I do not own BNHA or its characters.
Enjoy Chapter Seven of "Control"
Cowritten and coedited by aoimikans on Tumblr.
Enjoy the final chapter of Control and look forward for the series to continue with Collapse
Toshinori sat on the livingroom couch, thumbing through a novel Ectoplasm suggested. Soft banter from his students drifted from the kitchen and dining area where studying was in full swing. Occasionally, a student came to him for help on their assignments. It brought a smile to Toshinori's face. The moments were brief, but he was teaching again.
His ears flicked and skewed the glasses perched on his nose.
Damn it , he clicked his tongue, setting his book aside to fix the large, round, wire-frame glasses. During his last exam with Recovery Girl, she checked his eyes for any changes the night vision quirk may have caused.
"You'll need reading glasses," she determined, "Honestly, you've needed them for a while. I'll have a pair made for you before you start getting migraines."
Should have known, given her fashion sense…
Toshinori chuckled, remembering the look on his face when he saw himself wearing them for the first time. He gaped at himself in the mirror, but the kids loved them and insisted they were perfect.
With his glasses righted, he returned to his book and his dexterity exercises.
Tail lifting and curling, Toshinori carefully moved a small pillow from the floor and set in on the pillow pyramid he'd stacked at his side. It was Ojiro's idea to get a better feel for his tail, and young Yaoyorozu was kind enough to create a number of different shaped pillows for him.
Toshinori was shocked to find the tip of his tail was incredibly flexible and, with practice, almost as useful as a third hand. With a sweep of his tail he knocked the neat pile to the ground and began again.
Halfway through the next pyramid, Toshinori's cell phone buzzed in his pocket. He pulled it out, grinning at the name on the screen.
"Naomasa! Hello," he answered, scooping up the remaining pillows on the floor and depositing them on the couch. Standing, he bashfully waved at the few curious students looking his way and excused himself, "How are you?"
"I'm doing well," Naomasa said boisterously.
Toshinori's ears perked, and his tail wagged. He could hear the smile in Naomasa's voice.
He slipped on his jacket and loose sandals and stepped outside, pulling the door shut behind him with his tail. A cool, humid breeze brushed over his skin, sending a chill across his skin. The air smelled of oncoming rain.
"How are things at U.A.?" Naomasa asked.
Toshinori grinned, sitting down on the front steps of the dorm, and stretched out his legs, "Better than expected. I've finished reviewing what the kids have covered in class and began preparing lesson plans. If all goes well, I can be back in the classroom in another week or two."
"That's fantastic, Toshinori," Naomasa said sincerely. He paused a moment, a hesitant half-aborted question stuttering over the phone line before he continued, "And your lapses? Any improvement?"
"Ah…" Toshinori reached back, tracing his capped claw around the short spikes on his neck, "I'm still lapsing on occasion, though none more than a few minutes with the exception of the lapses when I sleep. I'm not sure how long those are."
He could remember some short moments of falling into the fog. Sometimes triggered by pain, other times without clear reason - once lapsing in the middle of a conversation with Young Midoriya. No lapse was more than ten minutes long, and none so deep that his kids or Aizawa could not guide him to a place to sit and wait it out.
"I checked in with Recovery Girl," Toshinori continued, "She examined my spikes. They are fully hardened and no longer developing. It's very likely that they weren't the cause like we hoped. The lapses may-" he sighed and let his hand fall into his lap, "may just be something I manage from now on."
Naomasa was silent for a moment, then, "I'm sorry."
Toshinori's tail flicked, and he shook his head, "Don't be. Recovery Girl, Nedzu, and I are figuring out how best to work around it when I begin teaching again. I won't let it hold me back," he finished with a determined grin.
Huffing on the other side of the line, Naomasa chuckled, "I doubt anything could hold you back at this point, Toshinori."
Toshinori barked a laugh, and warm affection filled his chest.
"Oh!" he straightened as a thought occurred to him, "Isamu. How is he doing? Recovery Girl mentioned he is spending time with his parents."
Naomasa snorted, "He apparently caught a cold, and his mother insisted on caring for him until he is well. They are still under police and pro-hero protection."
"That's good," Toshinori smiled softly, tail swaying side to side behind him, "He deserves to be able to step away from all this. I'm sure he is very happy to be with family again."
A dull, burning ache flared in Toshinori's abdomen, and he grunted.
"Something wrong?" Naomasa asked, concern bleeding into his tone.
"Heartburn," Toshinori answered, reaching into his pant pocket. He carried a couple of Recovery Girl's antacids with him, but… His claw scraped against a small, crumpled ball. Glancing behind him and seeing no one, he pulled the ball of aluminum foil from his pocket and popped it into his mouth.
Last one … He swallowed and sighed as the burning eased. Embarrassment colored his ears pink. He would need to raid the kitchen cupboard again.
