Chapter Fifty-Seven: The Coming Cold
The camera footage started with a few muffled sounds before Ochako floated around and into frame. She was maneuvering herself in the air and put both hands on the side of the screen, brow furrowed in concentration.
"Okay, I think I've got it…yup, it's recording!"
Ochako shifted in the air, twisting, and her hand found the bed behind her. She pulled herself to it and hovered as if she were lying on her belly, despite there being several inches of air between her and the mattress.
"So this is entry three in my video journal. It's…" Ochako pulled her phone from her pocket and checked it. "Six in the evening on December the twenty-second! Figured I'd knock this out before I go down for dinner. Katsuki's cooking again! He makes such ridiculously delicious food, it should be illegal."
Her phone returned to her pocket and she crossed her arms. "It was a little chilly out today. Not too bad yet, but it's definitely getting colder. Winter's already here! It's crazy how fast time has been flying by. Where'd the year go?"
She hummed to herself. "Well, I say that, but at the same time it feels like it's taken forever to get to the end of this year. So much has happened. I just got back from Olympus with Deku and Himiko. That was…it was good. Rough, but good. At least I can mostly feel my legs again, but my stamina's taken a hit. I never thought I'd miss running, but I can't wait to go jogging with Nejire!
"It's a good thing my Quirk Awakened. I'd be stuck a lot more without it! I'm still figuring out how to use it right, but it's been awesome so far. When my legs go back to normal, I'm gonna whoop everyone in the practice spars! The next villain won't know what hit 'em!"
Ochako grinned and rolled in the air onto her back. "I've got some catching up to do, though. Everyone's been working so hard while we were at Olympus. Apparently, Momo's been doing a ton of training with Katsuki on the side. Mina said she's working on some insane new moves and stuff. It sounds awesome.
"They've been acting kind of weird, though. Katsuki and Momo, I mean. Mina thinks they're dating, but I'm not sure. They're closer than I remember, but something just…isn't right? Not like they don't get along—they get along great—but Katsuki's been a little off. Momo's with him all the time these days. I think she spends more time with him than Deku does."
A frown twisted her features. "That might not be fair, actually. Deku's got a lot going on…He told me his body isn't damaged so badly after all the times Himiko used Overhaul on him, but his Quirk is still a risk if he takes things too far. There was this news report saying he went way too far during the Eight Precepts Raid, but All Might and Sir Nighteye stamped on it pretty fast. It's not an issue anymore, but I wonder if it's still bothering Deku.
"He's been…all over the place recently. I haven't seen him much. He was supposed to be recovering at Olympus, but it feels like he was still bouncing between me, Eri, and Himiko trying to help us instead. I appreciate him a ton, but I wish he'd take better care of himself. It makes me worry. Now that we're all back in Japan, he's let up some. We're all doing a bit better. But I don't know…I feel like he's still pushing himself too hard. If he's not studying or training, he's meeting with Himiko.
"She's got so many problems. I didn't really know what to think when he told me about her a while back, but she has so many nightmares and there were times during therapy when she'd freeze up and freak out. Compared to that, I feel like I've got it easy…sort of. Maybe not? My nightmares suck, but it's different watching someone else scream the way she does, you know? Maybe that's it."
Ochako clasped her hands together over her belly, head tilting back to look at the ceiling. "But despite all that, Himiko's really not that bad. Maybe I'm biased because she saved me and Deku—like, literally brought me back to life? That was scary to hear about—but she's…I think she's got a good heart.
"She's still got a ton of stuff to work through, but after all I've heard about the life she's had, I can't imagine anyone being completely okay. I mean, her dad was murdered in front of her and then she got kidnapped, and we're not even really sure what all happened to her after that. Traumatic doesn't even begin to cover everything she's been through.
"But she's trying really hard. They figured out some way to help treat her blood addiction without her hurting Deku, so that's a plus. She even seemed like she was getting a little happier while we were at Olympus. She and I have been texting each other almost every day, but I think her phone broke recently. Deku said something happened with the League. He didn't say what exactly, but I think it's connected to that crazy incident in Deika City a few days ago. I hope she's ok."
