Notes: Futuristic AU, Aged-up/adult characters, Stress writing, ambiguous/open-ended

Warnings: paranoia, loneliness, dark themes, depression, mention/referenced suicide,

Hold And Never Let Go

SevenRenny

DAY 196

The familiar, almost insulting morning music rippled and echoed from the speakers imbedded into the walls above him. A sweet orchestra, with bird chirps and violins to wake him up every 'day'. An electric buzz, and the lights turned on automatically to force him up.

As much as he didn't want to get out of his sleeping bag and out of his pod, he knew the consequences of not having a regulated sleep schedule that kept him focused. Having no routine in space, with no night or day or real hours or events to plan for, he stuck to the fake calendar designed to mimic Earth's twenty-four hours. Sometimes, there was no sun or moon. Sometimes, he saw sunrise every hour.

Shifting in his bean-shaped pod, Izuku unzipped his sleeping bag and reach for the gap on the side of the pod, pressing the switch in the curve. The glass door flipped open on command. The alarm stopped at the same time. He sat up, and sat there for a few minutes, running his hand through his messy hair, then rubbed the fatigue off his face. There was a possibility there was no reason to keep waking up, but there was also a chance there was a light at the end of this dark tunnel.

Throwing his feet to the side, he got up and sleepily walked past the empty next door pod and shuffled through the tight corridor in his underwear. Gray walls were lit up with lines of light. He did his usual routine: use the tiny bathroom, then the separate standing shower, dress in his green jumpsuit and step into his large boots, run on the lonely treadmill with the same workout music he'd heard every day for the past six and a half months, and have a boring, tasteless breakfast.

He selected a small retort pouch of dehydrated eggs and sausage bits, a pouch of powdered carrot juice, and biscuits. Other than the hum of the spaceship and the stomping of his own boots, the silence was always one of the things he hated the most. Most of his 'day' was spent thinking of ways to entertain himself.

Sitting down in the driver's seat of the front of the apartment-sized ship, the wide window showcasing the endless space in front of him, he flicked switches and waited for the computer to load information over the window. In the meantime, he reached to the side of his chair and opened a tiny compartment to pull out a finger-sized water tube to rehydrate his breakfast.

As he massaged the bags in his hands, the transparent screen lit up.

RESUME AUDIO

Oh. He'd been re-listening to an audiobook yesterday. His hand went over the keys and selected YES. It had been months since he'd heard the voice of a real human being. Recordings will do, for now. He'd listened to everything installed within the computer: music he like, didn't like, boring podcasts, every audiobook, and read and reread every text file stored in the system.

His four-month-long journey had turned into a six-and-a-half month-long voyage of an unknown destination with no way home.

It had been a simple search mission. He knew Earth had been running out of time. It was why he'd volunteered to look for One for All. If the Earth was dying, they had to transport humanity somewhere; a sanctuary out in space, known simply as One for All. He had the location pinned as a destination. His mission was simple: find it and report back to confirm the start of the global evacuation.

He hadn't predicted how fast the catastrophe would strike. He'd received the alert that the evacuation would commence sooner than intended; needing time to start the evacuation before the asteroid impact. I'd requested – through that call to HQ – if they could tell his mother he loved her. He'd told her so before he boarded DEKU-18, in case he never came back. She'd been reluctant to let him go, crying hysterically and grabbing onto him and stroking his hair and face like it would be the last time she could touch her only son.

He knew it was cruel, to leave her when she begged him to stay so they could remain together till the end. But if there was a chance to save people, if there was a place for everyone to move to – even just a few people – he'd take it, even if it meant he'd die looking for this sanctuary.

He never imagined he'd be the one left behind.

His last contact with HQ had been brief. Asteroid changed course. Evacuation started. No news from volunteers still out in space, looking for One for All, the place he was supposed to find exactly where HQ had pointed out. The place he couldn't find in the spot pinned in his map.

He'd spend six months traveling to find nothing. He had no more feedback from HQ. He'd spent more time looking around aimlessly, studying the pinned location for possible mistakes or errors.

He tried calling HQ. No feedback.

He waited. Searched. Waited. Drifted. Thought in painful loneliness, and came to slowly realize; maybe there was no such thing as One for All in the first place… Maybe it was just to ease minds, keep hysteria bottled up until the end… maybe there was no more Earth while he sat out here, looking for the nonexistent.

Regret ate away at him until he felt nothing.

