they called themselves, but they were people, too, weren’t they? People who had the potential to care, and had cared, for the past year of her life. They were just… family. They were worth protecting, no matter what labels were stuck to their foreheads. Why were they always so on edge? What weren’t they telling her? Why couldn’t they tell her?

Breathe.

Breathe in, like Tomura taught you to do when the panicking happens.

Jun breathed in.

Breathe out.

Jun breathed out.

“Okay, breathe in,” ordered Toga, from behind her, pulling another bobby pin from between her teeth and aiming to slot it just underneath Jun’s third ponytail. Jun complied. “And breathe out. Awesome!”

Toga pulled away from Jun’s head, beaming at her in the reflection of the older girl’s bedroom vanity. Now that she was almost twenty years old (eighteen when Jun had first come to stay with the League), Toga Himiko had earned herself certain privileges -- most of which were not exactly the kind of thing she deserved -- that she’d used to get her way around, bringing Jun every outfit she now owned every time she left the bar unsupervised. Those occasions were often enough by this point, now that Kurogiri had seemingly decided she was at least responsible enough to navigate her way to the nearest clothes shop and, of course, steal her weight in shoes, comfortable tights, and cute sweaters.

Most everything Jun owned was black. (“Black goes great with everything, but it just works for you, you know?” as Toga had said.)

Jun patted the tritails in her hair and relaxed her shoulders, shaking her blue hair about her face to test the strength of her borrowed red ribbons. She smiled softly in the mirror. Toga was far better at hair than she was. Luckily, she never seemed to mind doing it in the mornings.

“Yeah!” Toga grinned, satisfied with herself. She looked at the boy sitting with a comic open in his lap in the corner. “Hey! Doesn’t she look good?”

The boy in the corner looked up, adjusting the gas mask over his face and shrugging his shoulders as heavily as he could manage. “Sure. Are you guys done? Dabi said he’s going out today, an’ I wanna go with him.”

Toga scowled, and Mustard was forced to duck and roll to avoid getting a hairbrush to the head. “Rude!”

“Christ!” complained Mustard, turned his head to face the open door. ”Kurogi--”

In seconds, he was pinned to the ground, Toga having thrown herself full force at him, shrieking “You wouldn’t dare!” with both hands outstretched towards his throat. Jun sat with her legs crossed on the vanity stool, watching with a crooked smile on her face as both -- older, mind you -- members of the League wrestled and fought for triumph.

Just another weekend.

“Toga, my mask!”

Jun rose from the stool and went to get her boots, eager to get out of the house and visit the market with Dabi.

-

Jun’s quirk had been a slow work-in-progress from the moment she’d begun her training.

From what Tomura Shigaraki had been able to observe, it involved projecting hologram-transparent pixels from her palms to create objects with defined shapes. At the start, she’d been able to do next to nothing, using her power to propel small, teal bursts of light that could have served as an attack, had they been anything other than nearly harmless. As she’d learned more and more about the way she could conjure her power, bit by bit, she moved on to realize that she could wield objects she understood the basic structure of.

In the beginning, it’d been small, easy things like Rubix Cubes, and Nintendo Switch JoyCons, et cetera… eventually, she’d moved on to things she could defend herself with. Shields. Weapons that looked like they’d come straight from Final Fantasy, which… they sort of had, to be perfectly honest.

Recently, she’d been working on finding a way to travel faster using her powers, to be able to propel herself forward. Wings, unfortunately, were taking her some time to develop.

Jun didn’t have a good grasp on why she needed to be able to protect herself, but considering how paranoid Shigaraki seemed to become whenever she left the building, she assumed it was for a good reason. He was only worried, after all.

He was always so worried.

He’d made it abundantly clear that he was scared of himself a long time ago, though indirectly, since Jun had really adjusted to living in the bar with the rest of the League. He’d flinch and back away if she made any sudden movements toward him, making sure to pull his hands away and keep them as far from her as possible. Of course, Jun had seen him demonstrate his quirk multiple times, and while she had an understanding of how destructive it had the potential to be, she wished he wasn’t so afraid of her, and of everyone else around him. He stayed an arm’s length off of them all, even members of the League.

Dabi told her he hadn’t had it easy before. He hadn’t allowed himself to go into much detail, but Jun had gotten the basic gist.

He was just worried. Timid, and irritable, and vicious, but worried, and scared that something was going to happen.

So, when something did happen, he wasn’t prepared.

How had it all managed to happen that fast, anyways? It’d been a normal trip to a local market, one that Jun knew Dabi frequented. She’d done the job of carrying the grocery list with her, chattering idly with Mustard as they followed Dabi around the semi-crowded market square. It’d been a pretty warm afternoon, but Mustard had insisted upon wearing a hoodie and keeping it over his head, leaving his precious mask behind at Kurogiri’s. Dabi had acted strange in the beginning, too, keeping his head down when he approached some of the tents, and speaking quietly to any vendors he interacted with.

Jun hadn’t thought anything of all that, though. What had she to fear? Dabi’s nonchalance was enough to reassure her that they’d be fine in a crowd.

Left alone on a street corner to wait while Dabi went off to settle some deal nearby with Giran and a few other notable “suppliers,” Jun and Mustard crouched against a wall to devour the pastries they’d picked up from the outdoor bakery in the farmer’s market. Jun licked eclair frosting off her fingers, enjoying the boisterous, cheery atmosphere of the weekend gathering. Beside her, Mustard pulled idly at the hood of his jacket, tapping at his phone, and taking the occasional bite of his own sweet pastry. It was a lovely day.

However, when Dabi returned faster than expected, and approached them at a swift, brisk walk, Mustard had a feeling something was off. He glanced around with quick eyes and nodded to them, encouraging them to get to their feet. He made brief, cold eye contact with the older child in his company, and confirmed his suspicions that something had gone wrong. His insides twisted; He glanced at unsuspecting Jun.

“Let’s get out of here.” Dabi suggested, his tone lighter, much gentler than necessary.

“Your appointment with Giran…?” asked Mustard, brushing sandy bangs out of his eyes underneath the protection of his hoodie.

“It’s fine. He’s got other clients, doesn’t he?” He said, perhaps a bit too aggressively. Jun looked between them, puzzled, quietly waiting for some type of hint, or even a nice, clear explanation.

In the end, there wasn’t time for one.

Dabi took a breath and nodded at Mustard. “Look, I think someone might’ve… spotted me. Do me a favor and call Kurogiri. We might need a warp.”

Jun furrowed her brows. “I… What’s--”

The moments following Jun’s interruption quickly became a blur to her.

There were only flashes she could remember anymore, the most notable being a sudden cry of ”You!” from somewhere down the street behind Dabi, and the sudden uproar of the market around them. She remembered Dabi’s teal eyes going wide, pupils dilated, and the blast of blue fire from his palms when he turned to face the source of the sound and protect himself and the children behind him. Jun screamed, both her and Mustard thrown to the ground by a counterattack.

“What the hell was that?” She shrieked, hands over her eyes, her vision slowly recovering from the throw off of her balance. She looked over her shoulder, searching for Dabi. Mustard had already bounced back, launched onto his feet.

Civilians had already either fled the street or were in the process of retreating from the situation, eager to get as far away from the sudden commotion as quickly as possible. Dabi still stood about a dozen feet off, his back to them, his arms up, and his palms outward, prepared for another blast. Jun had watched him demonstrate his power before, but that first blast… That’d been far less tame than anything she’d ever seen from him. It’d been a wild attack. Impulsive, and not lazy, but still an uneven shot.

Facing him were several, silhouetted figures, their outlines highlighted in sunlight. Jun rubbed at her eyes, begging them to adjust as their hazy forms came into focus. There were at least two of them facing Dabi in what were clearly threatening stances. The one in the lead was unfamiliar to Jun, but with the way the boy beside her’s expression darkened significantly, he was quite obviously important.

Blond, spiky hair. Dark red eyes, outlined in jet black. And what were those on the arms? Bombs, of some kind? What were they called… Grenades? Jun gasped, suddenly realizing she’d been holding her breath since her tumble to the concrete, her breath having escaped her on impact.

Unable to look away, Jun’s arm reached up, feeling for the sleeve of the older child’s black hoodie. “What’s happening?”

Mustard ground his teeth, his tone sour and bitter. “It’s heroes.”

“Heroes?” Jun squeaked, horrified. “But he… Dabi… They attacked…”

“Jun, they’re not the good guys.” growled Mustard. “Come on, get up, we’ve--”

”Go to Hell!”

Another explosion rocketed through the earth, splitting the concrete and sending Jun rolling again. Mustard struggled to keep his ground, squinting against the beam of sunlight in his eyes in an attempt to make out what was happening. Dabi was powerful, of course, but just how many of these brats were here? They had to be UA kids, if that blond fucker was here. Why were they out in costumes? Had they suddenly gone patrolling? What exactly was that stuck-up elitist school trying to pull out of their asses now?

Mustard wracked his brain, blindly grabbing for the terror-paralyzed figure to his right. There was no way in hell he could use his own quirk out in the open like this without the risk of bringing harm to his own teammates. But he was certain he couldn’t rely on Jun just yet. Not only was she not prepared to use her quirk in battle like this, but she could get hurt. Badly, too, and if that happened, he might as well consider himself a pile of dust.

God, he hoped Dabi could fare well against these brats. Of course he could! They were teenagers, weren’t they? Children, like him! They had limits. They weren’t unstoppable at all. All Dabi needed to do was hold his ground, and then Mustard could take Jun and… and…

Jun?

Jun?

Her legs carried her fast across the pavement, fast enough that when she dove for him, she felt her knees buckle and whine in protest. She crossed the open, vast, flammable market-square-turned-battlefield in moments, latching quick onto the sleeve of Dabi’s jacket and pulling.

“Fucking… Christ! Jun!” He whirled to face her, and reach for her, cut off by another blast.

”Die!”

Whoever this quirk belonged to was strong, Jun figured. Not that that helped her in any way. Dabi’s fingers slipped from her shoulder as he toppled out of the way, landing far too hard on his back. He sat up, groaning, and grabbed little Jun’s wrist to pull her away from the chaos.

Out of his peripherals, Mustard was sprinting hard in their direction.

“Dabi, what’s happening?” Jun screamed. “Why… Who…?”

“Jun. Jun! Listen to me, kid. Get out of here.” urged Dabi, pulling them behind a market tent to avoid getting hit by an aftershock. “You have to go. Mustard will take you back to the bar. Kurogiri will help me from there.”

“Why are they attacking you?”

“I’m a popular guy.”

“Dabi!”

“I can’t explain right now, okay? Come on, get outta’ here. I’ll be fine. You know me, don’t you?” He smiled, softly, and winked at her reassuringly. “I’m tough. I’ll be alright.”

Another blast hit the tent above them, and the unstable supports threatened to collapse. Dabi cringed and tore off his coat, balling it up and handing it to the girl.

“One of Toga's knives is in the pocket. Use it to defend yourself.” He hissed.

Jun took it from him, hesitant to back away. “But what about--”

”Go, Jun! You need to run. Go get help. I’ll be fine!”

“But… you’re…”

“Go! Please!”

As she reared back onto her feet, Mustard grabbed her by the wrist, and the two of them tore for the street, feet poundin g against the concrete. Jun ducked out of the way and quickened her pace, hearing something biting at her heels. She glanced backward as Mustard pulled her back out of the way.

Was that ice?

“This way!” shouted Mustard, and Jun turned, running as fast as her legs could manage.

-

The last thing Jun could remember had been reaching the bar, hearing Mustard yell for Kurogiri, and collapsing to the ground. She remembered a cold palm on her forehead, and she remembered talking to the young man at the bar, telling him what had happened. Panicking. She couldn’t breathe. Even when he told her to, she just couldn’t.

Everything was wrong, and she felt ashamed for closing her eyes right then, even when he told her to.

She remembered waking up in small periods. Shigaraki was always in the room, sometimes on a 3DS, or with the Switch in his hands, or simply staring off into space, fidgeting like a child. She remembered some of the things they’d talked about, but most of them escaped her in the long run.

”Tomura…?” Jun swallowed. Shigaraki had explained to her that he’d heard everything from Mustard. “Why were those people… Why did they do that?”

Shigaraki shrugged, after a long pause. “In this world, people are fighting left and right… It’s become the norm.”

”Why are you enemies? What happened?” Her voice was tiny, and shallow. “Who’re the good guys?”

He looked down at his hands briefly, and then back up at her. “I ask myself the same question sometimes. I don’t think anyone knows, kid."

There was a longer period of silence here.

Eventually, Jun cleared her throat. “I… I’m on whatever side you’re on, okay?”

Tomura smiled, rubbed briefly at his eyes, Father laid on the chair beside him. “Welcome aboard, Jun.”

-

An hour later, Shigaraki knelt in the next room, lying his head on his arms, supported by the edge of the bed’s mattress. Every now and then, he’d glance up at him, as if to make sure that he was really there, that he’d actually gotten home. That he hadn’t been hallucinating.

Putting on that face for Jun hadn’t been easy. It hadn’t been the topics they’d discussed-- no, he wouldn’t lie to her, of all people. It had been for her sake that he’d tried to keep his cool. But, each time she faded back into unconsciousness, the cycle would repeat himself. He’d walk up and down, pacing the hall of the second floor, scratching furiously at the marred skin of his neck as if it would somehow give him the answers.

But Dabi had returned home. He’d stepped through the warp gate on the first floor. There had been blood soaked through his shirt. Wounds on his face meshed viciously with the staples on his cheekbones, several of which had almost been torn. A gash decorated one side of his head, and his arms were laden with concrete burns and what appeared to be piercing wounds. He’d stumbled through the gate. He’d smiled at him, Shigaraki, and then he, too, had collapsed.

Shigaraki leaned on the bed, his face in his arms, replaying it over and over again.

“You had to go and get yourself almost killed again, didn’t you?” He whispered, voice much more hoarse than usual. “That’s just your thing at this point.”

Dabi chuckled. It was quiet, and weak, and his chest heaved out a cough. “Aw, what, did I scare you?”

“Don’t fucking fuck around like that, Dabi.” Shigaraki spat. “You know I was scared. Those stupid fucking UA idiots… They think just ‘cause they go to that place, they get the right to waltz about town showing off their powers… It’s all a performance… I’ll fuckin’ kill them for this…”

A bandaged hand accidentally brushed his hair as Dabi adjusted himself. He shivered. “You tell ‘em what for, Boss.”

They sighed.

“Is Jun okay?” Dabi asked.

“As fine as a kid can be after being assaulted by super-toddlers.” snorted Shigaraki. “They’ll pay for that, I swear they will. It’s bad enough that they hurt my team, but now her, too… Fuck! And those idiots get praised for all the damage they do!”

Dabi hummed in agreement.

“The next time they do that to you… You call me.”

He exhaled sharply through his nose, a grin spreading across his face. “How sweet of you, Mophead. Always thinkin’ of me.”

“Fuck off, Ashtray.” Shigaraki lowered his head, hid the smile decorating his own face.

“...Dabi? Tomura?” Jun’s head poked around the doorway. She stepped inside, eyes wide.

Both men looked up as she crossed the room. Dabi waved her over, ruffled a hand in her hair. Shigaraki verbally warned her not to hug him too tight.

“You guys are both okay?” She whispered.

Dabi grinned his usual smirk. “Yeah. We’re fine. These things happen.”

Jun looked at the man on the floor beside the bed and extended her arm, gently squeezing his wrist. “You, too?”

Shigaraki shrugged. “I’m above ground, kid.”

She smiled. "Cool.”

“Now tell me about the plan for these hero guys.”

Chapter Text

“Alright, throw me another punch. Focus the energy into your knuckles. Come on, a couple more. Just a few more minutes and we’ll stop for today, got it?”

Jun nodded and bounced back, taking a deep breath as she gathered herself together. A migraine raged on, pounding against her skull as a result of the incessant, blinding blue light from her quirk. She winced and flexed her fingers, clenching her fists and stepping forward to swing her fist into another left hook. Today’s sparring with Dabi hadn’t been any sort of real fight, just a bit of advice based on various demonstrations. So, it didn’t matter too much that Dabi had his arms already raised to block her punches. Either way, she wouldn’t have done much damage.

Her knuckles sparked, blue pixels shedding on impact and raining like shards onto the concrete floor of the garage. The blue light from her hands illuminated the room in rhythmical bursts, in time with her movements. Although she’d been originally training to project objects and weapons to defend herself with, Dabi had suggested learning to throw proper punches for those small, inevitable “intervals” in battles, during which her opponent would have the upper hand, and she’d be unable to summon something to arm herself with.

Dabi crossed his arms over his face and braced himself, holding his ground and swerving to dodge her series of attacks. He watched the blue race up her forearm, and wrap around her wrist, the faint blue glow taking a defined form in her hand. He grinned and took a leap forward, startling her out of her focus.

“Work on moving faster,” He advised, dodging another sloppy hook from her direction, sounding irritatingly calm in the heat of the spar. “and on divvying up your attention. You won’t be able to come to a full stop to create something in a fight. You have to learn to make do with the time that you’ve got. Multitasking is key here, especially against someone older than you.”

“Right.” She panted, ducking out of the way to avoid getting a solid blow to the nose. Her palms warming up, sparkling with teal pixels, she prepared another attack.

“Remember, keep a level head. You’re tougher than people will expect you to be.”

Jun smirked, cracking her knuckles and pivoting away from an outward kick. “Is that a compliment or an insult?”

Dabi tossed her a shrug, his pause giving Jun the opportunity to complete the projection she’d been preparing behind her back. She threw a brief left hook and drew back her free hand, displaying a cartoonish blade with a holographic-blue sheen to it. Pixels shed left and right from her knuckles, and, with a smile, she threw herself forward, confident she could at least land a minor hit.

“Not so fast.” Dabi warned, and stepped to the side, catching her by the wrist and shattering her focus on the energy projected from her palm. The sword fizzled out into static, and, pulling hard on her arm, Jun found herself on her back, panting, glaring up at the ceiling, the bottom of Dabi’s steel-toe boot resting just above her stomach. He looked far more infuriatingly smug than usual.

“Nice one, Pigtails.” He said, as cheerful as Dabi could ever truly sound. “Distractions are useful, when you’ve got such a noticeable quirk.”

“Dammit.” sighed Jun, heaving herself forward and preparing to stand up against, pushed back to the ground by a hard nudge from Dabi. He dropped to the ground himself and stretched to the side, pulling over a few water bottles and sliding her one across the concrete.

The garage behind Kurogiri’s was really the only suitable place for such intense quirk training. Sure, to-be heroes trained every day, but they had their ridiculous, pompous schools in their corner, funding their every need and desire. They had training grounds, and classrooms, and multiple rec areas, not to mention those dorms they’d organized a couple years ago… And besides, if Dabi had even tried to train with the girl out in the open, someone was bound to see them, and recognize him, or even both of them together, and call the authorities. Or, even worse, a licensed hero.

Jun unraveled the long black trenchcoat from around her waist and spread it out on the concrete floor, rolling over onto it as if it were a picnic blanket rather than an article of clothing. Idly, she picked at the white stitches on the shoulder and took a long swig from her water bottle, wiping sweat from her brow with her arm. Dabi followed suit, seeming much less exhausted-- unsurprising as that may be to you, Jun couldn’t even remotely fathom how he managed to keep his cool in such dramatic situations. Perhaps, she’d have to learn how to tame that in the future, too, in one of her lessons…

Dabi looked at the coat underneath her and arched an eyebrow. “So, I’m really never getting that jacket back, am I? You know it’s my thing, right?”

“To Hell with your thing,” sneered Jun. “You had me thinking you were done for. It’s mine now.”

He grinned and raised his hands in surrender, taking another long drink from his own water bottle. He wiped his mouth on his burnt arm. “So, fourteen today, huh? How’s that feel?”

Jun rolled her eyes and crossed her legs over top of her makeshift picnic blanket. “Fourteen’s nothing special.”

“Neither are any of the other numbers, but you still see those big celebrations all around.” Dabi said. He shook his head. “Sucks we can’t do much of anything here. By now, we’re too easy to recognize.”

“It’s not a big deal.” Jun reassured him with a brief wave of her hand. “I get it. I’d like staying here with the League an’ you much better than a big party.”

This earned her a playfully suspicious look from across the floor. “What, you mean you wouldn’t like a birthday party? It’s a day all about you, you know. You get all the attention. And presents. Can’t forget about the presents.”

She shrugged. “I don’t know, I guess. Did you ever have a party?”

Dabi visibly stilled, taking an idle sip of his water. He breathed in deep and let it go slowly, and nodded. “Yeah. I had a few, way back when. They were a pretty big deal, too. Lots and lots of people…” He shut his eyes briefly, and raised his eyebrows. “Then again, I guess I really can see why you wouldn’t want a party.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.” He grinned her way. “You don’t get on too well with other people. Too much like Boss. Geeks, the both of you.”

“We geeks tolerate you.” Jun sniffed, with another toss of her eyes.

“Sure, sure.” Dabi chuckled, hauling himself to his feet and encouraging her to her own. “Let’s get going, Pigtails. I bet the rest of them have birthday wishes of their own for you.”

“Oh, goodie.”

-

As Jun received brief congratulations and laughed with her strange adopted family, she was unaware that, half a city away, she was the topic of yet another conversation taking place in a local hero agency. Several familiar faces had come together to reunite once again. They stood across from one another, standing around an oval-shaped table. As comfortable as these now-grown-adults were with one another, this particular conversation made the atmosphere feel chilled, and unwelcome… They hadn’t expected their old enemies to show up again. They had been mistaken, in thinking they were over and done with before their graduation.

They had been mistaken in thinking they hadn’t been plotting their next move since the second they had failed last.

“Look, idiots, I’m telling you. I saw it with my own eyes. He was there, too, he’ll tell you all about it if you don’t believe me.” The young man at the head of the table barked. He was the most recent of them to achieve his official hero license, despite that all of them were still to attend UA for at least half of the next year. He pointed along the table accusingly at the one he’d been referring to, another man his age with neatly parted red-and-white hair.

Next to him, his partner, a significantly taller and buffer man with deep blue-black hair, spoke up. “Surely you’re mistaken. We haven’t heard at all from those scoundrels in years. Why now would they suddenly pop again? And with a child, no less? I highly doubt your eyes weren’t deceiving you, Bakugou.”

“Mm, I disagree, Iida.” spoke up a dashing young woman from down the line of adults, her long black hair tied up in its usual high ponytail. “Every time we’ve dealt with these villains, they’ve shown up unexpectedly, or they’ve pulled some sudden trick on us when we’ve tried to track them down. Who’s to say they haven’t just been waiting for us to assume they’re gone forever?”

Iida pulled idly at his lip, thinking over it in silence. Next to him, his partner spoke up, his hand brushing over Iida’s arm to catch his attention.

“Yaoyorozu probably has it spot-on, I’d say.” He said. “And Bakugou’s right. I saw them, too. I could only recognize one of their faces, but I think the other one with him might have been that kid that attacked Class 1-B during that night at the training camp. And the other one… The one with the…” He grimaced, his gaze sliding downwards. “The burns all over him.”

“The one that attacked Class 1-B…? You mean the gas mask boy, Shouto?” gaped Iida, his arms swinging rhythmically by his sides. “He was arrested shortly after the police arrived! Tetsutetsu and Kendou apprehended him.”

“Clearly not.” Yaoyorozu sighed.

From yet another angle of the rounded table, two more young heroes spoke up, one with unruly, forest-green hair, and one with round, rosy cheeks, both with round, charming eyes. The rosy-cheeked young lady elbowed the one next to her and waved with her free hand, catching the group’s attention.

“I bet Deku and I could--” She began.

“Absolutely out of the question!” interrupted Iida, with a firm glare in his deep, red eyes. His arm chopped upwards to scold them. “I’ve made it my duty to ensure that Midoriya doesn’t leave my line of sight in serious situations until our class has graduated from UA, Uraraka. And don’t forget, that promise went for the lot of you, too. I won’t let any friend of mine get taken away by one of those filthy criminals again.”

Beside him, Todoroki raised a hand and calmly brought Iida’s broadly swinging arm back down to his side.

“You can’t always protect us, Iida--” began Midoriya, having been especially quiet since the meeting had started.

Yaoyorozu cut him off, a strange thing to see from such a polite individual. Her eyes were sharp, and narrow, and it was quite obvious that the vice president of UA High’s Class 1-A was not about to play around with her situation.

“You said there was a child involved, didn’t you? Todoroki, do you think--”

And another interruption, this time from Bakugou’s side of the table. “I told you, morons, I saw everything with my own two eyes! I fought them! They got away. But, yeah, I saw that kid, and I don’t trust this. It’s not right.”

Yaoyorozu sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. “Do you think they abducted the girl?”

“I don’t see why they would have any reason to abduct some unidentifiable teen. And when they ran, she appeared to go with them willingly. Perhaps they have intentions for her?” offered Todoroki. “A new member of their group, or something?”

“How terrible…” breathed Iida. “Manipulating a child like that!”

“I don’t know…” started Midoriya, and he jumped when every pair of eyes turned to face him. He shuddered, and continued. “I mean, we all grew up being encouraged to look up to heroes, didn’t we? If that girl went willingly with them... Couldn’t it be… the same for… them?”

There was a long, uncomfortable silence, full of unexpected, awkward tension.

“No. Of course not.” Iida began, firmly, though something in his tone made him sound uncertain and unsure of himself. “Being a hero is an honorable profession around the world. It doesn’t matter how infamous you become as a criminal, you’re still, when it comes down to it… a criminal. Right? That League of Villains they have can’t be an exception.”

“Alright, look,” Bakugou roared, hands planted on the surface of the rounded table, his sudden outburst preventing Todoroki, Uraraka, and Yaoyorozu from adding their input. “The kid doesn’t matter right now, alright? The point is, that stupid group of villains is still out there, probably planning their next move, and we need to stop them right now, before they can hurt anybody else. I’m the one who got fucking kidnapped by them, right?”

“This happened a month and a half ago, Bakugou.” remarked Yaoyorozu. “Why’re you two only bringing this to our attention now?”

“I didn’t have the damn time back then, okay? Fuck!”

“...Language.” muttered Iida. His partner stifled a snort beside him, excusing it as a brief cough.

“Going out on another group mission after the incident we pulled seems unwise,” noted Yaoyorozu. “Not only would we get into more trouble, but, as far as we know, they’ve become stronger since we last faced them. More than one of us could get seriously injured doing something like that again, no matter how much we’ve improved ourselves. We never know what they’ve been up to since we saw them last.”

“Yaoyorozu’s right,” agreed Todoroki. “It’s not a good idea to go running after them again. I mean, you all remember what happened the last time we did something like that, don’t you?”

They all shuddered.

“Okay…” Uraraka hummed. “I say we inform Aizawa-sensei about this. He’ll know what to do, won’t he?”

“Yeah.” Midoriya nodded, along with the rest of the table, save for Bakugou, who continued to fume quietly. “Let’s hope he does.. Apparently, we’ve got a child to save.”

-

The evening of Jun’s fourteenth birthday, all but two were asleep. Kurogiri usually called for lights-out at around eleven o’clock, and by now, it had struck midnight, and two were still wide awake. This time, it was Dabi who was alone at the bar, flipping through a novel with the plastic cover ripped off and a mug of what appeared to be some herbal drink-- a strange beverage choice, for someone like him, no? But it helped him relax, nonetheless.

It was also strange to see him so invested in a novel, but it wasn’t the book he was focused on at all. Though his eyes were glued to the page, his mind had begun wandering at least half an hour ago, his finger absentmindedly tracing the same paragraph on the page over and over again, the only sound in the room the tapping of silverware against the tea mug, and the scraping of his fingernail on the paper.

Thinking about Tomura was what Dabi found himself doing this evening. Really, he’d found himself thinking quite frequently about his fellow criminal as of late, and he wasn’t quite sure how to make heads or tails of it. Consulting one of the older members of the League may have been helpful for him, but he was far too hard-headed, and far too concerned about not being laughed at to do so. Not that Kurogiri or Atsuhiro would have laughed at him, but there was still that nagging pest at the back of his mind that advised Dabi not to try anything.

Tomura was probably never confused like this, so it was all just extra pointless.

And Jun was fourteen now. Jesus-- had it really been that long? She’d been twelve when Dabi had discovered her, a helpless child without any control of her quirk. And, even since then, she’d picked up her habit of poking fun at him, teasing him for each time he brought up the young man with the hand over his face. As if he didn’t get enough of that from Toga on a regular basis anyways.

Everyone teased him, just when he wasn’t around. Maybe that made it worse, to deal with it alone.

But he wasn’t ashamed to say he did adore Jun. She was spunky and witty, and she reminded him of both himself and Tomura sometimes. That day, a month and a half ago, at the market… That had terrified him to his core.

Especially since he’d seen just who had been accompanying that little Bakugou brat.

His old family would all be ashamed, to know of the stupid, confused, senseless condition he was in right now, sitting over a bartop with an herbal tea that was helping him less and less as he drove himself crazy, pretending to read some boring book he’d pulled lazily off one of the shelves on the first floor.

Dabi cringed, unhappy to think of what they would think at all.

“You were down here last night, Ashtray.” commented Shigaraki’s voice from above him. His voice sounded huskier, as if he were clearing sleep out of his throat. “You going for some kind of record here?”

Dabi caught up to his breath and snorted, leaning on his palm as the other man sat down next to him. Why’d he have to be here? He didn’t want to see him here, not until the morning. He wanted to at least get over this strange, midnight phase he was going through. He wanted that buzzing nuisance in the back of his head to shut up, before he could face his boss alone another day. Before he did something stupid.

“Nah, just… can’t sit still.”

“Mmhmm.” Shigaraki reached over the bar and fumbled for something to drink, stopped almost immediately by Dabi’s hand. His novel flipped closed on the bartop. Dabi pulled his hand away, flinching at accidental eye contact.

“Don’t drink that. It’s too late.” He muttered, irritably, and glanced up at him again. “And quit scratching at your neck before it gets infected. Hasn’t Kurogiri told you that enough?”

Shigaraki furrowed his brow. “Jesus, Leatherface, what’s got your panties in a twist this evening?”

“I just--” Dabi huffed, that growing discomfort bubbling closer and closer to the surface of his mind by the second. “I… Just tired. Whatever.”

“You’d tell me if something was wrong?”

“Yeah, probably.”

“Would you?”

“I guess.”

“That ain’t a yes, Stitches.”

“What do want me to tell you? I’m a villain, not a saint.” Dabi growled, finally snapping, exasperated, the late, late evening having shortened his fuse by a mile. “I don’t have to tell you everything.”

There was a long period of silence, during which Dabi once again recovered his breath, and Shigaraki stared at the surface of the bar, as if it were the most interesting thing in the world. He flexed and clenched his fist, looking much calmer than Dabi would have expected him to after such an outburst like that. Was Dabi really that see-through? He just didn’t want to talk about what was on his mind, not with the very person it all concerned.

Shigaraki’s eyes were level with his when he looked up. Ah, there it was: that vicious wildfire in the very back of all that crimson, lost in the ferocious color. It accompanied him always.

Something had changed in Shigaraki in that silence, there. He seemed to have shifted moods completely. He looked determined. For what, exactly, Dabi hadn’t a clue, but he could see it.

“We’re on the same team, Dabi.” He said. “We might be villains, but that doesn’t mean we’re enemies. That’s for those idiot heroes to worry about, isn’t it? We're caricatures to them, not people.” He planted his hand on the table. “Right? You've heard about what they say about me in the paper."

That wildfire. That vicious, vicious wildfire. It glowed, and it did something terrible to the pit of Dabi’s stomach that was indescribable. Was that fear, or was that something else?

“Villains are supposed to be evil.” Dabi said, his voice hoarse.

“That’s what they think. I don’t do these fucking motivational speeches for my team, Ashtray, so don’t test my damn patience here or I’ll turn you to dust. But you’re not the fucking Hero Killer. You’re not Stain. You’re not some philosophical twit with this ridiculous, intricate ideology. As much as you lot say you’re inspired by him, that he gave you a mission and a task to complete, you’re still your own people. You function on your own ideas. There’s no way in hell you’ve got the precise mindset of a nutjob like Stain.”

A long moment of silence yet again, and Shigaraki sat back on his barstool, chuckling bitterly to himself.

“It’s been five minutes, and here I am monologuing like none other than that fucker himself.” He sighed, and shook his head, clawing at the roots of his hair. “What'd you to to me, Dabi?”

Quiet.

“I don’t read minds, Stitches.” Shigaraki said, standing up from his stool. “If you need some alone time or whatever…”

Dabi lurched up from his chair and caught his shoulder, stumbling over his own feet, rendered stupid by his own lack of sleep. Behind him, his chair screeched across the hardwood. Shigaraki looked up at him, his expression unreadable but his eyes wide and his mouth ajar, looking expectant, and confused. There was a brief moment before Dabi had pulled him in close. Shigaraki's arms wrapped around him by instinct, but excitement became anxiety when he realized his situation.

“I could hurt you, Dabi." Shigaraki whispered. “Don’t come looking for me to solve your problems. I know less than you do.”

“You wouldn’t.” Dabi replied, under his breath. “After all, we’re on the same team, aren’t we, Boss?”

Shigaraki grumbled, and the two of them fell silent after a few moments, sleepy, and looking for any bit of warmth they might find in their embrace.

From the top of the bar stairs, a silent spectator, a newly fourteen-year-old girl, smiled to herself, and crept back to her bedroom.

Chapter Text

It’d been exactly a month and a half since the pro hero Eraserhead’s students had met together to discuss the marketplace incident.

Roughly about half of UA High’s faculty, and a good handful of pro heroes who worked outside of the education system had gathered around the table in UA’s teacher’s lounge to discuss an issue that had been brought to their attention by none other than UA’s own third-year students. Beforehand, Principal Nezu had hoped and prayed that this particular meeting would go smoothly. Now, looking at the commotion unfolding before him, he realized that perhaps that had been a stupid wish to ask for.

As much as this group of people called and labelled themselves “the good guys,” they didn’t seem to have quite the group coordination Nezu had been hoping for. The majority of them all had the same belief: that their voice was more important than the rest, and that they deserved to be heard before anyone else got the chance to speak for themselves. Heroes from all over the country were at each other’s throats, the possibility of some sort of hostage situation with the League of Villains involved spurring the excitement in all of them. They’d all been waiting to jump at a chance to take out the League and gain themselves a bit of good light, after all.

Eventually, it had gotten so bad that Eraserhead, the only calm face in the room, had had to lean to his left, and suggest, quietly, to Present Mic, “You might want to give it a go, at this rate.”

To keep things short, let’s just say Present Mic’s consequent shout was enough to both silence the room of pro heroes, and make several of them fall to the floor in absolute shock, paralyzed by their own sudden terror.

Aizawa cleared his throat. “If you all would please return to your seats, perhaps we could actually get down to business…?”

There was a long period of silence, save for the sound of pro heroes shuffling sheepishly back to their seats around the long, oval-shaped table. Aizawa gave a curt nod to All Might -- or, more accurately, Toshinori -- from across the table, who wrung his hands together and cleared his own throat to speak.

“Thanks, Aizawa. Anyways, as I was saying, everything we know is information passed to us by our students. From what we’ve heard, Bakugou and Todoroki from Aizawa’s class had a run-in with two individuals who we think are employed by the League of Villains in broad daylight at one of the local farmer’s markets. They failed in an attempt to apprehend them, but, as you’ve all heard by now, they noticed that the criminals were accompanied by a child. We’ve tried identifying them based on the description we got from the students, but nothing’s come back to us so far.”

“Nothing?” asked Miss Midnight, arching an eyebrow. “Just how young did they say this child was? Surely, we’ve got to find something. Medical records, or a certificate of some kind… Anything that will point to the child’s identity could do us wonders in our investigation.”

All Might shook his head with a light shrug. “I’ve already asked Tsukauchi, and, as far as we know, this little girl’s information either wasn’t logged, or was somehow destroyed, perhaps by the League themselves. Some of our allies down at Tsukauchi’s station have offered to do sketches based on the descriptions Bakugou and Todoroki gave us, but, as for now, that’s the best we got.”

At this, the atmosphere in the room seemed to change, the swarm of professionals shifting in discomfort in their seats. Some in anger, some with unease.

“If that’s the case, then we’ve only got one option!” barked Rock Lock, pounding a fist on the table for added emphasis. “We’ve gotta find these villains and take ‘em out, once and for all. I mean, hell, All Might, your students managed to track ‘em down without your help once already, didn’t they? Who’s to say a bunch’a licensed adults can’t do the same, but better?”

“We don’t need to drum up more drama for UA, and the heroing profession in general,” said Cementoss, from his angle of the table. “If we suddenly decided to go out looking for trouble, not only are we risking ourselves more than necessary, but there’s no telling what the media would do with it all. You’ve all seen what they’ve done in the past.”

“What about the kid, though?” Present Mic interjected. “It ain’t just about our reputations and our safety here. We don’t even know why the kid was with them. Shouldn’t we be looking into that before we go try and take ‘em all out?”

“What are you suggesting?” scoffed Miss Midnight, with a toss of her head and a fold of the arms. “That that little girl is one of their employees?”

“It wouldn’t necessarily be out of the question, I mean.” All Might said. “We learned about Tomura Shigaraki’s connections to All For One. He was supposed to be his heir, his predecessor.”

“I don’t like this.” sighed Thirteen. “A kid being held captive, training to be some sort of criminal mastermind?”

“Now, now, let’s not jump to conclusions.” came Nezu’s voice. He folded his paws on the table, his smile just as cheerful and calm as it normally was. "After all, we don’t know much of anything about the situation, do we? I’d rather not have another Hassakai situation on my paws. As Cementoss said, it wouldn’t do any good for the reputation of the heroing industry. It’s not just about our own egos. Japan’s general public is already on edge. If we were to make another mistake, like we did a few years ago, it wouldn’t go well for any of us, and I don’t intend for my school to be shut down anytime soon.”

“With all due respect, sir,” said Rock Lock. “That just ain’t the case. We can’t be so tame when a kid’s life could be at stake here. You all have seen the kind of temper that Shigaraki guy has during a fight. Who’s sure he ain’t like that behind the scenes? As far as I’m concerned, we gotta take action before somethin’ bad happens, and I ain’t waiting around for that. If you people wanna sit here twiddling your thumbs, be my guest, but I’m not gonna sit idly by while a little kid could be in trouble.”

He stood up from his seat, and made for the door, adding, over his shoulder, “When you people finally find your nerves, let me know.”

The door slammed hard behind him.

“On second thought…” said Lemillion, a young hero who made his debut a year before. “I think I agree with Rock Lock. This girl’s probably in danger, and we wanna sit around worrying about what the press is gonna think? We’re heroes, aren’t we? What’re we sitting around for?”

“That’s just not it, Mirio.” said All Might. “We don’t have enough to go on for a full-on investigation just yet. We’re waiting until we’re prepared to go find these villains. Hell, we don’t even know where they moved to after the Kamino Incident.”

Lemillion placed his hands on the table and rose. “We have people in our party that have quirks made for this, sir! We can do this. All we need are the right powers. We’ve seen these villains in action, we know what they’re capable of. Please, sir. We have to go.”

All Might looked him in the eyes. “I don’t want another Nighteye situation, Mirio.”

Lemillion’s determined expression shattered. His hands slipped from the table. Defeated, he slumped back into his seat.

Across the table, Aizawa idly drummed his fingers on the table, looking lost in thought.

“Perhaps…” said Principal Nezu, lowering his gaze. “We should reconsider our options, All Might. Let’s begin this investigation. We’re going to need some time.”

-

What would you think if I sang out a tune?
Would you stand up and walk out on me?
Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song,
and I’ll try not to sing out of key…

Jun hummed and mumbled along to the tune of the song as best she could, ambling around her tiny little guest bedroom in search of something to do. She’d been kicked out of the first floor while the rest of the League discussed some sort of mission they had going on, and though Jun was training to be one of them, they’d made a point of voicing their concerns about her, not prepared to send her anywhere where she could get hurt so early on. This morning, she’d done everything from read a book, to draw on a few loose pieces of paper, to play a few rounds of Mario Kart on her DS… She was absolutely bored out of her mind.

Atsuhiro -- Mr Compress -- had been the one to introduce Jun to English music, not that she could understand a word of it. She liked the tune and she liked the voices, though, and that was good enough for her. The particular record on now, Atsuhiro had told her, was played by a band with a peculiar English name. Who would want to name their band after a bug? she’d asked. But Atsuhiro had just laughed and shook his head. The Beatles were just too good to question, he’d told her.

No, I get by with a little help from my friends…
Mm, I get high with a little help from my friends…

Jun collapsed back onto her bed, fumbling lazily with the covers in search of her smartphone. It wasn’t that old of a model, but it’d been given to her as a hand-me-down from Toga, with an adorable little cat phone case in addition. Kurogiri had suggested she find some means of communication, for the occasions when she couldn’t get in touch easily with any of them. She hadn’t used it for anything other than causing mischief in the League’s group chat since she’d received it, however. Now, she swiped through her passcode, and found this same chat.

[]

12:32 PM

Junbug: hand-dad, can I have a candy from the bar?

Moisturizer: you had one this morning. wait a while

Junbug: oh ok

Junbug: sako, can I have a candy from the bar?

nowformynexttrick: Of course!! Check your pocket!

Junbug: thanks sako

Moisturizer: what the hell

BurntBitch: Top 10 anime betrayals

[]

Jun snickered and removed the tiny orb that had formed in her pocket, and watched it transform until she could unravel the wrapping around it and pop it in her mouth. She sighed and kicked back onto her bed, shutting her eyes and trying to focus on anything other than the discussion going on downstairs. It wasn’t any of her business, of course, but she couldn’t help her curiosity. It was one of her biggest weaknesses, really-- Dabi had taught her that during training, but even he knew it was just an asset to her personality.

Speaking of training… she thought, reaching down to rub at her legs. Her calves were still sore from the work she’d done the day before, and they’d been fading in and out of periods of excruciating pain since they’d stopped that afternoon. The painkillers had helped some, but not much. Training to use a part of your body that was technically something added on later, like a useful skill or tool, meant that the pain that came with it arrived with an extra kick of heat to it.

Her hands, too… She’d learned quite a while ago that, even when she was completely still and totally, utterly relaxed, her hands had a tendency to shake when they weren’t at her immediate side. It’d put her at a bit of disadvantage during training, when she’d needed desperately to fire an accurate, precise shot. She’d had to test the muscles in both hands, with the help of Kurogiri, in order to study why they were holding her back before continuing forward in her training.

Jun clicked her tongue and pulled her legs up, gnawing on her sour candy in the hopes that it would draw her own focus away from everything going on in both her muscles, and the first floor of the building.

Unsurprisingly, it didn’t.

She’d been with the League long enough to know what kind of “mission” they were planning downstairs, and frankly, every time one was put down on the table, she found herself puzzled. She was growing to understand her family’s hatred for the people employed as “professional heroes,” but some things just didn’t sit right with her, and it wasn’t at all at the fault of her family.

Heroes.

These were people who were literally licensed by the government to apprehend… just who, exactly? Criminals, or people they didn’t like? They were licensed to kill. They were given the “lawful” right to take the lives of those who had a bad record. Of course, it wasn’t as if Jun thought of things like murder and assault as something good… but was the additional taken life really all that necessary? Or was it just a whim to be acted on?

Shigaraki had said it once, and Jun had heard him say it again: “Violence for the sake of others makes it admirable.”

Heroes earned paychecks for inflicting harm, didn’t they? And, in the eyes of the people who so zealously worshipped these heroes, wasn’t hurting people bad? So then, why was it so terrible for someone like a criminal to kill someone, when it was perfectly fine for a hero to do the same? Was it the innocence of the criminal’s victim, compared to the possible law-breaking streak on the criminal’s belt? What was the big difference that caused all these wars?

Or was this just what the League was fighting for?

Jun knew Shigaraki had a knack for action, for thrills, but there had to be a reason her adoptive father figure ran this organization like he did. She’d heard all about the certain ideology some of them shared, and just the kind of people they were looking to eliminate… In reality, it should have horrified her, made her want to run, and to leave, but then again, Jun wasn’t quite what you would call a normal girl of fourteen years old. She was shockingly level-headed, and, though easily excitable, fairly observant.

She understood, anyways, where the League was coming from. They were outcasts. They asked the wrong questions. And, either way, she had made a promise to Tomura that she didn’t intend on breaking.

Whether that meant being called the bad guy or not, she supposed.

She rubbed her eyes, breaking her candy between her teeth.

Killing, for the sake of honor, for fame… How she hoped she never had to fight, to kill in the way a hero did.

Yes, I get by with a little help from my friends…
With a little help from my friends…

-

The same afternoon, a young man sat at the dining room table in the common room of UA High’s dorms. Beside him, on the tabletop, he’d poured himself a glass of orange juice (about half full now), and made a turkey sandwich for lunch. He had an English textbook open on the table in front of him, but he’d lost all ability to focus on the importance of having the semicolon in one’s repertoire long ago, instead tracing the scar running up his left hand with a finger, his breathing calm and quiet. Behind him, only a few of his fellow classmates were seated on the couches, chattering idly as usual.

One stood up from his place on the couches, and approached the dining area, pulling out a seat for himself and joining his boyfriend at the table. He pushed aside a few strands of hair, both red and white, and leaned on his arm.

“Not taking your notes?” Todoroki asked. “That’s unlike you, Class President.

Iida huffed. “I apologize, I was distracted.. Perhaps I should--”

“I was joking, Tenya.” He shook his head, a light smirk gracing his features. “What’s distracting you? You’re never one to get lost during a study session.”

Iida sighed and pushed his textbook to the far end of the dining table, taking a sip of his juice and trying to decide how to explain his feelings. He’d felt a weight on his shoulders for a month and a half now, since the meeting, and he wasn’t quite sure how to summarize the kind of guilt he felt in a way that would make much sense at all.

“When we all met, last month, I think I… got in my own head, for lack of a better phrase.” He said, quietly, squeezing his left fist and watching the scar there contort with his muscles. “I felt responsible for coming up with a plan. I wasn’t ready to hear that that group of villains was back… It was so sudden, too. But I’m class rep, aren’t I? I’m supposed to know what to do, but…” And he trailed off.

“You’re not seriously blaming yourself for an incident you weren’t there for, are you, Tenya?” asked Todoroki, leaning forward even further on his arm. “You reacted the way you should have. This happened ages ago, why would you stay so quiet about something like this? I could have talked to you.”

“I’m sorry, Shouto.”

“You don’t need to apologize, I just wish I’d known. I’m not terribly great at that kind of thing, you know.”

“I-I know, I just..” Iida pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose and sat back in his seat. “What everyone said at that meeting, about the League of Villains… about the child being involved somehow… I didn’t.. I was confused by it all, really. I didn’t know what to make of it. It just didn’t settle right.”

Todoroki pulled at his own lower lip with a thumb, folding his arms on the tabletop. “The pros and our teachers are looking into the situation now. Everything’ll be okay. They’ll take care of it. As for now, you have to stop worrying so much.” He wore a small smile. “This might sound bad, but don’t be so selfless. It’ll be fine.”

Iida gave another sigh and nodded, slowly, sitting up straight in his chair. “Yes, you’re right.. You always are.”

“Just what I do, I guess.”

-

Midoriya paced up and down the dorm hallway, muttering away as per usual. The topic of his nonsensical ramblings today was none other than the same as Iida’s conversation with Todoroki.

“Mirio texted me this morning and told me all about the meeting with the other heroes. He wasn’t supposed to, but I mean, I am glad he did, after all, I would be worried sick if he wasn’t… But, oh God, he told me all about it!” He thrust his hands in his pockets and switched directions, walking back up the length of the hall. “The investigation is going to take them months. Months! What if that girl they talked about gets hurt or something? What if we get there, and they’re totally prepared? What if that girl isn’t all we think she is? What if we…”

And so on.

Ochako Uraraka sipped on a smoothie she’d made herself long before Midoriya had launched into his mumbling, stirring it idly in the glass with a spoon and giving small affirmatives like “mm-hmm” every now and then to signify she was listening. She was doing her best, anyways, to decipher every word despite his habit of talking at hyperspeed.

This was going to be one hell of a year.

-

“I dunno, man, shouldn’t we just leave it to the pros?”

He sat forward on the edge of his companion’s bed, watching him from the other side of the room. His spiky-haired classmate had his chair leaned back against the wall with his legs folded, glaring up at the ceiling with an intensity so laid back Kirishima wasn’t sure if he was looking at the right boy.

“I overheard Deku just an hour ago.” said Bakugou. “He’d been talking to that phase-y kid, y’know, the top kid in UA? The pros are hoping for an investigation that could take up to a year at the most. I was at the market when those assholes were there. I’m not sittin’ around.”

Kirishima’s expression soured in concern. “These are the same guys that kidnapped you, remember? I mean, you’re not about to go throw yourself out there, right? The same thing could happen. They’re probably more powerful than they were the last time we fought them.”

“Of course they are. Which is why we hafta’ take ‘em out.” Bakugou barked. “I don’t care if it’s us or the pros that go, what’s important is that that stupid League of Villains gets taken care of in the future. They’ve gotta go down at some point. They can’t keep it up forever.”

Kirishima shrugged and shook his head. “Whatever… I just don’t want my buddy getting taken away again.”

Bakugou’s expression softened.

“I’ll be fine, moron. Quit worrying.”

“Yeah. Alright.”

Chapter Text

“Good afternoon, peasants.”

The few people sitting round Kurogiri’s bar looked up, faces softening into smiles at the sight of the figure standing at the bottom of the stairwell. Dressed in another ensemble stolen from Toga, Jun shuffled her way across the first floor, her hands behind her head, making quick work of her unending waves of sky blue hair with a tiny red ribbon. She pulled herself onto the stool adjacent to Toga’s, who immediately turned her way and began fussing with her pigtails. Twice, on the far side, waved aggressively for a few long moments and greeted her enthusiastically, before sliding onto his elbows and pouting like a child. Mustard gave her a brief greeting, and Spinner followed suit.

Kurogiri reached for a jug from the shelf behind him and poured her a glass, setting the jug of juice back where he got it, and pausing before he handed it to her across the bartop. If they’d been able to see his human expression, he would have had an eyebrow raised.

“Your room?” He asked.

“Cleaned.” Jun replied. “All the way. Even the closet.”

“And…”

“I washed down the counters in the bathroom too, yes.”

“Excellent.” Kurogiri surrendered the glass, and went back to cleaning up last night’s dishes.

It was often that the League ate takeout, rather than go to the trouble of making a homecooked meal. After all, while it wasn’t difficult to get their hands on some fresh groceries from a local market or a store, it was a bit of a hassle. On the off-chance that the place was crowded and someone -- a cashier, for example, or a random shopper -- recognized them, the trip could end up taking another hour, and there was no use in having the rest of the League go into a frenzy when their companion didn’t return on time.

Fortunately, plenty of the League had even small, unimportant connections-- namely Dabi, who knew plenty of part-time thugs who made a bit of extra money delivering... takeout. Perhaps the fast food industry adds a bit of extra thrill to a gang member’s life or something. Who knows?

“Don’t you think the poor girl gets scolded enough by those two, my dear?” said Mr Compress as he swept elegantly into the room, wearing an alarmingly sharp suit, with a flashy gold tie to match the beautiful, mustard yellow feather in the ribbon of his tophat. He waved cheerfully to his fellow League members, most of whom threw him a grin as he entered, and looked up at his betrothed*. “And, besides, aren’t the lectures their responsibility, too?”

*Obviously, the two weren’t actually engaged, nor were they married. There was no way under the sun that they could legally arrange something like that, of course. But, as the saying goes, it was the thought that counted.

Kurogiri scoffed as Atsuhiro slipped behind the bar, gently taking his wrist and kissing his hand underneath the thin layer of mist as he travelled across the room. Had anyone been able to see the bartender’s true face, they’d be able to note how red it still turned every time the magician pulled something like that.

“Neither of those two are nearly as responsible as they should be,” He complained, with a sigh. “I refuse to watch them let her off easy. Besides, having a clean room is therapeutic.”

“The process you go through to have a clean room, on the other hand…” mumbled Mustard, his nose in his tea, and his gas mask set up neatly on the bartop in front of him. Toga, bobby pins in her mouth and her hair in Jun’s hair, nodded vigorously in agreement; Jun grinned, and muttered a small “yowch!” as Toga tugged too hard on a fistful of her hair on accident.

Kurogiri huffed in response, throwing the nineteen-year-old boy what could possibly have been a disapproving glare. “Someone has to keep this place clean.”

“And what a fine job you do, Misty.” called a new voice as someone else entered the room from the stairwell. Jun grinned from ear to ear as someone tugged playfully at her earlobe. “Hey, nerd.”

”Dab-ee!” Toga whined through a mouthful of bobby pins. “I’m tryna’ do ‘er ‘air! Sta-hp it!”

Spinner rolled his eyes at her; Twice glared almost comical daggers at the reptilian from across the room.

“Yeah, yeah, okay.” Dabi shrugged his shoulders and snapped his fingers to catch Kurogiri’s expression. His voice tore him away from Atsuhiro, whom he’d been handing an afternoon drink to. “Surprise me, Mistface.” When he earned himself a warning, sharp glare from the magician a few barstools down, he corrected himself. “May I have a drink, please?”

Kurogiri nodded and directed his attention to the shelves behind him as Dabi joined Toga and Jun on a vacant stool.

”Hey! Smokey! Gemme’ another water!” squawked Twice, before assuming a prim and proper position, with a stiff posture. “...If you would be so kind.”

Dabi and Jun exchanged side smirks.

“Hey, where’s the other one?” Jun asked as Toga slid another bobby into her hair, finally pulling away from the completed look. She tossed her head around to ensure it was still and gave Toga a big thank-you smile over her shoulder.

Dabi breathed out a snort. “He said he had errands to run. Grabbing a few things for the rest of us, something along those lines…” He sighed, mumbling his gratitude as Kurogiri passed him his glass, neatly topped off with a lime to go with it. The man behind the bar cocked his head.

“It’s unlike Tomura not to tell me he’s going out somewhere… And how did he manage to slip by me?” Kurogiri looked quizzically at the door, as if expecting the young man in question to suddenly appear there with an answer. He, too, sighed and shrugged his shoulders, dismissing his confusion. “Did he mention when he hoped to return?”

“Can’t remember. Probably not.” Dabi shrugged his shoulders and took a cautious sip of his cocktail, chuckling and pulling away as Jun attempted to steal it from him, grabbing at his arms and reaching for the glass. “Hey! Hey! Get off-- you’ve got plenty of time before you can have this, and even then, you ain’t stealing mine!”

Jun scoffed and pouted, returning to her own drink.

Mustard raised his eyebrows from underneath sandy blond bangs at the man with the fire quirk. “You’re not seriously making Li’l Sis wait ‘til she’s twenty, are you? She’s almost fifteen, an’ I had my first shots a month after I got here.”

“Yeah,” grinned Jun. “He had his first shots a month after he got here! Now, gimme!”

“Jesus Christ, you thief!”

-

He hadn’t been expecting to spend his afternoon here, of all places.

Kiyashi Ward Shopping Mall. The place everyone in at least a thirty-five mile radius flocked to for clothes, video games, electronics, makeup, and every other category of merchandise in the book. No matter the day of the week, the whole building seemed to always be packed with people of all ages, searching for just the right kiosk, the perfect shop. Though he enjoyed spending an afternoon here (albeit with a hood to hide his face), Shigaraki hadn’t visited in years. Not since the Hero Killer met his end, anyway.

That visit to the mall had been eye-opening. Flashes of the scene sparked behind his eyes as he meandered through the first floor, the swarm of people filtering around him to let him through. No eyes seemed to follow the hooded figure, dressed all in black, creeping through them slowly with a presence that could only signify danger, and mischief. It was just like the last time. Poor, oblivious souls, so unaware of the threat in their midst.

But it wasn’t as if Shigaraki was here solely to cause a commotion. He wouldn’t gain much from killing a few random civilians, other than maybe a brief mention in the newspaper. That wasn’t enough for him. His thrill and thirst for infamy, and for notoriety, were still as strong as they had been back when he’d debuted as a supervillain. But, no, he wasn’t here for something like that. He’d been invited here.

He would have been the one to forget about the proposition entirely, to dismiss it as some sort of trap, but curiosity had gotten the best of him, unfortunately, and he knew he wouldn’t be able to sleep at night unless he saw all this through-- not that he slept much at night already, of course. Shigaraki hadn’t expected the message at all, nor had he expected his host, of all people, to be clever enough to find a way to communicate through to him.

But, here he was, in the middle of Kiyashi Ward Shopping Mall, his head down underneath a black hood, his hands thrust deep into his pockets, with a frenzy of thoughts and curiosities parading around in his brain. Perhaps this was a trap, and this whole decision was one big, foul mistake, but…

Why did he want Shigaraki here? What was this all about?

Shigaraki had a sinister feeling this was about a particular girl in his care, but every other part of him desperately wanted this suspicion to be untrue.

The request from his host had been to meet him at a popular tea shop, located near the back of Kiyashi Ward. Still, Shigaraki had made the smart choice to take the long route, and keep his eyes out for any… suspicious-looking civilians. He knew just who’d invited him here, after all, and he wasn’t about to waltz into the lion’s cage thoughtlessly. He had no idea what kind of tricks his host might have prepared up his sleeve, and he, of course, wouldn’t want to worry the rest of his comrades back at Kurogiri’s.

Not after Dabi had expressed such obvious concern, anyway.

Shigaraki had made sure not to tell him any of the details, knowing just what kind of a disgrace it would make him look like, but that hadn’t seemed to matter. All Dabi had been fussing about was Shigaraki going out alone. At the time, it’d ticked him off; he wasn’t a child, he didn’t need some kind of babysitter. But, the more he thought about it, Dabi had been all too caring with the way he’d said it. It’d made Shigaraki feel like he hadn’t said it just to express concerns about the whereabouts of the League, but for Tomura’s sake...

As a matter of fact, Dabi’s attitude towards him seemed like it’d shifted since a few months back. In the beginning, it made Shigaraki wonder if he’d done something that he needed to hide from him, but he’d be lying, to say it hadn’t been a positive sort of change. Dabi and Kurogiri had already been the ones who were always ready to hear his plan, but Dabi now seemed like he needed everyone else to be quiet so he could hear Shigaraki speak. And, now, the teasing, and the names… There was something else to all of it now, something that the younger man couldn’t quite place in his mind.

Quit it. Focus. Focus on the task at hand.

Sometimes, as sappy as it seemed, he sort of felt like they were the only two people in the world at all. It wasn’t as if the others around them had any kind of idea as to what went on inside their heads-- save for maybe Kurogiri and Atsuhiro, anyways. Shigaraki didn’t know what went on inside Dabi’s head, but still, there was still something about him that seemed.. Oh, he didn’t know… right, maybe?

”Kiyashi Ward?” Dabi had asked, posed calmly in his employer’s doorway, refusing to move even after Shigaraki had attempted to persuade him to. “That’s halfway across the city… ‘an that place is huge. What business do you have over there, Mophead?”

”Just running errands.” grumbled Shigaraki. “Now would you get out of my room? I hafta’ get ready.”

”We haven’t had appointments in weeks, Boss.” Dabi had argued. “And you can’t just go out into public with none of us there like that.”

“I’ll be fine, Ashtray, it’s not a big deal. Nobody’s gonna figure out where you are. Now, lemme’ change, wouldja’? Please.” He’d reached for the door handle, taking it between two fingers. “You all’ll be fine.”

”Boss, it’s not about me, it’s about you being sa--” And the door had been slammed in Dabi’s face.

Shigaraki cringed as he turned a corner, nearly bumping shoulders with a mother chasing after her child down one of the mall’s long hallways. What a bold move that’d been. Sure, he was a villain, but Christ, his own comrade had had a door shut on him just like that. And it’d been Dabi, to make matters worse, and with everything that had been going on in the past few months, what right did Shigaraki have to…?

Stop it.

He just didn’t know what to do with himself. And, on top of that, he knew he couldn’t just ask to talk about these things, not knowing what kind of reaction he was going to get. He couldn’t do that. He wouldn’t do that. He just wanted this all to be over and done with. He wanted whatever this shit was to stop before it ruined him.

Dabi couldn’t possibly feel this way. There was no way under the Sun that he could possibly feel this way.

But that didn’t make Shigaraki’s hope that he did falter in any way, shape, or form.

It was when he finally arrived in front of the corner tea shop that Shigaraki realized he’d been trembling as he walked, his thoughts about Dabi apparently enough to shake him to the core. He sighed heavily, trying to breathe in as much as he could -- all that worrying had wormed its way right to the heart of him -- and, slowly, that signature, malicious smirk made its own way back onto his face.

He looked through the window of the shop with a brief glance.

You always come back to ruin my day, don’t you, kid?

Shigaraki remembered the last couple of encounters he’d had with him. Every time they met, Shigaraki had grown to be more and more impressed with just how talented the faculty over at that pompous hero school was at indoctrinating, at brainwashing their pupils. It was sickening; but it was far too captivating, the way they strut around like they owned the place, like they were just on top of the whole goddamn world.

Shigaraki stepped into the threshold of the shop and looked around, observing the almost entirely empty shop. The few people behind the counter busied themselves with tidying up, or preparing a few racks of ingredients and packets of herbals. So, thankfully, none of them noticed the young man in black as he took his time before swaggering to the table at the far corner of the place. Shigaraki sat down across from the smaller, unruly-haired figure, who had his elbows propped up on the tabletop and his fingers fit tight together. His emerald green eyes glanced up and followed red as the villain sat down, sweat already beginning to bead on his forehead.

And the boy’s heartbeat… slowly began to… quicken… as he remembered… the terror he’d felt… only a couple years before...

“So… I guess we meet again,” said Izuku Midoriya, as he slid a cup of tea, made of fine china, across the tabletop, doing his best to keep the shaking out of his voice. “…Shigaraki.”

“Hey,” Shigaraki replied, an easy, wicked grin forming on his face underneath his hood. “Long time no see.”

-

“Hey, hey! It’s hard to carry you like this when you ain’t twelve anymore, you know…”

Jun wore a smile from ear to ear, having taken a running start from the other side of the room and made an attempt to leap from the floor to Dabi’s back in one, broad movement. Toga cheered from her barstool, pumping her fists and giggling along with Jun as she held onto him. Mustard, now on the seat beside Toga’s, just shook his head, the soft rising and falling of his shoulders indicating that he was both smiling and laughing underneath his freshly-polished* gas mask. Behind the bar, Kurogiri quietly watched, along with Atsuhiro, who clapped and encouraged Jun’s continued mischief-making.

*Jun made regular visits to Mustard’s bedroom, not only because she enjoyed her “brother’s” company and impossibly sardonic personality, but because it gave her the opportunity to browse his selection of interesting novels and a variety of textbooks ranging from Science and Physics to Japanese and American History. She often helped him clean his mask.

Dabi huffed and pulled her off of him, dragging her around until she refused to stand up, instead collapsing in his arms in a nearly-successful attempt to push him over. He hugged her and tossed her over his shoulder with a roll of his eyes.

“Oh, come on, Jun, thought you were tougher than that…” mumbled Twice, and then suddenly sat up in his seat, slamming a fist on the bar. ”Now kick his ass!”

“Let’s go, weirdo, let’s do thirty minutes of sparring today.” Dabi said to a still-giggling Jun, setting her down and ruffling her hair though she was getting closer and closer to his height. He pointed a finger at the two other elder teens on the stools by the bar. “You two-- feel like joining us today?”

“Ooh!” Toga squealed, and hopped off her stool, merrily skipping to the back door, leading out into the garage. “Fun!”

“I think it’d be best if I just… watched.” Mustard remarked as he followed her, pointing at one of his hands as he passed by Dabi.

“Wait! Wait for me!” Twice screeched as he tore after them, immediately switching to: “No… I don’t wanna go…”

The door to the garage swung, and hit the doorframe without closing, and then, the bar was peaceful, and quiet. Kurogiri set a cup of herbal tea down in front of Mister Compress, who smiled gently at him and took a sip.

“Just a bunch of rascals, those few…” He chuckled, the white portion of his mask on the bartop beside him, and his nose in his teacup. “Can’t help but love that certain charm they all have.”

“You just love Jun, Sako.” Kurogiri shook his head, though there was some hint of amusement in his voice. “She’s witty, like the other two.”

Atsuhiro laughed. “She fits right in, doesn’t she? Those three are just peas in a pod…”

Kurogiri nodded in agreement. “Yes, yes… but I can’t help but worry about Dabi and Tomura. It’s a habit, I suppose, but I really just can’t stop myself anymore.”

“And why is that, my dear?” Mister Compress asked, arching an eyebrow underneath his mask. “You and I both know what’s really going on there. All we do now is wait.”

“But that’s precisely the thing,” said Kurogiri, waving a finger briefly. “The two of them are stubborn. Hard-headed. I fear they won’t ever come to terms with their feelings, let alone speak to one another about them. They’re… not the conversing type, I’m afraid.”

“Darling, you worry too much!” exclaimed Atsuhiro with a smile, shaking his head and setting down his tea, reaching for his lover’s hand, his fingers cradling his palm just underneath that thin layer of black mist. “Your Tomura does love to bottle things up, that is true, but he also can’t take it for very long. He might as well explode. Even if he is a bit blunt in nature, he’s bound to let all that slip at some point.” Mister Compress chuckled. “And, well-- Dabi’s already so far in deep there’s no way in hell he’d be able to disagree.”

Kurogiri gave another sigh, shoulders relaxing as Atsuhiro massaged his knuckles. “Yes, I suppose you’re right..”

“You know I am, Black Mist.”

...

On the far side of the room, a pair of bright teal eyes peered through the crack in the not-quite-closed garage door. Having come to shut it to ensure there wouldn’t be any noise to disturb the elder League members, he’d paused to listen to their chatter, and stopped dead in his tracks.

...Oh.

His fingers tightened around the doorknob.

His heart weighed heavy, pounding like a drum in his chest.

Dabi quietly shut the door and returned to the garage.

Why did he have to eavesdrop?

Chapter Text

“So, Midoriya,” oozed Shigaraki, taking a dainty sip from his teacup, one pinky elegantly extended out ever so politely. “I didn’t expect to hear from you, of all people. Why don’t you go ahead and tell me why you went so far as to pay for my tea today, hmm?”

Izuku Midoriya was almost visibly trembling in his seat, his hands fitted together on the tabletop and his eyes staring pointedly just past Shigaraki’s hood. This was either a good sign, or a very bad one-- the boy wasn’t exactly making it easy for Shigaraki to tell if he’d brought some of his good ol’ UA pals along for the ride. He sure as hell hoped not, for his own sake. Clashing with a bunch of hero students in the middle of Kiyashi Ward without so much as a hint of a plan wasn’t exactly how Shigaraki hoped this little visit would go. The attention wasn’t worth it if he eventually had to retreat. Even civilians could be a threat if he turned out to be unlucky.

Since his walk through the mall and his break to calm himself, Shigaraki had been able to assess his situation entirely, and, to be honest, he was far from worried. Even if Midoriya hadn’t come alone, they were still in the middle of a huge public shopping mall-- and on a weekday, no less. Those brainwashed hero kids wouldn’t dare damage public property (most of them, anyways). And besides, though he didn’t use his second resort very often, Tomura Shigaraki was a man with not one, but two stocked quirks, and a quick wit.

“You’re… different.” breathed Midoriya, his eyes flitting to the bright red irises underneath that mop of sky blue hair. “Somehow, you’re different. You seem… confident? No-- relaxed. Fearless. After all this time building up your organization… Is it because you think you can finally beat the heroes?”

“‘The heroes’, huh?” Shigaraki asked, sitting back in his chair, his finger tapping gently on his china teacup. “Not ‘us’? What’s your objective here, Midoriya? Surely you didn’t come here just to talk about my comrades and I. What’s this really about?”

Midoriya blinked, the muscles in his shoulders tensing up as he shifted uncomfortably in his seat. The villain across from him still managed his usual mask, keeping that calm, intimidating stare and that broad smirk on his face on lock as best he could. His eyes followed the boy studiously, watching his movements and keeping track of his body language. He had to keep Midoriya uncomfortable, to ensure that he’d be too paralyzed to call for help. Hopefully, he hadn’t managed to forget that obvious terror that’d overtaken his body only a few years before...

He watched Midoriya take a breath and square his shoulders, his posture repairing itself slowly as he made distant eye contact with Shigaraki. “Almost a year ago, my friends had a run-in with two of your gang members… We haven’t heard from you since, so I think that’s all died down by now, but there’s someone else in the picture now… Am I right?”

Shigaraki’s hand on his teacup stilled.

As the League’s employer processed Midoriya’s words, he could feel his heart stirring up in his chest underneath his hoodie, beginning to beat at an increasing speed. Of course… Of course… He knew it… He’d known it… By someone else, Midoriya meant...

It was all about Jun.

Should he lunge forward? Should he stand up and attack? Should he laugh it off? Should he change the subject? What would Midoriya believe? What would scare him the most?

No. Foolish.

When Master’s voice played from memory in his head -- Calm yourself, Tomura Shigaraki. The game is not yet over… -- his pulse retreated, and began to slow.

Right… The game couldn’t be over this quickly… It’d only been a few minutes since he’d sat down, after all...

Shigaraki’s finger resumed its movement and continued to tap steadily, idly at his cup of tea. He arched an eyebrow underneath his mess of hair and hood. “‘Someone else in the picture’? Please-- if we’d recruited more reliable pals to join us in our mission, the two of us would have reunited by now. Did you really come here to act on a suspicion and nothing else? What would your dear Eraserhead say? And how’s his eyesight doing nowadays, hmm?”

He smoothly set down his tea, leaning on an arm and pretending to suddenly be quite interested in his nails. He didn’t have a good grasp on how good of a liar he happened to be, but he knew damn well, for Jun’s sake, his family’s sake, and his own that it was important to evade Midoriya’s much more direct questions. Perhaps he could just change the subject of the conversation or something like that-- strike fear into Midoriya, and make him think that he’d only accepted the invitation to stealthily gather intel about the inner workings of UA High. Yes, perhaps that would work…

Midoriya did seem to have faltered in his confident stance at Shigaraki’s somewhat easy, controlled reply, but the mad genius across from him knew from experience that that didn’t mean the round was over just yet. He’d figured from the beginning that Midoriya would be planning to bring up the marketplace incident at some point. He just hoped Midoriya wouldn’t be so direct with his ques--

“There was a little girl with your guys that day. That’s what my friends told me, anyways.” Midoriya looked up from his tea, his mouth set and his jaw firm. “She went with them when things started to get violent. And I don’t just have my friend’s word to go on, either-- UA’s allies down at the city’s police station checked the camera footage at an intersection close by. They identified one of you, and have a feeling they know who the other one was.”

Shigaraki cocked his head, that unfaltering, small smile still present, despite the growing fire behind his crimson eyes. “So…?”

Midoriya swallowed and glared up at him, his teacup set down and his fists squeezed by his sides, arms rigid. “So,” He said. “I want you to tell me who that girl is, and what you’re doing with her.”

Well. Forget about avoiding the direct questions, then.

There was a long moment of silence, during which, save for the distant rumble of civilians outside and the chatter of employees behind the tea shop counter, you could practically hear a pin drop. Eventually, Shigaraki dropped his arm to the table, letting out a sharp sigh and a gentle shrug. Midoriya just didn’t understand… He couldn’t understand… and Shigaraki certainly didn’t want to tell him anything at all.

Keep it cool, Tomura. Just chill. What would… what would Dabi do in a situation like this? What would he do?

Well-- he knew exactly what Dabi would do. Dabi was level-headed. He was stubborn. He knew exactly when his opponents wouldn’t quite appreciate him cracking a joke; therefore, it was at those moments exactly that he chose to crack those jokes. Dabi had a good sense of his surroundings at all times. He could read people like a book, and he knew when someone could pose a threat, opposed to when they were totally and utterly harmless, and only talking a big game. He was good with his quirk -- which he could control, for the most part -- and he knew how to liven up the rest of his party when they were distraught, or discouraged by the rotten devils in Japan’s hero society.

Had Dabi been in this situation, he would’ve already been able to get out of it. He would have intimidated Midoriya with a wicked smirk and a bit of harsh eye contact, his beautiful, blazing teal eyes enough to strike fear in anyone at all. He would’ve gotten this stupid boy riled up, and then disappear without a trace before a fight could even break out. He would have insulted All Might, in front of his most zealous disciple, and gotten away with it, too.

Of course he would. It was Dabi.

That said, Shigaraki was no Dabi. He’d be the first to get riled up. He’d likely even be the one to start the fight. His smile, while it was wicked enough to be intimidating, was hardly attractive, and Shigaraki figured there was a certain intimidation that could only come with a sly, insufferable, stunning smirk like that. And his eyes, though they were wild and crimson and held just as much, if not more fire than Dabi’s, were surrounded by scars, and underlined with black that seemed almost permanent. Dabi’s eyes, while they bore scars of their own, still managed to outshine the rest of his face. Save for maybe...

No, he wasn’t Dabi. But if he could just take a long breath… perhaps he could emulate just that…

Right.

“So you got me. She stays with us.” He shrugged, nonchalantly. “But it’s not like I’m Birdbrain or anything. Sheesh, I don’t have the grand luxury the Yakuza has. Nah… nothing like that. She’s training with us, that’s all.”

“Training?” squeaked Midoriya.

“Sure. What, do you think you spoiled brats up at UA are the only ones to receive quirk training. No-- we’re giving her combat lessons of our own. Basic stuff. I’m sure you heroes are all so above the basics by now, with your flashy displays of power and your showy events.”

“What’s her n--”

“Oh, please. As if I’d tell you.” Shigaraki scoffed, glanced sideways at the employees working the tea shop’s cash register, pleased to find they hadn’t even looked his way once. Or, at least, he hoped not. “Besides, she doesn’t go by her real name. Not like I’d give you her nickname, either…”

Midoriya seemed rooted to the spot, staring down in disbelief at his hands his lap, his spine rigid and still, his pupils dilated. Shigaraki could see his lips moving, though no sound managed to reach his ears. Good. He’d startled him. Now, before he could get any more questions in, Shigaraki had to…

“Well then…” He stood up swiftly and abruptly from his seat, shoved his hands in his pockets after tossing a handful of yen on the tabletop to tip the staff. “Thanks for the tea, Midoriya, and the kind invitation. I’m pleased we got to have a nice chat yet again. We should totally make it a weekendly thing, yeah? Yeah. Say hi to your friends for me. Toodles…”

He began on his journey out of the shop, only a few feet from the door when Midoriya’s voice crying out “Wait!” cut him dead in his tracks. He went still, and slowly looked to his right, looking just barely over his shoulder at the boy. He’d stood up from his seat, eyes wide, mouth ajar, and had even outstretched his arm in desperation. What a production.

Shigaraki could hear Mister Compress’ voice right then, his droll, extravagant accent and smooth tone punctuating each word: How terribly cliche…

“That girl!” said Midoriya. “Tell me she’s not in any danger, and I’ll let you go.”

Shigaraki’s eyebrow twitched.

“I won’t call in my friends… I won’t call a hero, or the police department… I won’t tell anyone until you’re gone.”

The employees behind the cash register didn’t even offer either of them so much as a glance-- Shigaraki almost felt obligated to walk back over and double the amount of yen he’d tipped them for their polite silence and complete and utter neglect as hosts.

He kept his head still at that perfect angle, where Midoriya could just see that glimmering red of his irises, and smiled, wide and broad, so eerily reminiscent of the grin the boy had seen the last time they had a friendly little chat.

“She’s one of us. She’s in our care. She eats well, she’s taught discipline, and, as far as I know, she sleeps well, too. If that’s all you want, then great, she’s doing just fine. She’s a fast learner, and good company. A sweet kid...”

Tomura Shigaraki smiled, distantly, fondly, for a moment, his mask breaking temporarily before returning at full force.

“...But, thanks to your ignorant, precious pals, she’s seen firsthand what you and your little hero buddies can do when you’re really in the heat of battle. She knows what kind of damage you can cause, the lives you can take, the happiness you can steal… Kurogiri says she’s terrified, every time myself or another one of us leaves the building. I don’t like seeing that look on her face… So, Midoriya…”

His eyes flashed.

“If you and your friends so much as put a finger on my kid, I’ll see to it myself that each and every one of you are dealt with properly. Got that?”

Silence.

“You know what happens if you follow me. Don’t break that promise of yours.”

And he left, leaving Midoriya standing there, utterly dumbfounded.

Slowly, he reached into his pocket, removed his cellphone, and stopped the voice recording.

-

“Alright, so… The fours, then? So, it goes… four, eight, twelve, sixteen, twenty, twenty-four, twenty-eight, thirty-two, thirty-six, forty, forty-four, forty-eight…”

“You can stop there. You got it.”

“Cool.”

“Skip to eights. %?”

“Er… eight, sixteen, twenty-four, thirty-two, forty, forty-eight, fifty-six, sixty-four, seventy-two, eighty, eighty-eight, ninety-six--”

“You’re good.”

“Alright.”

Mustard set down the old math notebook that’d been open in his lap on the floor in front of her, taking a sip from an open can of cola on the floor beside him. He and Jun had been sitting here for quite a bit now, going over a basic multiplication table. He’d been the one to offer to teach her math in the first place, anyways, after she’d asked-- and everyone else in the League had either not received a full education, not received an education at all, or couldn’t remember enough about middle school curriculum to be much of a help. Thankfully, Mustard seemed to have grown a patient tolerance for Jun, one he didn’t often have with the rest of the League.

Jun pulled at the collar of her sweater, scanning through the cleanly drawn multiples table with narrowed eyes to make sure she’d gotten everything. It wasn’t as if she had some kind of test she needed to prepare for, only that she felt like a nuisance, as a fifteen-year-old girl only just now learning basic arithmetic. She only hoped she wasn’t wasting her elder brother’s time with all this.

As her nail trailed down the weathered sheet of looseleaf paper, hanging by a thread to the binding of Mustard’s spiral notebook, a rhythmical knock came on the bedroom door. A masked face leaned in; but neither child had to see Compress’ face to know the kind of smile he was wearing.

“How’s it going in here, you two?” He asked. “Need anything?”

“We’re fine, Sako. Thanks.” Jun smiled over her shoulder. Mustard shrugged and drew his knees up to his chin, his mask on the floor beside him.

“Of course, my dears. Oh, by the way, Jun, the boss is almost home, in case you were wondering.”

“Could you tell him we’re up here?”

“My pleasure.”

“Thanks, Sako.”