With a groan, she lifted her hands to her forehead. "Ugh. I say Deku's too focused on other people and doesn't care enough about himself, but here I am doing the same thing. I didn't even start talking about myself, did I? Yikes…"
She took a deep breath and flipped again back to her belly, still hovering, and looked at the floor. "I've been…good, I guess. My nightmares are still a problem, but they're not happening so much anymore? I think the medicine's helping. I don't feel quite so down. PTSD sucks, but I think I'm managing it alright so far. My physical therapy is going good. I can wiggle all my toes again!
"Tsuyu's been so helpful. I heard she was really upset when they found me at the end of the raid…She's been stuck to me like glue almost every day, but she's also not overbearing? She bought strawberry mochi the other day and shared it with me. I'm like, ninety percent sure she got it just for me because she doesn't like eating cold things most of the time. It makes her want to hibernate. She gets all sleepy and it's so cute.
"Everyone's been such a big help to us, if I'm being honest. Tsuyu just stands out more? I think she had a talk with Deku at some point, too. He was taking too much onto his shoulders—again—and got pulled aside by Tsu, Tenya, Momo, and Katsuki. I think Mr. Aizawa and All Might said something, too. I don't know what they said, but some of it got through because he's been taking it easier lately. Ah—I'm talking about other people again. Ugh, it's always hard to focus on talking about myself and that's the whole reason the psychiatrists told me to start doing these video journals!"
She screwed up her face in concentration and slowly lifted one of her legs, stretching it and pointing her toes out. "My legs are a lot better. They think it'll be about a month before they're back to normal, then I just have to get my muscle back. My nightmares are…well, I don't really remember most of them. I'm happy about that. There'll be times when I wake up in the night and it feels like I've run a marathon, like I'm sweating and I can't breathe quite right. My body feels all confused for a bit when that happens.
"Not much else has changed since I did my last video journal, actually. I'm getting more feeling back, my nightmares are manageable…I already said the medicine's helping me stay positive, right? I think so. Tsu, Deku, and everyone else help a lot, too. I can't wait to get back to hero training. I think more than anything, I'm just restless. They said that would probably happen since I'm used to being active so much."
Ochako fell silent for a moment, then nodded to herself. "I think that's everything for today. I'm gonna end this entry here. I bet Katsuki's almost done cooking and I'm starving! Okay, I'll do another entry in a week! Bye!"
Katsuki chopped through vegetables for the stew in silence, save for the steady, dull thunks of the knife. The earbuds he wore kept everyone milling around from bothering him, which was exactly what he wanted at the moment.
Not that he actually had any music playing. He hadn't bothered with that for a while.
He was exhausted in so many ways, for so many reasons. Really, he'd never felt so tired before in all his life. At least the final exams were behind him. He was even done with his internship for the foreseeable future. The cold made his Quirk less effective since he didn't sweat as easily, so he had to work harder. Ugh.
He briefly glanced to the living room to see how his friend was doing. Deku was still on the couch with some of the others, phone slowly turning in his hand while they watched TV. No surprises there—he was waiting on a message from Himiko.
The Deika City Incident had them all on-edge. They knew the League was involved, had even learned that Himiko was alive, but nothing else had come through from that Kurogiri guy. The foggy bastard had sent them a message on some burner phone and bailed.
It was annoying how invested he was in the situation. Once upon a time, he could've gone without hearing from little-miss vampire ever again, but nothing would make him happier right now than Himiko hurrying the fuck up to contact them.
Ok, there were definitely things that would make him happier than that, but he digressed.
Someone stepped beside him and waved to get his attention. Katsuki glanced to the side and, unsurprisingly, found Momo standing there. He tapped one of his earbuds.
"Anything I can do to help?"
Katsuki considered the question before he shrugged. "Not really. I just have to throw the vegetables into the pot. I guess you can ask who wants drinks if you want to."