Had the evacuation been successful? To what degree? How many made it out? Was it still going on and HQ simply couldn't get in contact with him? He'd seen one of the many evacuation ships. A ship-shaped building meant to hold half a million individuals. The rich had their own compartment he didn't have the privilege of seeing. He'd spent his last few days on Earth helping his mother get settled into her room on the evacuation ship. She shared her room with three other women. They'd been friendly enough. He told himself she wouldn't be alone.

Now, he just hoped he was the one lost, and the other volunteers and evacuation ships had the correct path.

Space food and water tasted like nothing. They had no flavor, or maybe space sapped away his ability to taste. Purple spirals slowly spun in the distance like star-sprinkled whirlpool. The audio of the book reader and the sound of sticky egg-and-sausage mixture squelching in his mouth dulled out the silence of the galaxy.

The only living being, out in space, with limited food and water supply, and no soul to care if he were to vanish into nothingness.

Nothing ever changed on DEKU-18. His daily routine was an endless cycle that never went anywhere. The row of growing plants arranged on one side of the corridor to his sleeping room gave him something to care for. They didn't smell like anything. Not out here, anyway.

He continued listening to the same superhero story as he went to the corner to fetch the weights he'd been using every day.

The computer ringed once to get his attention. Red dots rippled on the transparent screen in front of the windshield. Mad-made objects within proximity.

He hadn't come by anything mad-made since his departure. It had always been space debris he had to maneuver his ship around.

He squinted at it suspiciously.

"Deku, can you identify that?" Izuki asked, suddenly remembering what speaking felt like.

SEARCHING FOR DATA… was written on the windshield. An arrow spun in circles. A loading screen. It rang a tune again, and words and numbers littered the screen.

URAVITY-5, URARAKA

HERO CRAFT

MUSUTAFU, JAPAN

His heart sank. It was another volunteer ship. Not just any volunteer ship; he knew the pilot's name. He'd seen her at the academy. Happy-go-lucky, optimistic, friendly.

Nice to him.

The girl who aced the anti-gravity tests like she was meant to be in space. The girl who wished him luck before he went into the endurance tests that left him feeling like his insides turned to jelly, and caught him when he tripped after his endurance test.

It… couldn't be her… could it?

He was sure he was the only volunteer to screw-up this simple-enough mission. What was she doing out here? And why was she… not moving?

Throwing himself in the captain's chair, he flipped open the small compartment on the side of his headrest and yanked out the flexible microphone. "Deku, turn on mic."

MICROPHONE ON – the computer wrote back.

Izuku kept his eye on the rippling red on the screen, waiting for it to move like a ship would. Nothing. "Uravity? Uravity, this is Deku. Can you hear me? Are you there? Uravity, can you answer?" Any nearby craft within proximity would receive his broadcasted message.

So why wasn't she responding?

He kept trying. "Uravity, do you need help? Is your computer not working? I'm getting closer, okay?" With a few clicks of keys on the right armrest, he disabled autopilot mode and took charge, directing the ship to move slowly to one side. Every bad scenario rolled in his head. A malfunction of the craft. A dead computer. A – god forbid – faulty pressurization system. He feared what he'd find. There were multiple dos that ripple. The craft was in pieces. He hoped they were just the ship's outer plates. Please, not an explosion aftermath.

There it was. The bullet-shaped craft, tilted to one side, hovering in one place, the fins cracked and drifting nearby, along with bits of rock. It had taken damage. This didn't look good.

He quickly stood and run for the tight corridor, opening doors until he found the right one that held a spacesuit stuck to the back of the closet-like room with Velcro. He ripped it off the wall and began to hurriedly dress. It was hard to move in the full suit, and harder to see in the helmet. Securing the hamlet on, he heard nothing but his breaths and his own voice. He always forgot the gas tank on his back had to be accounted for whenever he moved. It was easy to bump it into things when he couldn't see it.

He went to the rear of the craft and made sure to lock the heavy door behind him, trapping himself in the padded box of a room. He strapped on the safety harness to, tying himself to the ship, then the backup harness, before grabbing hook that looked more like an over-sized fishing line. "Deku, secure the left hatch!" he ordered. He'd only used the hatch during training. He never thought he'd end up using it.

The ship obeyed. The gravity in this one room was lost and he began floating. There was no up or down anymore. Using his free hand (his right hand in a fist with the hook in his palm) to push against the padded white walls, he spun to face the door. The safety lines of his harness hovered like a wavy snake.

"Deku, open left catch," he ordered, preparing, hoping, to find someone and not a body.