“Not a problem, dear.” And he shut the door behind him.

Jun turned back to the notebook on the floor.

“Okay, so, nines…”

-

He didn’t often like taking walks around the city alone for any reason, but after having a certain revelation, he decided that it was probably necessary for him to get some fresh air.

It was fairly risky, taking a walk out in the open like this, especially after he’d been recognized and identified by the police multiple times by now (and Shigaraki still called him “Patchwork” every now and then), but Dabi didn’t think he had much of a choice. He couldn’t sit in that stuffy old bar a second longer, or he knew he’d just break. And he certainly didn’t want to go about having an emotional crisis in front of Kurogiri and Atsuhiro, much less Jun and the others. He needed an opportunity to clear his head, or else he knew he’d just snap.

It’d been almost a full afternoon since he’d overheard Mister Compress and Kurogiri’s conversation about him and his employer (his employer! His employer!), and he still hadn’t managed to cool off. He’d been in a crisis for hours now, having to ask Twice to give Jun a new perspective on combat training as best he could. Perhaps that was a good thing, letting her fight someone else for a change, but that didn’t soften Dabi’s guilt much at all. His brain had gone into a frenzy, pulling everything it could off the shelves to make Dabi feel the lowest of lows he’d ever felt.

Unfortunately, it’d done this often, since at least his mid-teens.

The two of them are stubborn. Hard-headed. Kurogiri had said. I fear they won’t ever come to terms with their feelings, let alone talk to one another about them. They’re… not the conversing type, I’m afraid.

Oh, well, what in fresh hell did that fucking mean?

And it wasn’t just that the two of them had been talking about him and his boss in that confusing, gut-wrenching way, it was that Kurogiri had sounded so obviously concerned, as if Dabi needed help. What was he, a child? He didn’t want help. Especially not about this.

Then, there had been the way Atsuhiro had replied to him, assuring him that all would be well, that there would be some sort of discussion about feelings. What had that meant? What kind of feelings?

And, well-- Dabi’s already so far in deep there’s no way in hell he’d be able to disagree.

“In deep?” For Shigaraki? Oh, for fuck’s sake. Surely, they didn’t think he had some kind of deep, heartfelt feelings for Fuckhands. Because he didn’t. Of course he didn’t. How could he?

He didn’t.

He absolutely didn’t.

He couldn’t.

He didn’t!

Dabi tore the cigarette out of his mouth and crushed it with his bare hands, ignoring the searing burn mark it left in his already wounded palm. He turned a sharp corner and bumped shoulders with an unsuspecting civilian, throwing his head down as they turned to make some snappy, snarky comment. He paid them no mind. No use roughing up a civilian during a crisis like this one…

Suddenly, he was thinking back months before, analyzing every situation he’d been in with Shigaraki. The insulting nicknames, the way they’d turned into what the rest of the team called petnames… The way Dabi remembered instinctively speaking up to quiet the rest of them when Shigaraki had a plan to propose. All that stupid teasing from not just Toga and the gang, but now Jun, too, a clever little thing who might have been able to read Dabi better than Dabi himself could.

He remembered the marketplace incident-- not the incident itself, but what came after, when Shigaraki had forced his way into his bedroom, ignoring Kurogiri’s input, just to sit there and wait for him to regain consciousness. He’d been the one to catch him when he fell through the doorway, intercepting him before he could hit the floorboards, his forearms cradling him and his hands bent away as far as possible. He’d sworn to Dabi that the heroes would pay for what they’d done, not just to Jun, but to Dabi, as well… that he himself would be the one to take revenge...

Oh, for crying out loud.

Dabi couldn’t just return to the bar without a solution. Nobody exactly knew he’d been listening in on that one conversation, but they were all bound to notice some ridiculously subtle change in Dabi’s behavior going forward, and, if he wasn’t careful, someone could get suspicious. Or, worse: Shigaraki could question him, like he had that one evening.

When he’d hugged him.

...

How had he forgotten that evening?

He hadn’t been able to get that out of his head for weeks after it happened. No matter how hard he tried to think of other things, somehow, he always ended up drifting back to that thought, replaying the same scene over and over, daydreaming like a child. Had it finally managed to slip his mind, just when he needed to remember it? Dabi spat a curse and turned another street. This was getting him nowhere, brooding and whining over Mophead like this. Yes, he had to get a grip on himself. He had to try and come to terms with it, before he could even consider going and blabbing to the boss himself.

But how long would that be?

Dabi winced and shook his head, aimlessly beginning to drift back in the direction of the bar. There had to be a solution. There had to be. There had to be, because if there wasn’t one, Dabi wasn’t sure if he was going to be able to handle all this feeling nonsense.

-

“...One-hundred-twenty, one-hundred-thirty-two, one-hundred-forty-four.”

“That’s twelves?”

“Yeah.” Jun beamed.

“Good. Glad you had all that math shit on you, Mustard.” Shigaraki tossed a nod in the elder child’s direction. “I can’t remember a damn thing Kurogiri taught me.”

Mustard shrugged. “Li’l Sis asked me first. I would have most likely asked you or Dabi to… do away with it all… had she not asked me a day earlier.” He picked up his can of soda, lifted it to his lips, and set it down in displeasure as he realized it was nearly empty. “I’ll be right back. I doubt either of us are in any hurry to do more multiples, anyways.”

He drifted out the door, his footsteps trailing down the stairs.

Jun stacked up his notebooks and grinned sideways at Shigaraki. “Dabi said you went out. Whad’ja get?”

He shrugged “I didn’t end up getting anything. I woulda’ brought you with me," He lied. "but you’re a deep sleeper.”

“Aren’t you, too?”

“Sometimes. I don’t get much very often. You got it good, kid.”

“Yeah, yeah. Did you at least have a nice time?” Jun blew hair out of her eyes.

“Not particularly.”

“That's something, I guess.”

“Kid?”

“Yeah, Tomura?”

“You… don’t... hate it here, do you?”

Jun gave him a look of disbelief, breathing out in a laugh. “You kidding me? I love it here. I love you guys. You and Dabi are the best family I could ask for, an’ Mustard and Toga are so nice to me, an’ Twice and Spinner are comedy gold, an’ Kurogiri and Sako are always lookin’ out for me. I couldn’t be happier here. It’s cozy, and not a day goes by where somethin’ exciting isn’t happening.”

Shigaraki huffed out a laugh. “Yeah, that sounds about right.”

She furrowed her brows. “What’s this about?”

“Nothing.” He said, looking away from underneath his mask. “Just making sure.”

Jun leaned over and reached for him snaking her arms around his ribs and pulling him into a hug and squeezing. Startled, he fitted his hands together, and tucked his thumbs away, sighing heavily and accepting his new situation.

“I love it here. I love you guys.”

“We love you too, kid.”

Chapter Text

This was bad. This was really, really, really bad, and Dabi didn’t like it one bit.

There was something about having such a big revelation as the one he’d recently been through that he just didn’t understand. Before, he’d only been acutely aware to just how much he went through physically when in even just the same room as Shigaraki, but now, after having realized just how deep and complex his situation really, truly was on the inside, he wasn’t sure if he could bear it. It was like a wave that knocked him right off his feet each and every time, leaving him with what felt like a gaping hole in his chest, and fingers that trembled uncontrollably.

This wasn’t like him, and that’s what he hated about it. He didn’t ever go through crises like this, ones that made him so internally anxious that he felt almost weak at the knees. He wanted to tell someone… but telling anyone other than the young man himself wouldn’t be enough to satisfy Dabi, and he knew that. It was all so frustrating. He hated feeling like this, having thoughts he couldn’t suppress any longer, feelings he couldn’t control. Had the conversation he’d listened in on dispelled any objections Dabi may have had towards the idea of infatuation?

Perhaps not, because Dabi still didn’t want to believe it was infatuation, but, at the end of the day, even Dabi himself had to admit that that was the only logical explanation that he could find. Some sort of weird, uncomfortable obsession with Shigaraki.. Who would have thought?

Not only did it all make Dabi feel confused in a way he’d never been before, and weak at the knees, and as if he couldn’t breathe naturally, but he slowly began to find himself hyperaware of every little thing his fellow League members did. Any time either Dabi or Shigaraki was mentioned, Dabi could feel his heartbeat begin to race, and his palms begin to sweat… He supposed it had something to do with never having kept a secret such as this one before.

It was pointless to feel like this, and Dabi was well aware of it. All it would do was slow down the League’s journey towards their final destination*, and, when it came down to it, wasn’t that all Tomura Shigaraki really cared about? Of course, he wasn’t so heartless as to dismiss his comrades as nothing more than colleagues, but he was dead set on his mission, wasn’t he? What time would he make for Dabi, should he confess to him about the emotional hell he’s been dragged through? Shigaraki was clearly already not a particularly affectionate person, so what good would telling him be?

*It was rather obvious by then that nearly every member of the League of Villains had a different final destination in mind. For Shigaraki, it was to kill All Might, no matter the state he was in now, and destroy hero society. For Dabi, it was simply to rid the world of the hero ideology altogether, whether that meant killing them or not. For Spinner, it was to, as he once put it, “purge” the world of “fake” heroes, and finish the Hero Killer Stain’s “legacy.” And so on.

He hated this. He hated this so much.

But there was nothing he could do about it, at least not while he was here, sitting at the bar, surrounded by the rest of the League. Recovering from zoning out, a short period of time he’d spent staring absently in Shigaraki’s general direction as the handman himself gave the rest of the team a quick rundown on the bare outline of what intel he’d gathered on his day trip, Dabi blinked and glanced around, hoping no one had looked his way. From what Dabi had been conscious enough to understand, Shigaraki had had an important interaction regarding UA… and that had been all he’d been really awake to hear.

“So, what you’re saying is…” Spinner confirmed, as Dabi slowly awoke from his stupor. “...They know about the kid?”

“That’s literally what he opened with, Spinner. They know about Jun.” Mustard said, his voice already beginning to climb the ladder up to total hysteria. Beside him, Compress placed a hand on his shoulder and shook his head lightly, before looking up to Shigaraki.

Across the bar, Dabi winced. What the hell had he managed to miss during his schoolgirlish daydreaming about a pointless crush? Stupid, stupid.

Compress removed his hand from Mustard’s stiffened shoulders and nodded to their employer. “What do you suggest we do then, Shigaraki?” He asked. “Have you any ideas on how to relocate? After all, we’ve been lurking around this place for a while now, and it was already a tad bit rundown when we found it, it being our second location and all. Surely, we can find somewhere else and set up our bar there.”

“A new house?” Toga asked. “Canni’ get a bigger room this time?”

“Is it really our headquarters that we ought to be worrying about?” Kurogiri said from his station behind the bar, idly wiping down an already crystal clean pint glass. “We haven’t heard about any discoveries lately… Perhaps it’s not our location that they’re after.”

“To find Jun, they’ve gotta find us.” said Dabi, sitting up and attempting to make it look like he’d been listening since the conversation had first begun. “Plus, they’d wanna keep their silly little investigations under wraps if they wanted to surprise us. They’ve learned their lesson since broadcasting every little breakthrough they made on the news for the world to see.

“Oh no, they’re gonna track us down?” whined Twice, clasping his face in his hands, before immediately assuming a battle stance. ”I’ll kick ‘em where the sun don’t shine!”

“That won’t be that necessary, as much as we’d enjoy the show…” Shigaraki sighed, his hands clasped, both thumbs lifted high and away from the rest of him. “Ashtray is right. It’s not a good idea to stay here for much longer when they know even just one of us has resurfaced. Even if it’s not where we take her for now, it’d be in our best interests to, as Mister put it, relocate. If they somehow discover this one, I’d prefer it if none of us are here when they decide to pull another one of their stupid ambushes.”

“Hold on, now…” Dabi interjected. “Even if we do need to move someplace else, we need to take extra precautions. Shigs, you were the one of us that came up again. If it’d been anyone else among us, sure, it woulda’ been bad, but you’re the one they really want. We have to make sure we can keep you safe before we pull anything too adventurous, like a big move.”

“If it bothers you that much, we can move in shifts or something.” Spinner said, rolling glassy eyes as he shifted right and left on his own barstool. “It ain’t that big’a deal. He’s got multiple quirks, doesn’t he? I’m sure the guy can fend for himself just fine.”

“Come on, Dabi’s just tryna’ look out for Tomura, Iguchi.”

“Yeah, well, isn’t that just sweet of him? This isn’t about your favorite power couple, Toga, it’s about not getting arrested.”

Dabi scoffed, looking away. Spinner earned himself a single warning glare from his employer-- a particularly calm response from him, for a change. Shigaraki moved on.

"As I was saying… our first move should be to gather more intel on what the heroes are up to. UA’s administration is bound to get wind of this, which probably means the police, not to mention pro heroes all over the goddamn country, are gonna wanna be involved. If they’re anything like they were just a simple few years ago, they’re going to plan an ambush and try and catch us off guard. We should prioritize uncovering the details.”

“Ooh, might I suggest exposing their plan to the public after the fact?” Mister Compress said, clasping his hands together like a giddy child. “This country’s bound to believe whatever news the media feeds them, and they’re already so on the fence about UA that finding out a huge ambush had been kept a secret from them might just turn the tables in our favor!”

“That’d mean finding some way to communicate to the press without revealing ourselves, Compress,” said Dabi, his feet now kicked up on the bar despite Kurogiri’s look of dismay, captured entirely in the way his smoking eyes turned to disapproving yellow slits. “and I ain’t trying for overtime, here, alright? Now, Boss… as for ‘uncovering the details’... What are we in for this time?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” smirked Shigaraki. “We need to show those bastards we're riding the same wave. When they come for us, we'll hold our ground and rip their thrones out from under then. Brat, Compress… that’s where you two come in. You’re our stealthiest fighters.”

He nodded in Mustard’s direction. “You’ve been practicing on enhancing your own thing. Depending on how you can use it, your quirk could be useful when the two of them get in a pinch. And Ashtray, Two-Face, and Lizard-Brain… what fighting expertise you all and I have will be valuable in defending the rest if things get messy. Kurogiri, as usual, you’ll act as our way out.”

“Fighting expertise? You?” Spinner scoffed, leaning forward on the bar. “You look like a skeleton, Shigaraki, what fi--”

Promptly, Spinner found his snout slammed hard into the bartop. He gasped and sat up, eyes rolling about in their sockets.

“My fighting expertise goes something along those lines.” said Shigaraki, having let go of the four-fingered grip he’d had on the reptilian’s mask and begun looking disgusted at his hands.

“Damn, Mophead.” Dabi grinned. Shigaraki shot him what appeared to be a glare, though he could see that glint of pearly white just underneath the palm of the mask on his face.

Dabi’s insides melted. He hated that. Almost.

“Why, you…!” came Spinner’s voice, trembling with rage.

“Gentlemen, please, for the last time, I’d prefer if no fights broke out in my bar…” Kurogiri said, but Mustard was steaming ahead in the conversation.

“How are we going to get that intel you need?” He asked. “It’s not as if there’s one building where every one of them will just be lounging around. They’re pros-- they’re going to take as many obnoxious precautions as they see fit.”

“Please… It’s never hard to find a hero’s location. The second they’re caught in public, someone will eagerly post a picture online, and, more often than not, they’ll forget to toggle off their location.” Shigaraki hummed, swirling his drink around in the pint glass. “The more posts about the same hero in a similar location, the more evidence we have to support that they’ll be lurking about that particular area for a while. If the stars align and multiple heroes are in the same place, all we have to do is a bit of scouting… and Leatherface here knows his way around every city in the country, as far as I’m concerned. I’ll leave some to him.”

“Gee, Boss,” snickered Dabi. “How considerate of you, givin’ me an extra load.”

Spinner mumbled something incoherent quickly under his breath, something that caused Toga to giggle behind her hand, but only one man seemed to notice. Dabi cast the quiet bartender a look and shrugged, turning to the stairwell as he hopped off his barstool, legs swinging off the surface.

“I’ll let our Pigtails know she can come back home now. Probably don’t want her going out too often now, anyways.” Dabi shoved his hands in his coat pockets. “I’ll be a while. Taking a shower.”

“For the love of all that is holy, please don’t use all the hot water..” Twice perked up. “Use all of it you need! Self-care is important, man!”

“Can’t he, like… use his quirk on the water?” Toga wondered aloud.

Mustard gave her a puzzled look. “How the hell would that work?”

Dabi sighed and drifted away from them up the stairwell, head down, heart beating like a drum in his chest. Two crimson red eyes stayed glued to the back of him as he went, watching him carefully.

With both of the young mens’ backs turned, Kurogiri and Atsuhiro gave each other knowing looks over the bar.

Those two really were in deep.

-

“Midoriya, what the hell were you thinking?” Kaminari.

“Kiyashi? In public? How?” Jirou.

“How courageous! How brave!” Aoyama.

“He’s back?” Kirishima. “That can’t be good.”

”By yourself?” Iida. ”Without telling so much as a single adult? You…!”

“Don’t strain yourself there, class president.” Sero.

“You should have killed him, you idiot.” Bakugou.

“What good would that have done?” Todoroki.

“You shouldn’t do something like that without telling anyone, Deku.” Uraraka.

“Everyone!” Midoriya himself. “Please, just give me a minute… I managed to get it on my phone, okay? Listen. Please. Just… listen.”

Midoriya placed his phone on the common room coffee table, the proper app open, and tapped the button reading “play” with a finger.

”...So, Midoriya… I didn’t expect to hear from you, of all people. Why don’t you go ahead and tell me why you went so far as to pay for my tea today, hmm?”

-

Barren white walls with symmetrical, even tiles, each one nearly five inches thick. A glass barrier almost triple that, outlined in black with multiple control panels on the other side. Flashing buttons and various types of switches. A camera in each corner of the cell, each one adorned with a red blinking light to indicate its activity, and each one pointed down at the shape in the middle of the tiny little room. There, stood a large chair, made of tough metal and thick leather, straps screwed in tight wherever necessary. Small, nearly unnoticeable spiral-shaped scalpels were bolted in at every edge, small orbs on the end of each one waiting to expel an electric shock towards the shape in the now-electric chair, should it struggle and attempt to escape.

This was one of many prison cells in Tartarus, and it was still inhabited by Japan’s most dangerous villain in history.

The shape in the humongous chair shifted in its straitjacket; in response, every camera returned sharply in its direction, the lens zooming in and out until the shape sighed, and relaxed with a faint shake of the head. This was how every day of his life had gone for possibly half a decade (perhaps a full one now… what year was it again?), the same, monotonous routine every single day, over and over again as he waited to be released, to be rescued by the boy he’d given everything to.

But he hadn’t come. Not yet. Ungrateful brat. After all those years, and after saving him from a terrible home, and after teaching him the truth about Japan’s rotten society and the way they tolerated… no, accepted… no, worshipped the people who called themselves heroes-- he still hadn’t come. He hadn’t come, nor had his comrades, his caretaker. Every day he suspected some sort of grand entrance, or even something quiet and stealthy. Then again, that boy had always been about looking dramatic.

As a young man in uniform, a trainee of some kind, passed by the large glass wall, a voice oozed from beyond it in the cell. His voice, of course. Dark and bone-chilling, blood-curdling and smooth, his voice was the kind that could make the hair on your arms stand on end. It stopped the young man beyond the glass dead in his tracks, the voice travelling easily through the speakers into the hallway, though no vocal quirk the prisoner in the cell had stolen would be effective here. The sound alone was enough to entrance those who heard it, and Tartarus’ creators had no way to stop something like that.

”You know, it gets quite lonely in here when you’ve been here as long as I have.” said his voice, and, reluctantly, the boy in the hall outside turned to side-eye him through the glass. ”It’s quite cruel, locking me up in here with nowhere to move… I’ll have you know the muscles in my legs have been asleep for at least three years now.”

The boy swallowed his fear and attempted to tear his gaze away. His voice was soft and gentle, far too shy to belong to a veteran guard, but it was obvious he hadn’t been here for quite long by the way he walked and slouched ever so slightly.

“Maybe you shouldn’t have done all that stuff you did in the first place, then, sir.” said the young man.

The prisoner chortled; a terrifying noise. “Perhaps you’re right. But what fun is an average life?”

“It’s sure to be better than being locked up in a cell, right?”

“Yes… Yes, I do suppose you have a point there..” He trailed off at the end of his sentence, and the boy in the hall promptly began hurrying further down, rubbing his arms and, every now and then, glancing over his shoulder. The nearly now-nonexistent eyes of the shape in the cell squinted. That trainee boy was clearly wandering about where he shouldn’t be. A rule-breaker, then. Perhaps he should have kept him around, and chatted a bit longer…

He cocked his head to the side, and, again, every camera in the room turned to face him, narrowing their lifeless eyes at him for a long moment until forgetting he existed. Some kind of wicked smile flickered across his face, and he addressed the man in the cell next to him, his voice travelling through the small gap at the very top of the wall separating the two of their cells.

“You’ve been here longer than I have, friend..” he said. “Are the trainees here always so willing to fraternize with the enemy?”

There was a long pause before the reply came from the other side. This voice was sharp, with a deep vocal fry, and each breath was punctuated with a sharp gasp of mild pain. No amount of work the Tartarus medical staff had done had been able to fully repair the condition of the shape’s next-door neighbor.

“Don’t try to make small talk with me,” said the voice on the other side, and the man whom the voice belonged to spat at the floor of his own cell. “I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I know who you are, and I don’t intend to associate with you or your followers for as long as I live this miserable life… I never even managed to finish my task, and here I am, stuck here with filth like you for however many wretched years to come.”

”Your task, eh?” the prisoner replied. ”The boy I’ve raised as my successor had made himself friends… Last I heard, one of them is a fan of yours, hoping to follow through with your mission… You needn’t worry, my friend, I’m sure your name has already left quite the imprint on society…”

“That heir of yours caused me loads of trouble, you fool.” hissed his neighbor. “No matter who wears my title, I wanted to be able to one day sit back and look fondly at a country made peaceful again. It was your foolish movement that ruined it all in the first place.”

”So you’ve told me,” hummed he. “but think of it this way… with every hero that boy’s group disposes of, many more will flock in that same direction, hoping to avenge their lost comrade. No matter how it’s done or who does it, the world outside this blasphemous place will be molded into something greater… and your name will not be forgotten nor disgraced, I can guarantee you that.”

Before the reply could reach his ears, a sharp, commanding voice broke through the intercom in both cells. ”You two. Quit your yammering or I won’t hesitate to flip the switch for those electric bolts.”

Silence fell, and when silence fell in Tartarus, the quiet wasn’t peaceful, but maddening.

The prisoner smiled to himself.

The world outside this blasphemous place will be molded into something greater…

-

He stared, dissatisfied, at his face in the mirror. His fingers prodded incessantly, experimentally, at the scar going straight down through his right eye, stretching the paled skin and running the pad of his index across it, from rough skin to smooth. His other hand twisted his lower lip between two fingers, his nails dragging down the crack in his lips and squeezing until the skin lost its color. With a sigh, he dropped one hand and lifted his bangs to look with distaste at his other eye. The bags underneath his eyes seemed to have gotten darker. How nice. How pleasant.

Shigaraki grumbled nonsensical ramblings to himself as he inspected his face. He’d promised Jun the day before that he’d be willing to play her choice of game on the television downstairs with her if she so wished, and, judging from the sound of the front door opening and closing not fifteen minutes ago, she’d now come home from her walk.

Jun spent most of her time with one member of the League or another, though she most enjoyed spending time with him, or Dabi, if he had to guess. Otherwise, if she wasn’t downstairs sitting with Kurogiri at the bar, chatting with the bartender and his boyfriend, or Twice, or, every so often, that scale-faced wannabe Spinner, he knew he could find her in Mustard’s room, reading up on some era of Japanese history, or a peculiar allergy in her brother’s various textbooks. That, or she was in Toga’s room, watching videos on her stolen laptop decorated with far too many stickers, or doing her hair, or painting her nails.

Still, Shigaraki had to remind himself that she enjoyed it here. She’d said so herself, not even a week before. Such reassurances didn’t always convince him, though, no matter who they came from. Dabi or otherwise.

Dabi in particular had been on Shigaraki’s mind lately, but, then again, when hadn’t he? Dabi was always wherever he was, getting involved in the same stupid shit as him, taking the same kind of hits as him. He was everywhere Shigaraki went, and, even when he wasn’t, he still always managed to get into his head somehow. Tomura had spent whole hours staring at the ceiling of his room, thinking about every ridicule, every tease, every insulting jab, every snarky comment about some aspect of him.

Eventually, the tone had changed from dangerous and violent to only a little aggressive, but if that wasn’t how the whole group communicated with each other, then they might as well not have been the League. Shigaraki never would have admitted it, but he’d regretted how the two of them had been introduced. They’d started off on the wrong foot, really. Perhaps, if Shigaraki had listened more attentively to Kurogiri, that mission for Bakugou would have gone as planned…

Oh, who was he kidding? That was his biggest failure yet, no matter what the rest of the team said. They were always so quick to laugh off their losses, no matter how serious. They could go from melting down to joking about their performances in thirty minutes, whereas Shigaraki could spend weeks -- as he had -- locked up in his room, agonizing over a draft of their plan, trying to figure out where he’d gone wrong. He was almost envious of their almost carefree nature. It’d taken some serious bribes to coax Shigaraki out of his room after the Kamino Ward battle.

His sensei… He tried not to think about him. He tried not to think about that high-tech security prison. About the promises he’d made.

It had taken Dabi to lure Tomura out of his bedroom, eventually, and even then, it’d only been because he’d forced himself through the door. He’d been stubborn with him, and he’d refused to leave until he got answers from him. Dabi told him about his strengths, and about how this was only a minor setback, and about how this wasn’t the end, yet. It was then that Shigaraki had first laughed at one of Dabi’s snarky comments. In fact, he’d laughed until there were tears prickling at his eyes. When he’d taken off Father to wipe them on his sleeve…

He hadn’t been ridiculed. Hadn’t been teased, or laughed at.

Listen… I’ll put it this way, alright, since you’re all about the video game metaphors an’ whatnot...

Shigaraki had tilted his head.

Think of all this as the practice round. The tutorial. We had no idea what the hell we were doing. We were still figuring out the controls, pressing as many buttons as we could to get some kind of reaction. We were still new to this game. We were still trying things out, trying to see how they worked and shit.

Shigaraki had snorted and folded his arms, waiting to hear him out.

But now, we have an idea of what we’re up against. We know how the game works. We can get an idea of what our objective is, and we can finally progress, for real this time. Does that… does that make sense, or am I really as bad at this encouragement thing as I think I am?

Now, Shigaraki sighed and again stared himself in the eyes, his reflection glaring back at him with an identical menacing look in its eyes. He cracked his neck and swung his arms, working out the stiffness in his muscles.

It hadn’t taken Kurogiri to get him out of his room. Not Toga, or Mister Compress, or Twice, or any of them. It had taken Dabi. Because, somehow, during the first little while they’d known each other before the mission, while they insulted each other, and sneered at one another, and flicked one another off and told each other to get lost, Dabi had figured him out. He’d been able to sit there, and wait for Shigaraki to get tired of trying to persuade him back out of his room, as he knew he would. Somehow, that asshole he’d been living with had become patient with him.

Why? Why did he deserve all that shit?

Shigaraki clasped his hand together.

Dabi… I… you...

He shook himself free of the thought and turned towards the doorway, calling Jun’s name as he headed for the staircase.

Dabi, why do you have to go and do this stuff to me?

Chapter Text

“Happy birthday, bro.”

Jun stepped back as her brother opened the box, sitting cross-legged on the floor of his bedroom. He undid the pretty purple bow fastened round the box, carefully digging his nails underneath the edge of the lid to pull it off smoothly. He did away with the wrapping and tossed it all onto the floor, looking down at the contents of the present’s container. His shoulders bounced a few times, and he looked up at Jun, standing above him with her arms crossed and a hopeful, satisfied look on her face. Mustard pulled the gas mask off his head, shook his bangs, and gave her a grin.

“You didn’t have to go to all this trouble for my birthday. It’s not that big of a deal.” said Mustard. “How did you even afford this? Did everyone pitch in or something?”

“Technically, it’s a present from Giran, since he’s the one who picked it up and stuff. But, it was my idea.” Jun dropped to the floor and sat herself across from him. “Everybody else did their own little thing for you, but I ain’t allowed to tell you what they did. Do you like mine, at least?”

Mustard’s smile softened as he removed the revolver from the box, setting the wallet of ammo and various other materials beside him on the ground. He turned it over in his hand, admiring the sleek black color, and the royal purple stripe along the side. He twirled it around on his finger. “It’s beautiful. Thank you.”

Jun reached forward and hugged him around the shoulders, ignoring the many, many, many reminders she’d gotten in the past on how he didn’t appreciate being touched. However, he managed to squeeze back without too much trouble, pushing her away only to examine the leather wallet the ammo had come in. Jun sat back and gazed around the room, taking in all the posters and decorations for what had to be the ten billionth time. Downstairs, she could hear the chatter of the other members of the League, all crowded around the bar for lunch.

It’d been a couple months since she’d heard about the possibility of moving, and since then, she hadn’t been able to get much about the situation from anyone (that included Twice, and he seemed to lose all ability to say “no” when it came to her). Various members of the team seemed to be leaving the bar every other day, going out for a few hours, and then coming back, only to leave yet again in the following few minutes. Dabi’d made sure to reassure her that everything was going to be okay, but, every so often, even he didn’t sound too confident. And, again, it wasn’t as if Jun knew why, with all the information being kept just out of her reach.

She sighed, and blinked, Mustard’s voice drawing her back from reality.

“Did you hear about what Kurogiri said this morning?” He asked. “About the bar?”

“Yeah, we hafta’ leave for a little while or something. Hand-Dad said it could turn into a move, but they dunno yet.” Jun brushed hair out of her eyes. “I hope it’s not too far from here..”

“You better hope not,” Mustard gave her a smirk. “How are you gonna carry that whole damn closet with you to the next house?”

“Oh, shaddup…”

...

”Happy birthday, li’l bro!” someone shrieked.

“Jesus Christ, Toga…!”

Mustard whined as the door swung wide open and a blur of blonde hair and wild, yellow eyes flung itself at the poor boy on the ground, tackling him to the floor and kissing him briefly on the cheek. Toga giggled and sat up as Mustard shoved her off of him, furrowing his brows and rubbing his temple with a sigh, muttering a quiet complaint that the eldest child cheerfully ignored. She clasped her hands together and pulled a small, pocket-sized box from her sweater, placing it in one swift, excited movement on the floor in front of her younger brother, practically bouncing up and down with anticipation.

“This for me?” Mustard asked, and reached for the box.

“No, it’s for me.” Jun quipped with a roll of her eyes. Toga beamed as he carefully lifted the lid off the box.

He removed two smooth, golden buttons from the tiny box, as well as a thin needle and a thread, and smiled fondly across at Toga with a knowing look. “Are these for my uniform?”

“Sako gave me the idea when he told me some of the buttons fell off.” Toga nodded, joyfully.

“Thanks, Toga. Remind me to ask you to help me sew them back on.” Mustard said, and carefully packed the box’s contents back into it, shutting the lid and rewrapping the bow, saving the box for later.

“Of course, li’l bro!” Toga squealed, and reached over, mussing his hair with a sharp, pastel pink-nailed hand, to his shameless, obvious dismay. He ducked out of her way and scrambled to pull his mask back over his head, adjusting the cords and the fabric just under his jawline, with a heavy sigh as his voice changed ever so slightly.

“Could we go see everyone else now?” Mustard asked, shifting the gas mask in the proper direction.

“Somebody wants more presents!” sang Toga, pulling herself to her feet, smoothing out her skirt, and offering a hand to Jun. She pulled her up, and skipped towards the door, a large, sharp-toothed grin on her face as she held open the door for her younger siblings, rocking back and forth eagerly on her heels.

“Aw, come on, Toga…”

-

Once again gathered in a faculty room in the far west wing of UA High School, a pack of pro heroes chatted idly with one another, making small talk as they waited for the heads of the team to arrive. The chatter was as bland as it could possibly have been; there was discussion of weather, of sports, of an interesting article in the paper from the morning before, and the like. It wasn’t an odd thing, really, that no one could find anything very interesting to say. After all, every pro hero in the room was rocking back and forth with visible anticipation, waiting eagerly for the Big Plan to be revealed soon.

Familiar faces were scattered about the room. Many different heroes, from many different places, all leading their own agency, whether big or small, somewhere off in the world. Most were native Japanese citizens and did their work there in the country, but there was a small, select few that were foreigners, a few of them having come to live here and assist All Might, now that he was out of commission. Most spoke Japanese; however, one or two had been accompanied by aides so they could have the conversation translated for them.

Even the number one hero -- the new guy, not the retired one -- had showed up. Actually, both of them had… and, to the new number one’s dismay, they were seated just next to each other at the table. On Endeavor’s right was the principal of UA, Nezu, and on Toshinori -- All Might’s -- left, were Eraserhead and Present Mic. They seemed to be the only completely silent people in the room, and the only few whose eyes moved immediately to the door when it opened. After a few long moments of waiting, Nezu cleared his throat. Instantaneously, the room quieted. He nodded in the direction of the door.

There stood Tsukauchi of the police department, dressed in a grey coat for a change, with a hat of the same shade to match. He seemed less enthusiastic, upbeat, and ready to take action than he once had been, but with his straight posture and charismatic eyes, he was still very obviously the same dedicated hard-worker he always had been. And, of course, he was wearing thin, square-framed, black glasses, to show that time had passed. A good few, long years of hunting down a group of relentless villains made the old eyes strain, perhaps. Not that he was very old yet, anyways. He was only just past forty.

Tsukauchi had his hand on a man’s shoulder. He was tall, thin, and lanky, with golden hair and piercing green eyes. He was dressed in a grey suit that was just a bit too big for him, making him look all the more frail. His shoulders were slouched and his circular frames were falling down the bridge of his pointed nose… He looked an absolute mess, to say the least, but the smile on Tsukauchi’s face suggested this man might have been some sort of trophy.

Oh, and there were butterfly wings protruding from his back. Huge, delicate, dainty monarch butterfly wings, decorated with intricate patterns and splashes of several different shades of orange. Pretty white polka dots lined the black rims, framing the transparent, fragile orange skin. They fluttered as he looked awkwardly around the boardroom.

“Friends, this is Doctor Raymond Eckels.” said Tsukauchi. “He’s a pro based in London, and he’s a pal of mine. I thought he might be useful in our investigation.”

“Four-Eyes here is a pro hero?” asked Endeavor, scoffing. “He looks like a twig. What kind of hero work does he do?”

“He’s not a combat hero,” Tsukauchi replied, hastily, waving a hand. “but his abilities do wonders in rescue situations. By batting his wings, he can sense far-away sound vibrations in the air and locate the source of the sound. As you can probably imagine, hostage situations are easy as pie with him around. Anyways, the doctor--”

“We don’t need any more rescue heroes..” Aizawa remarked, his arms folded on the table. “What we asked for was more capable fighting recruits to back us up when we go to apprehend the villains and rescue the girl in captivity. We’ve got quite enough rescue specialists on our team to take care of one little girl.”

“One little girl who apparently gets training herself, however.” Toshinori spoke up, and every head turned in his direction, the eyes of everyone around him (save for a select few) going wide. He cleared his throat and elaborated.

“Izuku Midoriya of Aizawa here’s class did a bit of research and investigating of his o--”

“He did what?” seethed Aizawa, the bandages around his shoulders beginning to hover and expand about him.

“...I… Er… Anyways…” continued Toshinori, steaming ahead. “Midoriya did a bit of investigating of his own, and discovered that, wherever they are, that little girl we’re after is getting some type of fighting experience from that group of criminals. He couldn’t figure out many details about it, but he at least got the basic gist. I think that League of Villains may have some sort of plan for her.”

“So, it is like you said last time.” gasped Thirteen, and they pounded a fist on the tabletop. “It’s a little girl, being trained to become a villain like the rest of them!... A sorry strategy to get more recruits, knowing how many of them have come out of the shadows recently… You think there’s more to their motives…?”

“I d--”

“Friends, please…” said Nezu’s voice, and he nodded in Tsukauchi’s direction. “Please, continue.”

“Erm, anyways…” Tsukauchi nodded, patting Eckel’s shoulders. “I brought him here because Doctor Eckels has a few notable connections to one of the members of the League of Villains. I figured something like that might be useful in locating their current hideout.”

“A connection? To the League?” Endeavor’s eyes narrowed. “Then how can we trust him?”

“Eckels here swears he hasn’t spoken to this man in over a decade,” Tsukauchi reassured him, the nervous glint in his eyes enough evidence to show that he was more than terrified of the new number one hero. “He’s a good hero, and he does good work. His agency’s slowly becoming one of the biggest in England. I would trust him. If he’s right, it’ll save us a whole lot of time trying to find them down at the police station.”

Toshinori opened his previously closed eyes, his fingers fitted together in front of his face. He looked up with a friendly smile at the newcomer. “Doctor, is this true? You know someone in the League? Who?”

Startled by the sudden address, Eckels fumbled anxiously with his coat for a moment before managing to remove a photograph from the pocket, accidentally disturbing the line as he fished around for it. He held it up, displaying a picture of a younger edition of himself and a man of the same age, with curly auburn hair and deep eyes.

He let out a cautious breath, clearing his throat and attempting to relax his shoulders. He stammered through his first sentence since his arrival, his Japanese fairly good, despite how obvious it was not a native citizen. “I, er, um… I went to high school with Sako Atsuhiro when we were both teenagers.. His family had moved around the map plenty of times, s-so it was just after my freshman year that he showed up. Something happened to his family right before we both became seniors, and I… I n-never heard from him again.”

“Atsuhiro?” asked Vlad King, speaking up for the first time. “Which one’s that again?”

“Sako Atsuhiro goes by the villain name Mister Compress.” Tsukauchi advised.

“The marble guy.” Aizawa confirmed, leaning back in his chair. “He’s the one who got his hands on not one, but two of my students in one go… He was a hell of a lot of trouble.” He looked up sharply at Eckels, the intensity in his eyes doing absolutely nothing for the poor man’s already raging nerves. “You say you went to high school with him? In England, too? And he just… disappeared?”

Eckels nodded. “Yes. My mother was good friends with his. She tried to get in touch with her after Sako disappeared, but it seemed that no one had seen any of the Atsuhiros for at least a month.”

“Mmm… I don’t like the sound of that.” Midnight said.

“A-Anyways,” The doctor continued. “Despite our lack of communication for some time now, I’m sure I can find some way to contact him. It won’t take me more than an evening. He knows me. It pains me to betray someone like this, but if it’s for the sake of a possible captive, then it’s the only thing I can do. But...”

He paused, absently biting a nail for a moment.

“Even so,” he said. “It’s not like Sako, to participate in things like this…”

“Yeah, well, with all due respect, Doctor, it probably wasn’t like your Sako to be involved with a criminal organization and a series of orchestrated attacks, not to mention being at the center of a kidnapping.” said Aizawa. “It’s been more than a decade. People change.”

“Yes, yes..” Eckels sighed. “Anyways, if you all would give me at least an hour, I’m certain I can find a way to talk to him. If I pry a bit, perhaps he’ll give me what you need. I’ll reach out to him.”

“Don’t get sappy.” snapped Endeavor. “Just do it, alright?”

“Certainly, sir.”

-

“How’d you even get your hands on a bar, Kurogiri?” Jun asked, leaning forward on the bar. She nursed a pint glass of some carbonated beverage akin to Sprite with one hand, and propped up her chin with the other. “This place is like some little hotel with all its bedrooms. Did you renovate it or something? Wait, do you even have hands?”

Her elder siblings sat on either side of her, sipping at drinks of their own as they listened to just a few of the stories Kurogiri had to share (after all, a good barkeep had to have plenty of interesting tales). Some dated back to the mist man’s teen days, and he wasted no time in describing to them, in detail, just how much of an absolute punk he’d been back in the day. It was almost unbelievable, but the obvious embarrassment in his voice, despite his being a wanted criminal now, was enough to sell it for Jun.

Kurogiri chuckled. “Tomura’s sensei had a few minor connections in the area, and one of them happened to be a friend of a friend of a real estate agent. After a bit of delivering messages from one party to another, we ended up owning this place like an apartment flat rather than a bar. This is the second location we’ve had, too.” He paused. “There were a couple of times where the real estate company got a tad bit suspicious of us… Fortunately, Toga found that friend of a friend of a real estate agent in time and… made use of her quirk.”

“No way…” Jun’s mouth dropped open, and she gave her elder sister a wide-eyed stare. She giggled and shrugged innocently.

“I was there for when she… disguised herself.” Mustard shuddered, and shook his head. “That wasn’t fun.”

“Oh, please, my quirk’s cooler than yours.” Toga sniffed.

“You couldn’t stop looking down, and that wasn’t cool.”

“It was a new experience, Mustard! I hadn’t been a guy before!”

Jun screwed up her face. “Ew, that’s gross!”

“See, Jun gets it.”

Kurogiri sighed, shaking his head as the bickering went on, his eyes creasing up in amusement as Atsuhiro walked down from the second floor. He crossed the room and leaned across the bar, taking his partner’s mistified hand and removing his mask to kiss it sweetly. He stood up and regarded the arguing teens on the barstools and chuckled, raising an eyebrow at the bartender, who shrugged back with an air of indifference. The magician cleared his throat.

“Pardon me for eavesdropping, dears, but I’d rather not hear about Toga’s fascination with…” He took a breath. “Anyways, have any of you seen the boss? I’ve got some questions about recruits that need to be taken care of.”

“Him and Dad’re both out, I think.” Jun replied, taking a drink from her glass before turning to face Atsuhiro. “New mask, Sako? It’s pretty.”

“Why, thank you, our dear Junbug. And how’d your training go this afternoon?”

“I managed to knock Dabi down twice, but that was it.” She frowned. “He says I’ve gotta work on my footing.”

“I’m sure you’ll do just fine. Stay light on those feet of yours.” Compress turned to face Kurogiri. “Darling, I--”

His phone began to ring from the depths of his pocket. He removed it, and looked at the caller.

“Hmm…? What’s this? Oh, I’d better take it. Give me a moment, friends, I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

They watched him leave.

“Anyways…” Jun looked up at the mist man with a grin far too similar to that of two particular villains in the League and fit her hands together. “You said something about a cherry bomb in high school…?”

“Ah, that story…”

-

“What do you mean, he’s different?”

A small group of them sat around the common room coffee table, lounging about on various sofas. A few miscellaneous mugs of tea and cookie plates with nothing but crumbs left on them were strewn about the place. All eyes were now on Midoriya, their somewhat casual conversation about the League of Villains changing directions entirely as he spoke.

“I-I mean… when I went to Kiyashi.. I was expecting to see the same guy we’d fought so many times in the last few years. That ruthless monster who was behind all those relentless attacks… and I-I mean, sure, it was him, and none of that was gone, but there was… there was something else to him, I think.”

“Like what?” asked Uraraka from her side of the room, tilting her head.

“I don’t know.” Midoriya hummed, thoughtfully. “He seemed.. sure of himself. He was still that same criminal, always so full of rage, but he was still relaxed. There was something confident about him that I couldn’t put my finger on. Like he knew something about me that I didn’t know or something. I don’t know. It was like he was one step ahead.”

“We can’t forget how smart that guy is,” commented Todoroki from his seat beside an always-fidgeting class president. “He might be stubborn, but we’ve heard what the pros have said about him. He’s clever, and cunning. That’s why all of his big plans are always so complex and intricate. He knows what he’s doing, and he knows how we’re gonna react, how we’re gonna fight.”

“He’s nothing like any of the big bads we’ve seen before.” Kirishima agreed.

“Yeah…” Midoriya sighed. “Not at all…”

-

Both Dabi and Shigaraki were, as Jun had said, out of the house-- however, they hadn’t gone very far. Actually, they hadn’t even left the doorstep, both of them perched on the top step, looking out into the street in silence. Shigaraki had been clenching and unclenching his fists for the previous ten minutes, while Dabi had gone through two cigarettes in the last twenty-five. Both of them would turn to look at each other every so often as if they had something to say, or as if they wanted to at least start a conversation, but each time they both failed to come up with much of anything. So, silence it was.

Early evening was beginning to set over the city, the sky fading from that bright, cheerful blue to that beautiful, moody yellow-orange, turning darker and darker as time passed. This was Dabi’s favorite time of day, and Shigaraki’s least favorite. He much preferred not having to strain his eyes against the light, and much preferred not having to go the extra mile to hide his face from civilians when he went out late at night. However, this part of the city was full of alleys and detours, so it didn’t matter much at all.

Dabi simply liked the early evenings for the cinematic look. It was a calming thing to look at at the end of the day. Inspiring, in an artistic sort of way, despite how many years it must have been since Dabi had bothered opening a sketchbook. Now that he was thinking about it, he wasn’t sure if he’d even have the patience for that kind of thing anymore. It could be awfully tedious, after all, not to mention frustrating…

Besides, art had never exactly been encouraged in his old life. Perhaps it had been, by his mother, but he scarcely remembered anything about her. He could think of some of the things she might have said to him once, but her voice was completely lost on him, as well as her appearance. He’d done everything in his power to forget that part of his pitiful existence. He wished the last few years could have been all he remembered. The thrill of all those chases, the late-night laughter shared between friends over a nice, cold beer at Kurogiri’s bar afterward… even the feelings blooming in his chest now were things he felt ought to be remembered.

Unlike Dabi, Shigaraki couldn’t seem to forget everything in his past. He couldn’t leave it behind him. Those times when he was alone in his bedroom, lying on his back and staring at the posters he’d had to climb multiple pieces of furniture to tack to the ceiling, in the middle of the night.. That was when he could remember it all the clearest. Those haunting flashes. All those words and lessons he’d been taught by his sensei. He could remember it all vividly.

Maybe, if he were to stop walking around with decaying hands all over his body, it might have been easier to forget it all.

Really, though, it was still a wonder he was sitting out here on the bar’s front doorstep at all. For most of his life after six years old, he’d been forbidden from even leaving the building he lived in with Kurogiri at all. The bartender went out and brought him back everything he needed, entertained him with stories, just as he was for Jun right then, and taught him everything he knew, perhaps even more than average children were taught with the basic public school curriculum. It’d been a dull life, despite all those dramatic speeches he remembered his sensei giving word-for-word… His debut as a villain, back at UA’S USJ facility, had been like a field trip for him.

Shigaraki almost wished he hadn’t excluded himself and Kurogiri from being part of Vanguard, just so he could have been there… to see the look on those stupid brats’ faces, of course. That was what he longed for. Not the unity he felt with the League, not the excitement being with a group of people who’d put their trust in him gave him, and not the rush of adrenaline he always felt when they called him their leader. Or, those few extra nicknames Dabi had been creative in coming up with that practically made him want to jump for joy.

Well, “jump for joy” was a stupidly long stretch, but it was damn close.

Absently, Shigaraki turned his head and stared at the figure to his left, leaning carefully on his palm with his fingers stretched out and away from his cheek. He watched the deep blue smoke from the end of Dabi’s cigarette drift out into the street, curling in complicated shapes. He shivered as the breeze rushing down the street changed directions and embedded itself in the bar’s little inlet, wrapping itself around him and sending a chill through his body. Dabi, as usual, didn’t seem to react to the sudden cold, only taking another smooth drag from his cigarette and glaring expressionlessly at everything and nothing. Eventually, his gaze flickered to his right.

“Did you want one or something, Mophead?” He flicked the box across the step and reached for the lighter by his hip, raising an eyebrow when Shigaraki scoffed and shook his head. He shrugged and took back the box. His voice wavered, almost nervously, as he continued, “What’s that look for, then?”

“It’s freezing out here.” Shigaraki ignored his question and hunched his shoulders.

“Is it?” Dabi puffed smoke out from his lips.

“Damn right it is. Must be nice, having a useful quirk.”

Dabi shot him a glare. “Your quirk isn’t useless, Boss. It’s saved our asses plenty of times.”

“Yeah, sure, it’s good for business, but that ain’t practical. You think I’m having just a grand ol’ time when I have to come back downstairs in the morning to get another apple because I turned the first one to a pile of dust?” Shigaraki rolled his eyes underneath that signature hand-shaped disguise. “Or when I have to use our monthly funds to get an extra PlayStation controller because I decayed a few of the buttons off one of our old ones?”

Dabi bit his lower lip to avoid a snicker; Shigaraki huffed and looked away. Immediately, he looked apologetic.

“I’m sorry, Mophead. I didn’t mean to laugh.”

Shigaraki could feel it welling up in his throat. That pure, bitter rage. The resentment he'd been feeling towards his circumstances for months now. Towards himself, towards his feelings that he assumed were for the man next to him. He couldn't control them anymore. He didn't want to control them anymore. It was just as Atsuhiro had said to Kurogiri... He could bottle things up, but not for incredibly long. He'd explode. He'd break. He wouldn't be able to handle it. He had to tell someone.

And Dabi would listen. He always did. Dabi.

“It’s not just that, either.” Tomura continued, balling his fists by his sides, his thumbs bent cautiously away from himself. He seemed to be on a roll, and he could feel the anger and the self-resentment welling up slowly in his throat. Just the concept of his own power was enough to make him furious either. “My own teammates have every right to be scared of me for this stupid quirk. I can’t even control it, much less use it for anything useful. Kurogiri and Compress’ quirks can get them places, make their lives so much fucking easier… and what can I do?”

“Your quirk doesn’t scare us, Boss.”

“Oh, please.” Shigaraki laughed, bitterly, that overwhelming feeling of self-loathing taking over his whole being, as it usually did when he was given the opportunity to take a dig at himself. Whether that be for his quirk, or his leadership abilities, or his appearance, or his voice, or his failures, that didn’t matter to him.

“I can’t speak for the team, Tomura.” said Dabi, and Shigaraki felt a hand on his shoulder. “But I’m not scared of you. I never have been. I know you, Boss. I can’t be scared of something like that.”

“You should be.”

“Yeah, maybe I should.” Dabi agreed. “But that’s just not the case, is it?”

“That’s not very fuckin’ smart of you, Ashtray.”

Dabi sighed, exasperated. “What do I have to do to convince you, Tomura? There’s gotta be something. I’m not gonna sit here and just listen to you talk shit about yourself all night. I can’t do that. I won’t. Do you know what that shit does to me? It already tears Kurogiri to pieces, Mophead, I… I… Fuck…”

He dropped his dying cigarette on the ground and crushed it under his boot. Shigaraki watched him, silent, hands folded in his lap.

He reached up to his face and carefully unclipped Father from around his jaw, setting him on the step beside his own hip. He rubbed his eyes, and glared, still quiet, at the pavement below him. Both men were silent for a good long while, before Shigaraki could feel the heat of those piercing eyes on him again. He shuddered.

“You know Jun’s not scared of you.”

Tomura closed his eyes.

“She loves you.”

He nodded.

“You’re practically the most special thing in the world to that kid, Boss-- why doesn’t that matter to you?”

“If you won’t take my word, can’t you at least take hers?”

...

Shigaraki opened his eyes and looked at him. “She never stops talking about you, either, Stitches.”

“Doesn’t she?”

“Nah.” He cracked a small smile. “She’s been telling me stories you told her about yourself since she got here, as if I haven’t heard them all already.”

“Even the coconut one?”

“Even the coconut one.”

“I told you that one?”

“Multiple times.”

Dabi looked over at him. “I’m not scared of you. You know that.”

He looked at the ground. “Yeah.”

Dabi looked away from him, and almost immediately felt a pair of slim arms around his shoulders. He leaned backward, feeling the head against his collarbone, the eyelids shut as tight as they could go, and the heart in the chest beating as unsteadily as ever. His face broke out into an uncontrollable smile, his own shoulders shuddering at the contact as he returned the embrace. There was always that one part of his brain that screamed for more… However, for the time being, this was what he was satisfied with.

Shigaraki pulled away from him, and for a moment, there was that signature, manic, crimson wildfire. And then he leaned in again.

The following kiss was chaste, and quick, a mess, and uncoordinated… not to mention so brief that Dabi was almost unaware that it happened. But it was enough to knock the wind from Dabi’s chest, and that was enough. He blinked as he felt the heat pull away from him.

Had that... really... just...?

“Boss--”

“I know. Sorry.”

Before Dabi could even get in a reply, Shigaraki just up and left, closing the front door quickly behind him, picking up Father in his arms as he went. Dabi saw a flash of those wild red eyes and those flushed, discolored cheeks, and then he disappeared. He heard the greetings of the others inside, cheerfully and enthusiastically greeting their beloved leader. He turned back to the street, as if asking the faded ghosts of cigarette smoke if that had really just happened.

Slowly, and almost comically, he pinched himself. He felt the sting. Thank God.

He picked up the nearly empty cigarette box on the stoop beside him, flicking open his lighter, his heart beating a billion times per minute.

Dabi, you have really got to get a hold of yourself one of these days…

-

“Oh, it’s so wonderful to hear from you after all these years, old friend. How have you been, Eckels?”

”I’m above ground, Sako. I’m above ground.”

Chapter Text

Doctor Raymond Eckels stood sheepishly in the corner of the boardroom, rubbing his arms as he surveyed the mass of professional heroes, all suiting up and getting their gear, finally ready for the big mission. There had to be thirty of them, maybe more, all packed together in this meeting hall one last time before officially heading out. Some faces he recognized from back home in England; they waved to him sometimes, and he would wave back with an awkward smile, as if to say “I’d love to engage in a conversation with you, but I can’t for the life of me remember your name.” The butterfly wings protruding majestically from his back fluttered in boredom.

His mission to gather intel from his old high school buddy had gone as successfully as he'd hoped it would, and he’d managed to retrieve everything the other heroes needed before even he had expected himself to be done. He hadn’t exactly been commended for his work, but he supposed the rest of the team had their own matters to attend to, their own strategies they needed to figure out before they went parading downtown looking for the League of Villains. It might have been nice, though, receiving even just the smallest bit of gratitude. A “Hey, thanks” would have sufficed.

Eckels hadn’t expected Sako to be so different over the phone. Yes, it had been over a decade, but still, the doctor heard no sign of that sardonic, down-in-the-dumps transfer student he’d known back in school. Then again, Eckels had been one of the only students in their old academy who spoke even just a single word of Japanese. Sako hadn’t had many friends to select from back then. It had only been sheer luck that he met Eckels, a boy whose family had done so much travelling and gone through years and years of extra schooling.

Sako had sounded alarmingly cheerful, his voice broader and elegant. It sounded as if he hadn’t stopped smiling throughout their whole talk, just as happy as a man could possibly be. He’d eagerly told Eckels about his living conditions, how happy he was to be where he was, and how much he adored the people around him.

It made Eckels feel sick to his stomach. What Raymond was about to do… This was a betrayal. A nasty one. But he had a job to do. Sako might have been happy, but he hadn’t brought up any little girl, so perhaps… perhaps the girl wasn’t happy. Maybe she really was in danger, and Eckels was doing the right thing. He didn’t necessarily want to do this, but he didn’t have a choice, did he? Tsukauchi had asked him to do this. It was his responsibility to follow through with his duties as pro hero.

Pros didn’t have time for reflecting like this, Eckels scolded himself, anxiously fiddling with the cuff of his jacket. He had a job to do, and he’d get it done, just as he’d been asked to by the detective. It was just as that tired-looking gentleman with the peculiar scarf around him had said. Sako may have been a nice boy and a good friend back in high school, but he was different now. Eckels knew that. He’d heard that. Yes, it was all well and good. He’d do this properly, he’d make sure of it.

Sako hadn’t even brought up his sudden disappearance in high school during their conversation, nor the untimely vanishing of the entirety of his family, and that was what unnerved Eckels the most. He hadn’t spoken to the man in decades, and had even presumed him dead, but here he was, as lively and as energetic as could be, apparently a wanted criminal, with a husband. Eckels was almost embarrassed to call himself angry, but he couldn’t shrug it off that easily. He couldn’t believe Atsuhiro had the nerve, the audacity, to just abandon him all those years ago, and not even bother to contact him.

Not only that, but Eckels’ mind had a terrible tendency to walk in disastrous directions. He had a habit of assuming the worst before anything else, and that was exactly what he had done here, many uncomfortable, disturbing suspicions crawling up his skin. He worried about Sako’s poor, still MIA family, and just what had happened to them. He even wondered if there was a possibility that Sako had had a hand in their sudden vanishing.

After all… Sako had become a wanted criminal since they'd last spoke.

But it was foolish to think of all that right then, Eckels thought, once again reprimanding himself. The point was, there was a girl out there somewhere that needed saving, and he was doing his part in helping the other heroes execute their mission. Of course, he hadn’t been invited on the trip, because, as Aizawa had said, they were no longer in need of rescue heroes, but he had nothing to worry about. They were there for the girl, not the League. If that group was as dastardly as these heroes framed them as, they’d make sure of their own safety, with or without the child.

Oh, Eckels knew it was wrong to hope for this, but oh, oh how he hoped that Sako would be able to get out of that mess when it happened. They weren’t exactly in a remote location, last the doctor had heard, so perhaps he’d be able to be lost in a crowd, or able to slip through an alleyway, or a crack in the city… Eckels sighed to himself, knocking his head back against the wall of the boardroom, staring off into space. He had to knock it off.

“Yo, Butterfly-Man, you doin’ okay over there?” called Present Mic’s voice, the sudden noise nearly giving poor Raymond a heart attack. The Voice hero pushed his sunglasses up the bridge of his nose and waved with a friendly grin. Eckels nodded and gave him a smile in return, though his was much less confident in comparison. He shivered. Butterfly-Man… Bah.

Yamada turned to the mumbling, bumbling pack of pro heroes, and cupped his hands to his mouth. Eckels cringed, forcing his wings to quit fluttering so they didn’t help amplify Present Mic’s consequent scream that was only louder thanks to how small the space was.

”Y’all geared up?”

The collective reply was, as usual, significantly less enthusiastic than Present Mic, but still an affirmative. He rubbed the back of his head.

“Alright, then. Let’s do this thing.’

-

“I will end you.”

Jun pouted, folding her arms and leaning away from the small circle of fellow villains, her hand of UNO cards laid facedown on the hardwood floor in front of her. Her siblings, Twice, and Dabi sat around with her in the circle, cautiously holding their own hands away from their opponents’ lines of sight. A few feet away, Spinner, Shigaraki, and Atsuhiro sat on every side of the bar, watching their game, along with Kurogiri, tidying up as per usual in his usual station behind the counter. Mustard, now maskless, gave Jun a satisfied smirk.

“Relax, it was just a reverse card.” He said, and Jun sniffed, pulling another card from the deck and retracting her knees up to her chest as she inspected her hand. She drew another card, and then another, and gave a gasp of triumph as she laid down an acceptable card on the growing pile.

“Careful there, Mustard,” Atsuhiro warned him, taking a drink from the screwdriver Kurogiri had made him for lunch (the drink, of course, not the hardware tool). “The last time I played cards with Jun, I couldn’t find any of my mask collection for half a week.”

“She hid Father under her bed.” rasped Tomura, clearing his sore throat and taking a drink from his glass. The mission he’d participated in last night had been eventful and a success, but the consequences were taking a toll on him now.

“She drew a smiley-face on my neck gear in Sharpie.” Kurogiri contributed.

“She glued sequins to my Stain scarf.” complained Spinner. “Not only was it all glittery, but I ruined the fabric trying to get them all off.”

Dabi snorted from his side of the UNO circle, placing a card from his hand onto the pile, indicating Twice’s turn. He seemed so invested in the game that he didn’t offer much of a comment, just sorting meticulously through his hand before carefully, slowly selecting the card he liked best. Toga hummed a “that’s my sister” before drawing a card and placing it on top of the deck. Again, it was Mustard’s turn, and he glanced in disbelief up and around at his family as he spent it.

"Has Jun seriously pulled some bizarre trick on literally everyone here but me?” He asked, and, after a long pause, everyone in the room simultaneously nodded confidently. Jun beamed sweetly at him from over the circle, casually spending her own turn with another card onto the pile. Mustard shuddered as the turns went back round the circle again. “Dabi? Toga? Twice? What’d she do to you?”

Toga glared playful daggers at Jun from across the little circle. “Li’l Sis cut holes in my favorite sweaters.”

“Somehow, she got away with bleaching and dying a purple stripe in my hair while I was asleep.” Dabi sighed, shaking his head as if he still couldn’t fathom it.

Mustard furrowed his brows in disbelief, Jun grinning away in silence as he turned to the remaining villain. “What about you? Did she take your mask or something? That’d be especially sinister.”

“Nah,” Twice shrugged. “She wouldn’t do somethin’ like that. She just stuck googly eyes and a bunch of super-adhesive heart stickers to it. It wasn’t that bad. It was awful! I’ll never forgive her! It’s all good, kid.”

“That’s it?” groaned Dabi. “I got the permanent hair dye, and you got the stickers? Pigtails, where’d you even get heart stickers and googly eyes from?”

“Toga.” replied Jun, and placed another card on the deck. “Plus the hair dye and the bleach.”

“Of course you did.” He breathed with a roll of his eyes and a heavy sigh of defeat.

-

Todoroki’s renovated dorm room was just a bit larger than the rest of the rooms around his. It was beyond any of his classmates how he’d managed to spread out the room at all, his own dorm being in between those of Satou and Sero, but they had to admit, it was awfully nice. As much as fledgling heroes such as Ashido and Hagakure tried desperately to get further glimpses of the interior, Todoroki was persistent in letting only a select few enter, with the occasional exception depending on the situation. All but one of these particular students were there with him now, the drapes pulled back to reveal UA High’s beautiful campus.

It was a nice day outside. If you looked past the gardens and UA’s impressive, handmade forest, you could see into the depths of the city. It was no surprise that Todoroki, of all people, got one of the best views possible. That afternoon, Japan’s blue sky was completely void of clouds. A perfect day to go shopping, or for a walk in the park. Not that Shouto thought about either of those things very often. In fact, it was only when Uraraka and Iida started naming suggestions for something to do late that evening (they were on one of their two days off that day) that Todoroki realized there were more things to do with a pretty day than stare out at it through a window.

“Ooh, Iida, we should organize another class trip!” Uraraka beamed, clapping her hands together with excitement. She’d perched herself on Todoroki’s desk chair, facing the other two sitting next to one another on the bed. A stool from the common room had been dragged in as well, in case someone else decided to join. Uraraka’s smile faltered for a moment. “Although… maybe we should… stick together as a group this time.”

“Yes,” Iida affirmed with a swift nod. “I think that would be a wonderful bonding experience for all of us as a class. However, as class president, I have to be wary. The last thing I would want is a repeat of last time… and besides, Midoriya’s reckless stunt from not too long ago gives me great reason to be concerned.”

“Bonding experience?” murmured Todoroki, his eyes still glued to the outside world beyond his window. “We’ve all known each other for years now, what’s the point of that?”

“I’m just saying that not all of us.. always... get along… with one another…” swallowed Iida, and he didn’t need to clarify for both of his classmates to understand what he meant. “That said, I wouldn’t want to force friendship on anyone unwilling, especially if I consider them friends of my own. Perhaps all Class A needs is a nice weekend day trip.”

Todoroki leaned his head against his shoulder, blinking away the sleep from his eyes as best he could. “If we’re gonna go on a day trip, make sure it’s on a day where I don’t have to go to the hospital.”

“Of course, Shouto.” The class rep smiled fondly at him.

“Hey, speakin’ of Deku…” Uraraka said, tapping her lip with a padded finger. “Did he tell any of you about what went down at Kiyashi with Tomura Shigaraki? I mean, he played a little bit of that recording on his phone, but that wasn’t even over a minute. Do you think he’s hiding something?”

“Why would Midoriya hide something like that from us?” Todoroki yawned briefly, raising an eyebrow. “If he had an encounter with a villain, he would be sure to tell us about it. It wouldn’t be like him to keep something so important to himself.”

“I don’t know about that,” mused Iida. “Nowadays, he prefers to keep his strategies and his thought processes a secret until he acts on them. Since his reconciliation with Bakugou, I think Midoriya’s learned more about himself and how he behaves even outside of the battlefield.”

“How do you mean?” asked Todoroki.

“Back in our first year here at UA, Midoriya was always vocal about his plan for battle. In just our first training exercise with All Might-sensei, he made a point of telling Bakugou about how he managed to read his moves so easily… At least, that’s what I heard after the fact. Uraraka, you even took his strategy with you to the sports festival, and tried to prepare yourself for that first right hook in your fight against Bakugou.” Iida pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose with a free hand. “Midoriya has a drive to help people, but I believe he’s learned by now that he has a tendency to take that too far, even when he does mean well.”

They settled into silence for a painfully long moment, six eyes staring absently out Todoroki’s dorm window at the beautiful clear sky above the city. Uraraka folded her hands in her lap, smoothing out her casual skirt, and glanced up at the two young men across from her, huddled comfortably together and enjoying the view. She thought about Deku.

“Deku told me Mirio’s helping look for the League of Villains.” She offered.

“That’s a big mission for such a young hero,” remarked Iida, apparently temporarily forgetting everything he’d been through since even just his first year, his first few months even, at UA High. “The heroes outside our school must have heard of his promising grades and performances. I’m sure he’ll go far, having worked as a sidekick for multiple well-respected heroes. Not only that, but he was one of the three top students at UA when he was still attending it.”

“Think the other two’ll be there?” wondered Todoroki, idly toying with the sheets on his bed.

“I wouldn’t be surprised.” Iida agreed. “Nejire and Amajiki are both just as strong and capable as Mirio. Kirishima’s kept in touch with Amajiki since their working together alongside Fatgum, much like Deku with Mirio after their work with Sir Nighteye… I wonder if Amajiki’s doing well.”

There was a brief moment of silence.

As Uraraka opened her mouth to reply, the door to Todoroki’s room swung open, colliding dangerously with the wall with such force the entire building felt as though it shook. On cue, as if he’d been summoned by a simple mention of himself, Deku appeared in the doorway, holding himself up against the frame. Sweat ran down his forehead, the sleeves of his dress shirt rolled up to his elbows, and his eyes wide with excitement and anxiousness.

“Midoriya!” exclaimed Iida. “What on earth is it? Where have you been?”

“Mirio just texted me,” Midoriya gasped, breathless. “They’re… They’re on their way… They’re going to raid the League of Villains’ hideout today.”

-

”No way! You cheated!”

Jun smiled and glanced at the other half of the television screen, watching Dry Bones veer hopelessly off the edge of the track and fall tragically to his doom in a bottomless chasm.

“Jin, I’m half a lap away from you, how was that my fault?”

“It’s not. I know you cheated! I know you did!”

Beside her on the sofa, Shigaraki leaned on an arm and watched in satisfied silence, Father clipped over his jaw as usual. He tapped his foot on the hardwood floors to the beat of the Mario Kart Wii soundtrack, every so often drawing his attention away to pick idly at his nails, waiting for the match to be over so he’d have the opportunity to play. On the opposite side of the couch, Dabi leaned against the armrest, chewing Twice out for his performance and making snarky jokes despite being on the same team as him. Twice swatted blindly at him every now and then, missing by a good five feet each attempt.

It wasn’t often that the League could go out and enjoy a nice, pretty day like the one outside that afternoon, so instead, they opted for spending time indoors at around lunchtime. Watching movies, catching up on a television show, or playing games, the League enjoyed it all. This afternoon, all but two of the team were present, Mister Compress and Mustard having gone out to run a few necessary errands. Toga observed cheerfully from the bar, chatting with Kurogiri. Spinner sat nearby, joining Dabi in ridiculing Twice’s poor Mario Kart skills.

“Wow, can’t believe Twice is getting his ass kicked by a kid.” Dabi sighed dramatically with a smirk. “Still think picking that car was a good idea?”

”Shut up!” Twice complained. “Yeah, you were right all along, man…”

“This is what you get for teaming up against Li’l Sis and Tomu-chan,” Toga commented sweetly. “All they do is play video games in the dark. I don’t think they talk to people for days.”

“Shut your mouth or I’ll turn all that makeup you keep in my bathroom into even more powder.” Shigaraki snapped instinctively, rubbing his temple underneath the mask on his face.

“See?”

Jun and Toga both cheered as she crossed the finish line for the third time, landing in first place. She tossed the remote to Tomura and stood up, stepping over the console wires to reach the bar and ask for an apple juice with seltzer water, please. Immediately, she tuned into Toga’s one-sided conversation with Kurogiri about the one time they banned straws at her old high school and she decided to steal as many of them as she could and sell them for as much yen as she could get after they disappeared from the cafeteria entirely. It was a surprisingly suspenseful and engaging story, really.

Twice handed his Wii remote off to Dabi, switching seats with him as the round started. Shigaraki carefully placed his middle, index, and thumb fingers in the right places, eyeing his own remote carefully as he stuck his pinkie fingers out and away from himself, just to make sure. He caught Dabi staring at him as the countdown began, felt himself melting under the heat of the smile the other villain gave him, and soon realized that the countdown was now over, and that Dabi and the other CPUs had left him both in the dust, and in twelfth (and therefore last) place.

“Damn you, Ashtray.”

Dabi only smiled wider and laughed.

As much as he hated it, Shigaraki felt a smile of his own creeping into his muscles.

If you were to ask the League of Villains, this was a perfect afternoon, and the one thing in life better than stirring up trouble for a bunch of pesky good guys.

-

Living in a hero society meant that the modern citizens of Japan went through many different daily, weekly, and monthly routines, and the most notable was probably seeing bizarre and peculiar things on a regular basis. They saw quirks of all kinds in action, thanks to both the rise of superheroes and supervillains, and sometimes, even when just your normal, everyday average joe civilian was standing idly by at a street corner, their appearance was so severely unlike that of a normal human’s that it was almost a work of art.

However, seeing a thirty-some-year-old man with wide, tortoise-shell glasses, decked all-out in a fashionable grey suit, flying and fluttering about the city with butterfly wings protruding from the back of him was quite the sight to see on a Saturday afternoon. Especially when he pauses mid-flight to apologize in broken, hasty Japanese for nearly kicking you in the head, and that he’ll watch where he’s flying next time.

Eckels’ heart pounded in his chest as he tore through the streets of the city, swooping low enough on his incredibly delicate wings to touch the bustling traffic with the soles of his feet, navigating as best he could in a country he hadn’t visited since childhood. Some of the streets he recognized from his taxi ride with Tsukauchi up to UA, but every now and then it was necessary for the doctor to pull his cellphone from his pocket and scramble to find directions. He simply hovered there, a few yards above the street, wings fluttering, staring at his phone casually. Heads leaned out of car windows to stare at him, but by then he’d flown off yet again.

His mind in a frenzy, Raymond Eckels fought to remember the address he’d come up with, the one he’d given to the pro heroes for their investigation. Then, he’d been all for it, wanting nothing more than to be of use, and of assistance, but now, the mere thought of his willingness made him sick. Then again, so did what he was doing right now, and that wasn’t because of his obvious fear of heig--

Don’t look down, don’t look down, don’t look down.

Or maybe it was.

Eckels was entirely aware of his own cowardice. It was a character trait he seemingly couldn’t shake. Even the simplest of confrontations were ones he found himself turning away from. He didn’t like to get his hands dirty, and he certainly didn’t like getting in other people’s business, or getting in their way and making a fool out of himself. Yet, despite all that, he’d become a rescue hero, after years and years of being called a nuisance and a delinquent for neglecting his schoolwork and chores, staying locked up in his room with comic books, fantasy novels, and games that he found interesting.

He had no strong, unbreakable sense of justice. He’d only wanted to have a bit of that precious, golden light shed on him for once in his life, to be recognized as just a little bit more than a boy with his head in the clouds, a boy with one too many disabilities that made all the big, scary grown-ups in his life deem him an inconvenience. He wanted recognition. He wanted to be somebody that people were impressed by. He wanted to be like Atsuhiro, with his obvious charm and good sense of humor, able to flatter both the girls and boys at their high school without even having to speak a word of English other than “please” and “thank you.”

However, despite his cowardice, here he was, soaring through the clear skies of Japan, searching desperately for the right building, and hoping -- no -- praying that he could just get there before the pros did. He needed to help his friend. Pro hero or otherwise. Here he was, confronting his past.

Albeit his entire body was shaking with anxiety, his nerves on high alert, but it was a big step for him nonetheless.

What am I doing? Is this the right direction? What was the number again? Am I going to get in trouble for all this? Of course you’re doing to get into trouble for this, you twit, you’re a pro hero, on your way to rescue a wanted criminal from arrest! You’re a fool! A dimwit! A ninny! Oh, but I know that already…

Yes. Definitely a very, very big step.

As Eckels’ skinny, lanky form shot through the air like a bullet on frail, beautiful, orangey-yellow wings, a young boy with sandy-blond hair dressed in black and a man with curly auburn hair turned on their street, smiles on their faces, ready to get home and relax with their family.

-

“You meant it?”

They were standing opposite each other on the second floor of the bar, the tight space and the low lighting enough to make both of them anxious. The idle chatter of the League downstairs buzzed quietly in their ears as they stared at each other in silence, hands either fidgeting by their sides or folded in front of their chest. Crimson eyes bled into teal, the rivaling colors lighting up the darkened hallway, quiet enough to hear a pin drop. Dabi stared at him with a level gaze, pretending as though he would be able to maintain himself for much longer.

“I did what I thought was right.” whispered Tomura, staring just past Dabi’s ear, his fingers irking to claw at his neck, a habit he always thought he’d broken until the urge only came back stronger.

“But did you mean it?”

“I… I don’t…” He bit his lip underneath the protection of Father, four fingers clawing at the front of his shirt, as if he wished he could cave in on himself right then and there. And, although Dabi had been the one to pull him aside here, Dabi couldn't blame him. He didn't know what to say, either, and he thought he'd been ready.

Shigaraki had given up stammering by now, resorting to staring at his shoes. He seemed to be fully aware he couldn’t just fall back on insults when he was speechless in this situation, and without that shield to protect him, this was all that was left of him. Dabi, too, felt incredibly out of place, with his sudden lack of sly remarks and witty insults. It was uncomfortable. They both hated it.

...

Dabi blinked away the veil in front of his eyes as the scent of blood reached his nose. Without thinking twice about it, he reached forward, and pulled his hand away from Tomura's throat. Swallowing his courage, he pulled Father away with his other free hand. A smile fleeted across his face, brushing the bangs from his employer's face. Tomura stared up at him, wide-eyed, and red as a beet. His eyes scaled down to Fatber in Dabi's hand.

There was an unexpected snap in atmosphere.

With a sudden burst of energy, Shigaraki lunged for the mask in Dabi’s hand, scowling as he tried to retrieve it from him. Dabi held it away from him, snuck it behind his back, and stepped cautiously away until his back hit the wall of the hallway. Tomura filled his vision.

“Give him back,” Tomura hissed, again scratching harshly at his neck.

“Don’t do that to yourself. Kurogiri doesn’t like it.” Dabi swallowed, his voice still so infuriatingly level and calm compared to his employer’s. ”I don’t like it.”

“What do I care?” Shigaraki’s eyes burned, unreadable, his voice deadpan, his arm outstretched as he practically went blind with growing anger.

Father…

“This again? I know you care. You told me yourself you care.” Dabi leaned his head back as Tomura’s fingers threatened to reach for his throat. “I care, at least, and doesn’t that mean anything? Don’t you give a damn, Boss?”

A finger touched his throat, and then another. The adrenaline pumping through both of their veins, the same heat fueling Dabi’s words, seemed to burn even hotter.

Give Father back, damn you…

“I told you I wasn’t scared of you. I told you the team wasn’t scared of you. I told you you were one of us, but…”

Another finger.

Father…!

“That wasn’t enough, was it? Just being here with people who care about you didn’t matter, did it? We’re just colleagues, Tomura, I know that, but I… I...”

And another finger. Four fingers.

You…

“I want more.”

Shigaraki stopped dead in his tracks, and slowly, the fingers slipped off the burnt skin of Dabi’s throat, dropping heavy by his sides. His gaze burned into Dabi’s chest. Dabi gasped, letting his head fall back to a natural level, his breathing unsteady and awkward.

“You… want…” Tomura began.

“You.” Dabi whispered.

Tomura’s eyes drifted up to his, and for the billionth time, all Dabi could see was that intimidating, tantalizing shade of crimson. He opened his mouth to speak, his hand reaching out ever so slightly. Tomura leaned towards the heat.

A sudden clamor from downstairs cut him off, followed by a shout of surprise. Was that Jin? Or was that Spinner? It couldn’t have been Toga, that was far too high-pitched...

They locked eyes.

“We should--”

“Come on.” Shigaraki turned on his heels, snatching Father from Dabi’s hand and clipping the mask over his face as he dove down the stairwell, nearly tripping over his own feet, Dabi hot on his tail as they sped for the first floor. They skid across the hardwood, eyes moving to Twice, who’d been the one to yell in the first place. Shigaraki did a quick headcount. Spinner… Toga… Kurogiri… Jun? Jun must have been… upstairs… in her bedroom… Oh...

“What’s going on?” Dabi asked. “We heard--”

The front door to the bar opened and slammed, and a gasping Mustard stood there, leaning with all his weight against the door. He panted, covered in sweat, blood trickling from a small wound in his forehead. His eyes were wild as he looked up at the residents of the bar.

“It’s Compress…” He gasped. “A bunch of heroes saw us… He’s.. trying to… fend them--”

He was thrown to the ground.

...

The front door pitched forward, careening off its hinges. The world turned to white.

Toga screamed.

Chapter Text

The soles of his Doc Martens were finally starting to rebel, and at the worst possible time. He nearly ripped them off his feet as he swung round a street corner, sprinting as fast as the confines of his business suit would allow him, his wings fluttering so desperately he was only half touching the ground with his shoes. Civilians peeled out of the way, splitting into two crowds to let the panicking rescue hero through. Eckels apologized to them as he passed, remembered what country he was in, and apologized again, this time in the proper language. He cursed himself in the wrong one as he continued his search.

Judging from the sudden flood of civilians coming his way, he was already a few minutes too late to the party. He bat his wings furiously, picking up on the sound vibrations from what had to be only a block or two away. He commanded his wings to pick up speed again, and he took flight, haphazardly swinging to one side in all of his panic. He turned a sharp corner and flew on towards the chaos.

Eckels breathed out another curse as he heard the familiar whirring of helicopter propellers filling the air. He looked up in horror at the small V formation of aircrafts circling the city's edge. The media was already on the scene. How, Eckels hadn’t a clue, and though he knew just how pesky those nosy reporters could be, and how easy it was for them to get in the way of a mission, he thanked them for both helping him locate his friend, and possibly stalling the heroes’ infiltration of the League of Villains’ headquarters.