"How goes the investigation?" Toshinori asked, rubbing at his abdomen and lightly pressing on his acid sac.
"Much better now that Wright and I are on the same page," Naomasa said, relief palpable even over the phone. He paused, "Does the name Ayumi Shiire sound familiar?"
Toshinori's tail slashed and cracked against the ground. Hackles bristling at the sudden memory. He rubbed his arm where the tail quirk had been injected.
"Yes! That was her name," he said, swallowing the growl in his chest, "All for One mentioned her to Isamu. Something about getting supplies from her. I'd forgotten."
"Shiire handles and records supply distribution for the hospital," Naomasa said. The sound of paper shuffling and rapid pen scratching carried over the phone, "If Sato can corroborate that Shiire worked under All for One, we will have enough to subpoena the hospital supply records. And Shiire may know who else is working for All for One since she was distributing supplies to Sato at the very least. This could be the link we need to cut off All for One's network of subordinates in Rishi. From there, perhaps we might uncover more ."
A fierce grin lit up Toshinori's face, "If we can't hit him directly, do the most damage to his resources."
"Exactly," Naomasa replied just as fiercely.
Tail thumping on the ground, Toshinori almost didn't hear the front door open.
"All Might-" Izuku jolted upon spotting his phone, "Ah, sorry."
"One second, Tsukauchi" Toshinori said before covering the receiver, "Don't worry, my boy," he waved off Izuku's apology, "What do you need?"
"You were at the Mandalorian Riots," Izuku said quickly, cheeks coloring, "Um, everyone is wondering if you could tell us what it was like. The book only has one page on it."
Toshinori's eyes widened, "One page? Nonsense! I'll be right there, my boy."
Naomasa laughed over the phone, and Toshinori coughed, ears flicking bashfully and knocking his glasses askew again.
Grinning, he held up a finger, "If you could just give me one moment."
"Oh- yes! Of course!" Izuku gave a short bow, quickly ducking back into the dorms.
Toshinori smiled softly as the boy retreated, tail swaying contently.
"Looks like you're needed, Toshi," Naomasa teased.
Toshinori huffed a dramatic sigh, "A hero's job is never done."
Naomasa snorted, "Take care. I'll update you on the investigation when we learn anything new."
"You take care as well, Naomasa," Toshinori looked to the sky and hummed,"I hope the weather will clear up by Saturday."
Toshinori could hear the grin in Naomasa's voice, "Worst case scenario, we reschedule."
He nodded, glancing at his watch, "Alright, I'd better get back to my students. Thanks for the update!"
"No problem. Have a good night."
Hanging up, Toshinori pocketed his phone and stretched.
"One page on the Mandalorian Riots," Toshinori shook his head, "They're in for quite the story."
Clinging to the memory of Summer, Saturday morning was surprisingly mild for the Fall season. Puddles dotted the ground, and the skies were filled with feathery, gray clouds. A soft breeze rustled the remaining leaves in the trees and sent the landscaped patchwork of grass and shrubbery waving.
Toshinori pulled his long coat over his shoulders, glancing back to examine the newly tailored line that allowed his spikes to poke through the material. With a roll of his shoulders, the ridge of hair down his spine slipped through the slit - a fluffy line of blond that caught the breeze and swayed. He smiled softly, making a mental note to thank Naomasa again for pulling strings to get his coat from evidence. Its familiar shape and warmth was comforting.
Gym bag slung over his shoulder, he quietly stepped off the dorm steps and headed toward the faculty gymnasium.
"All Might! Good morning," Cementoss waved as Toshinori walked in, meeting him at the trackside bench, "How're you feeling?"
Grinning, Toshinori dropped his bag and shrugged off his coat, "Excited for today's course. Don't go easy on me!"
Cementoss bowed his head, "Shall we begin?"
"Just a moment," Toshinori pulled on his running gloves and crouched on all fours. Closing his eyes and taking a deep breath, he flexed his fingers, uncapped claws etching into the concrete. Exhaling slowly, he felt his tail sway side to side.
He looked up and nodded, shoulders tensing, "Ready."
"After you," Cementoss said, sitting cross-legged and resting his bare hands on the track.
Toshinori darted forward, hands and feet thudding against the track. Claws dug against the concrete of the outer track, and his tail slashed through the air.
The ground rumbled.
A wall of concrete rose in front of Toshinori. Skidding to a near-halt, he bunched his legs under himself, braced, and leapt - easily clearing the first obstacle.
His tail thumped against the track as he landed on the other side, sending a jolt up his spine. Not pain - energy! Racing ahead, Toshinori wove between the concrete poles that shot up from the ground, following the thin, winding path up and up -
The path ended with a sudden drop. Horizontal poles sprouted from two concrete walls on both sides.
