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Strangers in the Dark

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You're my stranger in the dark
I am lonely, vagabond
Hold me down, want you to bring me home
- Tove Lo


 

Ochako wasn’t sure when they crossed the point of no return together.

Maybe it was on That Night (a night that demanded capitals like some messed up national holiday) on the dark hill overlooking the Summer Festival. She suspected he thought that was the point of no return, but the truth was: he could’ve come back even after That Night and she would’ve forgiven him.

Or maybe it was the first time he climbed through her bedroom window reeking of death, and how the next morning she looked Izuku in the eye and lied about the bruise on her neck. But even then, she would’ve forgiven him and kept their dirty little secret.

Or maybe it was the first time he leveled a block of flats in Tokyo. 291 casualties. His face on the news, just a blur in the fire-wreathed sky. Grinning.

That image made her blood run cold, but she still didn’t lock her window, did she? Even though he came for her just hours later with the smell of burning and blood on his clothes –

But no. It was probably That Night that marked his point of no return. Because she’d seen the look on his face after – that moment of realization where his new life of both liberation and condemnation began. She wouldn’t realize it until years later though, when it was far too late.

He made his choice, and for whatever reason, dragged her down with him.


 

One year almost to the day that Bakugou threw his mask in the dirt at UA’s gates and walked through the warp-portal with Shigaraki, Class 3-A went to a local matsuri. The teachers had permitted it albeit with an escort from the faculty, so the students headed to the festival under their watchful gazes and the more disapproving scrutiny of the public.

UA had fallen under harsh criticism since losing their star pupil to the League; they rightly wondered what went on inside the walls of an establishment meant to produce the country’s brightest heroes. Even though, ironically, public opinion of said student and his involvement in All Might’s death post All For One’s defeat played a large role in his conversion into the League, but the public favored mob mentality over self-reflection.

Dressed in a pale pink yukata, sandals clopping on the ground, her hand entwined with Izuku’s, Ochako felt almost normal. The night sky was speckled with the first stars and the stalls spilled amber light on crowds that thronged around their wares. It smelt like candied apples and roasted meat and fried dumplings. There were masked performers threading through the streets, using their quirks to create fire or ice or butterflies or fountains, while others danced around colorful ribbons.

All the tension about the upcoming exams – which they now desperately strove towards knowing what waited for them on the other side – leaked away beneath the jovial atmosphere until even Kirishima was smiling again. Izuku bought her a little plastic tub of freshly made mochi, and she popped one whole into her mouth, making her left cheek balloon obscenely.

They clopped their way towards the temple at the end of the street, listening to tinkering festival music and laughter, their friends leading the way with arms thrown companionably around one another’s shoulders. Izuku kissed her cheek and told her she looked pretty. Ochako hoped her fortune slip at the temple would be a good one. 

They were about to pass beneath the tori gate when a flash of red caught her eye. Strange, really, that it would catch her eye at all considering the luminescent parade of color and noise. But as she glanced sideways at an alleyway wedged between the stalls, she saw a boy dressed in black wearing a red oni mask.

She knew him instantly not by the blond spikes framed between the mask’s horns, but by his stance. That confident yet slouching stance.

Her heart stuttered.

Izuku tugged on her hand. “Ochako?”

“Hm? Oh, sorry, I just thought I…” She hesitated. Izuku’s eyes were sad above his smile. They were always sad now. Sad or determined. Occasionally soft when he looked at her and probably forgot about his loss for a few minutes. But that was all.

“I have to go to the bathroom,” she said. “Wait for me, okay?”

“Sure.”

She left him standing there by the temple with that sad smile on his face, his scarred hands linked together under the billowing sleeves of his green yukata. Class A’s escort didn’t notice her slip away, nor did Izuku think to mention it.

When she headed towards the boy in the mask, he turned and disappeared down the alley. Her instincts prickled as she followed him. He didn’t run but kept a steady distance, weaving deftly between shifting bodies, the back of his blond head a marker in the crowd. She knew it was him, somehow, and that he was leading her somewhere, and that she should probably go back and tell the teachers

(should’ve turned back gods why didn’t she turn back)

but a larger part of her knew she’d probably never see him again if she did. This was her chance to confront him. Her only chance.

The sound of the festival receded, and the shadows deepened between empty, quiet houses. Soon it was only their footsteps echoing down the streets. He didn’t look back, not once, and even when she tried to close the distance between them, he maintained it without needing to run.

He took her beyond the village and up a hill crowned with a tree so old the local monks had made it a Yoshiro and wrapped its trunk in white rope and paper streamers. It was dark here. The music from the festival was fragmented and eerie. The light cast from the stalls diffused into an orange wash above the rooftops.

Bakugou stopped at the foot of the tree and took off his mask. He was taller and older, his angles sharper, eyes narrower, mouth set in a grim line. There was a faded bruise under his left eye and his expression was cold and blank.

“Bakugou-kun.” Ochako breathed his name as a sigh of relief, heart pounding with fierce joy. “We thought you were dead!”

He said nothing.

She took a nervous step forward, hands clenched tight around the mochi box. There were a million questions she wanted to ask him while acutely aware that one wrong word might frighten him off.

“Are you… doing okay?” she asked.

He took a step forward and she swallowed nervously. Something about him seemed off; the air between them reverberated like an electric current.

“Where have you been? Why did you go with them? After everything…” She twisted the mochi box in her hands. “Nobody blames you for what happened to All Might. You must know that.”

No reply.

“Bakugou-kun, won’t you… won’t you come back with me? To the others. Just… just to show them that you’re alive. Everyone is so… so worried. Your parents have been looking for you, you know? Nobody’s angry with you, I promise. Deku, he –“

“You will be.” His voice roiled in the dark, barely a growl. He took another step forward and it took all her resolve not to step away. He felt

(Dangerous)

different.

“Bakugou…kun?”