Oh, for the love of all that is holy, please be alright, Sako, Eckels prayed. His wings carried him up and over a nearby bank, and lowered him to hover around the battlefield, just out of sight. It was just as he thought: the massive swarm of thirty, maybe forty heroes that he’d met back in UA High’s boardroom had circled the whole street, preventing an on-foot escape. If what Eckels had heard was true, one of Sako’s companions had a warp quirk… If he knew heroes and their meticulous strategies, they’d want to take that one out first.

Raymond cringed as the shouts began to fill the air. Cries of “They’re here!”, and “Brace yourselves!” rung in his ears, amplified by the beating of his own, delicate butterfly wings. He spotted the Flame hero, Endeavor, shoving his way to the front of the crowd, pushing past officers and SWAT team members. There was a ceremonious pause, and then he kicked the door open at full force… After another painful second, a feminine shriek pierced Eckels’ ears from afar.

Eckels ground his teeth together, his tortoise-shell glasses threatening to slip down and off the edge of his pointed noise. He had to get in there. He had to rescue an old friend, whether it meant defying the Hero Code or not.

But how was he to do it, with all of these pros in his way?

Think, Raymond! He shut his eyes. Think, damn you! Find an opening.

-

Shigaraki held his arm against his eyes as the bar seemed to light up, daylight seeming to pour in from every possible angle. The wooden boards covering the barfront’s windows caved in, glass showering in and decorating the floor like an invisible minefield. He felt his knees giving way and reached to clasp the bar as someone kicked the front door halfway across the room, narrowly missing hitting Twice square in the stomach. Kurogiri had already jumped over the bartop, sliding to his feet and pulling a half-conscious Mustard by the arms away from the front door. Shigaraki’s eyes narrowed as a looming shape appeared in the doorway. His ears rung from Toga’s high-pitched shriek.

“Tomura,” The bartender’s voice was urgent. “Where is Jun? We need--”

A blast of red and white and orange fire lit up the dim room, licking at the walls and Kurogiri’s clothes, the sheer force of the attack sending him backwards, spiraling deeper into the room. He attempted to catch himself on his arms and groaned. Shigaraki scowled, clenching his fists. No good, no good…

At his side, Spinner had pulled a weapon from his belt, a katana, now planting himself in front of Kurogiri as he struggled to climb to his feet. Beside the League’s ringleader, Dabi had already assumed a fighting stance, his eyes narrowing in sheer fury as a familiar, glowing figure stepped into the threshold of the bar and surveyed his surroundings with an enraged expression. Two pairs of bright turquoise eyes met each other, lit up, and narrowed.

“Protect her.” Dabi whispered to Tomura, his expression the exact opposite of the Flame hero rivaling him. Dabi was smiling, grinning like a madman, but his tone couldn't have been more serious. “We’ll escape when we’ve done enough damage and get Compress on the way.”

“Yeah,” Shigaraki nodded. “Yeah, right.”

The Flame hero’s first attack came towards Dabi at full force, and he braced himself. In under just a few seconds, the bar was beginning to catch fire around them, the supports inside the walls beginning to whine as the heat began to melt them and they threatened to collapse. Shigaraki had backed away from the warring rivals, his mind in a complete frenzy.

There wasn’t enough room here… He could practically feel the walls beginning to close in on him, the smoke suffocating him, trapping him inside what was already a smoking wreckage of a building.

“Spinner,” He rasped. “You’ve got Kurogiri and and the kid back there, yeah? Brat, you’ve got a knife on you? Twice, your costume? Good. Twice, upstairs. Toga, you too. Don’t let them get into Jun’s bedroom.”

“Right!” Toga was off in an instant, her boots thundering up the stairwell as she narrowly avoided the building’s collapsing support beams, armed with a swiss army knife. Twice was immediately on her trail. Tomura tore his eyes away from them, glancing at Spinner. Any minute now, everyone inside would be done for. They just had to hold up until…

No! He couldn’t think about their end goal now. This was an ambush, a raid. It was meant to catch them off their guard. He had to think strategy now, and fast… He had to ward them off, get enough of the pros wounded enough that they’d be too stunned to catch them in their escape. If they were to be successful, Kurogiri was all they needed to get away. For now, the fighting had to ensue. Shigaraki flexed his fingers.

“Boss, dodge!” Dabi warned, and he lunged out of the way of another blast of flame from Endeavor’s position. Shigaraki eyed the sparring foes, and brought his attention to what remained of the bar’s front entrance. An entire wall had been torn apart, shredded to bits, ripped right off the building as if it were nothing. Shigaraki squinted, surveyed the street outside.

The heroes. They had them all surrounded. Practically dozens and dozens of silhouettes stood out there, prepared for battle. A few rescue heroes were already trying to clamber up the side of the wreckage. He cursed. He knew who they were here for.

Bullets whizzed past him through the air. He turned, and shoved Mustard out of the way, dragging him down as they ducked for cover behind the bar. The boy shouted as a bullet grazed his shoulder on the journey down.

Tomura tore Father off his face, gasping for air. Dammit… Dammit! This was no good! No good at all!

The buzzing in his ears grew to an unbearable ringing as a horrible scream exploded in the air, amplified by the directional speaker around Present Mic’s neck outside the hideout. Shigaraki clutched at his ears, feeling as though his eardrums were going to burst. He knelt over the boy on the ground, inspecting the damage done to his shoulder. It hadn’t gotten him square in the collarbone, but it was still a nasty bullet wound. His breathing was shaky but steady. Fine. So then… Tomura just had to… He had to move…

He clipped Father back over his jaw, and took a breath.

He leaped to his feet, his eyes wild and searing red as he tore past Spinner and Dabi, making for the hole in the bar’s front entrance. He barreled towards the outside world, past the smoke and the fire. He needed to take some of them out, at least lighten their load… Just a couple of them could be turned to dust in under a minute if he fought just right…

A bullet shot past his ear. He ignored it.

Dabi shouted for him to stop running. He ignored it.

Flames licked at his back. He ignored it. He had to.

-

Dabi growled as he fired off another blast of his own quirk at the hero before him, watching Tomura sprint into action out of his peripherals, his arms outstretched and a grin split across his face underneath that suffocative mask. His eyes rolled back to Endeavor and he willed his hands to warm up, that signature blue exploding from the surface of his palms and reaching for his opponent. If he could get close enough, he could burn him to the ground…

“I didn’t expect to see you here,” said the Flame hero, his malicious grin never faltering, not even once. “but I suppose I should have. It doesn’t surprise me, that you haven’t managed to let go of this stupid circus of criminals… It’s unlike you, to move on.”

“I’ve moved on plenty.” replied Dabi, narrowing his eyes and furrowing his brows as Endeavor lifted his arms, his own flames battling Dabi’s desperately. The combined heat of both quirks was enough to make the Sun sigh and wipe its forehead.

“Have you now?” Endeavor raised an eyebrow, still visible on the other side of the raging, multicolored inferno. “You can change your name and your hair color all you want, but you’re still just like I remember you… You just care too damn much.”

“And you,” Dabi roared, the cool and collected anger in the pit of his stomach slowly unraveling, unleashing itself. “never care enough.

“Give up!” hollered the Flame hero. “Look at what you’re doing, destroying what you love! This is what you never learned: to let it go. Is this what you’ve done for all these years: dwell on the past? What are you gaining from all this? More suffering? More misery? Give up on this rebellious act, and I’ll show you how to fix all this for good.”

Dabi’s eyes blazed with rage. "You know nothing about me, you monster.”

“I’m the monster?” Endeavor guffawed. “Take a look at yourself. You’ve killed and attacked innocents, united with a band of fools who want nothing more than to see this whole world burn. And for what? To prove a point? You’re blinded by your own selfish desires. But here we are, standing face to face, and you’ve lost all your precious composure to all that anger, all that frustration. You’ve failed, Touya…”

Dabi’s eyes widened.

”And what do you think your mother would say? Do you think she would be proud of what you’ve become?”

No… no… no…

Abruptly, the flames from his palms had stopped. His vision swam in and out of focus. His scars burned with pain, reminiscent of the fateful day he’d received them… They were now nothing but a reminder of what once was… His eyes, too, burned in their sockets… His head pounded. Dabi fell to his knees.

He vomited.

Endeavor stood over him.

“You’re still just a stupid boy. Pathetic.”

A boot collided with Dabi’s stomach, and he collapsed to his side. He gagged, a metallic taste filling his mouth.

“You haven’t changed one bit, have you, Touya? This childish, pointless defiance…”

A kick to the skull. A surgical staple went flying. Blood splashed over his cheek, and pooled around his head. He heaved. Heat enveloped him, flames licked at his face and his disheveled clothes.

”Tell me, what do you get from all this? Surely, no recognition, no money… That’s no way to live, without fame and fortune.”

Again, a boot stomped hard, this time on Dabi’s hand. Another staple twisted and dug into his wrist. Searing, lightning pain tore him apart, his fingers bloodied, bruised, and mangled. He screamed.

”Well?”

Dabi gasped. Blood and involuntary tears stained his face. Jun… Please be okay… Tomura…! Boss!

...

“Endeavor. You’ve incapacitated him.” said someone’s voice, distant among the shouting and battling and crackling of flames. “Take care of the others. We need to round them all up and get out of here.”

...

“...Right.”

Dabi’s vision went out like a light. Still, his heart beat on. He’d live… He’d live for them… He’d live to defy him…

-

Mustard fought for beath, straining to gulp in a refreshing take of air. The eyesocket of his mask had been cracked, split down at a diagonal angle, the plastic and the glass stuck in his cheek underneath. Blood seeped from his shoulder into his hoodie, dripping onto the hardwood underneath him. He curled up behind the bar, leaning on his arm to stare, horrified, at his foot. A long, silver bullet had embedded itself in his foot, going straight through the fabric of his sneaker. His stomach twisted and turned, his fingers clawed at the floor, drawing white lines in the wood. His purple-and-black revolver, given to him as a birthday gift from Jun, was in pieces a few feet off.

Tears ran in streams, and in waterfalls down his cheeks underneath his mask. He was failing… Come on, Toga… Jin… Shigaraki…!

He reached for the metallic mess that remained of his precious revolver, pulling the scraps to him and staring hopelessly at them. The chamber was in twisted, bent pieces, the trigger had been completely separated from the grip… It was beyond repair. Mustard let out an involuntary sob as his foot began to ache even more, blood sinking through his socks and through his sneakers. His heart beat heavy in his chest. He needed his teammates to pull through… It was no good… His quirk would...

A shape hovered over him. He shut his eyes, took a shaky breath, and looked up, through his broken gas mask. The red cape, the long snout of the mask, the ten-gallon hat, and the dreadlocks… Mustard refused to let himself flinch as Snipe extended his arm, revealing the same pistol he’d used to stick a bullet through the boy’s foot.

“You ain’t getting bailed out this time, kid.” He said. “Sorry.”

Mustard retched inside his gas mask, and blacked out.

-

“The world needs to be purged of false heroes like you.”

Spinner cut through the threads of fabric wrapped around his arm, spinning out of the pro hero’s reach and slicing through the air with his katana to defend himself. Behind him, Kurogiri laid eagle-sprawled on the ground, that pesky Ninja hero Edgeshot having once again decided to take him out of the way and fiddle around with his insides. The reptilian villain fought to keep him defended, eyes wild with a mix of fury and fright. Around him, he could see his teammates getting knocked to the ground, one by one. He had to keep them alive. They wouldn’t apprehend them until they were in the clear…

Best Jeanist twirled gracefully out of the path of Spinner’s blade, once again back in action after his dangerous clash back during the Kamino Ward incident. His eyes were narrowed and determined, never once letting his foe leave his line of sight. He outstretched his fingers, and threads upon threads of denim from his fashionable jacket unfurled, stretching and arching through the air. Spinner growled and cut, sliced, and chopped as many as he could away. He was useless on his own like this. He stumbled, nearly tripping over Kurogiri’s arm. Had to keep him safe…

”False hero?” Best Jeanist breathed. “Why, you’re nothing but a fake yourself, waltzing about in that Hero Killer getup… What do you want, criminal? Just to take that murderer’s name for yourself? It’s no honor, to kill others, you know…”

“Maybe you should tell that to your colleagues,” sneered Spinner. “You’re all just as ruthless as the rest of us.”

“This world has no place for ruffians like you,” sniffed the hero, as wires of thread began to detach themselves from his coat, and spread out from behind him. “Now, begone.”

“I’ll do no such th-- erk!”

Spinner froze, his shoulders tensing up as a dozen denim wires shot forth, and wrapped themselves around his throat. They proceeded to squeeze, and the reptile dropped his katana, his eyes bugging out the front of his head. The threads grew tighter around him, clogging his airways, strangling him until his tongue hung out of his mouth and his body went limp. His fingers twitched once, twice, and then he, too, was unconscious.

Best Jeanist scoffed, and the wires around the villain retreated back to their places in his coat. He turned away as Spinner fell in a heap on the floor.

Kurogiri blinked.

-

Toga squealed in pain as she was thrown haphazardly down the second half of the stairwell, landing square on her back on the hardwood. Behind her, Twice had been flung all the way into the wall, rubbing the back of his head, the shape of his eyes twitching with the fabric of his costume. Toga rubbed her arm, the bones having nearly been damaged during her fall.

“Owww… That hurt like hell,” Twice complained. ”Aw, please, that was fuckin’ nothing! Gimme’ all you got, blood guy!”

Vlad King glared at them from the stairs, outstretching his arms. On cue, blood curled up and around, locking around Twice’s ankles and hands, chest and waist, almost completely immobilizing him. He complained and whined and struggled, fighting against the UA teacher’s quirk, but to no avail. Toga narrowed her eyes at him, and decided that now would be the best time to take action, before she, too, couldn’t move her body.

Moments ago, she’d been upstairs, warding off a small pack of rescue heroes. She and Jin had been faring fairly well against them, none of them trained particularly thoroughly in combat training. She’d been so close to breaking down Jun’s door and evacuating her, when she’d been grabbed by the ankle, and tossed down two flights of stairs. Toga grit her teeth. She might have played a dumb blonde, but she wasn’t stupid. She knew who they wanted.

She wouldn’t let them have her sister.

Toga lunged, arm out, wielding her swiss army knife expertly, diving in and out of Vlad King’s reach. She ducked and rolled, slicing through the hero’s costume and through his calf. He stumbled away, wide-eyed. Toga grinned, and prepared to activate her quirk to match his obvious strength, but--

She howled, collapsing as she suffered the same fate as her teammate, locked into place as Vlad King opened his arms and activated his own quirk. Blood ran over her legs and held her in place, bursting from her wrists and wrapping around her hands like handcuffs. She thrashed and struggled, but it was done. She couldn’t move. She gasped, shouting for Twice, for Tomura, for any of her teammates, but nothing happened.

A swift kick to the side of her head knocked her right out.

-

“After all this time… you’re still just so cool… Eraserhead.”

Tomura skid backward on the pavement, the sunlight in his eyes underneath his mask. He cracked his neck as he stood upright, preparing for the next charge. Around him, pro heroes fired blasts at him, but their efforts were pointless. His reflexes were too quick. Some hurled solid objects at him, some fired their tangible quirks at them. If he didn’t dodge them, he’d catch them, and watch them slowly turn to dust. Underneath Father, Shigaraki wore a menacing grimace. This was going nowhere, and inside, his teammates were being picked off one by one… He had to finish this, quickly.

The Erasure hero glared him down from underneath his goggles, struggling to keep his eyes open as he charged the ringleader. “You’re still in business?” He asked, leaping over Shigaraki as he ducked and jamming his foot into the back of his knees. “What for? Your teacher’s gone, the Yakuza failed, and All Might’s retired.. What, do you lot still have your eye on some foolish goal?”

Tomura leaped out of his reach and jumped him, snatching the goggles off the hero’s head as he rolled out of the way of his scarf. The mask crumbled in his hand. He brushed the sand off on his jeans and smirked underneath his disguise. “We’ve all got an endgame in mind. We aren’t… satisfied yet.”

“So you’re just looking for trouble?” Eraserhead raised an eyebrow, his eyes widening as his irises flashed red. He extended his leg in a kick, caught off guard when Shigaraki grabbed his ankle and pulled him forward, slamming him hard onto his back. He gasped and struggled to pull away. He clawed at the ground as his shoe slowly crumbled off of him.

Shigaraki growled as he felt his feet leave the ground.

”Black Hole!”

He felt himself pulled across the street, slamming into the surface of Thirteen’s clenched fist. The impact stunned him more than he’d expected it to, and his knees nearly buckled as he maneuvered around the formation of pros surrounding him in an attempt to get back to the bar, and retreat away from Thirteen’s dangerous quirk. He sprinted for what remained of the front door.

And soon found himself on the ground, cement running over his wrists and hardening. He glared up at Cementoss out of the corner of his eyes as he hit the ground. He paused, and turned over his palms, decaying the stuff as quick as it’d appeared. He only managed to get halfway across the bar before someone -- namely Endeavor, the Flame hero -- stomped on his tailbone, and he found himself sprawled on the ground beside Dabi. His eyes widened underneath Father as he got a glimpse of him.

“Dabi…?”

“Shut up, villain.” Endeavor kicked him in the ribs, and down he went. The hero looked up at the rest of the heroes remaining in the smoking wreckage of Kurogiri’s bar. “Where’s the girl they came for?”

“Jun…!” choked out Shigaraki, his hands curling into fists. “Where is she-- where… What have you done with her?”

“I said, be quiet, criminal.” Endeavor clocked him across the face. Father fell to the ground beside him. Tomura shook with fury.

“Give her back… Give her back… Give her back!”

“Unhand me, you bumbling twit!” exclaimed Compress’ furious voice, and he was kicked to his knees beside Shigaraki, handcuffs tight on his arms. Shigaraki stretched his arms out, but found himself unable to move without serious pain. He collapsed on his arms, heaving breaths as he stared around at his team, all collapsed on the ground, either unconscious or screaming in protest.

They’d failed. They’d failed.

A clamor rang above their heads, echoing about the stairwell as uneven footsteps scrambled down them. Yelling filled their ears as it travelled down the stairs, and eventually, a familiar face appeared. An impossibly disheveled Jun came into view, both of her arms held tight by a different rescue hero. She struggled furiously in their group, begging to be let go, screaming colorful curses and threats of all kinds…

She went completely still when she caught sight of the League.

“Toga? Mustard? Big bro?” She whispered. “Jin? Iguchi?..” Her gaze flitted to the side. ”Sako! Kuro… Kurogiri…”

Her eyes landed on the final two, and she began to flail in the heroes’ grip.

”Tomura!” She screamed, tears starting up in her eyes. “Dabi! Please… Tomura! Let me… Let me go! Tomura! Dabi! I don’t know what they want from me. What’s happening? Please!” She choked on a sob. “Dabi… Tomura...”

Shigaraki struggled, outstretching his arm. Resistance was useless. And there was nothing he could say that would make it all better.

Twice looked up at her, blood seeping through his suit. “I’m all good, kid. Don’t need to worry about me.” And there was no contradictory statement.

“Jun!” gasped Compress. “Dear, we'll be fine. No need to fret.”

Jun shrieked, her eyes bug-wide, the scratches and scrapes on her face, arms, and legs trickling blood. She trembled and shook and flailed in the heroes’ grip, screaming and sobbing and crying and shaking with fury.

Was this her fault…?

Why did they hurt them?

Why did they want to hurt them?

This wasn’t right. She had to do something. This was about her. It was because of her that everyone got hurt. She needed to act. She needed to take control. She needed to help her team…

The Flame hero knelt in front of her. “You’re fine now,” He said. “They can’t hurt you anymore.”

No.

No!

They need help.

Do something.

Do anything.

Do it.

She could feel it running up her legs, surging through her veins, creeping along in her blood. She could visualize it: the blue, electric energy, travelling through every muscle, every bone in her body. She could feel the heat of it, taking control of her, turning every part of her as blue as could be. She felt it, she could see it in her eyes, everything going blue, her irises and her scleras and her pupils changing colors.

Do something.

Do anything.

Do it!

Dabi smiled at her, sliding into battle stance. “You feel that heat? Control it. Make it move to the part of your body you wanna attack with, okay? If you wanna throw a punch, let that heat go to your fists. Does that make sense, Pigtails?”

”You’re a tough kid. I knew you had it in you.”

Use it.

Use your power.

Help them.

She opened her eyes.

Save them.

She screamed, and unleashed her quirk.

The bar exploded into blue light.

There was a ringing silence, and then, suddenly, the sense of sound came rushing back to all of them.

The ceiling of the building had been completely torn off. Whether that had been from Jun’s quirk, or someone else’s in an attempt to defend themselves… It was unclear.

The mass of heroes went into a frenzy as each and every one of them were blinded by the explosion. A teal-blue sheen covered Jun’s body, electricity covering her entirely, twitching as blue pixels fell to the ground. Her body convulsed as it released more bursts of Video. She let out another scream as her body shone blue, just hovering a foot above the ground, motionless, as more bursts of light came from her. But the rescue heroes who’d grabbed her had seemingly forgotten about her for the moment. There were more… pressing matters, then.

From Jun’s body, shapes were beginning to emerge. They took the shape of grenades, of missiles, of arms and artillery of all kinds. They locked onto their heroes of choice and exploded upon impact, each explosion only a fraction of the strength displayed in Jun’s first show of power, that first explosion that had already blasted a handful of heroes away. Every weapon carefully avoided the path of the villains, taking out the walls and the supports of the building in an attempt to crush their opponents instead.

Shigaraki gasped for air, preparing to stand up and fight, snatching Father and clipping him to his jaw. However, as he went to get to his feet, he felt a hand grab hold of his arm. He let out a growl, attempting to struggle, and found himself being pulled up, up, up, and away, towards the open, missing roof. He gasped, breathing in the fresh city air as he left the smoking bar, and remembered his situation. He cursed, and struggled, under the grip of his captor as he was carried through the air.

Jun… He needed to get Jun…

His eyes shut. He was carried away.

...

“Kurogiri… That’s your name, right?” Eckels asked the bartender, as he dropped the last of the League members to the roof of a nearby building. “Get… Get us all away from here.”

He looked around at the now-unconscious villains he’d managed to retrieve. The man with the purple scars, the man with the hand on his face, the man with the black-and-grey suit, the girl with the blonde hair, the boy with the broken gas mask, the man with the lizard head, and the man with the tophat… All of them, except for one. Eckels gave a shaky sigh.

...

“That girl you were trying to protect… We’ll have to rescue her together... another day.”

-

When the catastrophe was finally over, half of the entire street was in ruins. Yellow caution tape encircled the wreckage of the villains’ hideout, the front entrance and the roof completely torn apart, and the support beams finally melted away into nothing. All of the villains’ belongings, all of the liquor behind what had once been a bar, the television, the games, everything… It was all gone, or near-destroyed. The police department buzzed around the scene. Recovery Girl had come with the medical team.

Tsukauchi and Toshinori had yet to show.

Endeavor stepped over the remains of the bar, crushing glass underfoot as he went, bitterly surveying the husk of a building. The fires had been put out, leaving nothing but blackened wood and charred plumbing, and an entire brick wall, taken apart chunk by chunk. Behind him stood Best Jeanist and Edgeshot, both wearing quite neutral expressions compared to that of the number one hero’s.

“We may have gotten a hold of the girl, but we didn’t manage to capture a single member of the League of Villains.” said Best Jeanist. “The girl’s sudden rebellion was too powerful for any of us to keep our eyes on them… It’s a shame, she was already so indoctrinated by her kidnappers’ foolish beliefs and desires.”

“They would have been light with her, had she not decided to… struggle,” supplied Edgeshot. “In the meantime, I heard they’re taking her to a detention center on the outskirts of the city.”

Best Jeanist looked his way. “Detention center? You don’t think… They wouldn’t take her to…” He trailed off.

Edgeshot shook his head. “I wouldn’t know.”

Endeavor scoffed and stepped over the mangled corpse of a barstool, his eyes narrowed as he looked for any traces of the disappeared villains. They’d already taken the girl away, finally managing to restrain her before shoving her in one of those enclosed, portable cells and putting special handcuffs on her to prevent her from trying anything funny with her quirk. He rolled his eyes.

“That girl was dangerous, and in dangerous hands,” He snapped. “Don’t pity her. She’s been contained, and that’s what matters. We’ll find the League of Villains another day. They won’t be coming back for her if she’s all locked up.”

“Gentlemen, consider this mission a success.”

-

Far off in the city inside an apartment building, a man with butterfly wings poured several cups of tea, and set them on a coffee table.

He glanced at the sleeping forms around the living room, and up at the bartender standing in silence in his kitchen, staring almost forlornly out the window above the sink. He'd treated the boy's wounds, the one with the gas mask, and done enough first aid for them to be able to survive the injuries they'd received. The one with the scars around his eyes and face... He'd been in pretty bad shape. Most of his fingers had been broken, and his back and face looked pretty bad, too. The doctor supposed he'd have to wait for them to wake up.

Eckels sighed.

“So,” He said, attracting Kurogiri’s attention, and nodding at two of the unconscious villains sleeping soundly on his carpet. “Tell me about this daughter of theirs.”

Chapter Text

When she awoke for the first time in two days, she immediately felt her stomach begin to growl.

Jun squeezed her eyes shut and rolled onto her side, clutching her middle with an arm and drawing her knees up to her chin. Had she not eaten all of her dinner? She couldn’t seem to remember what she’d eaten last. She tried to remember the day before, tried to remember what time she had gone to bed and who had come in to give her a brief goodnight. Had it been her sister? Or had it been Dabi, then? Perhaps Tomura? Or…

She shuddered as unfamiliar, cold air wrapped around her. Her hands slid across smooth, solid ground.

No. Something wasn’t right about this.

One eye fluttering open suspiciously, Jun felt the cold white tiles against her cheek, finding herself sprawled out on the floor across them, arms supporting her underneath her chin. Slowly, her heart rate beginning to quicken in her chest, she pushed herself up onto her arms. This wasn’t the bar. This wasn’t Kurogiri’s. This obviously wasn’t her bedroom.

White, padded walls surrounded her completely, trapping her inside a tight, tiny cube of a room. The tiles underneath her were smooth and cool, not to mention disturbingly shiny and clean. Lights bore down on her from every angle, as well as expensive camera equipment that watched her every move. She could spot tiny, miniscule microphones poking out of every corner, recording her breathing and her voice. In front of her stood a wall-to-wall glass pane, at least six inches thick, maybe more. Behind it was a wide hallway, and on the other side, another cell, identical to hers. In front of the glass was what appeared to be a control panel, and a microphone, too.

It was freezing.

Jun could feel the panic welling up in her chest, clogging her airways as the heat rushed to her palms. She placed her hands on the cold, white tiles beneath her and slowly rose to her feet, resisting as her knees attempted to give out from under her. She blew strands of her waves and waves of sky blue hair out of her eyes, wiping her brow with an arm as she observed her surroundings. A scream, tears, and a multitude of colorful curses all fought for a chance to shine. She clenched her fists.

It all came back to her in flashes. Mere glimpses of the last thing she’d witnessed. She remembered the bar going up in flames, the grip on her arms, dragging her away, and the sight of her friends, her family, all lying helpless on the ground. They had still tried to assure her that everything would be okay. Jun shut her eyes as she began to tremble. She remembered the explosion that had come afterwards, that volcano of power she’d unleashed on the intruders… And after that, she couldn’t remember anything at all.

In three long strides, she’d pressed herself up against the glass pane keeping her inside, banging her fists against it. She shouted, hoping to get someone’s attention. She squeezed her fists, and took a deep breath, but as she went to let off a shot of Video, she felt her legs once again give way. She crumpled to the ground, shivering as a shock tore through her body, up through her arms and down through her torso to her legs. Jun shuddered, and looked miserably at her wrists, where two weightless bracelets had been clamped tight around her. She glanced at her ankles, and felt sick to her stomach as she began to realize her circumstances.

“It’s no use,” someone said, and Jun nearly let out the most vulgar curse she could think of as she leaped to her feet in surprise. “Those cuffs are meant to numb your quirk. If you even try to struggle, you’ll experience some… discomfort. But I’m sure you’ve figured that out by now.”

Jun shot the source of the voice a glare powerful enough to take an entire army out on its own. She took a cautious step away from the glass and narrowed her eyes further still, her fists clenched by her sides, energy irking to be let out through her fingertips. She lifted a single finger, and attempted to use it as a vessel to expel the smallest amount of Video power possible, but found herself both disappointed, and in a kind of pain that was worse than before.

“Every time you try and resist, the shocks get harsher.” supplied the voice behind the glass pane. Jun stared at him in silent disbelief. Tsukauchi shook his head and adjusted the collar of his dress shirt. “I know. I didn’t want them to put those things on a kid, either.”

“Where am I, who are you, and how do I get out?” Jun snapped, cracking her knuckles to numb the electricity begging to be released. “And where are they?”

“Okay, kid, slow your roll. I’m not trying to be your enemy h--”

”I’m locked in a fucking cage and you ain’t letting me out, I’m pretty sure that counts for something.”

“Please…! Please, just calm down, alright? I don’t wanna hurt anybody.” Tsukauchi breathed, clasping his hands together. “What do you remember?”

“My friends getting beaten to a pulp, that’s what I remember.” Jun pressed her palms against the glass, warmth flowing back towards her fingers, static popping underneath her nails.

“So… So you remember everything, then. I…” The detective let out an overwhelmed exhale. “Damn, alright.”

“Out with it, Aviators.” Jun seethed, and, almost comically self-consciously, Tsukauchi pulled the sunglasses off of his face in defeat. "What is this place, who are you, and how do I get out of here?”

He sighed and pulled a folding chair over to the control panel, seating himself and surveying the variety of levers, switches, and buttons before him, ignoring her question to gather himself together. He glanced upward at the ceiling as the intercom popped and buzzed for a few moments, and lowered his gaze back to the fuming teenage girl. The scar slashed through her right eye looked particularly menacing.

“First thing’s first, I guess: you’re not getting out of here.” Tsukauchi said, and she slammed her fists against the glass pane. He flinched, and took another careful breath. “This is a detention center organized by the government to hold especially dangerous entities. Usually criminals who got away with a little too much, you know? Or… or unhinged individuals with an unpredictable quirk. Anyone who gets a little too out of hand gets sent here, unless they get sentenced to death row first. It’s called Tartarus. Ever heard of it?”

Jun’s nails scraped rough, white lines into the glass partition, the bracelets clamped on her wrists buzzing as a warning. She thudded her forehead against the transparent surface and glared down at her feet. “Tartarus, huh?” She hummed. “Interesting name. This place is meant to be Hell on earth, then?”

“We wouldn’t put someone in Tartarus who was undeserving.”

“Well, what the fuck am I supposed to do with that?” She spat, kicking her leg against the pane. The cuff on her ankle sparked with electricity in protest. “What’d you want me to do? Just give up? Let you kick the crap out of the people who were providing me with food, water, and company?”

“We could have taken you someplace safe.” urged Tsukauchi, pressing his hands together in his lap. “You could have gotten all of those things, plus a little more. You could have been safe.”

“Yeah, yeah, and what a happy camper I’d be, after I just watched those guys murder every last one of them…” She scoffed.

“They’re murderers themselves.”

...

Jun furrowed her brows, ignoring his comment. “What’s your name, Jimmy Generic-Face? Or have I guessed right already?”

The detective leaned back in his folding chair, his lips a taut white line. “My name’s Naomasa Tsukauchi, I work with the police department, and I help pro heroes with all the technical stuff their licenses keep them from doing. I support the good guys from the sidelines, and help them keep the bad guys in check.”

“Right.” Jun nodded. “‘Cause all the good guys are such delicate little angels who can do no wrong and no harm.”

Tsukauchi frowned at her. “Look, kid, I came in here to try and cool you off, but it looks like I’m not gonna get anywhere with that approach.” He sighed. “The bottom line is, you’re not getting out of here anytime soon. The officials have already deemed you as dangerous, and you have a certain affiliation with the League of Villains. We can’t have you roaming about free while you know about a group of people we’ve got on our priority target list. We have to keep you in our line of sight.”

“So you lost them?” sneered Jun. She kept up her poker face, resisting the exhale of pure relief she wanted to let out. She’d done something right, then… They’d gotten away, thanks to her… distraction…

Tsukauchi stood up from his seat, and pushed the chair back to its original position. He regarded her carefully, levelly. “We’ll find them soon enough.” He said. “Not to worry.”

She watched in silence as he pulled on his coat and headed for the nearest exit, unfolding his aviator sunglasses and donning them as he went. He paused before he turned away from her, and gave her another easy stare.

“I don’t know why it is you seem so protective of those villains,” He mused. “Maybe there’s something you’re not telling me. I don’t know. But, whatever it is… If you’re lucky, one day, those villain friends of yours will be in here with you, too.”

Jun said nothing in reply.

Tsukauchi shook his head. “Here’s hoping, I suppose.”

He disappeared around the corner, leaving the girl to sit in silence. The maddening, unbearable silence of Tartarus.

On the other side of the vast facility, someone was checked into Tartarus through a UA High ID card as a visitor. He asked to see their most recent admittance.

“Aren’t you a little young to be visiting Tartarus? Your ID card says you’re only just twenty years old.”

“Please, I’ve only got a semester left. This is really important. I-I’ll get a teacher if I have to, I--”

“No, no. That’s fine. Right this way, Mister Midoriya…”

-

“Oh, dear, what did they do to you?”

Sako extended a hand, placed it carefully over the blood red stain seeping through the front of Kurogiri’s tattered vest. The wound inflicted by Edgeshot had been a particularly small one, as a result of how precise his quirk was made to be, however, that hadn’t been the only time the Ninja hero had landed a hit on the warp villain. Mister Compress glared at the various wounds, most of which ended up decorating his vest. He frowned over the state of his partner’s outfit, rubbing at one of the stains with a gloveless thumb.

“And this was my favorite vest of yours,” sighed Atsuhiro, earning a snort from the bartender. “What a shame.”

Eckels’ apartment was surprisingly spacious for what the doctor explained to them was a “temporary fix” for his stay in Japan. It was furnished, and decorated, and almost completely untouched, as if he was almost afraid to ruin the magazine look to it. Both villains sat next to each other on one of the two couches in the tight living area. Mister Compress looked up from his seat, watching the apartment’s front door, as if expecting the doctor himself to come strolling in. He’d left almost five hours ago. It was very late afternoon now.

Kurogiri raised a finger and prodded gently at the scrape decorating Atsuhiro’s forehead, flaming yellow eyes squinting as the magician quietly complained. The warp villain had already insisted on having Sako take off his entire disguise, from his top hat, to just one of his many masks, to the black balaclava he wore underneath both of them. During the battle, the heroes had succeeded in roughing Compress up quite a bit-- He’d been in cuffs for most of their big scuffle, anyways. It was a wonder he’d managed to fend them off for as long as he did with his hands quite literally tied behind his back.

“My darling, I am fine.” said Compress, resolute. “It’s not that bad, really.”

“The last time you told us that, you’d almost had your face blown off by a laser.” lectured Kurogiri.

Compress reached up to his cheek and squeezed the mistified hand cupping his face. “I survived that, didn’t I?”

“Narrowly.”

“Oh, hush,” Atsuhiro rolled his eyes, laying a kiss to the bartender’s hand as he pulled his hand away. “We’ve got more to worry about than me, you know… and ah-buh-buh,” He raised a finger as Kurogiri went to argue. “I’m allowed to worry about you all I want. You could have died-- Look at all these cuts and scrapes, dear, I simply can’t let this slide.”

“You were at just as much of a risk as I was, Sako.” Kurogiri persisted.

”You were unconscious half the time. It was only sheer luck that Spinner was capable of defending you, and even then, that ridiculous fiber hero practically squeezed him half to death…!” Compress scoffed, bitterly. “And they call us the miscreants.”

“Ah, well, to their credit, we don’t take our shoes off when we come inside..” Kurogiri said, his eyes creasing up in amusement.

Atsuhiro gasped and playfully covered his mouth with a hand. “Scandalous.”

He leaned swiftly forward and found the bartender’s lips underneath the thin layer of mist disguising his features, kissing him sweetly and squeezing his shoulder with a hand. An involuntary smile crossed Compress’ face, as it normally did in these peaceful moments, during which both men seemingly were able to simply… forget the world, even if it were for just a few seconds. Atsuhiro pulled away reluctantly, in need of air, and let out a breath, leaning against his companion’s chest with an arm.

Kurogiri pulled gently on a lock of curly hair to get his attention, his eyes rippling. “What’s the matter?”

“I..” Compress chuckled. “I was waiting for the ‘ew, gross.’”

There was a long moment of silence, during which both men looked away.

The warp villain sighed, tangling his fingers in Atsuhiro’s hair. “We’ll retrieve her soon enough. It’s over ours and our comrades’ dead bodies that she’s gone forever.”

“Don’t phrase it like that.” Sako whispered. “My poor nerves can’t take that.”

“Oh, love..” Kurogiri lifted his chin. “Jun isn’t gone. She won’t be. Your friend the doctor is out right now, gathering intel, isn’t he? You needn’t worry yourself.”

“I can’t help it.” Atsuhiro breathed through a brief smile. “You… You know how Shigaraki’s responding to all this. Dabi, too. The both of them are an emotional wreck, I… I haven’t seen the boss since he first woke up. Dabi, he-- he’s simply better at coping. I know this isn’t a mission to be rushed, and I know it’s strange to be looking forward to a heist, but.. for the sake of their health and ours… We can’t waste a second of our time.”

“Of course.” eased the bartender with a nod. “And if what you say about him is all true, Doctor Eckels will not disappoint.”

“He’s a trustworthy man,” Compress reassured him. “And a capable one, at that.”

“I’m sure.” He replied. “However, I can’t help but be wary of him… He is, after all, a man with a hero’s license.”

“Trust me, dear, I know the man. He’s a kind man, but he’s not one for publicity. It was his own employees’ doing that ended up making his agency in Europe so well-known. If I remember my old friend, and I’m damn sure I do,” Sako twirled a strand of mist round his finger, despite the sheen not being made of a tangible substance. “He was never one to have an inflated ego, much less give himself credit for much of anything… He’s not like any of those stuffed shirts we’re familiar with, you’ll understand. Eckels is a… Well, he has a good heart.”

“He saved a gang of villains,” Kurogiri said, his eyes once again rippling in amusement. “And doesn’t that just make a man the evilest of evildoers?”

“He’s my friend.” Sako smiled. “No good man would disregard an old buddy over something so meaningless as a label.”

“Labels hardly seem meaningless when we call ourselves the League of Villains.” remarked Kurogiri.

“Yes, yes…” Compress shook his head, leaning against the mist man’s shoulder. “However, the name of our organization is to prove a point. Anyways, I suppose you’re right. Never we fear… With a man of Eckels’ genius on our side, and with our companions antsy to take action, we’ll be back to normal in this time. She’ll be safe again, and in our hands.”

“Precisely.” hummed the bartender, ruffling a hand in his betrothed’s hair.

“Speaking of which,” Atsuhiro wondered aloud, “I do wonder how the rest of our team is doing…”

-

As it turned out, not all of the League’s members were doing quite as well at Atsuhiro had hoped. Not that that was much of a surprise. It wasn’t just the loss of one of their members they were distraught over, but the injuries they had all been forced to suffer through, as well as the emotional trauma that had come with it. Being a villain didn’t mean they weren’t people, after all. Mustard had even refused to go to sleep for the first night. Twice had insisted on staying up with him to keep him company, despite the scene his alternate made.

Most of their wounds had been tended to pretty smoothly, and the complaints about Doctor Eckels’ first aid abilities were few in number. He wasn’t a medical type of doctor by any means, of course, not with his shaky nerves and infectiously anxious demeanor, but he managed to do just fine. Mustard was obviously taking up the most time to recover, the bullet wound in his foot beyond worthy of a hospital visit, but there was very few options there. However, Eckels tried to assure him that he’d aid him as much as he could, and after a bit of complaining and resisting, he gave up, and decided that a jittery (ex-)hero with butterfly wings coming out from the back of him was better than extra aching in his foot and shoulder.

Twice and Toga had both gotten away with plenty of scrapes and scratches to go around, Jin’s most serious headwound gushing enough blood to get a vampire drunk, but, luckily for them, none of their problems couldn’t be solved with a bit of gauze, cotton, and the occasional band-aid for the minor stuff. They hadn’t put up much of a fight, both of them eager to jump immediately back into the action and “get back out there,” but that idea had been shut down almost immediately by the League’s two eldest members. There was no way they were even stepping foot outside the apartment without so much as an eensy beensy little hint of a plan.

And Dabi-- He certainly didn’t have a reason to resist Eckels’ treatment. When he first awoke, he wasn’t in any kind of state to even move for very long. The older members of the League of Villains had to convince him he needed rest, and coax him back to a seat on the sofa for a while, before eventually deciding for him that he needed to at least take a bit of a nap. Dabi was restless, and though he shed no tears openly, he was absolutely inconsolable. He cracked no jokes, smiled very little, and all of his responses to any prompts Atsuhiro had given him in the hopes of starting a conversation had been less than three sentences long.

It was all a painful sight to see for Eckels, too. He cursed himself for not remembering the child. He’d been so focused on getting himself out alive that, somehow, he’d managed to completely miss the girl, who’d even been the center of attention then. The doctor had had little time to react, and he’d been so concerned about protecting his flammable, delicate monarch butterfly wings, but now he couldn’t escape that crushing guilt and regret. Not only had Sako seemed sad, but the rest of them had all looked so painfully somber.

The only member of the League he hadn’t seen was the one his companions were calling Tomura Shigaraki, and he hadn’t even left his room since waking up, but Eckels didn’t have to go looking for him to know that his current state of mind was at least as poor as Dabi’s.

As Kurogiri and Atsuhiro chatted idly with one another out in Eckels’ living room, the handman himself sat in the dark a room off, sitting on the surface of his borrowed bed. The lightswitch hadn’t even been touched at all since he’d taken residence in the only other bedroom in the doctor’s apartment, the only light sources being the natural sunlight filtering in through the gaps in the closed drapes, and the small lamp on the far side of the room. Most of the furniture was completely untouched. The only time he’d moved from the bed had been to go to the bathroom, and to take the plate of food Kurogiri had kindly offered him.

He sat in near pitch black darkness alone, with his legs crossed and his hands tucked safely underneath him. His eyes, normally bright and full of fire no matter what kind of mood he was in, were a dull, muddy sort of red, rather than their usual colorful crimson. His hair was a tangled, filthy mess, the bags under his eyes had significantly deepened, and the amount of visible scars on his body seemed to have doubled, both from his big battle and afterward. His breathing was cool, but worryingly unsteady. He looked an absolute mess.

Nevertheless, Dabi still felt himself melt as he opened in the door and stopped in the threshold of the room, looking across at the shape in the darkness through hooded eyes. He didn’t bother saying anything as he stepped through and shut the door behind him, taking long, easy strides across the space and seating himself next to his employer on the mattress. With a glance, he took note of the drops of blood dried into the sheets.

He cleared his throat, and hoped for his voice to sound less dry and hopeless than he felt.

“You’ve been doing it again.” He said, and nodded towards the droplets of red soaked into the bed.

Tomura shivered. “It doesn’t matter.”

"I don’t like it.” Dabi said, his voice and expression unreadable but his statement thoroughly genuine. “Don’t do it to yourself anymore.”

“Why did you come in here, Ashtray?” Shigaraki hissed through a sigh, rubbing his eyes with his wrists. “And why don’t you just leave? I won’t be any help to you here, I’m not the guy to lift your spirits or whatever. I’m sure Compress’ll be able to cheer you up.”

“He tried,” agreed Dabi. “and it was a good attempt, but I just… I couldn’t…”

Tomura listened to him stutter for a moment, patient.

“I couldn’t sit there and listen to them just try and comfort me.” He breathed. “With those meaningless promises. ‘She’ll be okay,’ ‘She’ll be fine,’ ‘We’ll go and get her soon.’ Yeah… yeah, that does me loads of good… hah…”

Dabi took a deep breath, his momentary anger once again settling into bitter silence. The burn scars under his short-sleeved tee looked worse somehow, his wrists wrapped in gauze, having been treated with ointment before application. A bandage had been pressed to his skin underneath his eye where a staple had been kicked forcefully. Even Shigaraki, who took things at face value and couldn’t tell the difference between faring well and doing miserably, could see that he was suffering. It bothered him in an unexplainable way. Perhaps it was the change in him that bothered Tomura-- He’d never liked change, after all. It was too sudden, and often, in his case, simply troublesome and irritating.

As most things were to him, really.

“I’ve got nothing to say to that, I guess.” He huffed, rubbing his face carefully in his hands. “All I can do is nod and agree.”

Dabi looked at his hands, watching them shake involuntary as he flexed his fingers. He cringed, shut his eyes, and bit down hard on his lower lip. He hated this. He hated it. He hated it more than anything, so much so that it was practically on par with…

He lifted a finger and traced the bandage around his eye, feeling the place where he had torn the staple out of his face. He felt the dip in his skin where the hit had landed, applying pressure and sitting helplessly through the burning pain that instantly overwhelmed his entire face. His arm dropped to his side, and he bent over his legs, holding his head in silence.

“Don’t blame yourself, you fucking moron.” breathed Shigaraki, his voice so quiet Dabi barely even heard him. The elder villain looked to him with narrowed eyes as the handman shook his head. “You didn’t do anything wrong or whatever. It was a raid. We weren’t supposed to fucking expect it.”

“I couldn’t protect Jun. I shoulda’. I was the first one out.” argued Dabi, his voice hoarse and his face warming up to an unbearable level as it became harder and harder to see and his vision became blurry with a layer of fog.

“Coulda’ been any one of us,” Shigaraki said, looking away. “It wasn’t your fault. Now, quit it.”

….

“Please.”

Dabi exhaled, and eventually, he nodded, straightening himself out. They sat in the dark, and in the quiet for a few long moments before Dabi looked over at his fellow villain.

“I.. About what happened right before the break-in,” He said, taking a slow breath in. “I shouldn’t have done that. It was too sudden. All instinct. That… Just pretend… I…”

“Shut up.”

“What?”

“I said, shut up. Don’t apologize.” Tomura’s bangs fell in front of his eyes as he stared into his lap, two broken red Christmas lights flickering to life underneath that messy mop of blue. “It’s nothing to be sorry for.”

“I shouldn’t have done it.”

“Aren’t you listening, dumbass? I said it wasn’t anything to be sorry for.”

“I still wish--”

“Stop it! I don’t wanna hear it.”

“I-- I just wish I hadn’t done it like that, you know…?” Dabi ran a hand through his hair. His employer hadn’t seen him look so passive, so deep in thought, so lost. Not once, but here he was. “I was so fed up with all of it that I couldn’t wait anymore, and I-- I feel…” He shut his eyes, breaths shaky. “I feel… bad about it. It was stupid of me. I should’ve just… talked for once, but I’m pretty shitty at that. Guess that’s no surprise, at this point.”

Shigaraki stared at him through his bangs with incredulous eyes.

“I could’ve waited,” Dabi continued. “I could’ve picked a good time, where everything wasn’t already so... messy.” He shivered. “I felt like a mess and I wanted it to stop, you know? It didn’t… Nothing worked. I couldn’t figure it out and I just wanted you to understand, but that…”

“That wasn’t the way I should have done it.”

His employer’s voice was quiet. “Should have done…?”

“I can’t explain it anymore.” Dabi sighed, his face in his hands. “I don’t know! I don’t fucking know. It’s just… I don’t… I can’t…”

“I get it.”

...

“What?”

“You don’t get what you’re feeling. You can’t just talk it out.” Shigaraki huffed out a laugh, the most cheerful expression he’d worn since the incident on his face. “I get that. I fucking get that, Dabi. Me… Me too.”

And he laughed.

He laughed, and laughed, and laughed, until there wer e tears streaming down his face, over his various scars and around the dimples in his cheeks, practically running down his chin like a waterfall and staining his collar until it might as well have been soaked. He clutched his chest, balled up his shirt in his hands until the collar began to weather and erode off his skin, and soon, he was left with a soaked face, a filthy shirt with a confusing collar, gasping, and a bad case of the hiccups. Tomura gagged on his giggles, wiping his eyes with his arm and shaking his head. He met Dabi’s confused expression with a wide smile of his own.

“I get it.” He breathed, his pink cheeks so different from his normal, pale, colorless look. “This-- This is what I’ve been waiting for, dammit. I… I fucking get it. I… get… all of it…”

“You? Waiting?”

“Goddammit, Dabi, don’t you get it? I… I fucking kissed you that night. What, you think I just fucking tripped and fell into you or some shit? I mean, you asked me if I meant it before everything went to shit, didn’t you? I…”

He fell quiet, and there was another settling into silence.

“I wouldn’t have done that if I didn’t fucking mean it, you son of a bitch.” sighed Tomura, eventually.

Dabi huffed out a brief laugh. “Alright… That’s… That’s good, I guess. I was… I was afraid you didn’t… you know… feel it, too. Like I did.”

“You’re slow, Ashtray.”

“I…” He hung his head, hiding his smile. “I can’t argue with that.”

“What does all of this mean, then?”

“Pshhh, don’t ask me. Don’t think I’ve done any of this shit before.”

“I guess, we could figure it out, then.”

“...Yeah.”

“Yeah, that sounds fine.”

“Tomura?”

“Yeah?”

“We’ll get Jun back.”

“Damn straight we will, Leatherface.”

-

To tell you the truth, being an employee at Tartarus wasn’t the thing the ladies considered impressive.

It was a desolate, cold, terrifying place. Most people didn’t even like to mention or acknowledge its existence. They preferred to pretend it simply didn’t exist, like a bad dream. People tried to forget about it. Thinking about it sent a chill down their spine.

For a young security guard working there as a trainee, this wasn’t the best news. He wanted fun. He wanted to do something with his life. Somehow, he’d hoped working with danger would offer that for him. As it turned out, that wasn’t quite the case.

Then again, he’d been the one to talk to Japan’s most feared villain. Not that he’d been out of his cell or anything, but that presence had alone… That had been enough to freak him out good.

No, having a job at Tartarus wasn’t impressive or something for people to widen their eyes and go “Oh, really?” at. It was usually more of a “Oh. Huh.” that he earned.

So, for this particular trainee, it was an absolute shock when an incredibly attractive young woman, with long, red hair, and a gorgeous, backless, scarlet cocktail dress approached him in a bar at about nine o’clock in the evening, with inquisitive eyes and a light smirk, asked him what he did for a living, and “Oh really?”’d at his reply.

“Tell me more.” She told him.

“I.. er… well… W-Would you like a drink, Miss?”

Toga Himiko beamed at him in her stolen disguise.

She recalled the information Eckels had given her when he’d eventually returned from his little afternoon mission.

“Why not?” She asked. “This sounds like… quite the place, this Tartarus.”

Chapter Text

Hands ran along his prominent collarbone. They were gentle, nervous, experimental touches. He made no move to stop them. It was new.

Tomura didn’t like new. He never had. It meant taking something that could have been perfectly fine just the way it was, and turning it into something that could have been ten times worse if someone wasn’t careful. It meant change, and Shigaraki didn’t like that. It meant having to change his routine to fit the schedule of something else, something new, something he wasn’t familiar with. There were so many ways something new could go wrong, so many ways it could all turn out less than perfect, and Tomura just didn’t know how to deal with it. He’d never learned how to deal with it.

Calling him a “control freak” would be an understatement. Staying an arm or two’s length away from everyone his entire life meant he didn’t quite have a grasp on what a sudden turn of events was. It was different, in fictional worlds, because he could always fix things in the end. He had an infinite amount of second chances. But not here.

He hadn’t ever expected himself to be in this situation. He wasn’t even sure how to feel about it now. But with his guard almost entirely down, he felt there was no going back now. And besides, how could he resist? He’d dreamt of all this for months. He’d wanted this to happen for… Christ, how long had it been since he’d thought of the possibilities for the first time?

Both of them wanted this. It had been about a day since their first talk. The warmth and the intimacy were enough to tear their minds away from the crisis at hand, and it was a relieving experience for Tomura, after shutting himself in the dark, stewing in his own self-loathing for what had felt like decades, when, in reality, it had only been a day or two. For Dabi, it was an end to all of the questions running through his mind, and a break from the insanity he forced himself through every day. But it wasn’t as if it was pointless. They didn’t just want this. They needed it, too.

Not only that, but it was providing them with a way to avoid thinking about the kid until it was time to leave for her.

Eckels had gathered his intel… Toga had come back looking rather pleased with herself… The time was coming closer. They just needed her to hold on, just for a little bit. Even…

Even for just a couple hours. They would be there. After all, it was only… Tomura glanced at the clock in his peripherals… five-ish in the morning.

They had time.

They had all the time in the world.

But that didn’t stop any of them from being anxious.

While it had been a brief one, there had been a mutual agreement that no clothes would come off. Not yet. It felt… fast. Too soon. But that didn’t matter to either of them. This closeness was all they needed to keep going.

Dabi’s fingers dipped below Tomura’s collarbone, following the V of his shirt with a finger, tracing back up to his throat. The irritable huff Shigaraki gave him as he tilted his head back made him reflexively smile. Even here. Even here, there was time for their usual games.

This was almost a relief to Dabi, in a way. He, too, didn’t like change, and that was an ironic thing, coming from him. Since the early days, and since coloring his hair and changing his name to something that he felt suited him more, he’d slipped in and out of various groups of people. None of them had lasted particularly long, just him needing a place to stay and food to eat. Most of them had gotten tired of him fast, or his hosts had expressed a certain side to them that he didn’t quite… care for. And then he’d leave.

The same had gone for relationships, too.

He wasn’t usually the type to stay in any of them for very long. However, it’d probably surprise most to discover that Dabi legitimately considered himself a hopeless romantic. He’d sought after someone who could make him happy ages and ages ago, before he’d changed everything about him, and then… Nothing. He’d had no desires for any of that. People didn’t like him, and more often than not, he didn’t particularly care for them, either. They didn’t suit his tastes, and they didn’t like his attitude. Most didn’t care for his tendency to crack jokes at what were usually not very good times.

In fact, his walking into Kurogiri’s bar for the first time had, at the time, not been worth much to him at all. It had been more of an experiment, than anything. Giran had caught up with him one day, asked to treat him to a drink and a meal, and Dabi, a young man who was starting to lose both hope and a reliable savings, hadn’t been about to refuse. And then, after a pleasant chat, Giran had ever so casually brought up the growing popularity of the League of Villains. It had all been very suggestive, too.

And, since Dabi thought it rude to say no to a man who’d just bought him the first real meal he’d had in what had, at that point, been months, he’d agreed.

The rest was, of course, history.

Did he regret it, though? Was following Giran into that bar a mistake? Would he have been better off, refusing the broker’s offer, and continuing on, living as a broken shell of a human being, just trying to live off what he had? Had it been worth it, committing to a villainous lifestyle, uniting with new faces, all with different goals, in order to take down the status quo?

Those were all good questions. It was a shame, that he didn’t have the answers to them.

But, as he looked down here, at the two crimson red eyes glaring at him, feeling the two careful-yet-firm hands on his waist… He figured this was something to take into account. And, the feeling that he felt, watching as his employer fought desperately to not let a smile appear on his face as he touched him, was a good point, too. It felt as though he was going to melt.

All of this was turning Dabi into the version of himself that he remembered from the old days. That hopeless romantic Dabi. That sentimentalist Dabi. That poet Dabi. There was still the Dabi he had become afterwards, of course. That rebellious version of himself. The villain, and the punk. And there always would be. That was only who he was, after all, and that had been who Tomura had met. If that part of him was just gone, would he… would he still...?

“You’re zoning out, Ashtray.”

Dabi shivered. His voice was quiet yet soft, and so low that it had settled on a relaxing vocal fry. His eyes fleeted to Shigaraki’s, eliciting another small smile of his own. Not a smirk, but a smile. He looked up, at the mop of blue hair spread about his companions’ head like a crown, and shuddered at the always-serious look on his face.

“Ashtray”... Since when had the nickname become endearing? Once, Dabi had thought it insulting, having always been secretly ashamed of his habit of smoking, but by now, there was a certain ring to it. It only came when he called him that, but Dabi felt that was the point.

God, I’m whipped. I hate it.

Tomura raised an eyebrow at him, waiting for a response.

Who am I kidding?

“Is… Is this too much?” Dabi queried, and though it was more of a rhetorical question than anything else, Shigaraki’s response was immediate, and firm.

“Shut up. It’s not.” He assured. “Don’t be stupid.”

Dabi went to reply, but found himself being moved, pushed over onto his back, their positions switched. The grip on his waist had moved up, in a way so delicate Dabi was sure Shigaraki was still adjusting, doing anything and everything he could as to not activate his quirk. The gesture was small, but monumental, in both of their eyes. The unamused look on his employers’ face made Dabi snort, the corners of his mouth pulling up ever so slightly.

“What’re you doing, Creep?”

“You weren’t doing anything,” Tomura replied, furrowing his brows. “and it pissed me off. So it’s my turn.”

Dabi wasn’t sure how many times he could bring himself back from the dead after comments like these, but he hoped it wasn’t a limited number. He grinned.

“Sorry, Boss.”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever…”

As Shigaraki’s index, middle, and ring fingers brushed idly at the visible skin of Dabi’s chest, Dabi’s phone rang on the bedside table in his jacket.

They groaned in unison.

From underneath Shigaraki, Dabi thrust his hand out to the side, and snatched it from the table, glaring as his eyes adjusted to the blue light. He sighed.

“I know it’s a villain thing to have perfect timing, but I have things on my agenda…” He rolled his eyes. Tomura snorted, leaning on his chest as Dabi fell back on the bed’s pillow. He took the call. “Yeah, what is it, Twice? In the middle of something here.”

”Hey, Dabi! Get your lazy ass up. We gotta get going soon, man. We’re giving it a couple hours.”

Both villains met each other’s eyes.

“...Alright. Give u-- I mean… Give me a minute, will you?”

Twice wolf-whistled through the phone’s speaker. Dabi hung up on him.

-

And, meanwhile...

“I’ve seen you before,” Jun sneered. “You’re that one hero kid from UA, aren’t you?” She huffed. “That’s one head of hair you’ve got going on.”

Tartarus was a labyrinth. Made up of neverending, identical hallways with blindingly smooth white walls and the same doors repeated over and over again. There were thirty-five cells to each of the ten sections in the facility, and, unsurprisingly, most of them were unoccupied. It wasn’t very often that someone was so dangerous that they were forced to be sent here. It was often for… the worst of the worst, or, as Tsukauchi had put it to Jun, for those who were too dangerous to be a part of society.

In other words, Tartarus almost felt like a mockery, of sorts, especially to Jun. She was being gagged, hidden from the real world, silently ostracized. Not for no reason, obviously, but still, she felt as though she was being suffocated. Silenced. Mocked. And she could do nothing about it. She just wanted her family back.

She watched Midoriya out of the corner of her eye, sitting with a knee drawn up to her chest and her other leg extended outward. It wasn’t just her hair that looked familiar, but her expression, too. There was a certain, vaguely familiar type of energy in her face. It was obvious that she wasn’t some helpless, frail little child. She was scheming. Plotting something.

“I, er-- uh-- Yeah, I’m from UA. You’re right. How’d you… How’d you know?” Midoriya nodded with a small smile. And then, as he glanced down at himself and remembered he’d worn his school uniform to remind the officers that he was, in fact, from the big, scary hero course, he sighed. “...Nevermind.”

“They showed me your picture once. Others, too. I bet they’re all just your best friends, huh?” Jun rubbed at her eyes with her arm. Her fiery attitude and energy had all been sucked from her after she’d been left alone in her cell again. But this cool, calm, collected exterior was just a mask; she was ready to yell again, if need be.

“But how’d a UA kid get in here?" She wondered aloud. "This place is all tech’d up, right? That detective guy from the PD was acting like it’s just made of solid gold… Bah… If it were really that worth it, they would at least fix their damn air conditioning…”

In response, Midoriya felt himself shiver. He looked around at the barren white walls surrounding the two of them and felt a chill run down his spine. The whole place looked so unbelievably dead. Every little thing was artificial. Fake. It was bone-chilling, and it rattled him to the core. People lived here… Criminals, sure, but...

The young hero blinked as Jun’s voice snapped him back to reality. Beyond the glass pane, the aspiring villain snapped her fingers to get his attention, narrowed eyes flashing. She’d stood up, and once again leaned herself against the thick, transparent barrier before her.

“Hey, hey. Earth to Broccoli Boy.” She rapped her knuckles on the glass. “Hey, anybody in there?”

“I-I-- ooh-- Sorry!”

“What’s your name and why’re you here?” She demanded. “Get it over with, I’m already sick of all these good guys coming in and asking me questions already, and you’re only the second.”

“I’m just here to talk,” Midoriya explained, wringing his hands together before sliding his school bag off his shoulder and setting it down on the floor. “I just wanted… answers.”

“Answers?” Jun furrowed her brows. “About…?”

“Okay, well..” Midoriya took another look at his surroundings and dragged a chair over to him, sitting down. “My name’s Izuku Midoriya. I’m a third-year, and.. I kinda… I’ve met the League of Villains. A lot. A lot of times. Too many, really.”

“Oh, sure, I know all about that.” scoffed Jun. “Your side’s a pain in the ass for my team. They’ve been trying to take you out for years, right?”

“I…” Midoriya swallowed, nodding his head and glancing this way and that. By now, the security guard had drifted elsewhere, probably to check up on other prisoners. But that didn’t mean Midoriya wasn’t on tape. He had to watch his mouth. Even if he was just trying to get answers by any means necessary, one wrong slip of the tongue could get his teachers on him fast. And none of them even knew he was here.

He took another deep breath. “Look, I mean… Okay. I’ve introduced myself. Why don’t you tell me your name? I really just want to talk, I swear. I… I don’t..” He shook his head. The limitations on what he could say here were even more overwhelming than he’d expected them to be. “Your name. What is it? Let’s just talk.”

The younger teenager gave him a wary, cautious look, narrowing her eyes. Conversing with a kid from UA… Just the name of the hero school repulsed her teammates, particularly Tomura, and she knew her caretaker absolutely despised hero kids. This boy was no exception. In fact, he was beyond that. This boring, plain-looking, fidgeting kid was high up on both of her adoptive fathers’ dislike lists. If that was anything to go by, that meant this kid was something special. She had to keep her guard up, no matter what he said. At the end up the day, he was just another one of the heroes, and Jun had had enough encounters with their many different types in just a few run-ins to know there were two sides to every coin.

“I don’t have one,” She told Midoriya. “But my given name is Jun. That’s what they called me.”

“‘Pure’, you mean?”

“What about it?”

“That’s…” Midoriya furrowed his brows. “That’s just so tame.”

Jun leaned back on the stool inside the glass, her eyes narrowing as she gave him a look that landed somewhere between disgust and the most begrudging level of tolerance you could imagine. This UA kid… Just whose side was he on? If he had come here simply to probe answers out of Jun, she was ready to risk the shocks from her cuffs.

“What do you want?” seethed the aspiring villain, and Midoriya briefly shut his eyes, channeling as much composure as he could.

“I just… You’ve met this group of villains. You… You were with them for a while. A hostage situation, we all thought. But, if what I heard was right, you tried to struggle when a team of pro heroes showed up to raid their hideout and rescue you.” Midoriya clasped his hands together to keep them from shaking, his breathing just the slightest bit unsteady as he stumbled through his sentences. “I… I'm not here to hurt anybody. I... just want to understand.”

There was a long pause, as Jun processed this, before she scoffed, bitterly, dismissing his confession.

“Yeah, I’m sure you do,” She lifted an arm above her, pointing around at the various measures of security installed in the walls, from cameras to microphones, too high up for her to reach or destroy. “but so do a lot of other people. You people wouldn’t get it. I’ve seen you in action enough already. From what I can tell? One-track minds, all of you.”

“People were killed and injured. Not just civilians.” Midoriya thought of Mirio -- Lemillion -- and his various broken bones. “Heroes, too.”

“You think I haven’t guessed that by now?” Jun snapped.

Midoriya fell quiet.

...

“I didn’t want to go. They tried to drag me. I resisted.” She clenched her fists, static forming in clusters underneath her skin, bracing against the steel of the bracelets around her wrists. “It wasn’t… fucking… fair… So I fought back. I wanted them to get away. And here we are. They’re gone. They’re safe.”

“I know them. I know what they are, dammit, I heard it every week of my life when they turned on the news.” Jun grit her teeth. "All I ever hear about is villains, villains, villains… I get it. They’re the bad guys. But… they were…” She trailed off.

Midoriya looked up at her. She shut her eyes.

“If your side thought I was in trouble or something, and that I was getting hurt, then you were wrong. Okay?” Jun stared at her lap, her fists balling around white pajama pants. “Is that what you wanted? Is that the answer you were looking for, hero?”

Quiet filled the chamber, and, as Jun had already gotten used to in her few hours in the facility, a maddening white noise replaced her voice, buzzing in her ears and making the tension seem twice as worse. Midoriya let her words soak in, as his hands clutched the sides of his chair in thought.

He thought about the many times he’d encountered the notorious, infamous League of Villains, thought about both of his afternoons in Kiyashi Ward with their ringleader, a malicious man who seemingly thought only of himself and his own plan, his violent fantasies and gruesome wishes upon professional heroes, good people who did good things for those in need.

It was almost a painful experience, to think about his second meeting in Kiyashi Ward Shopping Mall, in the tea shop with none other than Tomura Shigaraki himself. It had been a terrifying sort of reunion, and Midoriya had only brought himself, forced himself to do it because, as usual, he was unable to sleep at night without the answers he needed. After all, that was why he was here, in Tartarus, in the same hellish, barren, artificial labyrinth as none other than the Hero Killer and All For One themselves… He needed answers. He was face to face with a girl who had resisted heroes for the sake of not just the man who had threatened to decay him alive, but his companions as well.

He felt almost guilty that a pang of regret squared him in the chest right then, as he recalled his decision to immediately tell All Might of his visit with the League’s ringleader after it had happened. He regretted being in such a hurry to explain the situation as fast as possible that he spared Toshinori all of the all-too-important details of the matter. He’d done this. Hadn’t he? Because it was always, always him…

Midoriya shuddered, and he cleared his throat. He gathered himself together.

“I grew up looking up to pro heroes as role models,” Midoriya said, and Jun ducked her head, staring at her hands underneath a waterfall of blue. “Everybody I knew… everybody I know… They all grew up looking up to heroes for guidance. We all wanted to be just like them. They were all perfect people to us. They did the things they had to do to keep people safe, and we admired that. We were told to admire that. I think… at this point… everyone in the world grows up wanting to be a hero. Whether it happens or not… They’re always right by the people who are licensed heroes, no matter what.”

“All Might is my hero. Literally. To me, he’s always been the greatest person on Earth. He’s funny, he’s charming, and he saved so many people before his retirement. He helped them, and he did it all with a big smile on his face. I wanted that. I’m trying hard for that. All Might… I’ve always wanted to be just like him, for as long as I can remember. From day one, to now, even.”

“I can’t even begin to imagine what it must have been like for you when the heroes showed up, but…” Midoriya took another deep breath to ground himself. He glanced at the cameras surrounding him. “...but I know what it’s like to look up to and admire someone… to want to be like them more than anything in the world. I understand that.”

Jun glared up at him through a mop of blue hair, her expression unreadable. Her fidgeting hands had gone slack in her lap. She remained quiet for a long moment.

“They took them away from me.” She said. “They took everything I had.”

“I…” Midoriya nodded, slowly, to himself. “I don’t think they can see villains as anything other than villains. You can see what they can’t.”

Over the shaky, crackling intercom, a voice cut through. ”That’s enough, Mister Midoriya. If you would please leave the chamber now… Your time is up…”

Midoriya glared at his hands, and nodded, standing up from his folding chair and pushing it back to its original place by the wall. “Right. Sorry.”

As he made to collect his things and began towards the hall, he stopped himself. He had meant to ask one question in particular before he’d left. The one thing that had been bothering him since this whole affair had begun, regarding the League of Villains and their ruthless ringleader. One thing had stuck out like a sore thumb to him.

He pivoted, and faced the girl in the cell directly.

“Tomura Shigaraki…” He breathed, and she looked up instantly at the sound of the name. “...What… What is he to you?”

Jun’s shoulders bounced ever so slightly as she let out a small laugh. She seemed to think over her answer for a few seconds before eventually looking up to him with a steady gaze.

“That All Might guy…” She said. “What is he to you?”

“A hero. A role model.”

Jun grinned.

“Oh.”

Midoriya nodded, and a small smile fleeted across his face for a moment. He slung his school bag over his shoulder and made quickly for the door, hoping he hadn’t stretched his time limit too far. As he passed through the chamber, he glanced back at her.

“I can’t accept villains,” He told her. “But that… I can understand you, I think.”

Jun let out a bitter chuckle and shook her head, turning away.

“You heroes go enjoy your high horse while you can.” She said. “Enjoy the view up there while it lasts.”

...

Midoriya left the chamber. The silence embraced Jun like a winter chill. She shivered.

She turned on her heel and walked the perimeter of her cell, dragging the stool with her as she placed it back in its corner. For what already felt like the ten thousandth time, she scanned the interior of her prison cell in disgust, searching for any means of possible escape, and knowing she would find nothing. It was designed to be barren, cold, and lifeless. Even the supplying of the stool she’d sat on seemed like a stretch.

As she thought it over, her eyes were drawn back to the stool she’d dropped in the corner. She looked from it, to the security cameras, and back. If she tried, she could destroy… No. Ridiculous. The cuffs on her wrists and ankles were far too significant of a disadvantage. Even if she could wreck her way through the thick glass keeping her from the hallway, she’d probably be immobilized by the time she reached the entrance. They really had gone all out in making her feel like an exhibit in a zoo.

Jun crossed the cell in a few long-legged strides and pressed her palms to the glass, immediately feeling the bracelets around her wrists taunting her, buzzing to life as if they were warning her not to step out of line. She pressed her cheek against the smooth surface of the barrier, pressing herself against it in an attempt to see out into the hallway. She couldn’t map out Tartarus, of course, but if she could at least get an idea of where she was in the labyrinth, she could form the start of her own escape plan somehow.

But then, even if she did manage to escape Tartarus, where would she go? She hadn’t a clue where the League had managed to escaped to, only that they had gotten away in the nick of time and that her distraction had succeeded. The bar was out of the question, obviously, as it had been completely destroyed, thanks to the recklessness of their intruders. There were only so many places where Jun could imagine her companions fleeing to. Kurogiri’s bar had been a safe place, a paradise, a location to fall back to when they needed to regroup.

Now, it was gone. Everything they had owned had been destroyed by the heroes, as if they were trying to make the experience harder to deal with. Of course they were. They’d taken the League from Jun, after all, why wouldn’t’ they take something a little extra?

Jun could feel herself getting warmer and warmer as the let herself sink deeper into thoughts similar to these. Anger sizzled under her skin; boiling-hot, seething anger that popped underneath her hands and her forearms, in her chest and in her cheeks. Her shoulders shuddered as she clenched her fists, her cuffs buzzing in warning. She pressed a hand to the glass.

She would get out of here, no matter the cost. She would get revenge. She’d make things even.

As she simmered away in silence, she found herself so distracted that she didn’t even notice the sudden shift in atmosphere. It crept up on her like a predator stalking its prey. Tartarus itself remained the same, with its hellish silences and maddeningly bland appearance, but the new feeling that took over the entirety of the chamber seemed to warp it somehow. The blinding white of the walls became more intense, the terrifying quiet too overwhelming to handle. Jun didn’t feel any of it change until a voice spoke up.

It echoed across the hallway, despite belonging to an entity that was, like Jun, trapped inside one of Tartarus’ unforgiving prison cells. It sent a chill down any listener’s spine. The simple sound of the voice was like nails on a chalkboard, and to Jun, it was so vaguely yet strikingly, alarmingly familiar that it made her feel weak at the knees.

”Funny… How even after you ran, you and I ended up in the same place yet again…”

Jun froze up.

”It was about time I found you, and here you are. How… convenient.”

Her heart felt as if it had stopped.

She choked on her breath.

...

“It’s you.”

-

Only a few of them could show up. The rest of them had, of course, either been injured in battle, or, in the case of a select few, they had gone back to where they normally lived, and the trip back was far too long to manage. The remaining pro heroes gathered together in the same boardroom they’d formulated their mission plan in in the first place. By now, the group of them had reached the main reason the new number one hero had called them here.

“The… The butterfly guy?” asked Vlad King. “The one from England? What about him?”

“I mean, he did disappear, didn’t he?” said Thirteen. “Nobody’s heard anything from him since we went out for the raid.”

The group of heroes all gave their quiet inputs, mumbling their thoughts and opinions.

Most of them hadn’t been able to get much of a look at Doctor Raymond Eckels. Some of them hadn’t even spoken to the guy, not even once. He was an unfamiliar face, from next door in Europe, and not a face in the room knew if they could trust him. After all, it had only been Tsukauchi to bring him in, not another pro hero. And not to mention his affiliation with the League of Villains. Just the mention of the group set almost all of them off with unease. How could they trust someone who’d been friends with such a dastardly criminal?

The new number one guy, however-- He had other reasons for disliking Eckels. He was too new, by which he meant to the heroes of Japan. He hadn’t a clue who Endeavor was, or why he was so important. In fact, when he’d made a point of threatening him, the Englishman had simply pushed his spectacles up his nose and raised his eyebrows at him with a surprised look. He’d then told him he hadn’t expected the top hero in the country to be so “standoffish.”

It pissed him off, but then again, what didn’t?

“Friends,” said Endeavor. “I think we’ve got ourselves a new suspect to be wary of.”

Chapter Text

“It’s you.”

The realization soaked into Jun’s skin, keeping her frozen in place. Terror creeped up on her, paralyzing her in the center of her own cell. She made a weak attempt to try and locate the source of the voice and failed. It sounded -- no, it felt -- like it was coming from all around her. It came from her left, and from her right, but… Jun squinted forward, through the thick glass pane keeping her from the rest of the facility, and felt weak at the knees.

The cell before her, the one facing hers, had been entirely dark since her arrival. The hallway was wide, and spacious, but it seemed to have been completely unoccupied, until now. Jun squinted into the darkness from where she stood, trying to make anything out of the pitch black darkness across the hallway, a few yards of distance separating both of their chambers. As her eyes diligently scanned the cell across from hers, and made out the shape of a head, and a chair, and some sort of machine… She felt her legs finally give way underneath her, dropping her onto her knees.

”Of course it’s me. I’ve been here for years. Or didn’t Tomura tell you…?”

Jun felt her pulse quickening, faster and faster by the second. “Tomura?” She asked, desperately trying to keep her voice steady and chilled. “What does Tomura have to do with all of this? What do you know?”

"Oh dear…” The voice tsk’ed, and Jun could just barely spot the shape of the shadow shake its head in disappointment. Or maybe that was some twisted form of pity. ”So they didn’t tell you. How unfortunate, that you have to figure it out all on your own…”

Blood pounding like a drum in Jun’s ears, she scraped at her arms, pushing with her legs to get as far away from the voice as possible. Even behind glass, she couldn’t help herself from being terrified. The voice behind the barrier of the cell across from her was booming, as if he were speaking into her ears.

“Why are you here?” She shouted. She rubbed at the white lines scratched into her skin.

"Please!” sighed the voice. ”I’m no bad guy here. This is all really just a coincidence… A coincidence in my favor, no less, and it’s been many years since anything has gone my way. Please, do humor me on this one. After all, it was you who escaped a promising future. None of that was my fault, was it? That was all you.”

Jun squeezed her fists together by her side. She couldn’t give him the satisfaction, but at the same time… What was she to say? She fumed silently, her chest heaving unsteady breaths.

”Why so sad?” the voice cooed. ”Aren’t you happy to see me again?... And how is my League doing, might I ask…? I can’t help but doubt a child such as yourself enjoyed your stay with them. Come now, you don’t have to lie to me… That hero boy really was a nuisance, wasn’t he? No, it’s only you and me here. There’s no need for sugarcoating.”

Jun felt the air clog up in her throat, her heavy breathing suffocating her and her hands trembling. How did he know about the League? About Tomura? And how had she not known in the first place? And how long had it been since she had heard this blood-curdling voice? She sunk back into the wall, feeling a migraine coming on.

Images came flooding back to her, mere glimpses of things she thought she had managed to forget. She felt the acid on her skin once again, coming back to her in the form of the burning pain from the scratches on her upper arms. Her eyes stung in their sockets and, on instinct, she pursed her lips together. She could remember herself drowning, and drowning, and drowning in the toxic waste, and that had been the worst part. The tanks, and the feeling of people watching her, taking notes on her, waiting for a particular result.

She remembered the cold of the lab, the biting, vicious cold. There had never been warmth. Only cold, rigid air, and stinging, icy acid, enveloping her, drowning her, as she was ducked under the surface of the liquid and submerged in it entirely. She could almost feel the fingers pinched around her nose, keeping her from breathing in as they ducked her under again. The mutations… They had almost never been entirely successful. Not before she had managed to make her getaway, after months and months of failed results. It was because of her resistance that she had been the one defect.

The voice brought her back from the flashbacks, and Jun knew from the sound of his voice that he was smiling. She shivered. The scrapes on her arms were beginning to feel smooth as the ruthlessness of her nails began to draw the slightest layer of blood.

”Don’t you fret, now. If you think I can hurt you, I’d invite you to take another look around, my friend,” chuckled the other prisoner. "I’ve been here long enough to know that these turrets around me won’t hesitate to open fire the second I dare struggle in this miserable chair of mine. And this jacket.. It’s oh so uncomfortable… You must consider yourself lucky, getting to roam about however you please over there.”

There was a long pause as he waited for the girl to reply. He continued when she didn’t, staring with widened bug-eyes and taut white lips, her face as pale as a ghost’s.

”What is it you’re going by nowadays, might I ask? Just 'Jun', like you told that boy? It doesn't suit you, 'Pure'. Not anymore.” Behind the glass, he tilted his head. Machinery spun in his direction, but, by now, he’d learned not to so much as flinch in response.

”Surely, the doctor’s memory wiping methods were as effective on you as they were on any of the other… experiments. His work never disappointed me. Each time we had to run a new test because of your inconvenient rebellions, he assured me you’d be reset each time. So, if you wouldn’t mind, do tell me… What do you remember?”

Jun’s eyes narrowed, her chest beginning to ache. She couldn’t quite see, but she was sure the shape in the cell across from hers couldn’t use his quirk-- or, rather, his quirks. He always had an entire inventory of them ready and at his disposal at all times, but here, surely they wouldn’t work, would they?