He grinned, hackles bristling with excitement.
The path was still there.
"Now we're talking!"
Leaping forward, he grabbed the nearest pole. He swung up and over, squatting on his haunches as his tail curled around the pole.
"Alright…" he muttered, clawed toes shifting to find their grip. Shaking his hair from his eyes, he scanned the layout and nodded.
I can go much faster than this.
He crouched low, feeling strength build in his legs.
He leapt, climbed, pole to pole, trusting his arms and legs. The grips of his running gloves and the tough pads on his feet found purchase on each. He could see the path in the pattern, winding higher and higher.
Heat burned through him, and sweat poured down his back. Ignoring the twinge in his side, he raced forward, gripping the last handhold and swinging onto solid ground.
Toshinori chuckled, ducking as the wall to his left rumbled and shifted, shooting a bar of concrete where his head had been.
The pattern of the bars was simple. Left up. Right down. Toshinori ducked and weaved, finding the gaps, the or-
" Shit! "
A pillar shot up from the floor, and Toshinori sidestepped, grazing his shoulder on the right wall in his haste. He ducked and rolled, jumping up and through the gaps between each pillar.
The area suddenly opened up. He stood at the edge of the path as circular platforms dotted the track's inner landscape.
He looked down. A twenty, no, at least thirty foot drop greeted him.
Nothing to do but jump.
His thighs complained, and Toshinori scoffed at himself. Digging deep, he bent low and jumped from platform to platform.
Toshinori furrowed his brow. My legs…
He landed in a crouch, and leapt through the air with ease.
Even without One for- Ah! Damnit!
Misjudging the distance, he overshot the nearest platform. He reached out, claws catching and digging into the next pillar's side.
No no no!
He slid down, grit and dust raining from above. Splaying his toes, he dug his claws in, gained a foothold, and slowed his descent to a stop. His arms shook, tail flicking with irri-
Toshinori ducked his head and crouched as low as possible, while clinging to the pillar's rough surface. He swung his tail once, feeling its momentum pull him. Twice - He grinned.
Crouch and LEAP!
He pushed off the support beam and kicked off the previous platform's base, back and forth, pillar to pillar until he clawed his way to flat ground.
Back on track.
Toshinori landed on the last round platform, panting. Adrenaline rushed through his veins, and he laughed, "Okay."
The path stretched out before him, a winding decline, and Toshinori grinned.
Loping on all fours, he raced down the track, picking up speed with each bound.
His lung burned.
His heart drummed.
His muscles throbbed.
His claws ached.
He felt so alive.
Toshinori shook his head, focusing on the goal.
His ears twitched.
The ground shifted underfoot, pulling Toshinori's left leg back mid-stride. He ducked his head and pushed off with his right foot, curling into himself and rolling forward.
Pressing his palms flat, he shifted his weight and flipped onto his feet - legs spread and arms stretched forward - tail pinwheeling to maintain balance.
Panting, he looked up and back, spotting the white line marking the course's end.
A smile split his face, and he whirled, searching for Cementoss, "Excellent course, my friend! I should consult you more often!"
"Thank you!" Cementoss jogged toward Toshinori with a bashful smile, "Though I did have some help. Power Loader recommended a course that emphasized agility and jumping prowess. I do apologize for that last bit, both the platform course and the treadmill movement at the end."
"No no, I was distracted. It was my own fault I tripped up," Toshinori waved his peer's concern away, then hummed, looking at his legs, "I think I know what this quirk is for now."
Cementoss stiffened, pressing his fingertips together nervously, "Oh?"
Toshinori rolled his shoulders, stretching while his muscles were still warm, "Yes. I thought they - my legs were…"
To make me like an animal. Inhuman.
He shook his head.
"This quirk - It's just some kind of jump enhancer with heteromorphic traits. Power Loader must've guessed and let me figure it out on my own."
It's not… it's not meant for walking.
Toshinori sighed in relief.
I can handle this.
I can live with -
Green flashed in the corner of his eye, and Toshinori looked up, "Ah! Midoriya, my boy! Perfect timing."
Caught staring, Izuku jolted, but grinned wide as Toshinori jogged up to him. He was out of his uniform, wearing casual clothes - including one of his seemingly endless supply of All Might themed shirts.
Toshinori's lips twitched with amusement. One of the silver age based designs, if he remembered correctly.
"I see why Cementoss's obstacle courses are in high demand," Toshinori pulled off his running gloves, tail flicking back and forth happily, "I certainly enjoyed the challenge! What do you think?" he asked, pointing with his thumb over his shoulder where Cementoss was returning the outer track to its former shape.