"Do you think they'd like tea?"
He snorted. "They'll like anything you make 'em."
"Hmm," she seemed to consider that for a moment. Then she looked at him more fully. "How are they working?"
"They're working," he replied automatically. Katsuki mentally tapped himself for that and sighed. "I mean that—they're good. Really. They help."
She smiled. "Good."
He rolled his eyes. "Go make your tea or whatever."
"Yes, yes," she waved off his snappiness and hip-checked him on her way out. Katsuki looked after her and shook his head fondly, returning to chopping vegetables. He reached up to his ear—
"How do you do it?"
The unwelcome voice made him scowl. Denki had popped next to Katsuki in Momo's place. It seemed he'd loaned out his singular brain cell for the day to someplace other than his self-preservation instincts.
Katsuki wasn't stupid. He knew exactly what this question was about. Slowly, so the dumbass could see, he reached up to his earbuds and tapped the button. Silence.
Well, mostly silence. He turned and could still hear the boy's muffled complaints, but it was easy to ignore him as Katsuki returned to his task. Before long, there was nothing but the dull background noise again.
He put the vegetables into the stew and closed his eyes. Breathed in deep through his nose. Gods, he was tired. There was a bone-deep weariness in his body and his thoughts were a little foggy from lack of sleep. He just…
Someone tapped his shoulder lightly and Katsuki jerked out of his haze. He looked back. Momo again.
He touched the earbud as she opened her mouth. "Why don't you sit down? If all it has to do is cook, you can take a moment to rest."
Katsuki glanced around at the others. Almost their whole class was milling around in the main room, chattering about something or another. He…did not think he could settle with them present. They were a bit too much for him to get any sort of relaxation.
Momo turned before he could reply and called to Rikido. Before he knew what was happening, the taller boy was taking over finishing the stew (there was nothing left to do but wait, he wanted to argue) and Momo was tugging him to the elevator.
"You didn't have to do that," Katsuki grumbled.
"You're dead on your feet," she pointed out. "Did you sleep at all?"
He didn't bother lying, it was probably obvious given how shitty he knew he looked. She didn't seem surprised. It hadn't taken long for her to figure out his habits—and his nonsense—once they started hanging out more often. Between their training, studies, and the fact that he genuinely enjoyed her company, that happened…a lot more than he'd initially expected.
He blinked as the elevator doors opened and she was tugging him to her room.
Katsuki was offered a book as Momo picked a spot on her absurdly massive bed and gestured for him to sit wherever he wanted. He was unsurprised to find it was a book he actually found interesting. She had a lot of those lying around.
"We'll miss dinner."
"I have an alarm set," she told him. "Just take a minute to rest. You're driving yourself too hard."
"You're one to talk."
"I'm also getting actual sleep every night," she countered. "We've talked about this."
She had him there. And if he was being honest, he was too tired to argue the point any further. Katsuki crawled into that absurdly plush bed, made his way to the opposite side of Momo, and laid on his back to read. The lamps on either side of the bed were the only light, leaving the room comfortably dim.
"You can take them out. I'll let you know when we should go downstairs."
He debated that for a moment before agreeing. They were starting to make his ears hurt, if he was being honest. He pulled them free, set them on the little desk beside him, and opened the book.
Katsuki might've made it through a page and a half before his eyes slid shut and he passed out.
Momo shook her head at the sight of him, sighing. She reached over, gently plucked the book from his limp hands, and set it to the side. She didn't bother turning off the lamp—he was out. He wouldn't wake up without some encouragement.
She worried for him. He wasn't sleeping. Not often enough, at the very least. He didn't see or didn't care about the bags under his eyes, didn't see how sluggish he was when they sparred. He said it was the cold messing with his Quirk, but she knew better. His reflexes were slower.
They'd sparred yesterday and she'd beaten him four times out of five. That had been the final straw. Momo was good, but she was still experimenting with her new moves and there was no way Katsuki should've fallen prey to them so easily. She'd even talked to him about how they were executed so she could get his input. He knew how they worked and he was not the sort of person who would let himself get hit just to make her feel good.