A long hiss. The curved door popped open, only slightly. He pushed it out all the way, flipping it up and exposing himself to the sea-black galaxy his human body was not bred for.

Pressing his thumb on the small button on the tip of the arm sticking out from the side of his suit, pressurized air puffed from the bottom his boots, pushing him forward and out of the craft. He only needed to press it once. It was enough to send him drifting toward the other ship. Reaching it, he grabbed onto the outer railing and used it as a guide to shuffle to the nose of the craft.

There she was, on the other side of the shaded windshield, her eyes shut, her head tilted to the side, a trail of brown-dried blood on her temple. It was her, the nice person. Memories flashed at the back of his eyes. He hadn't seen another human being in so long, and here was a familiar one, out here, vulnerable to the empty galaxy. A few lights were still on inside; the system still on, keeping her alive.

He knocked on the windshield. No response. She was, however, breathing. A good sign. He circled the craft, found one of the hatches, clipped the hook to the railing, and pulled himself back into DEKU-18. He pressed the switch, and the rope tightened, slowly pulling in the other ship in until the doors were facing each other with only a flexible tube between them. He had to pull the Uravity craft in manually and secure all four corners before giving the order; "Deku, connect ships."

He heard the winding of gears, then heard the suction as DEKU and URAVITY connected. All at once, gravity came back, and Izuku's boots smacked the padded floor. Mechanical winding and clicking was heard as his craft worked on accessing the other. A bell sounded, announcing the success of the connection. Izuku ordered the computer to open the door.

The other craft was of a similar model from the inside, cramped and with compartments on every surface of the walls and ceiling. The emergency stripes of light were on, being the only source of light.

He found the pilot's seat, up at the very front of the craft. She was in the large seat, limp.

Seeing a real human being again was surreal.

"Uraraka?" he whispered in his helmet. He debated removing it. She was breathing, and gravity was present. However, he didn't trust the health of the spacecraft. "Uraraka," he called louder. When she didn't move, he reached for her shoulder. "Are – Are you okay?"

Her brow twitched. A small sound came from her throat.

"Uraraka?" he tried again.

Her eyes finally half-opened. Confusion. Loss, like she'd simply woken up from a dream.

Alive. The glinting eyes of intelligence.

Relief washed over him. "Hey."

She stared at him, then slowly turned to look around, trying to recollect her memories. In a tired voice, she finally said, "I know you."

Recognition.

"Yeah. I know you, too," he said. "I'm glad you're okay. Can you move?"

She took a few minutes to understand. Lifting a hand, she flinched, unclenched, looked down at herself. "I think so."

He took a step back, giving her room.

She pushed herself up, and almost fell on the control panel face-first if Izuku hadn't reached out to catch her by the shoulders in time.

"Sorry, sorry… clumsy legs," she attempted to hide her increasing worry under humor.

"Please, don't strain yourself. Here," he said, pulling one of her arms around his shoulders. "Lean onto me. You're hurt."

"I am?" she asked breathlessly.

"Your head. Let's get you to safety. Come on."

She became more aware once aboard DEKU-18. He sat her down on the floor and let her rest her back against the wall. He stripped off his helmet and spacesuit and crouched in front of her. She blinked, waking up from a daze.

"Does your head hurt? Can I check?" he asked.

"Is this One for All?" she asked tiredly.

He frowned. "No… I'm sorry. I'm still looking, too."

"Oh," she said, saddened.

He sat lifted one of her crusty hair strands to inspect the cut on her temple. Under the dried blood and hair stuck to it, he found the small wound. "It doesn't look bad. I can clean it and wash your hair," he offered.

"Are you real?"

The question caught him off guard, as if the whole situation wasn't surprising enough. "…Yeah." He'd been confused, too, at the prospect of another human being out in the middle of nowhere.

He fetched the first aid kit. She didn't flinch as he disinfected with moistened cotton the tips of tweezers. In the end, a small gauze blanketed over the wound. Stretching the water tube over, he was careful not to get any water near the dressing as he washed the bloodstained side of her hair. He'd squirt a small amount of water into his palm and rub the strand of hair between his hands, scraping off the dry flakes.

"You're Midoriya," she remembered, reality setting in. "That's where I saw you." She sounded more alert, her eyes more active, looking around, at his craft, at his hands, at his face.

He suddenly felt flustered. "Yeah. Hi." His first encounter with her had been him falling on his way out from the testing grounds. He knew her name, back then. They'd call each person through the intercom, and the glass viewing panels were in the hallway for anyone in the building to see and study the trainees hard at work. "Are you dizzy? Do you have a headache?" He sandwiched the hair strand between a folded towel and rubbed it dry.