"You were amazing!" Izuku exclaimed, hands moving to write invisible notes, "I was curious about whether you'd be more flexible while running. You're already really tall and with the added length of your legs and tail, it makes sense that your movements would shift towards agility. And your jumping! The strength you'd have to have in your calves and thighs is tremendous. Not to mention the use of your tail to adjust your momentum midair and -"
Toshinori burst out laughing, ears perked and tail swinging. The boy's excitement was contagious. Grinning, he clapped his hand on Izuku's back.
"Ever the fanboy," Toshinori joked, "I was talking about the course, but thank you."
He smiled wryly and gestured to Izuku's hands, "Got all that written down?"
Hands freezing mid-stroke, a blush rose from Izuku's neck to his ears, "Ah-"
Toshinori barked a loud laugh, ruffling the boy's hair, "Perhaps you could help with my training menu this time around."
He's certainly got the eye for it... Toshinori glanced at his tail, Adjusting momentum midair? Hadn't even noticed.
Swinging his tail and wrapping it around Izuku's waist, he lead the way to the trackside bench, "Excited to take some time off campus?"
A shy smile lit Izuku's reddened face, "Definitely. You?"
Toshinori gave him a small squeeze with his tail before allowing it to swing back behind him, "Definitely."
Bending, he picked up his bag and threw his coat over his shoulder. He pat the bag, "Give me a moment to get showered and changed. Officer Tamakawa will meet us outside the faculty gate."
Izuku smiled, nodding, "I'll be out here when you finish. I actually have a few questions for Cementoss."
Toshinori grinned, watching as Izuku darted across the gym and spoke animatedly with Cementoss. He shook his head with a chuckle and ducked into the locker room.
The tile floor was cool on his feet, and the welcome chill sent a shiver across his skin. Finding his locker, he set his bag down on the bench.
A flicker of movement in the corner of his eye caught his attention, and Toshinori looked up from the change of clothes in his bag.
His reflection looked back. His hair was more disheveled than usual, skin dripping with sweat, and the line of hair down his spine poked through his shirt slits in messy clumps. Dust from the track covered his hair and shoulders, and he felt the grit coating his hands and feet.
Straightening, Toshinori wandered over to the mirror, ears perking thoughtfully. Footsteps sure, claws clicking in their familiar pattern on the floor, he stopped in front of his reflection. He swept his hands across the sink counter. A slow smile worked its way onto his face, and his tail swayed side to side.
The scars around his wrists were barely visible.
Fourteen days, Toshinori realized. A week shy of the time spent in that damn room, and he was recovering by leaps and bounds - quite literally.
Confidence surged in his chest, and he grinned fiercely at his reflection.
"Still couldn't change me," Toshinori's hackles bristled excitedly.
Your loss, All for One.
Tail flicking in satisfaction, he returned to his locker and pulled out a clean towel, his soaps, and a long brush. He desperately needed to wash off.
Izuku leapt through the last concrete tunnel, One for All zipping across his skin, and landed across the finish line.
"Well done!" Cementoss smiled pleasantly, straightening up and allowing the moving parts of the short course to freeze in place.
Izuku grinned, wiping the light sheen of sweat from his brow, and bowed, "Thank you for making the course! The spinning tunnels are new."
"It is important to learn how to move on unsteady ground," Cementoss replied easily.
All Might padded up to him, smiling, "It is especially important during emergency and natural disaster rescues. You'll need to be able to keep your feet under you, after all."
"Yes," Izuku nodded enthusiastically, fingers itching to write the sound advice down.
Chuckling, All Might addressed Cementoss, "Thank you again for your time. It feels good to be moving again."
"Anytime," Cementoss happily bowed, "It's nice to see you in high spirits."
All Might's tail flicked, and he grinned, "Thank you."
"FOR A MESSAGE IS HERE!"
All Might's ears perked, and he reached into his coat pocket. He swiped at the screen.
"Ah. Damn," he muttered, glancing at his uncapped claws, "Forgot them…" Adjusting his grip, he tapped on his phone with his knuckle.
A wide grin split his face.
"Officer Tamakawa is at the faculty gate," All Might said, tail swinging excitedly. He playfully elbowed Izuku, "Ready to go?"
"Definitely!" Izuku quickly replied, "Ah, did you forget your bag?"
All Might waved off the question, "I left it in my locker. I'll grab it later," he pocketed his phone, "Have a good day, Cementoss."
"And you as well," he said, smiling softly and waving as All Might turned to the exit.
A gust of cool air brushed past them as they walked outside.
Izuku jogged to keep up with All Might's long strides, suppressing a laugh when his mentor's tail bumped against him as he fell a little behind.
They turned the corner around the gymnasium, and Izuku froze.
Izuku's heart pounded.
Aizawa's capture weapon extended. All Might struggled on the ground - unrecognized and reaching. That nurse… bleeding out on the lawn.
All Might continued across the field, tail swaying with each step.
Izuku sighed, patting his chest, and stared at his mentor's back.