He was so close now she could smell the faint tang of nitroglycerin on his skin. The glow from the festival lit his eyes on fire. He reached out and ran a finger along her jaw, up her temple, then tucked her hair behind her ear. The intimacy of the gesture made her shiver, and she stared up at him wearing a perplexed frown.

“Please come back with me,” she whispered. “You’re not one of them. You never will be. Please. Please, everyone misses you so much –“

His fingers tangled in her hair and yanked hard enough to snap her head back. The mochi box jerked out of her fingers as she fell backwards. They went down together, Bakugou pinning her under his weight while keeping his savage grip on her hair.

She scrabbled against him, gasping with shock. “Bakugou, what are you –“

His mouth was on hers, fierce and hot, swallowing her protest. Shock stilled her for a second that seemed to drag into eternity, then with a cry of alarm, she tried to shove him away.

He reared back and grabbed her face, eyes burning in the dark. “If you scream, I’ll blow this festival to ash. Float me, and I’ll murder every last person here. Every. Last. Person. Do you understand?”

“Ba-Bakugou, I duh-don’t –“

He shoved her yukata up to her waist.

“I’m taking you from him,” he told her. “This is what we do: we take. This is last thing. The last piece I have to leave behind.”

Horror unfurled in the pit of her stomach as his hands slid up her thighs. “Bakugou, you don’t have to do this, please, please, just stop, we can go back together, right now, you and me, you can tell them you’re sorry and – and –“

She shrieked as he ripped off her panties then spread her legs with his knees before lowering himself onto her again. His eyes were fixed on hers, intense and focused yet somehow distant. Disassociating maybe.

She clapped a hand over his mouth when he tried to kiss her again, her breath coming quick and frightened like a rabbit caught in a snare.

“Bakugou, please, s-stop, why are you… why are you doing this?”

He bit her hand so hard he punctured the skin. She snatched it away then tried to push him off her again, but the pressure did nothing; despite her training and strength, he was corded with muscle, far more than she remembered. Maybe if she floated him she could –

“Don’t do anything stupid,” he said, one hand unbuckling his belt. “I could blow this place up even if you float me. They can’t stop me. They won’t. They’re weak. I’m just here for you… Ochako.”

She was terrified now. Her brain sluggishly processed what was happening while simultaneously pulling a blanket over her thoughts to protect her from the grisly reality.

“N-no, don’t, don’t, I won’t tell anyone I saw you, I won’t I promise please –“

Her whole body clenched up as his tip grazed her entrance, breath steeling in her lungs, then he pushed into her and she cried out against his shoulder. With no wetness to ease his entry, fiery pain tore through her loins. Eyes squeezed shut, head lolling in the dirt, she pushed her curled fists against his chest to create some space between them, though that did nothing to slow his pace or stall his advance. She bit her tongue to temper her whimpers while he panted against the side of her neck.

“I wanted you for so long,” he said around husky grunts. “I can’t be second to him. I had to be your first. You had to be mine.”

His thrusts increased in pace. She kept her cheek turned away, eyes shut, pushing down the horror and pain beneath a blanket of numbness. He was painfully deep, breaking her open, grating her walls, fire in her stomach. It hurt.

How could this be the same Bakugou she’d adored in first year? What had the League done to him?

It’ll be over soon, she thought, and then he’d come back with her. If she just tolerated it, then everything would go back to normal.

Twitching inside her core and his ragged breaths spelled his end. He sank against her, teeth scraping her shoulder, pressing her into the ground. She swallowed shakily, too upset and shocked to cry; too upset and shocked to feel anything.

The music from the festival tinkled in the background. When she opened her eyes she saw the mochi scattered in the dirt.

Eventually he pulled out, his expression grim. She’d expected to find remorse in his eyes, but there was nothing. At most, just a satisfied glimmer that made her feel nauseous. In fact, she was pretty sure she was going to be sick, but she clamped that down too.

“Will you come home now?” she whimpered.

He carried on staring at her with an unimpressed expression, then he climbed to his feet and adjusted his pants. Suddenly the shadows behind him shifted, and Dabi stepped out from under the tree. Beside him was a warp portal.

“Good boy,” Dabi said, standing close to Bakugou’s back, gaze trailing the length of his bare arms. “See how good it feels taking what you want? How easy it is?”

Ochako propped herself up on trembling arms. “Don’t leave again. Stay. Stay, please, please.”

Bakugou cocked his head, then shoved his hands in his pockets and said, “You’ll come with me one day.”

Then he followed Dabi through the portal and it zipped closed behind him.

Suddenly it was very dark and very quiet. Ochako gulped on dry sobs, her eyes burning, her womanhood sore and bleeding. Trembling, she stood up, then let the skirt of her yukata fall back down. Her thoughts were too scattered to process, encased in a pall of shock. She took one shaky step forward, then another, and slowly retraced her steps through town.

She felt like she was falling, falling…

Nothing had changed. The stalls were still open. Warm light chased back the shadows. Performers juggled and breathed fire above milling crowds. The air was laced with the smell of food.

Ochako retched once, then rounded the corner to the temple. There she spotted Izuku waiting for her in the same spot, and she staggered into his arms.

“O-Ochako? Where’d you go? Did you get lost? I… You’re shaking. I thought…” He began picking leaves out of her hair and dusted off her back. “Did you fall?”

She hiccupped twice, burying her face in his chest. She wanted to scream but everything felt distant, out of reach. Already it was beginning to feel like a bad dream. “Y-yeah.”

“Are you okay?”

“I…I duh-dropped m-my mo-mochi…”

“Oh. Well, I’ll buy you some more, okay?”

“It’s… it’s fine. I don’t want any.”

Izuku brushed his fingers under her chin and tilted her head. His eyes were warm above a concerned smile, which faltered at the sight of her expression.

“Are you sure you’re okay? You look…” He hunted for the word before settling on, “Upset?”

She averted her gaze. “M’fine. Can we… can we go back to school? Now? Please?”

“Uhh… but we’ve only just…?” He paused, searching her eyes again, then shrugged. “I mean, sure. It’s getting kinda late anyway, I guess.”