"I think I'm fine. I got out of bed real fast and hit something," she explained.

"Are you hungry? I can heat up something for you."

She looked almost embarrassed. "That's kind of you, really. I'm sorry I caused you trouble…" She blushed after her stomach whined at her.

Izuku was already standing, the kit tucked under his arm. "Let me get you something! Would you like something specific?"

It was still surreal, having another person with him on board. Some days, lonely ones, his mind told him he was the only human being let alive. And now, here she was, a familiar person, healthy and in the same predicament as him.

Folding open the heating tray, he plopped a can of pasta in tomato sauce on and pushed the tray back against the wall.

They were silent as the can cooked away. Her fingers played with the utensils, ripping them off their magnets on the collapsible table and letting them stick back on. The heater beeped. Izuku opened the tray and let the warm can sit until it was cool enough to handle. He ripped the lid off and slid the can in front of her.

"Thanks." She played with the pasta rings before taking a tasteless bite. It was hard to enjoy food in this predicament.

Their spacecrafts were still fused together, traveling through space.

"Are we where it's supposed to be?" she asked, briefly looking up at him.

He rubbed the nape of his neck. "I'm not sure. I thought it should be around here, but… I already passed the mark on the map. It was empty. Been looking around nearby. Thought I might've missed it. "

She nodded in understanding. Her fork scrapped the edge of the can. "Do you think everyone else made it?"

His gut told him that it was impossible. But then, there was the sliver of hope that, maybe, the volunteers had the wrong directions, and that HQ either had the correct ones, or had figured out the mistake and the updated information failed to reach the few volunteers.

"I hope so."

Because, if not, then did anything matter? The concept of life and joy… all gone, just like that. He wanted answers, but not the answers he wanted.

"Me, too," she said. "I miss my mom and dad. I didn't know if I should keep looking or turn back."

"I've been thinking about that, too. I guess I'm scared. What if I miss it?" What if I come back to something bad? What if I went back and found my home – and my mom –gone?

She looked up from her canned food. "Can I ask you something?"

"Yeah. Of course."

"Can you download Uravity? Maybe we can compare maps."

He perked up at the idea. "That's… that's a good idea. Yeah! I'll try."

DOWNLOADING URAVITY 7% COMPLETE

He looked at his own map in the meantime. Green words and lines stretched out across the windshield. He'd marked each path he'd already taken. It was strange, how he had yet to come across an evacuation ship. Those things were humongous and easy to spot. He'd assumed he'd been the one to take a wrong turn, but then, Uraraka was out here, too.

It didn't make sense.

Where was One for All? Where was that planet suitable for a fresh start, with grass and water and clean air? People had been… split about leaving. Some believed the upcoming destruction of the Earth was a hoax; others said it was unavoidable and there was no need to move; some ended their own lives, some waited to be told what to do.

Half said One for All wasn't real. A false story to bring hope, they said.

Real or not, they were dying; he might as well look for that tiny bit of hope, even if it killed him.

That had been his thinking when he'd board DEKU-18. Now, he only thought of the wasted time he could've spent with his mother.

Had this really been worth it?

"You can have the bed. I never use that one," he told her, his fingers going over the buttons on the wall to turn off the lights. Usually, he slept in his underwear. He was sharing the sleeping room this time; with a woman, no less. He stripped off his boots and opted to sleep in his green jumpsuit, just as she stayed in her pink and black bodysuit.

She stood by the pod awkwardly.

"What's wrong?" he asked.

"Oh, nothing! Nothing. Just a different model than the one I had," she explained, chuckling lightly to ward off his concerns.

"Oh! Here, I'll teach you how to use it." He popped open the pod's glass lid and reach inside, his fingers grazing the side. "You can open it from the inside from here."

She peered in curiously for a look. It was curved in the inside, with soft padding and a flat sleeping bag inside.

"You can control the lights up here, temperature, and music, or if you just want noise. You can set it to stop at any time. Do you need anything?"

"I'm all good. Thanks." She climbed in and wriggled into her sleeping bag.

He did the same, sitting up and reaching for the lid above him. "You can wake me up if you need something."

She chuckled tiredly. "Thanks. Goodnight."

He hadn't heard a 'goodnight' for such a long time. "Goodnight."