He stood taller, more confident and relaxed since that day, but Izuku couldn't halt the oncoming memory.
Izuku wrapped All Might's arm around his shoulder, bearing his weight as he slumped heavily to the side.
"It's okay, All Might. Let me help you…"
All Might shuddered weakly - frail in Izuku's arms.
"Something the matter, my boy?" All Might elbowed Izuku's shoulder.
Izuku blinked, roughly shaking his head and clearing his thoughts. He hadn't noticed All Might's approach.
"Just…" he blinked away tears and smiled, "Just really glad you're okay."
All Might quirked a lopsided smile, glancing around the courtyard. He nodded and sighed.
"Me too, my boy." Then he playfully thumped Izuku's back with his tail, grinning wide when Izuku coughed in surprise, "Let's not keep Officer Tamakawa waiting."
All Might led the way, waving to the newly installed guard-bot as it opened the gate.
Officer Tamakawa looked up from beside his unmarked car and waved with a friendly chirrup.
Izuku waved back.
"Hello Officer!" He grinned, jogging up to the car, "Thank you for the ride."
"I'm glad to help!" Tamakawa said, the bell on his shirt collar jingling. He opened the backseat door and stepped back to let Izuku in.
Izuku climbed into the tall car, sliding across to give All Might room. When he didn't immediately follow, Izuku looked back.
All Might stood by the gate, glancing between his claws and the security keypad on the entry side.
"Sir?" Tamakawa called.
All Might's ears perked up, and he lowered his hand, smiling bashfully, "Coming!" He walked up to Sansa and jokingly grabbed his own tail, "Think there's enough room for me in there?"
Tamakawa smiled, "Detective Tsukauchi recommended a larger vehicle. Plenty of leg and tail room."
All Might barked a laugh, "He thinks of everything, doesn't he?"
Tamakawa grinned, a happy purr in his throat, "Yes, he does." He bowed his head briefly and rounded the car.
Izuku scooted across to the far seat as All Might ducked inside.
"Now how…?" the retired hero muttered, twisting and draping his tail across the seats. He stumbled on his own feet, half falling into the seat before righting himself with a laugh. Shutting the car door and buckling his seatbelt, he nodded to Tamakawa.
The car started with a low rumble and rolled away from the faculty gate.
As U.A. disappeared behind them, Izuku turned from his window and snuck a look across the backseat. All Might leaned against his window, a small smile on his face as he watched buildings and pedestrians pass by. His gaze stilled, then turned to Izuku.
The soft tufted end of All Might's tail flicked against Izuku's leg, a silent 'thank you.'
The light above the armored door buzzed loudly, and the lock opened with a clack-BOOM! that echoed down the wide hall.
"This way," the guard said, guiding them from the dead-man door.
So, this is Tartarus, William thought, glancing at the cameras and sensors that lined the halls. Despite being the "lower security wing" of the prison, there were zero blind spots. On top of the thorough security checks, he and Detective Tsukauchi waited five days for approval. Upon arrival, they turned in all digital devices and metal on their persons. They were scanned and made to sign forms disclosing their quirks and their functions. Due to Wright's own quirk being involuntary active, he was given five extra forms to sign and a warning that the sensors would track his every move.
It was, perhaps, the most sophisticated security system William ever experienced.
And yet… it still could not contain All for One.
The sensors swiveled, following William as he continued down the hall beside Detective Tsukauchi.
The guard stopped beside a large door. Leaning forward, she looked into an eye scanner. It chimed, and a panel slid forward. Placing her hand on the screen, the guard typed in her security clearance code. The door raised with a hydraulic hissss .
"You have an hour," the guard said. She flipped up a plexiglass box on the wall. Behind it was a bright red button, "If you feel you are in danger and need immediate help, press this panic button."
Detective Tsukauchi nodded, "Thank you ma'am."
The guard saluted briefly, stepping outside, and the door dropped with a bang.
Sighing, Detective Tsukauchi gestured down the long hall, "This is all of them. The Noumu from USJ, Hosu, the League of Villain's hideout, and those found in the Kamino Ward warehouse."
William moved farther into the hall, a morbid curiosity driving him.
This is for both our investigations, William reasoned, ignoring the sting of incomplete truth behind his eyes. I need to see what All for One can do. What he's made.
Reinforced glass walls lined both sides of the hall. William approached the first, brows raising at the thing behind it.
The Noumu was massive and muscled with a beak-like mouth. Its dark blue skin was littered with scars. Blank eyes stared beyond William.
It… Nausea churned in his gut, and he squinted, placing a hand over his mouth, It doesn't have an aura.
Holding his breath he looked around the hall to each noumu, each creature.
William swayed on his feet, panting.
Nothing. Every single one of them. Nothing.