An average villain could probably take him on right now unless he got a lucky shot off. At least he'd been sensible enough to decline a Winter Internship. At least for now.
He'd told her Izuku was doing better, but Katsuki wasn't taking proper care of himself. He was shouldering too much in Izuku's place, which was not a solution no matter how he tried to convince her otherwise.
That wasn't even including the most recent challenge he faced.
She made a mental note to bring him to her room more often. Even if he didn't sleep all the time, he'd at least get some time away from the chaos of their daily lives to de-stress and settle down.
Momo grabbed her phone, pushed the timer an hour back and sent a message to Tsuyu. She'd handle things while Momo was keeping an eye on her friend.
She settled down into her favorite reading spot on the bed, glanced at Katsuki one more time, and returned to her book.
Dabi lay back with his arms crossed behind his head as he stared at the ceiling of the cheap motel room. It wasn't anything special, but it was out of the way and nobody in the area asked questions, so it served its purpose.
These meetings wouldn't be possible in most other places. Security and all that. His features kind of stood out, and he couldn't exactly invite his…companion to Deika City even if it did belong to them.
"You're gonna be on the low for a while, right?"
His eyes trailed away from the ceiling to the opening bathroom door, where a young woman with striking, copper-green hair was stepping out in an oversized t-shirt and underwear. She looked cozy and snug, even as she dabbed a towel at her face to wipe off any remaining moisture from her shower.
He snorted. "You could just set your hair on fire, y'know. Would get rid of the water faster."
"Boiling water does not look good on me," she retorted, half-glaring at him. "You didn't answer my question."
Dabi huffed. "Yeah, I'm gonna lay low. Everyone's beat. Some worse than others. Even with all the new folks around, I've got better things to do."
"So I've noticed," she grinned teasingly, eyebrows waggling up and down.
"Oh, you're complaining? I'll just drop you and pick up some other guy, then."
"I don't think you will."
She smirked. "No, I don't think I will, either."
He sighed and looked back at the ceiling as she walked over and sat on the edge of the bed, grabbing a brush from her bag. "You probably should, though."
"And I'm seriously telling you to cut that shit out," she snapped. "I've stuck with you for years and I'm not gonna quit now."
"No," she smacked his bare chest with her the flat of her brush and got up in his face, scowling down at him. "I don't know how many more times I've gotta drill into your dumbass brain that I'm staying. I have not been helping you hide from your dad for ten years on a whim or because I'm scared of your little villain compadres. You're stuck with me and you can't do a damn thing about it."
He opened his mouth to snap another insult out, only for her to lean down and shut him up in a much less conventional way. Dabi only let out a half-groan of heatless annoyance. They parted and he muttered against her mouth. "I don't have anything to give you."
"You're enough," she murmured back. "You've always been enough, Touya."
"I hate that name."
"Well, I'm not calling you by your little emo villain name."
He barked out a laugh and she grinned at him. Moe threw her brush on the floor by her bag and dropped onto his chest, crossing her arms under her chin to watch his face.
"So, what trouble have you gotten yourself into? This…Deika City thing sounded crazy. All I heard was that the League was involved in the attack."
"Ugh. We didn't even want to go," he grumbled. "One of our allies got himself caught and was being tortured by this…underground army, or something."
"Meta Liberation Army. They followed some big-shot a while back…Destro, I think it was?"
Moe's eyebrows rose. "Destro? That's not just some big-shot, that's a huge name. He was the son of the Mother of Quirks."
"That guy? Really? Isn't he dead?"
"Yeah, but his movement fell apart when he killed himself."
Dabi snorted. "Apparently not. His son's running the show now. Well, he was."
"Destro didn't have a son."
"You tell that to his son."
Moe frowned deeply. "Is he dead?"
"No. Tomura beat his ass and he surrendered the whole Meta Liberation Army to the League."
"Tell me you're joking."