If Jun herself had been so criminal and dangerous that the shock cuffs around her wrists and ankles had been necessary, then they couldn’t possibly have slacked on restricting him as well. With his invincible power, there was only so many things they could do, and that gave them every reason to up the ante if it felt necessary. That had to be the case, anyways. Jun figured that was simply the kind of mindset these people would have. And rightly so, she supposed.

However, despite her assurance of all of this, there was still an aura of danger in the room with her. A certain kind of chill, breathing down her neck, keeping her paralyzed against the wall, reminding her that, no matter what she tried to do, she had nowhere to run. She was stuck here, with an all-too-familiar monster that had been hiding under the bed this entire time. Jun shuddered, and the aching pain in her chest became significantly worse as she wished for what must have been the trillionth time for her fathers and her family to come back to her.

"I,” She breathed. “won’t tell you anything.”

There was a long gap of silence, during which it felt as though Jun was being suffocated, the air around her growing stuffy and her face and body and limbs becoming hot. Her blood boiled under her skin as she heard him laugh, a deep, velvety, ugly sound. He chuckled and guffawed, and eventually, he began to cough, a demonstration of how sickly he’d become over the years and years of neglect. Had Jun not felt the memories rushing back to her, and her long-forgotten hatred, she would have felt sorry. But that wasn’t the case. It was as if the mere familiar chill down her spine had brought everything back.

”Oh, come on! I’ve heard everything you’ve told them since you got here. We’re allies, aren’t we? We’re on the same team.” A glimmer of a horrifying smile appeared under the mask that kept him alive. “Of course, I still have my doubts. Tomura’s always had some patience issues, and from what I know, his comrades aren’t the friendliest. Your stay couldn’t possibly have been that pleasant. You don’t have to lie to me like you did those fools... But, all the same, we’re not enemies. Think of me as an old friend. You’ve seen us all up close. We know each other. What reason do you have to be so hesitant?”

Jun gasped as she realized she’d been holding her breath since her first reply, clutching at the chest of her white pajamas and glaring with wide, glossy eyes across the chamber. Her heart pounded so ferociously towards the front of her chest she was surprised she hadn’t burst yet. She inhaled sharply, blood hammering in her ears. The same images flashed behind her eyes: the lab, the acid, and the stinging, not to mention the faces looking back at her, warped through the glass of the mutation tank.

She heaved, unable to take it for any longer, her strength already sapped away by whatever invisible force this was.

“I remember…” She wheezed. “I remember it all.”

The buzzing in her ears stopped, suddenly. It dulled down to a low hum, as if something had been at work there. The sudden shift in atmosphere was overwhelming, taking a dive from uncomfortable to unbearable. Scary. Jun felt herself absently push back against the wall, hoping to escape the miserable feeling.

”You remember.”

”You were always a thorn in my side, you know.”

And suddenly, the noise was returning again. The air felt jagged, like daggers piercing through Jun’s skin. The voice once again felt as though it were all around her, whispering in her ears, the smallest breaths the loudest of sounds. She keeled over onto the ground, drawing her knees up to her chin and clamping her hands over her ears. What was that? What was this noise? This change in atmosphere?... There was no way… No way that a quirk could be effective… Not in a place like this.. No physical quirks…

That ringing in her ears… It seemed so familiar to her.

Jun gazed outward from her little huddle in the corner of the cell, out through the pitch black darkness of the chamber across from hers, through to the deep grey outline of the turrets above the other prisoner. Red lights blinked, ready to fire, but they made no movement.

”Oh, you needn’t worry about my safety,” oozed the voice. ”The monitors on the panel outside of my cell keep track of my brain waves and keep tabs on vital signs… I’m not even allowed to think of some horrid evil scheme for even a second. No, God forbid. But I’ve been here long enough to have found some errors in those vigilant systems of theirs. Over time, you see, I’ve discovered that there are certain… intervals… where the staff here in charge of monitoring this section will take breaks. They’ll leave it up to technology alone to detect movement, or some kind of threat. And, most of the time, everything goes according to plan.”

A vicious smile underneath that vital mask.

”But not always.”

He sighed. Jun burrowed her nose in her knees, her shoulders shaking as the air became frigid, and her fingers began to go numb. Breathe, breathe, breathe, breathe… She squeezed her knees together. Keep it together, keep it together, keep it together… Wake up, wake up, wake up…

Behind the glass, the head tilted forward.

”You know, it’s funny, that someone apparently so devoted to my Tomura would be so resistant to my plans. I am, after all, his teacher," The voice smiled. ”I taught him everything he knows, everything he’s learned. I taught him all this and pushed him in the right direction. And you… You were meant to be a part of his solution. You were going to be a weapon at his belt, that he could use at his disposal, whenever he or his comrades so pleased. You said all of that nonsense to that poor, pathetic Midoriya boy, as if you’re loyal to the cause, but yet you ran from it years ago…”

“They…” heaved Jun, supporting her head on her elbows as the cold punctured her skin and the buzzing static and white noise grew louder and louder, her eardrums practically ready to burst. “They were… I was one of them…”

He guffawed. ”You were an asset. As are all of Tomura’s followers. You’re meant to help him, serve him, get him to his goal, and nothing more. Oh, heavens me, that’s a riot… As if my Tomura would take them in… They’re colleagues! Business partners. No, not my Tomura.”

“He’s not yours.”

He chuckled, almost sadly. ”How sweet. How oh-so-bittersweet.”

The drone in Jun’s ears spiked in volume, and she groaned, practically turning into a puddle on the ground.

”You were supposed to be an upgrade from what we’d been making for him before. The first few models were powerful, sure, but they were lacking in flashy powers that could rival the heroes’. We needed something that had not just strength, but something more. Something other than muscle. A real quirk. A good one. Something you’d expect to see from one of them. You were supposed to be a gift. You were supposed to be a prototype. You were going to be special, but no, what did you do? You struggled, and eventually, you got away. It was devastating, after all the hard work the doctor’s companions had to do to finish his work.”

”But nothing’s changed. You’re still that work-in-progress model. Nothing more. The poor, pathetic reaction you’re having right now should serve as all the evidence you need, girl. The effect hasn’t worn off yet. You’re still a shield… No, a weapon.”

All For One glowered at her, as warm liquid dripped down her earlobes.

”Don’t ever forget what you are. Just another Nomu.”

Jun gagged. A growl was released from her throat, a terrible, simply and utterly animalistic growl that she couldn’t quite control herself. Her nails clawed at the cold white tiles of her chamber, as she choked on her own saliva, writhing on the floor as the buzzing in her ears grew to maximum volume. It was all so familiar, that horrible noise. Something in that sentence alone had triggered a fit inside of her. Slowly, but surely, the ringing noise was deafening her, and soon she wouldn’t be able to hear anything else… Nothing but the voice of the monster beyond the glass. So, she screamed.

The cuffs on her wrists and ankles gave her shock after shock, but she continued to struggle. Beyond the glass, the voice laughed at her, taunting her. She writhed and flinched and flailed and winced and waited for something, anything to stop the terrible ringing in her ears. It wasn’t quite static, but far worse than the many silences of Tartarus. It was like a silent shriek that pierced her eardrums. She felt as though she was going to split.

She couldn’t fight it. It was all too strong, and her quirk was useless.

She groaned, another angry, savage growl crawling out from her throat. It sounded less than a human cry of pain.

With one final shock, she gave up. The ringing grew louder and louder, and she shut her eyes, praying for a miracle as she prepared to scream until her lungs gave out.

The ringing stopped, suddenly, unexpectedly.

She was up like a shot, sitting up straight on the floor. She blinked away the yellow-green splotches in the corners of her eyes, straining them against the blinding white lights of her cell. Across the chamber, it seemed that the other prisoner had stopped moving in his cell. He had stopped talking to her. He had suddenly gone silent. The fearsome aura of danger that had moments ago overwhelmed Jun seemed to have almost been vanquished entirely. All that remained of the buzzing in her ears was a low, quiet, and distant hum. She squinted into the darkness.

Footsteps walked along just outside of Jun’s section, the low thrum of quiet voices growing louder as someone, or, rather, several someones, came closer. Jun breathed in sharp, a metallic taste pooling in the back of her throat as she pulled herself to her knees to get a better look. Three members of Tartarus security came into view, all dressed in their boring grey uniforms, their postures straightened out and their shoulders squared and arms rigid. The girl let out a breath of relief, her heart begging for a rest.

Jun glared up through her mop of blue hair, widened eyes underlined in deep, dark lines, throwing a glance into the darkness of the cell across from hers. The villain inside had suddenly gone so terribly quiet, as if a switch had been turned off. Was he scared? Suspicious? Being cautious? Had security really come here to investigate all the commotion Jun had made a point out of making?

She climbed shakily up to her feet and gave the three guards a cold stare, raising an eyebrow expectantly as they surveyed the chamber around them.

“See anything?” said the one furthest away. His eyes eventually landed on the nearly pitch black cell next to him, and he seemed to immediately lose focus, staring in a trance through the glass, squinting in an attempt to see what was inside. Puzzled, he walked over to the control panel. Jun felt a sharp ringing in her ears, and would have begun to panic, had the automatic metal gate in front of the cell not been promptly shut by the guard. A heavy metal sheet clunked down over the thick glass of All For One’s cell, and suddenly, it was as if the threat of him was just… gone.

Jun stared in utter bewilderment, feeling an invisible weight suddenly being lifted off of her shoulders. It was as if he had never even been there. He’d just disappeared. The greatest villain in the country had been rendered powerless at the press of a button. It was then that Jun really took into account how weak he actually was. He couldn’t have hurt her if he had tried. Everything he had said, and everything that she had done in response… Had it all really just been the imprint of what had happened in the past in her brain, or had something really been… at work, there…?

Maybe he hadn't lost all of that power, then.

The voice of one of the other guards distracted her from her questions.

“Nah. The panels upstairs told me something fishy was going on, though…” mused the one closest. She scratched her head. “Couldn’ta been just some fluke, the tech here’s too good for that, right?”

“Can’t imagine anything would go all haywire for no good reason,” agreed the first guard. “but maybe we’re giving our engineers too much credit… You’ve met the guys. They act so damn full of themselves.”

The closest guard scoffed in agreement. However, the last guard, the middle one, didn’t chime into their conversation. He seemed… preoccupied, looking through the thick glass trapping Jun inside her own cell. There was something unnerving about his eyes. Perhaps it was the way they were shaped, or how they seemed to be both narrowed and widened at the same time. They had a certain energy about them, bright and shocking. He seemed to be staring right through Jun, his expression unreadable, but the slightest bit of a smile playing off of his lips.

Jun glared back at him with her usual intimidating maroon gaze, hoping to scare him off, but her methods didn’t appear to be working on him. She narrowed her own eyes. What the hell was this guy’s deal?

He winked.

And he turned to glance at the two other guards standing with him. Jun squinted. Was that…

“Hey, when’s our section's lunch break again?” He asked. His voice was oddly carefree-- at least, for an employee of Tartarus. “I’m starving.”

“Huh…?” The one farthest from Jun turned to look at him with a puzzled expression. “Our lunch break was an hour and a half ago, man, what are you--”

The third guard smiled sweetly.

His consequent shout and the sudden flailing of arms was enough to confirm Jun’s suspicions. Hurriedly, she looked away as something went splat against the thick glass pane of her cell. Her heartbeat was once again in steady motion, picking up as the seconds went by and just one of many revelations she’d had just that day sunk in.

Finally. Finally.

A smile began to creep into her facial muscles, her lips perking at the edges as she heard two very off-guard guards find themselves eating tile, a swift, almost balletic kick sending one of them to the floor and a sharp jab of the elbow catching the other one square in the throat. She went down a moment later. Slowly, Jun looked up with incredulous, yet excited eyes.

“..Toga?”

A moment later, after the third guard had observed his surroundings with a bloodthirsty look of satisfaction in his eyes, a pocket knife clutched tightly in his fist, he looked up at her. In a flash, his eyebrows shut up, his eyes lit up entirely, and he squealed back to her, his voice at least one or two octaves higher than it’d been just a minute before.

“Hi! Hi! Jun!” He chirped. “It’s me, Himiko! Did you miss me?”

Jun gaped, and in seconds, she’d sprinted to the glass, pressing her palms to the surface of it with wide maroon-colored eyes. Already, she was crying, and laughing, and wheezing, banging her hands against the barrier.

“Of course I did. How did you get in here? How on earth did you manage to get the blood you needed to transform? Where have you been? Where…” She caught her breath, her eyes dimming slowly. “Where’s everyone else?”

“Oh, don’t worry ‘bout them. We all got away, thanks to that nice butterfly guy. He’s really nice. Can’t wait for you to meet him. You’ll like him a lot.” Toga beamed briefly, before tilting her head to the side, one of her ears twitching as her eyes shot to the hallway. “Oops. Guess I was a li’l too loud, huh? Well, time to run. See you in a few minutes, Li’l Sis! Love you!”

She tore off, still in guard form. Jun slammed against the glass.

“Toga, wait…! How am I gonna get out of here?”

“Up!”

Up?

She looked up.

Jun yelped, leaping out of the way as a solid chunk of plaster narrowly missed her head on its way down. Her heart ached as she looked up, and soon, she felt another smile spreading across her face. She watched the ceiling slowly begin to split open like shattering glass, the foundations of the roof cracking and creaking and turning to sand as it fell to the smooth tiled floor below. A laugh escaped Jun, a happy, delighted laugh, as she came to realize her situation. In just a few moments, a hole had been formed in the ceiling, and a large pile of sawdust and ash had spread about the floor.

Two beady crimson eyes looked down at her, carefully spreading apart the many beams and pipes and wires Decay had failed to reach. Jun grinned.

An unfamiliar face appeared in front of her as, in a blur, someone dropped through the Shigaraki-made hole in the roof. Jun jumped in surprise, her heart beating faster than ever as Tartarus fell into chaos around her. Footsteps thundered through the hallways outside her cell as guards sprinted this way and that, shrieking to their coworkers about the sudden infiltration. However, Jun ignored this, as two piercing-yet-gentle green eyes looked her up and down.

“Hullo.” said the doctor. “Name’s Eckels. Care for a lift?”

Jun just barely managed a nod. Eckels took a quick glance at the cell around them, and clicked his tongue.

“You know, you’d think these people would be better at making their fortresses legitimately indestructible…”

Through the glass of the cell, a guard banged on the glass, shouting threats and colorful insults.

Eckels looked at him blankly, and slowly, he took Jun’s arm. His wings beat the air, and just like that, they had vanished up through the hole in the ceiling.

The guard shouted the most vulgar word he could think of at that moment and sprinted along the hallway, the few occupants of the cells in that section looking up warily in surprise, surveying the pure, unadulterated chaos and the amassing clusters of staff. Everyone tried to shout above each other, everyone calling desperately for some sort of reinforcements. The guard pushed his way through the crowd, angrily ordering a prisoner with his hands against the glass to back down as he passed by his chamber. He reached into the depths of his ugly grey uniform and removed his communicator, a device so fine and intricately programmed it made stuff from science fiction movies look like children’s toys.

He jabbed at a few buttons as he rounded a corner, huddling by himself against the wall as he barked into the speaker, trying to get his voice across despite the screaming and yelling of his colleagues around him. He huffed, exasperated.

“Yes, I’m aware that there are people breaking in. Have they caught any of them yet? No?” He cursed, stamping his foot. “Well, get more of our men out there… What? Yes, I saw the escapee. Yes, the little blue brat we got only days ago. She’s a child, I’m damn sure you can get her... What?... What do you mean they’re gone? They can’t be gone. Are you sure? Oh, don’t use that tone with me, I’m only trying to gather intel. They can’t be gone, I’m telling you. How on earth would they have gotten away so damn quickly? Hmm?”

There was another pause.

“A warp quirk? Why, yes, I saw the fucking hole in our ceiling, too, I have eyes, you know. What was I supposed to do? I couldn’t break the damn glass. But what’s this now about a warp quirk?”

“The League of Villains? Last time I heard, their warp user was arrested.”

“You’re kidding.”

“They got him back, you say?”

The guard glared at the communicator screen. “Well, isn’t that just great.”

He smashed the communicator on the tile in one fell swoop.

“Dammit!”

And just like that, the League of Villains was gone.

-

By the time she had woken up, it had been at least a day or so. She found herself in an unfamiliar location, smelling quite strongly of fruity tea, and found the lights around her to be much more comforting than those blinding white spotlights boring down at her in Tartarus. Jun’s muscles didn’t quite feel sore, more like unused and stiff, and her heart, for the first time in what felt like a lifetime, was beating steadily, normally, and calmly. Slowly, she sat up, and found herself leaned against a pillow on a comfortable couch. She looked around, observing the empty living room surrounding her and the kitchen not too far off.

The apartment was, as usual, sparkling clean, its owner having always been fond of a tidy home. He meticulously cleaned every weekend, and found it to be a therapeutic habit. The couches and the two recliners around Jun were decorated with afghans knitted with soft colors and pillows stuffed with things other than feathers with the potential to stick your skin. The lights were crystal clear, and the kitchen countertops were so polished they looked as if they were glowing underneath the headlight. The drapes over the windows had been politely shut, to ensure her a good, comfortable rest.

Jun cleared her throat, and leaned back on the pillow, pulling the deep red afghan covering her up to her waist and snuggling underneath it. Before she could let her mind wander, a dark figure appeared in the open doorway leading into the hall. She smiled at it, a broad, genuine smile. He walked to her, slowly, almost cautiously, though Jun could see how wide his eyes were underneath his father’s hand. He stooped in front of her; She reached forward, and carefully took hold of the mask over his face, pulling it gently off of him and smiling without shame.

“I missed you.” Jun told him, quietly, her voice recovering from both the situation in Tartarus and a serious case of morning voice.

“You think you had it bad.” breathed Shigaraki, taking Father from her and setting it behind him on the coffee table. “You have no idea, kid. Dabi and I… All of us… You had us worried sick. And that ain’t normal, you know.”

“I know.” Jun giggled, sadly. “I’m sorry.”

“Nah, nah, nah. Don’t be sorry. Maybe just a little.” He rolled his eyes. “You’re nearly sixteen. I was sure you could fend for yourself if they tried to pull anything on you in there, but still… They… They took you, and... Shit, I couldn’t think straight.”

“Straight isn’t your thing.”

“Oh, shut up.”

Jun grinned. “Sorry. Bad time.”

He shook his head, rolling his eyes again. “You’re too much like him.”

“He says the same thing about you.”

“...Hah.”

He narrowed his eyes. “What’d they do to you in there? They hurt you?”

Jun swallowed, considering her answer options. Plenty of things. She thought back to the terrible ringing in her ears, and the clawing at the ground, and the screaming, and his horrible, scary laugh. She thought about how he had talked about Tomura as if he were property, a possession… She thought about the images flashing in her brain as he forced her to recall things she had tried to make herself forget, and had succeeded in forgetting about until then… She thought about her inability to breathe, and how he’d told her that she was meant to be a weapon, and that the League was nothing more than a bunch of assets to Tomura’s plan.

>She had so many things she could tell him, but… now didn’t seem like the right time. So she tilted her head back onto the pillow, and took a different direction.

“This kid from that big hero school…” Jun told him. “...came to visit me.”

“UA?” He wrinkled his nose. “Which one?”

“This Midoriya guy. I… You showed me his picture once.”

Shigaraki’s eyes darkened. “Of course that kid decided it was his place to come talk to you. What did he say?”

“He just asked me a bunch of questions. I…” Jun bit her lip. “I tried not to tell him things, I really did. But all he said was that he understood me. It was… weird. I expected him to be like the rest of those hero guys, but he didn’t act like them.”

The villain huffed. “Yeah,” He muttered. “That brat’s like that. He really loves getting in the way.”

“Tomura?”

“Mm?”

“What are we gonna do now…?” Jun asked, her voice small and hushed. “We can’t stay here. And Kurogiri’s is gone. They’re probably looking for you guys now. I don’t want ‘em to find you.”

Shigaraki took a deep breath, thinking over his response. It was difficult for him to explain. The plan hadn’t really been nailed down yet. Since they’d made it to Eckels’ flat without so much as an issue -- which was fucking remarkable and a miracle of miracles on its goddamn own -- they hadn’t exactly been able to get out and go find some of their old connections… However, there’d been a lot of discussions about the butterfly doctor himself. As a rescue hero based in Central London but allies with pros in Japan, he had connections from both countries, similarly to the League. And, since Eckels couldn’t possibly stay in Japan for very long undiscovered…

“The other day, we had Two-Face get in touch with Giran…”

“Hey, don’t call Jin that.”

He huffed. “Yeah, yeah… Anyway… You know how Twice is. He gets along with everyone he meets. I’d call him impressionable. I figured he’d be the best bet to sweet-talk Giran into a nice, pleasant chat, and I wasn’t wrong. Not that that’s a surprise.”

Jun scoffed.

“We told him about that butterfly guy--”

“Yeah, what’s his deal?”

“--Shush, wait until I’m done.”

“Sorry.”

“We told him about that butterfly guy, and how much good he’s done for us in the past few days, and he seemed impressed. You know, he’s s’posed to be a pro, and Giran has a lot of respect for someone who gives up their usual morals to give to our cause.” He rubbed at his eye, leaning over and sitting down next to her on the floor as he continued. “Anyways, the guy’s based in England, and, like you said, we can’t stay here for particularly long, being all over the news and everything, so…”

Someone cleared their throat, and the two looked up to see a thin, lanky figure in the hallway, with monarch wings protruding from his back, and a pair of horn-rimmed glasses sliding down his nose.

Eckels smiled, nervously. “How would you feel about a vacation to London, hmm?”

Chapter Text

It wasn’t a surprise to anyone to discover that Jun had never been on a plane before.

She’d seen them on countless occasions in flight, soaring past overhead, off to who knows where, but she’d never boarded one, and flown to any destination before. Not that that was much of a big deal, because, as it turned out, neither had most of the League. Everyone, save for Kurogiri, Compress, Doctor Eckels, and Dabi hadn’t been on a plane ride before. So, it was no real surprise that those few were the calm ones on their way to catch a flight.

Unsurprisingly, heading straight to the international airport was not a part of their plan. A group of fugitives wanted dead or alive by the Japanese government didn’t exactly have the grand luxury of the regular airport system. Even if they had managed to somehow forge identities with what they could get their hands on, they were far too recognizable no matter the circumstances. Getting past security was obviously a no-go. No, they’d left it up to Giran, with his unsettlingly friendly attitude and various alliances with other black market businessmen like himself, and Eckels, with his own connections in the United Kingdom to find them flight accommodations.

As far as the people at London Heathrow International Airport were concerned, the rescue hero was just coming back with a few Japanese friends coming for a visit. It was risky business, the game they were playing, but the chances were so slim it almost seemed plausible.

Kurogiri’s Warp Gate quirk got them most of the distance to their flight, but even the warp villain wasn’t familiar with every nook and cranny in the city. Fortunately, more than one of the members in their party were experts by that point at navigating through the alleyways of any city imaginable.

Dabi and Spinner kept level heads throughout the trip, being right in their element as they snuck around, slipping in and out of sight like liquid mercury through fingertips. Eventually coming to a stop in front of an old warehouse, Twice disappeared, assuring them he’d find Giran and seal the deal himself. Reluctantly, the gang agreed, and retreated into the depths of a close-by alleyway. When their fellow villain came out, he wore a smile underneath his mask.

“A few blocks down,” He told them. “We’ve got a plane to catch! Do we have to…? Ignore him. The airport’s that way. Butterfly Dude, you lead the way, since you’ve done this stuff before.”

And that had been that. Their ride was small but well-kept, and, as far as any of the plane ride veterans in their group could tell, the aircraft was in good condition. It was a private flight, more or less-- there were no screens on the seats, and no drink menus, and certainly no flight attendants waving their arms about like lunatics to inform the passengers where the emergency exits were, but that was all well and good and much less of a hassle. Every member of the League was itching to get off the ground and out of the country fast, some more excited about the trip than others.

Jun was only grateful that the takeoff went smoothly. She stared out the window eagerly as the plane left the ground, leaning on her arm and watching as the city below became smaller and smaller by the minute. In the seats next to her, Shigaraki sat uninterested, fiddling with his hands, while Dabi gazed in boredom at his phone. The uneasy feeling Tomura experienced then was nothing for Dabi. He’d been on numerous flights, only a few of which were international, but that had all been during a very different time. And, back then, he’d flown first class.

“You’re looking a little pale under there.” Dabi murmured, only his employer able to hear him over the roar of the engine. He raised an eyebrow at the glare Shigaraki shot him from beneath his protective mask. “I’m only worried.”

“I hate heights.” Tomura hissed back, shivering as he looked pointedly away from the window. Dabi didn’t seem to laugh or even smile in response. He only nodded, in understanding, and leaned back in his own seat.

“I get it. I don’t like them very much, either.” Dabi admitted, and shrugged. “I just… try and pretend I’m not here. Block out the noise, swallow the clogging up in my ears… I used to bring music with me, but that was for… other reasons. I just pretended to be somewhere else. Somebody else, if I felt like it.”

Dabi, too, half-expected the reply to be sharp, teasing, and full of ridicule, but it turned out to be almost the exact opposite. Tomura didn’t look up at him, his voice quiet. Beside him, Jun the sixteen-year-old sat with her face practically pressed up against the glass of the window like a curious toddler, completely oblivious to their conversation. The sight made Dabi smile absently for a moment.

Tomura rubbed at his neck briefly. “...So where were you?”

Dabi took a deep breath and let it out slowly, relaxing in his chair and leaning his head back, thinking over his answer. “Well, damn, let me think… It’s been a hot minute since I’ve been on one of these damn things. I hate them. I think I remember being at the pool once or twice… Yeah, at the pool. I had the whole place to myself, and I was in charge of the music.”

“The pool?” Shigaraki asked. He’d pulled Father off of his face to look at Dabi with incredulous eyes. The whole League was unabashedly curious about their resident pretty boy’s obviously dramatic and tragic past, and by now were over all of the subtle hints he’d been dropping since his arrival. Shigaraki was direct and unashamed of his curiosities more often than not, but it didn’t stop his following question from being so startling. “You were rich enough to afford a pool, Ashtray?”

The Cremation villain winced, nodded. “..Yeah. Private, too. I got stuck babysitting there a lot.” He rubbed his hands together. “I loved swimming, though. It cooled me off in the summertime when my quirk made things… inconvenient. Sometimes, a cold drink just didn’t do the trick.”

Shigaraki seemed to mull over his explanation for a few moments before humming in acknowledgement, his head still propped up on his arms. He had plenty of questions for later. He tapped at the gold snout of the hand in his lap, taking less-than-steady breaths and trying not to look out the window. Jun, on the other hand, was still captivated by the blue-white world outside the aircraft. Dabi decided to keep the conversation going. They had at least twelve hours to spare, anyways. Christ, Jun was going to get restless real fast…

“Where are you?”

“What?”

“If you were going to be anywhere else, where would you be?” Dabi asked, turning to face him again with an alarmingly calm look in his icy-teal eyes. “Where are you?”

“I don’t know.”

“Think about it.” He urged. “Where would you be? Pick anywhere. Your favorite place.”

Tomura relaxed his shoulders, looking at his hands.

“All I can remember is the bar.” Shigaraki shrugged heavily, after a long pause. He seemed dissatisfied somehow by his own answer, and looked down at his lap, his palms turned upward to avoid any accidental incidents. “I guess I’d be there, if it hadn’t been destroyed by those damn heroes.”

Dabi mumbled in agreement, pushing away the many images that came to mind. He didn’t want to think about that incident, and he wouldn’t ever again if he could manage it. The last thing he wanted to be reminded of was those all-too-familiar flames licking at the poor, water-damaged walls of Kurogiri’s precious business, burning it slowly to the ground as the people inside it fought for their lives. He didn’t want to see the face that had haunted him practically his entire life. He didn't want to be reminded of such a pitiful loss, or his teammates' grim expressions afterwards.

Dabi wasn’t often sentimental or soft by any means, but when it came to all of them, he had more than a few grievances to share with the world.

“Your bedroom, then?” Dabi asked. “I get that. Peace and quiet.”

...

“Or downstairs.” Shigaraki looked at him from under his mop of hair, blowing a few strands out of his eye. "At the bar."

“With all of us?” Dabi smirked. “You don’t like noise, Boss.”

“...Yeah, I guess.” Shigaraki rolled his shoulders, thudding his head back against the cushion of his seat. “Spending time with you idiots is like a delve into insanity, you’ve got that right, but… My room was cold. Every time we cleaned it, it was back to chaos again in a week. It was always so small in there. Stuffy. The lights didn’t work either, you remember. And the lock had been broken since I turned fifteen and slammed the door too loud. Kurogiri came up and took the door off its hinges for a month.”

“You’re fuckin’ kidding.”

“Am not.” Tomura’s tone was still as raspy and hushed as it normally was, but he was smiling now, a sly, almost feline smile on his face. His Christmas light eyes narrowed into crimson slits under his bangs. “And when I got it back, that motherfucker had jammed the lock until it broke so I couldn’t shut him out anymore.”

“Damn, Boss!” laughed Dabi, leaning on the armrest of his seat. “Misty didn’t take shit back then, did he?”

Shigaraki gave another shrug. “Guess not. Can’t really… remember that much anymore,” He lied, grinding his teeth for a moment. “Things are different.”

“Sure.” Dabi agreed, resisting the urge to press him anymore. In reality, Dabi wasn’t the only one everyone in the League other than his caretaker was curious about. There was plenty of mysteries to their own employer that they had yet to solve. However, as much as he was showcased as the riot, as the rebel, and as the troublemaker who loved to make everyone squirm, Dabi felt he almost didn’t have the heart to bother him, in a way. Certainly not after everything that he’d discovered himself in simply the past week, some things he hadn’t stopped daydreaming about since they’d happened. A little intimacy and relaxation had turned Dabi into a schoolgirl on the inside.

“Nice to hear you don’t hate us that much, though.” remarked Dabi, his eyes now two icy, amused slits.

Shigaraki snorted, rolling his eyes. “Don’t fucking test me, Leatherface.”

“Aw, come on, Mophead…”

“Hey, get off!”

“Nah…”

Jun glanced at them out of the corner of her eye and felt a grin forming on her face. She immediately reached for her phone, fishing it out of the pockets of her shorts (which she was going to regret choosing to wear once they arrived at Heathrow) and punching in her passcode, trying to get to the gang’s group chat as fast as possible to snag a picture. Fortunately for their sake, that particular aircraft was apparently the first one in history whose cabin wasn’t lying when it told them there was Wi-Fi.

[]

Junbug: help me

best psycho: what’s up lil sis???

Junbug: they’re being cute and it’s gross

Junbug sent a picture to the chat.

nowformynexttrick: Ah, young love.

Junbug: d i s g u s t

shots fired: let’s all just take a moment to appreciate how violently ace my sister is tyvm

Goth Grillby: That just means nobody has to go after a troublesome partner. Dabi and Shigaraki should consider themselves lucky.

godzilla: damn,, what does mistman know about troublesome partners

godzilla: did kurogiri secretly have to go through some like scott pilgrim vs the world shit to win compress’ heart

godzilla: are you two holding out on us

nowformynexttrick: :)

godzilla: wh a t

Junbug: sHIT THEY SAW ME SMILING AT MY PHONE ABORT ABORT ABORT

Junbug: aAAAA HELALOIUYGKL

shots fired: she might actually be dead

twoface: F

[]

Mister Compress chuckled heartily at his phone, giggling only harder as he heard Jun’s stifled squeal from a few rows up and the distant sound of Dabi laughing and trying to keep his volume down. Beside the marble villain, Kurogiri shook his head with a small laugh of his own, his hands folded calmly in his lap. Unlike the younger few up ahead, the two of them were relaxed and still, simply ready to be travelling for the first time in what felt like an eternity. Atsuhiro obviously hadn’t been to England since around age sixteen or seventeen, and he was certainly ready to revisit all the locations he still remembered so distinctly.

And, besides, the London public -- while they often didn’t seem to understand what personal boundaries were -- were lovely people, and damn good at queueing, too. And Atsuhiro would be lying to himself if he said he didn’t appreciate a nice bit of organization in his life.

“Those two.” smiled Compress, shaking his own head as he removed his selection of mask that day to look at his partner with a smirk on his face. “How did you end up raising our boss again, Black Mist? You can’t have possibly told me everything.”

“His sensei and I had a deal.” replied Kurogiri, simply.

“Why, yes, I know that much, but… and pardon me for saying this… how did you manage to survive all that?” Atsuhiro said with a light, delightful laugh. “I can’t help but imagine that young man’s temper wasn’t any better than it is now when he was a child, much less a teenager. It sounds just like Tomura’s sensei to drop a child on someone out of nowhere, but I doubt it was very easy to be there with him while he grew up around… him.”

Kurogiri relaxed into his seat, thinking it over, briefly reliving every moment leading up to Shigaraki’s twentieth birthday. There were plenty of things he had to tell Sako about what he’d been like as a boy, but… that was all for another day. To be honest, Kurogiri wasn’t ready to dampen the mood so early in their plane ride. He could remember every little moment of Shigaraki’s childhood, adolescence, and teenagehood, and there were many dramatic twists and tragic turns of events and many, many dark truths about what had happened back then.

There had been good times, too, between just the two of them, but those had always seemed so few in number compared to all of the heartbreaking tales those years had offered. And, besides, all of the times that had brought a smile to either of their faces… Tomura’s sensei had been absent from the picture, and Atsuhiro already had more of a negative opinion of All For One than anything else.

The bartender decided to take a different route.

“I was the oldest of my siblings growing up,” Kurogiri explained instead. “so I had a basic understanding of what taking care of children meant. Their ages were fairly scattered. They were wild children, all of them, so I had a grasp on what to do when they stepped out of line.”

“Your siblings, dear? Why, I can’t believe you haven’t told me all this before… Color me intrigued.” Compress leaned on his armrest with amused eyes, earning a snort from the bartender. “But you? The elder brother of wild siblings? You must have been the little gem of the batch then, eh?”

“Oh, please.” Kurogiri ducked his head. It appeared then that mist could blush. “I was by far the worst of us all.”

Atsuhiro gave a dramatic gasp that made the warp villain smile underneath his disguise. “No!”

“Why not?”

“You’re far too composed to have been a degenerate, my darling, surely.”

Kurogiri snorted. “You’ve heard stories about me in high school, Sako, how hard can they be to believe? Yes, I gave my family hell growing up. My parents were always on business trips, you see, and so I could get away with whatever I pleased if the current sitter was gullible enough, or, in my high school years, if the house was empty. My family was very wealthy. They were all investors who owned stock of multiple hero agencies across the country. Naturally, I didn’t like the way they considered themselves to be above the average public… I did everything I could to get on their nerves, and it worked.”

“Is that why…?” Atsuhiro asked, his head cocked to one side and his eyes now looking more curious than amused.

...

“Yes, that’s part of why I became a villain.” Kurogiri admitted, folding his arms across his chest. He hadn’t really opened up about his childhood to anyone, not even Tomura. Only the boy’s sensei knew anything about who the mistman had once been, and that man… He wasn’t exactly the kindest of people, nor the most empathetic. “Eventually, they sent me to a private academy, hoping to reform me. It backfired miserably, as you might expect. My dislike for the rich and privileged doubled in just the year that I was there…”

Somehow, his flaming yellow eyes seemed to become distant, seeming almost lost as he trailed off. Compress leaned on his shoulder.

“Before I left, I did some unspeakable things,” Kurogiri continued, quietly. “Perhaps they weren’t that gruesome, for villain standards, but… That academy was forced to shut down shortly after I made my escape. I met Tomura’s sensei a few years afterward. He offered me support for a long time before he came across Tomura, and then, somehow… He ended up in my care. I’d opened the first of our headquarters three months before, and apparently he deemed it safe for a boy of six or seven years old. The rest… is a longer story.”

There was a long, yet comfortable silence. Atsuhiro squeezed his shoulder to get his attention, and smiled gently.

“You didn’t have to tell me all that, dear. I shouldn’t have asked; It wasn’t my place.” He shook his head before Kurogiri could protest. “Perhaps you’d want to hear about my childhood, then? It’s… Well, I was going to say it was less dramatic, but I don’t think I could, in good conscience, sit here and lie to your face like that.”

“I won’t force you, Sako.” Kurogiri seemed relieved to have gotten all of that off of his chest.

“Ha! Hush. It’s only fair.” Atsuhiro’s fingers brushed his cheek underneath the layers of mist and smoke. “I was never a very well-behaved child, either, though I was often a quiet one… Yes, I know, unbelievable. My parents did business in the military. We moved every few years. It was quite the hassle… I met Eckels in England, as you know, during the beginning of my high school years.”

Kurogiri smirked and glanced over a few aisles, the top of Eckels’ shiny, golden-haired head just visible above one of the seats. “And what was he like back in the day?”

Compress laughed aloud, this time a boisterous, yet still quite delightful sound. He put a hand over his chest, pretending theatrically to wipe a tear of joy from his eye. “What, you think he was a rascal, too? No, of course not. In fact, that one’s about the same as he was back in those days… It’s shocking, really. I expected him to be different somehow, but no… It’s almost as if he hasn’t learned to grow up yet…”

He cleared his throat.

“Anyways, as I was saying,” He went on. “In school, I used my quirk to do jobs for some of my classmates, as long as they could translate their requests into Japanese, of course. I wasn’t very social back then, as I said, and so I built my reputation using that as my strategy. People formed positive opinions on me if I did favors for them, and those bonds were stronger the more daring they were. I did my peers’ dirty work for them, and they were eternally grateful.” He shrugged at Kurogiri’s surprised glance. “What can I say? I had a business to keep up with. Keeping up with gossip helped, too, sometimes.”

“You made money off this?” His partner asked, sounding quite entertained.

“Oh, sure, yes… It went from compressing answer sheets off the teachers’ desks when they weren’t looking, to filling the locker of a peer’s nemesis with as many marble-ized objects I could get my hands on. I used pushpins for that sort of deal, since it was always so easy to nab a jar of them off a teacher’s desk.”

Kurogiri snorted, a smile in his voice. “And how did the doctor feel about all of this, if he’s such an innocent man?”

Atsuhiro smiled. “It was a deal of mine that introduced us to one another in the first place.”

“Aha.”

“Yes… Eckels implored me to unleash a handful of compressed frogs I got outside school one morning into our Science teacher’s class. He was a nasty one, so I didn’t mind doing the favor. It took me a while to get the timing right, and the teacher knew I was responsible, but his reaction was worth the trouble. Anyways, I admired Eckels’ thinking, and he was the only student I knew in that school who was fluent in our language, so I thought it best to be the one to initiate the introductions for once.”

“I was gone, by my later years, though, so… I don’t think it really matters anymore. I never even told him what happened… what I did…” Compress sighed, lowering his head to stare at his lap, immediately comforted by his companion. “I fear he’d look down on me, if I told him. He was endowed with that strong sense of justice every hero alive boasts of having, but… He was, and is, a good man. He does what he feels is right, and he never minds bending rules. Still, though, I’m afraid he’d see me as less than if I told him everything.”

“Sako dear, your friend saved us from a group of his own allies for your sake. He saved our lies and our cases. I doubt you have anything to worry about.” Kurogiri tousled a few strands of curly auburn hair poking out from underneath Atsuhiro’s balaclava.

“...Mm, yes, I suppose you’re right.” The magician breathed with a shake of his head, leaning towards his partner. “When I disappeared, I.. I stayed in England for a while, but eventually, I fled back here.”

“It was an argument with my parents about my dreams. I wanted to be a performer, of course, and they simply weren’t having it. They wanted to continue the line of Atsuhiros enrolled in the military. My sister gave in automatically, but I stayed strong… All those years of public school taught me how to be stubborn.” He chuckled softly, and Kurogiri’s eyes narrowed with his smile. “My parents had their own dreams be sacrificed for enrollment in the army, so I think… Looking back, I think that was why… they…”

“I compressed them.” Atsuhiro whispered, quietly. “Even my sister. I compressed them all and threw them into the nearby gutter leading out to the bank an hour away, and then I hid until I knew I could get away. The most the police knew was that a whole family had gone missing, and there were no traces of where they might have gone. They begged me to stop, but I…”

He shuddered.

“I’m sorry, Sako.” Kurogiri told him, turning his head and placing a mistified hand on his cheek.

“I.. It’s alright. I shouldn’tve… No, I don’t regret it. I’m glad… I’m glad I told you.” Atsuhiro smiled at him, leaning into his shoulder and resting his head against the plating over his neck gear. Kurogiri placed a kiss on his forehead and relaxed into his chair.

“I’m glad for this, too.”

On the seat beside him, his phone buzzed. He sighed, and picked it up, attempting to prepare himself for whatever chaos was going on now.

[]

Moisturizer: jfc

shots fired: is my sister dead

Junbug: inside? yes

Junbug: but i’m still breathing

shots fired: that’s nice

Junbug: my dad has bony knuckles

Junbug: he gave me a noogie and it still burns

twoface: Ruthless

Junbug: i know right, i feel betrayed

BurntBitch: watch out,, he’ll elbow you

Moisturizer: you’ll go down first bitch

BurntBitch: :((

shots fired: and these are the two people who were being,, ahem,, “cute and gross” like fifteen minutes ago?

Moisturizer: do i need to move seats

shots fired: understandable have a nice day sir

Junbug: are we there yet

Goth Grillby: Considering we’re currently flying above a body of water, I’m gonna say no.

best psycho: this is boring!!

these wings are made to fly: Welcome to traveling.

BurntBitch: we let butterfly guy into the gc??

Nowformynexttrick: He’s part of the family now!

Moisturizer: oh goodie

Nowformynexttrick: Watch your tone.

Moisturizer: over fucking text

Nowformynexttrick: Yes.

Moisturizer: i hate this fucking family

Junbug: :(((

Moisturizer: not you

Junbug: :)))

best psycho: yay uncle eckels!!!!

these wings are made to fly: At least somebody likes me.

these wings are made to fly: Also, who picked my username?

Junbug: well um

godzilla: we should have known

godzilla: someone tell me how to stop twice from eating the plane’s entire supply of pretzels because he’s not stopping and i don’t want to be thrown up on

Goth Grillby: @twoface Jin, please stop, you’re going to make yourself sick.

twoface: nah i’ll be fine

Goth Grillby: Jin.

twoface:

twoface: are you doing the look

Goth Grillby: Maybe I am.

twoface: dammit okay

BurntBitch: please teach me your parenting ways

Junbug: wow

[]

Across several aisles, Mustard rolled his eyes and put his phone to sleep. He’d left his mask off for the time being, settling for yet another black hoodie that he’d pulled over his head to keep his identity safe. Beside him, Toga bounced excitedly in her seat, as she had been since they’d even boarded the plane, her legs swinging in the small amount of space they had in their own aisle. After her last contribution to the chat, she’d gone back to humming merrily to herself and rambling about all the things she wanted to see in England. Mustard didn’t have the heart to tell her the Eiffel Tower was, in fact, not in London.

Eventually, the inevitable happened, and she turned to Mustard and asked him, “So what about you? What do you wanna do when we get there?”

The boy stammered, and shrugged. “I don’t know…” He rubbed the back of his neck, pulling at his hoodie. “I… I never really learned about England. I’ve never been out of the country.”

Toga shrugged cheerfully. “Me neither. I mean, I got moved when I was real little, but that’s about it.” She swung her legs back and forth. “We went on trips and stuff, though. That was nice. Didn’t you ever go to the zoo? Museums? Anyplace like that?”

Mustard looked at his lap. “Nah… No, we didn’t. I didn’t leave my house unless it was a school day.”

“No way.” exclaimed Toga. “How come?”

He clenched and unclenched his fists, giving another lazy shrug. “It was just my mother and me. She couldn’t leave, not with her… drinking problems, so... I went to school, came home, and ordered takeout with her credit card. When I came looking for you guys, that was when… That was when everything we had was gone. The money, our house. My mom was gone, too. She… my first gun… I... That’s… That’s why I came to join the League. So I could make money for myself.”

“Aw, Li’l Bro…!” whined Toga, reaching over the armrest and hugging him awkwardly around the middle, despite his quiet complaining. “I won’t settle for this. We’re gonna go shopping when we get there, you and me and Jun and Sako. It’ll be great. Sako told me there’s all kinds’a clothes in London, and music and bars like Kurogiri’s, too, and street performers and…”

Mustard sighed and tried to tune into what she was saying, looking at his phone every so often but still doing his best to catch every word. It was going to be a long flight, after all, and he knew he might as well listen to something. Beside Toga, her phone was going crazy with chat notifications as she rambled on and on.

[]

Junbug: every time my dads make eye contact another ten years is added onto my lifespan

shots fired: soon you’ll be immortal

Junbug: i have unlimited power

Nowformynexttrick: What are those lovebirds doing now?

Moisturizer: stfu

Junbug: they’re looking at reddit memes on Staple Dad’s phone

godzilla: i should have known dabi has a reddit account

BurntBitch: um so does boss

godzilla: chaotic energy

Junbug: right

twoface: they don’t have it, they are it

Junbug: unagi isn’t something you are, it’s something you have

Moisturizer: did you just make a FRIENDS reference

Junbug: maybe

Moisturizer: @Nowformynexttrick why did you introduce her to american television and how does she understand it

Nowformynexttrick: Magic!!

Moisturizer: oh my fucking god

[]

Down by a couple rows, Twice and Spinner chatted enthusiastically with one another about who-knows-what, Twice had a hood over his head, keeping his masked face covered, having had to pull it off as they boarded as to keep the suspicion levels down. No matter who had arranged their flight, the actual cabin crew and the people in security uniforms standing outside the ramp back in Japan were completely oblivious to just how these people had earned their tickets. Clearly, some of their staff were turning out to be rats, considering how easy it had been for Giran to score the rest of the League tickets into England. He was safe, after all; He hadn’t been present at the raid, so his status wasn’t compromised.

Back in their seats, Jun gazed lazily out the plane window at the fluffy white-grey clouds the aircraft was cruising through, the afternoon sky beginning to turn into an ombre as they soared onward. Eventually, when they crossed into another timezone, they were going to lose about eight or so hours… meaning they’d be absolutely exhausted by the time they finally got there. Sitting on a plane for thirteen hours didn’t mean moving around a whole bunch, sure, but the sudden change was enough to make a person feel like they’d sprinted a whole marathon.

Beside her, Tomura leaned over Dabi’s shoulder to get a good look at his phone, mumbling idly and making amused comments as they sifted through the villain’s private social media feeds and his camera roll in boredom. Shigaraki’s DS was open but untouched in his lap, a round of some random Nintendo game he’d nabbed loaded up and currently on pause. Jun’s own console was in the backpack underneath her chair by her feet, and she planned to turn it on soon to pass the time… at least, that was when she eventually got bored of staring out at the mesmerizing cloudy sky. The outlets protruding from the back of the seat in front of her reassured her that the battery wouldn’t die if she played it for too long.

Jun looked at the men next to her and smiled softly to herself, half-tempted to snag another picture simply to cause another war in the groupchat. She eventually decided against it, however, letting them have their own peace and quiet for a half-second. Both of them looked so relaxed and carefree, a look on their faces Jun hadn’t seen for some time now.

They were finally getting away from all the chaos back home, even if it were just for a moment.

Then again, trouble followed them everywhere. But Jun hoped, for her sake and theirs, that those bothersome heroes wouldn’t find them anytime soon.

That was her hope, anyways.

She turned from her fathers back to the window.

London, England.

Just eleven more hours to go.

Chapter Text

For someone who has never travelled to the city of London, it may be a surprise to learn that, contrary to popular belief, it is quite a colorful city. Red bricks and telephone boxes, colorful storefronts and fragrant flowers displayed in windowsills were only just some of the captivating traits of the city. The air was overwhelmingly clean, not to mention sweet thanks to the amount of bakeries and cafes located most frequently in the central part of the city, and the atmosphere it gave off due to the nonstop buzz of focused, hard-working Londoners was pleasant, despite being a bit stressful and overbearing every so often.

Most photographs depict London as nothing but a picturesque, black-and-white scene with shiny black taxis and blinding white streetlamps, but that simply wasn’t the case. However, as strange as it was, that was exactly how the airport chose to advertise their own city as the League arrived. They shuffled quickly off the plane, grabbing what little luggage they had and making a break for it while still trying their damndest to look less than suspicious. They kept their heads down and walked together, mumbling to each other, until eventually, they had wandered into the heart of London Heathrow.

London Heathrow is the biggest, and therefore was the busiest airport in England. The Tube train, the main method of transport, had many lines, yet all of them still had one or two routes back to Heathrow itself, dropping its passengers off at any of the five different terminals. After travelling in from Japan, the League found themselves in Terminal Three, yet again waiting, this time for a shuttle bus, on two separate benches. They stared at their phones and at their laps and smiled fleetingly at each other, doing practically anything they could to avoid eye contact with someone they didn’t know.

Jun sat close to Tomura, looking at her lap as he did. His hands were balled safely in his lap, his crimson eyes looking out of focus and lost. Father had been placed carefully in the backpack at his feet, carrying Jun’s DS and console charger, amongst other things. He looked at her briefly from underneath his bangs, and she mustered a grin in response, both anxious and excited to be in a new country. He cracked a little smile of his own and looked away, glancing about to assure himself that no one was looking in their direction.

It was hard enough getting out of the country in the first place, but the burden of not knowing just how recognizable they were in an entirely different one was even more difficult. There were people like Tomura and Mustard, who, depending on what they were wearing, could more or less hide their identities. And then, there were people like Kurogiri, who couldn’t alter his appearance even if it were to save his own life. They kept the warp villain close between them, not only to ensure his safety, but to have him close by in case they needed to hide. Each and every one of them was walking on eggshells to make sure they didn’t get the others caught.

As they slowly ambled their way through London Heathrow in search of an out-of-airport shuttle bus, Jun chatted idly with Toga, hoping her ever-happy, cheerful demeanor would be infectious enough to stop the electricity running to her fingertips. Her palms popped dangerously with static until she shoved them into the pockets of the trenchcoat she’d kept from Dabi, safety-pinned to her waist to force it to fit her properly.

Her quirk had been threatening her with these little bursts since the big incident back at the bar, and she didn’t know what to make of it. She was both tempted to ask Dabi about it and afraid that it meant something was wrong with her, not to mention worried about bringing up the incident again. Even Jun herself didn’t want to think about it, but no matter how much she tried to coax her attention away from it, she was always drawn backwards. And here, as she shuffled through Heathrow with glazed-over eyes and her hands thrust deep into her pockets, running on less than eight hours of sleep, she couldn’t escape her gut.

Jun knew she didn’t have much to worry about. Certainly, they’d gotten past the difficult part by now. Wanted fugitives or not, her friends weren’t as recognizable over here. However, there was a certain feeling that came with being incredibly exhausted and drowsy that she couldn’t shake off. A muggy wave of heat that had crashed over her chest, making her heart sink into her stomach and her head feel weightless on her neck. It made her legs feel like jelly and her arms feel like dead weight, and breathing in felt like she was suffocating. She just hoped desperately that they would be in the clear soon.

She nearly ran headfirst into Dabi as the group came to a complete stop. He glanced over his shoulder with the smallest of smiles, as if to reassure her everything was alright, but after all this time, it was next to impossible for Jun not to recognize that glint of well-disguised anxiousness in his eyes, even if she had only been able to see it for a minute.

“Shit…” said Tomura’s voice, quietly. “More security.”

Jun looked up from the collar of her trenchcoat. Sure enough, just as he’d described, a wall-to-wall row of security desks stood fifteen feet off from them, each one occupied by a single service agent in uniform, checking passports and scanning for people’s identification cards and driver’s licenses. The whole setup was completed by a roped-in line, letting about five or six people through at a time about every one to two minutes. Security stood idly by at the sidelines, looking at their phones in boredom and every now and then giving the crowd a quick once-over to check for anything suspicious.

Like villains, Jun thought, miserably.

Jun’s fists squeezed by her sides. There’s no getting past any sort of check-in without being forced to reveal our identities… Is this it? Do we have to turn back?

“Not to worry.” mumbled Kurogiri. “Come this way… I can see far enough past those gates to be able to transfer us across with my Warp Gate, I think.”

Jun let go of a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. She shuddered, taking in a few uneven breaths in a hopeful attempt to steady herself. Her hands twitched on their own and she put them back into her pockets as her palms again tried to warm up. That warmth part of her quirk was unfortunate-- like a computer, she had a horrible tendency to overheat in stressful situations. She closed her eyes briefly and tried to focus.

“Hey.”

She looked at Mustard, who was looking down at her from under his own hood with narrowed eyes. He raised an eyebrow underneath sandy-blond bangs. “What’re you freaking out for?”

Jun squinted at him. “I’m not freaking out, man.”

“What you’re not is a good liar.” replied Mustard, and she pouted at him in protest. He’d spent quite a few days without his gas mask by now, having lost it back at the bar when one of the heroes had destroyed it underfoot. His ever-serious diamond eyes had darkened with his exhaustion, his brows lower than they usually were and his lips in a relaxed pout. His posture was the best you could have expected from an eighteen-year-old-ish boy, but he still looked impossibly calm and formal. Mustard’s eyes softened as he tilted his head and looked down at the younger villain.

“We’ll be fine,” He assured her. “These people have nothing on Kurogiri’s quirk. From what little I know, this is toned down, especially for international airport security. We’ll be okay…” He looked around from underneath his hoodie, and repeated himself, as if to convince himself of it, too. “We’ll be okay.”

It seemed that the odds were against Mustard, however, because, at that moment, the two of them turned to face a voice that had approached them. A young man in a security uniform had parked himself right in front of Twice, his lips in a tight pout and his eyes narrowed into an intense glare. Jun cringed. A security officer…

“Sir,” said the guard, in English. “I’m going to have to ask you to take that mask off. For security reasons and all that.”

Jin yelped, having not realized the presence behind him, his arm nearly clocking Spinner across the face as he turned to face the young man. He chuckled nervously, scratching the back of his head, the shape of his eyes warping under the fabric of his disguise. He pulled anxiously at the hem of it and glanced around at his comrades with an expression that could only mean the most desperate of “help me”s.

There was a long period of silent confusion, as the guard cleared his throat and awkwardly repeated himself, and Jin could only vigorously shake his head and shrug his shoulders, muttering “I don’t speak English” under his breath and “Fuck you, too, sir” in his own language. Shigaraki was prepared to fight, but, after a moment, Atsuhiro stepped forward. He was dressed in his usual dressy attire, having skipped out on the tophat and long yellow trench just for the day. His balaclava and mask were missing as well, revealing not just his entire face but a head of curly auburn hair.

In a language Jun was too lost to try and identify, he bowed and replied, in what may have been one of the most convincing Cockney accents out there, “My apologies, sir, but my friends here aren’t from around here.”

“Ah, well,” The guard swallowed. “I understand that, but could you please get him to remove that mask? He really can’t have it on in here.”

Compress took a deep breath in, and gave the guard a chilly, feline smile. His tone was cold as he replied, his teeth grit behind his lips. “But of course…”

 

He turned to his teammates, and alternated into Japanese.

“Jin, your mask…” He lilted. “It needs to go…”

“What?” snapped Tomura.

“What? My mask?” Twice squeaked, and, as Compress had feared, he immediately whirled on the guard. ”Who the hell do you think you are, punk? I’ll kick your ass to Jupiter if you--”

Sako swept forward and gently pushed him back with his hand, avoiding compressing him by accident and making another theatrical gesture that bewildered the security guard. “Come now, Jin, he doesn’t understand you." He encouraged him with the tone of a frustrated mother. "Please cooperate. We’ll deal with him in just a moment, alright?”

His smile syrupy sweet, Compress assured the guard that everything was settled. Reluctantly, Twice began to pull at his mask, tugging the fabric off of his head and staring nervously about him. His eyebrow twitched upward once, and then a second time, and he seemed to be grinding his teeth together to avoid any comment. Behind him, Jun’s fists were clenched by her sides as she watched the scene in shameless horror, frozen in place and rooted to the spot in terror. Twice had shut his eyes.

There was a tense silence for a few uncomfortably long moments.

The guard broke into a cheery smile, and he turned to Sako. “Thank you, sir. That wasn’t so hard was it? Have a good rest of your day, friends.”

As Twice fumed, the guard caught sight of the villain’s companions. He tilted his head, eyes landing on Dabi in particular. His voice was questioning, curious, but perhaps a bit… accusatory. In the far back, Eckels cringed, knowing he may have to make an appearance to get this guard to finally piss off.

“You…” said the young man. “I swear I’ve seen you before. Have you been around here before?”

There was a long pause, but before Atsuhiro could once again apologize and explain to the guard that none of his comrades spoke that language, Dabi replied himself. And in perfect, fluent English.

“Me?” Dabi asked, playing innocent with a casual grin, his Japanese accent still thicker than ever. “Sorry. Haven’t been around here in quite some time. You must be thinking of someone else.”

Shigaraki looked absolutely rattled.

“Humph,” sighed the guard. “Nevermind it then. Have a nice trip.”

He jogged off towards his workmates.

The entire group whirled on Dabi and Atsuhiro, Shigaraki in the lead as he pushed at his shoulders and almost succeeded in tackling him head-on. The group demanded answers from them about where they had obtained their impressive English skills. Shigaraki’s eyes flashed.

“You’ve got some fucking explaining to do, Ashtray."

-

The discombobulation of Kurogiri’s Warp Gate was something none of them were ever going to be able to get used to. After they had found a safe place to open a portal and crossed through the quirk-made dimension, they’d navigated the Tube map and eventually discovered the right line. They’d boarded, and waited out the forty-five minute train ride into the city, eventually coming to a stop at Gloucester Road. As the metallic doors slid open, they stepped out onto the platform, listening to the automated British voice that repeated “Mind the gap” over and over in a monotonous, tuneless voice (that Atsuhiro had translated). After gathering their things and their composure, the League had speed-walked up the green-white stairwell, past the ugly subway tiles, and out into the middle of scenic Central London.

Cars whizzed past on the left side of the road, busy Londoners shoving past them, paying no mind to any of them despite their strange appearances, earbuds plugged in to every ear. Air that was next to freezing hugged them tight as they stepped out into the open, and Jun found herself immediately regretting choosing to wear jean shorts that morning despite what little of a selection she’d had.

So this was London. Charming storefronts, mostly harmless civilians with mostly friendly demeanors, pubs at every corner, and a temperature cold enough to make Dabi’s flames think twice… Wonderful.

Jun stared open-mouthed at the vast city about her, before a tight hand on her wrist drew her back to reality. Shigaraki looked over at her, eyebrows raised, his pinky extended carefully away from her body. He snorted at her amazed expression and nodded to his left, dragging her along the pavement in an attempt to keep up with the rest of the League, who seemed to already be moving on. Jun jogged to keep up with Tomura, his legs just a bit longer than hers, taking long, almost elegant, and graceful strides along the sidewalk.

“This is… This is…” Jun struggled to find an adjective appropriate for her new discovery.

His lips turned up in an amused smirk. “Yeah.”

Dabi slowed down, escaping the League’s little cluster to hang back and join the two of them. He wore a smile of his own, eyes glimmering with mischief and his hands in his pockets. A breeze of wind pushed his bangs to one side of his face as he slowed down into a casual stroll. Jun flashed him a smile as Tomura let go of her wrist and let her walk with them. She looked like the happiest girl in the world compared to how chilled and relaxed the other two looked on either side of her, but even in all her excitement she didn’t miss the glance they shared over her shoulder. But she kept that to herself.

“Hey, Dabi, what’s that sign say?” She grinned, pointing across the road at a nearby billboard advertising a local bakery, and at the directions near the bottom telling hopeful customers where to find its storefront.

Dabi rolled his eyes and squinted at her. “Are you going to do this every day?”

“You never told me you could speak English!” Jun argued.

“How do you think I feel?” muttered Shigaraki with a brief chuckle.

Dabi rolled his eyes and looked in the direction her finger had pointed in, scanning the billboard and translating it for her. She clapped her hands together and addressed another sign further down the street, and then an “OPEN” sign in a pub window, and then a sign in front of a fruits tent that Dabi told her was in Spanish rather than English and then still translated it anyway, and so on and so forth.

Tomura breathed in the clean air of London City, its pleasant feeling doing its best to dispel any worries he felt trying to push its way out from the back of his brain. Even subconsciously he was counting all the ways this could go magnificently wrong, how many ways they could all get hurt as a group, or how all of this could be a trap and that airport security had simply let them through so they had a way to locate them and corner them without them knowing… Yes, he surely was capable of brewing up the most intricate and practically impossible realities imaginable. It was simply a bad habit of his.

Somehow, he couldn’t learn how to take a pause and appreciate the good things in life without acknowledging the bad ones. He cursed himself under his breath as he tried to shake off the panic, and felt heat against his skin. Dabi’s eyes were on him, having moved a step closer to him, letting Jun walk in front. He kept his distance, but raised his eyebrows, and he didn’t have to speak for his question to be evident.

“M’fine, idiot.” mumbled Shigaraki, his hands slipping into the pockets of his own long coat, his thumbs dangling out cautiously over the fabric.

Dabi’s brow creased. “You know I’m only trying to help.”

“And aren’t you just so charitable and kind?” huffed Tomura, but his tone was teasing, despite its harsh and nasally tone. Dabi rolled his eyes at that and yanked his employer’s hood up over his head, amused by his furious complaining. He ruffled his hair and gave the city of London another half-smile as a breeze that would normally have infuriated an average Londoner hit his face. Dabi reached out, fingers experimentally slipping between Shigaraki’s.

“What are you doing?” Tomura snapped, instinctively pulling his hand away. His angry expression broke as Dabi looked his way, and he huffed. “What about them…?”

“Them?” Dabi resisted laughing aloud, instead glancing up ahead at the rest of the League with a smile in his voice. “What, you think they don’t know about me and you?”

“What, you mean they do?”

“Shit, the first thing I did was tell them.”

Tomura paled. If that was even possible.

Dabi shook his head. “It’s fine, Boss, you think they'd have a problem with it or somethin’? Hell, Toga gave me a hug.”

“H-Huh…” Shigaraki glanced at his feet, heel scuffing the sidewalk as he strolled alongside Dabi.

“You weren’t… that nervous about it, were you?” Dabi’s amused eyes became concerned rather quickly, looking his direction with his hands thrust deep in the pockets of his jeans. “You could have told me, if you were.”

“I’m not nervous,” protested Tomura. “Just… I don’t know… anything… about this shit. Okay? Is that… is that what you wanted me to say?”

There was a long bit of quiet as they walked up a few blocks. Jun had run up to join the rest of the team, inserting herself into their conversation and cheerfully contributing to their excited chatter. Dabi looked up at a street sign as they crossed the road. He smiled, and looked over at his employer.

“Hey, Shigs… We’re in South Kensington now.” And he pointed at the nearest Tube sign reading UNDERGROUND above an arched doorway.

“That’s… another Tube train district, right?” He brushed his bangs out of his eyes, giving him a serious-yet-incredulous look from under his mop of blue hair that made Dabi melt from the inside out, and not because of his quirk.

“Yeah,” Dabi felt another uncontrollable dopey grin coming on as he reminisced about his first trip to England. He’d have to tell Tomura about that. “From where we got off the train, it goes Gloucester Road, South Kensington, Knightsbridge, Hyde Park Corner, Green Park…”

“So what?”

“I stayed in this district way-back-when,” Dabi continued, glancing around at the vaguely familiar tall white buildings and flashy store windows. “And if I remember correctly, just ‘round that corner, there’s a PAUL’s…”

“A what?”

“A French bakery.” Dabi explained with a chuckle.

“...And?”

“And it’s a perfect place for a first date.”

“Wait, wh--”

Dabi looked away from him, yelled up to the rest of the League a yard or two up ahead to get their attention. “Hey, we’re gonna split this way. Meet you back at the hotel at four, okay?”

Kurogiri’s eyes narrowed. “Are you sure the two of you will be alright?”

“You know us. We behave. Kind of.”

The bartender sighed, and shrugged his shoulders. “So be it. Watch yourselves. Stay low… and do keep in touch. I’ve used enough of my quirk in public already.”

“Sure thing, Misty.”

Shigaraki glared at him. “Dabi, what the hell’re you--”

Dabi shushed him, gently grabbing his hand and smoothly interlocking their fingers as he changed directions and swept the two of them back down the sidewalk. Shigaraki growled and cursed, struggling to keep up with him without tripping over one of their coats (which weren’t such a bizarre choice of fashion, now that they were in London).

“Come on, Mophead, we’re getting you an eclair.”

“Bye, guys!” hollered Jun, waving from up the road. “See you soon!”

“Enjoy your date.” Toga squealed, and Shigaraki groaned, his face flushing pink. Dabi only chuckled.

-

Back in Japan, things weren’t going as swell as they could have been. News stations all over the country were all covering the same two stories: the ambush on the League of Villains’ headquarters, and the League of Villains’ raid on the prison of Tartarus. No hero in the country was getting so much as a break from the attention, particularly their newest number one hero, who seemed just as happy as he normally was. So, not quite in the best mood possible.

His mood might have had something to do with the fact that none other than his old rival All Might, or Yagi Toshinori, had been invited on more media stations than he had to discuss the recent activity of the League of Villains. And it might have had something to do with the fact that, in certain cases, the heroes were now being regarded as the bad guys. Public opinion seemed to waver and change across the country, varying from person to person. However, most newscasters chose to sweep those debates under the rug, and do their best to remain unbiased.

That went as well as anyone could have hoped, but their attempt was admirable, if you asked Eraserhead, who’d also been personally invited onto an interview, but had declined the offer. The same went for Vlad King and Present Mic, but they’d made one or two appearances on the more countrywide stations. The pay was better that way, after all, and they could keep their answers broad without too much complaining from the audience or the interviewers themselves.

Some people seemed to think that the heroes’ first break-in was unlawful, or not in the name of justice and peace. Some thought that the villains’ retaliation was only natural. Some thought that the heroes should have planned their mission more efficiently, in the hopes that some of the lives that had been lost could have been saved in the long run.

The heroes tried to deflect the more aggressive of these comments.

The number one hero was taking a break, it seemed, from doing work at his agency. He hadn’t come in since the Tartarus chaos. In fact, the only people who had seen him had been his children, and even then, they had only been able to hear him, the roaring and rumbling from their home’s training hall making the walls of the entire Todoroki residence shake.

“Dad’s just a little upset. Don’t worry about him,” said Fuyumi Todoroki, the eldest sister, to her younger brother’s blue-haired, engine-legged boyfriend when he’d come by on the weekend to take Shouto to the hospital. “Would you like some melon before you go?”

The situation was as tense as could be. With the number one hero under fire (no pun intended), and none other than All Might making appearances, no one could be sure of what was going to happen next.

But, by the heroes’ words, the League was going to be found. They were going to be found, defeated, and locked up for good. Once and for all.

In the common room of a UA High dorm, Izuku Midoriya sat in front of the television watching the newest interview to be broadcasted. He leaned forward on the couch, his head propped up by his hands and his eyes glued to the screen. He watched his mentor answer questions, some directly, some distantly. He could read his teacher like a book, and he could tell All Might was nervous. He had every right to be, after all. Midoriya himself was nervous, too.

This is bad, he thought, and cringed hard. Sometimes he wondered if his true quirk was stating the obvious.

He dug through the sofa cushions to retrieve the remote, unable to watch the painful interview go on any longer.

”So what of the British hero the police department brought in for your investigation, All Might?” asked the show’s host. ”Doctor Raymond Eckels… The Thunder hero: Monarch?”

Midoriya stared at the television screen, and set the remote back down.

Just a few more minutes of this interview, then.

Chapter Text

Tomura Shigaraki stared blankly at the French pastry laid out on the delicate plate, and at the chocolate syrup drizzled strategically over it in an almost intricate zigzag pattern. Across the table, Dabi thoughtfully chewed a treat of his own, humming in satisfaction and delving the side of his fork into it again for another bite. He looked up at his employer and snorted.

“It’s not gonna poison you, Boss,” Dabi teased, catching his attention and making him scowl. “I swear, all it is is creme, dough, and chocolate. I think you’ll like it.”

“Yeah, okay.” breathed Shigaraki, delicately picking up the pastry and cautiously deciding against using the silverware.

There were a handful of PAUL cafes located around the city, and this one happened to be on a street corner. It was a tiny little building with a quaint, cheery atmosphere, colorful artwork decorating the walls, practically ancient furniture, and smiley staff. The glass dessert cases underneath the pay counter contained rows and rows of attractive sweets and pastries that looked so perfect they seemed almost unreal. Shigaraki had avoided ordering for himself, instead dropping his backpack on the checkerboard tiles and selecting the table in the far corner, sitting down to wait.

Shigaraki had decided very early on in life that he wasn’t the type of person to go on dates, but here he was. Then again, he had been dragged here, more or less against his will. He tried to convince himself that the only reason he wasn’t getting up and ditching Dabi, leaving him here, was because he didn’t know where the rest of the League had gone off to after the two of them had left, but he couldn’t even convince himself of that much. He kept his eyes on his pastry rather than on Dabi as he sat there prodding at it, occasionally taking a nibble of it, taking it apart as if he were dissecting it. Dabi watched him from across the table with amused eyes.

“What’d that poor eclair ever do to you?” He asked him through a chuckle, and Tomura relaxed his shoulders, huffing at him.

“I’m not a big fan of sweet.” He replied, setting the snack back on its delicate china plate and refocusing on the black coffee Dabi had gotten him instead. He may have added one too many sugars to it, and perhaps a bit too much milk, but other than that, he supposed he could adjust to English coffee.

Dabi’s frown lasted for a few moments before he shrugged his shoulders, picking up their plates and switching them round. Shigaraki resisted a yelp, shielding his mug of coffee before it could topple off the side of the table, and glared up at Dabi with narrowed crimson eyes. “What the hell’re you doing?”

“Try that instead.” Dabi said, and took a drink of the warm cappuccino he’d purchased for himself. He raised his eyebrows at Tomura expectantly from across the table, his nose in his mug as he took a silent sip of his relaxing drink.

Shigaraki had been prepared to protest immediately, prepared to ward him off, but curiosity had seized hold of him before he got the chance. He looked at the oddly folded treat on Dabi’s plate, tilting his head and staring at it with an air of wonder. Dabi smiled into his mug at the sight. Shigaraki was a ruthless and cunning villain who showed affection and praise to people as sparingly as possible (with an exception). He was a murderer, and a cheat, and a sly dog, yes, but also, though his jokes were often dark, something of a comedian, some type of a parental figure, and, if you asked the people he called his allies, a trustworthy leader and a friend.

Seeing him like this, with his bangs hanging down in front of his ruby red eyes, which were wide and shimmering here rather than narrowed, menacing, and glowing, and his lips turned downward in a suspicious frown, with no rotting corpse hands in sight, made Dabi have an unexpected appreciation for the tinier things, the smaller details that normally went unnoticed.

He almost thought it gross, the way he found himself turning into some sort of poet, a sentimentalist, simply at the sight of the way the PAUL cafe’s calm, peaceful atmosphere mixed with Tomura’s ragged and exhausted appearance, but he was too busy being captivated by it all to really scold himself for suddenly turning into some kind of softie.

“What is it?” Shigaraki asked him, still eyeing the pastry on Dabi’s plate, his voice drawing the other villain back into focus. He blinked.

“It’s called a crepe,” Dabi explained. “Sorta like a waffle… or a pancake… or… You know what, I think it’s just better if you try it.”

What remained of the crepe didn’t last too long after Shigaraki had tried it. Dabi resisted a smile as he scarfed the dessert down, and he turned to look out the wall-to-wall cafe window. The city was always hectic this time of day, what with people coming home from work. Dabi didn’t want to imagine what the train stations looked like. It was always a gamble, boarding the train. You could either expect total traffic and little to no places to sit down and wait out the usually-short ride, or you could expect having an entire train car to yourself and plenty of seats to sit and relax in. He took another sip of his coffee. Tomura shivered as the door to the shop opened and more customers walked in, letting in a chilly London breeze.

“Hey, Ashtray.”

Dabi looked his way. “Yeah, Mophead?”

“You told me you told everyone immediately about… you and me…” Shigaraki said, keeping his eyes on his coffee and refusing to look up at him. “Why?”

“Why’d I tell them?”

“Why did you tell them so soon?”

There was a long pause as Dabi mulled over his answer. He seemed to nod.

“I was excited, I guess.” Dabi shrugged. “I’d been restless for so much time up until then. I was worried about how you felt, how the others would feel… I didn’t know anything about who I was when it came to that, and I just didn’t know what would happen. So when you opened up, and when you… you know… I… I was excited.”

“Excited…” Shigaraki repeated, quietly. “...about me.”

There it was again. That poet in the back of Dabi’s head, practically waxing eloquent about the scene in front of him. Tomura looked deep in thought, appearing to think over every word Dabi had said, eyes bright and wild against the tame color scheme of the cafe. The Cremation villain’s eyes narrowed, trying to get a better look of his employer’s face. Even passive, he looked serious and determined. The sight of him was easy on Dabi’s eyes.

“Is that so hard to believe, Boss?” Dabi asked him, voice a tad gentler and lighter than usual. Tomura glanced in his direction for less than a second.

His reply was blunt, but Dabi didn’t know why he’d expected much else. “Yes.”

Dabi tilted his head at him, watching him avoid his gaze and finish the rest of his warm drink before it could go cold.

“Have you just forgotten about how weird I’ve been acting all these months?” Dabi asked. “And how I acted when I talked to you at Eckels’ place? And when you and I… Isn’t that all the evidence you need, Tomura? I know I ain’t the nicest guy in town, but hell, I mean… I thought it was obvious.”

“Funny,” said Tomura, breathing through a chuckle. “I thought the same thing about myself.”

“Hey,” Dabi said, after some silence. “Let’s get out of here.”

He placed a few notes on the tabletop and stood up from his chair, donning his leather trench (one he’d bought to replace the one Jun had stolen from him) and nodding to the gentlemen behind the cashier register, keeping his head as low as he could as he ducked out of the cafe. The golden logo of PAUL’s shone in the late afternoon sunlight. They were hit with another freezing London breeze as Tomura joined Dabi on the sidewalk and they began to walk silently with the flow of traffic. Tomura had figured they were just walking aimlessly, but it seemed Dabi had a location in mind.

“Where are we going?”

“Up here.” Dabi nodded in the vague direction of their destination. “Borough Market, a food market. I dunno if I’ll get anything to eat… I just remember it being nice this time of day.”

“Huh.” Tomura hunched over in his trench as they walked, blue hair dangling in front of his eyes and his shoulders braced against the cold. He glared intensely at the sidewalk, until Dabi snapped his fingers to get his attention. He looked up at him warily with an eyebrow raised, crimson eyes meeting incredulous teal.

“They’re not here to see,” said Dabi, and he extended his hand. “It’s just the two of us.”

“That’s… That’s not the only reason why I didn’t want to hold your stupid hand, you moron.” mumbled Tomura.

Dabi thought about this for a moment.

Ah.

Dabi turned to him, his hand wrapping around his wrist as he pulled it to him. He daintily slipped his pinkie finger around Shigaraki’s and raised an eyebrow, eyes glinting mischievously. Tomura stared at him expressionlessly for a few long moments, before his lips slowly began to turn upward, laughing softly. Dabi chuckled with him as they turned back onto their path, holding pinkies rather than hands.

“Your hands don’t scare me, you know.” Dabi told him, having stepped a bit closer to him to avoid clogging up the sidewalk traffic. His voice was softer, and a bit deeper, simply so Tomura could hear him above the thrum of Londoners chatting with their friends or to people over their cellphones.

“Yeah,” Shigaraki rolled his eyes. “Whatever you say, Patchwork.”

Dabi smiled as they turned a corner, slipping behind a wall to get a better view of the market. Borough Market consisted of a series of enclosed streets with big hoods over each one, shielding the marketgoers from any harsh afternoon sunlight. Smells of delicious curry, various cheeses from different cheesemongers, and sweet, fruity smoothie drinks wafted through the air, hitting the two villains like a wave. After all their time hiding in the dark, away from the public, out of sight with next to no funds to supply them with any sort of luxury… The simple sight, smell, and sound of the Borough was impossibly tempting.

The Cremation villain felt his heart begin to melt as he noticed Tomura’s broad, feline smile, one that bordered between his devilish smirk and his terrifying, malicious snarl of a villainous grin. He looked ready for mischief, for trouble, and for danger; He looked how he did when he was in a damn good mood, which nowadays… was fairly rare, even with Jun around. And Dabi applauded himself for this sudden plan.

“Still hungry…?” Dabi asked him absently, completely forgetting his earlier statements about not having an appetite as he caught sight of a street cart selling poppadoms.

“I could go for something.” He replied, and they slipped into the crowd with smirks on their faces, looking like everyday civilians going out for a quick snack at the market… if you excused the scars, anyways.

They stopped on another street corner, surveying the selection of shops and tents and mini-pubs. Dabi elbowed him in the ribs, nodding ahead at a cheesemonger he’d caught sight of when they’d arrived. Before Tomura could go looking for a spare pound note he’d gotten at the airport, Dabi slapped his arm again and shook his head, pointing at the pocket of his own long coat. Shigaraki’s eyes barely widened in surprise, instead narrowing along with a wicked smirk underneath his hair.

“Shoplifting already?” He lilted, amused. Dabi shrugged, and before he could get another word in, he’d dived into the crowd, making a beeline for the cheese shop and posting himself on the other side of the tent wall. He waved cheerfully at his boss from across the sea of shopping, busy Londoners, and Shigaraki stifled something of a snort as he watched Dabi make a fool of himself. It didn’t take him long. He simply waited until the shopkeeper was distracted before making his move, swiping the type of snack he’d desired and waltzing off back to his companion with raised eyebrows.

“Well done.” Shigaraki said in a tuneless voice, though his half-smirk was visible.

“You’re looking at a criminal mastermind, remember.” He replied, his snack still stored in his coat. “Hmm, what else… Oh, there’re those poppadoms…”

Tomura felt himself swimming in and out of focus as Dabi surveyed the massive crowd of marketgoers, listening to his idle banter. The Dabi he was looking at here seemed so different from the one he was used to. He was used to his most reliable fighter, the Dabi that didn’t hesitate to destroy something when he so pleased or when he was given an order, or the Dabi that only cracked jokes with the objective of damaging someone’s ego or hurting their feelings or pushing their buttons. That afternoon in London, Dabi seemed… different. There was an extra spring in his step, an extra glow in his eyes, and the smirk on his face seemed broader somehow.