"Wright?" Tsukauchi's voice was concerned, "Wright, what's wrong?"
That's what they are. Nurse Sato's words echoed in his mind. Dead... Dead dead dead…
A strong grip on his arm steadied him - grounded him.
William turned, meeting Tsukauchi's worried gaze with a weak frown. He cleared his throat roughly, and ran a hand through his hair.
"Nothing I can't handle."
He moved away and shoved his hands into his pocket. His frown deepened when he remembered handing over his prescription medication at the front desk. Clicking his teeth, William swallowed down his nausea and squinted at the first creature.
"So these are the Noumu," he nodded to each cell lining the walls, "The photos didn't do them justice."
The detective eyed him warily but hummed in agreement, "Yes, and despite all attempts to reach out to them, they remain unresponsive. Unfortunately, we have very little information on their mental states."
Tsukauchi blinked, looking up quickly, "Ah, there is one missing. Back in Hosu, the Hero Killer, Stain, attacked and killed one Noumu." His lips twisted, "I don't have the full details of the autopsy, but apparently that noumu… It - no, he was a child. He couldn't have been older than fifteen or sixteen." His expression darkened, "All for One and whoever helped him… they don't discriminate."
William grunted, "They certainly are a varied bunch.
"Well," Walking down the hall, he glanced at each noumu and crossed his arms, "Our goal is to cripple All for One's support systems, so we'll need to stop…" He jerked his thumb over his shoulder, "This."
Tsukauchi nodded, "Any ideas?"
"The first step is - assuming All for One is out of reach..." Wright thought back to Sato's interview.
"Finding that quote unquote Good Doctor. "
The car rolled to a stop in the parking lot overlooking Dagobah Municipal Beach Park. Sunlight burned through the early morning clouds and glinted off the dark ocean water.
"We're here," Officer Tamakawa chirruped, cutting the engine and pulling out the keys. "I'll be here. If you need anything, give me a shout."
Toshinori nodded, glancing out the windows. Tamakawa would have a clear view of the enter length of the beach and the surrounding area from the car.
Grinning, Toshinori turned back to Tamakawa and bowed his head, "Thank you for your time and hard work."
The fur around Tamakawa's neck fluffed, "No, please! I'm glad to."
"Still," Toshinori huffed a laugh, "Thank you."
Pushing open the door, Toshinori stepped out from the car. A wave of excitement surged from his core to his fingertips and toes.
His tail swung rapidly.
"Thank you," he heard Izuku say behind him before closing the door with a dull thud . The boy stopped beside Toshinori, smiling up at him, "It's nice to be back here."
Toshinori nodded, turning in place to look across the far horizon. A cool ocean breeze brushed past him, ruffling his and Izuku's hair. It smelt of salt and sand and -
His ears perked. Even from the parking lot on the hill he could hear the hush and lapping of the calm waves on the shore. The sun burned bright, pleasantly warming his skin and spikes.
Glancing to his side, he caught Izuku staring and smiling almost bittersweetly.
Quirking a lopsided grin, Toshinori chuckled, "What?"
Izuku shook his head, smile growing only wider, "You look happy."
Toshinori blinked and laughed, ruffling his boy's hair.
An idea struck him, and he playfully shoved Izuku away.
"Race you to the shore!"
Toshinori crouched and left Izuku in his dust, grinning when he heard him splutter.
Barking laughter echoed in the air as Toshinori bound down the stairs. His hands and feet hit the sand at the bottom, and he stood and turned. Izuku was not far behind him, racing down the steps as fast as he could without tapping into One for All.
"Quickly, my boy!" Toshinori called out, jogging backward. He twisted, rounding the corner and -
"Oh! Sorry sir!"
A young couple smiled bashfully up at Toshinori.
"Excuse us," the first woman giggled, steering her girlfriend around Toshinori and up to the steps.
"Have fun with your son!" Called the second as they passed. Hand in hand, they bantered and jogged up the steps.
Toshinori stared after them, adrenaline still coursing through him as he released a shaky breath.
Izuku jogged up to Toshinori's side, looking between him and the young couple.
"Did… Did they recognize you?" he asked quietly, concern shining in his green eyes and color leaving his cheeks.
Toshinori's tail flicked thoughtfully, and he shook his head, watching as the women disappeared over the top of the stairwell.
It's like before…
Those years spent safely invisible when no one knew his crippled true form.
Izuku hummed, fidgeting briefly before asking, "Are you okay?"
Toshinori nodded slowly, "Y…yes."
Toshinori jolted, twisting, and spotted Izuku racing on ahead.
The boy laughed and called back, "Thanks for the headstart!"
Crouching low, Toshinori dug his claws into the sand and grinned at Izuku's back.
Oh no you don't!
He surged forward, tail slashing through the air, and laughed as he caught up, "I'm not even breaking a sweat, my boy. Can you match my pace?"