They went back to the school alone, and she led him by the hand to her dorm room. He was tomato red and a stuttering mess by the time they perched primly on the end of her bed, then she kissed him until she couldn’t taste Bakugou anymore. Her heart and head were both muddled, but in the blissful moment when Izuku eased into her for the first time, her thoughts were quiet beneath the pounding of her heart. There was no pain. No scraping fauna against her back or rough hands in her hair. Just Izuku and his gentle touches and gentle kisses on her forehead.


 

She wasn’t sure why she never told anyone, aside from how hard it was to think about, much less say out loud. Because what did it change? People would only judge her, feel sorry for her, maybe hate him a little more. And despite everything, she couldn’t stand the thought of people hating him.

 Part of her was ashamed that she hadn’t done anything to stop him. Didn’t even try, really. That she’d failed again – as they all had previously – to get him to stay. That she gleaned no further answers from him than when he’d walked through the portal at UA’s gates a year ago.

Izuku hadn’t gone after him the second time. This was different, and they all knew it. Even Kirishima. Bakugou hadn’t been kidnapped – he’d chosen to leave with the League. And they knew that one day they’d have to face him, and when that day came, it was going to be a nightmare for reasons too numerous to count.


 

Bakugou made his villain debut at the age of twenty. He called himself Warzone. What he’d been doing until then was a mystery, but it had probably involved training. Because he was strong. Terrifyingly, diabolically strong.

Ochako saw it first on the news, seconds before her emergency beeper went off. She didn’t hear it; her attention was fixed on the blurry footage shot from the windows of a helicopter as it circled Tokyo Sky Tree. Bakugou was perched on its tip, looking down at the building he’d just demolished with no more than three explosions. It had been housing for hero graduates temping in Tokyo – along with civilians.

Bakugou was grinning – no snarling – as he lifted his hand towards the helicopter. There was a flash of light, then the live feed cut to static. Moments later, Ochako heard an explosion in the distance; the sound of the helicopter crashing into Tokyo’s busy streets.

Izuku was first on the scene. He didn’t even have permission to be there, but she reckoned nothing short of an apocalypse could’ve stopped him. Izuku told her the next day that they had seen each other. Their eyes had met, he said with absolute certainty, but by the time he’d rocketed off the ground to meet him in combat, he was gone.

But before Izuku had come home, Ochako had stood on the roof of their apartment building after a grueling fourteen hour rescue shift, watching smoke billow into the night sky while the firefighters battled to extinguish the fires caused by Bakugou’s explosions. She was shivering less from the night’s chill and more because she’d thrown up four times since getting home. She’d never floated so much before, nor had she been mentally prepared for how a human body looked after being crushed by a skyscraper’s worth of concrete.

For some reason, she wasn’t the least bit surprised when she heard the tap of boots hitting the rooftop behind her. She didn’t even bother to turn around.

Gloved hands ran down her arms then gripped her waist, pulling her flush against a firm torso. Hot breath whispered down her neck and the air became thick with the smell of nitroglycerin.

“There you are, Ochako.”

His tone was rich but mocking. She thought of gore splattered concrete and her vomit in the toilet and shut her eyes.

“Why are you doing this?” she whispered.

His hands breezed over her hips. Down, down. Lifting her skirt. He nudged her legs apart with his knee, then his fingers dipped under her panty line. She gasped, lashes fluttering, and tried to keep her focus on the blaring sirens and the helicopter spotlights scouring the rooftops around the explosion site.

“Because I want to,” he answered. “Because I can. Because no one can stop me.”

“Deku can. We can. All of us.”

He chuckled in her ear then slid a finger into her. “You’re not trying very hard.”

She slammed her hand into his arm to float him, but he was faster. His free arm clamped across her chest and she felt the beginning of an explosion crackle on his palm. He could blow her arm clean off if he felt like it – and she had no doubt he would.

He tsked, his other hand not slowing its pace as he stroked her walls. “I told you: you’re mine. Understand? Mine.”

Tears pricked the corners of her eyes as her breathing became thicker. His thumb circled her clit and his erection pressed against her ass. Suddenly those images of gore and concrete seemed very far away.

She wasn’t sure who she was addressing when she said, “It’s not too late. You can stop this. People will forgive you. Deku will forgive you.”

He removed his hand and bent her forward until her elbows were propped on the edge of fencing that ran around the roof’s edge. He lifted her skirt, lowered her panties,

(mochi smeared with dirt, the sound of festival music tinkling in the distance)

then eased into her with a throaty growl. His hands were fire on her waist as he pulled out to the tip then pushed all the way back in, picking a slow rhythm.

“You’re wet,” he stated, then laughed. A nasty sound.

She closed her eyes, choking on little gasps that rode the back of his measured thrusts, and tried to block out the smell of Tokyo burning and the howl of sirens.


 

She told herself she was the only thing anchoring him to sanity. Like he’d left the last of his humanity in her That Night and kept coming back to remind himself of it. She was its keeper, and maybe one day he’d reclaim it and everything would go back to normal.

That made her feel important. Special. Like all this pain was a means to an end. She’d persevere to save him, because that’s what heroes did, right?


 

Japan entered an uncertain state of near-constant emergency. There was a 10pm curfew; the nights were ruled by the League. By Bakugou. The whirl of chopper blades and distant explosions became commonplace after dark. Never too close, though. Not now he knew where she lived.

Somehow he always knew when Izuku wasn’t home; he’d appear in their apartment like clockwork after doing something terrible – blowing up an agency building, destroying the military ships docked in the harbor, murdering hero after hero after hero – smelling like blood and burnt hair and nitroglycerin. He wore that terrible smirk while he undressed her, like she was his reward for a job well done, then he forced her to look at him as he fucked her into the mattress.

She clung to him feverishly after he finished, begging him to stay, because Izuku would understand. Would forgive him. Maybe Izuku would even understand why she was doing this behind his back, because this was his beloved Kacchan, and he’d do anything for him, so surely he’d forgive her too? This was her way of saving him and she was so sure he could still be saved, even as the casualties stacked up and the government turned subway stations into bomb shelters and Bakugou grew stronger and wilder and faster and smarter.