If Tomura had been better at reading this sort of thing, he would have said with more confidence that Dabi was happy.

Of course, it wasn’t like Dabi had ever been a blank slate around the League. He always cracked jokes, even if they came with little enthusiasm or any more than just a sly, infuriating half-grin. He laughed plenty. He wore smiles when he talked to Jun and when he trained with her, teaching her about her quirk and how to arm herself with it, how to make it her own. However, Dabi was still often a very reserved sort of person. He didn’t talk that often. He preferred to keep to himself most of the time, even after his late nights downstairs at the bar with the rest of the team, talking the night away with amusing stories and expertly-crafted drinks. He just wasn’t…

Tomura didn't know what kind of word he was looking for.

Shigaraki didn’t bother with other people’s feelings, not most of the time, anyways. When it came to his team, of course, he was all-ears, but not in the way someone would usually express it. He didn’t often care if people’s feelings got hurt when he said something a little too harsh-- but that did depend on the person. He simply didn’t have a level enough head. But here… the noticeable difference in Dabi’s behavior was confusing him, puzzling him in a strange way. He wasn’t sure if he liked this new Dabi, or hated him.

But, for the first time in what felt like an eternity, Shigaraki could breathe in without one of his comrades being put in danger… so he figured now wasn’t the time to think about that.

“Boss?”

Dabi looked at him with his usual wicked smile. “Let’s walk around a little more. I wanna see what else they got.”

He linked their pinkies to keep them connected as they sifted through the buzzing swarm of shoppers, his eyes set on several different shops at once. Tomura nabbed things of his own when he was certain shopkeepers’ eyes weren’t on him, tempted to try everything London had to offer. He was a villain, he thought in his own defense. How else was he to get familiar with the area? Plotting wicked schemes was a complex and intricate process, after all… The intoxicating smells of curry spices and sweet fruits only came as an added bonus. Obviously.

As Shigaraki curiously eyed a Vietnamese tent, he felt Dabi set a hand on his shoulder and point across the market square at a colorful, preppy looking cart with a large ice cream cone logo attached to the very top of it.

“In this weather?” Shigaraki asked, and he shivered, as if to emphasize his point.

“I’m warm.” Dabi shrugged.

“You’re always warm,” groaned his employer, and a flash of a smile glittered across his face for a fraction of a second. “but I’ll be damned if you’re not my friend.”

He took off towards the ice cream cart, as a shocked, laughing Dabi yelling “Did you just quote a Vine, Boss?” hurried after him.

The ice cream vendor greeted the two of them as they approached the cart, the hood of Shigaraki’s trench flipped up, nervously anticipating being accidentally recognized. The shopkeeper complimented Dabi on his piercings and the way he styled his hair. Tomura elbowed Dabi in confusion, hoping for a translation. Dabi explained, and the villain nodded silently in understanding. It was strange, seeing how unbelievably quiet and anti-social he’d become… but Dabi supposed it might have been anxiety, nerves, or some type of fear of being in a new place. And, looking back on the handful of international trips Dabi had been forced to go on as a child, he didn’t blame him. He’d been sick of being helpless and not understanding anyone in foreign places… which is why he’d taken it upon himself, after everything about him had been changed, to learn another language or two.

“Where are you two from?” asked the smiling vendor, and Dabi replied with “Japan”... Shigaraki seemed to tense up, but the lady behind the cart didn’t seem fazed. Her accent seemed to become thicker with her excitement. “Really! I thought I recognized the language. You here on vacation?”

“Yeah,” Dabi said. “Something like that.”

“Man, it still surprises me that people come up here for trips sometimes.” She laughed. “Trust me, the city loses its charm quicker than you’d think. I’ve always wanted to go to Japan… Seems nice.”

Dabi gave Tomura a brief rundown of the conversation, and the villain snorted.

The ice cream lady smiled. “Anyways, what can I get you two?”

After analyzing the menu of flavors listed on the board below the counter, Dabi had ended up selecting Black Raspberry for himself. Tomura, on the other hand, and simply said “surprise me” to Dabi, who then translated it to the ice cream vendor. She looked him over carefully, almost as if she were meticulously studying him. The looks were playful, but they gave Shigaraki an uneasy feeling. Eventually, she reached below the counter, prepared Dabi’s ice cream cone for him, and then began making his companion’s as well. Watching her, Dabi let out a quiet snort.

“What’s so funny?” Tomura demanded.

Dabi leaned in to reply. “She’s getting you Cotton Candy.”

“...So?”

“Your hair, moron.”

”Oh.”

The lady behind the counter handed him his ice cream with a large, blinding smile, accepting the few pound notes from Dabi and wishing them a sweet farewell as they departed from her shop. Dabi was already struggling to keep the sticky dessert from dripping all over his hands, pouting his lip as he tried to keep it all intact. His employer glanced at him sideways and shook his head airily, another much smoother London breeze hitting them as they eventually wandered out of the Borough and onto the street.

“Didn’t feel like stealing from that last one, eh?” Shigaraki asked him. “We coulda’ taken it and run, she wouldn’t have jumped over the counter to catch us or anything.”

“Nah, but that lady didn’t deserve any trouble.” Dabi replied.

“But those other shops did?” He raised an eyebrow. “What’re your standards here, Ashtray? Wouldn’t have mattered to me, you know.”

“I picked carefully with those other places,” Dabi explained. “Anywhere I stole from, I noticed them cheating their customers one way or another. It happens a lot with local market businesses like these. Some shopowners seem to think that the only places you can’t get away with that are businesses that have actual storefronts… An’ most of the time, they’re right. But me… I don’t fall for that shit. If I’m buying something from someone, I want it to be a fair trade. I’m not giving my money to a cheat.”

“Over a half-pound of cheese, eh?” Tomura asked, with a huff of a chuckle.

Dabi rolled his eyes. “That lady was good to us as customers. I ain’t stealing from someone like that.”

“I guess I get that. Kind of.”

 

They walked along the sidewalk until they came to a place to sit down and rest and finish their dessert, and as they did so, the both of them pulled out their phones and woke them up to find themselves bombarded with many messages. Dabi blinked at his phone’s sudden activity, and both of them swept into the groupchat.

[]

twoface: chocolate-covered gummi bears

godzilla: wh a t

twoface: they exist

twoface sent an image to the chat.

twoface: we saw them in a store window

godzilla: that?? scares me???

shots fired: i’m scared to try one

Goth Grillby: You bought them?

godzilla: w h y

Nowformynexttrick: We have needs, and these were absolutely necessary.

Junbug: the man speaks the truth

best psycho: i love them!!!

twoface: i’m torn

shots fired: in more ways than one

twoface: haha good one i’ll kill you wait no

Moisturizer: what did i just walk into

Junbug: DAD :DDDD HOW’S MY OTHER ONE

BurntBitch: i stole some shit and i got ice cream

BurntBitch: i think that should give you an idea

godzilla: y’all made out yet??

Nowformynexttrick: Spinner!! That’s none of your business.

Nowformynexttrick: But tell me anyways.

Moisturizer: i hate that

shots fired: you say that as if you don’t openly hate most things

Moisturizer: touche

Moisturizer: well,, i have places to be

Junbug: bye dads,, have a nice time

Junbug: use protection

Moisturizer:

Moisturizer left the chat.

BurntBitch:

BurntBitch: that’s my kid

BurntBitch left the chat.

best psycho: lil sis out here doing the lord’s work!!

Nowformynexttrick: Amen.

[]

Dabi snorted and tucked his phone into the pocket of his trench as the two of them stood up from their table and surveyed their surroundings. Above the London city skyline, the world was fading into an orangey-purple haze as the evening rapidly approached. The two of them absently linked fingers and left the small park, resuming their walk along the street, Dabi seeming to know his way around fairly well. They approached a bridge near void of human presence and began the walk across it, taking in the lovely evening view. The kind that made the whole scene romantic in a way neither villain could totally comprehend.

“We’ll loop around that way,” Dabi said, pointing ahead along the street across the bridge, “and take the Tube back to Gloucester to meet everyone else for dinner or something. I’m sure they’ll have absolutely no trouble deciding as a group where to eat.”

Tomura snorted. “You have that right.”

“Hey, Boss?”

“Mm?”

“Thanks for tolerating me today.” said Dabi. “Been a while since I actually enjoyed a day out like this.”

His openness taking Tomura aback, Dabi’s employer’s shoulders tensed up. He nodded. “I… had an okay time, too.”

“Just ‘okay’?”

“More than ‘okay’.”

Dabi grinned. “Aw, Boss.”

“Quit it.”

...

As they crossed the rest of the bridge, Tomura felt Dabi let go of his finger, his arm slipping round the curve of his waist as another tough London breeze hit them, this time at full force. Tomura leaned instinctively towards the heat, keeping his hands in safe locations so as not to do anything harmful, just in case. Dabi wore a smile.

“I’m glad I came, too.” Shigaraki said, eventually, after their long silence. Dabi looked at him, raised his eyebrows, and he ducked his head. “It was… not a complete and utter disaster. I’m glad I did it.”

“So, thanks for dragging me out here,” He sighed. “I guess.”

Dabi’s smile broadened. He reached over and took hold of Tomura's face, planting a kiss on his lips. The corners of Tomura's mouth quirked up as he let go. Not in an angry flush, but something that resembled a smirk, as if he were satisfied with himself. Dabi chuckled.

“My pleasure as always, Boss.”

“Let’s go find those losers, and grab some dinner, shall we?”

“Oh, goodie.”

Chapter Text

When a new number one hero in Japan had come to claim the throne at the top of the hero monarchy, there had been a variety of reactions from the general public. Whether they had been good opinions of the Flame hero or bad heroes of the Flame hero, one thing was for certain: the entire country was still grieving over All Might’s retirement. Fear and sadness and anger overtook the country, everyone on the edge of their seats as they waited to see what would happen to Japan after the Symbol of Peace had fallen.

Surprisingly, at the beginning, it had been the Yakuza to fight for a headline, but that situation seemed to have unraveled itself in under a month or two, not that it hadn’t cost any lives. People who were local to Sir Nighteye’s agency had been in despair for weeks after the big incident, bringing flowers and gifts to the remaining staff of his agency after one of his sidekicks had taken over to maintain the business. However, the entire staff of that particular agency had been given some time off to gather themselves back together and properly grieve.

Ever since the new number one here had risen up to the top of the chain, the entire country had been walking on eggshells when it came to him. Every little thing, every interview, every parade, every hero-related event imaginable had to work for the schedule of the number one hero, and, not-so-surprisingly, he hadn’t been particularly forgiving. In his heyday, All Might’s schedule had been booked from head to toe with interview after interview, cameo after cameo. However, the Flame hero rejected any and all requests from fans and the public, preferring to show off on live television and let the media do their gossiping.

Recently, however, there had been talk among fans of their number one hero suddenly seeming to have a noticeable change in behavior. Supposedly, he’d been answering to interview requests and stopping to speak to people who tried to get his attention as they passed by him on the street… but all those rumors seemed to have dissolved quickly, and eventually, it seemed as though they were back at square one with their notorious, ferocious Flame hero, and the subject was abruptly dropped.

They were going absolutely nowhere with their stand-in Symbol of Peace, it seemed.

Back in his agency in Japan, Endeavor sat at his desk across from familiar ally Detective Naomasa Tsukauchi. On the walls, clocks ticked and chimed as the two of them waited for any good news, any updates that might give their future investigation hope. Tsukauchi had been especially optimistic not even a week ago, explaining to his colleagues and his teammates that info on the League of Villains had never been hard to find when they simply kept their eyes open. Yet, here they were, days having gone by, and weeks having gone by since the Tartarus incident, without so much as a shred of intel.

Tsukauchi rubbed miserably at his eye with one hand, staring with glazed-over eyes at his bright phone screen, refreshing his messages over and over and waiting for some remarkable miracle. It was unbelievable, how impossibly slow the rate this would-be investigation was moving at. After the Kamino Ward incident, tracking down any one of these villains was a piece of cake. They had gotten their hands on Kurogiri in a week flat! Albeit, he’d eventually been rescued… and stuck out right under their very noses… but what did that matter now? Tsukauchi had hoped that all of that meant the League was being careless now, and that he could follow their footprints easier than ever before, but…

There was just no sign of them. Anywhere. It was like they had vanished, totally off the grid. Even the most exact retellings they had gotten from the witnesses, the guards at Tartarus, were useless and unhelpful. They needed more evidence to catch on to the trail of the League of Villains. They were famously slippery with where they snuck around and took residence. Plenty of business that had gone down with the Yakuza could have been avoided, if Jin Bubaigawara hadn’t been so careful to cover his trail… and even then…

Across from him, the Flame hero stewed in his own usual bad mood, glaring around at his office with the usual glower in his eyes. It was impossible to tell what he was thinking at times like these, but Tsukauchi had a question on his mind. It was regarding the raid on the League of Villains’ bar weeks before, and he’d been mulling over it ever since. His own presence at that ambush hadn’t served for much, but even he could see that it had appeared like Endeavor had met his match that day on the battlefield. However, Endeavor wasn’t exactly the easiest person to talk to… Tsukauchi wondered how to phrase his question without him blowing up.

“Have you heard anything from our team yet, Endeavor?” asked the detective.

“If I had, you’d know it by now.” rumbled Endeavor with a roll of his eyes. “They’re useless… We should be doing this work by ourselves.”

“We require a team because we can’t do the work all by ourselves,” Tsukauchi pointed out. “The licenses you and I have don’t cover all the evidence we need, all the tasks we need to complete to get our hands on these villains. This group is infamous for their slippery tactics and manipulative strategies and fanatical ideologies… We can’t trust ourselves to complete this project on our own. A few of my friends down at the police station have done plenty of work in the past to learn as much as possible about the League, and they’re doing everything they can right now to get their hands on more.”

“And where are these friends of yours now, might I ask?” Endeavor snapped. “We’ve sat here all morning, all afternoon… I’ll be croaking of old age by the time we get a report, Tsukauchi. You better tell those oh-so-helpful pals of yours to get their act together before someone else gets hurt by these villains and we’re not there to stop them.”

“With all due respect, Endeavor, it’s not as simple as rushing in the second we track down their location… And besides, we don’t even have so much as clue where they are right now. Even if we did know where they were, there are plenty of risks that come with making an one-the-spot decision to rush into battle. One of our team members or yourself could be hurt because of a rash mistake.” Tsukauchi scratched the side of his head. “I admit, it is concerning that none of our allies have found even just a small shred of evidence that could point us in the direction of the League… But even still, patience is key in such a dire situation.”

Endeavor let out a “hmph” and set back in his chair, his brow still furrowed but his lip too foul to come up with anything remotely appropriate to say. He folded his arms over the ever-flaming chest of his costume (which was surprisingly not setting the comfortable leather chair beneath him aflame), and narrowed icy-blue eyes at the door to his office, as if expecting -- no, hoping for -- a police officer to come running in with any sort of news, good or bad. Tsukauchi took this as his opportunity to ask his question.

“Sir,” said the detective. “Back at the raid on the League, a few of my squad mentioned you being.. ehm... not particularly cooperative with the investigation after the operation had begun. You were in charge of battling that fire user, weren’t you?... Yes, I remember now. Our friend Centipeder from the agency Nighteye began -- may he rest in peace -- told me he’d been concerned about your behavior. I understand you have a bit of a history with crossing lines when it comes to apprehending the enemy, however, our entire team was unnerved by it. I wanted to ask you… if there was something you weren’t telling us.”

Endeavor regarded him with another withering stare. “What, you don’t trust me, Tsukauchi?”

“It’s not that, sir, I just…” Tsukauchi let out a sigh, and adjusted the collar of his crisp, freshly-washed shirt. “If you knew anything about any of the members of the League of Villains, that information could be beneficial to us in our operation. You could jump into action like you’ve wanted to much sooner… Albeit, we’d still have to gather up the rest of the intel we need, but we’d be in and out much faster if you had something to tell us.”

“Please,” Endeavor snorted, looking away. “You think I’d associate with a villain?”

“Of course not,” the detective assured him. “I was only wondering… if you perhaps knew that fire quirk user at one point. Or something.”

Here it seemed that Tsukauchi had accidentally overstepped that invisible boundary he’d been so afraid of, because suddenly the flames on the end of Endeavor’s mustache seemed to burn hotter than before, his teal eyes aflame.

“You can forget about your ridiculous ideas, Detective,” He snapped, standing up from his office chair. “And never make such a preposterous claim again. And you can let me know when your useless team makes some sort of development in this agonizingly slow mission, got that? Bah…!”

The Flame hero stormed out of his own office, leaving Tsukauchi to sit alone in the unnecessarily vast and ornately decorated room, hands folded in his lap and his eyes and eyebrows wide and raised in surprised.

The detective sighed. This really just wasn’t going well, was it?

As he sat there in silence, thinking over his small selection of options, his phone buzzed on the desk beside him. With a defeated breath, he picked up the phone and answered the call pressing it to his ear and listening. Just a colleague from down at the station, probably calling to give him a poor update on the situation. With what little they had, there was no way in hell that he’d called with good news about the investigation. They had next to nothing to go on, after all, and Tsukauchi was running out of ideas to progress.

“Yes, it’s me,” replied the detective as he pressed the phone to his ear. “How’s the team doing? Got anything yet?”

“I think so, sir,” answered the voice on the line. “You remember that pro hero that went missing after the big incident?”

“Yes, Doctor Eckels, of course I remember him. I’m the one who contacted him to help with the raid. He’s a respected hero, and he had valuable intel.” Tsukauchi rubbed at his temple. “What is it? Has he got anything for us? Where was he?”

“No, Detective, he hasn’t come back… It’s just the opposite.”

“What do you mean?”

“I haven’t seen it for myself yet, sir, but I just heard from some of our allies who’d been looking into the doctor’s disappearance for another case that Doctor Eckels has made some… pretty significant withdrawals and purchases in the last couple of weeks.”

“And?”

“Plane tickets, sir. Or, at least, the money to pay for them.”

“Plane tickets?” Tsukauchi asked. “As in, more than one?”

“Yes, sir,” The voice on the other end sounded exasperated now, as if he simply wanted to get his point across already. “According to the math and the evidence that particular team gathered up, we think there were just about ten tickets total. All over fourteen, the adult age for flight passengers.”

“Ten plane tickets?” asked Tsukauchi, dumbly. “What would the doctor need ten plane tickets f… oh…”

“Exactly, sir.”

“...I’ll call you back.”

“S--”

Tsukauchi hung up on the poor officer and delved back into his contacts. He had to tell Endeavor. He had to tell Toshinori. He had to tell the staff at UA. He had to tell everyone that they may have finally caught on to the ever-deceptive League of Villains.

-

Jun snapped a photo of Shakespeare’s Globe as the group of them stalked past, admiring the thatched roof and the beautiful woodwork done on the outside. She maneuvered around a buzzing group of teenage tourists, arguing over whether or not they were going to opt to do the forty-five minute tour of the interior, trying to get a better angle. In a few moments, she’d leaped up onto the outside of a bed of flowers and snapped the perfect photo, and returned to her group of companions, strolling alongside her two siblings and uncles. Her grandfathers and Doctor Eckels walked behind them, and her fathers had taken the lead.

The United Kingdom had been in a bit of an on-and-off heatwave (or, at least, it was what Londoners would think a heatwave was like), and it was still going strong with its streak of remarkably pleasant weather. It was in a perfect limbo between a bit too cold and a bit too warm, despite the occasional roaring breeze that felt like it was going to knock Jun right off her feet.

Jun stowed her phone back in the pocket of her jeans (which were much more fitting for the weather than the denim shorts she’d been wearing on the day of her arrival at Heathrow), and took the solid block of cheese she’d been gnawing viciously away at since Dabi and Shigaraki had brought the rest of the gang to introduce them to Borough Market. Or, at least, introduce the members of the team who hadn’t already seen the market to the market. Mustard watched her out of the corner of his eye, amused, scrunching his nose up at the pungent smell of brie cheese.

Beside her, her sister sipped on a smoothie she’d easily tricked Jin into buying for her from one of the bakeries, admiring the view over the Thames as they walked next to the embankment. Little children frolicked far too close to the water’s edge, kicking rocks into the murky blue-green abyss and cheering as they watched them sink. Behind them, parents chattered and shivered as the river sent a chilly breeze in their direction. The occasional couple strolled past holding hands, as well as either a drink from either Starbucks or Cafe Nero. Toga ogled a few passerby as they strolled along, only to be chastised by Mustard for her severe staring.

“I’d be terrified,” Mustard complained.

“I ain’t starin’ at you, am I?” Toga replied, pouting her lip at him.

”Yeah, kid, she’s staring at me!” Jin coughed. “...A likely story…”

“That’s just sad.” Spinner added in with a shake of his head. Their trip to England was one of the only times they’d seen the lizard in anything other than his Hero Killer gear and attire, and it was a confusing yet eye-opening experience.

“What’re you morons going on about back there?” asked Shigaraki from the head of the group, scratching idly at his neck as he strolled alongside a content-looking Dabi.

“Toga’s being creepy.” said Jun, taking another bite out of her snack.

“So the usual, then.” Dabi hummed. Toga scoffed, folding her arms.

Jun’s trip to London so far could have been summed up simply in the word “wonder.” The world of England was entirely different from that of Japan. Its common architecture was wildly different, in terms of most of the buildings being made of white stone that was beginning to weather with age, and the cold never ceased, even during the United Kingdom’s heatwave. Every district brought a new kind of surprise, from Marylebone with its Baker Street and King’s Cross with its Platform Nine and Three Quarters. The diversity in the city brought opportunities to try food and treats from all cultures, most of which Jun found some way to enjoy. And, for once, it seemed her family -- her fathers in particular -- were feeling… better than usual.

For once, nobody was stressed out. Nobody was plotting a scheme. No one was trying to figure out a getaway plan for when something went wrong at any given time. Nobody was angry, or in tears, or wounded and in pain. Everyone was having a good time. They were out of the sight of the heroes. For once, Jun could feel like she wasn’t under attack. Like she didn’t have people she was responsible for sticking up for.

In a world where no heroes knew who they were, they were Normal People. And that, Jun figured, was the best part of London. A relieving sense of freedom. No coming downstairs in the middle of the night and watching the rest of the League take shifts staring out the front window, nearly dozing off on their arm as they waited for the sun to rise. No extreme effort had to go into putting on an innocent guise, because no one knew they weren’t innocent in the first place.

None of that meant they were good, obviously. Jun knew that. Their wicked nature and destructive, malicious desires couldn’t be denied. But with all that aside, who had been taking care of her for the last four or five years? Who had given her the time of day? Who had trained her to use her quirk in ways that wouldn’t in the future damage her body? Who had picked her up off the street to rescue her from danger in the first place?

Somewhere in there, the lot of the League had feelings. They had hearts and souls like everyone else, and they could feel emotions like anger, sadness, guilt, joy and regret, like everybody else. They didn’t spend twenty-four hours a day plotting to eliminate the world’s superhuman society.

Granted, they did spend a lot of time doing just that, but…

Jun shook her head. There was no use trying to explain what she’d already tried and failed to explain dozens of times.

As Dabi had explained, late-afternoon London was hectic. The Tube stations were an absolute nightmare, and every train car was packed so tight with people it could take hours simply to get back home. And if you were so daring as to get on a train car that was already pretty full, you risked the chance of tumbling into someone’s lap when the traian hit a sharp turn. Knowing all this made it much more understandable that the League of Villains was walking along the street at such a short pace, despite the fact that they planned to eat an early dinner at a pub in that same district. Londoners shot past them in both directions, shouting at their phones or typing away at them, clutching their satchels and backpacks and walking at full speed. Jun watched each one go by, taking in all the different appearances.

Up ahead, Dabi wandered alongside Shigaraki, his hands in the pockets of his trench as he glared up against the sunlight at the peculiarly designed buildings in the district. With roofs angled at impossibly steep spikes and roofs that looked like some kind of Photoshop disaster, it seemed like all the architects in charge of the district were competing to create the oddest looking skyscraper. Dabi shuddered, teeth chattering as he willed his quirk to fight the oncoming cold.

“I think I’m taking the kid to Camden tomorrow,” He told Tomura. “You’re welcome to come if you like.”

“Camden?” asked Shigaraki, tonelessly.

“Big market in… well, Camden,” explained Dabi. “It was still starting out and fairly small when I was first here, but now it’s huge. I think it goes through multiple districts nowadays. I’ve been hoping to see all the changes the town’s made to make the market more interesting. It specializes in clothing and fashion of all kinds, but there’s a few decent pubs around in that area, if I remember correctly, not to mention if they’re still open. It’s very… millenial.” He laughed at his own lack of a better word.

Tomura smirked. “Gonna shoplift your weight in leather and metal, are you, Ashtray?”

“You know, I’d argue, but I know better than to let you prove your point.”

“I’ll come with you idiots. Not for you, though-- just so Jun doesn’t persuade you and Two-Face back there to buy her everything she wants.” Shigaraki shook his head at Dabi’s semi-offended expression. “You know it’s true, don’t lie to me. You act all tough but you’d steal the Crown Jewels for that kid if she just said the word.”

Dabi rolled his eyes. “Yeah, right.”

“You would, though.” called Toga from behind.

“Shut up, you wackjob.”

-

Hunched over his dorm desk, and his room lit only by the lamp on the top of it and his computer screen, Izuku Midoriya scribbled away at an old notebook with a ballpoint pen, his eyes darting from the computer screen to the paper and back again. Moonlight shone a single beam of light through the window that provided nothing for him but a reminder that it was past lights out and he should definitely have been in bed, but he remained awake anyways. On the computer screen before him was displayed an article that he’d roughly translated from English to Japanese. The grammar and recognition errors from the translation were countless, but he got the gist of the article nonetheless.

A photograph of a tall, slender man with fair, golden hair and a pair of horn-rimmed glasses on the very edge of his nose was displayed on his computer screen. He wore a crisp three-piece suit and he looked very uncomfortable. From his back shot gorgeous monarch butterfly wings. This was the Thunder hero: Monarch-- or, as most knew him, Doctor Raymond Eckels of the Time Safari Hero Agency in London, England. And Midoriya was doing everything in his power to learn as much as he possibly could about him.

It was unclear to his classmates just what Midoriya’s objective was when it came to his obsessive fascination with All Might and Detective Tsukauchi’s current case. All of them had come into contact with the League of Villains plenty of times in the past. In fact, they’d thought they’d defeated them just a few years ago. The only thing special about the heroes’ current case was the little girl they were trying to save, and even that was just a simple hostage situation that they’d just failed to get under wraps in one go, right? But now, a week from Midoriya’s final graduation from UA High, here he was, muttering about this and that as he took notes in his notebook that were unreadable to anyone but himself.

Some of his classmates were worried often about him for that fatal flaw of his. He was like a walking example of that old phrase “Curiosity killed the cat”-- one day, he was going to get himself hurt with all this nonsense, and he wasn’t going to be able to bounce back afterwards.

Or perhaps this was a trait of Midoriya that they envied. Perhaps it was this exact talent of Midoriya’s that allowed him to see more to a situation than what was on the surface that they wanted themselves, and they simply couldn’t understand how he did it. There had been countless occasions where it had been Midoriya to save the day, Midoriya to be the hero, Midoriya to be the one who got all the praise and the attention and the concerned. Midoriya had overshadowed every last one of them at one point or another, and perhaps his classmates held some resentment for his obliviousness to all this that they just weren’t aware they possessed.

Either way, resentment or not, one thing was for sure: Midoriya was one day going to get himself hurt bad with all of this. He jumped into action without considering the consequences he’d have to bear on his shoulders. He got himself hurt, sometimes beyond the point of repair. And, despite that all of his classmates and teachers knew he was a good person at heart, he often jumped into bad situations without stopping to consider how it could affect his friends in the long run, too. He was often reckless, and lacked the self control he needed sometimes, even after his few years at UA.

Then again, maybe those were just things that happened to be a part of his charm. Midoriya was admirable in the most frustrating of ways. None of his classmates could deny that one day he was going to make a wonderful hero. But that lack of self control, and the amount of times it had gotten him and his friends into sticky situations was utterly unacceptable.

Midoriya rubbed the back of his neck, eyes glazing over as he stared blankly at his notebook, examining the notes he’d written down on Monarch. A rescue hero, but fairly popular in his home country, which differed from the norm in Japan. Sure, there were a handful of rescue heroes that’d managed to make a name for himself, but at the end of the day, it was undeniable that heroes who specialized mainly in combat outshone the rest. The top five heroes were all the evidence you needed.

In the eyes of Tomura Shigaraki, the world of heroes was nothing but a bunch of bloodthirsty roughhousers looking for attention and money… Midoriya supposed this public image didn’t help.

As he thought of the League of Villains and their employer, his mind slowly wandered back to his meeting with Shigaraki at the tea shop and their “friendly discussion” of the girl in his care. Midoriya didn’t know how many people knew about that now, but after telling his entire class about it, he was sure word had reached the adults somehow. He’d only made sure to disclose it to the rest of 1-A and All Might, but knowing both of them, there was no telling just who knew about it. But Midoriya was certain he could survive that backlash.

It was unfortunate, how easy it was for Midoriya to deflect Aizawa’s warnings by then. By then, he just let the scolding roll off of him. He was used to it, and so he still did as he pleased.

Midoriya had resisted showing his classmates -- and even All Might -- the entirety of the voice recording he’d snuck at the tea shop. He felt conflicted about showing them, knowing all it would result in was more arguing and more of his classmates’ usual “Let’s just leave it to the real pros” excuses. It wasn’t that he disliked his classmates for being concerned about safety, it was simply that Midoriya couldn’t sit by the sidelines for particularly long without driving himself mad with worries of his own. Perhaps it was here that the subconscious resentment from his classmates clashed with Midoriya’s own logic for stressful situations.

There were certain parts of what the League of Villains’ fearless, vicious leader had said that stuck out to Midoriya. The way he’d talked about the girl, for example, and how he’d referred to her as his child just before he’d disappeared. Midoriya hadn’t been able to decide if Shigaraki had been referring to the girl as something of a daughter, or his property-- at least, not until his equally-as-secret visit to Tartarus, which he’d kept under wraps as best as possible until Uraraka had made him break. There had been similar reactions as there had been to the Kiyashi Ward situation, unsurprisingly.

His visit to Tartarus had connected many of the puzzle pieces inside his brain. Tomura Shigaraki, and his League of Villains, were mentors. Teachers. Perhaps even caretakers… The simple thought rattled Midoriya to the core.

There was no telling what was going to come next. Midoriya had nowhere to go with all of this information. Being the one to have gone through all these dangerous situations alone was one thing, but being criticized, or perhaps not even being believed was entirely another. He didn’t know how strong his classmates’ bond of trust was with him, or if they even considered him trustworthy at all… But he was running out of options.

It was either confront the League of Villains himself, or tell the rest of the world and risk the consequences.

The painful indecision was enough to make poor Midoriya want to curl up and cry on the floor of his dorm room. But he didn’t. He wiped his eye on the sleeve of his All Might sweatshirt and refocused his attention on the article before him. Doctor Raymond Eckels, the Thunder hero: Monarch. A businessman, and a missing man, too. Midoriya stared at the photograph of the lanky hero at the head of the article with eyes that were running slowly out of their usual, seemingly neverending supply of optimistic energy.

Just an hour more.

Just an hour more was all it would take to get enough on this missing hero, known to have been involved in Detective Tsukauchi’s League case for his history with Mister Compress, the marble villain. In his mid-to-late thirties, he’d devoted himself to doing the books for his hero agency in London and had earned himsel…

Midoriya slumped pathetically over onto his arm, his eyes drooping closed and his own battery running low along with the laptop’s. His research would have to wait for tomorrow morning.

At his dorm room door, a pair of bright, round, and worried red eyes peered through a crack in the doorway, observing the defeated third-year with a mix of curiosity and concern in the expression. An eleven-year-old girl smoothed out her skirt and had begun to open the door when a voice hissed at her from down the hallway.

"Eri!” whispered Aizawa. “We’re not supposed to be in here. Come on, let’s get you to bed… Pah, who let you stay up this late, anyways…? You need rest.”

“I’m not tired.”

“You’re eleven.” replied Aizawa, and cautiously stalked down the hallway to take her hand. He caught a glimpse of the interior of Midoriya’s dorm, spotting the boy by his desk and sighed in what sounded like frustration and disappointment. “God, that kid couldn’t follow instructions to save his own life…” He quietly shut the door and nudged Eri, walking with her down the hall. “Let’s go, I don’t want you getting all tired before lunchtime.”

Eri looked over her shoulder at the now-closed door, the faint light of Midoriya’s desk lamp still filtering out underneath it. She narrowed her eyes, and turned back to the hallway, doing her best to focus on her own oncoming drowsiness. But she couldn’t.

“Those villains on that mission you went on…” Eri said. “Were those the villains I m--”

“Not now, Eri. Don’t worry about that.” Aizawa reassured her. “Let’s just… try and get you some rest, alright?”

Eri huffed, and, defeated, dropped the subject. They walked in silence out of the dorm building.

Chapter Text

There were various versions of Naomasa Tsukauchi that his squad had learned to adapt to when it came to a particularly rough investigation. It was almost like a cycle of steps. He could be silent and brooding, or loud and furious, or airy and almost unnervingly optimistic.

Now, as the detective himself and his squad, as well as a couple of heroes such as Gran Torino, were out trying to get their hands on more evidence for their League of Villains case, they were in the presence of a calm and self-satisfied Tsukauchi. He seemed confident in himself, now that his team had promising information for him. This had both its advantages and its disadvantages, but every member of the squad was making sure they didn’t cross paths with him too often. A cheerful Tsukauchi was better than an angry one, after all, and they preferred to do their work in peace.

It was only natural that the squad’s first move had been to investigate the outermost edges of the city. Villains in general were known for their habit of sneaking around, but the League of Villains in particular was notorious for being stealthy and mindful. They covered their tracks like experts. The time Tsukauchi and Gran Torino had managed to get their hands on Kurogiri had been by sheer luck, and even then, he’d been rescued efficiently and disappeared again without a trace. It seemed the magician on their team wasn’t the only one who was capable of pulling off a convincing disappearing act.

After the incident with the Yakuza and their young master, the police knew they couldn’t skimp on double-checking the little nooks and crannies around the city. Alleyways, deserted rentals, and the like. After watching the Double villain Twice escort Overhaul into their temporary lair, Tsukauchi made it a priority to investigate any warehouses or sizable buildings that they knew had been abandoned for a while. Any traces of anything the villains had left behind could have been useful. However, on their first few outings, they had been unsuccessful in their findings, even when in the company of some pretty hawk-eyed pros.

As a matter of fact, the most they had were a few DNA samples, which could have been useful, had Tsukauchi not very recently discovered that their villain friends had been travelling internationally. They had the shattered remnants of a revolver that had belonged to the Mustard villain, as well as the broken chunks of the mask he’d worn during the raid. Snipe had been the one to destroy it, and had been the one to turn both of the gas villain’s belongings in to the police, but they hadn’t done much in helping

Well, what they had gotten was a bit of a stretch, but what it did have to offer was the word JUN engraved on the bottom of the revolver’s hilt, but Tsukauchi had dismissed his squad’s excitement, explaining what it meant-- or, rather, who it was. There were only so many assumptions Tsukauchi could make about why the Tartarus escapee’s name was engraved on the bottom of the gas villain’s weapon, but that was the least of his concern. He only wanted to find the villains themselves, and as quick as he could manage before more innocent people were hurt. The average people in even just a neighboring country wouldn’t be on the lookout for a gang of notorious Japanese criminals, after all.

“This one looks like a no-go, Detective,” called an officer from the street. The squad’s boots crunched over mulch and bits of crumbling sidewalk as they searched the perimeter of a storage facility. “The others were in promising locations, but this one’s not too far from the downtown. We figured they’d want to stay on the down low, right?”

“The League is smart,” replied Tsukauchi. “So we have to be smarter. They know we’ll look for them in secluded areas. They’re good at disguising themselves, covering up secrets. Let’s keep looking-- We can’t give up yet. I want every inch of this part of town searched.”

“Yes, sir.”

Yes, Tsukauchi was in a good mood, but that only meant he was close to cracking the case. And if people didn’t bend to his every whim, things would get out of hand. It was best to follow his instructions.

It wouldn’t have been the first time the League had taken up residence in an old facility such as this one. Barren white walls, a sign that warned any civilians against trespassing, and barred-off windows that allowed just barely enough natural light through for the interior to be bright enough to see in. Tsukauchi’s squad took another stroll around, taking note of any possible entrances other than the seemingly untouched front door. Nothing seemed out of place. The detective’s officers heaved out a sigh, trying to find the courage to tell the head of the squad that this place was just another failure, and that it was time to keep moving. Perhaps they could take another look at the evidence they’d collected already. Small as the selection might have been, there was still…

“Erm… Detective?”

The rest of the squad looked up to face one of their colleagues. He’d hoisted himself up onto a ledge to peer cautiously into one of the dusty warehouse windows. His face looked pale.

Tsukauchi followed his coworkers’ gazes and looked up at his fellow officer, the remaining color in his face slowly draining away as he took another peek inside of one of the windows, vines tangled in knots around the metallic bars and mold growing in the corners of the glass. The detective took a step towards him, tilted his head in questioning. “Yeah? Have you found something?”

“There’s someone… something… There’s something in here.”

He stole another glance, gasped, and fainted, his colleagues letting out cries of surprise as he toppled off the ledge. One of the officers leapt forward and failed in an attempt to catch him, only softening his blow by a hare. Thankfully, he seemed fine-- so Tsukauchi kept his eyes on the prize, and ordered the remaining of the squad inside. Busting down doors, slipping through windows or shattering them entirely was no issue. This place had been abandoned for a long time… It was unlikely that someone was still renting it out. And, if they owned it… Well, they weren’t doing a very good job of making it look that way.

Doors practically fell off their hinges as the squad tested the front entrance, a few of them arming themselves just in case. Gran Torino came bounding up the side of the road to investigate, elbowing his way to the front of the line to be the first through the door. He peeked through the crack in the roach-infested entrance, and kicked it through with one powerful surge of Jet.

The squad’s jaws fell simultaneously open.

At first glance, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Just a dark, empty storage facility that’d been left alone for some time without anyone bothering to buy it out and renovate it. However, as a pause went by, the shadows in the corner had begun to stir and shift, warping outwards and taking the shape of something huge. The shape heaved out a sigh, and a low yet deafening hum filled the room as it began to move again. Sunlight that filtered through the windows by the roof twisted with the movement, and a beam of natural light landed square in the center of the room, a spotlight on a terrifying sight.

The speaker around its neck hit the floor with a loud bang as it rested its head on his arms. The crackling of static ripped through the air, a horrible sound that tore straight through the room. The sunlight shone on a pair of glassy, glazed-over eyes.

“It’s Gigantomachia…” breathed Tsukauchi, a look of frozen terror crossing his face. “Is he.. He’s not… He can’t be…!”

“He’s wounded.” growled Gran Torino. Behind him, the squad stood rooted to the spot like mannequins with blank, horrified expressions, waiting for some kind of command. “Tsukauchi, call for backup… Call me a scaredy-cat, but I don’t wanna be here when that monster wakes up.”

Tsukauchi glared, shivering, into the darkness, at the dried-over wound in ‘Machia’s side. It didn’t look much like a stab wound, but the smaller, dark maroon spots that covered the rest of him, jabbed into his skin, certainly did. It looked to have been a barrage… or perhaps just a very efficient fighter.

But the idea of someone out there being able to take care of this inhuman beast so easily was even more unnerving than the monster itself.

“But what about the wound? Shouldn’t we figure out what happened first?”

“And risk getting beaten to a pulp again? No thanks! What, have you lost your wits? Get on it, Detective. Squad, fall back and keep an eye out. Keep your voices down while we call the big guys.” Gran Torino shoved his way through them, filing safely through until he’d made it back outside. He pulled a cellphone from his pocket.

“Right…” Tsukauchi heaved, memories of his first encounter with the beast before him flashing before his eyes as he stumbled back outside, fumbling with a cellphone of his own. “...Right!”

There went his perfectly good mood, then.

What happened here?

-

Dabi whistled, impressed, as Jun stepped out of the shadows with a delicate gold choker clasped around her neck and a self-satisfied smirk of pride on her face. She flexed her fingers in her fingerless gloves, shaking off the numbness from the chilly London air, and looked up at him, arching an eyebrow. The Cremation villain returned her smirk with a similar one of his own. Her elder siblings, and a maskless Mister Compress trailed behind her, all wearing new outfits to suit the weather. And, besides, it’d been about time they got an update on their wardrobes.

“Look at that,” exclaimed Dabi, leaning down to inspect the dainty necklace around her neck. “That real?”

“You bet.” Jun beamed, looking more pleased with herself than ever. Toga had on earrings made of similar material, decorated with little gemstones that were probably just as real as the rest of the jewellry. Behind her, Atsuhiro fiddled with a gold bracelet around his wrist, looking equally satisfied, and behind him… Mustard looked impossibly bored. They must not have discovered a shop that was for him just yet.

“I feel like I’ve done something right as an adult.” Dabi sighed dreamily in mock confidence.

“By teaching the children how to pickpocket?” Atsuhiro remarked, running a hand through auburn curls and checking himself out in the reflection of his watch. For once, he was wearing something other than an ensemble of red and black, instead going for a deep purple look that suited him quite well. Only naturally, he’d popped the two top buttons on his shirt.

“You don’t get to talk, Houdini.” snorted the Cremation villain, and Atsuhiro shrugged with an air of innocence.

“It’s not that hard.” Toga brushed up her hair, tightening the royal red ribbons fastened around her hair and swiping a few strands of bangs out of her eyes. She pouted at the collar of her cutesy sweater and tugged at it.

“I suggest we move on now,” said Compress. “We’ve got plenty market left to walk through before lunchtime.”

“Why did we hafta’ come so early, anyways?” Mustard complained as they slipped out of the alleyway and strolled alongside a bustling crowd. “It’s not like it isn’t an all-day market. We could have come after lunch, you know…” He wiped sleep from his eyes. “Would have saved me loads of extra rest.”

“What, the jet lag still messing with you?” asked Jun.

“No, I’m just not capable of running on only eight hours of sleep, unlike you lunatics.”

“Eight hours of sleep is the average amount recommended.” commented Atsuhiro, though he’d already been distracted by a particularly attractive hat-related tent.

“Hey, we go to sleep on time.” Jun complained.

“I know for a fact you and Dabi have pulled way too many all-nighters.” Mustard huffed.

“Because it’s fun…”

“You people are monsters.”

They waded their way through a narrow market street, dodging oblivious Londoners and ducking underneath the curtain tents to take discreet shortcuts. Jun held her breath as she nabbed this and that from the corners of tables on her way through, ripping tags off anything she found desirable until Dabi took her hand and took her a different direction. The group of them slipped through the cracks in the market until they found a courtyard. People flooded out of this and that shop. A group of high schoolers windowshopped from store to store, now examining a custom pair of Doc Martens displayed in a glass exhibit.

“Hey, what was that about?” Jun complained. “I wasn’t gonna get caught, you coulda’ let me take those.”

Dabi glanced at her, his voice quiet as they lingered behind, the rest of their party already ambling through the open yard towards a nearby, less populated comic shop. “I don’t want you taking too much. It’ll run to your head. I know it’s fun, and it’s okay to grab what you want sometimes, but… Stick to what you know you’ll need for now, alright? Even if you think you aren’t being watched, this place is packed, and I don’t want any trouble today. Okay? You hear me, Pigtails?”

Jun stared at him. “I hear you, but.. Aren’t we villains?”

Dabi took a deep breath. “Yes, but… Okay, well.. God, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but…” His eyes fluttered shut for a moment, both of them still lagging behind their gang. “You’ve seen Spinner in action, right? Lizard-brain’s got a certain set of rules that he follows. He’s got boundaries when it comes to what he’s okay with doing versus what he refuses to do. It’s a pain in the ass sometimes when we’re in a crunch during a mission, but what it means is that he’s got respect for both himself and what he does as a villain.”

“You mean like when Tomura talks about morals?” Jun asked.

“Exactly like that.” exhaled Dabi. “We may be villains, but we ain’t total savages. Even we have comfort zones, and morals, and while I know it’s a great feeling to take what you want for yourself… There are still boundaries. Lines that we shouldn’t cross. We’re a group. And, as much as I hate sappy, we stick together. Right?”

“Yeah.” hummed Jun. “Right.”

Dabi sighed. He glanced at his hands. You wouldn’t follow your own advice.

“That being said… It’s okay to have fun sometimes.” Dabi smiled at her sideways. “You can take what you please as long as you ain’t causing too much trouble. For now, anyways. Until you’ve been on a mission, I want you to be safe.”

Jun nodded, and, after they’d walked in silence for a few moments, added “Yeah, right-- ‘I hate sappy’, my ass.”

“Oh, fuck off.”

“And there it goes.”

They shot quips at one another back and forth until they’d caught up with the other three, stepping inside an impressive comic book store and delving into the chaos. Series’ from both the Marvel and DC universes were lined up on all sides, as well as newer, recently serialized comics that belonged to a world of their own. Superhero comics, from the “olden days” where quirks had not yet manifested, and fantasy worlds with vampires and werewolves, as well as series’ that simply starred normal, everyday people, with no dramatic backstories or perilous journeys to set off on. Mustard was off like a shot to the back of the room to examine the figurine and poster collections.

Jun meandered around the shop by herself, perusing through the racks of different comics and admiring the artwork on the covers. Some characters she recognized from back home in Japan from what she’d borrowed from her father and her brother, and others she’d seen as protagonists in video games of their own. She looked at the various detailed art styles in each series and squinted at the letters on the cover, finding herself making up names for unrecognizable characters since she couldn’t read them in their English names.

As she wandered towards the back of the shop, trailing hand still following issue after issue as she neared the corner, she took a pause as the comic racks split off into a gap, making room for a large display case. She looked up, observing the many shelves decorated in various blues, reds, yellows, and whites, her eyes landed on a sign. It read two words -- two English words -- that Jun had come to understand.

ALL MIGHT!

Jun narrowed her eyes at the shelves, inspecting every card game, every figurine, every Lego set with hardened eyes. “All Might”... A name she’d come to hate since her first experience with the hero world. It was a name that made her father furious every time he heard it, a name that had the potential to drive him to tears when he isolated himself in his room. Yet, everywhere else, all the name brought was smiles of delight and gasps. People seemed so willing to praise that name with everything they had, but what had Jun seen, other than her family breaking down at just the sound of two simple words?

She tore herself away from the shelves and continued on down the line of comics, trying to focus on anything else. She looked across the shop, standing on her tiptoes to see over a few displays (because, as slender as she was, she was only just barely taller than Tomura), and caught sight of Dabi, standing by the far wall and flipping through posters. She made her way over to his side of the comic shop, eager to be as far away from the aggressively American nightmare she’d just encountered.

She stopped a ways behind him, and peered over his shoulder. She narrowed her eyes.

Dabi stared with hooded, blank eyes at the laminated poster hanging on the rack, prying the two around it away with his fingers and glaring at it with a strange intensity. Jun looked past him and at the picture displayed inside the case.

FLAME HERO: ENDEAVOUR

Jun opened her mouth to say something, and found a hand on her shoulder. Startled, she looked over at a grinning Toga, holding merchandise of her own in her hands. From the looks of it, she’d already paid for it.

“Junie, come here, I found something perfect for Tomura!”

Before she could reply, Jun was dragged off to another end of the shop.

-

Tomura himself sat in the comfort of the hotel room back where the League was staying, dozing off on his arm as the television played some American sitcom he didn’t recognize. Kurogiri had come in to check on him about an hour before, and Twice and Spinner had come in for a snack, but since then he’d had the room to himself, using his free time to get in a bit of extra sleep. Taking it easy had never been a hobby of Shigaraki’s… The League’s escape to London had been a hassle, but now that they were there, their leader was seeing much more of a pillow than he had in his entire life.

After all, since his early teen years, he’d been deprived of getting any good rest, whether that be at the fault of consistent night terrors, or relentless, nonstop evil scheming, or simply ruthless insomnia. Shigaraki had learned to hate the feeling of shutting his eyes to go to sleep, but here he was. He supposed Kurogiri had once told him that travelling was often considered a therapeutic experience.

Most travellers and tourists weren’t the leaders of notorious criminal organizations, though. Most.

Unfortunately, though, eventually Tomura had to wake up. He woke up with a start, vigorously blinking sleep out of his eyes. His arm shot out to the coffee table over the arm of the sofa, fumbling for his phone. He woke it up and filed through the messages sent to the groupchat. A smile fleeted across his face. They were sure having a good time.

Not that he cared.

Yeah, right.

He placed his phone back on the side table and yawned, stretching across the sofa and leaning backwards on the arm, glaring over at the television screen. Shigaraki couldn’t understand a word any of the actors onscreen were saying, but it was certainly entertaining to watch their characters make a fool out of themselves. Almost like watching mimes. Again, his arm shot out, snatching up the television remote and lazily sorting through the options. There had to be subtitles he could understand… Watching the actors’ dramatic and obnoxious facial expressions was bound to become irritating without context.

Tomura found the appropriate settings and settled back into the arm of the couch and the pillow propped up underneath him, letting his mind drift and wander wherever it pleased. In the past, all he’d been capable of comprehending was his sensei, and his hatred for hero society, and his mission… but now, as he shut his eyes for just another moment, it drifted to his teammates. Particularly Dabi. When he thought of warmth, he thought of bright, mesmerizing blue flames that turned everything they touched into nothing but ash. He thought of eyes of that same color, and hair just as dark, if not darker than those same ashes.

“Dabi”-- the word Cremation, scrolling across Tomura’s darkened vision in trailing, wandering kanji, each line as sharp as the bright teal eyes. All he could see, and all he wanted to see.

When had the ruthless leader of the League of Villains become this far gone? That was debatable, really.

However, his pleasant reverie couldn’t last very long. A sudden noise disrupted his daydream. It was the sound of static that interrupted him, a buzzing noise so low it was almost difficult to hear over the sound of the American show playing on the television. Annoyed, Tomura sat upright, the hand carrying the remote tossing up as it muted the show onscreen. Releasing the tension in his muscles, he drew himself to his feet and surveyed the room.

His backpack?

With a cautious glare, Shigaraki trudged to the corner of the room, stepping carefully over loose clothes and books and charger cables and hairpins barefoot. He knelt to the floor, pushing his trenchcoat off of his bag and letting it fall in a heap next to him on the floor. He unzipped the top compartment of the bag and peered inside, feeling his jaw tighten as he discovered the source of the humming.

A portable radio, beaten and battered to the point where Tomura had thought it broken. Antenna bent and buttons pressed in too far, it buzzed at him, speakers scratched and surface dented in.

He’d only brought it with him to keep the evidence hidden.

Shigaraki listened close, attempting to make out any noise through the vicious sound of static, but it was no use. There was the occasional spike in volume, but other than that, he’d been right in thinking the speakers had been absolutely destroyed. He must have left the proper channel on. Christ, how long had it been since the damn thing had been used…? Probably long before Jun had gotten there… God, Tomura was getting close to thirty…

The point was, the radio had turned itself on. There was someone, or something, on the other side of it.

Could it have been…? No… If it wanted anything to do with Tomura at this point, that inhuman beast of his Sensei’s would have made it obvious by now…

Shigaraki turned, looking across the room at the coffee table. He looked at Father, sprawled out on its surface next to his cellphone.

The League hadn’t spoken to that creep since their dealings had fallen through just before their messy business with the Liberation Army.

But… then...

He shivered.

He kicked the radio across the room, his foot stinging with pain.

Forget it.

Shigaraki stalked back to his place on the sofa, and unmuted the television.

-

[]

11:32 AM

Junbug: we made a mistake in coming to a pub with a jukebox in it

godzilla: i don’t like where this is going

Junbug: you shouldn’t

Nowformynexttrick: To make a long story short, Dabi just rickrolled everyone in this bar.

BurntBitch: get rickrolled, bitches

Goth Grillby: And this is why I took the speakers out of our building.

Moisturizer: i’ve never been prouder of an individual

Moisturizer: except for maybe that one time jun kicked him on his ass

BurntBitch: wow thanks just had war flashbacks

Junbug: that’s what you get for your antics bitch

shots fired: @Moisturizer you’ve taught her too much

Moisturizer: whoops

[]

-

Graduation day was getting closer.

Graduation day was always a huge event, especially considering it was UA High, of all places. The audience and the crowds it attracted was like the sport’s festival when it came to television ratings and how many passerby came to stay and watch. Only the prettiest of locations could suit graduation day, and afterwards, there had always been a big formal for all the third-years.

Midoriya should have been looking forward to it. And sure, he was. But at the moment, he was distracted, and a quick jog through the city wasn’t doing him much good. Especially since he kept having to take his earbuds out to chat with someone who called his name.

Midoriya had a tendency to… obsess. That was obvious, and the evidence for it came in the form of the abundance of All Might merchandise set in practical stations around his own bedroom. But now, it came in the form of studying up on every single encounter the heroes had had with the League of Villains in the past. And, as much as that meant reliving painful memories, he was doing it anyways.

He didn’t know what was driving him. He didn’t know why he was doing it, or who he was doing it for. Because Midoriya was a selfless person. There had to be a person involved, but…

He just had to help out.

He couldn’t get this case off his mind. He had to help out.

Detective Tsukauchi had always been kind to him. He was a friend of All M-- or, excuse him, Toshinori’s. He knew about One For All, and he’d been right beside Toshinori practically since his debut… Well, maybe not that far back, but…

Tsukauchi had appreciated Midoriya’s need to help out since his first opportunity. So why should this case be any different? It wasn’t interference. It was aid. He was providing them with service, lending them an extra hand.

Tsukauchi would love it if he helped out. Wouldn’t he?

Right?

“Midoriya, I’m sorry, but we can’t have you getting hurt.”

“You understand.”

Midoriya ground his teeth through the detective’s ramblings, ignoring his saccharine, and his sugarcoating. He had the brains. He had the brawn. He was on the right track towards the proper intel.

He’d get what Tsukauchi needed. He’d make him change his mind.

He just had to help out.

-

A laboratory as gigantic as that one was difficult to manage, and keep as discreet as possible. It was just as difficult to get in supplies.

Development wasn’t exactly easy, anyways. None of the experiments being conducted in that lab were very safe, nor were they quiet processes. With machines and weapons whirring away at all times, there was no peace and quiet. It didn’t exactly help, that nine out of ten times, the test subjects screamed when they were injected with the “first step.” It was only natural, though. That was the most painful part.

Everything after that was a numbed procedure… thanks to the Shock Absorption, that was.

That had been a difficult quirk to shell out. Separating even fractions of DNA into the proper vials wasn’t a nice process. It was tedious, and boring, and impossibly dull, but the results were always incredibly rewarding. Each test subject was always turned into an absolute masterpiece in the end, no matter how much of a fight they put up.

There’d only been one or two failures, but that went undiscussed. Not a light topic, failure. Failure, in that place, was not to be tolerated.

But the successes were countless, so what did that matter?

Every experiment had gotten more and more expensive with time, but back then, it had all been so very easy. The head honcho had had so many connections, getting the proper supplies had been like taking candy from a baby. Funding had been readily available at all times. Any mistakes could be erased with ease. But not anymore. Since Kamino, everything had been slowly unraveling itself.

It didn’t help, that the League no longer wanted anything to do with it.

Granted, they still had experiments in their possession-- contrary to popular belief. The phrasing used by those at the Meta Liberation Army had been “a gang of hoodlums,” if it was to be remembered correctly. But that wasn’t true. There were lots of both brains and brawns on board with that team. He had to give them that. It was awfully impressive, what they were capable of.

Even if they hadn’t had a supply of experiments at their fingertips already, though… They would still have one ultimate weapon in their possession anyways.

Unfortunately, though, that couldn’t last.

That ultimate weapon had to be destroyed. Destroyed, for its refusal to cooperate.

A High-End gone wrong was an embarrassing thing.

It had to be erased.

Chapter Text

It had been a long and tiresome, fearsome battle, and when it finally came to a close, there had been so many inflicted wounds, and a few too many casualties for the heroes to even be able to consider it a victory.

The first hour had been spent in disbelief and terror, as the impromptu team of heroes that had been haphazardly assembled in under forty-five minutes made their first move on the walking atom bomb that was Gigantomachia… while the beast was sleeping. This was a commendable first attempt, but their confidence dissipated rather quickly as they came to realize that the creature was capable of countering their attacks even in his sleep. A couple of Tsukauchi’s squad suffered mild injuries to the arms, shoulders, and waists, but the first hour had been nothing but a warm-up.

Because it was then that the beast woke up, and from there on out, nothing was salvageable. The detective’s squad was told to retreat, and if there were any brave souls left on that team who were still daring enough to fire, they were implored to do so from a safe(r) distance. Tsukauchi himself had been thrown to the side with ease, taking a heavy blow to the temple and hitting the ground with an unsatisfying smack. Gran Torino had been able to get him away from the chaos just before ‘Machia could finish him off with a sickening final blow.

Even the number one hero had been having some trouble. Quite a bit, actually.

What heroes had managed to show up only survived the epic battle by the skin of their teeth. Locking up Gigantomachia was no easy task, after all. In the end, it was up to the police department to supply the superheroes with powerful tranquilizers and more pros to fight alongside them. And, even then, they were still at a severe disadvantage. Each time ‘Machia had been sent into hiding, he’d gotten stronger, and each time he’d been forced to square off against any foe, villain or hero, that had only given the monster thicker skin. Literally.

However, as much of a brute as Gigantomachia was, and as much as every attack only seemed to backfire, something was different about the way he did fight. Little to the heroes’ knowledge, they were fighting toe to toe with a version of ‘Machia that had suffered many wounds, injuries, and barrages over the past few years. The beast was hesitant to lunge into a fight without a second thought, instead preserving his strength for the pinnacle of the battle. Was ‘Machia slower? Or perhaps weaker in some way? Or was he just strategizing?

The heroes, with their investigation surviving only on a worn thread of intel, were none the wiser.

Fortunately for the heroes, though, it seemed that Gigantomachia wasn’t immune to tranquilizers-- so long as the dosage was high enough, of course. They were saved what would have been countless days full of misery, injuries, and likely death, too, as ‘Machia eventually collapsed mid-attack from about a dozen heavy injections applied over the duration of the fight.

The heroes that were still standing on their own two feet by that point fell to their knees, panting, bloodied and bruised, surveying the wreckage of the city’s edge. Any injured or unconscious heroes slash members of Tsukauchi’s squad had been taken care of with the help of Recovery Girl and a handful of ambulances.

That district of the city had been evacuated within hours of the initiating of the brawl, and though civilian casualties had ended up being few in number, the event had quickly become a tragedy. What the city’s evacuated citizens came back to once told the coast was clear was a sight worse for wear.

Tsukauchi and Gran Torino were both reprimanded severely by Recovery Girl, in the extra painful, disappointed tone only an elderly woman can scold someone with.

All Might, Yagi Toshinori, was a man his friends rarely saw absolutely livid, but following the aftermath of the squad’s brawl against ‘Machia when Gran Torino and a limping Tsukauchi came to visit him, he was practically smoking at the ears.

“One of All For One’s most loyal servants”... Kurogiri’s words, back when the heroes had first been introduced to the walking calamity. They’d been truer words than Gran Torino and Tsukauchi would have liked to believe, but the stinging wounds in their sides and in their temples reminded them that they had been foolish in thinking they could take the beast that was Gigantomachia on just like that.

No, this was no victory. The fear they’d experienced during battle lingered within them, and a stormcloud of paranoia was beginning to form low over the entire country as the story was told and told again on the news. Live footage from the media, articles describing the situation in graphic detail despite censorship, and quotes taken from the families of the citizens who had died in the events of the fight could be found everywhere.

The secrets regarding All For One’s many connections and the League of Villains -- the same secrets Tsukauchi and his team had been trying their best to conceal from the media and the public -- were finally out. Nothing could be taken back. Nothing was salvageable. And they still hadn’t found the League.

The country was in a sorry, pathetic state as they lost more and more confidence in the superheroes that were meant to be holding them all together, and without a number one hero who was willing to offer encouraging words, they had no hope, either. Endeavor was absent from their television screens, and All Might hadn’t been invited on set for an interview since the final scare at Kamino. Besides, any promises that could have come from their former Symbol of Peace would have been empty ones. He could no longer help them.

All For One might have been locked up in Tartarus, but with the way things were beginning to pan out, it looked like he was winning yet again.

To yet another one of All For One’s most loyal servants, this was an absolute delight.

Gigantomachia had been a helpful asset to the top dog’s plans, but he’d only been a backup, a tool meant to be used in dire situations. However, he’d only been there to save that mistman’s ass if the master’s young successor ever came to any harm that he couldn’t dispose of himself… and with both of those nuisances finally out of the way and possibly even out of the country, ‘Machia was no longer useful. He’d been a fine colleague, and his sacrifices had been awfully noble, but nowadays… he, as well as All For One’s irritating successor and his troublesome friends, were no longer obstacles.

It was up to him, now, to finally complete the High-End army, and to put an end to the hero society All For One had always despised. It would be no easy task, but with the help of those lurking in the shadows who had stayed on the master’s side for all this time, it would be done. Those who were truly loyal to the cause would assist him in the completion of the Nomu.

However, there was something he had to do first. Something that had been bothering him for years, and now, finally, he had the opportunity to do away with it.

Failure was not something he took lightly. It was a humiliating, devastating thing. He poured work, so much work into every last one of his experiments, and, nine out of ten times, everything went according to plan. But every now and then, there would be one minor slip-up, one tiny little mistake that would cost him everything he’d done to ensure success.

Something similar had happened with one of the first High-Ends, some time before All For One’s arrest.

The master had been looking for unique quirks to give the Nomu. The ones built to be airborne didn’t need anything too flashy, but the ones built for brawling on land needed something a bit extra to take them that extra mile. The first Nomu, the one constructed for the League’s debut, had been built solely to match the Symbol of Peace’s strength and speed to a T. But when constructing fleets upon fleets of the same creature… that first Nomu had been lacking something.

He quickly found the quirks he wanted, and obtained the necessary test subjects. Most were reluctant at first, but once the medicines and the anesthetics were applied, they went down without a fight.

Except for one, he thought, bitterly recalling the memory.

One had escaped. One young girl, with a powerful quirk. A powerful quirk whose description sounded very familiar to one he’d heard on the news rather recently. Yes, a new member of the notorious League of Villains. She’d gone bonkers with an insane power when a group of heroes attempted to apprehend her. Afterwards, she’d been sent to Tartarus, the same hellish facility that the master had been sent to.

Not even three days later, it was her that was rescued from that place, and not All For One. The teenage girl with no control over her quirk had been rescued by the League, rather than All For One, the man who had given Shigaraki everything he had.

That Shigaraki… He had never really liked him. His cooperation with the master's young successor had been solely to promote the master's cause itself. But that boy…

He smiled a venomous smile in the darkness of his laboratory, pushing his goggles up onto his forehead as he reached for the telephone, digging for it underneath the heap of cords plugged into the wall.

All of them would pay through the girl’s suffering. It was an itch to be scratched.

The phone beeped and buzzed as the correct phone number was dialed, and he pressed the device to his ear.

“Hello?”

His smile widened. “Afternoon. It’s Giran, right? Just the man I was looking for. I’m one of… ehm.. Tomura Shigaraki’s old caretakers, yes…”

“Caretakers?” asked Giran on the other line. “He only… I’m sorry, who is this? I’m afraid I don’t recognize you. If you ain’t here for product, I…”

“Doctor Daruma Ujiko. You met a colleague of mine during your… stay… with the Meta Liberation Army.” He smirked, goggles flashing. “I’m one of the cornerstones of the League of Villains, and I was wondering if you knew where to find them nowadays…”

-

Tomura Shigaraki didn’t remember his first fantasy crush.

He supposed there was a time in his life where he tried to pretend he had a crush on a woman, as the few people around him suggested he might, but that had always felt unnatural. Those were probably the early teenage years, the first few years during which he’d felt any sort of comfort. Rarely did he see Sensei in person, but Kurogiri had always been there for him. Tomura was taught his worldview through screens, and it was through these same screens that he was taught how other people acted. People of the outside world.

He quickly realized he preferred fictional people to the people of the outside world.

But, his entire life, he’d known that other detail about himself. That detail that had seemed so insignificant until the League of Villains had officially been formed and began gaining new followers, new members. When would a fledgling symbol of evil have time to throw all his time at a meaningless crush? It didn’t matter who it was-- That had never been the problem. He was simply too focused on his mission to care about those bothersome feelings.

And that, that right there, was probably the reason he found himself staring, puzzled, across the hotel room, at his fellow villain. He knew what Dabi looked like, for Christ’s sake, but there had to be a reason Shigaraki had been so willing to give up those rules he’d set for himself at a young age. Those icy blue eyes were stunning, sure, and that shock of jet-black hair contrasted so perfectly with those cheekbones that were probably -- no, definitely sharp enough to cut a man, but…

Alright, so maybe Shigaraki did understand.

Having the hotel room to themselves was often rare, considering how many League members were running in and out of the room throughout the day. They stayed in five different hotel rooms: one for Dabi, Shigaraki, and Jun to share, one for Kurogiri and Mister Compress to share, one for Toga and Mustard to share, one for Twice and Spinner to share, and one for Doctor Eckels. Despite this, there was very little alone time for anyone. But now, it was about one in the morning, and Jun was in the next room over, pulling an all-nighter with her siblings and watching an old sixties television show on the hotel’s Netflix account.

So there were just two of them now. Just the two of them.

They hadn’t shared a bed, and they hadn’t felt pressured to. Jun had curled herself up in the comfortable chair in the corner, Dabi had literally called dibs on the pull-out sofa, and Tomura had the bed. This evening, though, Dabi was sprawled out on the mattress, leaning back on the pillows, scrolling in boredom through a private social media feed. Shigaraki had been motionless on the sofa for a while, looking as though he were sleeping. Dabi’s eyes fleeted to his when he eventually stirred after what must have been half an hour of absent staring.

They grinned. Sleepy grins, that showed they only had a little bit of fight left in them.

Tomura struggled to his feet and moved to the nightstand, going to turn on the bedside lamp and instead finding himself hoisted, up and over, onto the mattress. He went to protest, to whine and complain, but was instantly defeated by Dabi’s simple raise of his eyebrows. Tomura groaned, and thudded his head against Dabi’s collarbone, falling sleepily with him back against the comfortable pillows and the leather headrest. Dabi helped him adjust his arms to keep his hands in a safer location.

“You’re still up.” said Shigaraki, more of a statement than a question.

“Yep.”

“That’s stupid. Shut up and sleep.”

Dabi snorted, so exhausted he was only partially aware that his own hands were tracing aimless, mindless patterns into his employer’s back. “You’ve got a weird way of saying you care about me, Boss.”

Shigaraki grumbled, irritable as he was sleepy, and lifted his head from the space between Dabi’s jaw and collarbone. His lips made lazy contact with his cheek, and then eventually his mouth, eyes fluttering shut as he lingered there for a few long moments. He slid away from Dabi’s lips and let his head fall back on Dabi’s shoulder, mumbling something incoherent into the skin. Dabi’s cheekbones, the area just above his string of haphazardly sewn staples, was a fair pink in the dim light of the room. Shigaraki’s face, on the other hand, was as red as the crimson of his eyes, but he did his own blush much more efficiently.

“There,” murmured Tomura into the crook of his neck. “I did it. Now, bed. Now.”

His pink cheeks replaced with a confident smirk, Dabi tousled the boss’ hair. “Come on, that was going somewhere.”

“Ashtray, I swear to God, if you are not unconscious in the next half hour--”

“You’ll what, eh?”

Shigaraki slowly lifted his head from Dabi’s collarbone, half-lidded eyes blood red with a frenzy of emotions. Dabi stared back at him, his own eyes aflame with blue and full of defiance that matched his familiar smirk. The Cremation villain felt one of his hands slide up, over Tomura’s pronounced spine, coming to a rest on the back of his employer’s neck. Legs repositioned, his employer took the liberty of leaning in first.

Following Dabi’s movements, Shigaraki draped his arms around his neck, hands kneaded together safely into fists behind him. Dabi’s free arm tightened around Tomura’s waist, keeping him grounded and steady as he melted into another kiss, a laugh escaping against his lips as they made accidental eye contact. Eyes dancing dangerously, Tomura moved into their kiss. After a few moments, they broke apart, Cremation’s tongue sweeping across Shigaraki’s lower lip and over the scar there as he leaned back, both of their faces red as could be.

“That.” mumbled the League’s leader.

“Eh?”

Tomura shut his eyes. “That’s what I’ll do.”

Dabi reached up, cupping the side of Tomura’s face and drawing him in for another kiss, this one gentler, softer. His employer melted, arms tucked away as his lips slipped between his and the process began again. Dabi’s fingers drew ntricate designs into the tense muscles of Tomura’s shoulderblades, dancing between the dips of the bone, pressing gently at any knots in his shoulders. Shigaraki sighed, releasing the pressure in his neck in between a kiss. Dabi’s hands smoothed down the fabric of Shigaraki’s shirt until they reached his waist, slowly flipping them over and taking control again, slinking backwards on his knees as his mouth moved from Tomura’s lips to his neck, fingers gently tracing each faded pink scar.

“Dabi…” hissed Tomura, eyes fluttering open, sucking in a breath as Dabi’s teeth bit down on the crook in his neck.

Dabi’s gaze relaxed into his. “Yeah?”

“Watch my hands.”

Dabi looked to either side of him, finding Tomura’s arms outstretched as far as they could go. He felt his chest stir, finding comfort in the fact that his employer was doing his best to keep him safe. That said, Shigaraki did everything he could to benefit the safety of his teammates on a regular basis, but this-- this was another level of his leader’s considerate nature. Granted, Shigaraki was so blunt and aggressive by default that this considerate nature often went unnoticed, but it was appreciated nonetheless.

Dabi’s thumb drifted over his jagged cheekbone. With a nod, he carefully repositioned Tomura’s arms, and moved back in for more, Shigaraki sighing with relief as the warmth returned to him.

Their moment lasted minutes on end, coming to a close as it became harder and harder for them to keep their eyes open. Dabi slowly rolled off of him, pulling him back towards him afterwards and letting him sink into the warmth. He dug underneath the pillows for the blankets and the comforter, jostling them until they came free from underneath their combined weight, and draping them over them carefully. He felt for Tomura’s hands, the heat from his quirk transferring into ever-freezing palms as he rested his head against his employer’s.

“I heard it’s Pride Month in America right now.” breathed Dabi as he pulled Tomura close again, hands lost somewhere in his mop of blue hair.

Pride Month. Tomura thought about it. He vaguely remembered the concept. A half-smirk graced his features against Dabi’s neck.

“Huh.” He hummed. “That’s cool, I guess.”

“Hey, Ashtray?”

“What’s up?”

“Do we still have that candle somewhere? That blue, white, and pink one?”

“What, you mean the trans flag candle Big Sis had in her room?”

“Yeah, that one.”

“I dunno. If anyone were to still have it, I’d bet it’d be Twice. He wouldn’t have left something like that behind at the bar. I bet he saved it. I’ll ask him tomorrow or something. Why?”

“If it’s Pride Month, we should find it tomorrow. Light it… or whatever.”

There was a brief silence. Dabi smiled.

“I bet Magne would like that, Boss.”

“I’m glad you told me, Ashtray.” said Tomura.

“About what?”

“Your feelings and all that sappy shit.” Shigaraki huffed. “I’m glad you had the guts when I didn’t.”

Dabi’s smile widened. “Me too.”

“Happy Pride Month, Mophead.”

“...Happy Pride Month, Dipshit.”

-

The next room over, Jun was winning her third ruthless round of UNO in a row.

Around her sat Toga, Mustard, and Twice. Twice had been sent by the only two real adults in their party to reprimand them for not being in bed by midnight, but had ended up being coerced into hanging out with them rather than scolding them. They sat in a circle on the hotel room’s floor, while the television, set at a quiet volume, played an episode of The Twilight Zone off of Netflix. Though the large white subtitles at the bottom of the screen were the only way they could understand what was going on, they could all tell just from the visuals how aggressively nineteen-sixties the whole production was.

Practically asleep in her elder sister’s lap, Jun carefully tossed one of her two remaining cards onto the deck. Yellow, six. “Uno.” She said, waving her final card in triumph but concealing the surface of it from Toga’s eyes.

“You go, kiddo!” squealed Twice, alternating to: ”No! I’m gonna lose!”

“It’s been weeks since anyone’s beat Jun at UNO.” huffed Mustard as he drew two cards from the deck in order to find an appropriate one, making a disappointed face at his own, apparently unsatisfactory hand. “We’re falling behind, dammit.”

“This isn’t even my final form.” yawned Jun, as Toga played her card and she tossed her remaining one onto the stack. “Uno-out.”

“Come on.” whined Mustard, tossing his hand onto the floor in front of him and drawing his knees up to his chest, glancing up at the television screen as one of the female characters in that particular episode of The Twilight Zone shrieked in the only way female characters from the sixties could shriek. He cringed at the sound. Like nails on a chalkboard.

”Goddammit…” Twice huffed. “Nice job.”

“Toga, quit movin’ your legs.” Jun mumbled, folding her head on her arms and leaning on her sister. “Himiko, quit it.”

“Sorry.” hummed Toga.

“Where are our esteemed leaders?” asked Twice. ”Yeah, where are those bossy idiots?”

“Probably in their room.” harumphed the Video villain, and let out an ”Ew!” of absolute anguish when Toga waggled her eyebrows above her. Mustard shook his head and rolled his eyes at her outburst, already reshuffling the deck of UNO cards for another pointless round bound to end in disappointment. Jun had a gift of developing an unbeatable system when it came to games, any games, and unless she was distracted, there was no beating her. She was unstoppable.

Jun stretched across Toga’s lap and drew a few shopping bags toward her, full of merchandise from the League’s morning walk through fashionable, stylish Kensington. Their Camden trip had been a couple days ago by now, but that trip had involved a lot more sneaking around than their Kensington visit. Security was too amped up in that well-populated area for any of the villains to afford the risks of stealing. Smaller items were an exception, of course, but as for clothing, food, and pretty much anything else, nabbing what they wanted was practically off the table.

She removed a bag of crisps she’d gotten during their lunch break from the bag and ripped it open, hoping the snack would give her some sudden burst of energy. Toga reached over to grab some for herself, as did the other two, and they ate in silence, watching the show on the television as Mustard organized a new game of cards.

This trip to London had been magical so far. Not just because of the weather, and the beautiful sights, and the thrills of travelling-- That had all been well and good, but those weren’t the only reasons. This trip to London they’d gone on had done a remarkable job in letting every member of the League breathe for once. Of course, going to Europe had served as an escape in the beginning, to get away from the pressure of having the heroes breathing down their neck right around every little corner, but by now, it was almost as if the League had forgotten about their troubles back home entirely.

Almost. Not quite. But almost.

Jun still saw the white, barren walls of Tartarus when she closed her eyes. Mustard still felt the sting in his cheek every now and then from his wound back at the training camp incident. Twice still felt the overwhelming guilt that had washed over him when Magne and Mister Compress had suffered because of Overhaul. Toga couldn’t manage to forget the ecstasy she’d felt when in the presence of Midoriya, when transformed into Uraraka. Mister Compress remembered the agony of losing his arm to Overhaul’s quirk. Kurogiri remembered the broken face he’d seen when All For One had first introduced him to the boy he’d taken care of for so many years.

Dabi still bore the trauma of half of his body burning alive. Shigaraki still heard the voices of his family when all was quiet.

But they were together now, in a new setting. They were a wild, violent, dysfunctional bunch, sure, but they stuck together. They were fine, for now, and that was what mattered, right?

There would be a day where the League of Villains would return to an unsuspecting Japan. There would be a day where the heroes remembered just who was boss. There would be a day where the League of Villains came back twice as strong as before, and there would be a day where the heroes felt every last bit of anger, torment, and sadness that each one of the villains had experienced.

That day would come.

But for now, everything was peaceful. All was well.

They knew that couldn’t possibly last, probably not for very long, either, but for now… The feeling was comforting.

The next game of UNO didn’t end up getting played. As the next episode of The Twilight Zone played automatically on the television, Jun gave up on her bag of crisps and fell asleep snuggled against her elder sister. Mustard was out like a light the second he shut his eyes, curled up in a ball on the floor with his knees up to his chin. Toga drifted off slowly, and as Twice tried to get up and make his way back to his room, he surrendered to the inviting cushions of the sofa and was out the moment his head hit the pillow, his mask hiked up to his nose.

The television played on. ”It is an area which we call… the Twilight Zone…”

In the next room, Shigaraki and Dabi were fast asleep. In the room opposite, Kurogiri and Atsuhiro rested watching a comedy special. In the room following theirs, Eckels read a novel by lamplight.

As the early hours of the morning crawled across the clock, the League slept soundly, unaware of the chaos going on in the continent next door.

-

“You know he’s probably going to be able to break through that.” commented Aizawa, staring through the cell glass with narrowed eyes at the infamous walking calamity. ‘Machia was still snoring away, breathing slowly. An old wound had opened up again, dripping red from his side.

“We didn’t have much of a choice.” replied Tsukauchi with a shrug of defeat. “Where else are you gonna put a monster like that?”

“I’m sure you could figure out something better than the very facility a little girl managed to break out of not a month earlier,” replied the pro hero. “This Gigantomachia guy is huge. A couple feet of glass isn’t gonna stop him.”

“That said, there aren’t a ton of top-secret, highly-guarded detention centers in this country.” said Toshinori, from the detective’s other side. “For now… This’ll have to do. Last I heard, security here is getting doubled.”

“Yes, we don’t want any more unexpected villain attacks, do we?” Aizawa scoffed, folding his arms as Gigantomachia rolled over in his sleep, the walls practically trembling around him as he sent a kick at the wall. Tsukauchi and Toshinori flinched; Eraserhead had no visible reaction to the deafening clamor.

“The League of Villains is in Europe. London, probably.” Tsukauchi said, after a long bridge of silence.

“So you said.” Toshinori agreed. “And that Doctor Eckels guy, that Monarch hero… He’s the one who got them transport?”

“Tickets to London Heathrow.” confirmed the detective. “My friends are trying to narrow down a specific location, but it’s hard. Their information doesn’t tell us which trains they took out of the airport, or where they’re staying. Besides, London’s such a big city that it’d be hard to get a precise answer. If we’re lucky, the best we’re going to get is a general vicinity.”

Aizawa sighed. “We were careless. We let them get away.”

“There was no stopping them.”