Izuku bent forward, pumping his arms and legs, "I'll surpass it!"
Light flashed across his skin, and Toshinori's successor shot ahead, grinning. His laugh echoed across the beach.
Toshinori smiled at Izuku's back, One day, kid. One day you will...
Izuku's footsteps splashed along the shore. He turned, throwing his fists in the air and letting out a happy whoop.
Toshinori slowed and stood, brushing his sandy hands off on his thighs. Cold ocean waves lapped gently at his feet as he walked up to Izuku. He chuckled as he bent and slipped off his loose sandals, curling his toes and digging his claws into the sand.
"Looks like folks are keeping the beach clean," Toshinori said, looking over the pristine sands, "Your actions certainly had a long lasting impact, my boy."
Brows raising, Izuku scanned the beach, realization slowly bleeding into his expression.
"That's all you," Toshinori continued, playfully elbowing him and grinning at the trace of tears in the boy's eyes.
So easily moved, he chuckled.
Toshinori walked past Izuku, nudging him to follow with his tail.
Wind blew in from the ocean, rustling Toshinori's coat and chilling the bare skin of his tail. Sand softly shifted underfoot as cold water lapped at his toes. The beach stretched on and on, cutting off the horizon. Toshinori slowed, looking across the ocean.
It's so open…
Closing his eyes, Toshinori took a deep breath and tilted his face toward the sun. The back of his eyes twinged painfully as sunlight bled through his eyelids, but standing there… Facing the sea… Breathing in the salty air -
I can do this.
Izuku hopped, pulling off his shoes and stuffing his socks in them. He tied the laces together and draped them across his neck.
He wiggled his toes in the sand and looked back - up at the parking lot.
Toshinori followed his gaze, smiling softly at the memory of his boy standing atop a massive pile of debris, yelling at the top of his lungs. Gaze falling to the stretch of sand below, his smile grew. The place he passed on One for All…
His tail wagged slowly as fondness bloomed in his chest.
A familiar place, indeed . He shook his head.
An important place.
"Anything in particular you want to do, my boy?" Toshinori asked, nudging Izuku with his tail.
Izuku's eyes lit up, "What do you like to do for fun, All Might?"
Toshinori choked, lifting up his hands - palms out, "Now, now. That's not what I asked."
Izuku pouted playfully, "There has to be something."
Ears flicking in embarrassment, Toshinori cleared his throat, "Running?" He forced a small, awkward laugh, "I'm afraid I don't have much in the way of hobbies. Never had much time or energy left for them."
Realization flashed across Izuku's face, and Toshinori glanced away with a cough.
A slow smile worked its way onto his face.
"Huh. What's that over there?" Toshinori pointed across the beach and dipped the tufted end of his tail in the water. The moment Izuku looked away, Toshinori swung his tail up and around, splashing the boy's face with the sopping wet tuft.
Sputtering and stumbling away, Izuku shot Toshinori a shocked look.
Toshinori laughed, bending and clutching his abdomen. Water splashed back up at him, and he stumbled toward drier sand, collapsing onto his rear. His booming, rasping laugh devolved into a small coughing fit, but his smile didn't fade.
"No fair!" Izuku laughed, shaking water out of his hair.
Toshinori grabbed the tuft of his tail, squeezing out the excess water before letting it thump against the sand.
"That was fun," he said cheekily as Izuku wiped salt water off his face and stuck his tongue out, scrunching his nose.
Toshinori rested his arms on his knees, attention drifting.
"Did that pier pavilion get renovated?" he asked, ears perked. He could have sworn it was smaller before, perhaps painted a darker color.
"Hm?" Izuku glanced over, squinting through his still wet bangs, "Maybe? Want to check it out?"
"Lead the way, my boy," Toshinori pushed himself to stand, grinning at the curious glint in Izuku's eyes.
Izuku whooped, bounding toward the pier, "Follow me!"
Toshinori huffed a laugh at the boy's contagious enthusiasm and stepped-
-farther down the pier.
Toshinori blinked and pressed his hand to his forehead, suddenly disoriented.
Wooden planks creaked underfoot. The ocean breeze blew stronger over the waves. Izuku stood at the end of the pier, leaning over the metal railing, and stared down into the water.
Toshinori glanced back.
The shore lay over a dozen meters behind him.
Sighing, he brushed his hand over his hair.
Just another lapse.
A small smile pulled at his lips. Nothing bad happened. He hadn't wandered off.
He ran his fingers over his watch and relaxed, "It's manageable."
"All Might!" Izuku looked over his shoulder and waved, "There's a huge fish!"
"Really now?" Ears perking and tail giving a curious flick, Toshinori jogged toward the end of the pier, "Let's see it then!"