She often wondered if he’d kill her on the battlefield if they came face to face, putting her down like she was a dog that had nipped its owner.

Despite everything, Ochako became an adored hero and had no problem breaking Top Ten. While she could scrap with bad guys all day long and come out on top, she was known for her rescue heroics, which were unfortunately well suited to the type of destruction Bakugou wrought on Tokyo and its provinces.

 It was the most terrible form of irony, so she tried not to think about.

Her, Izuku, Shouto and Kirishima became stars of hope in a wasteland of terror and change. The divide in public opinion surrounding hero reform (many blamed the heroes for the current state of affairs) meant the Hero Billboard was almost scrapped completely, but it was kept on as a show of resilience; if they got rid of billboard, it would mean they’d caved to the villain’s agenda. The rankings formed trust between the heroes and the public – reminded them that heroes were out there every day trying to make things better.

Even if it didn’t feel that way to Ochako when she let Bakugou in through her bedroom window to a backdrop of sirens and screaming.


 

The night before Izuku almost died, he had perched on the edge of their bed with his head in his hands, looking so much older than twenty-two, his arms and fingers a mishmash of scars and bruises from his constant fights with the League. With Kacchan. Getting back his childhood friend had consumed him even more than it had Ochako; Japan’s safety was placed on his shoulders, and it showed.

 Despite clinging to victory, despite barely keeping Tokyo safe, Ochako thought this felt a lot like losing.

“I just want to talk to him,” Izuku mumbled. “Just two minutes. Two minutes. But he won’t listen and I don’t know where he is and I hate the League for doing this to him, I hate them, and it just… I just… I want him back -” He choked on a sob.

Ochako stroked the back of his neck, guilt ripping her insides to shreds. Bakugou would never listen to Izuku. Maybe he’d listen to her – the only thing anchoring him to his past – but their relationship was so brittle she was frightened even the slightest of changes would send him flying away.

The text from Kirishima came at 10.51pm the next day, and she wasn’t surprised by it at all. She’d heard the explosions, seen bright crackles of orange and green light arc across the night sky like the aurora borealis, felt the power thrumming against her skin. This wasn’t unusual, of course – Izuku and Bakugou fought regularly now – but this went on longer than usual. Seemed more intense.

Izuku’s in ER, the text read. It’s bad.

Ochako was toeing on her unlaced sneakers with one hand on the door handle when Bakugou yanked backwards. He dragged her to the ground and mounted her, pressing hot, feverish kisses against the corner of her mouth while she smacked her fists against his chest.

“No! Not now, not now, no no no let me go let me go!”

He tugged down her pants and yanked up her top, fingers making nimble work of her front clasping bra. The only light on in the apartment was the bare bulb above the genkan, so Bakugou’s face was cast in shadow, his blond hair lit from behind. Blood from a headwound trickled down the side of his face and dripped off his chin onto her stomach.

“I mean it!” she said, close to tears. “I have to see him – get off me!”

Bakugou peered down at her expressionlessly, then leaned closer and bit her bottom lip. His hands were shaking from overuse of his quirk as they slid up her waist and over her breasts.

“He talks a lot of meaningless bullshit if he gets within punching distance,” he said, “but tonight your name was in his mouth, so I had to put him in his place.”

He shifted down her stomach, pinning her thighs open with rough hands, then slid his tongue between her folds. She gasped, rocking back on her elbows. He’d never done this before. His visits were quick and rough, taking what he needed and leaving nothing behind but bruises.

“If I killed him,” he said, hot breath teasing her entrance, “then you’d come with me. But that would make me the second option. An afterthought. And I’d kill you before that happened.” He traced his tongue around her clit, almost thoughtfully, then stopped. “You have to come to me while he’s alive. Taking sweet Uravity away from him – from everyone –would be true victory.”

Ochako’s arms trembled, her breath hitched in her throat, tears stood out in the corners of her eyes. “Bakugou… please… please let me go…”

“Let you go?” He laughed, and for a second she was frightened he’d tear a chunk out of her with his teeth. She tried to clamp her legs shut but he wouldn’t let her. His eyes burned like a predator watching her in the dark. “You need to let me go.”

“But I duh-don’t…”

“You can go whenever you want,” he told her. “Right now. Go see your weak, dying boyfriend and hold his hand and tell him you love him or whatever the fuck you do to convince yourself that you’re meant for each other. I won’t stop you.”

There came a heavy silence. Ochako swallowed. Her chest heaved with desire, with torment, with confusion. He didn’t need to say out loud what hung between them: if she left now, he wouldn’t come back. She would’ve made her choice, and she’d lose Bakugou forever. Lose him to the League.

And with horrible certainty she realized the only thing stopping him from killing Izuku was her.

She lay down, back pressed against the wooden floor, hands splayed by her head, then closed her eyes as he began to eat her. He’d never pleasured her before, and it wasn’t long until she came while singing his name, back arching off the floor, swept away by the force of her orgasm. The best she’d ever had while her boyfriend was being hooked up to IVs and blood transfusions and getting skin grafts on the burns up his left side and broken bones set in casts.

He fucked her on the floor, then again in the bedroom, then again in the bathroom when she tried to stitch up his wounds. He took his time with her because he was playing out his victory, becoming harder and rougher every time her phone buzzed with missed calls and messages.


 

What fueled Bakugou’s visits remained a mystery. She wondered if he loved her but was so far gone maybe he didn’t know it, much less how to express it.

Was that wishful thinking on her part? Or was she merely a pawn to get to Izuku, the real object of his hatred? Perhaps the pleasure he stole from their encounters came solely from the act of hurting her, of taking his enemy’s childhood love again and again in their bed while he was gone, teasing from her guilty moans of pleasure.

Did he want her by his side because he loved her? Or because her becoming a turncoat would thoroughly destroy Izuku’s resolve? The ultimate victory – more so perhaps than eradicating heroes from society.