“Maybe we shouldn’t have invited a stranger on board to help us with our investigation, Detective.” Eraserhead shot back. “Especially not a stranger with personal connections to one of our targets.”

“We wouldn’t have gotten anywhere with that investigation if I hadn’t called him. And, besides, even if she did escape, we got useful information on the girl with them, and that’s the reason we’re here, right?” Tsukauchi pinched his glabella. “We have to work with what we’ve got. The circumstances are tough, but we’ve got one of their allies right in front of us. We’ll get somewhere eventually, and we’re getting there with the intel we can get our hands on.”

“Yeah,” scoffed Aizawa. “I’m sure.”

He walked off, exiting the Tartarus chamber.

Tsukauchi sighed, thudding his forehead against the glass barrier. ‘Machia stirred, but didn’t wake up. Beside him, Toshinori relaxed his shoulders, shaking his head.

That League of Villains had to get captured eventually. They just had to. For the sake of the country, and Tsukauchi’s career, they just had to.

Chapter Text

Traditionally speaking, there was no rest for the wicked, so it went against every rule in the book that Jun actually quite liked sleeping. Most days, anyways. Some nights she was out the second she hit the cushions of the recliner she slept in, others she spent the eight hours squirming in her seat, tossing and turning and getting the blanket tossed over her all tangled up. It was often a gamble, and that was the worst part of it. But Jun did like sleeping. Made her feel refreshed in the morning, ready to do the usual trek around Central London.

But, as stated before, evil traditionally wasn’t meant to rest. It sort of went against the whole premise. That was the only reason Jun could think of to explain why she was still wide awake, staring with glazed-over eyes at the plain, dull, impossibly boring ceiling of her hotel room, her body flung dramatically over the arm of the recliner she rested in. Her blanket practically in knots over her stomach, she rested her head on her arms, stretched up behind her and cradling her neck. Across the room, two shadowy figures slept soundly, one on the bed, and one on the pull-out sofa, breathing in time with one another.

Then again, Jun wasn’t… fundamentally evil. And, by those standards, neither was the rest of the League. Most of Japan figured they must have been, what with their being so talented at plotting up countless schemes to thwart the heroes’ hopeless dream for a crimeless, lawful future, but they really weren’t. The fact of the matter was -- if you asked Jun, anyways -- the heroes were slow, and good at pointing the blame. But, then again, who was asking for the opinion of a near eighteen-year-old girl?

Not the heroes, Jun could tell you that much. She supposed it only made sense, for no one to care enough to hear out the personal opinion of a notorious criminal organization, but they could have had least heard her out. It was the villains, after all, that had to sit there listening to the heroes monologue about what it meant to “be one of the good guys,” and for that, Jun figured they all deserved an award and a pat on the back for a bad job done well.

Jun rolled over, rubbing her eyes with her arm and pulling the tangled blanket with her. She propped herself up on the arm of the chair, curled up on the cushion, and glared with hardened eyes out at the dark street below the windowsill. This late at night, only a few pedestrians strolled past the hotel. Mostly in groups, for good reasons. Jun’s eyes burned, aching for sleep. Her eyes fluttered shut, stinging ever so slightly. There were only so many hours left until she would be forced up and out of bed… If only she could… get a bit of… rest in… before…

She rolled back into the armchair, eyes shut and head hanging over the armrest.

-

Growing restless was what Daruma Ujiko was up to now. The adrenaline of organizing his own evil schemes was gone. Now came the boring part, the waiting part. Ujiko himself couldn’t accomplish everything he needed to by himself. It was up to All For One’s other loyal underlings to get the minor stuff done. Only some of them were reliable, but, truth be told, Ujiko didn’t care if the troublesome ones were disposed of by heroes or not. If they did end up surviving, that was fine, too. Always nice to have a few extra hands on deck, thought the doctor, and he hadn’t had an assistant since the last one made him angry.

The minions of the big boss’ were only in charge of the smaller tasks, as for then. Simple stuff, just some easy odd jobs to take care of. The more difficult tasks had been given to the more capable of the bunch. Theft was an art, after all. Ujiko had had half a mind to send some of the more dull ones along with them, just in case the more favorable of the pack had their safety compromised during their mission. But he left them to it. Anyone who had stuck with the cause for this long, just as Ujiko had, was worth the doctor’s respect.

Tomura Shigaraki was an exception. That man was delusional, and violent, and only cared for his own selfish desires. How many times had he sacrificed his own team’s safety? And why hadn’t they left him in the dust (no pun intended) by now? Shigaraki must have been a great preacher, to keep those fools around for so long. He had never been fit to be All For One’s successor. Clearly, the master had gotten desperate and careless with his decision, because he had made a grave mistake. There were others fit for the throne. Younger individuals, with so much more promise than that selfish brat.

However, Tomura Shigaraki wasn’t Ujiko’s priority. Not at the moment. If events played out right, Ujiko hoped to conveniently dispose of him as well, but at the moment, there was only one villain that the doctor needed to die. The Failed High-End-- the girl they were calling Jun. An ugly red “X” on Ujiko’s list of many achievements, a stain he couldn’t wash out. The destruction of the League would come eventually, but for now, Ujiko’s one wish was to get the girl out of the picture. He wished he could have been confident that the rest of Tomura’s buddies wouldn’t put up a fight, but he knew that was awfully excessive.

People often talked about how strong a bond the Yakuza tended to share, but those people couldn’t hold a candle against the League of Villains. Despite a rocky start, they were inseparable. It was ridiculous.

Ujiko had almost been disappointed, to find out that the Yakuza had been silenced for another time. He’d met a few of them once or twice.Irinaka, in particular. A nice guy, really, just a bit too unhinged for Ujiko’s tastes.

It had been almost a month since the Gigantomachia scare, and now that Ujiko was thinking about it, he rather wished he had the beast on his side still. He needed a good distraction, an excuse to get involved in whatever it was the heroes were up to. Because certainly they couldn’t have just forgotten about the League. They had to be up to something, and if Ujiko were to know what, he could get to wherever it was those idiots were much faster, and seal the deal before any pros got involved. A risky plan for sure, but a promising one. At least, he hoped.

Yes, what Ujiko really needed was a distraction, but, fortunately for him, he had something just as good. A spy.

She wasn’t exactly in the perfect position to be getting intel without anyone noticing, but she was certainly dedicated to the cause. She had been since the beginning, though it had been quite a bit of time since Ujiko himself had spoken to her. Her dedication was evident in many ways. Hell, she’d gone through some serious trouble just to get into UA High. But Ujiko hadn’t been bothered by her complaints, not once she’d made a name for herself. She’d slipped right into her crowd of classmates. Everyone saw her how she wanted them to see her: clumsy, cutesy, and a touch too naive.

She was anything but those things, really.

The doctor hadn’t believed for a second that she would fail him, least of all their master. Underneath her bubbly exterior, she was cool, calm, and collected, and most of all, capable. She was better at putting on a face and a convincing guise than any of All For One’s other servants, as many as there were, and she was only… what, how old now? As old as a UA graduate, at least. She’d been fifteen when she had first been recruited, eager and bright-eyed, hoping to make her family some extra cash. She had tried before. Villainy was her last resort, and All For One had been more than happy to let her on board.

It had been a difficult task, to keep All For One’s spy’s reputation as good as it was. Sneaking around under the ever-vigilant eyes of UA’s faculty was next to impossible. But she had gotten it done. Trading bits of intel and helpful information in exchange for money-- just small stuff, like the location of UA’s training camp. The first incident, at UA’s training facility, had been nothing but an experiment. Just the villains testing the waters. Their spy had done a commendable job of keeping her true identity a secret.

Since UA’s decision to put their students into dorms rather than sending them home every day, they had seen less and less of their spy. It was time for a reunion, Ujiko figured. He couldn’t do this alone, after all. He needed good, reliable information, by any means necessary.

-

Thirty minutes after Ujiko’s important business call, the door to Izuku Midoriya’s dorm room opened, and it wasn’t him who stepped inside. It wasn’t as if she was overstepping any real boundaries here. Midoriya had been the one to give her the key in the first place. It was late afternoon, and her classmates were in the common room downstairs.

They hadn’t noticed her slip out of the room. They never did. No one ever came looking for her-- They were just glad when she showed up.

And Hagakure was supposed to be the invisible one… That was a real laugh.

Gingerly, she stepped over mounds of binders, worksheets, report cards and uniform spares, light on her feet as she wandered towards the desk pressed against the wall. A multitude of All Might figurines stared at her, and she almost felt obliged to grin back.

Because she doesn’t hate All Might, she thinks. She doesn’t hate a lot of people, to be honest. It’s money she’s after, not revenge on anyone. However, it’s a little known fact that she, of all people, likes a good fight. Her frail exterior and charming smile and pink cheeks make her seem harmless. Her experience in the sports festival… It had been a rough one, but not an unenjoyable one. But, no, she doesn’t hate the heroes, she thinks. She just needs funds.

A while back, her family had cut her off completely. They needed money to keep the business going, they said. They could pay for their own dinners, and maintain the work, but as for her, their daughter, she needed to find some way to pay for herself. She was becoming an adult now, after all, wasn’t she? This was part of adulthood.

So, she was back again, willing to the most malicious task the master and his doctor could think of, so long as she would be paid handsomely in return. Deals had been made. She was doing whatever she could to keep herself above water.

Villainy didn’t always pay the bills. She’d seen enough to know that was true. After the Kamino Ward incident and the messy business with the Shie Hassaikai, the League of Villains had fallen into disrepair. It had been a pathetic sight, but she knew they were back, lively and active again. She was almost happy. She didn’t like talking to that bunch very much. She more helped them… indirectly, and in turn, they kept their dealings with her a secret.

More than twice, that had resulted in her getting hurt herself, but it was all to keep up that ever-convincing guise. And convincing it was.

Ujiko’s spy tiptoed around Midoriya’s belongings, finding a seat at her classmate’s desk. Carefully, she opened each drawer, examining the contents, less than surprised to discover how much more All Might merchandise had been stowed away after the touring of the dorms, to save Midoriya some self-confidence. Dissatisfied by what she found, she slowly lifted the lid of Midoriya’s sticker-covered laptop, finding it unlocked and opened to a document. She scanned the contents briefly, eyes glimmering with interest.

Eckels… Where had she heard that name before? Perhaps the doctor would know, then. It wasn’t ringing any bells. The traitor looked through the rest of the opened document, a smirk that seemed foreign to her usual expression playing off of her lips. Raising her hands to the keyboard, she tapped the proper keys, opened a new tab, and opened her own email account. She searched for a clear document, and successfully pasted everything from Midoriya’s research into the new one. She saved it, logged out of her own account, left the mouse hovering over her classmate’s original page, and shut the lid.

That was enough, for now. She couldn’t risk getting caught by any of her classmates.

She stood up from Midoriya’s desk chair, and in a balletic movement had made it across the sea of Midoriya’s belongings, strewn out carelessly over the floor. Her clumsy facade was a convincing one-- In reality, she was quite good on her feet. Weightless, and agile. Perhaps her quirk had something to do with it.

As she left Midoriya’s room exactly as she had found it and stepped out into the hallway, meandering reluctantly back towards the common room as to avoid arousing suspicion, she pulled her phone out of her pocket.

-

She hadn’t meant to start a fight. She wasn’t the type to go looking for trouble, not by any means. Truth be told, it had been her sister to rile up the strangers in the first place, and the fact that neither of them could speak much more than a few words of English didn’t help, either. Using her quirk had been her only option. Giving the three of them black eyes had been her only option. The fact that some of her family would have probably been proud didn’t make her feel any less guilty, for whatever reason.

A punch to Jun’s jaw sent her reeling backwards, stumbling over a trash can and nearly tripping onto her back. She caught herself on a low windowsill and grimaced, maroon eyes glimmering with specks of electric blue. Muttering a curse under her breath, a barrage of spearlike bursts of Video assaulted Jun’s attacker. They spiraled into the brick wall behind them, and crumpled to the ground. Jun’s vision swam in and out of focus, giving her little time to react to another blow, this time to the nose. Out of the corner of her eye, Toga was dealing with a battle of her own. Bitterly, Jun called upon her quirk to knock her newest attacker over the head with a hologram baseball bat. She spat blood onto the pavement, and leapt upon the nearest of Toga’s assaulters.

In just a few seconds, Jun’s victim let out a cry as they got shoved, hard, to the street themselves. Jun stomped once, twice on their stomach. They gagged harder and let out a shout as the bottom of her worn red sneaker connected painfully with their ribcage, finally going still. Adrenaline flows through Jun’s veins rather than blood, searing blue running along her arms in odd, intricate patterns. She gaped and panted, glowering at the subdued, bothersome alleycats on the ground. They weren’t dead, were they?

Gleefully, Toga pulled her switchblade from the shoulder of her last victim and smiled broadly at her sister. There was a gleam in her eye that Jun hadn’t really seen there before, and she wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. Her expression rivaled her sibling’s as she leaned over her stomach, protecting a wound in her forearm with her fingers and breathing heavily.

“What the fuck,” heaved Jun. “were they saying?”

“Dunno. Wasn’t Japanese, that’s for sure.” replied Toga, wiping the blood off of her blade into a Ziploc. She flashes another grin. “Nothing like a good fight, right, Li’l Sis?”

Jun stared at her. “We could’ve been killed.”

“That’s the fun of it.”

Jun rolled onto her knees, a hand on her chest as a metallic taste began to form in the back of the throat. She wasn’t used to that much exertion, that much stimulation to battle, and those morons had been awfully persistent in their attacks. They hadn’t been particularly handy with their powers-- in fact, they didn’t seem to have a lot of control over them at all, being older people and all, but they had clearly been in a scuffle once or twice.

However, Jun’s susceptibility to respiratory issues after a long and difficult spar wasn’t the only problem. She didn’t know it, but Toga did, and she figured it out just by looking at her sister long enough, kneeling on the ground, eyes overwhelmed by varying shades of teal and veins popping with static and electricity.

QSDT-- It stood for Quirk Singularity Doomsday Theory. She’d heard about it a few times, but pushed it aside. A scary concept, the kind you only think about in the early hours of the morning, when you still haven’t fallen asleep and you’ve subconsciously let your mind wander to places it normally wouldn’t go. An idea that, as more and more generations began manifesting quirks, the less control they would have over them, and the more wild, more dangerous, and more powerful they would become.

Jun wasn’t exactly the youngest of the young, so it wouldn’t have made much sense for her to have little to no control over her own powers. But, given enough of a thrill, or enough of a scare or a fright, Toga had (more or less) seen firsthand what she was capable of. Multiple people had been sent to the hospital, and others had been killed.

Now that Toga thought of it, nobody had really mentioned the raid incident since it had happened. After it had all been sorted out, and the League had used the first couple of weeks they shared in London as a cool-off period, it had gone unmentioned, as if it had simply been forgotten. Sure, Toga could still feel the scars on her wrists, from where Vlad King’s quirk had drawn blood, and she was sure the rest of them hadn’t exactly forgotten the whole ordeal, but…

Jun reared back awkwardly onto her feet, stumbling over her own shoes and supporting herself against the brick wall. Her gaze was dull and absent, still blinking away visible bright specks of blue. Toga’s fangs gleamed in the late afternoon sun.

“We should get going before the cops get here,” She said. “The neighbors probably heard.”

She grabbed her day satchel off the ground, brushing dust off of it with an upset glare. She muttered some nearly incoherent complaint about people walking on her stuff and skipped off into the street. Jun, dazed, followed after her. It took every fiber in her being not to look back one last time at the unconscious bodies of their attackers, knowing it would do absolutely no favors for her stomach.

Jun wasn’t especially eager, to tell her parents that she had gotten into a street fight with Toga, and she hoped her sister wasn’t, either. She wasn’t afraid of how they would respond. At least, not in the normal way. She knew they wouldn’t scold her, or ground her. She was afraid they would commend her for what she had done. Breaking a ribcage, inflicting a concussion and possible brain damage, using her quirk to an unhealthy extent… Jun still had the shakes as she caught up with her sister, making a beeline for the nearest Tube station. Toga had already plowed through into another conversation as they sifted through the masses of sleepy, mildly irritated Londoners waiting to get through.

It was one thing to support villainy, and entirely another to participate in it yourself. Especially when you were in charge. And, for lack of a better word, a rookie. She was so used to lurking behind in the shadows, loathing the world from a safe distance. She had always assumed-- no, she’d known she was going to eventually have to take charge of a mission, but that was for then, not now. To put it simply, Jun needed time and training, before she could go about starting street fights and dragging the good guys’ names through the dirt all on her own.

Well. Dad had done just fine. But Jun wasn’t Dad. They were similar, in all sorts of ways, in that they were fierce and stubborn, hot-tempered and competitive, determined and occasionally a bit of a lone wolf, but they weren’t one and the same.

Jun wished they were. That would have made things ever so much easier.

She wasn’t giving up. Never. She refused to. Not after everything the League had done for her. But the guilt, hanging low in her stomach and boiling in her fingertips, wasn’t going away. Not anytime this afternoon, anyways.

-

“A High-End?” Shigaraki huffed, leaning against a lamppost. Off a way’s, Dabi was sorting out a purchase at a street vendor selling candy apples. They had grown to frequent London’s many markets. Shigaraki shivers, pressing his phone to his ear again as he adjusts his scarf. “Haven’t looked into any backup recently. We haven’t needed it. Giran, what are you on about?”

“Look, Shigaraki, I’m telling you-- If you know what’s good for you, accept this backup.”

“I’m in fucking England.” rasped Shigaraki into the speaker, turning his gaze as passerby glanced nervously his way at the sudden change in tone. “What are you talking about? What’s going on? Quit being vague, I don’t have time for this. I’m busy.”

“Oh, glad to see you’re living the high life over there.”

“If you don’t--”

“If you don’t take this offer, Shigaraki, you or any of your teammates could be in real trouble. And I ain’t just talking about that girl of yours.” Giran swallowed, his voice shaky and nervous. “You have enough trouble on your hands as it is, what with the big investigation going on back here at home and all. I know you’re in England now and everything, but don’t… don’t think there aren’t eyes on you now. You’re still the League of Villains. Everyone knows the name, if not your faces.”

Tomura scoffed. “Yeah. Thanks for your concern, Giran, but I don’t need any Nomu at the moment. When we’ve got a good plan, I’ll let you know and you can send them my way… however that’ll work… ‘Kay, bye now, catch you later…”

“Shigaraki, I--”

Click.

“Hey, Ashtray, you done yet or what?”

Chapter Text

Detective Naomasa Tsukauchi was dead, and because of his untimely death, his investigation appeared to have been temporarily called off. An international trip to England was relisted as postponed, though who would be going in his place was an absolute mystery.

About a year had passed since Doctor Daruma Ujiko had reached out to All For One’s former employees, and recruited his own best spy to gather information on the whereabouts of the League of Villains. With enough hands on deck, the odds were looking good for them, or as good as the odds can look for the bad guys. Now, it was up to All Might and Tsukauchi’s squad (who were now under a different officer) to uncover the mystery of Tsukauchi’s death-- because it was a real doozy.

His time of death suggested he’d been on his way home before he saw the white light at the end of the tunnel, but his squad had discovered him on the wrong side of town, at least ten miles away from his neighborhood. He’d suffered a fatal blow to the head. A few of his bones were broken, an arm and a leg twisted at an unnatural angle.

A day after the medical team had arrived on-scene, they had told the officers in charge of the investigation that Tsukauchi had fallen to his death, from a significant height. The only problem with that conclusion was that there weren’t any tall buildings around. Nor were there any cameras worth checking. At a guess, the late detective had been obliviously lured straight to his death.

On the evening following the medical team’s observations, a young woman passed by, strolling right past the yellow caution tape and discreetly eyeing the crime scene as she went, phone to her ear. Underneath her springtime hoodie was a black-and-white bodysuit-- her hero suit.

She gave the meandering policemen a final stare and switched streets, taking a detour through an old car park. Upon leaving the scene, she pulled her phone out from the pocket of her sweatshirt and dialed a phone number that felt familiar under her fingertips. The ringtone didn’t have enough time to get a single measure in.

“Dunno why you had me kill him,” She said, not even a moment after the other caller had picked up. “He didn’t seem important. Not to mention I’m lightheaded after this afternoon’s mission. You know I’m in charge now, I have to maintain a specific image if you want me to keep working for you.”

“It’s not about whether or not I want you to work for me, young lady, it’s about you needing money and me being generous enough to provide it.” oozed the voice of Daruma Ujiko. “You were entrusted by the Battle hero Gunhead to take over his agency because, out of all his interns, he was most impressed by your performance. If that’s anything to go on, you won’t be getting any trouble from his underlings.”

“I hope you’re right.” said the spy, her boots crunching over the remains of car parts as she took a shortcut across the abandoned parking lot. “But why did you have me kill the detective? He’s the big boss of an investigation to get to the League of Villains… and they’re what you want, aren’t they? There’s no way I couldn’t have coordinated something between you two.”

“Detective Tsukauchi was months ahead of me in his plans to find the League. His death will, without a doubt, bring his investigation to a pause, and give us time to catch up.” Ujiko coughed, clearing his throat. His spy winced in disgust. “He would have detained Shigaraki and his friends before I had a chance to get to them and take my revenge, and if I had followed through with my plans while he was still alive, our side would have been caught in the crossfire. Even if we were to come to some sort of agreement, it would have been difficult to keep my identity under wraps, especially with our poor detective’s quirk in the way.”

“Even so,” Ujiko continued, his smile evident in his voice. “None of that matters now. All we have to do now is keep an eye on the police department, now that we’ve retrieved some valuable information. The League’s broker was certainly reliable; I can see why they like having him around, for sure.”

“Right, that Giran guy…” She had met him once before, running a quick errand to pick up some gear for herself. She hadn’t used it during hero duty. Using items sold off the black market during a mission could be a little bit risky, for reasons that shouldn't need much explaining. “What, am I killing him, too?”

"That depends on how well Tomura Shigaraki cooperates with me. For now, I’ll leave him be. Best to keep him nervous and off of our trail. We’ll come for him later, when it really matters.”

“And what exactly do you want with Shigaraki? He’s worked with Sensei his entire life.”

Ujiko laughed. “It’s not just Shigaraki I want an audience with. It’s the girl in his care that I want.”

“You’re killing a kid?”

“Someone is. I don’t like getting my hands dirty.”

“You can’t kill kids.”

“Please. She’s nearly the age Shigaraki himself was when he started out.” said the doctor, dismissively. “Though, I wouldn’t be surprised if he and his ever-devout League put up a fight for the sake of sentiment…” He pronounced it in a way that suggested the word had left a bitter taste in his mouth. “Ridiculous."

“Right.” She shivered, clambering over the wire fence at the edge of the car park and turning on to her street. “Is there anything else I need to know?”

“One of our comrades’ families is participating in our mission. They’re an old friend of our master’s. A hero family, as a matter of fact.” Ujiko clucked his tongue, seemingly in disapproval. “They became acquainted to All For One through various dealings… paying off damage debts, supporting their agency to keep it afloat in the business world, and the like. Keep an eye out for any of them or their colleagues, and let them know that we’re back in business.”

“Yes, Doctor.”

“Don’t hesitate to fill them in on our status, either, Ochako. I’m sure our friends at Iidaten will be very pleased to hear they’ll be getting a raise.”

“What do I do about the other Iida, then? Tenya Iida?”

“Oh, yes-- the younger brother of the first Ingenium. No, he’s not involved, you needn’t worry about filling him in, just be careful about how often you contact him. He’s a particularly avid fan of the Hero Code, and I don’t think he would be at all pleased to hear his precious older brother is dealing with devils.”

Ujiko’s spy looked sidelong up the street as she crossed it, hearing the wail of sirens fly by. She wondered how long it would be, until the late detective’s confusing death made the papers, and when the funeral would be. She wondered if she would have to attend, as a UA alumnus, since the detective had been good friends with many members of the hero school’s faculty. Suddenly, she found herself feeling very sick to her stomach.

“No, Doctor,” She said. “I don’t think he would be, either.”

“Then that’s all you need to know for now. Be on your guard. We wouldn’t want to sabotage this, when we’re almost in the clear.”

“Right.” And the call went dead. She was quick to erase the new number from her contacts. One measly slip-up, and someone could discover that she was working as a double agent.

Being head of the Battle hero Gunhead’s agency would have been a big deal, and it would have meant that she could have called off her dealings with her Sensei and Daruma Ujiko, but there had been a catch to her agreement with Gunhead.

When she had first worked as an intern back in her first year at UA, it had been a (more or less) voluntary position, therefore she didn’t receive any paycheck at the end of her week at the agency. However, now that she was working as a sidekick, she was earning paychecks, this time at the end of every month. But hero society wasn’t too keen on drowning the heroes' assistants in riches, and so she was still at square one, trying to fend for herself and earn enough cash to eat dinner at night. Indulgences were scarce nowadays.

Naturally, when she had heard she was being appointed a head position, although temporary, at Gunhead’s agency, she had been thrilled. Shortly after, though, they’d been so sorry to tell her that her wages would stay exactly the same, because she was simply a stand-in for Gunhead while he was in America for a conference.

She had been just that close to escaping the grip of her ties with All For One. Then again, she wasn’t even sure if anyone could get out of their links to All For One. Somehow, he always came back, and he had every means necessary to get a person killed if they betrayed the cause, or stepped out of line. And she thought the mafia had been defeated years ago…

Enjoying the job wasn’t the point. It was how much she got paid in the end that really mattered.

Looking left and right, Ujiko’s most trusted spy hopped the final fence, and crossed into her backyard, eager to be home and to think about something else. Her responsibilities could wait tomorrow, as could Tensei Iida.

-

It seemed only right that when the prime minister of England was told by her allies that a dangerous criminal organization was taking shelter in her country, she was a little bit concerned, and possibly more than a little bit pissed the fuck off.

Live analyses of the situation and a live response to the new information quickly made the news, and soon, everyone was on high alert. Villains in general were no joke, but by then, there were few people in the world who didn’t know what the League of Villains was. That might have been Japan’s business, but some of the League’s performances and battles had been so significant they were easily going to make history books. Some poor bastards in the seventh grade would have to sit there in horror as their teacher described to them a war where a single man took out thousands upon thousands with a powerful cloning quirk.

(Among other stories, but on behalf of Shigaraki, it’s probably worth mentioning that the USJ incident had been sort of embarrassing.)

It had been a year since Giran’s strange phone call, and since then, the League’s broker hadn’t made any attempts to contact them at all. Twice was growing worried, as he usually did, but the League’s employer insisted that he was just on the DL after everything happening on the news. Soon, the pressure would be on. It was time to consider what their options were, as reluctant as everyone was.

Late one evening, as the news blared from the television in their hotel room, the League’s leader, and the captain of the Vanguard Action Squad ate a late-night dinner in silence. Jun was sleeping in the next room, having a sleepover with her siblings. Onscreen, the prime minister was giving her fifth or sixth speech on England’s stand in Japan’s current situation. Tomura looked on, bitterly.

“We’re in trouble.” Dabi remarked, gazing at the screen with a pained expression. “There’s no way they’re going to back down. They’re going to look for us.” He looked up at his employer. “Boss, we can’t stay here anymore. They will find us.”

“We can take them,” mumbled Shigaraki, turning to skewer a bite of curry on the tines of his fork. “We’ll be fine.”

Dabi stared at him in disbelief. “Are you kidding? Tomura, we’re in England. We don’t have anything. And even if we were back home, Kurogiri’s is gone. We can’t possibly take on military.”

“We’ve taken out thousands before,” said Tomura, lifting a shaky hand and staring at the thin pink scars just under his middle, index, and thumb fingers. “What’s to stop us from doing it again?”

Dabi’s eyes strained. “Boss, you have to listen to me. We haven’t gone head-to-head with anyone in years as of now. We’ve been in hiding for a long time, to keep Jun safe. We’re rusty, and out of practice. We have absolutely no idea what’s coming, and there’s no way of knowing what’ll happen with both England and our country in the mix.” He took a shaky breath. “Do you understand what I’m saying? We can’t possibly win this fight. We don’t have a plan, or gear. We don’t even have any backup Nomu.”

Before Dabi could continue, there was a loud thump from the next room over as something heavy and solid hit the floor. The two of them gave the wall a quizzical glance, waiting to see if any sounds followed. When silence returned, Shigaraki’s eyes were shining. He looked at Dabi, biting his lip hard enough to draw blood.

“I don’t want to leave.” He whispered, eyes wide and bright. Dabi melted. He set down his food, and transferred over onto the couch next to Tomura, taking his wrists.

“I don’t, either,” He assured him. “But we have to keep everybody safe. We will take them down, you know we will. But we have to be ready. We need a strategy.”

“I know.” murmured Shigaraki, dejectedly, voice hollow and hoarse as he regained his composure. He thudded his forehead against Dabi’s. “I just hate it.”

Dabi nodded, taking the styrofoam plate off of Tomura’s lap and setting it back onto the coffee table, allowing the two of them to tip backward onto the arm of the sofa. He ran his hand through Tomura’s hair. “I know. I hate it, too. But we have to fight somewhere, sometime, don’t we? We haven’t been very good villains for the last few years.”

His employer snorted against his shoulder, pulling up and supporting himself on his chest. “I guess it is time to come back to the underworld, again. Been so long since we’ve all had a proper fight.”

“That’s the spirit, Boss.” Dabi grinned wickedly.

“I guess the last one was a little…” Tomura’s smile dropped into a grimace as he looked at his left hand, and at the scars running over three of his knuckles. “...much.”

Dabi’s expression soured as he took Tomura’s hand and examined the ever-present scars. Still, they shook when Tomura attempted to hold them steady-- not just the fingers he had lost in the battle, but the entire hand itself. The Cremation villain rolled brilliant eyes, shaking his head as he pressed a kiss to the back of Shigaraki’s shaking hand and let it fall again. “I’d have killed the bastard all on my own, if I had the chance.” He said. “I’ve never seen Kurogiri as mad as he was when I told him, after we’d gotten him back. He was livid. We all were.”

“We got our vengeance.” said Tomura. “I don’t have any intentions of wiping out the remainders of the Liberation Army, not unless they have anything to say about it. As for now--”

Tomura was interrupted by another sound, from across the room. He pushed himself off Dabi, eyes wide, and looked at the source. There, in the very corner of the hotel room, was the dented portable radio. It was where Tomura had kicked it just a year before. It hadn’t moved an inch. It was damaged beyond repair, in a state where it shouldn’t have been able to make any noise at all, but yet there it was, working.

“That’s…” whispered Dabi. “That’s Ujiko’s radio.”

“But I broke it,” hissed Tomura, standing up from the couch and staring at it, wide-eyed. “I broke it a year ago and kicked it into the corner. It shouldn’t be working.”

“We haven’t spoken to that creep since the ‘Machia business,” Dabi said, standing. “If that thing’s on, then he’s trying to get in contact with… Oh, shit.” He blanched. “What do you think he wants? Do you think it’s about the news? About the Liberation Army? We practically ghosted him after that incident, what could he possibly want now?”

“Nothing good.” Tomura said, hoarsely, turning to face him. “I don’t know what he wants, but if I were to guess, I’d say I’ve pissed him off somehow.” He took a deep breath, looked Dabi in the eye. “I’ll really have to get over it now, Dabi. I don’t have a choice, anymore. This is a warning. We have to go.”

-

”...We don’t even have any backup Nomu.”

At eight-thirty, she woke up with her sister and her brother standing over her, looking worried. She had a wound gashed out of her forehead, crimson mingling with the sky blue color of her hair. Bruises stained her elbows and litted her shoulders, forearms, and legs. One of her nails had been chipped off. She had a splitting migraine, and several pieces of expensive hotel furniture were in fractions around the room.

“What happened?” Jun groaned, cutting herself short as she realized her ears will still buzzing with an all-too-familiar ringing noise. She widened her eyes, supporting herself on her arms and looking weakly up at her siblings. “What did I do?”

“We woke up, and you were just… lying there like that.” explained Mustard, shaking his head in disbelief, his eyes creased with concern. Beside him, Toga stared absently at the wound in Jun’s forehead. “We thought you might have an explanation. Especially for why you punched a hole in the wall.”

“A.. A what?” Jun stared up at him in shock. She followed her brother’s finger, her gaze landing on the wall, just next to the window. Sure enough, there was a fist-sized dent there, the plaster slowly crumbling and falling away. The blow had almost been hard enough to reach a third layer. Shakily, she looked down at her hand, her knuckles bloodied, scratched, and certainly bruised. She flexed her fingers, and winced sharply. “Ouch!”

“I’ll go get Jin, he’s good at first aid.” said Toga, standing up and tearing her gaze away from Jun’s many blood-oozing wounds.

“What about Doctor Eckels?” Mustard asked, over his shoulder.

“He went out this morning. Don’t worry, Jin’s great at treating wounds. Be right back.” With that, she skipped from the hotel room with a wild look in her eyes. Mustard shook his head and knelt beside his sister.

“Are you okay?” Mustard asked, crossing his legs and pushing away the shattered remains of a desk lamp. On the far side of the room, a vase was in pieces, the mirror over the desk nearest to them had a crack in it, and a desk chair had been kicked on its side. “What the hell happened to you?”

Jun swallowed, and looked down at her lap. “I don’t know,” She lied. “I guess I must’ve sleepwalked.”

Mustard regarded her carefully, puzzled. “You’ve never sleepwalked before. You didn’t even wake us up.”

She folded in on herself, drawing her knees up to her chin. “I don’t know. I’m sorry about the mess.”

He shook his head. “It’s fine, even if it is… confusing.” He looked miserably around at the hotel room, and Jun could see he was trying and failing to make heads or tails of what had happened. She grit her teeth and said nothing. At least, not until Mustard began to stand up and said, “I’ll go tell Tomura and Dabi about th--”

“No!” Jun leapt up from the floor, pulling him back down with her, a look of urgency on her face. “Please, don’t tell them.”

”Someone has to. Kurogiri handles the books, and I don’t trust myself to explain to him how we’re supposed to make up for several hundred pound’s worth of hotel furniture.” Mustard wrangled out of her grip, but made no move to walk away.

“Please, don’t tell them.” Jun repeated. “If anyone has to tell them… please, let it be me.” She clenched her fists. “Please, Big Bro?”

And that was all it took. Mustard surrendered.

“Alright, fine. You can tell them.” He said. “I’m gonna go help Toga and Twice look for the First Aid kit, okay? You stay here, I’ll be right back. Try and stop the bleeding, there’s some stuff in our bathroom.”

“Yeah, fine.” He left the room.

Jun groaned, putting her face in her hands, rubbing her eyes and glaring in absolute agony at the hole in the wall. What had happened here? And after all that time of trying to keep it down, too. In her sleep… God, what a nightmare. How was she going to cover this up?

She dropped to the floor as she waited for the others to return, tracing white marks on the hardwood floor that looked as though she’d carved them out with her nails. The others hadn't noticed them yet; she had slept on them, anyway. It looked like they’d been carved out by talons. Jun shivered. She didn’t want to be this way. That was why she had tried to hide it in the first place.

There was only one way that undesirable side of hers could have possibly come out, and it made her sick to her stomach-- uttering the signal word, the name of those freaky lab monsters. What was the League doing, discussing those horrible creatures, one of which Jun had almost become herself? There was no bright side to this, not that she could see, other than that she was grateful she hadn’t taken her siblings out in her stupor. That, and they hadn’t fought back, much less even wake up and notice her.

Since her ever-so-pleasant stay in Tartarus, Jun had done her best to think as little as possible about her past, about those memories that had come flooding back to her. The doctor that had tried so hard to get her to submit, only to have her escape in the night. She had escaped with an imprint of that terrible experience still on her, and now, she had gone into a frenzy in the night, as well.

That doctor’s name-- It was on the tip of her tongue, but it was the only thing she couldn’t remember.

Dolefully, she leaned on her arm, a near twenty-year-old sitting crisscross applesauce in the middle of a trashed hotel room. Again, she rubbed her eyes until they turned red.

At least it couldn’t possibly get any worse than this.

Chapter Text

Detective Tsukauchi’s funeral was well-attended. An outside ceremony was held, to celebrate the end of a miserable winter. A few dozen heroes made the effort of showing up to the service. Every member of the late detective’s squad was perfectly punctual. There were a handful of guest speakers, the list of them featuring the former Symbol of Peace himself (dressed in black rather than the usual frighteningly vibrant yellow), and Principal Nezu. Recovery Girl sobbed the entire way through. Endeavor loomed in the background with his arms crossed and his head down. The two of them had not left on good terms.

It didn’t seem any family was present, other than Tsukauchi’s younger sister, Makoto, who had been inconsolable since hearing the unfortunate news. She’d already cried herself out, and she spent the entire service staring at her feet in solemn silence. She didn’t even risk a look at the body in the casket. Whether or not their parents were alive or deceased was left unclear. Tsukauchi had never married. Any extended family either hadn't been invited, or hadn't shown.

As it turned out, UA alumni were invited to the funeral. All of the most recent graduates of the pro hero Eraserhead’s class attended, all except for one. They stood in a group in the back of the ceremony, hands folded at their fronts, dressed in their hero uniforms. They owed the detective for all he had done for them during their admittedly chaotic experience at UA High. A few members of Vlad King’s most recently graduated class had shown, too. The combined racket of Tetsutetsu and Kirishima’s sobs were enough to shake the flowery canopy rooted to the ground.

After the difficult ceremony had ended and the funeral attendees migrated in slow, melancholy walks to the indoor cafeteria for a feast of an early dinner, Izuku Midoriya found himself feeling very alone. He’d driven to the service by himself, and met up with Toshinori upon arrival to talk, but now, the former Symbol of Peace had his hands full, exchanging painful stories with a choked-up Makoto Tsukauchi and a handful of other attending heroes. Not wanting to intrude, Midoriya took note of his other options, and gravitated to the back of the room towards two familiar faces, who offered him small smiles as he approached them.

“Hey, you two.” said Midoriya. They waved. He looked around, standing up on tiptoe to see over the heads of the guests. “Have either one of you seen Uraraka around? I thought she’d come, especially to something like this. She hasn’t texted me, either.”

Todoroki shook his head. His boyfriend followed suit, with an additional sharp swing of one of his arms. “I haven’t heard anything from her since graduation. What happened between the two of you? Surely, you’ve talked to her about…” He cleared his throat. “You know.”

Midoriya looked down at his feet. Graduation. That was the last time he’d seen her, too. So she really was ghosting everyone, and not just him. That was only partially a relief. He had meant to talk to her after the graduation ceremony-- about his feelings, and about the two of them, but the second their class was out of the spotlight, she had vanished. Tsuyu and Hagakure had been so busy being swarmed by already-adoring fans, they hadn’t noticed her leave at all. Midoriya’s texts had all been prompts since then, and they’d all been left on read.

And now, she wasn’t even attending Detective Tsukauchi’s funeral. Something was up.

“I haven’t talked to her at all,” confessed Midoriya. “I’m starting to worry.”

“If anyone were to know what Uraraka’s been up to, it would be Asui.” remarked Todoroki, taking a slow sip of champagne, his eyes narrowed at something across the interior of the brightly-lit cafeteria. Iida and Midoriya followed his gaze and shivered. Endeavor’s stares were, ironically, bone-chilling. The Flame hero looked away.

“Any improvement between you two?” squeaked Midoriya, uncertainly, side-eyeing the Flame hero over his shoulder. Todoroki only gave a bitter shake of the head. Iida rubbed his shoulder.

Perhaps Todoroki’s relationship with his father would have gotten better, had it not been in the spotlight thanks to the media for the past several years. In the beginning of the experiment, it might have even been true that Endeavor was willing to make a change to his parenting and his own behavior, but now, after the unhelpful and shameless broadcasting of their work-in-progress relationship courtesy of all the biggest news programs, the two of them were back to square one. Endeavor couldn’t bear looking less than, or emotional. He wasn’t Japan’s Symbol of Peace-- he was Japan’s Symbol of Power.

Evidently, Enji Todoroki was still willing to hurt his family to earn respect for that title.

“I’m sorry, Todoroki.” Midoriya said, sympathetically. He surveyed the blinding cafeteria. “Tsuyu! Over here.”

Tsuyu had only ever looked so sullen once. Her hands fit together in front of her chest, she stalked over from the group of young heroes she’d been standing with and gave her old classmates a small wave. Her eyes looked red.

“Hi, Midoriya. Iida. Todoroki.” She croaked, and before Midoriya could say something, she asked, “Have any of you seen Ochako?”

“I was just looking for her,” exclaimed Midoriya. He sighed, frowning and shaking his head. “Why isn’t she here?”

“Who?” Yaoyorozu was there now, too, a golden brooch pinned up on her dress. Her parents milled about in the background, wearing strained pouts as they, too, exchanged saddened words about the late officer. Midoriya cocked his head to one side-- Why were they here? What business did they have with Tsukauchi?

He looked to the other side of the cafeteria. There, in the wheelchair… Had he just come with Iida? Or did he have some unclear business with Tsukauchi, too? Did they just work together on missions, or--

“Uraraka.” answered the group.

“What about her?” asked Yaoyorozu, arching an eyebrow as she pulled away from her own near-empty glass of champagne-- her third that afternoon (Midoriya’s eyes widened; he had never thought Yaoyorozu the drinking type, but maybe that was just because of the occasion).

“She’s been ghosting all of us.” explained Tsuyu.

“Really?” came Kaminari’s voice, joined by Sero as they sidled up to the rest of the bunch. “I heard from her last night.” He said. “She’s sick.”

“So did I.” agreed Yaoyorozu.

Midoriya’s stomach stirred. “Why did she call you two?” He asked, and hoped his tone didn’t come off as too defensive or jealous.

“The three of us are working as a team, don’t you remember?” Yaoyorozu said, almost dismissively. Midoriya did not. “We’re thinking about merging our agencies. Creati, Chargebolt, and Uravity-- our respective agencies cover the corners of Tokyo. We’d have top-notch surveillance on suspects and villains. The three of us were planning to meet for dinner in Hosu this evening.”

Kaminari nodded, and grinned, but didn’t offer one of his usual hyped-up comments. “Yeah.”

”No fair!” someone hissed, with an aggressive and untameable lisp. The group looked around in confusion for a few seconds until realizing the voice had come from down, and all seven of them looked down at a nostril-flaring Mineta. “You’re working with Yaoyorozu and Uraraka, Kaminari? You would betray me like this?”

As the bickering ensued, Midoriya’s old (presumably abandoned) muttering habit came back at full force, muffled as he resumed his new habit of chewing anxiously at his fingernails. The gears turning in his head were practically visible, eyes burning with the usual intensity. Something was wrong about this. Uraraka wouldn’t have left him on read for this long. She couldn’t have possibly been sick, not for all this time.

He would have to visit her, then. He’d been to her address, for a birthday party. They could reconvene, once and for all, and MIdoriya could finally tell her everything.

That was, after she had explained to him that this was obviously all just a great big misunderstanding. That she’d lost his number, or something. Or deleted his contact. Or gone on a long mission. Or maybe plans had changed, and she’d gone with Gunhead on that trip to that fighting hero conference. Because it all had to be a mistake.

The sound of Mineta wailing as Yaoyorozu punted him with one of her heels drew Midoriya back to reality. Kaminari was in front of him, waving his hand.

“Yo, Midoriya!” He said, raising an eyebrow and grinning a blinding smile. “What’s that look about, man? You up to something?”

“Sorry.” Midoriya replied, hurriedly. “I spaced out. It’s good to see you.”

“You, too.” Kaminari nodded, hands in the pockets of his tux. “I’ll see you around, okay? Got an important call to make.”

“Sure. See you soon.” He sauntered away. Midoriya watched after him, as he disappeared into the hall leading out to the chapel, pulling his phone out from his tux pocket. That was weird. Kaminari sure had changed a lot. Since graduation, even. He’d crashed at somebody’s place following the afterparty*. The party had been at Yaoyorozu’s. They had plenty of guest rooms to go around, but only a few were allowed to stay.

*Because even the good guys sneak liquor into their afterparties.

Midoriya gazed absently at the place where Kaminari had vanished around the corner. Kaminari had always been an eccentric.

“Midoriya!” Iida’s voice stunned him out of his thoughts. He turned, and his former class president smiled at him, broadly, his partner standing with him, watching guests from across the room wander about the cafeteria. “The two of us were thinking of grabbing coffee later. We’re both off work today. My brother has some dinner deal in Hosu this evening. Care to join us?”

Midoriya nodded, with a cheerful smile that dissipated after a moment. Mealtime had come to a close, and it seemed all of the attendees were beginning to leave, one by one in the parties they had come with. The three of them strolled towards the exit.

Speaking his mind, Midoriya asked, “Hosu? Your brother, didn’t he move his agency out of the city after… well, after everything?”

Iida nodded, punctuated by a firm jab. “Indeed,” He said. “I’m not sure what exactly it is he’s been invited to; He didn’t allow me to hear much. I only know it’s big business.”

“Todoroki?” asked Midoriya. “Is your father going?”

He shook his head. “Even if he were invited, my father doesn’t allow anyone the pleasure of showing up at their parties.”

“Huh.” Midoriya said. “Weird.”

He pulled out his phone, unlocked it, and typed his way into his contacts. Despite her inactivity, Uraraka was the most recent contact. Six messages, since graduation. All of them read, but with no reply. Midoriya sighed, and gathered up his courage.

eatyourbroccolikids: Have fun @ that party in Hosu tonight! Heard from Kaminari and Yaomomo btw, good luck on that project.

He hit send, cringed, and stowed his phone back in his tux. Iida gave him a worried look, but continued to chatter to his boyfriend, who was listening attentively (bless his heart). Midoriya tried to fall back into the conversation, but, after a few failed attempts, impulsively pulled out his phone. He opened his messages app, and stared, woefully, at the screen.

Read 13:33

-

She was not at Tsukauchi’s funeral. She was at the Tokyo International Airport, waiting for a certain flight to come in.

She’d told her parents that she was going for a lunch date, because despite the fact that all of this had originally been for their sake, her parents were innocent souls who didn’t deserve to be dragged into All For One’s business. Though, “innocent” seemed to give them too much credit. Nowadays, all of this was for her own sake, because now it was up to her to put food on the table of her apartment. She had gone from poor to poorer at age eighteen.

Ochako didn’t harbor anything akin to hatred for the League of Villains, she really didn’t. She had, at one point, worked for them, when the League’s relationship with All For One was still stable, and the infamous potato-faced kingpin himself hadn’t been imprisoned in Tartarus. But that was a long time ago, and it wasn’t as if the League had any money to offer her now. Sentiment wasn’t important, as long as she had the money to feed herself. She had just moved on, to better opportunities.

Her dealings had first officially started just before her trip to I-Island, the one she’d managed to score from Yaoyorozu. She had done this and that for the other side for a long while, making a little bit of extra cash here and there to sneak into her family’s budget (just a few nudges back at the USJ, etc), when she had really cared about the business, but it had never been anything too serious. Uraraka hadn’t an idea just how serious bonds to All For One really were, until she was contacted just before her vacation.

Ochako Uraraka could be a bit of a pushover. Her classmates had certainly managed to exploit that one. All For One was no exception. She gathered the information he wanted from her, about the supposed “faux villains” Doctor David Shield had hired. She used Melissa Shield as a tool, to help her get a grip on the layout of I-Island, and how the security worked, and just how hackable it was. Everything went back to All For One, and she was paid handsomely.

From there on out, the tasks became larger and riskier, but the rewards, too, became larger, and prettier.

Dressing inconspicuously wasn’t Uraraka’s thing, but she couldn’t exactly hang around in her hero suit without attracting attention, so she’d simply given in and gone for the obvious all-black ensemble. She loitered by the entrance to security, her hands in the pockets of her sweatshirt as she waited for any sign of them. They wouldn’t be coming through the main entrance. They’d find a way to get around it, somehow. She knew, from her research, that they hadn’t been in contact with Giran very often as of late, so it wouldn’t be a smooth and easy process for them. Therefore…

As a flash of purple appeared in her peripheral, she lifted her phone, and snapped a picture. She sent it to an unnamed contact in her phone. The Warp Gate in the edges of her vision snapped closed. They were back, then. It was time to take action, to free the master and unite with his allies, and to begin planning the ambush. Compared to this, the Kamino Ward tragedy would be nothing. Japan was going to be cleaning this up for years. All For One would show the League of Villains what he thinks of traitors, and kill the children who had betrayed him. Those who had stood by heroes for so long would finally come to, and realize the truth. Japan’s heroes would fall from grace, once and for all. The failed High-End called Jun who’d manipulated All For One’s successor would finally be disposed of.

Or, to put it simply, both the heroes and the villains were going to get messed up real good.

Ochako watched the League of Villains put their heads down and make a beeline through the airport in almost a rehearsed manner, and put her phone away. The clock was inching towards the evening time, and she had a dinner date to get to. In the ugly grey backpack slung over her shoulder was an impressive collection of makeup (dollar store, though it worked just as, if not better than the expensive stuff), her dress from the I-Expo, and a pair of high heels she’d borrowed from Yaoyorozu. She looked around, caught sight of a nearby sign, and walked to the bathroom. She had to be in Hosu by five, and she wasn’t about to miss this train for the world.

-

He was furious. Over the years and years he’d been alive, however -- as no one knew his true age, given his supposed immortality -- he had gotten rather good at concealing that anger. After all, he was the one who had taught a young Tomura Shigaraki how to mold and use his fury for something greater than himself. Tomura’s sensei considered himself a doting parent. He considered Tomura Shigaraki a work of art, a masterpiece that had been sculpted from pathetic mush into something powerful. Now, though. Now that something new was in the picture… Sensei figured it was time to destroy, and rebuild. Turn an old piece into something modern and beautiful.

This was payback for his student never coming to rescue him from the hell on Earth that was Tartarus. All For One had given that boy everything he had. He’d given him a home, he’d given him his family back, he’d given him lessons far better than any schools could offer him, and he’d given him the caretaker he loved so much. And for what? If Sensei had to take everything back from him, one by one, then so be it. Mercy was useless. He needed to suffer, to learn what happens when you betray the cause.

Ujiko had been right all along. They really had been babying Tomura for far too long.

So, Sensei was going to do everything in his power (and he had rather a lot of it) to make sure this one really hurt.

There was something about his little slice of Tartarus that was so much worse than the rest of the detention center. The white-tiled, symmetrical walls seemed just a little more blinding. The white noise seemed just a little bit louder. There was something so off-putting about that one individual hallway, something no one could quite put their finger on. It was the same place that Jun had been locked up in, that had driven her crazy. No one in Tartarus could figure out why that little girl in their captivity had thrown such a huge fit.

It was more of an asylum now, then a high-tech prison.

On cue, a young man entered Sensei’s sector. He was dressed in a security uniform, but the kingpin inside the chamber could see the Iidaten logo poking out from underneath the collar on a t-shirt. He strolled past the outside of All For One’s chamber, paused, and entered, the strangely-closed doors* sliding open and shutting behind him as he typed a command into the keypad set up at chin height.

*Security at Tartarus had been amped up (yet again) after Jun’s miraculous escape. There was now an extra pair of doors in front of each cell and a keypad accessible only by security personnel. Like a small number of other hero agencies, Iidaten possessed shares in both Tartarus and its new security system. Therefore, passcodes, blueprints, etc. were available to the higher-ups in the agency hierarchy (yes, all agencies had them, hush).

The Iidaten employee security guard glanced around warily at the cameras posted in every corner of the ceiling. He stalked nervously over to the control panels before the thick pane of glass, and stared into the darkness. A shadow shifted. He flinched, and pressed a button on the panel beneath him. The cameras drooped, leaving the vigilant turrets above the cell’s occupant, and the electricware bolted to the chair he was sitting in.

The One Hundred Percent Qualified Security Guard leaned in. “Tonight. They’re meeting in Hosu.” He said, quietly. “Your doctor, he… He’s rounded them up again. You’ll be out of here soon, sir. Iida-san and… and them… They’re funding your doctor’s brand new Nomu. It will be time soon, sir. Our payment… Iida-san’s payment, I mean… It’s in order?”

”If it isn’t,” sighed All For One. ”Then it will be. Is that all?”

“Right. Yes. I believe so, sir.”

All For One leaned forward. The turrets spun on their cycles and aimed at him, sharply, red beams in the dark. He grinned. His teeth were yellowing. He was a blind man, but the “security guard” felt as though he were seeing straight through him. The Top Notch Security Officer flinched as the turrets slowly rotated.

”Thank you for your patience.” said All For One. ”Tell the others that we will be off very soon.”

The Definitely Security Guard Who Is Very Good At His Job And What Do You Mean These Jokes Are Getting Old? swallowed his nerves. “What is it all for, sir, if I might ask?” He said, in a quiet voice. “All of these messages, all of this money stuff, getting your old allies back together… What does it all mean?”

”It is a call to action, my friend.” said All For One, with a sinister smile. ”This will be the nail in the coffin for my plans. I’ll finally be able to settle into retirement.” All For One laughed.

“Ah.” said the young man. “Of course. Th-Thank you, sir.”

All For One was silent as he departed from his chamber, the doors slamming shut behind him and the keypad resetting.

The Iidaten employee stalked past another cell, this one open, and stopped dead in his tracks as a voice squawked at him.

“You!” It hissed. “You work for him.”

The Iidaten employee swallowed his heart back down.

“That bastard cost me everything!” growled the voice. “He’s the reason I’m locked in here, that son of a--”

The cell intercom cut in. ”Mister Akaguro, please calm down…”

The chamber doors snapped shut.

Now quite officially scared out of his mind, the poor Iidaten employee left All For One’s sector, to return with good news.

-

What would an arc be, without a Midoriya Intervention™?

Train tickets to Hosu weren’t that expensive. Love does crazy things.

Chapter Text

There’s nothing so relaxing as coming home from vacation.

Japan had never looked and felt and looked so welcoming-- at least, not to Jin. His life hadn’t been the easiest, after all. It was only when he’d met the League, that he felt a true, very real sense of security. Somewhere in there, he’d gathered himself a twisted little family out of a bunch of menaces, and he couldn’t have been happier. Alright, maybe he could have been-- No, he loved the League. He’d follow them to the ends of the Earth. It sure had felt like it, recently.

Jin didn’t have his mask on him. Trauma was a difficult thing to recover from. For so long after his recruitment to the League of Villains, he’d put off any attempts to get better, and eventually, he’d simply had enough of it. He was fed up with the headaches and the migraines. The whole business with the Meta Liberation Army had been completely different; He had been fueled by stress that day, and while the nagging voices in his head had been persistent throughout it, he had been so determined to save Himiko* that he had simply forgotten about them.

*It was no secret Jin had a tendency to devote himself to those he got along with. He was by far the loyalest man on Earth, and it was both an advantage and a disadvantage. He raised the bar for himself far too high fairly regularly. It took, literally and figuratively, a League to make him realize he was worth anything at all.

No, Jin wasn’t wearing his mask. He’d discovered recently that simply having something touching and covering his head was enough to make him feel at least a little bit more whole. There was still always a slight ringing in his ears, but it was still enough to make him feel both safe and comfortable. He was grateful to Dabi for the jacket.

Jin turned a corner, and stopped as he came to the rubble that remained where Kurogiri’s bar had once stood. Only a few walls were still standing amongst pounds upon pounds of white chalk, plaster, and split hardwood, making it look more like ancient ruins than a building that had been attacked and destroyed. Jin sighed, and stepped over the pathetic yellow caution tape surrounding the building’s remains.

Look at us, cheered one of the many inner Twices. This particular one was giddy and enthusiastic for all things trouble, reckless and carefree. Trespassing! Man, are we rebels or what?

We’ve literally killed people before, groaned Jin. And shut up. I didn’t say you could speak.

The same inner Twice whined. That’s no fair. Why do you get to do all the talking?

Just be quiet. Jin pulled the hood of his jacket further down over his head, hoping just a little bit of coverage would be enough to keep the others silent and obedient. He wasn’t going to give up the mask entirely-- That would have been a death wish, through and through. This was simply an experiment, to see how he fared without it. In the late days of summer, wearing the mask would have suffocated him. Once the annual heat came to pass, Jin would take the mask back.

Jin’s sneakers crunched over debris as he hopped over the hazard tape, doing his best to regain his balance without toppling over chunks of wall. If he looked close enough at certain parts, he could just barely make out the outline of what the bar had used to look like. Every now and then, he’d come across a smashed pint glass or broken liquor bottle. In the corner of the ruins, the League’s old television was in a million pieces. Furniture from the top floor had fallen through holes in the floor. Jin huffed, shaking his head, and perching himself on what remained of the downstairs sofa.

Don’t look so glum, advised one of the inner Twices. This one was sardonic, and careless. If you ask me, the place was in dire need of a facelift.

That’s not funny, Jin snapped, rubbing his temple.

There’s no use complaining about it now. You came here to scope out the area, right? The inner Twice clicked its tongue (how it had one, Jin couldn’t tell you). Do something useful, then.

It’s called reminiscing, Jin grumbled, defensively. He drew himself up from the back of the sofa, careful not to slide on the plaster decorating the ground.

Sounds boring.

Jin did his best to ignore him, and eventually he stopped chattering. Jin looked around at the rubble, trying to make out the corpses of furniture he remembered. At the foot of the sofa he’d been perched on were the sad remnants of an unidentifiable gaming console, and a small handful of game chips and cases. He pulled a face. Tomura probably missed the hobby like hell.

What remained of the bar itself, also known as Kurogiri’s seemingly permanent station, was just a pathetic stump of hardwood and three collapsed liquor cabinets. Jin peered over at the pounds and pounds of smashed glass and winced. The poor mistman was probably going mad without his usual anxious tick of cleaning up the bar.

Try as he might, Jin couldn’t seem to find any of Toga’s belongings-- and that was probably because she lived solely off of makeup and an ever-growing collection of shoes she didn’t wear. Every now and then he’d find a crushed top of hers, or a sneaker, or a random switchblade, but other than that, he found nada. That didn’t matter much, though. The only thing Toga was more proud of than her knife collection was her wardrobe. However, she’d made up for it in England, Jin was certain.

Mustard had owned far more than his weight in comic books, and from the looks of things, none of his collection had stood a chance in surviving the raid. Crumpled, ripped pieces of sleek comic book paper practically covered the place. Jin couldn’t find any of his own belongings, either. Spinner and Jun’s own respective collections of games and comic books seemed to blend together with Shigaraki and Mustard’s.

Dabi had never owned much. There wasn’t a lot to look for. For a guy who had some obsessive compulsive tendencies, minimalism made sense, but every glimpse of his room Jin had seen had been total bare bones. It was as if he lived off of takeout and cigarettes.

Across the horizon of the city skyline, Jin could see the vague outline of a media helicopter. He squinted into the distance at it, and shook his head, looking away.

As Jin prepared to text the League and update them on his disappointing findings, a glimmer of white in his rearview caught his eye. He took slow, long strides, doing his best not to slip and slide on the plaster underneath his feet, and stooped to examine what he’d found. His lips pulled down in a frown, and Jin let out a shaky breath.

With one arm he scooped up the remains of the mangled pair of sunglasses into his palm, and stared at them, bitterly. He hadn’t had the time to get his things before he’d been knocked out by Vlad King during the ambush. He had been set on following through with Shigaraki’s orders that he hadn’t managed to think about what he’d be forced to leave behind.

Why the long face? You still have the magnet she fought with, don’t you? reasoned an inner Twice.

Jin looked down at the grit beneath his sneakers.

Oh. The logical inner Twice made a sympathetic noise. Well, don’t dwell on it. She died an honorable death, at least.

She shouldn’t have had to.

Hey, come on. I’m trying to help you here.

Jin huffed, shoving the mangled corpse of Magne’s precious sunglasses into the pocket of Dabi’s jacket, standing up and preparing to desert the crime scene once again, when a shout from the street caught him off guard.

“Hey, you! Stop right there.” said a voice that could only belong to an officer of the law. “You’re not allowed to be over there.”

Jin squeaked.

Oh, well. sighed the problematic Twice. Time to blast.

Skidding over plaster, rubble, and copious amounts of debris, Jin made a break for it, hopping what remained of the bar’s back wall and taking his escape route through an alley. The yells of the angry police officer tailed him.

The thrill of the chase! exclaimed the giddy Twice, as Jin made his miraculous escape.

As Twice made a break for it, a woman in red looked at the crime scene from across the street, seated outdoors at a cafe table, shaded by an umbrella. Her new sunglasses had red frames that matched her hair and her tank top, and they suited her far better than any white ones ever had. Don’t think the color red means anything, though-- She wasn’t some floozy. She’s a tough one. She could’ve snapped you in half if she wanted to. Attractive, in more ways than one.

She sighed, stirring her cold brew with her straw and watching as Twice disappeared from view. Heads all along the street turned to watch the police officer in pursuit scream nonsense as he tried to follow Jin down the alley he’d escaped through. From the looks of things, he wasn’t going to be able to catch him. With a heavy sigh, she looked across the cafe table at the man paying for her coffee. He looked a tad bit worse for wear-- but the fact his fingers had been replaced wasn’t just it.

“Helping the League ‘indirectly’ seems like a bad idea. Helping them at all seems like a bad idea, actually.” She said. “If what you’re telling me is all true, it’s a sure no-go. Especially if you’re doing all this to keep yourself safe.”

“My own safety is only part of it,” hissed Giran, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose. “I’ve supported the League of Villains for all these years. I don’t want their old allies to be the foundation on which they destroy themselves. They’ll sabotage themselves, if I don’t help them.”

“So this is about your business with them, then?” Magne leaned back in her chair, folding her arms over her chest and quirking her lips up. “You just don’t want to lose out to some mad genius doctor and his collection of lab monster pets, is that it?”

The broker flushed. “Doctor Ujiko isn’t just some mad genius, he works for…” He leaned closer, glancing left and right and speaking in a hushed, scandalized voice. ”He works for All For One.”

Magne gave a hum of acknowledgement. Like most people who did business in the ‘underworld,’ as Shigaraki put it, she was only vaguely aware of who All For One was. Most people nowadays were far too young to know about or have been alive during the Quirk Uprising. And, while most of them had been alive during the recent Villain Renaissance, the media usually had every story so backwards that there was no way of knowing what was true and what wasn’t. But Magne didn’t need to know about All For One’s every cruel deed to know he wasn’t good news. She’d worked with his predecessor and just a small amount of his minions before, and she’d seen in Shigaraki what twisted plans All For One could conceive.

Giran leaned forward. “Look, Magne. You came back from the dead. What happened to you? How are you back? Jin checks up with me regularly, and he told me you were murdered by Yakuza. So, how? How are you alive?”

“That’s for me to know,” said Magne. “And you to wonder. And, if you’re wondering if I’m going to help you-- I’m afraid not. A woman has things to do. I already got killed once working with the League. Who’s to say something like that won’t happen again?”

“Nobody can,” admitted Giran. “And that’s not why I wanted to talk to you. I just need your advice. You’re closer to the League than I ever was-- after all, all I did was run jobs for them. They saved me. Up until now, I’ve been in their debt, and this is how I’m redeeming myself.”

“Giran,” Magne sighed, sitting up in her chair, adjusting her sunglasses. “If this All For One guy really is as big a deal as you say he is, to the point where you’re coming to me for advice, do you really think you’re gonna be able to save the League by yourself?”

“I can’t just look the other way,” cried Giran. “Not after they saved my life.”

“You wanted my advice, Giran,” Magne said, shaking her head. “And I’m giving it to you because I’m nice. Save your own life, and forget about it. You don’t want to die, and you don’t want to feel what comes after.”

She stood up from her chair, fixing the straps of her purse. She gave Giran a sympathetic look from behind the polarized lenses of her shades. “Thanks for the coffee, Giran. Stay out of trouble.”

Magne disappeared around the corner of the coffee shop, taking the discreet route home. Just because she was now documented as “deceased” didn’t mean the police department would think twice about arresting her. Giran took off his glasses, and put his face in his hands.

He had to face it-- she was right. The League of Villains versus All For One was a pitiful matchup, no matter the rumors about how weak the kingpin was now. If All For One were to escape Tartarus while the League was still in their current sorry state, the League of Villains was doomed.

-

Eckels’ flat had been broken into. It was a miracle they even got into it unspotted.

Furniture had been upturned, drawers had been rifled through, kitchenware had been pulled out of its cabinets. Clearly, a tornado had ripped through the doctor’s apartment. Nothing was in its proper place-- and while Doctor Eckels probably should have been more concerned with the implications of the disaster, and what it meant for his own safety, he was more distraught over how the tidiness of his precious apartment had been ruined.

“They’re probably onto us.” Dabi said, staring around the wrecked apartment with a blank look.

“Not probably,” came Spinner’s voice. The group turned to him, holding up his cellphone to display the headline of a brand new article. The “hits” tab was already skyrocketing. “Definitely. And they’re not just onto us, either. It’s Eckels they’re worried about now. ‘A European hero who disappeared after a raid on the notorious League of Villains, an organization of…’ Oh, come on, really?”

“Me?” Eckels turned away from the expensive, now-destroyed lamp he’d been fussing over. “They want me?”

Shigaraki gave an irritated huff, clearly bothered by the way Eckels’ pure and wholesome soul had remained the same even after his time with the League. “Of course they want you,” He scoffed. “You vanished mid-mission. I don’t doubt the police department would have found your body by now, if you were dead.” He ignored Eckels’ mortified expression. “They’re total idiots, but they’re not that stupid. Otherwise, police branches would have globally disbanded during the Golden Age.”

The group gave a thoughtful hum (save for Eckels, who was already beginning to shake from nerves). Shigaraki despised heroes to his very core, but that didn’t mean he hadn't done his homework. Homework, of course-- not research. Homework came with the implication that an individual was forced to do it. And forced he had been.

Still, his knowledge on the history of heroes was impressive.

“Then again,” Atsuhiro said, from the far side of the room, looking up from his heavy task of mourning the death of a houseplant. “We did hear recently that the death of Detective Tsukauchi”--Kurogiri visibly flinched--”brought a massive halt to activity down at this city’s police department. Admittedly, they were fools to broadcast that information out to everyone, but if I had to guess, I’d say it was more the media’s doing than anything else.”

“It always is.” Spinner mumbled, rolling an empty flower pot across the floor and back again with his toe, to Eckels’ undisguised horror. The doctor gave a strangled scream.

Jun, across the room, rooted to the spot by Dabi’s side and looking paler than ever, spoke up. “So where are we going to stay, if not here? We don’t have anymore spare hideouts, and Giran’s gone dead silent.”

The sudden mischievous glimmer in Shigaraki’s eye wasn’t the least bit concerning-- not at all.

The rest of the League wasn’t entirely sure whether Shigaraki’s consequent suggestion that they stay at the once-headquarters of the Meta Liberation Army was based on concern for the team’s safety, sheer pettiness, or both-- but they were grateful to be staying in a secluded area regardless. Sneaking around had always been their forte, but after a while the adrenaline was beginning to get tiring.

The Liberation Army’s headquarters had once been a suburban neighborhood before the Army and its precious CEO had taken it over. They had put its invincible walls, as well as surveillance technology and its twelve-too-many watchtowers. Eventually, after the League’s clash with the Army, their little neighborhood had been mostly destroyed by Shigaraki, his friends, and Gigantomachia.

But that didn’t mean the League couldn’t make the most of it. Somewhere amidst the rubble, debris, stray wires and shards of glass, there was a feeling of homeliness to the place. Probably.

That same evening, Jun and Dabi sat by the window of what remained of the CEO Re-Destro’s office. Why Tomura had chosen this particular room as his bedroom? The League figured that was probably based on pettiness, too. A way of holding his victory over the deceased CEO’s spiritual head. Or something like that.

Beside Dabi was three styrofoam takeout containers (he’d made sure to keep up with those friends of his who didn’t have a problem bringing the League food during their time in England), and a medical kit Jun had never known he owned. In his lap was a staple gun, and a sewing kit. Two things Jun had also never known he owned.

“So,” Dabi said, holding Jun’s arm and threading over the wounds in her knuckles as carefully as he could manage. “Are you going to tell me why you punched a hole in the hotel room wall?”

Jun shoveled a bite of curry into her mouth to stall for time.

Dabi frowned at her. “Don’t pull that shit, you’re, like, twenty.”

Jun huffed at him, swallowing, her knees drawn up to her chin. She flinched as Dabi pulled a staple through.

“You’re not in trouble.” insisted Dabi, looking up at her briefly. “I just wanna understand.”

Jun shivered as he tied off a thread, and shook her head. “I don’t know.” She told him. At his glance, she stiffened. “I really don’t, I swear.”

Dabi didn’t seem to buy it, but he didn’t argue. He only sighed, and wrapped up her knuckles. “Give me your forearm.” He said, and took a look at the dried wounds and the bruises decorating the skin there. He shook his head in disbelief and looked to his side, restarting the sewing process.

He worked in silence for about a quarter of an hour, eventually finishing up her right arm and moving to the next once. Jun flexed her right arm and winced, the staples straining and stretching, and gave him her other arm. Dabi replaced the staple cartridge and began working again.

“It’ll be over soon, I promise.” Dabi told her, and she nodded, gritting her teeth as he threaded the first one through. His eyes fleeted to the third takeout container, still full and untouched. “Where’s the boss*, again?”

*No longer was this simply referring to Dabi’s occupation and his rank under Shigaraki. Nowadays it was more in the way Mitsuki Bakugou’s husband might refer to her as “the boss”.

“He went with Spinner to scope out the rest of the area.” A mischievous glimmer lit up in her eyes, and Jun smirked. “Losing your memory there, old man?”

His look was sharp, but playful, and he couldn’t help the grin of his own. “Watch your mouth.”

Jun fell silent as Dabi continued his work, biting down on her lip so hard it began to draw blood in order to numb the pain. Sometimes the sensation wasn’t quite pain entirely, more of an uncomfortable tingling underneath her skin, but every time Dabi pulled the needle through and tied off each staple, it felt as though her skin was on fire. But she sat through it, eager to have the annoying stinging of the wounds and bruises be dealt with. She winced as Dabi applied antiseptic.

“Almost done.” Dabi assured her, having finished the stitches and staples and moved on to wrapping the wider wounds in gauze. He tied off the thick fabric around her ankle and stowed the rest of the roll in the medical kid it’d been stored in. “There. You’re done.”

“Hey, Dad?”

Dabi looked over from the medical kit, quirked an eyebrow. “Mm?”

Jun looked at him across her knees, hugged them with her arms. Her voice was quiet. “Why did we have to come back from England? Why couldn’t we have just stayed there? Forever?”

Dabi took a breath. Everyone in the League except for Jun had been told about the debacle with the people looking for them in England, and the sudden comeback of Doctor Daruma Ujiko. Tomura had been concerned about telling Jun everything. “She’d be scared,” He’d told Dabi. “We already have enough on our plates.” And so no one had told her. To her, the sudden decision to travel back to Japan had been, well, sudden.

Dabi himself had been afraid something like this would happen. He had always known that the League of Villains wouldn’t be forever. At least, he knew he wouldn’t be forever. He knew Tomura wouldn’t be forever. He knew Kurogiri, Atsuhiro, Jin, Toga, Mustard, and Spinner wouldn’t be forever. Perhaps the League would go on to be lead by somebody else. As much as Dabi didn’t favor the guy, he had to give it to him-- All For One was good at what he did. Whatever that happened to be, anyway. “Organized crime” was probably putting it simply. And they sure weren’t mafia.

They sure as hell weren’t mafia.

He’d known that, eventually, his own time would come, and that it probably wouldn’t be from old age, or whatever. He’d always known that. He didn’t consider himself immortal. And, as much as he had once yammered on about being inspired only by the Hero Killer, he hadn’t ever wanted to leave behind an everlasting legacy. No, that wasn’t Dabi’s style. An imprint on society, maybe, but he didn’t have some undying wish. He had a goal that he really, really wanted.

He just hadn’t expected his time to come so soon.

Just after he’d made peace with himself. Just after he’d managed to find what made him happy. Just when he’d come to terms with who he was, what he wanted to accomplish, and what he was willing to do to get there. He had finally moved on from his miserable past, finally left behind the images burned into his brain-- no pun intended.

And now, looking at Jun, who Dabi was sure had been twelve years old just yesterday, Dabi found himself at a loss for words.

Instead, he held up a finger, and walked to the far side of the room, where the three of them had dumped their belongings. He unzipped their group backpack, rummaged through its contents, and came back to Jun holding two glasses (slightly cracked from their trip), and a bottle of champagne.

Jun spoke through confused laughter. ‘What’s that?”

“For your twentieth birthday,” Dabi said, a small smile gracing his features. He sat down, placed the bottles upright, and popped the champagne, pouring the glasses. “You always said you wanted to try it, and I told you you had to wait, remember?”

Jun smiled. “You really remembered that?”

“I remembered you kicking me between the legs one time trying to steal my tequila,” remarked Dabi, taking a sip of his champagne. “You don’t forget being emasculated by your kid.”

Jun grinned as her glass was topped off, and took a drink from it. Her eyes twinkled. “Thanks, old man.”

Dabi winked at her. “Don’t mention it.”

There had been so many peaceful moments, where Dabi had felt he could enjoy himself before the world came crashing down on him, but right then, he feared that would be one of, if not the last one.

-

‘Machia was dying. Slowly.

In the same way you can’t keep a great white shark in an aquarium, you can’t keep Gigantomachia in Tartarus. Their biggest chamber was suffocating him, killing him at the speed of molasses. The wounds in his body, both new and old, had all been left untreated. The infections that had already been there were finally starting to do him in, and the new wounds were so painful it was almost difficult for the beast to move. A once invincible monster was finally going to kick the bucket. Wounds practically decades old would prevail, and ‘Machia would be taken down from the inside out.

It had been like watching a cliffside slowly erode away underneath the force of a waterfall. A little more of ‘Machia’s strength was chipped away, and a little more stone crumbled off the ledge.

Surveillance on Gigantomachia had reduced considerably since he had stopped putting up a fight. He’d struggled against the barriers of Tartarus until he was tired out. It took half the time it had taken Shigaraki to exhaust him, before he crumpled onto his side like a sleepy pet.

“Is he hibernating or something?” suggested a security guard. The rest of his coworkers stared at him. If looks could kill…

On the other end, surveillance on All For One hadn’t changed one bit. There was no telling what something like him would pull, if given the chance. He was always allowed to speak -- they couldn’t take that away from him -- but eventually, the people in charge of monitoring the infamous kingpin would have to trade off, feeling the malaise of hearing him talk endlessly to an empty, cold room creep up their skin.

Something about All For One was almost supernatural. He was human, wasn’t he?

He had been, probably. At one point.

‘Machia could feel his heart rate beginning to slow. It was a terrifying feeling, to know you were dying. First came the fear, the dread; then the anger, the feeling of injustice; then the depression, the sadness; and, finally, the acceptance, the total and utter defeat. ‘Machia’s stretched lifetime made the whole experience twice as worse as it should have been.

But, just as ‘Machia was beginning to see the white light at the end of the tunnel, he heard something. It didn’t matter how far away it was-- he could always hear it, just a little bit.

”Isn’t it sad, the two of us being locked up in here all alone?”

‘Machia tensed up in his cell.

”How unfair of Tomura, to use you like that. You didn’t deserve it.”

‘Machia let out a low, unnerving growl.

”What a shame it is, that the two of us are trapped in this horrible place. We could have done something about it, if we were still free.”

‘Machia bore jagged teeth.

”Isn’t that right, ‘Machia?”

Slowly, the beast awoke. He slunk upwards, then downwards, his spine cracking like the tracks of a rollercoaster. His eyes shone underneath the unbearable lights of Tartarus, his yellowed teeth dripping like a dog’s. His nostrils flared, he pawed at the ground, talons scraping through the perfect, symmetrical white tiles. ‘Machia ducked his head underneath the ceiling, his muscles relaxing as, suddenly, he found himself mustering enough energy to breathe, and to stand.

Master’s voice.

Unable to form coherent sentences, ‘Machia let out a vicious snarl. Two sections off, All For One smiled like a monster.

”Come find me, ‘Machia. Together we’ll put those traitors in their place.”

Consequently, a hundred tortured souls of Tartarus screamed in anguish.

Chapter Text

“Uraraka-san, it is such a pleasure to see you again.”

“You, too, Iida-san. I heard work is going well on your side of town. More activity, once you moved out of this area, right?”

“You heard correctly. The lowlifes are so easy to track. They’re all lost to the police and the hero department, if they don’t hear from him in time, you know. That’s why we’re all doing so well, anyways. Congratulations on making it into the Top Ten, by the way. Very impressive, for such a young hero.”

“You flatter me.”

To say the Yaoyorozu family owned estate in every city in Japan would be fair. Despite its reputation’s steady downspiral since the Hero Killer incident a decade before, Hosu was no exception. There was no telling when and where Mister or Mrs Yaoyorozu would be needed at an in-country conference, and how urgently they were needed. If a last minute invitation came up, there would be no unnecessary hotel expenses. Not that they would have any trouble paying for a stay-- they simply preferred their own lavish homes than a less-than-five-star hotel.

That wasn’t to say they didn’t own any five star hotels.

This one in particular was located in the perfect place, just far enough from the center of the city that no tourists would even consider staying there, despite its perfect ratings and beautiful photographs. Most of the (few) tenants that did stay there minded their own business, and were rich enough to not care about anyone else’s. No academies or pretentious clubs booked the ballroom there-- because while the place was absolutely gorgeous, it was located in a particularly odd part of the city that no stuffed shirts would dare venture over alone.

Because of this elaborate planning, the Yaoyorozu’s ballroom was available precisely when Daruma Ujiko needed it to be. It had been completely glossed over whether or not the doctor would attend the dinner party himself (it was no secret he didn’t leave his dimly-lit laboratory very often, after all), but every one of All For One’s old allies who hadn’t been killed off for betraying the cause were implored to be there.

Though, perhaps “implored” wasn’t exactly the right word. More like “ominously advised”. The nondescript white invitations had come with the vague impression that, if even one person were to skip out, heads would roll. Literally.

Naturally, most of the well-paid hotel staff wasn’t in on the secrets of the Yaoyorozu family-- most of them, anyway. But, as long as their paycheck was heavy enough, they weren’t about to blab. As for the rest of the country, no one seemed prepared to call out the neverending wealth of the Yaoyorozus. They were just happy that their beloved heroes were getting endless supplies of cool support items, and countless amounts of cameos in popular media. No one was going to question anything. And that’s how they liked it.