"Unfortunately, I'm not. Deika City belongs to the League now. Every single citizen is a part of that Army. They didn't fight back, they challenged us and declared war. I guess they didn't like all the attention we were getting. I'm not sure if the High-End Noumu was what caused it, in the end."
"…Why'd you go so far with that?"
"What about him?"
"He's trying to use me to spy on the League," Dabi said bluntly. "So I'm playing his game. I know there's no way he's actually interested in helping us. We were going to arrange a mid-level Noumu attack at a factory on the coast, but then I found out he'd chosen to bring Endeavor to the scene. I saw a chance and I took it.
"In hindsight, I fucked up. Just strengthened his position. He's still not a public star like All Might, but I didn't think the bastard had it in him to take that much punishment. Then Mirko got in the way and…"
He sighed and looked away. "I got careless."
She flicked his forehead. "Dumbass. You caused me like, three separate migraines. There was so much damage to clean up."
Moe was quiet for a moment before she leaned her cheek on his shoulder. "What are you doing, Touya? This is…risky. Every big move you've made recently isn't going to help us. All the dirt we've been collecting on your dad won't be enough if the public thinks you deserve…everything that's happened."
"It was never supposed to be like this," he admitted quietly. "I…don't regret some of what's happened, but everything's gotten so out of control. For a while, it was manageable, or I was just getting dragged along. Then I jumped the gun trying to put my dad out of commission, and now Tomura's got a whole fucking army. And Hawks…"
"He'll kill you, Touya. He's not just the number two, he's the go-to for black-ops missions ordered by the Hero Commission. He assassinates villains for a living. If he finds out who you really are, what you plan to do to the current number one—"
"Are you hacking the Commission now?"
"Focus," she snapped her fingers in his face. "I would like for you to not just…vanish into thin air. That's what he does. It's what Nagant did before she was incarcerated. That cheerful face is just a front."
"…I don't think he's after me."
"It doesn't matter who, he'll—"
"He's asked me questions about the kid."
That made her falter. "The kid? Who…you mean Deku?"
"He's a child."
"And Hawks is black-ops. You said it yourself. The kid's been making waves all over. The Commission knows he's dangerous. It doesn't matter how old he is. Isn't he exactly the type of person those higher-ups would want out of the picture?"
She fell silent. "I can look into it."
"Don't," he warned. "I can't believe you hacked the Commission, but let's not chance you getting caught. They won't like all the dirt you've been digging up. They'll definitely kill you. I'll keep an eye on him. Himiko's gonna catch up with him in a few days. I'll pass on a warning."
"…Touya, have…have you thought about leaving?"
"Sure I have, but can I? This new army Tomura's got…it's a tight secret. I doubt they'd let me leave, knowing what I know."
"So what's your plan? You can't do this forever."
"There's no plan. I just…I feel trapped."
She reached up to cup his cheek and turn his face to her. Before she could even say anything, he pressed his forehead to hers and closed his eyes. "I don't know how to get out."
Her fingers ran through his hair. "Give me some time. I'll think of something. Just…stay out of trouble as much as you can, okay? And don't—absolutely do not—trust Hawks."
He was wholly aware of her weight against him. So too, apparently, was she. Moe suddenly frowned and let her eyes trail down, running a finger along his sternum between the burn scars. "You've gotten skinnier. I thought something felt off."
"You will be. I'm gonna make you eat."
"I could refuse."
"You can't cook."
"You burn food."
Dabi huffed. "So you're going to convince me to cook for myself?"
"I'm going to convince you to cook for us," she corrected. Her expression became serious a few moments later, traced with anxiety. "You need to take better care of yourself. Your health is already—"
"—I know," he sighed, reaching up with a hand to brush her cheek. Moe leaned into his touch and grasped his hand with her own, squeezing tight. They were silent for a while.
Moe eventually turned her head to kiss his palm. "Promise to try. If not for yourself, then for me."
His thumb stroked the skin of her cheek. Soft. Warm. Alive.