She wondered if letting him do this to her saved more lives than it cost. Was it egotistical to wonder if she was the last foundation stopping hero society from crumbling?

At what point was the line drawn between being a hero and being a villain?


 

There was a particularly brutal day in late October, when Ochako came very close to giving up.

The League had coordinated a series of city-wide attacks while the highest-ranking heroes had been at an award ceremony. Very clever of them, picking a time when heroes were gifted a rare evening of self-indulgence. No matter which way the paper’s covered it, it looked bad. Deku standing with an arm-full of awards, grinning brightly, while the photo next to it showed the aftermath of the bridge collapse over Arakawa River. Denotated, of course, by Warzone.

Regardless of the fact Izuku worked almost 365 days a year, pulled triple shifts, had a body so crossed in scars he looked like a scarecrow half the time, the headlines still made out like heroes spent their time partying and wallowing in riches while the populace suffered. And of course they didn’t write about how all of them had abandoned their awards to put on the gear they’d stashed backstage and gone straight to the scene. How none of them had drank so much as a glass of champagne just in case they were called in.

Some papers even blamed Izuku for Warzone’s feral nature, citing their childhood rivalry as its cause, claiming perhaps Warzone would end his reign of terror if Izuku swallowed his pride and stepped down from his role as Number One Hero.

Ochako had aided the rescue of those trapped in their cars beneath the river for almost ten hours. Of course, most of them were dead by the time she got to them

(you can’t save everyone you can’t you can’t even save him)

but she couldn’t just go home, could she?

She worked through the vomiting and hunger and exhaustion, until Kirishima demanded she clock off. He didn’t look much better, having helped cut people out of mangled cars and collapsed buildings for the better part of ten hours, but it didn’t drain him as much Ochako’s quirk drained her.

 And then to see the news portray them as uncaring celebrities… it was too much.

Now she stood with her hands pressed to the rim of the bathroom sink, her gaze fixed on the darkness inside the plughole. She’d showered and bathed and scrubbed her skin raw to get rid of the rancid smell of the Arakawa River, and brushed her teeth five times to get rid of the sour taste of vomit, but she still felt unclean. It was becoming harder and harder to look at her reflection nowadays.

(your fault it’s your fault for letting him do this)

When hands slid around her hips and pulled her close, she didn’t flinch. Bakugou tilted her head up with one hand so their eyes met in the mirror’s reflection; his gaze burned straight through her, his lips a brand against the side of her neck.

She thought of the little girl she’d pulled out of the river – barely five years old, all bloated and blue inside a red dress – and felt an uncharacteristic flare of anger towards him.

“Do you watch the aftermath of your destruction?” she said. “Or do you fly away like a coward?”

His gaze held hers as he slid a hand up her shirt and palmed her left breast. “I watch you, sometimes.”

“Watch me pull bodies out of your wreckage?”

“Mn.”

“Do you look at them? At their faces?”

“No,” he said, “I only watch you.”

“Why?”

He bit the shell of her ear, fingers toying with her nipple. “I like to think about what I’m going to do to you when you get home.”

She stiffened, then shoved him away. That feral smirk grew wider on his face, then as she tried to elbow past him, he grabbed her arms and slammed her against the bathroom wall. Tiles cracked under her spine and she cried out, but he smothered it with a kiss that split her bottom lip against his teeth. He lifted her up and guided her legs around his hips, not letting her breathe as he deepened their kiss and carried her into the bedroom.

(who saves the heroes who saves the heroes who are the heroes)

He pushed into her the moment they fell onto the bed and she gasped against his shoulder, both hands pushing through his hair with her pinkies raised.

“It’ll be over soon,” he murmured as he glided out, then in, out, then in. “Once I have that power, it’ll be over.”

She frowned, then leaned back to draw his gaze. “What do you mean?”

He held himself inside her, expression blank. “Do you still want me to come home?”

“Yes,” she said, trembling. “Yes, yes, I do, always.”

“Even now?”

“Yes!”

He blinked, then snorted derisively. “You’ll have to bring it to me.”

“What?”

“Home,” he said, then pressed his lips to the corner of her mouth. “You’re my home, Ochako.”


 

She blurted out her suspicion to Izuku three days later. It was 8pm and he’d come home for a rushed microwave meal. They never ate together – their schedules were too conflicting – so he ate standing in the kitchen while reading reports on his phone. They hadn’t shared a bed in months. He simply couldn’t switch off from work anymore, and she felt too tired and sorry for him to throw criticism on their relationship.

He looked up, as though surprised she was there. “Huh?”

“I think he’s planning on taking All For One,” she repeated. She was sweating, her palms sticky against her sides, teeth gnawing her bottom lip.

Izuku lowered his phone, then put the bowl of food on the counter. “What makes you think that?”

“I just… have a feeling. I don’t know.”

He blinked at her. Not at all suspicious. Just confused. Because Izuku was the kind of person that needed stats and facts before he drew a conclusion. “A feeling?”

“He has to be the best. He could never settle with being an understudy, a sidekick, second. And the only person that has more power than him is Shigaraki, right? Do you honestly think he’ll let that slide?”

Izuku’s expression grew troubled.

“He’ll take the power, I’m sure of it,” Ochako said. “And when he does, I don’t think any of us will be able to stop him. Not even you.”

“I… I don’t…”

Ochako pressed a hand to his cheek. “He’s already so strong. Do you want to risk him getting stronger? The villains follow Bakugou more than they do Shigaraki nowadays. There may be some kind of civil dispute within their ranks, but everybody knows Bakugou is the strongest of the pair, despite the destructive nature of Shigaraki's quirk.”

She dropped her hand and swallowed, her next words aimed at both Izuku and herself. “It’s time you started being more frightened of him.”


Izuku placed informants underground to listen for rumblings of mutiny within the League’s ranks, but by the time they heard anything close to confirmation, it was already too late. Bakugou had moved quickly, taking care that neither Shigaraki's supporters nor the Heroes would be prepared enough to stop him.