It was very much a Clue scene, the ballroom-- a group of quiet, chattering individuals in colorful dresswear, glancing over their shoulders every now and then in the hopes their anonymous host would walk through the door and reveal themself. None of them -- or, rather, almost none of them -- had actually come face to face with neither Ujiko nor All For One themselves. They were only working under them, serving them for handsome sums of money. Most expected the two of them were dark and mysterious, tall and brooding.

Uraraka, now done speaking to Tensei Iida, former pro hero Ingenium, threw a glance of her own over her shoulder as the ornate double doors opened once more, as she stood by the beautifully decorated dining table picking at the h’orderves.

“May we present Kaminari Denki,” voiced one of the doormen.

Uraraka gave her classmate an urgent look from across the room, and then another, and then another, and so on until he noticed, and walked over. He brushed poorly-gelled electric yellow hair backwards and waved awkwardly as he approached.

“Is, uhm…” Kaminari cleared his throat, scrunched up his eyes. His dress shirt had failed to be tucked in, and the collar was hanging over the lapels of his sports jacket. He was looking every bit a mess-- or, if you’d prefer, every bit Denki Kaminari. “Is he here?”

“How would I know?”

“You’re the only one here who’s actually met him before,” said the youngest member of the Yaoyorozu family, as she approached the two of them. She looked like royalty in her royal red cocktail dress, perfectly applied makeup, and without a strand of hair out of place. Uraraka felt underdressed. “I figured you would be the one to know. How long have you been working for him, Ochako?”

Uraraka shot her a dirty look, squaring her shoulders and tugging on the strands of hair hanging in front of her ear, twirling them around her finger. “Since just before the entrance exam,” She said, and glared at Yaoyorozu’s perfect smirk. “Don’t give me that look. Your family paid to get you in. That’s why Todoroki said he didn’t see you at the recommended exam. I had to work hard. And I didn’t grow up a princess, sorry about that.”

“You--”

“Ladies.” Kaminari interjected, a glimmer of the old UA student in his smile. To all of those oblivious classmates of his, the Kaminari pictured here would seem like an impostor. He was serious and relaxed, calm and composed. “Let’s not get distracted.” He looked over his shoulder, eyes fleeting to the other guests. “Who else is here?”

“My mother and father, of course, are over there,” said Yaoyorozu, pointing a slender finger at the middle-aged couple on the far side of the room. Mrs Yaoyorozu was recognizable simply by the feet upon feet of sleek black hair piled regally on top of her head in an intricate, traditional style. Her husband looked more a salaryman than royalty, with the grim face, squared jawline, chiseled face and straight, graying black hair. “The others, save for Iida-san, I must say I’m mostly unfamiliar with.”

“Are you sure?” Kaminari said, and at her quizzical glance, he nodded towards the ballroom entrance. The French double doors swung open yet again. The doormen stepped aside, and presented the newest guest to arrive. Yaoyorozu suppressed an audible gasp. Uraraka simply arched an eyebrow.

“May we present Nezu of UA High,” announced the doorman. The guests mumbled hellos, turning in embarrassment back to the buffet of snacking foods. Mister and Mrs Yaoyorozu seemed completely undisturbed, unlike their daughter.

“He works with…?” Yaoyorozu’s eyes were wide, her lips parted, nonplussed as she scanned her classmates for answers. She had done favors for Ujiko, like attending her classmates' meeting discussing the farmer's market incident when Jun was thirteen to feed the doctor info, but it was mostly her family's fortune that Ujiko needed them for.

Entirely unperturbed, Uraraka popped a truffle into her mouth, licking her fingers in a way that made Yaoyorozu shiver with memories of etiquette lessons. “Did you really think it’s by sheer luck that UA’s stayed open and afloat as long as it has? Or that Shiketsu Academy has really managed to say just behind UA in rankings for all these years?”

The small mammal in question was in his usual uniform, with his paws clasped behind his back as he meandered stiffly through the ballroom, his eyes on the ground. He looked vicious, like a rabid animal-- nothing like the cheerful and happy-go-lucky face of UA the three graduates were used to. Uraraka hadn’t been surprised when she’d first discovered Principal Nezu’s affiliations. Being experimented on probably left an imprint on you. It was a miracle no one had ever questioned his usual enthusiastic attitude.

Nezu glanced in their direction, and looked away, bitterly trying not to make eye contact. He made straight for the hosts of the evening, Yaoyorozu’s parents, and Tensei Iida, latching on to their conversation and matching their quiet, hushed tones. Uraraka washed another truffle down with champagne, watching him go with half-lidded eyes. When UA had started going underwater, it was likely Nezu had turned to his last resort, and pleaded with All For One for the money to keep the school in check. She wondered if that was why UA’s safety restrictions were so lacking, or if that was why UA procrastinated doing anything to their security system, after the League of Villains had attacked their students during school tasks twice.

She wondered just how many people on UA’s staff were trustworthy. To the other side, anyway. Just how many members of UA’s faculty were innocent?

Out in the hotel’s foyer, another person walked through the entrance-- not a guest this time, but a spy. Spy etiquette was to be cool and collected during a mission where the pressure and tension were high, but he wasn’t doing so well. Midoriya was here for personal gain, not a heroic assignment. Desperation and possible envy had fueled him to come here, not some deep-rooted feelings of justice and good.

“Good evening.” called one of the doormen, both of them standing rooted to the spot outside the ballroom’s doors. They looked to be twins. “Here for the party, are you? Business or pleasure?”

“I… Uhm…”

“If you’re here to stay for the night, the front desk is just through there.” The other doorman nodded along the foyer.

Midoriya regained composure. He smiled weakly, shook his head. “Sorry,” He told them. “Wrong building.” He turned on his heel, and rushed back outside. He shivered, despite the humid, muggy night air, and looked up and down the street. He began in one direction, and a yelp escaped him as he ran headlong into someone else.

Midoriya leapt backwards, spluttering apologies as his head spun and he blinked away the retinal afterimages forming white and yellow splotches in his vision. He rubbed his eyes, and paused, looking up at who he’d run into.

She was only a few inches taller than him, with shiny, dark hair pulled into two, spiky black ponytails, leaving equally spiky strands to fall in front of wide, discolored eyes that Midoriya could have sworn looked like someone else’s. Her frame was thin and lanky, familiar in some way. There were bags under her eyes, and a tiny scar on her button nose. Midoriya looked down.

She was missing one hand. In its place was a complex metal prosthetic.

She dusted off her long beige coat and adjusted her red-ribbon necktie, giving him a sweet smile. “Watch it.” She told him. “I’ve got a place to be.”

She shoved past him, leaving Midoriya confused on the street as she sauntered into the Yaoyorozu’s hotel. The young hero narrowed his eyes. Something about that woman seemed so familiar, but he was certain he hadn’t met her, or even seen her before. Something about the wild look in her eyes, maybe. Either way, she must have been going to the party. She’d certainly been dressed for the occasion.

But why was Uraraka here, of all places? Midoriya was finding himself reacting to the situation as if he were in the middle of an assignment, rather than spying on his crush because of some childish questions.

That wasn’t the only thing that mattered, not anymore. Midoriya was getting bad vibes from this place, and if Uraraka and his classmates were in danger, he’d do anything to stop it.

Because they had to be in danger, right?

-

Altogether, there were twelve watchtowers in the once-headquarters of the Liberation Army. Most of them had been torn down in That Battle, or had simply fallen into disrepair in the decade the place had been unoccupied. Fortunately, the four towers on the outermost corners had stayed in pretty good shape. The one furthest northwest had the best view overlooking the city immediately surrounding the villain lair. City lights were beautiful at night, from far away, but even prettier up close. That’s what Jun thought, anyways.

Jun didn’t feel the sense of impending doom that her fathers felt. She was perfectly relaxed, and only acutely aware of their strange behavior. Tomura had a tendency to be on constant high alert no matter the situation, that was true. But Dabi wasn’t like that very often. He didn’t get nervous. That wasn’t Jun’s father.

They seemed closer than ever suddenly, her parents. It was still in that unnecessarily aggressive attitude that the both of them had had towards one another since day one, but Jun could tell nonetheless. The rest of the League could, too, but at least they could understand it. They all were afraid of what was coming. They all had the vague sense that, whatever was coming, they wouldn’t be able to stop it. Jun felt lost.

“How did Dabi do? With your fingers, I mean?” Tomura asked her, the two of them sitting together on the roof of the northwest watchtower. Midnight was inching closer, and though both of them could feel their eyelids growing heavy, they’d grown so used to it they didn’t bother heading in for bed.

Wordlessly, Jun lifted her hands onto her knees and let him look at them, fingers carefully arranged in a small stairwell to avoid hurting her. He narrowed his eyes in the dark, shaking his head as the light hit the scars and the stitches lining her knuckles, breathing in sharply at the damage. The problem wasn’t Dabi’s stitchwork (it was actually beautifully done), it was simply the existence of the wounds themselves.

“I’m fine.” Jun assured him, tearing her hands away and taking a sip of the water bottle they’d brought up with them. “I don’t see why you’re so worried, anyways. It’s not that bad, and it’s healing fine. It’s not a big deal, I swear.”

“You punched a hole in a wall while unconscious, Jun.” snapped Shigaraki, and she put her head down. “It is a big-fucking-deal. You could have hurt yourself so much worse.” Seemingly deciding that was cutting it too close for his usual boundaries, Tomura added, “You could have wiped out two of my damn party. They’d be out of commission, or worse for missions.”

Making the (wise) decision not to point out that no missions had been in the works for years, Jun just mumbled an apology and leaned on her knees. Shigaraki twisted his lip in frustration, but actually left it, going back to stare at the black city skyline.

“Does that mean you’re planning a mission, then?” asked Jun. Is that why you’re all acting so weird?

He gave a bitter laugh, and shook his head. “No,” He said. “My inventory is bare bones.”

Right. The League never really had managed to dig themselves out of that financial pit they’d fallen into after the whole messy business with All Might at Kamino Ward, and their clash with Overhaul. Money had once gone from patrons, to All For One, and finally to Kurogiri, but without All For One as the middle man, they were circling the verge of dirt poor. They scraped by fine, and got food just fine, but they had to be careful.

Jun hadn’t seen Tomura in such a sour mood in what must have been years. Naturally, he wasn’t a particularly enthusiastic person, but there was definitely a spectrum. This was the tone he took when he was thinking hard, and struggling with something. A plan, usually-- That’s what Jun had learned in her first couple of weeks. Saying Tomura Shigaraki was a bit of a perfectionist was a severe understatement. Even control freak was putting it too light. Clearly, though, Shigaraki was worried about something. It was likely a problem he didn’t know how to solve, or something he hated that was out of his control.

“We’ll be fine, Pops,” Jun yawned, leaning into his shoulder, much to his mocking disdain. “We’ll figure it out, soon enough.”

Tomura said nothing, his eyes glued to the far-away, hazy skyline of the beautiful city around them. There was nothing he could say, nothing he could make himself say. Because, really, at the end of the day, while Tomura Shigaraki might have been evil, wicked, a monster, overlord of the underworld, or villainous mastermind (whichever you please, honestly), he wasn’t a liar. He couldn’t tell her everything was going to be fine. He didn’t have it in him. Not to her. He couldn’t do that to her.

Shigaraki had spent his entire life running away. Running away from his father, then from his problems, then from the training Sensei put him through that was nothing but sheer torture, then from the kindness and care Kurogiri attempted to show him as a child, then from heroes looking for him, and then, finally, from his feelings. Some of those he’d run away from with his friends. But mostly, he’d done it all by himself.

The point was, he knew what dread was. That uneasy malaise that took over unexpectedly, making your stomach do somersaults and turn into knots. Dread, put simply, was All For One. To Tomura, that’s what dread felt like. Even while he was under his roof, being trained by him as a student, he could feel it. All For One was a century-old god with invincible powers and inhuman intellect. He’d garnered no sympathy, no pity-- not for anyone. Except for Tomura.

At least, that’s what Tomura had once thought.

As Jun drank the last drops of the water bottle, Tomura reached for his phone, seeing the screen glow blue facedown against the pavement. He squinted, and strained his eyes as he turned it to face him, yellow splotches dancing in the edges of his vision as he struggled to read the newest message.

[]

Moisturizer, BurntBitch (2)
1 recipient

12:03 AM
BurntBitch: News broadcast. Tartarus security down. Massacre. He’s out. Machia too. Need you both back here RIGHT NOW.

[]

-

It was lucky for the League that Tartarus was far away from any citylife, but an inconvenience for both All For One and Gigantomachia.

‘Machia had already been terrifying once: a huge, invincible Godzilla with the ability to speak, but now that he was on the brink of death, he was infinitely worse. He moved like a wild animal on the prowl, his eyes glazed over like two marbles in his eye sockets and saliva dripping from his lips. Something was fueling him, giving him the power he had to move around at all, because otherwise, he would have keeled over long before then. Moving with him along the countryside was the source of that fuel, warping from place to place with a stolen quirks. There were many kinds of different warping quirks, and he took them all. It was a right shame, Kurogiri had been such a loyal tool all those years. All For One wasn’t ashamed to admit he had always sort of hoped the mistman would slip up, and give him a reason to do what he did best.

Eventually, they came to a mountain clearing very familiar to ‘Machia. It was the place he’d been hidden away in for many years, and the place Kurogiri had come to, in search of him. It was the place Kurogiri had gone and gotten himself injured enough to be easily subdued by the police. That certainly hadn’t lasted long-- no one was putting down Sako Atsuhiro overnight.

”Beautiful, this place…” said All For One, wistfully, “looking” over the mountain range and over the steep cliffside. If you squinted, you could see the glimmer of the city closest to the mountains in the distance. While All For One could no longer see, he could hear the faint whistle of trains, taxis, and nightlife. Somewhere, in that distance, was Tomura. And, somewhere, in that distance, was his backup plan. He hoped she was on task.

Perfectly on time, a knot in All For One’s throat began to open. Black ink spewed from malformed lips, enveloping his body and warping him. The same went for Gigantomachia, the giant, ugly beast writhing and convulsing in agony on the dirt, kicking and struggling and gasping. Any breath could be the monster’s last.

If All For One was fueling ‘Machia to breathe and to move, then it wasn’t much of a surprise that he was moving and warping himself without his dozens and dozens of breathing tubes and medical equipment. But he was going to need to be snappy. He was still growing weaker. Too much time away from his breathing tubes and his medicine could be bad.

Both of these were why they were going to their not-entirely-friendly neighborhood doctor first. ‘Machia could be healed, even if the process was inevitably going to be slow, and All For One… Well, he was due for a power-up, anyways. And he wanted to be there to see the League of Villains fall apart. He wanted to do it himself.

The cold, artificial feel of Ujiko’s laboratory welcomed them both, with just enough space by the normal entrance for All For One’s sickly pet to keel over for a good rest. The giant blinked in confusion, as if he’d been entranced during the massacre and breakout back at the prison. All For One’s shadow loomed in the hall, between the rows and rows of impressive controlled experiments. At the far end of the tunnel, Doctor Daruma Ujiko rose from his seat and began down the hall to greet his guest, his goggles shining.

“Master,” said Ujiko. “Welcome home. Travel safe, did the two of you? I hope the ride with John-chan’s quirk wasn’t too bumpy. How is our friend back there?”

”He’s alive, but he’ll be needing your assistance, Doctor.” said All For One, moving past him and examining-- listening to each chamber harboring a different kind of monster. Most of them were Nomu. ”That place was just as easy to break out of as I believed it was going to be.” He smiled, venomously. ”Everything is going according to plan.”

“That’s good to hear, I’m glad to hear my work has sufficed.” Ujiko had moved to closer examine the sleeping form of Gigantomachia, eyeing his many wounds with a curious gaze. He worked in a laboratory filled with tanks-- naturally, he knew the dangers of putting a big creature in a small tank.

“Tell me, Doctor,” All For One said. “How is she? My successor? Doing the job, I should hope?”

“She left for the dinner party a couple hours ago. She should be there by now, Master.” Ujiko stood up from ‘Machia’s body and brushed gloved hands off on a dusty labcoat. “You needn’t worry about her. She, unlike her brother, hasn’t drifted from the cause. You shouldn’t have gone with the younger one first, Master. He was doomed to failure from the beginning, with how he was when we first… collected him.”

”Tomura was in the perfect condition to become my successor when I discovered him. He had a burning hatred for society that was perfect for what I needed. I didn’t need to do a lot of work, I simply needed to teach him how to fight, and what to do with all of that anger…” All For One clicked his tongue. It echoed many more times than should have been possible. ”Clearly, I shouldn’t have given him so much freedom.”

“With all due respect, Master, I don’t think him having ‘too much freedom’ was the problem. You didn’t let him leave the bar until it was time for his first mission, after all.” said Ujiko. “I simply think the older one was the better decision. She was more mature than him. And, that way, if she went and made herself a nuisance, you’d have a younger, fresher, brand new canvas to start from.” He tapped at one of the tanks. The Nomu inside yowled. He didn’t even blink underneath those absurd goggles. “We raised them separately for a reason, anyways.”

All For One hummed. ”I suppose.” He said. ”But that’s just it. I took the older one for a reason. She was to be backup, in case Tomura failed me, much like you said he would. I wasn’t going to be taken out that easily, anyways.”

“Of course, Master.” Ujiko agreed. “However, you have to admit… She is a bit of a step down from your Shigaraki, isn’t she? And you kept her real name, because she was hesitant to change it… People will be able to identify her, if she’s without an alias.”

Now seated in an office chair near the head of the lab and relaxing into it as Ujiko made work of the kingpin’s old medical equipment, All For One smiled to himself. ”Never fear, Doctor! I have different plans for her. She’ll make appearances herself, but only on special occasions. My mistake with Tomura was introducing him to his subordinates and letting him stoop to their level. My new successor should be powerful, an intimidating figure-- not a friend. I realize my error now.”

Ujiko nodded enthusiastically in acknowledgement, lowering the kingpin’s mask over his face and plugged in the wires and tubes behind his head. The mouthpiece began to fog up as All For One slowly began to breathe steadily again. He coughed out a laugh as energy seeped back into him.

”I believe I’m due for an upgrade, Doctor,” He said. ”I can’t put that little brat of Tomura’s in her place in this sorry state. Not to mention her superiors. Kurogiri-sama is powerful-- It’s why I recruited him, besides his brains and, like Tomura, his poor condition when I found him. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he, too, has betrayed the cause. Tomura wouldn’t have been able to sneak past him.” He scoffed. ”I should have known Kurogiri would get too attached to the child.”

“It’s not your fault, Master. It happens to the best of us. But, to be frank, I never liked that bartender.” Ujiko shook his head, and clicked his tongue. "He was never really… involved in the work. But, anyways, do tell me, Master… Do you really think your new successor will be a step up from Shigaraki?”

All For One grinned, imagining her when he had first found her: on the opposite side of the city as her brother, missing a hand and bleeding like mad, cold and dead and silent and emotionless. A silent ten-year-old girl. She was perfect, just as Tomura had been, but in a very different way. She was a blank slate. Quirkless, and vulnerable, and silently obedient.

”You and I have nothing to worry about, Daruma.” He said. ”Hana Shimura will not disappoint us.”

Chapter Text

Being an indestructible, all-powerful villain overlord isn’t an easy job. Sorry if you happened to think so.

All For One worked and operated on the foundation of order, and organization. Monthly, sometimes weekly routines were crucial parts of the usual docket-- not for him, of course, but for those working underneath him. He oversaw every action taken in the underworld. In the old days, nothing happened without his approval. That had been back when he had been the only one at the top of the chain. Before he had shared the top with the Yakuza, and names like the Peerless Thief, the Hero Killer Stain, and Nine. The good old days of villainy, before All For One had made a teensy little mistake and ended up with the eternal headache that was One For All.

After the first battle against All Might, the battle the number one hero had done a remarkable job of keeping a secret afterward, All For One’s condition had become too poor for his usual work. To resume the usual “procedures,” All For One needed a… handicap, of sorts.

Hana and Tenko Shimura were that handicap.

They were the key All For One needed to come into power again. The Villain Renaissance had begun with the incident at the USJ, and it hadn’t been inspired simply by spite. Tomura’s debut had been put meticulously together for years. The point of that mission hadn’t really been to kill the Symbol of Peace-- even if that was what his sensei had told Tomura. That incident had been an experiment, testing the waters to see how Tomura would fare in a battle after all his years training under his sensei.

Because the reason behind training Tomura had been to create a Symbol of Evil, whose influence was on par with that of All Might’s. Tomura was twisted, sick enough in the head to be perfect for public appearances.

Hana’s responsibility differed from her brother’s, as had her training. All For One had trained her in a different way. Her entire existence, like Tomura's, had revolved around becoming the perfect successor.

Except that it still did for her. Not for him.

Icy cold and stone-faced, with nothing else in her life other than her master, Doctor Ujiko’s dark laboratory, and memories she had successfully managed to suppress, she was on the road of becoming a vicious killing machine.

Unlike Tenko, Hana Shimura had been told everything, from the farthest branches of her family tree to the whereabouts of her brother, who to this day knew nothing about her being alive. Still, though, from the very beginning, All For One had pitted her against him. She’d spent her entire life wanting to be better than the brother she only ever heard about nowadays. She wanted to knock him down a peg. Both Shimura siblings had childish complexes of wanting to be the “favorite”-- but nowadays, because Tomura had become his own person, his sister was far, far worse.

Tenko had taken away her everything. Her parents, her dog, her family, her hand. Sensei had given both of them pity, but Hana believed Tenko didn’t deserve it. Especially not now, after he had betrayed their master-- the man who had given them a real purpose.

Hana Shimura wanted-- needed the satisfaction of defeating her long lost brother to feel whole. This mission, and this party at the Yaoyorozu estate-- That was how she was going to get it.

“Ladies and gentlemen, may we present to you, your host: Hana Shimura.”

Her speech bridged between eloquent and blunt. The crowd of guests wasn’t sure whether or not they were being praised as valuable members of a team, or threatened. Hana’s tone never changed, and the wolfish smile she wore that didn’t seem to quite belong on her usually stone-cold face never faltered once. She implored those who weren’t licensed heroes to act as her master’s eyes and ears.

Ochako stared, her round doe-eyes much darker than their usual bright and cheerful brown. Beside her, Yaoyorozu chewed feverishly at a perfect maroon fingernail, trying to remember why the name Shimura was giving her the jitters, and memories she’d been quite tenacious in suppressing. In the vent ducts above Uraraka’s head, a pair of emerald eyes widened. They were looking for the League of Villains.

All For One… was looking for the League.

All For One… was going to destroy the League.

He was going to kill his own creation. Why? Had they betrayed him, somehow? Midoriya wracked his brain, squished uncomfortably inside the vents with his nose pressed against the cool, stinging metal and his shoulders bunched up against the walls rendering him claustrophobic as he sifted through dozens and dozens of recent news articles. Midoriya didn’t just take his own notes. He took other peoples’, too.

By destroying the League, Midoriya knew that meant All For One meant to destroy Tomura Shigaraki, too. He had scene the kingpin’s successor enough times to know that, as much as Midoriya couldn’t agree with what he did, and as much as he couldn’t possibly understand what went on inside Shigaraki’s head, the League and villainy were all Tomura had. He would be nothing, without his place as aspiring king of the underworld.

Because Tomura Shigaraki had never really gotten his wishes, not with the looming shadow of his teacher standing over him. He couldn’t fill the footsteps of All For One, but that wasn’t just it. Tomura had once said his one real wish was to destroy everything, to create a new world. A clean and fresh start. A brand new save file.

That might have once been true. Maybe it still was. No one could know but him.

Beneath the vents (that were beginning to warm up just a bit, to Midoriya’s horror), Hana Shimura had launched forward once again into her speech. He listened to her describe the work her master’s doctor had been doing. Experiments, funded by “outside suppliers.” With the help of funding, the doctor had finally finished some “incomplete” projects of his.

High-Ends were awfully expensive. That probably came from them being illegal and all, but who were they to care about that? High-Ends, like normal Nomu, were made mostly of DNA and spare body parts. Quirks like Shock Absorption and Regeneration were usually applied by All For One himself when a project was completed, though sometimes simply the DNA was the foundation of the Nomu’s power(s). After all, the first High-End the League had encountered (or rather, the High-End Dabi had encountered) had had some very Kurogiri-like features…

That was to say, physical features, of course. That High-End certainly hadn’t been going around washing shot glasses, wiping down bars, and scolding adults for being literal children. But, moving on.

The point was, Ujiko had fetched himself the means to finish all those incomplete High-Ends of his, locked up in tanks in his eerie, dim lab. And now they were on the hunt, using rare and powerful quirks to search for them. For the League of Villains.

Midoriya was a licensed hero. He fought villains on a regular basis, that’s what he did for a living. But being a hero meant he wasn’t a cruel person. He didn’t just see a bad guy when he fought villains. He didn’t just see his paycheck waiting for him at the finish line. He always tried to and always had seen a person.

He hadn’t always been able to see a person in Tomura Shigaraki. Not until he had invited the young villain to tea. But now…

Midoriya wasn’t sure what to do.

His classmates had been revealed to have been villains on the side of All For One the entire time.

His once-arch-nemesis was being ambushed, and Midoriya couldn’t help but feel sorry.

Denki Kaminari was going to “drop some hints” to some of their old classmates once the League was located, and they were going to be tricked into getting involved. His real friends were going to be dragged into this.

Someone’s life -- though she had been at least fifteen, when Midoriya had first met her face to face -- was at stake.

Uraraka had betrayed him.

Uraraka had lied to him, from the very beginning.

“We will give it a week.” said Hana Shimura’s voice. “In the meantime, heroes-- prepare yourselves. Once we pinpoint the League’s location, it’s up to you to spread it to your…” She turned her nose up, haughtily. “...allies, without letting them know of our affiliations with you. The rest of you will be receiving your instructions. For now, you know what to do.”

Hana’s head turned upward, and Midoriya shrank back into the vent. “A week, friends. Get excited. Spread the word.” She said. “Soon, the League of Villains will be crushed.”

Midoriya narrowed his eyes as Hana Shimura’s speech came to a close, and the guests clapped beneath him. The metal of the vent was beginning to heat up much more quickly now. It was time to dip, clearly.

He looked down, at the heads of his apparently villainous classmates, and sighed, quietly, to himself.

He would never, ever, never ever never ever side with League of Villains.

(Except in some very, really, actually, really actually very serious circumstances. But nobody had to know about those.)

-

Word reached Endeavor not first, but second..

The former Flame hero had handed in his resignation and his hero license not a week before. The years he’d spent with the police department trying desperately and failing miserably to track down and take out the League of Villains had already destroyed his mental condition (and the relationship with his family that had at least been slowly improving), and the drama and tension of Detective Tsukauchi’s untimely death really had been the nail in the coffin. The people at the Tokyo Hero Center had been so very sorry to see him go, but he’d waved them off.

Retirement for a hero, especially a hero with such a vast influence, usually meant living in luxury. But now, with the Todoroki estate all to himself, and his children having all moved out and moved as far from him as possible, Endeavor found himself feeling, all of a sudden, very, very much alone. And rightfully so.

It was the new number one hero who’d met with him, not that he really cared about his rank. He’d been contacted by another hero in his city, a former classmate of Shouto’s asking him to join their party. An ambush was being orchestrated on the League of Villains.

Hawks had taken the bait immediately.

“I’m sure you can convince them to come back,” He told Endeavor, standing across the tea table in the Todoroki house lounge. “They’ll be happy to have you. There were skeptics after All Might’s retirement, yeah, but this is big stuff, Todoroki. You don’t want to miss out on this.”

Endeavor pulled a face, and shook his head. The flames in his mustache had been snuffed out. He really had been defeated. “I don’t want any business with the League of Villains, Hawks.” He said. “I gave this country my stance when I resigned.”

Hawks sighed, rubbed his eyes, and leaned on the tabletop, eyes dark. “I know why you resigned, Todoroki. The real reason. It wasn’t just Naomasa Tsukauchi’s death.” He hissed, and stood back up to his full height, taking on a new tone. “You’re the only one who knows about who killed Best Jeanist.”

“And you’ve sworn me to secrecy.” Endeavor replied. “What’s your point?”

“My point is, I know about him.” said Hawks. “I worked for him. I got around, I got some special information on him, I met with him multiple times. I know who he is.”

Endeavor said nothing, his lips a tight line. Across the lounge, the embers of the ever-burning furnace wavered blue, just for a moment.

“Everybody saw that clip from the bar raid, Todoroki.” Hawks said. “You went straight for him.”

He leaned forward again, propped his elbows up on the tabletop, and pulled a wince. Hawks wasn’t exactly the most trustworthy guy, but he didn’t break pacts. Then again, Dabi had stabbed him in the back and anonymously exposed him for his affiliation with the League, not long after their clash with the Liberation Army. Hawks still believed it was that egotistical boss of his who’d encouraged him to do it. Luck had been on Hawks’ side, though, and he’d got some unspoken help from Principal Nezu over at UA High and had promised to forget about it and never mention it again, but still…

Hawks’ mother had been the last of their family. Heart problems had been fairly common in their family tree, anyways, and she had been no exception (Hawks had been warned he’d have troubles of himself down the line, too). He had promised her a peaceful go, once her feathers had started shedding.

She had lived two buildings down from the League of Villains’ infamous bar. When Endeavor and Co. had ambushed it, in search of some obnoxious little girl… Well. They had found her in the rubble of the street, her wings pinned under a solid ton of debris. She’d died in her struggle.

Despite all his deep, ingrained morals about pacts, Hawks wanted his justice.

“You want revenge, Todoroki?” asked Hawks. “Then get it.”

Endeavor sobered up, sitting up in his chair and leaning back, glowering at the younger hero from across the room as he stood up from the table. “What are you on about, Hawks?”

“Everyone’s heard about the runaway Todoroki son. Don’t think people have forgotten about it just because of how long it’s been since the media covered it up. There are forums everywhere on the internet trying to bust it. You know where your first son is now, Todoroki. You have an opportunity to settle the score, so take it.”

“Natsuo lives in Kyoto.” said Endeavor, stubbornly. “And Shouto lives with his fiance now.”

(Coincidentally, Shouto and Tenya had gotten a similar call to the one Hawks had received, from one Tensei Iida, formerly the Turbo hero ‘Ingenium’...)

Hawks glared at him. Hawks wasn’t usually an angry person by any means. He tended to be cool and collected most of the time, but not here. ”Touya Todoroki.” He said. “Your first son.”

There was a pause. The Flame hero looked up, his eyes dark and cold and his lips a taut line chiseled in stone. “I only have two sons.” He said, and even his quirk couldn’t melt the ice in his voice.

The number one hero stared at him in blank disbelief. He opened his mouth to say something, closed it, opened it again, closed it, and turned away, his face contorting into a scowl as he headed for the door. As he stopped by the shoji doors (that surprisingly were not guarded by pompous golden lions), he glared at his feet, and looked over his shoulder.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re there or not, you know, Todoroki,” Hawks said. “He’ll die, either way. This guy that’s organizing this attack… You remember that fight at Kamino Ward? It’s him. That Tartarus breakout wasn’t sudden. It was planned. He won’t leave any survivors.”

Hawks swallowed. “If you want the last word, I’ll send you the location. Kaminari Denki-- He’s a good guy, and the one who invited me. Said the assignment is all-hands-on-deck. I’ll let you know what he tells me.”

Endeavor cleared his throat, and spoke up. “Why do you want me to be there so badly, Hawks?” He asked. “If you’re talking about that Dabi…” A bitter, foreign look that told Hawks all he needed to know. Todoroki raised his head again. “Why do you want him dead?”

Hawks’ jaw tightened. “It’s not just Dabi I want dead, Todoroki.” He said. “I want to see Tomura Shigaraki and the League of Villains suffer.”

The doors slid shut behind him. Endeavor settled into his chair, considering the orange-blue flames in the furnace thoughtfully.

-

The former Flame hero could act all he liked. There was still someone who knew better than the lies that had been broadcasted a decade and a half before.

A week would go by, eventually. For now, two days had passed, and Tomura was getting antsy.

Jun was none the wiser. She’d gone scouring the ex-battlefield slash ex-ex-offices of the Meta Liberation Army with her sister and brother, looking for anything interesting that might have been left behind. The rest of the League flitted about on their own accord. The only time all of them were in the same space anymore was when Dabi came back with takeout for all of them. Nobody had said anything, but they could all feel it. They all knew something bad was coming, and none of them were quite sure they would know how to stop it when it did.

Tomura sat cross-legged by the patterned window of the late CEO’s office, hoping that sitting there would bring in the warmth from outside. The headquarters of the Liberation Army were freezing. He figured it might have been because they’d been taken out during the dead of a miserable summer.

If he looked far enough out into the ruins of the Army, he could spot Jun’s shock of blue hair darting between towers and the crushed remains of radio buildings, in the midst of a round of Hide and Seek with the rest of the League. Although, Tomura thought, as he watched Jun dodge a narrow swipe of a knife, perhaps what the League called “Hide and Seek” was a little bit different.

Beside Tomura on the floor was a black, worn leather wallet. It’d been left open on a table by Dabi after he’d left for food, and something in it had caught Tomura’s eye. What it had turned out to be really should have surprised him. But really, all it had done was confirm something Tomura had been wondering about for years. About a decade, really.

He’d been sitting and waiting for just under two hours when Dabi finally came back, wiping his forehead with his jacket and exhaling when the cool air of the office hit him. He paused by the large arched doorway and reveled in it for a moment longer, then flashed Tomura a smile as he walked over.

Dabi stopped dead in his tracks, looking down at the open wallet on the floor. Spilling out of it were most of its contents: old pictures (Polaroids?) of a young man with spiky red hair and bright blue eyes and his arm around three different people in each individual photograph. Most notably, a very little boy with red-and-white parted hair.

He looked at Tomura, his lips parted in disbelief and eyebrows raised. Tomura only patted the tiles beside him, drumming his fingers carefully on his kneecap in thought. Slowly, Dabi took a seat. He made no nervous jokes, no awkward quips-- only sat in anxious silence, anticipating Tomura’s next words.

Tomura didn’t say anything. Not until Dabi finally mustered up the courage to look over at him. Then, he met his gaze. His red eyes had their usual dangerous fire, but he looked calm. That was worse than him being angry, Dabi decided.

The Cremation villain cleared his throat. “You found them, then?”

“You didn’t exactly do a good job of hiding them,” Shigaraki pointed out, resting his chin on his knees, Dabi still squirming under his calm stare. “But yeah, I did.”

Dabi buried his hands in the pockets of his jeans, tearing his own eyes away from Tomura as his boss watched him like a hawk. “I should have told you all, I know.” A pause; when Dabi’s eyes fleeted to Tomura’s again, they were worried. “Do the others know?”

Tomura snorted. “No. ‘Course not.” He waved dismissively. “They don’t know everything about me, Dabi. Telling them everything about you would be friendly fire.”

Tomura’s eyes glinted, his smile a white slash across his face. One thing that had become evident since his unspoken rebellion against All For One was that Tomura Shigaraki loved to be unpredictable, and unexpected. Dabi’s stomach stirred. “Besides, Patchwork,” said Tomura. “I’ve known since the night Giran brought you and the brat in.”

Dabi gave a start, having picked up Tomura’s water bottle and begun taking a drink. Water dribbled over leathery skin. “What?”

Shigaraki snatched up the water bottle and took a drink himself as Dabi fumbled the cap. “Do you really think I was just gonna sit there and let one of my candidates refuse to tell me their real name? Does that sound like something I would do?” He shook his head. “Obviously not. I do my research, Ashtray. Better yet, I do my extensive research. Lucky for me, I didn’t have to do much.”

He looked Dabi’s way, and the Cremation villain found himself happy to not see pity in those eyes. Few people had ever found out about Dabi’s history, and when they had, they’d all looked at him as less than. Not Tomura.

“I know a lot about heroes,” He said, bitterly. “That’s what growing up around Master and his doctor meant for me. Time spent with Kurogiri was…” He gave another flippant gesture. “...A breath of fresh air.”

Dabi stayed silent, expectant. When Shigaraki looked in his direction, he shivered. “Master was all about taking heroes from the inside out. Naturally, a hero with a bad track record was going to catch his eye.”

Dabi had been tense, waiting for the punch to the gut he knew was coming, but he’d been holding his breath for so long he was ill-prepared for when it happened.

“Everybody knew about the Touya Todoroki case. The search party was on for a year and a half, before the media just… stopped talking about it, outta’ nowhere.” Tomura swallowed, chucking the empty water bottle through the smashed part of the window “People seemed to forget about it, eventually.”

He looked at Dabi. “When the UA sports festival came ‘round, and this Shouto Todoroki kid was in his first year… All of a sudden, people started talking about it again. A lot of people started theory threads.” He scanned Dabi, as if looking for something. “...Point is, I found a lot of information, when I researched you.”

“Shit.” Dabi had quit smoking, but now he felt a twinge of the old addiction coming back to him. He ran a hand through his wild hair. “You’ve known all this time? And you… you didn’t say anything?”

Shigaraki shrugged. “It wasn’t my place,” He said. “All of us came from bad places. If you’d wanted people to know you were the son of him, then you would have told me when I asked you.”

Dabi stared at him. Nowadays, that kind of logic from Tomura would have made sense to him, but back then, their employer had been an egotistical, brainwashed brat. And yet…

“You would have done the same for them, too?” asked Dabi. “For the others, I mean?”

“Ever hear me ask them questions about where they came from?” Tomura challenged.

Dabi shook his head after a moment to think.

Tomura nodded. “See?” And then, a long silence later, quickly, “Tenko Shimura.”

“Huh?”

Tomura grimaced-- not at Dabi, but at himself and his nerves. “Did you ever hear about who the number one hero was, before…” He asked, and shuddered, the name leaving a bitter taste in his mouth. “Before All Might?”

Again, Dabi shook his head, slowly. Hell, he couldn’t remember a time when All Might hadn’t been number one. Not before the Kamino incident, anyways. The idea of there being a “before All Might” seemed impossible.

“She was a hero in the late OG generations,” explained Shigaraki. “Before the government came out with hero law books and started giving out jobs and paychecks. People called her Lady Liberty, apparently.”

“Master was the one who killed her,” He continued. “He said she wasn’t a real hero. He said it was her fault I was hurt, that the reasons I was hurt when he found me all traced back to her. He killed her before he took me in, I guess, but he said he’d been watching over me. That he cared about me. I believed him.”

Dabi’s voice was hushed, and quiet. “Why are you telling me this?”

“Her name was Nana Shimura. She was my grandmother.” Tomura stared at the ragged red of his tennis shoes.

Dabi said nothing. Tomura understood how he’d felt, minutes before.

“I believed Master when he told me all of that stuff about her, because I didn’t know better.” He said. “That’s why I never told Jun she had to be a villain. I believed Master for so long, but then, after everything that happened here…” Tomura gestured around them, at the barren offices of Re-Destro. “I wasn’t so sure anymore.”

“You never freed him from Tartarus.” Dabi breathed, with an air of realization.

Shigaraki shook his head, scratched at his eyes and wiped them with the sleeve of his shirt. “Nope.”

Dabi drew him in by the arm, looping an arm through his. “You didn’t have to tell me all that, Mophead.”

Tomura gave a disparaging grunt, his head tucked into the crook of Dabi’s neck. Dabi angled his head, placing a chaste kiss on rough lips. His employer curled up in his lap. One would think the gesture would make him look vulnerable and soft, but really, it was quite the contrary. Tomura was territorial, through and through.

“Do you think,” Dabi asked, his voice no higher than a hoarse whisper. “Do you think… your master… Do you think he broke out because…?”

“Yes.” Tomura’s voice was a hiss, like Dabi’s.

Dabi tilted his head upward with a finger, his expression serious. “Don’t you think we should leave?”

Shigaraki gazed at him with half-lidded, Christmas light eyes. “What do you think running from All For One would do?”

Dabi closed his eyes, shivering, and Tomura freed one arm to carefully wipe a tear from one of his eyes, cautious not to swipe the damaged skin.

“For the League,” said Tomura, his voice hard as stone. “I would kill and betray my master once, and a thousand times over. Don’t mistake me, okay?”

A frenzy of emotions crossed Dabi’s face, until he wrangled himself back under control and put on his usual cool and casual tone and face. “Careful, Boss,” He said, smirking. “People’ll start to think you like me.”

Shigaraki snorted, let his head fall back to Dabi’s shoulder. He muttered into the fabric of his undershirt, “You know how I feel about you, you dumbass.”

Dabi chuckled, settling back down. “Love you, too. Fuckin’ weirdo.”

The elevator clanged open. Twice and Mister Compress stumbled out, panting. Shigaraki detangled himself from Dabi and stood, looking at his subordinates with quirked eyebrows. “What is it, you two?”

Compress took a deep breath, a hand on his chest. “We saw Nomu, stalking the hideout.”

“Where is she?”

“Jun’s fine; she was on the other side of the base with Toga, Mustard, and the others.” reassured Compress. “But the Nomu we saw…”

“They were the big, scary ones.” shivered Twice. “The High-End ones, like the one Dabi made pals with.”

-

Across the base, Jun stood alone on one of the communications bridges, her arms hanging by her side and her shoulders slacked. Her lips were parted, ever so slightly, and her eyes were glazed over by a thin, grey, shiny veil.

As Toga slid into her vision, her fingers twitched, saliva dripping from the roof of her mouth. Her sister shouted across the bridge at her, jogging down to her and hopping over chunks of rubble and debris. “Hey, there you are,” Toga exclaimed. “Nobody could find you! You’re supposed to be the seeker, you know.”

There was no response. This girl… She did not sound like him, her master. Whoever he was.

“Hey. Hey!” Toga pouted, waving a hand in front of her face. “Earth to Jun? Hello? Wake up!”

Toga grumbled, and reached out to Jun, pinching the bruise on the crook of her shoulder.

It had been several minutes, and no command. The grip of her activation command was slipping… slipping…

Jun blinked. “Huh?”

Toga frowned at her. “You checked out, or something. Are you feeling okay?”

“Uh…” Jun rubbed her eyes. Oh, fuck. Not again. “Y-Yeah, I think so.”

“Good. We’re about to start another round! You’re seeker, so count to one hundred!”

Five days.

Five days, and All For One would strike.

Chapter Text

It was day one of preparations. Two days of the week Hana had promised her party had passed. So far, everything was going smoothly.

Recruits for the Big Assignment had mostly been left up to Kaminari. Uraraka had brought together a handful of their old classmates (the few she was closest with, specifically) via coffee dates, encouraging them to get involved. It had taken a bit of convincing, and perhaps one or two bribes and maybe a couple passive aggressive comments (you know how friends do), but she’d gotten it done in one miserably long and hot afternoon, and three too many cups of cold brew.

It’d been a simple task, getting old friends to come aboard. But now, Kaminari had the tough job. Getting well-known pro veterans to join.

With the help of an oblivious former classmate (one Fumikage Tokoyami), recruiting Hawks hadn’t been too difficult. From there, if Kaminari pushed the right buttons and made a good impression on the winged hero, the rest of the heroes would fall like dominos to the cause. Hell, if Kaminari could get more than five of the top ten to enlist, then his paycheck might just skyrocket…

First, though, Yaoyorozu had suggested they have words with the rest of Aizawa’s old class. They were all close to the three of them, anyways, and bound to trust what they had to say.

Unfortunately for Kaminari, though, there was one of his and his coworkers’ collective classmates who knew all about their secret mission. Additionally, by Kaminari’s logic, Midoriya was the perfect person to recruit. Midoriya was strong, for one thing, and had a personal history with the League of Villains. He couldn’t stand to say no to his closest friends, and most of all, he was gullible as fuck.

At least, that’s what Kaminari had thought.

Midoriya didn’t have a lot of time to think about his options in the situation with All For One. His decision to sleep on it after his disturbing discoveries at Hana Shimura’s dinner party had been stretching it enough. But he certainly hadn’t expected the call he got the afternoon after.

Giving the contact name a double take as he arrived home to his apartment late that afternoon, Midoriya picked up the phone. Unable to resist, he held it to his ear, dropping his gear on the floor beside him. Kaminari’s voice cut through.

“Hey, Midoriya. It’s me. Good work on the highway today. I saw it on the news.”

“Thanks.” Midoriya set down his bag and walked out to the balcony of his flat, sliding the screen door open and catching hold of the railing. “Something up?”

“Is this a bad time?”

“No, I’m alright. What’s up?”

“It’s big news, man. Big news.”

On the other line, Kaminari took a deep breath. Midoriya prayed to whatever higher power was listening that his classmate hadn't somehow found out about his spying on Shimura's dinner party. He’d seen only glimpses, but those glimpses alone had shown him what All For One could do to people he didn’t like-- usually without even being there himself.

Luck was on his side, though, it seemed. But only for a moment. “Alright. See, I’m not exactly supposed to be talking about this, but I figured, ‘more the merrier’, right?” A spike of feedback, as Midoriya heard Kaminari leave a building over the speaker. “You remember the League of Villains mission Detective Tsukauchi had on, obviously.”

Nervously, Midoriya flexed his fingers. Did Tsukauchi work for All For One? Or was this All For One taking advantage of his death and commandeering his mission?

Or, better-- no, worse yet… Did All For One kill Tsukauchi for his own benefit? From all that Midoriya had learned, Japan’s infamous dark lord wouldn’t be above it.

Clearly, Midoriya had honed his sleuthing skills to a tee.

It was Midoriya’s turn to take a deep breath. If he could just steady himself, maybe he could learn enough to be able to shut down All For One’s plans. He could tell All Might and his former mentors, and they could tell whoever Tsukauchi’s replacement was…

He just had to come to terms with the fact that it would mean never seeing Ochako again. She was a villain, true. But, as he had learned, even villains were human.

It was just some of them had become less so.

“Yeah, of course I remember. I tried helping him, but he…” Midoriya grimaced, remembering the detective’s instant rejection, trying to steady the hand holding him up on the railing. “Shot me down. What about it?”

“You know about that deal Yaoyorozu, Uraraka, and I made, too.”

“Of course.”

Kaminari took another breath. “Well, since the three of us were curious, and looking for a big mission to make our team’s debut… We met with Police Chief Tsuragamae. He’s in charge of Detective Tsukauchi’s branch, you know, and so we met with him, hoping to… resume his case on Shigaraki and the League of Villains.”

Oh. So that was how they were playing this. Midoriya didn’t know what he’d expected. But it certainly hadn’t been this. Whether or not Kaminari and the girls had actually met with the police chief, Midoriya didn’t know. He didn’t have the answers, and frankly, he was a terrible liar. He didn’t know how to react. But, fortunately for Midoriya, the most convenient part of acting is finding opportunities to apply your own feelings to the role.

The thing was, Midoriya shaking in his boots wasn’t part of the role.

“So?” Midoriya asked, hoping his voice didn’t come off too… Midoriya. “What’d he say?”

Kaminari, once again, took a deep breath, and told him.

Midoriya thought back to his middle school years, and even his first year or two at UA, and remembered the commercials that would air regularly on his TV during show breaks. Distinctly, he remembered one advertisement, an ad whose tone had reminded him vaguely of those two nice, young, smiley people who had come to his mother’s door when he was around seven, carrying big leather books with gold-leaf pages, and small paper pamphlets promoting simply: “love.”

The Meta Liberation Army, as it turned out, had not been a religious group, as much as they’d claimed they’d advocated for “peace” and “freedom” and… well, “liberation.” Midoriya had often heard his mother confess she didn’t understand how the Army hadn’t been forcefully disbanded, especially during Destro’s heyday. In retrospect, Midoriya figured it would have been violating the law, to order an organization to disperse without evidence of illegal activity, but even then, their presence had always made the public feel vaguely uneasy.

There had been no doubt something suspicious had been going on, but when asked, the Department of Hero Endeavors (the DHE, for short) had put it off, insisting that, as long as the Army kept their business peaceful, interference wasn’t necessary.

Now, a while over a decade later, interference still wasn’t necessary. Because the League of Villains had done the interfering themselves. Since around Midoriya’s second year at UA, the Liberation Army had been extinct. Their headquarters had been located in the middle of a mountainside city, and had been abandoned after a huge battle with the League. Until now, apparently, according to Kaminari.

“Why are you telling me all of this, Kaminari?”

“I’m trying to gather a team, Midoriya,” He said. "The three of us can’t face the League of Villains head-on. We’ve found their location, we’ve got the date and we’re working on pinpointing the time, all we need is help.”

Midoriya couldn’t bring himself to say anything, unsure if he should’ve been relieved or terrified.

“We’ve recruited half our class by now. This morning, I got Hawks on board, too. Maybe some of our old teachers, if I’m lucky.” Kaminari took another deep breath in. “I want your help, too. You’re one of the strongest heroes I know now, man, and you know how the League functions better than anyone. Come on, Midoriya. Help me out. Join my team.”

On the railing in front of him, Midoriya’s knuckles were snow white. He had to give it to Kaminari. He was a damn good actor.

If he joined Kaminari, and joined forces with All For One, then he would learn everything. He’d have the means to rip their plans right out from under them, before they could even make it halfway to the Liberation Army’s headquarters. If he played it right, he could put an end to All For One for the ninth and final time.

If he could just figure out how, he could save Tomura Shigaraki and his friends.

There was a sentence Midoriya never thought he’d say.

“Okay, Kaminari,” said Midoriya, and let go of the railing. “I’m in.”

-

Another two days passed, and Kaminari had himself a formidable team of heroes. A formidable, and utterly oblivious team of heroes. He promised them the remaining two days of Hana’s guaranteed seven to prepare themselves for the upcoming assignment. On the first of two, Kaminari called his team together for a meeting at his agency. Only one member of the squad hadn’t shown. She’d been preoccupied with a meeting of her own.

Hana’s meetings with her master’s clients never took place at the doctor’s laboratory. That would require both giving away Ujiko’s location, and risking a surprise hero attack, should All For One’s client turn out to be disloyal and spill the beans to some top-tier hero agency. Besides that, it was too much of a hassle, having to bank on the client actually showing up. So, instead, she used the Yaoyorozu’s study hall. It wasn’t as if Momo had used it since graduating. The Yaoyorozu house was big, dark, and quiet, and up on a hill, in the middle of a vast expanse of private property. Trespassers weren’t ever going to be an issue, much less eavesdroppers.

(Besides, all it took was one single threat looming over the Yaoyorozus’ fortune for them to offer up their property to Hana and her master. No one wants to be taken out by All For One’s minions, and they certainly don’t want to be humiliated by them, either. Money makes the world go ‘round, friends.)

But this particular meeting was special, because it wasn’t just a two-bit client of Sensei’s. This was a veteran assassin of theirs, a spy, who’d been working for All For One since she was a freshman in high school.

The guest in question showed at six o’clock in the morning sharp, just as requested, and, as usual, Hana was impressed. She really was so sorry to see this one go, but Sensei had insisted her due date had come, and so of course she would follow through with the execution. Ochako Uraraka had been a competent and adept partner, but it was only a matter of time before her loyalty to the cause started to slip

It always ended like that. For some reason, no matter how many threats were made, no matter how many paychecks were issued, and no matter how many proposals he offered, All For One just couldn’t seemed to get his subordinates to stick.

But that wasn't the only point of it all. As put eloquently by Jonathan Lynn, “Communism is just a red herring.”

(It was in the name, after all: All For One. Or maybe that was One For All…)

However, All For One liked to believe he was a pretty understanding guy (as laughable as that may be), and so he was giving her an ultimatum.

Hana smiled wolfishly at her client from down the long wooden table. “Come in, and take a seat, Ochako.” She added, “Thank you for coming on such short notice, and at such an early time. We can’t thank you enough for your hard work and dedication.”

Uraraka dismissed the praise, hesitating in shouldering off the army jacket covering her Uravity bodysuit. Her doe-eyes were cold and wide, her lips a humorless, taut line. “Is this another mission?” She asked. Certainly, they wouldn’t be putting her on to another tricky customer… Not with the League of Villains ambush coming up soon…!

“Not quite,” drawled Hana, tilting her head from side to side, as if thinking it over. “It’s not so much a mission, as it is a test from our master.”

Uraraka fell still, clutching her balled-up jacket in her fists. Shimura smiled.

“This is a test of loyalty, to see whether or not you’re still deserving of your position as Master and Doctor Ujiko’s right hand man,” She continued. “You know how the cycle normally goes, but Master was so sad to let you go he was willing to make a deal with you. The doctor can stretch arrangements for your position anytime he pleases, but just this once he's willing to budge for your sake.”

How sweet, thought Uraraka, sarcastically.

Hana went on, “I’m here to tell you that you can take one of two options. Either, we can fire you, as we usually do once an… assistant… is through with their work, or you can do us a favor,” A ceremonial pause. “and kill one Izuku Midoriya.”

Shimura folded her hands in front of her, watched every muscle in Uraraka’s body tense up, and felt a smile in the corner of her mouth. She knew how much Ochako had been struggling, leaving all those messages on read. In fact, she knew just how much that Midoriya had been trying to get in touch with her, too.

All For One didn’t tolerate disobedience; with his most trusted and most powerful acolytes (because acolytes they were), he’d overcome certain complications that ensured their privacy and made sure he had access to who they communicated with.

All For One wasn’t above stalking his subordinates. All For One wasn’t above a lot of things.

“He’s been an obstacle of Sensei’s for a very long time,” lamented Hana. “And he figures it’d be best if all of the pains in his side got taken care of in one go.” She nodded in Ochako’s direction. “We know you’re the perfect person for the job.”

“You-- you can’t make me do this,” Uraraka laughed nervously, dropping her jacket on the polished hardwood below them. “Get someone else to do it, you have plenty of people capable on our team. He’s my old friend.”

“Maybe you didn’t understand me correctly, Uraraka.” said Hana. “That’s the point. We’re not gonna have you kill some second-rate henchman opposed to killing you outright. That’s not fair.”

Since when are you lot about fair? is what Uraraka wanted to say. But she knew better than to run her mouth.

“Besides,” Hana said, using her aforementioned intel, “It’s not like you’ve been in a hurry to message him for quite some time now. What’s it been: a year or two?” She shook her head with an encouraging half-smile. “This mission should be a breeze for you, Ochako.”

Uraraka took a cautious step back, going to grab her coat from the floor. She edged towards the exit one inch at a time. “I’m sorry, Shimura-san. But I can’t do this.”

Silence followed, her refusal settling into the air. Before long, Hana sighed, and again shook her head, this time in disappointment. She reached up into the fold of her blouse and removed the revolver*. Uraraka winced, her body tensing up even further. She dropped her jacket on the floor, and raised her palms in surrender. Hana smiled mirthlessly.

*Her obvious weapon of choice, as a quirkless individual. Besides that, using a quirk to end a life always ran with the risk of the victim being miraculously able to recover. A bullet to the vital organs was much more final, if you asked Hana.

“Choose carefully, Ochako,” said Hana. “You only have two options. You’re either fired”--a grand gesture with the revolver--”or you kill Izuku Midoriya.”

Uraraka stared back at her.

-

Across town that same morning, the League of Villains were still finding themselves being watched.

Joining Spinner on the southwest watchtower after an urgent text message, Shigaraki stopped and looked out across the fields at the vague, hulkish shapes standing on the horizon of the mountainside. Extra hands absent from his body, he rolled his shoulders, squinting his eyes against the sun to get a better look.

“Those are definitely High-Ends.” He breathed, his voice lacking any ounce of surprise or even fear.

“What do we do?” asked Spinner, looking his way with wide eyes. “Why are the Nomu after us?”

“Keep your voice down,” He replied, tonelessly, glancing around them as if checking for something, or perhaps listening for something. “Don’t say that word.”

“What, ‘Nomu’?”--Shigaraki shot him a brief glare--“Why? It’s what they’ve always been called.”

“Just have a bad feeling about something.” mumbled Shigaraki, and moved on to avoid having to elaborate. “We should be getting ready. Master doesn’t give his enemies time to prepare themselves.”

Spinner gave him a miserable look. “Do you really think he’s after us? To kill us?”

“If anything, he’s after me.” Shigaraki scratched idly at his jaw, eyes still glued to the blurry shapes standing at attention on the mountaintops.

“But why? He’s… He’s your teacher.” Spinner shut his eyes, shook his head in disbelief. “Your Sensei. You’ve always talked about how much you looked up to him, your entire life. Hell, when we met that doctor weirdo, you told us all about how he was your savior. And now what, he’s just… He’s just gonna come after you? After us?”

His employer didn’t reply, lips a white line and hooded eyes dark. “We need to prepare,” He told Spinner, instead. “When the time comes, you all will be safe. That’s the point of all this.”

“And what’s that supposed to mean, huh?” said Toga’s voice. She’d joined them on the watchtower. Dabi, Twice, and Mister Compress stood behind her. Kurogiri and Mustard were probably still with Jun, elsewhere. “You’re just gonna get yourself killed, and leave us behind? Is that it?”

Tomura stared at her. “I’m saving you. It’s gotta be me he wants, right? Why would he come after you?”

“You broke All For One’s rules for our sake,” said Compress. “I may be lower on the chain, but I’ve heard enough stories about your sensei to know he’s a bit touchy about loyalty. Naturally he’d want to get rid of the people who ‘turned his successor against him.’ I imagine that’s how he feels, anyway.”

Twice offered nothing to the table, just stood there with his head down, clenching and unclenching his fists. The shape of his eyes twitched with his mask, and Shigaraki knew he had to be angry if he was wearing his mask before summer was over (after all, he’d promised himself not to wear it until autumn struck again). Twice was the loyalest man on planet Earth. He’d do anything for his friends, but he could only take so much, and All For One didn’t mind pushing any of his many subordinates to their limit. Tomura wouldn’t have understood his anger, not too long ago.

I’m only human, you know… Shigaraki!

Tomura looked to Dabi, expecting him to add on to what Atsuhiro had said, but found him quiet, too, shaking just as much as Twice was beside him. Tomura softened as Dabi managed to sober up just enough to step forward and grab him by the shoulders.

“You can’t leave me,” Dabi whispered. “You can’t leave me and Jun, Tomura. Please don’t do this to me. Don’t sacrifice yourself for us. When you said your master was coming for us, I thought you meant we would face him together.”

Toga and Compress watched them with pained expressions. Compress’ usual ensemble was gone as summer did its final lap. Shigaraki carefully reached up and cupped Dabi’s cheek. “I just don’t want you hurt.” He looked over at the other three. “Any of you.”

Dabi’s chest heaved, and Shigaraki realized just how hard he was trying not to cry. Dabi wasn’t the kind of person to cry-- or, at the very least, he tried to make it look that way. His grip on Tomura tightened, his arms sliding down to loop around his waist. Shigaraki kept his hand by his cheek, brushing tears out before they could sting the burnt patches of skin. Dabi’s voice was no higher than a whisper, but the watchtower rooftop was quiet enough that everyone could hear it.

”If you die, I want to die with you.”

Before Tomura could open his mouth, the other three let out a chorus of enthusiastic agreement. He looked over in surprise, and saw that Kurogiri and Mustard had joined them, too. He turned to them, and Kurogiri answered his question. “Jun fetched the takeout from the gates for Dabi. She’s in the offices setting up lunch.”

Shigaraki went to look at Dabi again, and this time found himself interrupted by Twice.

“Shigaraki,” He said, catching his employers’ attention. Tomura looked at him, eyebrows raised, and his eyes widened as Twice pulled his mask all the way off. His bloodshot eyes seemed redder around the rims than usual. “I didn’t have a real family, before I came here. I told you guys that, I think. Told you why…” He looked bitterly down at the mask in his grip. “Told you why I needed this for my costume. Why I was wearing those surgical masks when I met you.”

He went on. “I didn’t just join the League because I wanted to kill some heroes, alright?” His voice was getting shakier by the second. He glanced at Toga out of the corner of his eye; when she gave him a reassuring look, he seemed to wrangle himself back under control, even if it was just a little bit. “Don’t get me wrong-- It’s not like I didn’t hate ‘em. I wanted ‘em gone just as bad as you all did, I just…” He swallowed. His following outburst sounded more like a sob than a coherent sentence. “I joined the League because I wanted friends, okay? I wanted to be friends with people who were just as messed up and weird as I was.”

His eyes downcast, he gave Compress a guilty glance, his voice quiet, “S’why I thought Overhaul might be a good ally. An’ then…” He trailed off.

Silence lingered in the air for a good long moment, before Compress spoke up himself. “My dear Jin, do you still think I blame you for what happened to my arm?” He exclaimed. “None of that was your fault; none of us ever thought it was! All of us may be villains, Jin, but Overhaul…” He rolled his eyes, gave a flippant gesture not unreminiscent of Madeline Kahn in her role as Mrs White. “Well, he’s out of our way now, and that’s what’s important. He was crazy. Lunatic.” Another Kahn-esque flap of his hand punctuated his point.

“Sako’s right, Jin.” piped up Toga.

“He is.” chorused Kurogiri, Mustard, and Spinner. Dabi gave him an encouraging nod, still holding Tomura and biting back tears. When you haven’t really cried in a decade and a half, it’s sort of hard to stop when you finally do.

Still supporting an emotional Dabi, Tomura turned to Twice and gave him a half-smile. “I told you back there when we were involved with Overhaul that I believed in you, Twice,” He said. “None of that has changed since then. You believed in us, and you supported us fervently. Why shouldn’t we have done the same for you?”

Twice stared at him, and promptly began rubbing vigorously at his eyes, nearly doubling (no pun intended) over and leaning on Toga.

“You’ve made two of us cry now,” mumbled Dabi. “Anything else you’d care to say?”

Shigaraki sighed, his head down. For as long as he could remember, the only thing he’d been able to derive joy from had been his Sensei’s embrace, and the pain of those who had wronged him. But this team -- this team of weird, outcasted, rejected freaks -- had changed that. His hatred for the world still had yet to subside, but while he had these people with him, while he had Jun and Dabi with him, things seemed just a little bit brighter, in a way that things with Sensei never had. Sensei had only taught him to hate, to fight, to incite terror, and to destroy what was in his path. That had been his existence his entire life, and he hadn’t truly understood what a pitiful existence it had been until they had fought the Meta Liberation Army.

His time with Sensei had helped him, sure. He had evolved in that time with Sensei, learned to move past the trauma of losing his family and use it as something more, as a weapon and as a stage to project his influence. Tomura didn’t want redemption. He didn’t want to be a hero. At least-- not a hero in the way that the public saw heroes. He didn’t want to be one of their “good guys.”

But being a bad guy didn’t mean you had to be one-dimensional. He’d read it in comics, seen it in video games and movies all around.

He didn’t want to take All For One’s place. Since childhood, he had disagreed with his master’s methods, but he'd followed through because, at the time, nothing else had existed to him. But, as he grew up, Kurogiri had taught him to be his own person. And now, after countless revelations on his journey to the throne as Japan’s Symbol of Terror, he figured it was time to take the advice of someone who’d always been there for him, rather than someone who only ever had once.

It really was time for a new save file. But this time, it would be someone else’s, not his.

He was kind of getting tired of this game, anyways.

“Okay.” He said.

“Okay, what?” Dabi looked down at him.

“We’ll fight, together.” Tomura looked up at them. “Even if you all are annoying idiots, I’m not leaving my friends behind.”

The League cheered.

“But…” He went on. “Just… I just have one thing.” He paused, gaining his composure. “I want to make sure that Jun will make it out alive.”

The group was quiet. Dabi spoke up first. “Mophead, we can’t leave her like that. She’ll be crushed.”

Shigaraki regarded him fiercely, but his eyes were soft. “I don’t want her to have to quit when she’s only on level one, Dabi. She’s got so much to…” He trailed off, and tried again. “Besides, I think she’s got a better understanding of what makes this world so unfair than we ever could. She’s strong, and a good presence. She could be a better leader than I’ve ever been.”

Spinner began, “Don’t say that--”

“Don’t soften the blow, Lizard-brain,” Tomura was smiling, though, and his tone was joking. Despite this, everyone could see the pain his eyes, there for all sorts of reasons. His childhood and his uprising, sure, but mostly, the idea of leaving his daughter behind. “We all know it’s true.” Another brief silence. "Master always told me how I was to become his perfect successor. I want Jun to figure out how to be mine on her own terms."

Tomura looked around at them. "So, what do you say?"

The League looked around at each other, seemed to come to a silent understanding. Dabi looked down at Tomura, tipped him over and kissed him roughly. The League cheered.

“Okay,” Dabi said, and though the pain present ever so slightly in his eyes matched Tomura’s own, there was a glimmer of hope there, too. “Let’s level up.”

-

The next two days were the epitome of suspense. As the League prepared themselves for what was coming, Midoriya did everything in his power in a desperate attempt to get Kaminari to call off the ambush. It was no use. No one disobeyed All For One. And, besides, Kaminari was really looking forward to a good, hard fight. No one could seem to waver the intensity Kaminari’s team of heroes had. They were all ready to put an end to Japan’s biggest bads in history.

If only they knew who they were really working for, then they would really know the biggest bad in history.

Midoriya knew he couldn’t stop them himself. He knew that, in order to put an end to All For One, he’d have to support the people he’d hated most since his freshman year in high school. He hoped he didn’t have to interact with them. He hoped he didn’t have to hurt any of his allies, any of his old friends. He hoped he didn’t have to hurt Uraraka.

But he couldn’t be sure. It was All For One, after all.

On the day before the assault, Kaminari called him.

“You ready, man?”

No. “Of course.”

“You’re a good guy, Midoriya. I hope you know that.”

“Well, it’s in the job description.”

He laughed. “Good one. See you tomorrow morning, bro.”

“Yeah, you too.”

Chargebolt hung up. Midoriya rubbed his face in his hands, rubbed sweat onto his sleeve. Good one, indeed.

-

The morning of, the opposition was right on time. A swarm of heroes, arranged in a perfect line on the clifftop against the bright, orangey-yellow morning horizon. And then, just beyond them where they couldn’t see them, the vague yet quite obvious, brutish shapes of Doctor Ujiko’s fleet of High-Ends. After a brief but heartfelt pep talk from Shigaraki, the League was preparing themselves.

Shigaraki and Dabi stood together on the headquarters’ central watchtower, watching the enemy stare back at them from afar.

“You know,” said Dabi, his tone light and conversational. “I’ve always wondered why you always act like you’re in a movie. Now, I kinda get it.”

Tomura snorted. “Even this is excessive. The sunrise backdrop? Standing on a cliffside in battle poses as the wind hits their capes? You’d think we’re in a shonen.”

Oops.

Dabi laughed, and quiet fell again. After a while, he asked, “Where’s Jun?”

“The Feel Good Inc. department’s offices, playing basketball.” Tomura replied. “I tried to put her as far away as I could.” He looked at his shoes, bitterly. “I wanted her to have a further distance to run, trying to get to us.”

Dabi looked at him, his expression matching. “You know that won’t make it hurt her any less, if we do end up…” He shivered. “You know.”

“I know.” Tomura huffed. “That doesn’t mean I can’t try.”

Across the Meta Liberation Army’s headquarters, the assembly of heroes was beginning to shift. They were getting restless. They were ready to fight. Soon, there would be no running away.

Tomura figured it was time to say it. He looked over at Dabi. “If this really is game over, then… I love you.”

Dabi grinned back at him, no surprise, uncertainty, or discomfort in his expression. “I love you, too.”

Sporting a smile, Tomura nodded across the fields and wreckage. “Should we give ‘em something to look at?”

Dabi’s grin widened, and with that, he drew Tomura in for a kiss.

"I'll see you soon. Somewhere."

The world would come crashing down, soon.

-

Another rimshot.

Jun wiped the sweat from her forehead, cracked her neck and bounced back to catch the ball in her hands. She sat down on the floor to catch her breath, taking a long drink from her water bottle. She went to look at her phone. Today was a good morning to incite riot in the groupchat.

The ground rumbled underneath her. Again. And again. It felt like an earthquake.

The glass of the offices shattered. Something had just hit the main building, and it had sounded like a lightning bolt.

Jun shoved her phone in her pockets.

She ran.

Chapter Text

In Deika City, Japan, something big was going on.

Around the headquarters of the Meta Liberation Army, most people were getting in their cars and driving to work for the day. As they walked out of their houses and heard the distant rumbling from inside the long-abandoned subdivision's walls, handfuls of people began calling the nearest police station, in fear of a possible villain attack. Inside the walls of the Army’s once-offices, a battle was just getting started.

Could it really be called a villain attack, with so many heroes present? wondered Kurogiri, standing atop the mountainside, overlooking the metallic walls of the base. If he squinted (and Warp Gate gave him an extra hand with that), he could make out the familiar forms of heroes he’d fought in the past, like Eraserhead and Thirteen.

Wait. Eraserhead?

Kurogiri swallowed nervously. Surely, the League would be able to take him on. After so many years of fighting alongside one another, they understood each other’s fighting techniques. Eraserhead’s presence would just be a mild inconvenience. But all Kurogiri could do was hope.

Kurogiri could do a number fighting one-on-one on the ground floor, but with such a fearsome opposition that left his own team pitifully outnumbered, he had advised Shigaraki to let him stay in the background. From the clifftops, Kurogiri could play sniper, moving around both heroes and villains, so long as they were blind and foolish enough to stumble into one of his gates by accident. While it was true that there were lots of pro heroes who knew Kurogiri’s strengths and weaknesses, there were many more who didn’t. And as long as they didn’t have long-range quirks, he’d be perfectly fine.

In the neighborhood below, Kurogiri couldn’t quite tell how things were going. On the one hand, Dabi was clearly starting off strong, going absolutely ham on some pro who was clearly newer to the job, roasting the short, grape-headed bastard alive with his quirk. Kurogiri really hoped he would only watch the condition of his skin to keep himself safe, knowing Dabi had a tendency to go overboard.

On the other hand, there was Mustard, who didn’t look like he was doing too good armed with just a revolver and a power that was not entirely suited for battle. Luckily, so far there didn’t seem to be many pros who were gutsy enough, or at least too eager to go charging headfirst into the purple typhoon encircling him. Kurogiri hoped his makeshift gas mask was going to do the trick, and that none of the League accidentally wandered into his zone.

Kurogiri also hoped that the battle would soon begin to sway in the League’s favor. Sooner rather than later, at that.

With Warp Gate on his side, Kurogiri’s vision could reach so far as the area just southwest and southeast of him, his peripherals stretching out just far enough to cover his view of the mountainside and the cityscape around him. Every now and then he found himself checking for an out-of-place little girl, not knowing how fast enough she would be to get to the scene.

Not that she was very little, anymore.

Kurogiri couldn’t help being hopeful, but even he knew that, with not just an entire fleet of powerful pro heroes, but All For One himself on the opposing side, that someone (or several someones) would not be making it out alive. He knew Jun would have to face that, one way or another.

Truly, the Warp Gate villain didn’t know what was worse: watching one of your family die in front of you, or getting there when it’s already too late to save them.

Neither scenario was all that pleasant, but Kurogiri knew that, without a doubt, Jun was going to find herself in one of them this morning.

Meanwhile, on the ground below, Shigaraki was hauling ass trying to support the rest of his party, and Kurogiri wasn’t sure if he was impressed or terrified himself. Shigaraki’s abilities and his strength had doubled, maybe even tripled during their first brawl there at the Army’s headquarters, but his speed here was unreal. If Kurogiri were on the opposing team, he certainly wouldn’t be able to trick Shigaraki into falling through a Warp Gate. He was just too fast. It was like watching a cat on the prowl.

Too stunned by his son’s clear increase in strength and agility, Kurogiri almost -- but not quite -- missed the shape that slunk into and out of his view from across the valley. On the opposite clifftop, two huge white eyes blinked at him, the pupils narrowing and blowing wide again like a reptile’s. The High-End, long and lanky and muscular in form, bared sharp teeth too big for its mouth, and disappeared from sight, fleeing down the mountain like a huge green panther towards the action.

Kurogiri tasted blood, and realized he’d been biting down hard on his lower lip for some time. A High-End had been spying on him… That couldn’t have been good.

As if on cue, or as if someone had been listening in on his thoughts, a wave of familiar dread crashed over the Warp Gate villain.

It was a chilly malaise that jumped him unexpectedly and rendered his movements slow*. His stomach churned and his throat nearly closed up, but he was relieved to find he could still operate his quirk, and move his body with only a little extra effort. It was clearly a stoke of luck, that Kurogiri wasn’t yet paralyzed, or so he thought.

*This was the same sensation, the same discomfort Midoriya and his friends had experienced on their night errand to rescue Bakugou from Kurogiri’s own gang. Kurogiri had never before had the displeasure of feeling it, but he could distinctly remember just who the quirk had been stolen from, and how they had died. It was a curse, truly, his ability to remember vividly each and every one of the victims All For One had had a personal vendetta against. The master himself had not always been present at their execution, but in his early days of servitude, Kurogiri certainly had.

”Good morning, Kurogiri.”

Fuck.

Kurogiri bristled. He turned his head, and slowly pivoted to face him. “Good morning, Master.”

All For One had clearly gotten a powerup since his last takedown. After so many years of rotting away in Tartarus, Kurogiri had really hoped he’d suffered irreversible damage, but it seemed Ujiko’s capabilities knew no limits. Not only was All For One standing upright on his own two feet, but he wasn’t wearing his helmet. The master was breathing, all on his own. Doctor Ujiko’s work was now evidently leaps and bounds ahead of where it had been last Kurogiri had checked in. He had brought back a dead man walking. Not only that, but All For One was just radiating power.

Kurogiri knew he couldn’t possibly have regained all that strength he had lost in his first brawl against the Symbol of Peace, but now that he was facing the raw power of All For One’s quirk in its most boosted and amped-up form, it sure as hell felt like it.

“I never thought we’d be on opposing sides,” remarked Kurogiri, his expression unreadable. “Master.”

“Is that so?” All For One asked, surprised. His cracked mouth split into an even slash across his face. “That’s strange, because I always have.”

The eyes of All For One’s once ever-devout underling narrowed even further at that. A tilt of his head implored the master to continue. "Oh?"

“You’ve always been too…” All For One laughed. “Well, I guess I ought to come out and say it, shouldn’t I? You’ve always been too nice, Kurogiri. Too empathetic, too lenient. It practically took me getting on my knees and begging, to get you to agree to the whole League of Villains thing.” He surveyed the surroundings, gazed out over the sea of tiny figures beneath them with the air of a king overlooking his kingdom. He added, mildly, “And look where that got me.”

“What, then?” Kurogiri regarded him sharply again. “Was it inconvenient for you, me being a nice person? Me being a tad bit hesitant to go out and attack a group of teenagers?”

“Yes,” said All For One, bluntly, stoking the coals of Kurogiri’s flickering fury. “And, please. You don’t need to lie, Kurogiri, we both know where you were when I found you. Don’t act like you’ve forgotten, like you’re a bigger man. You don’t come back from something like that.”

“I raised the child you swore you were going to protect,” said Kurogiri, his voice a low, trembling growl, already just barely holding himself back from exploding. “I loved him always, but you’ve always been the one to say you cared for him more than anyone in the world. I am a bigger man. I love my family. You, on the other hand, could never love a damn thing if you tried.”

“Love is meaningless, when you’ve done what you did,” chortled All For One, the sound reverberating around the clifftop. He shrugged his shoulders, and a wave of cold hugged the Warp Gate villain. He shuddered. “Do you even remember any of it, Kurogiri? You killed half of a boarding school full of children at age fifteen. You warped the rest to God knows where, among other things. Love is meaningless. You can say sorry all you want, but it won’t change anything.”

All For One’s grin grew wider, an ugly, twisted, yellowed snarl in the middle of a marred, disfigured face. The scars running in torrents down his face stretched and contorted, looking as though someone had poured paint over his head. He didn’t need to see Kurogiri. After a near-millenium of collecting and using quirks to heighten his senses, he didn’t need sight. He could feel everything; any tremor in the air, any slight movement. He was unstoppable.

“You’re selfish, Kurogiri, you know that?” oozed All For One. The atmosphere was beginning to shift, to change into something far more threatening and dangerous than before. The temperature seemed to be dropping steadily, faster and faster as each second went by. “Tomura Shigaraki would have been the perfect successor, had I not made the mistake of putting him in your hands. You taught him to prioritize his allies over success. You taught him sentiment. Things were all going well until I sent the two of you to UA. What a shame.”

Kurogiri was only barely standing his ground now, the combined force of All For One's power radiating from him and the frigid air enough to make him want to give in, to curl up on the ground and surrender, but he didn’t. This monster had hurt his child long enough. It was about time the Warp Gate villain got a word in edgewise.

“Admittedly, it was mistake of mine to allow him to live under the same roof as his allies as well,” All For One continued. “He learned to value them more than the missions themselves, orchestrating his plans around their safety alone. By the end, it wasn’t even a victory he wanted, he only wanted to make sure his pathetic team got out of it alive. Do you see now, Kurogiri? Do you see why I’m frustrated? How am I supposed to make an heir out of sentiment and self-indulgence?”

“You would rather destroy decades worth of training and hardship, because Tomura has become a real person?” whispered Kurogiri. The tendrils of his eyes were beginning to expand, to reshape themselves, to spread out. Soon, two fires burned in the center of his face, yellow flames licking at the air. Kurogiri was rarely ever truly angry. This was one of the rare occasions where he was.

And, boy, was he mad.

“I came to Tomura Shigaraki when he was a child because he was broken,” lamented All For One. “He had so much potential, so much anger to be used for something greater than himself, greater than you and I, Kurogiri. He was perfect. And then you and all of his little friends went and fixed him.”

”You can’t fix him!” Kurogiri roared, finally snapping, his eyes now two yellow, raging bonfires. “No one will ever be able to fix him, but that doesn’t mean he’s not allowed to feel. Do you think he never cried at night, when you were gone? Do you think he never hid in his room to get away from meeting with you? He’d go for days on end without food to avoid talking to you. He’s never been perfect and that’s okay.”

Down below on the battlefield, a pair of crimson eyes looked up to find the source of the booming voice up above. Slowly, a smile tugged at Shigaraki’s lips. He looked away, and charged at the next hero in sight.

Thank you, Kurogiri.

All For One once again appraised the Warp Gate villain thoughtfully, the strength of his aura never faltering. “You have some strange ideals, Kurogiri,” He said, applauding sarcastically. “For a villain, that is. I’ve always known you’d turn on me one day, but…” He laughed. “Never like this.”

“You are a tyrant,” hissed Kurogiri. “A dictator.”

“‘God makes some men poets. Some He makes kings, some beggars. Me, He made a hunter.’” quoted All For One, with another sinister grin. “When it comes down to it, Kurogiri, what you are is a fool. Did you think I was only ever banking on my one plan? To raise Tomura as the next king of the underworld? Don’t get me wrong, though, friend-- this is still a betrayal. I’m still going to kill you, but…”

All For One leaned in closer. “I might as well tell you everything now, just to pour some salt into your wounds.”