"Ok," he murmured. The corner of her mouth twitched up into a slight smile and she leaned forward to kiss him. He breathed against her lips. "Ok."
Toshinori stepped out of the Police Department and made his way to his car. Tsukauchi had been catching him up on what little they knew about the events in Deika City.
Although the League had been involved, it seemed they'd been annihilated.
Doubtful, he snorted. Oh, Hisashi hadn't been present, sure, but Kurogiri had given their survival away after sending a message to them. Whatever had happened, Tomura was probably still alive. He wasn't sure about the others, but Toshinori suspected Himiko was also alive—he doubted the villains would bother reaching out if their closest connection to Izuku had perished.
The fact that the League hadn't left any sort of trail after all the damage they caused made him suspicious. The current theory was that they were hiding somewhere in or near Deika City. But as for where and how—
"Retirement's made you careless."
Toshinori jumped and clutched at his heart, scowling at the familiar voice. He looked up and sure enough, the hooded figure standing on the other side of his car was Hisashi. "You scared the—was that necessary?"
"You're the one who didn't see me," Hisashi pointed out, smirking.
"Why are you here?"
He shifted his weight from one foot to the other. "How's Izuku?"
"Do you know if he'll be visiting Inko for Christmas?"
"I haven't asked. He's been focused on his final exams for the year."
Hisashi frowned, but didn't seem surprised. He reached into his jacket and pulled out a letter, which he passed over the car. "Could you give that to him? I might not be in town for a few days."
"Were you planning on dropping in for Christmas? Were you even invited?"
"Seriously? That's your objection?"
Toshinori's eyes narrowed. "Where are you going?"
"North. I have a lead on Mugetsu."
His interest was piqued. "The one who broke into U.A?"
"That's her. She's too good to track, but her new friends aren't. Some of them popped into the old Chernobyl reactor recently. The radiation levels in the worst parts are down to nothing. It's completely clean."
"…That's awfully generous of them."
"You don't believe your own words. Neither do I," Hisashi's brow was furrowed deeply. "The reports match up with a few older records I've checked on, but nothing of this scale. They're planning something big and if you haven't guessed, the League is currently out of commission."
He pulled out another note. "That first one is for Izuku. This is for you. See what you can dig up."
Toshinori took the note and scanned it. "Kristan Markov?"
"I think so. I have my suspicions, but nothing concrete."
"…You think he'll come here?"
"Maybe. It's not him that bothers me so much as who he works for. Or who I think he works for. They might jump at the chance to seize All for One's territory now that he's imprisoned. We'll see them more and more often if I'm right."
"You couldn't have slipped this to me before I spent hours working with Tsukauchi?"
"You were in there for eight hours."
"Were you waiting out here the whole time?"
"I left for dinner. You took too long."
Toshinori snorted and shook his head. "Fine. Tell me—is Himiko alive, at least? Izuku's been worried."
"She's fine. Banged-up, but fine. She'll be back at the apartment soon, I think. She seemed annoyed by all the people," Hisashi shrugged. He turned away. "Tell Izuku…no, never mind. He won't want to hear it."
He opened his mouth, but Hisashi vanished a moment later as a warp gate opened and engulfed him. Toshinori groaned, but pocketed the note and the letter. Trust Hisashi to give him extra work before he got home.
Well, at least his former friend was making himself useful…sort of. Izuku would be happy to hear that Himiko was alive and healing, by the sounds of things.
He checked the name again. Markov…It wasn't familiar to him, but it was a lead he hadn't expected. If nothing else, maybe the name could get them information on the mystery villains involved in the Eight Precepts Raid.
Toshinori really didn't want to open that particular folder again, but if it was needed then it was needed.
There was no way he'd be able to stop thinking now. He could get more work done at home. With a sigh, Toshinori climbed into his car and resigned himself to another sleepless night.
A/N: I'm back. Easing my way back into the story, too. Going to try and update regularly once a month, so bear with me as I try to get on-track with Viridescent again.
As ever, please review and thanks for reading!