Some said Bakugou killed Shigaraki, and that All For One naturally passed onto him – the closest body at the time. Others said Shigaraki willingly gave it away, acknowledging Bakugou’s ability to fulfill the original All For One’s intentions as being greater than his own, right before Bakugou killed him anyway. Either way, he ended up dead, and new fear swept through Japan.

For a while, everything went very quiet, like the calm before the storm. Which was somehow worse. Ochako jumped at every noise, every beep of her phone, every errant shadow out the corner of her eye. It was only a matter of time before he’d emerge, and she wasn’t sure any of them were ready to face him. especially Izuku, who lived on coffee and barely slept, and spent every second of his free time either hunting for Bakugou or refining his quirk.

The weight dropped off Ochako in the weeks that followed. Couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep. She shook all the time. Even though she knew he wouldn’t hurt her, she was still terrified to see him as All For One.

Maybe that had been the point of no return for him.

Izuku was so rarely at their apartment now that she basically moved in with Kirishima, perhaps the only person she was somewhat sure Bakugou wouldn’t kill to get to her. Everyone else? Maybe. And she probably wouldn’t have said anything if he had, because he’d only make it worse for her then carry on murdering anyway.

It was cowardly hiding behind Kirishima, but he didn’t seem to mind. Perhaps because her terror was so obvious. Perhaps because she slept on the floor by his bed instead of on the couch. Perhaps because he likewise shared her fears. But he never questioned why she in particular was so frightened of being alone, and likely chalked it up to everyone having their nerves shot.

One evening while they sat on the couch watching the news

(waiting for the Big One, always waiting waiting waiting)

Ochako had stared down at the cup of coffee in her hands and asked, “Do you think you’ll be able to kill him?”

Kirishima, who, like Izuku, seemed to have aged beyond his years the moment Bakugou had walked through that portal, stared unblinkingly at the TV, not really seeing it.

“I don’t know,” he replied slowly.

“Do you think… do you think he’s… he’s all bad?”

He thought about this for a long moment. “No.”

“Do you think we could convince him to come back to us?”

Kirishima averted his gaze to the window, staring at the rain hammering against the glass. He was subdued nowadays, a defeated slump to his shoulder that he worked hard to hide while in the public eye. He smiled so rarely she’d almost forgotten what a shining beacon he’d been back in school.

“No,” he said.

Ochako stared at her coffee.

“I should’ve stopped him,” he said quietly. “Should’ve… should’ve pinned him down or something. I think I could’ve, maybe. He would’ve hurt me but I… I would’ve taken the pain if it meant keeping him there.”

Ochako hiccupped around the lump in her throat.

(would’ve taken the pain if it meant keeping him there)

 “Does that make us heroes?”

“I don’t know. I just wish…” He trailed off, then turned his gaze on the TV again. “But it’s too late to wish for anything. He’s killing people, and he’ll keep on killing people unless we stop him, and I have to look at it  like that – black and white – otherwise I’ll go mad or die before I can stop him. And the truth is: that’s all we can do now. Stop him or die trying.”


 

When he finally emerged, it felt like the end of days. Prodigy child that he was, he’d mastered all the quirks within the space of weeks. If it had been his will, he could’ve nuked Tokyo to a barren wasteland, but he didn’t want to build a society on ruins – he just wanted to eradicate the heroes within it.

The League lured them out with acts of violence and Bakugou picked off the heroes one at a time, stealing their quirks before killing them. Izuku pushed him back time and again, beaten to the brink of death, but he was always allowed to escape with his life. People speculated Bakugou couldn’t bring himself to do it. Others thought he wanted Izuku to suffer the most by watching all his friends die first, saving him for last.

Only Ochako knew the truth. 

He was waiting for her decision. All For One or One For All. He couldn’t come home anymore; she had to be his home, or he’d have no home at all.


 

Japan declared a state of emergency. The military was deployed. Chaos unfolded across the nation under Warzone, their new leader. Even if he wasn’t physically present, he’d garnered a sizeable force from those wanting an overhaul of the Hero system, or those wanting anarchy in general.

Tokyo became a literal war zone.

The guilt almost destroyed Ochako. She’d had so many chances to stop him at his most vulnerable. They could’ve set up a trap, maybe. Used her as bait. She could’ve told someone. But now it was too late. Even if she agreed to join him, she doubted she could sway him to stop. She’d only be watching her friends die from the other side.


 

Hope came unexpectedly one morning following a raid meant to locate Bakugou’s hideout. They hadn’t found him, but instead had returned with a villain who was, in every sense of the word, batshit insane, but had been a supporter of Shigaraki. He was a scientist by the name of Dr Garaki, and claimed he had successfully duplicated a quirk-erasing serum originally circulated by the yakuza.

Hours later, the highest-ranking heroes gathered in a meeting room in an underground bunker, Ochako and Izuku among them.

“He claims Bakugou doesn’t know about it,” Shouto said. “Shigaraki had been planning to use it on him, but Bakugou got to him first, then Garaki fled to avoid being killed too.”

“I don’t trust him,” Momo said. “Why would someone in the League tell us about this? Even if he doesn’t like Warzone leading the League, he’s still a villain. Surely working under Warzone is better than giving Heroes the upper hand?”

“He told us in exchange for protection,” Shouto explained. “He’s as frightened of Bakugou as everyone else. And he’s just sociopathic enough to want to brag about being the creator of the serum that could end the world’s greatest threat to Hero Society.”

“Ironically making him a hero,” Tokoyami said humorlessly.

Izuku stared at the little vial in the center of the table, his expression pained. “And it works? For sure?”

“There were two vials,” Shouto said. “We tested the other one on a villain, and it completely erased his quirk.”

“But would it work on All For One?” Momo asked. “That’s… multiple quirks.”

“It’s technically one quirk,” Izuku said. “One quirk that allows the use of multiple quirks. So in theory… it should work.”