Kurogiri’s eyes narrowed. He wasn’t going to run from this. He wasn’t going to warp away. This is what he had been waiting for, for years.

He only hoped Sako would forgive him.

“Again in the words of Richard Connell, ‘my whole life has been one prolonged hunt,’” All For One went on. “I’ve been searching for the proper successor for decades. I knew my reign wouldn’t last more than a millennium. So, when One For All and All Might started to become a pain in my side, I knew I had to make my decision. Just to get under the Symbol of Peace’s skin, I chose Tomura.” He chuckled. ”But, as Daruma or any man of science will tell you, three is the magic number. Three experiments. The second was Tomura’s sister.”

“You told me you killed her.” seethed Kurogiri. “You told Tomura he had killed her.”

“Like I said,” the master laughed. He was enjoying this, and that made Kurogiri all the more furious. “I always knew this day would come, this fight between us. Did you think I would tell you everything, Kurogiri? No, I kept my backup plans a secret between Daruma and I. It was all his idea, anyways.”

“And the third?” Kurogiri demanded. “Who was the third of your experiments, Master?”

“Not ‘was.’ ‘Will be.’ I already told you I came here for the sake of revenge, and that’s true, but killing you all isn’t even the half of what I intend to do.” He nodded his head down towards the battlefield. “As for who the third is… You know her quite well.”

Without missing a beat, Kurogiri’s eyes widened. “No.”

“Yes.” All For One clasped his hands together, his grin wild and manic. “Is the news really that devastating, Kurogiri? That’s great. I hope it hurts Tomura and that Dabi of yours even more.”

“She won’t give in to you,” shouted Kurogiri. “She’s stronger than that. Kill them, and all you’ll do is make her angry.”

All For One pouted his lips. “You seem so oblivious. It’s a right shame, that you’d have to discover it now.”

“Discover what now?”

“Don’t you know what that girl is? Don’t you know where your Jun comes from, Kurogiri?” All For One shook his head. “All of Daruma’s precious masterpieces… They come from people, obviously. Unwilling players of the game who, once injected with the proper serums, all of a sudden feel very receptive to Daruma’s plans. Anyone with a flashy quirk that Daruma finds interesting are made into participants. I use my quirk when needed, and voila. She was just incomplete. She struggled, and she escaped while we were gone.”

“No,” Kurogiri shook his head. “You’re lying. She’s… She’s a person.”

”Like I said, all of them are people, Kurogiri,” lilted All For One. ”In a way.”

Kurogiri had had enough of this. It was time to end things. If he could warp the master away, he could buy the League just a little bit of time to get moving, because with All For One there, they were all doomed.

So, the Warp Gate villain activated his quirk.

He dashed, rushing All For One at full speed with his quirk at its maximum strength. The gate opened, a black pool of mercury cascading out from Kurogiri’s arms and head, a deep purple galaxy flowing out from nothingness. The portal swelled, murky black tendrils reaching for All For One, pulling him in, stretching out for the sky above to swallow him whole. Cold mist stifled the master, suffocating him, enveloping him in purple fog and preparing to whisk him away to somewhere far from the Liberation Army’s headquarters.

And then it stopped.

And Kurogiri was thrown to the cliff’s edge. As he flew, the purple smoke covering his body seemed to be ripped from him like a mask. He groaned as the back of his head hit the rocky cliffside.

”That was a commendable attempt, Kurogiri,” warbled All For One’s voice. ”But a terrible, terrible idea. Tell me, how do you feel without your quirk? I’ve learned it’s different for every person. Shame, sadness, fury, joy, confusion… How are you feeling?”

Kurogiri gasped, sitting up like a shot. His bare, human hands clasped his face, feeling gaunt cheekbones, a slender nose, rosebud lips, and hooded eyelids. He grabbed a fistful of jet black hair. He grabbed at his bare neck, felt his chest through his waistcoat and shirt. His breath hitched; coppery-gold eyes slowly trailed up to the silhouette standing over him.

Kurogiri had always wished he could live without his permanent mask. He always wished someone could take it away from him. But not like this.

“Time to go, Kurogiri,” said All For One, and activated his quirks. The fabric of his tuxedo sleeve stretched, the lining splitting down the seams as red lightning shot down his arm. “This is Air Cannon, plus Springlike Limbs. It did a number on our favorite Symbol of Peace; I figure it should be good enough for you.”

“Tomura…” whispered Kurogiri, his voice hoarse. “Tell Sako… Tell Tomura… Tell them all that I love them, please.”

”Will do,” said All For One, grinning his maniacal grin. ”I’m sure it will be a very comforting thing to hear in their last moments. Thank you for your quirk, by the way. I’ve always wanted it, really. Warping quirks really are so fascinating.”

All For One let go of the tension in his muscles, stretched out his arms, and activated Air Cannon (plus Springlike Limbs). Wind whooshed from his palms at full force, the strength of the quirk combo amped up to max.

Kurogiri went flying over the mountainside, hurtling towards the rocky grounds of the headquarters below. As green and grey and blue shot past his head, his heart pounded. The name of his son left his lips, and then the name of his boyfriend, and then nothing.

”Goodbye, Black Mist.”

-

Honestly, who do these people think they were?

Mustard took a great big gulp of air, doubled over in the center of his great purple typhoon. He was hot and sweaty and out of breath, but his gas mask hadn’t been punched off yet and he considered that a success. The new gas mask was perfectly intact, but it was still getting harder to breathe inside of it. Now that All For One’s oblivious team of heroes were finally beginning to throw themselves at him, he had to work on his reflexes.

His aim, on the other hand, was pretty damn good.

If he squinted around in the swirling, purple whirlwind he was standing in, he could see the many bodies littering the ground. Some of the opposition had charged at him without any thought, and had gotten a bullet to the brain. Others had been banking on a surprise attack, and had choked to death in the toxic miasma before they could get to him.

Despite his powerful quirk and the revolver tight in his grip, though, Mustard’s face and body were covered in scrapes and bruises from heroes who had been just a little bit too fast.

But Mustard wasn’t stupid. You didn’t have to be a genius to know at least some of these heroes weren’t working for who they said they were.

Mustard couldn’t see farther than the perimeter of the gas twister he was inside, but only being able to hear what was around him was so much worse than being able to see it all, too. He had to gauge where his opponents were based on how loud they were, until they were inside the typhoon with him and he could feel them coming. He could read their moves just fine, so long as they were slow enough to let him get a grip on his gun.

As the minutes went by, it was becoming harder and harder for Mustard to get the caliber into the revolver, fumbling with it in his hands every time he went to replace it. Blood was pounding in his ears, and he could taste it in his mouth, smell it in the air. The stench of gunpowder, metal, and of grass and fresh corpses was overwhelming, so strong it went through his mask, suffocating Mustard as he grappled with his revolver. He wiped sweaty palms against the fabric of his gloves, heaving a gasp as he raised the handgun shakily.

There was something at the edge of the gas zone. Someone was circling him, slowly, waiting to get him in their sights. Mustard took a deep breath, feeling someone step just inside the typhoon. One beat passed, then two beats, then three, and suddenly, the presence of someone else came running at him. Mustard cried out from inside his mask and whirled to face it, lifting the revolver and firing.

He heard a satisfying thwack, and knew his bullet had been deflected. The person spying on him had stumbled, and then began to advance again, faster than before. Feeling his heart crawling its way up its throat, Mustard turned and sprinted into the depths of the gas whirlwind.

But Snipe fired first.

Mustard’s leg went numb, and suddenly he wasn’t running anymore. He collapsed on the ground, looking up through the eyesockets of his mask at a hazy, purple-blue sky. Snipe’s quirk had ensured that the trajectory of the bullet had been so accurate that it’d buried itself at the perfect angle in his calf. Suddenly, the late-summer heat seemed more intense, the tastes and smells more profound, and when the pain finally kicked in, Mustard screamed, thrashing and writhing and kicking as the Bronco hero himself appeared above him.

“You got off the hook once,” said Snipe, revealing his own gun from underneath his cape. “But not this time.”

Mustard snarled as he gazed down the barrel of the pistol. With one wrench of his body and one kick with his unharmed leg, he knocked it from Snipe’s hand. He rolled away, fumbling for his revolver lying in the dirt. He lifted his arm, aimed, fired, and missed his shot as Snipe began to chase after him. Like a cat, Mustard sprang back. He made to slink away, but Snipe got another good hit on him with the butt of the gun, and he fell in a heap on the ground.

In a flash, Mustard lifted his arm, hooked his finger around the trigger of his revolver, and pulled…

Nothing.

He had wasted the last shot of the round.

He’d failed. Again.

There was no getting out of this one. He’d failed the League. He’d failed Jun, and Himiko, and Shigaraki. He’d failed everybody.

Snipe pulled his gun. He shook his head, and yanked off Mustard’s gas mask, tossed it a few yards away. Mustard gasped for air, and breathed in the toxic miasma.

“Any last words?” asked the Bronco hero, hesitantly. Heroes didn’t kill people. It wasn’t in the Hero Code. But Kaminari had recruited them all with the strong intention to kill, and Hawks, the oblivious new number one, had backed him up. Still, though, something about it seemed wrong.

But it was a mission to take out the League of Villains. Snipe wasn’t going to question anything.

“Yeah,” snapped Mustard. He leaned up, and spat in the pro’s mask. “That.”

Snipe sneered and extended his arm.

For a moment, Mustard stared down the barrel of the pistol. The extra caliber in his pocket weighed heavy. His revolver was squeezed tight in his grip. If this fight had been against any other pro hero, Mustard’s reflexes could have been fast enough to save him. But this was a gun user against a gun user, and the miasma surrounding them was finally starting to make Mustard feel sick to his stomach, his durability period over. His eyelids fluttered.

Sorry, guys.

He closed his eyes.

Chapter Text

“Tomura told me to fight melee,” Toga shouted over the thrum of quirks in use. “But it’s not working! There’s too many of them, Jin. Every time I cut them down, there’s more right behind them.”

Twice gasped for air. He’d been defending himself with nothing other than the measuring tapes around the wrists of his bodysuit and it was finally starting to take a toll on his strength. Around him, the bodies of Ectoplasm’s clones fell to the ground, evaporating into mist. The UA pro had been attacking them ruthlessly for just under fifteen minutes, and was showing no sign of stopping. At all.

Jin was beginning to wonder if the heroes had somehow decided to follow in Overhaul’s footsteps. He was sure they could play off a quirk-boosting drug as some kind of support gear, and nobody would question it.

Many yards away, Ectoplasm’s real body circled them like a shark on the hunt, watching them carefully and, from what Twice figured, was probably trying to observe their fighting techniques. The two of them were running out of effective ways to defend themselves. The models of the rest of the League that Jin could employ were outdated. Their abilities were pathetic compared to the League’s strength nowadays. They could fight off a few of Ectoplasm’s clones, sure, but their stamina and durability were lacking. He had to do something else.

As much as Twice hated doing it, as much as it brought back painful memories, and as much as it scared him, the situation was dire.

“We have to fight fire with fire, Toga,” Twice hollered, and activated his own quirk. “Get back! Come at me, dogbreaths!”

The ground rumbled. The earth split open at Twice’s feet, and hands grabbed hold of the dirt, arms outstretching like a scene from a zombie flick. Swarms of Twices hoisted themselves up from the cracks in the dirt, pushing aside the terrain and scraping to their feet. They surveyed their surroundings, and when their host commanded them to, they threw themselves full force at Ectoplasm’s army.

“With my quirk, we can outnumber him, and make him fall back,” explained Jin, and an ashamed look crossed his face. “Maybe kill him.”

As they attempted to retreat in search of a secluded place to rest, Toga noticed his expression. She shook her head as they ran to hide. They could feel the heat of Dabi’s flames on their backs, even from a distance. “He attacked us first,” She assured Twice. “This is an attack on us, so we get to fight back.”

“I know,” He mumbled. “But still.”

Twice glanced over his shoulder. Ectoplasm’s clones were in a heated spar against his own. So far, the Spectre hero seemed to be distracted, searching among the fakes trying to find the real him. That was a good sign. Jin grinned, proud of himself for his strategy, but as he turned back around he discovered he’d begun celebrating far too early. A new obstacle had presented himself to them.

A streak of black and white fabric and a flash of red dizzied the two villains, and a dark figure with beaming scarlet eyes and golden goggles leapt down from the trees.

There he was: the very man Kurogiri had been worried about.

Not one for introductions, Eraserhead swung his leg out in one balletic kick. His foot connected hard with Twice’s solar plexus, and the Double villain promptly found himself lying on his back, seeing stars. He groaned, eyes rolling about in his sockets. Above him, Toga let out an animalistic growl and pulled a switchblade from her left garter, slid into a battle stance and engaged in combat.

She barreled forward, putting her weight on her upper half and throwing heavy slices at the Erasure hero’s midsection. He dodged each expertly, and swiped her legs out from underneath her, but she was too nimble, too quick to be captured easily. With an effortless somersault, Toga was behind him again, prepared to stab him in the back. He turned just in time, and the blade caught his forearm instead, opening a nasty gash there, just barely avoiding the radial artery. Eraserhead spat at the ground, sidestepping another clean jab at his chest.

“You’ve gotten faster,” commented Eraserhead. “Pity for us.”

“You’ve gotten slower,” countered Himiko. “Lucky for us.”

In an attempt to outdo her in strength, Eraserhead jumped her, grabbing first the wrist holding the switchblade and then her free one. Behind him, Twice had regained his composure, and wrapped his arms around the pro’s neck before Toga could be put down. Eraserhead instinctively let go of her and instead struggled in the Double villains death grip.

Finding an opening, Eraserhead jerked back, kicked the sole of his shoe into the villain’s thigh and released himself from his grasp. He retreated before he could be caught, his forearm wound still dripping red as he scaled the nearest cliffside, clearly forming a new strategy. Neither villain noticed which direction he fled in, too out of breath to keep watch.

Twice gasped, collapsed beside Toga on the field, the air smelling unpleasantly of summer grass and iron.

“We have to get back up,” Twice urged her. “He only ran off to lick his wounds. We can run and touch base with Dabi. He’s strong; we can fight with him and heal ourselves up.”

“I fell on my arm and scraped my leg when he tripped me,” Toga complained, and extended her leg to show him. The rocks had got her good just around the knee area. Twice hoped that glint of white he was looking at wasn’t bone. “I don’t know if I can walk.”

Twice shivered, shaking his head furiously and hopping up and down as his panic caught up with him. He raised a hand, slapped himself across the face to free himself of the jitters, trying to formulate a plan as the voices in his head all screamed their input.

Run away!

Stay and defend her!

Give up!

Kill her!

“No, no.. Shut up…” He growled, gritting his teeth and holding his head in his hands. “The mask is on today, you all have to shut the hell up!”

As he babbled away, Twice didn’t notice Toga wobbling to her feet until she was practically falling on top of him. She leaned against him with her healthy arm over his shoulder and winced as blood ran in rivers down her wounded leg. Twice yelped and caught her, shuddering as he tuned out the ever-persistent voices. He looked up, eyes fleeting across the battlefield.

If he squinted, he could spot Shigaraki in the distance, coat flowing behind him as one of the watchtowers slowly began to careen over after two of the supports keeping it up had been decayed. On the opposite end, a tornado of blue lit up the main offices, a tiny, spiky-haired figure in the midst of it all. Spinner and Compress had joined up on the main ground, their collective speed, agility, and brain enough to be more impressive than their opponents’ brawn.

Twice looked skyward, squinting against the morning sun. He wasn’t seeing Kurogiri anywhere close by. And the gas twister in the training grounds was beginning to look like it was fading…

But now wasn’t the time to worry about what was happening there, because something else was happening now. The Spectre hero: Ectoplasm had returned, the ghostly snarl of his mask just a little more sinister than before. He charged them, galloping toward them on his prosthetic legs with enhanced speed, his own clones spawning around them from his breath. The Double villain gulped. His clones hadn’t lasted too long, had they?

Gathering his senses, Twice pulled Toga close to him, turning his back on the Spectre hero and unleashing his quirk once again. First there were five clones, and then eight, and just before Twice could deem it safe to flee again, something went wrong.

His quirk stopped producing doppelgangers. The rush of his quirk copying every little part of himself stopped completely in its tracks. The buzz and the adrenaline of his power went completely dead.

Slowly, Twice looked up, ignoring the worried looks Himiko was giving him. No way…

There, in the trees and shrubbery of the cliffside, unsupervised by any of the League, was a hint of red and gold. The pro hero’s capture weapon floated about him, a barrier protecting him from surprise attacks. Twice’s stomach dropped. His quirk had been erased.

“Toga, we gotta go.” He yelled, throwing an arm around her and pulling her away.

“What’s up?”

“It’s Eraserhead again! He erased my quirk.”

”Shit.” Toga tightened her grip on him, and prepared to hustle. “Okay, let’s--”

But it was already too late. Ectoplasm had already managed to eliminate all of Twice’s remaining doubles with his own. The Spectre hero exhaled, and slowly, his army of clones began to appear again, replenishing the dozen of them Twice’s own team had just barely managed to destroy. They swarmed Twice and Toga until it was impossible to tell which of them was the original.

Toga weakly clutched the hilt of her switchblade as they closed in. She clenched her fists. There was no way of knowing which one was real, and they were already too close. This was it. This was really it.

But Twice didn’t seem to think so. He felt for her hand as Ectoplasm’s clones prepared to attack. “When I say go, run.” He whispered.

Toga shot him a sharp look from under her brows. For once, her expression was not euphoric and cheerful, but dark and grave. “What are you talking about?”

“If we split up, it’ll be me they go after first, not you,” He explained. ”It’s because I’m so much stronger, obviously. My quirk is more of a disadvantage for them right now than yours. You’ll have time to defend yourself, or go an’ find the team.”

“Jin, you can’t do that,” Toga breathed desperately. “You’ll get yourself killed.”

“It’s been amazing knowing you, Toga. Thank you.” And there was no contradictory remark to say otherwise.

“Jin, no, wait--”

”Go, Himiko!” And he dove through the sea of Ectoplasms. He ran, and fought them head-on, one man against thirty-one with his quirk deactivated. All to save Toga Himiko.

He had saved her. And he had told her to run. So she ran.

She ran fast and hard, sobbing as she searched for the nearest place to hide, tears streaming down her face the whole way.

-

There was someone else on the battlefield now. She had finally made it.

She was standing on the cliffside Kurogiri had been watching the battle from, her long, sky blue braid wind-whipped and coming undone. Narrowed maroon eyes that held a hint of turquoise surveyed the wreckage beneath her. Her hands shook by her sides, falling into old habits. Jun shut her eyes momentarily, bit her lip until it bled. The smells of blood and corpses and sweat and burning wood were all fresh in the air. It was all so vividly like the raid back at the bar that soon, Jun felt her entire body trembling. She remembered her entire family that day, all taken out individually and spread-eagled on the bar floor. Defeated by heroes.

And now it was happening again. She was angry, and terrified, and distraught, and she needed to find them.

She sprinted fast down towards the battle, unaware of the green-haired figure on the opposite side of the mountains doing just the same thing. Funnily enough, Midoriya didn’t notice her, either.

-

Dabi had fought some people (scratch that, he had fought a lot of people, but that wasn’t the end of the sentence) who’d been pretty full of themselves, but hell, if UA High graduates weren’t the worst of the bunch, his name wasn’t Dabi.

Wait a minute. Nevermind.

He’d gone head to head with several of them so far on the roof of the offices, each one stronger and more efficient with their quirk than the last. The worst part was, they all knew it, too. He had to give it to the pretentious bastards up there in the city; they sure knew how to train those kids to kill.

Dabi had made it out of the first few fights mostly unharmed, but by the skin of his teeth. The battlefield was beginning to stink of burning corpses and melting metal.

Only three of his challengers had been put down so far, the rest of them having run away to tend to their wounds, realizing they were completely outmatched. Dabi’s technique and speed had never been the most impressive, much less his durability, but his strength itself was something his opponents often underestimated until they couldn’t run away. But they had all been UA students, not veterans in the pro world.

And, to be honest, when Dabi saw that ball of flaming garbage himself hurtling towards him, flying through the air at full speed, he had to do a double take. He looked up, eyebrows raised and lips parted in the sort of look that says, “Huh, well that ain’t something you see every day.”

And then he came to his senses, and Dabi lunged out of the way as Endeavor came plummeting down towards the rooftop with an ear-splitting crash that threw Dabi from his feet. His back slammed hard against the rooftop stairwell enclosure, and he gripped the wall to keep himself from falling over. Despite his circumstances, an impossibly broad smile (you know the one) crept its way onto Dabi’s face as he glowered at the ex-Flame hero. A pair of teal eyes met an identical set as Endeavor rose to his feet.

“You’re here, too, then? Thought you turned in your resignation the other day,” called Dabi, his voice a mockery. He wasn’t scared of this man anymore. He’d nearly killed Dabi at the bar raid, but Dabi wasn’t scared of him. At least, that was what he was telling himself. “It was all over the news. Funny, how it got under half the coverage All Might’s retirement did…”

“You.” Endeavor growled. “I was hoping you were going to show up.”

“Where else would I be?” Dabi chuckled, shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly as the office slowly burned down underneath them. Flames licked Dabi’s coat and boots hungrily. “If you thought that sweet ol’ speech of yours about moving on back when you kidnapped my kid was really gonna make me sit down and think, I’m sorry to disappoint. I stopped caring about what you thought of me a long time ago, you old fart.”

Then Dabi paused, let the ex-Flame hero’s words replay in his mind. “So,” He said, letting out an almost disbelieving laugh. “Did you only come all the way up to Deika City just to see me?”

“It’s time we ended this silly dispute, Touya,” boomed Endeavor. “This has gone on long enough. I came here to settle things, once and for all.”

“So, basically, what you’re saying is,” Dabi continued conversationally, leaning against the wall and examining his nails. “You turned in your resignation a week ago, and gave a public statement saying you were settling into retirement, but then thought you’d just go ahead and come on down because you wanted to kill me?” He looked him in the eyes, cheerfully. ”Doesn’t that mean you’re participating without a hero license, Enji?”

Endeavor faltered for a brief moment, hesitation flickering across his face before his angry expression came back at full force. “You are a criminal,” He spat, and slid into a battle stance, activating his quirk. “You are evil. You must be eliminated, license or not.”

Dabi grinned gleefully, breaking into a sprint as he rushed his long-time nemesis. “Tell that to your Hero Code, Enji!” He shrieked, leaping forward, his arms outstretched. “Haven’t you heard heroes don’t get to break the rules?”

The ex-hero snarled as the two of them clashed, both flame quirks at their limits. Dabi’s wild grin never seemed to leave his face, the staples in his skin stretching like rubber. This was what he had been waiting for. This is what he had been dreaming of for years, and he wasn’t going to be satisfied until Enji Todoroki was dead on the ground in front of him.

He advanced ruthlessly on the ex-number one, laying into him hard as blue flames engulfed his body. Endeavor’s fire was pathetic compared to his. The Flame hero kept his arms raised and his head down, barely blocking the punches in time. Sparks and embers flew in every direction, in every color.

But he couldn’t stay on the defensive forever. At the exact moment Dabi pulled his fist back, Endeavor socked him square in the nose. The blow knocked the villain back a few paces, going to hold his face as blood drenched his palm. He wiped the blood on his arm, sneered, and lurched forward again, back on his feet as if it were nothing with a sadistic gleam in his eye. The anticipation for this moment, this battle, this war had been torture. He wasn’t going to let a measly punch discourage him. He had suffered worse before. Because Touya Todoroki lived for bloodshed, lived for the satisfaction of destroying someone one-on-one.

What could he say? It was just how he was raised.

“Do I live up to your standards now?” Dabi screamed, his blows now twice as strong as they had been. Smoke erupted from the seams in his skin, the reek of burning flesh filling the Flame hero’s senses. “Huh? What do you have to say?”

“What are you?” gasped Endeavor, realizing he had been miserably unprepared as Dabi continued to lash out without any ounce of mercy. He didn’t seem to be breaking a sweat at all. Endeavor’s parries were becoming sloppy as he tried to keep up.

“What do you mean, what am I?” cackled the Cremation villain. “I’m you, aren’t I? You made this! You always wanted me to surpass you, didn’t you? Here I am, Father. Here I am, all grown up. Are you happy? Are you satisfied?”

“Stop, Touya!” Endeavor shouted, blocking his attacks with no more than just his arms raised up in front of him. Blue flames were swallowing red, Dabi’s flames absorbing Endeavor’s to fuel his own strength. For once, Endeavor’s skin was painfully hot, as if he were standing inside of an oven, roasting him alive and on the brink of incineration. As Dabi landed one more burning-hot blow, the Flame hero let out one, bloodcurdling, utterly rabid howl of agony.

He collapsed, his flames snuffed out, embers retreating into the burning rooftop around them. Dabi’s chest heaved as he stood there, eyes glowing in his darkened, grim face, smoke rising from the surface of his skin and blood dripping down his face and chest. He hovered there, wrangling himself back under control as he stood above the man who had killed Touya Todoroki all those years ago.

“I’ve been waiting for this, you know,” breathed Dabi, and the hero’s eyes began to widen as the villain’s hands began to smoke again. “Waiting to kill you. All those years of getting called a failure, well”--He laughed, kicked Endeavor’s jaw upward with his boot--”I always knew I’d get my payback.”

“Please,” whispered Enji Todoroki. “Please, no, I’m s--”

Dabi screamed, and kicked him upside the jaw again. ”Sorry ain’t gonna fucking cut it, Enji!” He shouted, his foot resting on the ex-hero’s chest. “Do you know how I lived for all those years? After running away from you? After doing the only thing that would prevent me from being killed by my own family?” He stomped once on his stomach. “Huh? Do you?”

Endeavor’s head fell against the pavement as Dabi’s hands erupted into blue flame. He sighed, tilted his head to either side and releasing tension.

“If you were sorry, you woulda’ said it a long time ago, you ugly bastard,” Dabi said, dry and calm. “But no, you were so used to being a loser, so used to being in goddamned second place that you just wanted a win for once.” He laughed, humorlessly. “The job was never about saving the innocents, was it? It was all about the reputation.”

He gave Endeavor another swift kick. “Isn’t that right, Enji? That’s why you told everyone I died, isn’t it? That’s why you covered it all up, right? Because of the reputation.”

“Touya, don’t do this,” pleaded Endeavor. “Please.”

“Well, guess what, Pops?” Dabi grinned wildly, ignoring him. “I ain’t dead anymore. I’ll make sure everyone knows it, too. The surveillance’ll tell ‘em all what you are, won’t it? You’re not my problem anymore, Enji. The most you can do is sit in your casket and hope that your funeral sets the bar high for All Might’s. Because I got better things to do than sit around and plot your murder. I have people, now. Family better than you lot could ever give me, somebody I can love who loves me back. Mark my words, old man, I’ll never think about your sorry ass ever again. Because I’m better now. And I won’t let you or any of the others ruin that, because I’m finally happ--”

Dabi gasped as a shock of pain tore through his chest. It pierced straight through him, welling up in his throat and making his knees buckle. His pupils dilated sharply, his mouth fell open, and his flames went out completely. Slow as molasses, he lifted a hand to his chest, and looked down.

One, single hawk feather, huge and sharp and deadly, red as blood and drenched in it, too.

“No.” croaked Dabi, as blood trickled through his fingers and stained his clothes. His knees finally gave way, and he fell to the ground. “No, no way. You…” He looked up, eyes wide. “No, not you.” He clutched at the ground, his eyes slowly glazing over. “Tomura… Jun… Please...”

He went motionless, spread-eagled, eyes lifeless, oozing blood. Dabi was dead. He had finally joined Touya Todoroki.

Hawks looked sympathetically at the body on the ground, his wings down to avoid the raging blue wildfire around them. “I’m sorry, Dabi, man,” He said, eyes dark. “I didn’t want to kill you. You were just the fastest way to get to Tomura Shigaraki.”

He looked down, muttered to himself, “And that Kaminari kid’s deal seemed almost too good to be true…”

The new number one hero looked at his predecessor, now sitting up and staring at Dabi’s body, looking almost mortified. The winged hero extended his hand to Todoroki, and slowly, he took it, hauling himself to his feet in pain. Hawks didn’t spare the body on the ground another glance.

“Come on, Todoroki,” Hawks said. “I’ll get you out of Deika as fast as I can, and then I’ll come back and join the action again.”

“What about the surveillance?” Enji asked, weakly, remembering Dabi’s words. “I came without the license.”

Hawks dismissed this with a wave of his hand. “Not to worry, man,” He said, grinned over his shoulder. “I’m the number one hero. I can make arrangements.”

It sure was a shame, that Hawks had chosen to betray All For One and the League all those years ago.

With All For One’s traitorous crowd, he would have fit right in.

A quarter of an hour later, she was the first one to find the body, the tornado of blue flames being the first thing she recognized. Jun sprinted up the burning stairwell, screaming his name the whole way, her heart pounding in her chest as she clambered up the melting flights of stairs. She threw herself against what remained of the door and burst out onto the rooftop. Again, she went to scream his name, and found herself speechless. The word died on her tongue as she saw the body on the ground.

The rest of his skin was beginning to blacken, charred up and flaking onto the pavement. His vibrant cerulean eyes were grey and glassy and so unlike him. His hair was singing at the tips, smoking. His staples were melting against his face. Blood pooled underneath him, seeping from the open wound in his chest that had gone all the way through him. Jun collapsed on the pavement beside him, so many words welling up in her throat, but all that escaped was a strangled scream. She fell against his chest, ignoring the blood that stained her skin and her clothes, and wept.

If Dabi was dead, what could she say about the rest of them?

Her tears showed no sign of stopping, waterfalling down her face, salt mixing with blood. Her eyes stung, turning her vision into a blurred mess as she raised her head from his chest and stared miserably at what remained of the rooftops. A few yards away, on the ground, was the murder weapon. Jun wiped her eyes with a bloody arm, sniffling and glaring bitterly at the blood-soaked feather.

Stupid pro heroes. How could they have the nerve to call themselves that, after all this had happened? After they had attacked her family countless times, not to mention taken her where she couldn’t get to them? These people were not the good guys. They had never been the good guys. They deserved to be eliminated. Completely.

Before they could hurt someone else.

They were the evil ones. They were the ones who deserved to be chastised and shamed by the media and the general public every other day. They were the real bad guys.

Her ears buzzing, Jun barely noticed her skin growing hotter by the second. Static popped under her skin. A holographic sheen appeared over her eyes, that, if you inspected closer, appeared to be constructed entirely of binary code. Something under her skin appeared to be making her glow. The ringing in her ears became louder, and louder, as she became angrier, and angrier and her skin began to overheat…

She looked down at the body on the pavement, her body temperature growing warmer and warmer as her eyes landed on Dabi’s coat. Jun had returned it to him roughly a year before when winter had struck and his temporary jacket was beginning to wear out. Now, Jun wasn’t so sure.

She reached under his arms, and pulled it off of him. Jun rose to her feet, standing in the middle of a raging blue wildfire. She donned the coat in one swift movement, and felt fury consume her. Her skin exploded with static, a pixelated cloud swallowing her. Her eyes became a wash of code. Memories of her stay in Tartarus, and memories of that horrible lab flashed behind her eyes, but she wasn’t scared of it anymore. The powers, the strength, the abilities All For One and his doctor had given her-- they were hers.

And she would use them to destroy it all.

”Don’t ever forget what you are. Just another Nomu.”

Not to worry, All For One.

She won’t.

Chapter Text

“Well. I have to say,” Shigaraki said. “This was unexpected.”

The main ground of the battlefield had been stomped to smithereens, transformed from a busy city full of buildings and watchtowers to nothing more than a field full of rocks and debris. Two watchtowers had fallen and been destroyed, becoming a stage in the center of it all. On top of it now stood a young woman with black, spiky twintails, crimson eyes, and a charming beige peacoat. Her smile was broad and unsettlingly familiar. Behind her was just half of Ujiko’s army of High-End Nomu. Any heroes seemed to be lost in the other sectors of the base.

Tomura himself stood a few yards off from the base of the platform, looking up at the pigtailed figure with a slight smile on his face, his eyes half-lidded in amusement. His stare was casual, yet calculating, and he didn’t seem to be in a hurry to fight.

“I’ve been waiting for this,” called Shimura from the platform, her hands clasped in front of her. Behind her, the Nomu didn’t so much as stir, waiting vigilantly for their command. “Talking to you. Finally seeing you. It’s a shame I didn’t have the time to write a speech.”

“Believe me, you’re forgiven.” Tomura replied, smirking. Her cheerful expression faltered for less than a second, her mask breaking, but she caught herself and laughed it off.

“Aren’t you impressed, Shigaraki?” She asked. “With our arrangements? Our allies from UA did a wonderful job.”

Exposing their affiliations to me? thought Shigaraki. Isn’t that a bit imprudent?

“Some of these High-Ends were made specially for you and your friends,” Shimura went on. “Doctor Ujiko’s new funding was pretty hefty. Aren’t they pretty? I know you have an appreciation for the doctor’s creations yourself.”

Shigaraki sneered. He had a feeling he knew what she meant by that. He had a feeling he knew who she was, too. Tomura was reminded of the revelations he’d had, the clear and vivid memories he’d had the first time he and the League had been here, fighting the Liberation Army.

“A bit over-the-top, aren’t they?” He remarked, looking up at the creatures. The majority of them had been modified to carry weapons, much like the one Tomura had given Dabi as a personal bodyguard back when they’d kidnapped Katsuki Bakugou*. Some of them looked to be supplied with rifles. Others had horns, or wings, or spiky tails, among other extra appendages. “The cannons seem a bit tasteless, if you ask me.”

*A romantic gesture, if you asked the Esteemed Fandom, by which the author means themself.

“They are war machines,” Shimura sniffed, tossing her head and looking fondly at the obedient array of monsters behind her. “They’re masterpieces, really. Your master thought you’d be more appreciative, considering all the times you’ve asked for one yourself.”

“What can I say?” Shigaraki shrugged, loosely. “I was classless back then.” He tilted his head, looked up at her through his bangs. “But some people never change, I guess.”

This time, when the anger flickered across her face, it stayed there. Her fists squeezed by her sides; the Nomu shifted, pawed at the ground like animals. “Enough playing around,” She snapped. “You know exactly why we’re all here, don’t you, Shigaraki? You must have figured it out by now. You’re so clever, after all.”

“To kill me,” said Shigaraki. “Obviously.”

Shimura grinned. “Yes, of course,” She said. “But clearly you haven’t really thought about the bigger picture. Or maybe you still really do think so highly of our master that you haven’t bothered to question a thing.”

Tomura’s eyes narrowed. “What are you talking about?”

“Come on, now, you’re smarter than that, Shigaraki,” She cooed. “You must have noticed, surely, that something was off about that little girl you like so much. She’s not quite normal, is she?”

His stomach churned. It had only been a suspicion of his, and nothing more than that. He cleared his throat. “I don’t understand.”

“See for yourself.” She pointed over his shoulder. He turned.

A sudden uproar had gone up behind him. Something heavy crashed into a mound of rock and concrete. It was clearly a person, gone limp against the heap of rubble behind them. Shortly after impact, their entire body lit up, as if someone had struck a match to their body. Shigaraki stared in confusion and wonder, but as another sound caught his attention, he understood.

Something else had come flying through the air-- that is to say, they were literally flying. Their entire body had been consumed by a vibrant teal luster, their hands glowing brighter than the rest of them. The entirety of their scleras had become a neon teal, and as they landed in front of the limp body, a pair of transparent wings retracted back into their spine and oh my God that was Jun.

The person with wings -- Jun? Jun -- stalked towards the body lying in the dirt as they began to struggle, trying to get back up on their feet, the fire around them dying out, and as Shigaraki inspected closer, he recognized them. As Jun approached them, her signature blade materialized from the blue light filtering out from her palm. She slowly raised it high above her head, and then Tomura remembered where he’d seen the boy. He was the one with red-and-white hair, the one who’d almost won the UA sports festival, the one who was--

Shit, Dabi had taken him off the hitlist, hadn’t he?

It was then that Shigaraki leapt into action, completely forgetting about the woman on the platform behind him. Lightning-quick, he took off across the field, arms outstretched, boots thudding hard against the dirt, and dove into Jun, bringing her to the ground before she could manage to kill Todoroki. The sword in her hands evaporated the second it hit the ground.

Then, shaking off the initial shock of being intercepted, Jun came to her senses, and began shrieking. Shigaraki jumped back in surprise. She thrashed and writhed, and spat like a wild animal. She threw herself forward, tackling Shigaraki in one hell of a flying takedown.

“Jun?” He gasped, reaching up and grabbing her wrists. She snarled at him. “What the fuck is happening to you?”

“You know what’s happening to her, Shigaraki,” yelled Shimura from the platform. “You know exactly what she is.”

Tomura growled, turned his head to look at a very dumbstruck Shouto Todoroki. “Go find your friends,” He panted, still holding Jun off of him. “Tell them this was staged. Do you hear me? At least one of your friends is working for All For One.”

”What?”

“Just go, you brat!” Todoroki scrambled away. Tomura gulped. Whether or not he would actually listen didn’t matter to him. Whether or not that boy would die before he had the chance to deliver his message wasn't important. He had more pressing matters to deal with.

“If you find your friends,” Shimura called after Todoroki, who stopped dead in his tracks. “Tell them Ochako Uraraka is dead.”

Todoroki blanched, and kept running.

With one heavy shove, Tomura pushed Jun onto her back, a four-fingered grip on her throat as Shigaraki fought for air. Jun’s tantrum seemed to have been interrupted by the harsh landing. She went completely still on the ground. Her veins popped with electricity, and her skin glowed with blue light. Shigaraki stared, stuck between being fascinated and scared out of his fucking mind.

“What happened to her?” He hollered to the woman over his shoulder. She was still standing atop the wreckage. Now, her revolver was out, too, by her side. “Why is she like this?”

“Haven’t you ever gotten curious, as to how All For One and Doctor Ujiko really made those Nomu?” She replied, her voice loud and clear. Jun gave no response. “Haven’t you bothered to ask any questions?”

Tomura shook his head, moved to hold Jun’s wrists. “Jun?” He hissed. “Kid, wake up.”

“The transformation was never complete,” Shimura continued. “so only pieces of the experiments are left in her. But it’s enough to ensure that, apparently, when someone says the magic word, or when she faces enough stimulation, she goes full Nomu.”

Tomura gazed, disbelieving, at the figure on the ground. His eyes scaled down from her head, where a wound had been gashed out just above her eye. As he looked down, he recognized the coat draped around her.

His stomach churned.

Jun sat upright, startling him out of his bewilderment. She gasped, holding herself up on her arms. The sheen around her eyes was disappearing ever so slowly. Her eyes snapped to him, then to the woman on the platform.

All she could remember was donning Dabi’s coat, seeing fire in the distance, and going haywire.

Suddenly, everything came into focus, the realization settling in, and she threw herself into Tomura at full force, wrapping her arms around him and sobbing. Completely stunned, Tomura slowly hugged her back.

“You’re not dead,” She whispered. ”You’re not dead.”

Shigaraki took a shaky breath. This was not at all how he had planned things.

“Are you okay?” He asked.

There was a pause, and then Jun shook her head into his chest. Shigaraki’s heart cleaved in two.

“Tell me everybody else is safe,” Jun whimpered, her eyes screwed shut and her grip on him tight. “Please, say they’re all alive.”

“I…” Shigaraki struggled. What was he supposed to say, in a situation like this? “I really don’t know.”

“This is all touching and everything,” called Shimura. “But I do believe we have some more business to be getting to, Shigaraki. That girl is only part of the equation. Killing you is the master’s priority.”

“And I guess he’ll be coming here soon, then?” Shigaraki asked, remembering Kurogiri standing face to face with Sensei on the clifftop. He wondered…

“I’m sure he will,” agreed Shimura, and raised her revolver, revealing her metallic, robotic hand. And that was the proof that confirmed everything Tomura had been wondering about the mysterious, vaguely familiar woman. “But let’s not wait up. I’ve been waiting for the opportunity to fight you for years. All I have to do is save Master the final blow.”

Jun watched him with wide eyes as Tomura’s downward stare turned calculating, formulating a plan. With none of the League in sight, there was only one way he could get Jun to safety, and he hadn’t even tried it out himself yet. Something he had gotten years and years and years ago, and had always been a little too afraid to experiment with.

”Master, lend me your power.”

John-chan’s quirk. Master had taken it from some OG hero, generations ago. He had given part of it to John-chan, and saved the rest for his own traveling needs. When Tomura had asked for part of All For One’s infinite ability, his sensei had told him it would suit his needs, too. Kurogiri could not watch over him forever, he’d said.

"Jun,” He said, pulling her head away from him. “I’m gonna send you to Atsuhiro, m’kay?”

“What? No!” And then, incredulously, “How?”

Shigaraki smiled, gently. “I have two quirks. I’m sure one of the others has mentioned it before, now--”

“What the fuck?”

”Shush, let me explain. I’m going to send you to Atsuhiro. He’ll take care of you, and you guys can find a safe place to heal, away from the fighting. I don’t want you here near me.”

Jun’s eyes were welling up again, her face blotchy and hot. “Please, don’t do this. You’re gonna get hurt.”

“That’s better than you getting hurt,” insisted Tomura. “I have to do this.”

He activated Warping.

“Dad, no, please don’t do this to m--” Black ink spewed from her lips, dripping down her face and swallowing up her body. She reached for him as her arms were enveloped by black, fingers just barely brushing his face before they were gone, too, just like the rest of her.

“I love you.” Shigaraki told her, as she disappeared.

She opened her mouth to respond, but she had already been whisked away.

Slowly, Tomura Shigaraki stood. He turned to face the woman on the platform. She was wiping fake tears from her eyes.

“That was so sweet,” She said. “You really do have such a close bond.”

“Hana Shimura,” said Tomura. She stopped cold in her tracks, the passive-aggressive gestures stopping with her. “That’s who you are, right? My sister.”

She was silent.

“I can’t remember much from back then,” Tomura said. “Other than the stuff that really matters now, anyway. But I remember you.” His stare was intense, analytical; she almost felt obliged to look away. “You and Mama… You were the only ones who told me I could be whatever I wanted to be. I thought that was special, once. But now I know that’s something your family is supposed to tell you, right? Not that you would know, either, I guess. But yeah, I remember the big stuff.”

He held up one of his hands. He examined the many scars: where Re-Destro of the Liberation Army had once ripped off three of his fingers, and where he had grabbed the blade of the Hero Killer’s katana with his bare hand. There were minor ones, too, like the result of when he’d punched the wall when he was ten after an argument with Kurogiri. The bartender had come upstairs, helped him tend to the wound, banned him from games for two weeks, and then had taken him for ice cream.

“I remember when everything went wrong,” He continued. Hana flinched. “When my quirk manifested. When Mon-chan died. When you ran away from me.” His gaze turned distant for a moment. He blinked, pulled himself back to the land of the living. “But that’s why your hand is missing, yeah? Because I destroyed it.”

“You attacked me,” Hana sneered, a challenging gleam in her eye, her stance defiant. “Master told me everything. I ran for the whole night, and passed out in an underpass. I would have bled out, had Sensei not discovered me. I don’t see why he thought you were so special.”

”Attacked you?” Shigaraki laughed in disbelief. “I wanted help.”

“So you took away my hand?”

“That’s not what happened.”

“Yeah? And you remember everything clearly, then, Tenko?” She challenged. “Every little detail?”

Shigaraki glared up at her through his bangs, swallowing. Yes. Yes, he did remember He remembered it all-- every small, insignificant, miniscule detail. But he couldn’t put it into words. He had never been able to. The master had always said he’d understood how Tomura felt, and those words had always validated him, but deep down, he knew they were wrong. Describing Tomura’s feelings as “anger” had been an understatement. Calling his tears “guilty” had been dismissive.

“Look, Hana,” He sighed. “I don’t know what you’ve been through, but if it’s a fight you want, I’ll give it to you.”

Hana’s face split into a grin. “Good,” She said. “Let’s see how well that fancy quirk of yours does against bullets.”

Shigaraki activated Decay.

-

When she toppled out of the portal, Atsuhiro was standing over a body.

Jun brushed off her shorts, still sniffling with puffy eyes when she noticed him. She drew herself up to full height, and approached him carefully. He was standing stock still, cane in one of his hands and a marble in the other. His painted mask was off, lying a few feet away on the ground. He rolled the marble between his fingers, almost pondering the body on the ground, contemplating it like a work of art. Jun walked up beside him slowly. He didn’t turn to her, nor did he speak to her, only stared at the body with a darkened look on his face underneath the balaclava.

She looked at the body, narrowed her eyes, examined it closer. She had been expecting it to be a pro hero, but he wasn’t in costume. It was an adult man, probably somewhere in his late fifties, with pretty golden eyes, and hair so black it seemed almost… purple… and a familiar vest...

It was like the wind had been knocked from Jun’s chest. She put a hand to her mouth, her arms covered in encrusted blood

“That’s…” The sentence died in her throat. He nodded, wordlessly. The two of them stared at Kurogiri for a few minutes longer.

“Do you know how…?” Jun glanced at him.

His voice was hoarse from disuse. He cleared his throat. “All For One, I’d imagine.”

Jun ground her teeth. Of course. Because Jun knew what he was really here for. “I’m sorry.” She said.

Atsuhiro shook his head. “You know full well he wouldn’t want you to be.” He replied, looked in her direction. “I am sorry, my dear. I’m just…” He laughed, bitterly, wiped his eyes with the back of his glove. “Struggling.”

“Don’t apologize,” scoffed Jun. “Never apologize.” She looked down. “I’ll miss him. We all will.”

“Yes,” agreed Atsuhiro. “We will. Very much. Thank you, darling.” He took another pause, gazing down at his lover for a moment. “How is it going out there?”

“Dabi, he… He’s...”

“Oh, dear.” Compress pulled her in for a hug immediately, uncaring of the blood and wounds. She could feel the leaky faucet acting up again.

“It’s okay.” She lied, sniffling. “I haven’t seen Twice an’ Toga. Or Spinner. Or Mustard. Tomura, he… There’s somebody he knows on the main grounds. They’re fighting. All For One is coming.” Simply saying the name sent a shiver down her spine. “I’m scared, Sako.”

“Spinner is scouting. He’s been updating me via text. He’ll be back soon,” Atsuhiro assured her. “We’ll meet the other three on the main grounds, I’m sure. As for All For One and this mysterious challenger…”

Atsuhiro leaned down, snatched his cane up from the ground and dropped his marble into the pocket of his coat. In one swift movement, he’d popped off the hilt of the cane, and removed a holy shit that’s a gun.

From one of his coat’s many pockets, he pulled another marble, transformed it back into the glock’s cartridge and fed the gun. It gave a satisfying click. He looked at Jun with a smirk, and for anyone who didn’t know, this was Sako Atsuhiro when he was furious.

“...I’d like to have a few words with them.” He grinned.

-

This was not how Spinner had been planning to do the job. Sure, he knew he’d probably get hurt in the process, but having half of your arm cut clean off, from the elbow up, was never, ever going to be considered a pleasant time.

“This is gonna take weeks to grow back,” He complained, and sent a trainee hero flying as the blunt end of his katana connected with their forehead. He’d ditched the matching sword when his arm had been severed. “Oh, well. At least it ain’t my dominant hand.”

Spinner had long since abandoned the strict and tedious battle morals that had accompanied the Hero Killer. The rules belonged to Stain and Stain alone, and if that psycho thought he could complete his self-assigned mission to purge the world of false heroes like that, then he really had gone mad. Spinner had just been looking for a way of life, back then, and the Hero Killer’s complex and original ideology had been a good stepping stone. But after so much time with the League of Villains, most of that had gone down the drain.

Stain had been mad. His ideology was no way to live, constantly questioning the ethicality of simple, dull decisions.

Necessary sacrifices, Spinner, Shigaraki had said. But some sacrifices, while perfectly necessary, didn't always sit right with Spinner.

Anyway, this has been a very long-winded way of explaining that, while Spinner was all for duking it out with heroes, he couldn’t help but draw the line at people he only knew as kids.

But they had sliced his arm off, so he was a little more forgiving. To himself, that is.

However, the hero kids weren’t the ones coming at him. They weren’t the ones he was most concerning himself with. Someone had released even more of Ujiko’s Nomu. These weren’t High Ends, though. These were the “below average” ones, the ones Ujiko saw as nothing more than “sheep.” And they were kicking Spinner’s ass.

He was doing an okay job of warding them off now, but he knew he couldn’t keep up with them forever. Most Nomu had at least a little bit of Shock Absorption and/or Regeneration, meaning even the damage caused by Spinner’s most accurate attacks wouldn’t last very long. It was time to get going. With the help of his friends, he’d have the upper hand in no time.

Spinner yelped, whirling around, unable to escape before a UA student got a good hit on him. She blew sleek black hair out of her eyes, drawing a bo staff from her skin and assuming a battle stance. Spinner fumbled with his katana as she knocked him back expertly, too fast for him to parry any of her precise jabs and attacks. He tripped over a boulder and fell hard onto his back, going for his blade instead of moving out of the way. Yaoyorozu sneered, raised the bo staff above her head as a mysterious blue sheen outlined her body…

...She went flying in the opposite direction.

Spinner sat up, eyes rolling around in his sockets as his vision adjusted. He blinked away the splotches from the sun in his eyes and looked around.

Yaoyorozu was unconscious on the ground, a nasty headwound bleeding out onto the rocks and the grass. Magne stood above her, hefting her signature magnet that was practically as tall as Spinner himself (when had she managed to get that back? Spinner wondered. The League had had it) over her shoulder. She pulled her sunglasses down her nose, gave the girl a disgusted look, and put them back on again. Magne had dolled herself up for the occasion. She looked great.

“Big Sis,” Spinner greeted her, pushing himself up on his still-existing arm. “Welcome back.”

She flashed him a smile. “Thanks,” She said. “Sorry I’m late. Meant to come get with y’all sooner, but time got ahead of me. Let’s go meet the others.” The lenses of her shades gleamed. “The goody two-shoes act got boring real fast, and I’m looking for a fix.”

-

She crawled from the bushes, covered in leaves, splinters, and blood. Her movements were jerky, twitchy, and unstable. Her eyes, while usually manic, were no longer cheerful or enthusiastic. Her face was not warm or rosy-cheeked. Her fangs did not look cute anymore. Her eyes were red from crying, and underlined in a thick layer of black. Mascara dripped down her cheeks.

Twice’s body had been strewn across the rocks and the grass, spread-eagled in the dirt. Ectoplasm’s clones had beaten him to a pulp, reopening his pre-existing head injury and gashing out another one entirely. This new one appeared to be the one that had killed him, too. Ectoplasm and his army hadn’t just defeated the villain. They had murdered him.

Toga crossed the field, dragging her feet as she approached the body on the ground. She didn’t cry anymore-- She wasn’t sure if she had any tears left in her. Her expression grave, she dropped to the rocks beside him, throwing the knife in her hand away. It clattered to the side.

She could have stayed and helped him. She had wanted to stay and help him. But he had told her to run. He had saved her, but it all felt so stupid now. Like it was her fault. All of this was her fault.

Her phone pinged with a message from Atsuhiro, sending her his location by the main grounds and inviting her to join them. Bring Jin, he said. And then, a second later, If you can. Himiko shuddered, another wave of guilt crashing over her shoulders. This wasn’t like her. She had never really, truly felt like this.

There was something she could do, though, to make herself feel better, and it was all she had ever known. Something she could do that, to her, would be like avenging him. Something to apologize for getting them into that mess earlier.

Toga shouldered off the top of her uniform, slipped the rest off easily, tossing the ribbons to the side, her stockings, and her shoes. She put her hand over Twice’s head, and pulled it back, a pool of red smeared across her palm. For a moment, she inspected it, her eyes suddenly calm, her expression collected and her breathing smooth and steady. This would be enough to last her a while, she thought. She lifted her hand to her lips, and the transformation began, her body morphing and changing and shifting.

Himiko rose to her feet as Jin Bubaigawara. She snatched her phone up from the uniform on the ground and replied to Atsuhiro.

Jin’s gone. I transformed. Omw.

She looked out towards the clifftop, down towards the valley where the remaining villains were waiting for her. Her skin was boiling hot, anger and adrenaline flowing through her. Himiko was rarely ever really mad, but when she was, someone was really going to get hurt.

Himiko turned, and started for the valley. Her entire body felt warm and cozy, like this was all meant to be. Twice’s blood pounded in her ears-- Twice’s ears. She heard with Jin’s ears, saw with Jin’s eyes, smelled the blood and death and anguish in the air with his nose. When she flexed her fingers, they were Jin’s hands. The heart in her chest -- whoever’s it was -- pounded, the stress making her light-headed and airy and mad. She could do anything like this. She could avenge Jin like this, make the opposition pay for what they had done to him, to her, to their family.

The stress running to her head opened one more door of opportunities for her. Something she had only done once, in her brawl against Chitose of the Liberation Army. She wanted to be complete, to be unstoppable, to be whole for as long as that long drink of blood and Twice’s form would allow her.

She activated Double, and ran for the main grounds.

-

Midoriya and Tsuyu had lost Uraraka. Iida had lost Todoroki. Bakugou and Kirishima had lost Sero. Ojirou had lost Hagakure. Aoyama had lost Monoma. Tetsutetsu had lost Kendou. The rest were still kicking, two Todorokis had died (and their father was nowhere to be seen on the scene), the League of Villains were the victims, and the world was ending.

It was time to fight. The carnage and misery up to this point had been nothing but a warmup. A war was to be settled now. At the center of it all, were two fledgling leaders of opposite sides. A young man aspiring to be the new All Might, and a young woman aspiring to be the new Tomura Shigaraki. The new Symbol of Peace, on the same side as the new Symbol of Terror.

“We can’t team up with the League of Villains,” shouted Tsuyu. She had never shouted before. Not in front of her classmates. Something had snapped inside her. “They’ve been attacking us for years! They kidnapped Bakugou. We should just get out of here and wait for all of this to die down.”

“If we leave this situation alone, we’re irresponsible, and no better than they are,” Iida scolded her, although he wasn’t so sure himself, either. “This battle will make it all the way out to the city central if we let it.”

“But what about our classmates?” Ojirou asked. “They’ve been working for All For One -- the guy who put All Might himself out of commission -- the entire time. Who is who in this fight? How do we know the villains apart from the heroes?”

And that, Midoriya thought, just about summed up everything wrong with Japan’s hero society. That, he thought, was the point Shigaraki and his friends had been trying to make for so long. The “two sides” complex of it all was what had been slowly dragging Japan under for decades and centuries, since the first heroes arose. There was no grey area. There had never been one before, until now. And that had been the driving force behind the Villain Renaissance.

Jirou was quiet, staring at her sneakers in uncomfortable silence. Her girlfriend had been working for the most dangerous villain in history, and she had only just found out. Her girlfriend had been working for someone worse than Shigaraki, worse than any of the League of Villains. Midoriya would have said he couldn’t even begin to understand the pain she was going through, except that he was on the exact same page.

On the other side of the group, Iida looked something between angry and sad. His brother had been secretly working with All For One since he’d been crippled by the Hero Killer. Even with as much pity as he’d gotten over that incident, people had gradually started to forget the legacy Ingenium had carried. And so he’d paid the kingpin to restore his fame and fortune back to normal, and the attention returned.

Midoriya sighed. He tore his eyes away from them, faced the rest of his friends, and cleared his throat.

“From what I can tell, All For One’s had it out for Shigaraki for a long time. Yaoyorozu, Uraraka, and Kaminari have been working for them since their freshman year at school.” He said.

“I can’t believe that,” breathed Kirishima. Beside him, Bakugou fumed (literally). Jirou blanched, caving in on herself even more. “Kaminari was such a nice guy.”

“The whole reason he had them recruit all of us is because he wants to kill Shigaraki,” continued Midoriya. “Not just him, either. The whole League of Villains, and the girl Endeavor and a handful of pros tried to rescue, too.” He swallowed. “But we were wrong. That girl isn’t a hostage. She’s a member of the League of Villains. I met with her, while she was in Tartarus.”

Iida nearly fainted.

“Shigaraki and the League are her teachers,” Midoriya explained. “Shigaraki must have tried to betray All For One to help her. Either way, All For One is mad. He wants a do-over. And he used our friends, and turned them against us.”

He took a breath. He had never thought he’d say this, not once in his entire life.

“For the sake of our class, and for our friends, we have to help the League of Villains. We’ll have to take the long way, to get ourselves prepared. This isn’t just their fight. It’s ours, too.”

-

The League all arrived simultaneously. From Spinner and Magne, to Toga, and to Atsuhiro and Jun.

In front of them, Shigaraki was struggling. He was unbelievably fast, and the strength of his quirk was unreal, but he was only human. He could not survive bullets, and those bullets were much faster than him. His sister was still standing on the platform, although it had been reduced to a pile of rubble by Decay. Her aim was on point. While Shigaraki had had decades of training to fight and to use his quirk as a weapon, she had been training with a gun herself. With his reflexes and her eye coordination, it didn’t look like this battle was going anywhere.

But Jun could see it. Tomura was beginning to slow down. He wasn’t… giving up, was he?

Twice approached them first. He was alone. There was something about the way he held himself up, something about his gait that seemed different. Jun scrutinized him from head to toe from a distance, and as he came closer, something clicked in her head.

“Himiko,” She said. Twoga nodded.

“Hi, sis.” They said. Nothing followed.

Spinner and Magne came next. If someone had ever wondered whether or not lizards could look pale and sickly, Spinner was Exhibit A. Blood dripped from the stump that remained where his arm had been. Magne introduced herself to Jun and reunited with Atsuhiro and Himiko. Spinner told them that they had gone looking for Mustard. What they had found had not been good.

Jun cried.

Then, the battle began. Tomura’s team rushed to his side. It was a group of superpowered individuals against one quirkless individual with a gun. And yet, everyone had to watch their step. Bullet wounds were no joke, no matter who you were.

The group was going to learn that the hard way, it seemed.

Magne did her job of filling in for Kurogiri, her long-ranged quirk keeping Hana Shimura distracted from getting a good hit on Shigaraki and his daughter. Magnetism hauled Hana around the field, repeatedly smacking her into the blunt surface of Big Sis’ weapon. Twoga’s army of Twice clones handled a swarm of bloodthirsty High-Ends to the best of their ability, assisted by Spinner and Atsuhiro as Jun and Shigaraki faced Hana together. For a while, things appeared to be going as fine as a battle could go, until some All For One’s minions showed up.

Kaminari and Principal Nezu of UA High-- The former was famous, climbing the hero charts on the top ten, while the latter had been out of active duty since his quirk had caused almost over a dozen casualties in a long outdated mission. Either way, they were dangerous-- and they proved that to the League real fast. Magne did her best to keep an eye on Kaminari, and Nezu's High Specs.

And then, when Hawks appeared again, coming back for more, Jun had had it.

“Dad, can you handle this?” She shouted over the noise.

“If I can handle you after six flutes of champagne, I can handle anything.” Tomura called back. “Magne’ll help me. You take care of the bird.”

Jun took a breath, and let Video course through her, and slowly, the wings returned. They flickered, flexed, and popped like an old VHS tape, lifting her up into the air to fight the number one hero. They were on the same plane now. With the extend of her arm, her sword appeared along her forearm again, welded to her skin by her quirk. Hawks matched her movements, wielding a feather. One exactly like the feather Jun had seen on the rooftop, torn and drenched in Dabi’s blood.

She growled, low and dangerous and animalistic. “I recognized your feathers. You’re the one who killed him.”

Hawks stared at her for a long moment, smiling casually. His eyes lit up as he made the connection. “Oh!” He exclaimed, with a laugh. “You’re that kid Todoroki went to rescue. The,” He assumed a mocking voice. ”hostage situation. Yeah, that seemed like a whole lotta’ trouble just for nothing. S’pecially since all you did was bust your way outta’ that Tartarus place immediately afterwards. Well done, by the way. That’s impressive.”

”You killed Dabi.”

“Yeah, what about it?” Another revelation flickered across Hawks’ face. ”Oh, I get it. That’s sweet. Never thought of him as the kind of guy to care about the whole ‘having a family’ business. S’pose he settled down a bit after the Liberation Army business. They were damn underprepared when I retailed all the info I got to the higher-ups in my department.”

Jun sneered, Video pumping through her veins. She brandished her sword and charged. Hawks lifted his own in the nick of time, sending sparks flying as the Video blade hit the solid feather. The force knocked Jun back a pace, but she was ready to go in again immediately. Hawks parried each of her attacks, a veteran of swordfights and melee.

Feathers wrestled free of his wings, aiming themselves at Jun and diving in like missiles, tearing her up and piercing her skin ruthlessly. Jun bit down on her tongue, her wings beating the air as she fluttered backwards, wobbling in midair. She was going to have to get used to this.

The battle went on above and below, the League holding their own against Ujiko’s army and Shigaraki defending himself against his elder sister as Jun and Hawks duked it out in the sky. Jun was relentless, her eyes a teal streak of fury, craving vengeance, determined not to let her feet touch the ground until she had gotten it. Hawks expertly deflected her advances, well-trained in both fighting and flying. And while Jun’s quirk gave her all the power in the world, she was at a sheer disadvantage with her lack of mobility in the air.

“He told me you were friends, once,” Jun hollered. “How could you kill a friend?”

“Friend?” Hawks laughed heartily, pushing back with a particularly hard block. “He said we were friends? He never acted like it much. I was a recruit, not a pal.”

“You were a double agent,” Jun snarled back. “Not a pal.”

“Come on, I was putting it lightly,” protested Hawks, and squared Jun in the chest. She took a dip downwards, arms flailing as she tried to catch her balance, but he ended up being faster. He knocked her down, and down, and down, and then her wings evaporated.

Her heart shot up into her throat as she fell through the air, and she choked on it as she hit the ground at full speed with a loud thump. Jun gagged, rolled over onto her side, her sword dissipating as she held her stomach. Her spine screamed, and her ears began ringing from the impact.

Tomura appeared above her, waving his hand in front of her eyes. Jun had rarely ever seen him looked panicked, but here he was, eyes wide, lips parted and everything. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her up. She winced and collapsed into him as he turned them away from the battle.

“Go fight, m’fine,” Jun mumbled. “You’re gonna get hurt.”

“You just fell from the damn sky, I am allowed to be worried,” He snapped. “They have Hana covered. The High-Ends have retreated for now, but they’ll be back. Tell me, did you break anything? Can you tell? Can you move everything?” He looked up towards the sky. Hawks had disappeared already. It was as if something had happened that had scared him off. Something he’d seen, maybe, or heard, or sensed… “Where is that winged bastard, anyway?”

And then they both felt it; that feeling that had made Hawks hightail it off to God knows where. The feeling that had paralyzed Kurogiri. It paralyzed Shigaraki, too, made him go perfectly still… Or maybe he was just holding himself there, knowing that whatever presence was behind him, it wouldn’t be able to get to Jun without getting through him, first.

And it did. Hana’s bullet embedded itself perfectly in Tomura’s hip. His pupils contracted, eyes went wide.

Jun screamed, kneeling over Shigaraki, tears flooding her face instantly for the umpteenth time that morning (unlike Toga, she seemed to have endless crying currency). She was afraid to touch him at all, the bullet wound already becoming a pool of deep red underneath him, soaking into his clothes and staining his skin. His eyes were wide, and he was very clearly monitoring his breathing, trying to numb the pain in any way possible. It wasn’t working.

“Dad, I told you to get up,” Jun sobbed. Hana watched from a distance. She was enjoying this. Their master was nowhere to be found, but they could all feel his presence, lurking in the background somewhere and spectating. “Why didn’t you get up?”

Tomura’s crimson eyes slid to her. His face split in a broken, pained smile. “Because it would have been you, otherwise.”

“I already lost Dabi today, I’m not losing you, too,” Jun seethed. Tomura’s face hardened in pain. She looked up at Hana. “Monster.”

“Hey, Jun. Jun. Look at me.” Shigaraki reached up, touched her face with four of his fingers and brought her closer. “I’m not gonna make it.”

“Don’t say that,” she growled. “It’s just a hip wound, we can heal you. You’ll be fine. We’ll all be fine.”

“Jun…”

“Dad, you can’t die,” She whimpered. “I still have to tell you everything, about what I am, and where I came from, and-- and-- I have to make you understand that I’m still me.”

Tomura frowned at her. In the distance, Hana was growing restless. She wanted her brother to just die already. “What do you mean, ‘still you’?” asked Tomura. “When were you ever otherwise?”

“I’m one of--” She looked up, saw the High-Ends in the background, waiting to strike. Magne shouted a warning to the two of them, but it was no use. There was no stopping All For One and his second successor. Jun pointed at the Nomu. “I’m one of those things.”

A soft smile found its way onto Tomura’s face as he let his head fall back, still monitoring his breathing. He was in pain. Excruciating pain. “No, you aren’t. You’re not a thing, Jun.”

“But I am,” She protested. “I am one. They made me into one. I've been lying this whole time.”

Shigaraki sighed. “Help me up.” He said, and Jun carefully pulled him up into a sitting position, where he winced and let out a shaky breath. He was bleeding out. Slowly. Hana had stiffened into a fighting stance. Her patience was wearing thin.

Tomura lifted his arms as Jun held him up, took hold of her face as carefully as he could. “I don’t care what they made you into,” He said. “You ain’t a monster, or a thing, or a Nomu.”

Miraculously… Nothing happened. Jun didn’t go crazy. There was no buzzing in her ears, no ringing or staticky white noise. Just Tomura, and the unpleasant smell of battle behind them. It was as if she had gained control. That feeling she had felt, when she had discovered Dabi’s body, when she had driven herself to that animalistic state… It really was hers to control now.

“It’s not anybody’s damn business what you are,” said Tomura. “But if it had to be, you’re not any of those things. What you are is my daughter. And nothing can make me love you any less, m'kay?"

The words, they rolled off his tongue so easily. Not just because they were true (even though they absolutely were), but because that had been the phrase he had been waiting to hear his entire life. From Father, from Sensei. It had only been when he'd heard it from Kurogiri that he’d known it was genuine.

Jun sniveled, tried to get herself together as he let go of her, and nodded. She took a deep breath. “So what do we do?”

Shigaraki said nothing. Jun stared at him, preparing to stand up and defend her apparently dumbstruck father. “Dad? Dad, what do we d--”

And then it hit her, too. The paralysis quirk washed over her. Every muscle in her body stiffened, and as she hit the rock-solid ground, she noticed that the other members of the League had fallen victim to it, too. Twoga’s army of Twices was nowhere to be seen. The warnings she had been hearing from Magne and the League… They were cries for help, thinking that if Shigaraki and Jun could get away, then they might just have a chance…

But Shigaraki hadn’t been paralyzed. He had been analyzing, calculating, making judgement calls of his own. Why?

Because he was here. All For One himself in all his glory, with his power glow-ups and the metaphorical blood on his hands. From the state of his coat, he had been completely untouched since confronting Kurogiri. Jun’s heart crawled up her throat. No one had landed a single hit on All For One. He was still at his full potential.

He hovered by Hana with one of the many quirks he’d stolen, surveying the wreckage of the battle with indifference. His eyes landed on Tomura and Jun, finally, and his ugly face broke out into that terrible grin.

“Tomura,” He greeted him, drolly. “And the little girl.”

“I am twenty,” snapped Jun from the ground. They ignored her.

“Master,” Shigaraki’s own greeting was wry. He was barely standing, gushing blood out onto the grass from his hip. Any minute now, he was bound to pass out from blood loss… but he didn’t look tired or weak at all. “Welcome to the party. Fashionably late, I see.”

“You’ve learned that confidence from me,” said All For One, amused. “I should be proud.”

Shigaraki twisted his lip into a neutral frown. “I wouldn’t be so sure. You spend enough time ‘round Kurogiri, you learn sardonics.”

“Yes, and isn’t it such a shame that no one will be spending any more time around him?”

Tomura’s face darkened. “Bastard.”

“He was in my way,” dismissed All For One, and gestured offhandedly. “He was part of the reason plans with you fell through. Besides, if I hadn't gotten rid of him, we wouldn’t all be standing here right now. I’ve no doubt he would have tried to rescue you all from harm, like the good-natured man he was.”

The master looked around, observed the villains strewn across the ground, immobile under his power. “Where’s the rest of you? The boy with the gas quirk, and…” He caught sight of Twoga, zeroed in on them, and took note of the situation. Again, he gestured flippantly. “The one with the… head injury. All dead, I imagine, if they aren’t here?”

No one replied. No one said a word, no one moved, no one dared to breathe. All For One sneered.

“Oh, you poor things. Well, then, I suppose the time has come.” He turned back to face Tomura, and looked at his sister. “Hana. Kill him.”

Shimura looked startled. Tomura narrowed his eyes. The question was asked in unison, “What?”

Hana glared daggers at Tomura and gathered her composure. She clasped her hands together, and faced their sensei. “But, Master, you told me to save the final blow for you. I shot him. Now, here he is. It’s-- It’s your turn.”

“Like the USJ incident was Tomura Shigaraki’s first test, this battle will be yours,” explained All For One, shaking his head wisely. ”You must show me what you are capable of, Hana Shimura. You must prove your worth. Tomura Shigaraki was dangerous, but he was a nameless nobody. The name ‘Shimura’ will show our pathetic hero society that one’s bloodline does not mean anything. Now, go. Kill him, Hana Shimura. Show me that you are ready. Show me that you are worthy of being my successor. Show me that you are worthy of taking my place as the king of the underworld, and eradicate your competition.”

And so, Hana Shimura swallowed, and raised her revolver. She lifted her arm, shakily, and fed the gun. This had never been what she’d expected. She had hoped to sit back and watch him die. Hana had killed people before, but the events leading up to this one had been her life’s work since All For One had found her. This was the death she had fantasized about since she was just eight years old, when she had first fathomed the idea of murder. That had been when her brother had taken her hand.

And now she was to kill him.

But as Hana raised her gun, and as Jun began to scream at the top of her lungs, begging them to stop, Shigaraki was preparing himself, too. He felt a chill run through his body as his quirk activated, a shiver running down through his legs and collecting in the arches of his feet. Tomura flexed his hands, stalling Decay… until Hana hooked her finger around the trigger of the revolver, and he let go. Decay rushed through the ground, splitting open first the bottom of his shoes and then the earth beneath him, rocketing through the dirt and burrowing up towards Hana Shimura, faster than light.

I’m sorry, Jun.

It never hurt any less to say it.

She fired the revolver. At that exact moment, Decay reached her body.

They were both sent toppling in opposite directions, a steamy fog of blood billowing up into the air from Tomura’s ribs as he fell back, eyes rolling up into his head in shock. Hana howled, staring at her arms, screaming a mantra of no no no as her body began to erode.

Imagine, if you will, that you are on a beach. You’re standing with just your toes in the water, where the waves crash and climb up to wash over your feet before the tide retreats backwards. You lean down, and scoop up a lump of packed sand that has stuck close together and formed a solid object. You hold it in your palm for a moment, contemplating its fate, and then you squeeze, and suddenly, the sand is no longer a solid shape anymore. It crumbles apart, leaks through your fingers, waterfalling as it disappears into the water.

This was just like that, except nastier.

It started first at her feet, spreading up her legs and reaching her torso, her body crumbling into sand and gravel like rocks on a beach. Her body fell away chunk by chunk, and by the time her legs were gone she was sitting in a pile of dust. It spread to her arms and up her neck, a map of cracks and ravines splitting her skin apart. She opened her mouth in a silent scream as the last of her was added to the puddle beneath her.

Jun’s voice gave way as she broke into sobs, the paralysis quirk’s time limit wearing off as she tore across the field and practically tripped kneeling over Tomura. He was squeezing his eyes shut, still trying to monitor his breathing patterns, but it was no use. The blood loss from the hip wound had already been significant enough, but the second bullet had hit his vital organs. His stress level had been to blame for the strength of his surprise attack on Hana.

All For One gazed detachedly at the pile of bones and dust and robotic parts that remained where Shimura had been. Whether or not he was really bothered at all was unclear. For the moment.

But Shigaraki was a lost cause now, and Jun didn’t want to believe it. Through the blurry veil of tears she could see that he, too, was crying, his cheeks wet. But he was laughing, too, and it was hurting him. He heaved, giggled softly. Jun supported his face in her hands. Across the way, the League was screaming..They were furious.

And rightfully so.

“It hurts real bad,” gasped Shigaraki, breathing out in a shocked laugh. “Hurts like a bitch is what it does. Fuck.”

“Dad, you can’t go,” Jun whimpered, held his face gently. “You can’t go. I can’t fight on my own.”

“You won’t be,” Tomura hissed, eyes creased up, body stiffened. “You’ve got your family behind you.”

“But you and Dad…”

“We’ll be okay,” He said, and, despite all of the pain, and every ounce of his being wanting so badly to give up, he smiled at her. “I promise.”

“Dad, I’m scared. I’m so scared, Dad.”

“I know,” He agreed. “But you can’t be scared. You can’t let them win.” He reached up, cradled her cheek with a bloody palm. “You don’t have to be the villain. Or the hero. Be whoever Jun is, okay? You don’t gotta live up to anybody’s standards, or follow anybody’s rules, or be anything other people want you to be.”

He coughed, blood leaking from his lips. His time was running out, but he wasn’t ready to go yet. Not until he was finished. Not until he had said what he had wanted someone to say to him since Sensei had found him.

“You ain’t a thing. You ain’t a Nomu, or a monster, or a machine, or anybody other than Jun, but you’re not perfect, either,” he said. “And that’s okay. We all love you. You get it?”

Jun nodded, her face warm with tears and her throat closing up. “I love you, too.”

“Good,” Tomura said. He squeezed her cheek, and let go, slowly let his head rest on the rocks and the grass beneath him. “But, if you don’t mind, I got one death wish for you. Just one thing.”

“Anything, Dad.”

He lifted a weak arm, pointed at All For One.

“Kill that son of a bitch for me, please.” He looked at her, crimson eyes ablaze one last time with that signature gleam. “And make it fucking hurt.”

Jun nodded, without hesitation. “Okay.”

He smiled, laid back his head, and shut his eyes. “Go get ‘em, kid.”

Tenko Shimura died. This time, for real.

The heroes arrived, then. All at once, they appeared, looking defiant and haggard and tired and determined. All For One considered them silently, jaw set, lips a taut line. But the kingpin didn’t feel defeated-- no, not at all. The opposition had him greatly outnumbered, his paralysis quirk was in its cooldown period, and he was only one man. But he was a powerful one. And he had Ujiko’s Nomu on his team--

Or maybe he didn’t. Because as the League joined Jun’s side, watching All For One carefully, and as the High-Ends and Nomu began to slink back in towards the valley, having licked their wounds and prepared themselves for battle, Jun began to glow. Her eyes burned neon, a teal sheen covered her skin, and her palms began to sizzle with static. She was flipping the switch. She was turning off the lights. She was in control.

Suddenly, the Nomu began to move in a different direction. They did not join All For One. Instead, they gravitated towards Jun, approaching her and standing by her side. The League and the heroes looked at them with uncertainty, but the Nomu did not attack them. They stared on in silence, pawed at the ground. They had a new master now, and she was one of them.

The League faced the young pros standing beside them, and they stared back hesitantly. Midoriya looked at Jun. She had her fists clenched by her sides and her eyes set on All For One. Her eyes darted to him briefly.

“Hey. Midoriya, was it? How’s your morning been?” She said, conversationally, her voice resounding, sharp, and metallic. The holographic sheet over her skin gleamed.

Midoriya stared at All For One, cautiously. He thought back to the message Todoroki had delivered right before the half-and-half boy had been wiped out. Uraraka was gone. Her own master had killed her, and he hadn’t even been able to try and save her. “Not the best.” He said.

“Welcome to the club.”

“It’s him now, then?” asked Midoriya. Behind him, the League, the heroes, and the Nomu looked on in solidarity. Behind them on the mountainside, a fleet of pro heroes had appeared in a line, looking down on the scene. “All For One?”

Jun popped her lips, producing a staticky noise, analyzing the situation. “Yep.” She said. “Well. Everyone here?”

Everyone was here. The villains and the heroes, joined together to cooperate with their old enemies, and eliminate a common nemesis. They stood in tense, determined silence. The Nomu whistled and pawed at the ground, waiting for a command from their new master. Pro heroes observed on the mountainside, uncertain. And in the valley, at the head of their troops, stood the two generals.

Anger burned in Jun’s eyes, adrenaline and Video pumping through her veins. This was what it had all lead up to. The Todoroki siblings were dead. The Shimura siblings were dead. So many people were dead, and Jun knew who was going to pay the price.

A knack for vengeance ran in the family, anyway.

Then, All For One began to applaud, long and hollow and slow. The noise ricocheted around the valley, nearly deafened anyone standing too close.

”Nicely done,” He said. ”Really, nicely done. You took my Nomu, and you killed my successor. You thwarted my plans. Congratulations.”

“I didn’t kill your successor,” mumbled Jun, defensively, shrugging her shoulders. “‘Was my dad who killed her. Ain’t my fault she was prone to disintegrating.”

”But don’t think you’ve won just yet,” The kingpin continued. ”This fight is not over yet. Think about it. Heroes, villains… You’ve all lost far more than I have. Think about your friends, your partners, your family.” He looked in Jun’s direction, who simmered in rage. “All of them are gone. There will always be another successor for me. I can always make another Nomu. But there will never be another Tomura Shigaraki. Another Dabi. Another Ochako Uraraka. No matter what happens next, no matter how this day ends, you will never win.”

“We’ll beat you, no matter what.” said Midoriya.

“I will kill you,” Jun seethed. “And not just you, either. I will kill every last person who has wronged my family. I’ll make sure of it. I guarantee it.”

All For One guffawed. ”Come on, then,” He hollered. He hovered in the air, the temperature dropping steadily, faster and faster as he activated his quirks. ”Defeat me. Show me you have what it takes to kill the king of the underworld. Take me out, like so many people have promised for decades. Prove to me you’re really powerful. Prove it, or you’re hardly worth killing.”

The League of Villains and their Nomu shifted into a battle stance. The graduated heroes of UA High prepared themselves. Jun’s blade materialized down her arm. Midoriya activated Full Cowl. It was time to decide who your friends were. It was time to settle a millennium-long war. It was time to avenge lost family, and to honor them.

Debating the difference between good and evil was futile now. Whether hero or villain, whether Plus Ultra or Plus Chaos, there was a war on.

Jun flourished her blade. Video erupted from underneath her skin.

It was time to go beyond.