Hatoko sniffled, rubbing at his nose and peeking over the roof ledge at the small U.A. gate. The street was empty, the gate closed. Nothing changed since the last time he looked.
Huffing, he hunched back down in his perch and kicked at his breakfast trash. His stomach growled, and he pulled his wings tighter around himself.
Ramen sounds really good right now.
His eyelids drooped, and closed…
The sound of the gate opening startled Hatoko awake. Wings fluttering, he twisted and looked toward the school.
Two figures were leaving the school grounds, approaching a large, parked car.
There's the one Atsu-nii said to watch for! Hatoko realized, fumbling for his phone. Quickly he snapped a few pictures. Zooming in, he got a better look at their faces.
"Huh? But he's…" Hatoko stared at the green haired kid.
He looked so happy .
Unease churned in Hatoko's empty stomach.
"Why does Atsu-nii want these anyway?" he thought aloud, lowering the phone. He watched the tall man with the tail talk with the cat-faced man before he ducked into the vehicle.
All three of them looked happy and good , like Kohana and her hugs.
Not like Atsu-nii's friends. He shivered at the memory.
Hatoko watched the car drive away. When it disappeared, Hatoko sat back down on the roof. He flicked through the images on his phone, loneliness burrowing deeper in his small chest.
A cold wind rush across the roof, and Hatoko miserably curled his wings around and over his head. His makeshift shelter blocked out the wind and was fairly dark except for the light from the phone screen.
Need to send the pictures like he said, Hatoko thought with a sniff, typing out a quick message with the pictures attached. When he moved to send the text, his thumb stopped over the button.
Atsu-nii's friends were with one of the monsters from Hosu. The monsters were villains… and Atsu-nii's friends were scary.
They looked like bad people .
A wobbly frown tugged at Hatoko's lips, and his hands shook with fright.
Atsu-nii said they were his friends… Hatoko glanced at the happy faces in the pictures, What if he's…
"Atsu-nii's not a bad guy…" Hatoko said, closing his eyes and shaking his head. He curled deeper in his coat, the coat Atsu-nii gave him to keep him warm. Atsu-nii never hurt Hatoko. Not like the people he ran away from. Not like them.
"He's a good person…"
Biting his lip, he hit 'Send.'
Pant legs rolled up, Toshinori wiggled his toes in the cold water. A group of small silver fish nipped at his claws and toe pads. Quirking a small smile, he slid his tail off the pier and dragged the tip of his tuft across the water. One particularly feisty fish swam after the tuft, mouthing at the hair before darting down and disappearing under the pier.
Looking over his shoulder, Toshinori spotted Izuku doing much the same on the opposite side of the pier. He grinned, swinging his tail around and bumping the boy's side.
"What's on your mind?" he asked.
Izuku shuffled around, scooching across the pier and settling beside Toshinori. He raised his arms, smiling as Toshinori's tail wrapped around his waist, and rested them on the side railing.
"Thinking about how much water along this beach would be turned to vinegar by that kid you saved years ago," Izuku said casually.
Toshinori's brows rose, and he barked a laugh, wheezing into his palm, "Of all things! You really are something, my boy!"
Cheeks red, Izuku stuttered and gestured at the vast stretch of ocean, "I was just curious about the volume limits and whether it would affect salt water and-"
"It's alright," Toshinori teased, elbowing him, "I forgot about that. Seems like a lifetime ago…"
Izuku smiled, staring down into the water.
Huffing a soft laugh, Toshinori leaned and bumped his shoulder against his boy's, "Thank you." Blinking bewildered, Izuku stared up at Toshinori, and he chuckled and flicked the water with a clawed toe, "This was a good idea."
Izuku bowed his head, smiling, "I'm glad you-"
Toshinori's ears twitched.
Was that- ?
"Did you hear that too?" Izuku asked, tensing and scrambling to his feet.
It was a pained shout.
"Tamakawa!" Toshinori realized, quickly getting to his feet.
He ran ahead, Izuku close behind, pads thumping against the wood of the pier. Halfway to shore, he jerked to a stop, grabbing Izuku with his tail and pulling him roughly behind him.
Ahead on the beach, black mist swirled and spread outward, tendrils reaching and snapping in the air.
A pale figure stepped from the living shadow, closely followed by a hulking-
Pain lanced through Toshinori's skull and his breath quickened at the sight of it.
Kurogiri materialized, his undulating warp gate collapsing back onto himself, and took his place beside Shigaraki.
Nana's- Toshinori's chest burned, and his throat clenched with guilt. He shook his head, pushing Izuku further behind him.
A villain, he reminded himself.
"All Might?" Izuku's voice was steady, waiting for direction.
"Stay behind me," he said, hackles bristling.
I will not die.
"It will be alright."
"I know," Izuku answered.
Thank you for reading! The story continues in the sequel: Collapse
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