“This is it,” Kirishima said softly, eyes fixed on the vial. “This is how we stop him without… without killing him. This is it.”

“He’s not going to go back to normal after this,” Shouto stated coldly. “Losing his quirk will likely only intensify his hatred for us. He’s gone, whichever way we look at it.”

Kirishima said nothing, gaze dropping to his hands.

“The real issue,” Momo said, “is getting it in him. If we put it into a specially design bullet, we could shoot him from a distance. Or if Izuku could get close enough, he could inject him with it.”

“He’s too fast,” Izuku said quietly. “He’ll know. I just know it. He’d see the moment I tried.”

“Then a tranquilizer dart? We could hook one up to your gloves so it’s hidden. Once you get in range –“

“What if I miss?” Izuku yelled, his eyes wild. “What if I miss? What then? Even if Garaki could make another one, that could take weeks, and Kacchan would know our plan. He’d be prepared. It would be almost impossible to get close to him again. And… and it’d make him angry. Make things worse –“

“Then what do you want us to do?” Momo yelled. “This is the best option we have besides you beating each other to a pulp every few weeks!”

“He’s not infallible,” Shouto said. “If we all worked together –“

“We’ve tried to work together, we’ve tried, but he’s too strong and fast and smart, it won’t work –“

“So what do you want us to do – give up?”

“This is our only opportunity to stop him –“

“He’ll know, I won’t be able to get near him –“

“It has to be you, Izuku, he can erase everyone else’s quirks but yours –“

“I’ll do it.”

The table went quiet as all eyes turned to Ochako. She’d been staring at the vial, the gears in her mind turning slowly at first, then cranking faster and faster until she thought she might start spinning like a clockwork doll.

“I’ll do it,” she repeated, meeting their stares. “I’m the only one who can.”

Izuku glanced around the room, then pressed his hand over hers with a puzzled frown. “Ochako, he won’t let you near him. He’ll know we’d sent you in an attempt to drop his guard and he’ll kill you in an instant. You know he doesn’t have any mercy like that.”

She was shaking now, her great admission bubbling inside her chest, ready to explode out of her.

“He won’t,” she whispered, “because he’s expecting me to go to him.”

Izuku’s hand slowly moved away from hers, the puzzlement in his eyes intensifying. “What do you mean?”

She lifted her gaze to meet his. “I have something to tell you, Izuku. Something I should’ve told you a long time ago. But it’s best I tell you in private.”


 

Ochako would never get used to seeing Tokyo so quiet. Once a city eternally beset with traffic and flashing neon lights, the barrage of villain attacks and the imposed curfew had turned it into a husk of its former self. The streets were empty. Windows were dark. Here and there, burnt out ruins of buildings squatted among debris like missing teeth. The only life beyond rats and pigeons were shadow-cloaked figures avoiding the patrolling army units – villains - the only ones brave enough to oppose the new laws meant to protect the populace.

But right now, the night was very quiet and empty and cold. Ochako wrapped her arms around herself, shivering. Her skirt whipped around her thighs and her hair tousled her cheeks, but she didn’t mind. She was almost numb from the gravity of the situation, and the coldness reminded her that she was living and breathing.

She waited less than an hour before she heard the familiar tap of boots landing on the rooftop behind her. A gloved hand traced down her exposed back and she shivered again, though not from the cold.

She turned slowly and looked up into Bakugou’s eyes. His expressionless face showed neither suspicion nor affection.

Habitually, she wondered if she let him take her one more time – just one more time – maybe he’d stay. Maybe he’d change. Because she was the key to his humanity, right? That’s what she’d told herself, over and over and over -

But it hadn’t worked, had it? Because he was so damn stubborn. Stubborn enough that he couldn’t keep away from her, but stubborn enough that he wouldn’t stay. He wanted her on his terms – everything had to be on his terms – and that was his weakness. Not her.

But knowing that still didn’t stop the traitorous spike through her heart from seeing him again.

“I thought you’d look different,” she said, then brushed the back of her hand over a scar that ran down one side of his face. “Did Deku do that to you?”

He reached up and pressed her hand to his cheek. She fancied she saw just a flicker of softness in his eyes, but that was probably all it was: a fancy. Because she’d tried to convince herself of that softness one too many times.

“I hear you’re unstoppable now,” she whispered. “Is that true?”

“I will be,” he said, his eyes searing into hers, the implication behind his words strikingly obvious.

When I have you

When I take you from him

The night’s chill chased goosebumps across her arms. She edged a little closer to him, taking shelter from his body heat. “You frighten me.”

He said nothing.

“Would you… would spare Deku? If I gave you what you want?”

He pressed his lips to the back of her hand, his eyes growing hungry. “What are you doing here, Ochako?”

He wouldn’t spare him. She could see it in his eyes. She might have been his weakness, but there were things he wanted even more than her. So perhaps she had only been a means to an end, albeit one he couldn’t resist.

“I’m taking you home,” she said.

He drew closer to her, just inches between their lips. “You’re my home.”

“I know, Katsuki. I’m here.”

She bit through the gelatin casing she’d kept wedged between her gum and cheek and felt tasteless serum mix with her saliva a second before their lips met in a fierce clash. A rush of both longing and despair swept through her as she linked her arms around his neck, tilting her head and opening her mouth for his tongue. They’d never kissed like this before, not with her being an eager recipient, and he melted against her, one hand on her waist pulling her close, the other gripping the back of her neck.

She kissed him and entertained a fantasy that shuttered behind her closed eyes like pictures in a book: her waking in a warm bed on a Sunday morning, following the smell of cooking to the kitchen, finding him half-dressed over the stove, skillet in hand, a miniature version of himself – all blond spikes and big brown eyes – clinging to his leg around a bleary-eyed yawn, a shared kiss as she poured him coffee.

For a minute, it felt like it was only them and no one else. That he’d never gone through the portal, never wrought death and despair on Tokyo. Just a fleeting, painful taste of what could have been. And for a second, she truly wondered if she loved him.

And then those feelings were gone, streaming out of her in the tears that poured down her cheeks as she kissed him and kissed him and kissed him.

Gone. All of it gone. Along with her quirk.

He was alerted by the pressure of all ten of her fingertips against his scalp. He went rigid. Stone-like. Cold. She withdrew her tongue from his mouth a second before his jaw snapped shut with an audible click of teeth. He leaned back, his eyes fixed on hers, wide and disbelieving and horrified.

“No…” he said slowly.

He stepped out of her reach but didn’t break eye contact. He swallowed. His chest heaved with panicked breaths. He looked at his hands and flexed his fingers. Nothing happened.

It was the first time she’d seen him look scared.

“No…” he said. “No. No, you can’t have… No…”

Ochako’s whole body was shaking. She pressed her fingertips to her chest, tears streaming down her face, sobs echoing in the dark. The wind whipped between them obliviously.

His eyes crept up again to meet hers, and this time there was rage in his eyes. Rage and understanding.

He took a step forward, and that’s as far as he got before the heroes concealed nearby fell on him.

In the end, it was Kirishima rather than Izuku who pinned him to the ground and snapped handcuffs around his wrists while Bakugou kicked and swore and roared. If anyone noticed the tears rolling down Kirishima’s face and dripping onto Bakugou’s back, nobody said a word about it.


 

There was six inches of quirk-proof glass between them the next time she saw him. She sat on a lonely chair in a clinically white room with her hands clasped in her lap, watching as they led him into the room with manacles and chains around his wrists and ankles. He slouched into the chair opposite her, stretching out his legs in front of him, looking like the moody teenager she remembered from school.

Except his eyes were full of hate. Licked by something nasty. She wondered if they’d always looked like that, but she’d refused to see it.

The guards left the room, granting an illusion of privacy despite the cameras trained on them from every corner of the room. They stared at each other in silence for a long moment before Ochako finally found the nerve to speak.

“I didn’t think you’d want to see me.”

He blinked slowly. Said nothing.

“You refused visitation from your parents and Kirishima. They’re desperate to talk to you. Why won’t you just –“

“I have nothing to say to them.”

Not a hint of guilt behind his eyes. Of course, she hadn’t expected an apology, but Kirishima and his parents probably had. So it was best they were spared from the hurt and disappointment. Was that intentional on his part? And if so, did that mean he was seeing her only to hurt her one last time?

She wanted to believe otherwise, but that was habitual; an old part of her that she was trying hard to burn away.

“Does Deku look you in the eye when you fuck?” he asked suddenly. “I bet he doesn’t. Bet he can’t even get it up from wondering if you think about me while you’re fucking.” He sneered. “And we all know the answer to that.”

Ochako’s gaze didn’t waver. “We’re working through it.”

Bakugou snorted in disgust.

“He forgives you, you know.”

“I didn’t ask for his fucking forgiveness!” Bakugou roared as he leaned forward, face turning red with rage. “I don’t give a fuck what that cowardly, weak piece of shit thinks of me. He couldn’t even finish me himself; he had to get his pathetic, sniveling little girlfriend to trick me instead. Sad. You’re all fucking sad.” He laughed nastily. “And I suppose you forgive me too, right?”

She said nothing.

“Of course you do,” he spat. “I could kill everyone you love and you’d still be waiting with your legs open at the end of it. I could fuck you next to Deku’s corpse and you’d still scream my name like a cheap fucking whore.”

Ochako ran her fingerpads over her knuckles, his words barely grazing the surface of her deep-seated despair. She was pretty numbed to criticism nowadays. “Bakugou-kun…What did the League do to you?”

“The League?” he scoffed. “Nothing. Hero culture did this to me. Toxic cesspit of praise-bloated idiots thinking they’re doing what’s right while casting judgement on anyone that doesn’t fit their self-serving ideals.”

“Is that what you think of me?”

“I don’t know – are you a hero, Ochako?”

She didn’t reply.

He barked out a laugh. “Not so black and white, is it?”

“No. I guess it isn’t.”

At length, he said, “They’re giving me the death penalty.”

She knew. Everyone did. Izuku almost seemed to resent her for it, even though Bakugou would’ve ended up dead, one way or another. But Izuku was convinced he could’ve swayed Kacchan to come home, if only she’d given them the opportunity to speak.

But she knew better.

“You wouldn’t have stopped,” she said.

He held her gaze, looking smug despite being in chains. “No. Not until you were all dead. But even though I’ve been caught, the legacy I’ve left behind is greater than even All Might’s. Greater than Deku’s will ever be. Greater than yours, Number One.”

It was true his actions had instigated mass reforms of Hero Society. New laws to prevent quirk discrimination. Funding of mental health programs in schools and workplaces that had been pretty much absent before they’d decided that the root of Warzone’s misdeeds stemmed from ill-judgement and lack of support.

Bakugou hadn’t intended for any of these changes, she was sure. But it was a small comfort that something good had come from all the pain.

“How does winning feel?” he asked around an ugly sneer. “Not as good as you thought, I bet. You think sacrificing your quirk will make up for all the lives lost?”

She shrugged. “If it means even one person was saved, then it was worth it. Even if it meant…”

“What?”

“Losing you.”

He snorted and looked away. “Everything comes at a price. You of all people should know that.”

She twisted her hands in her lap, struggling with a question she didn’t want to hear the answer to. “Did you ever love me?”

 “You came all this way to ask me that?”

“I suppose I did.”

He snorted and cocked his head, expression unreadable. “Does it even matter now?”

“No,” she said slowly, “I guess it doesn’t.”

Taking an unsteady breath, dry eyes stinging, Ochako stood up and smoothed down the back of her skirt, then met his gaze one last time. His eyes were still as hard and cold as they’d been on the night he’d taken her on the hill overlooking the festival. Nothing had changed.

 “Goodbye, Katsuki,” she said.

Security guards buzzed her out of the room, and the sound of the door clicking closed behind her was the closest to a resolution she’d ever get. She didn’t look back.

So this is what it means to be a hero, she thought.