DAY197

She used his shower while he transferred some of her belongings to his sleeping room, plopping them on the second sleeping pod. Uravity's main computer kept lagging. He felt it was safer to stay on his side of the craft.

The shower room was small, almost the size of his sleeping pod. It was easy to brush the walls when tuning. The sound of running water came from behind the door. He knocked. "I… uhh… I brought your clothes. It's on the bed, okay?" he wasn't used to another person using his shower, or eating his food, or being here with him.

It all felt like a dream.

"Thanks!" she yelled from the other side, her voice echoing. The running water shut off abruptly. "Wait, can… Oh boy, this is kinda embarrassing…" she hesitated.

"I'm still here. What do you need?"

"I… can you hand me a towel?"

Oh.

He never bothered to cover himself. He had been alone, after all. Well… not anymore. "I'm so sorry! I forgot about that... I'll get it in a minute!" He stumbled around, slapping the walls to stop himself from hitting every corner, in a hurry to fetch the towel he scarcely used. He kept his back to the shower door, knocked, and held the towel out. "I'm looking away," he let her know. His heart galloped faster when he heard the door open and felt a rush of moist air tickle his back.

She took the towel. "Th – Thanks."

He wasn't used to a lot of things. Or maybe, he missed a lot of things. The sound of another person, the knowledge he wasn't alone anymore, the trigger at the back of his mind whenever he talked to someone other than a computer.

She switched her pink bodysuit for a cleaner one. Unlike his magnetized boots for accidental gravity loss, hers had air jets at the bottom.

"Where do I…?" She hugged her messy ball of clothes.

He usually washed his clothes once a week while showering to save up on water. He wasn't sure how she did her laundry. "Oh, just leave them in the shower. Here, you can hang them on the door."

The company, the get-together breakfast, the… awkward moments. For once, space wasn't so lonely. It could very well be a hallucination. He'd heard of that; of travelers going insane, imagining people and reliving the past whilst on a spacecraft. Maybe she wasn't real.

Oh, well. It didn't matter. It made him feel better. For once, his attention-starved brain demanded to be cared for, to be supplied with social interactions, to feel.

DOWNLOADING URAVITY 83% COMPLETE

He heard her when she leaned against the back of his pilot's chair, peering over his shoulder to see the screen. Behind the lit-up numbers and words, sunbursts of purple and rings of blue painted the galaxy.

"How's the download goin'?"

"I left it overnight." Night. There was no such thing out here. "I think it needs another hour."

Colors stirred in the distance. A chain of starry speckles. Bright pink claw marks littered with glittery stars in the center. There was no end to this map. No end, and possibly, no other humans. He never questioned the possible outcome of being wrong, of being one of two human beings left behind. He never had to question; what really mattered the most, if he had no one to save, then what?

What was the point, if he'd failed?

What was his purpose?

She dropped a limp arm over the chair's shoulder rest. "It's funny; how you were the one to find me." She gave a short, breathy chuckle. A fake laugh. "Thanks for finding me."

"I'm just glad you're okay."

While neither talked for some time, somehow, it wasn't deathly quiet anymore. Maybe it was something simple, like another person breathing. Maybe it was all in his head; the knowledge there was another beating heart just beside him. The knowledge he wasn't alone – that someone could be there when he woke up.

She rested her cheek on the shoulder rest, just above his head. "Remember at the academy, when they made us walk in this room and they just turned off Gravity? That was fun."

He remembered. He'd spun like a fan trying to right himself before another student bumped into him. "Yeah." He chuckled. "You did well on that."

She giggled lightly. "I tried out zero-gravity rooms, before. They're really fun. Wish I had better scores on the agility exams."

"I'm not even sure how I passed those. I tripped a lot." Moving obstacles whilst hooked to computers with stickers to read and judge his movements.

"You got Toshinori as your teacher, right?"

"Yeah."

She made an exaggerated 'wow'. "Was he strict?"

"No. But his training was hard. I had to start four-thirty in the morning."

They all had personal trainers assigned to them when the selected individuals were picked out of the large group. He happened to be personally selected by the known pilot Yagi Toshinori who flew the grand All Might. Izuku's scores had been mediocre at best. It was the reasoning he wrote down on his registration paper that drew the teacher's attention. Under the question regarding his reasoning for his entry, he expressed one desire: to save people.

It was an honor, to be handpicked by that retired pilot. It also came with great expectations Izuku was sure he couldn't carry.

She snorted. "Thirteen made me get up that early, too."

Interested, he looked up over his head at her. "You had Thirteen?" One of the few pilots who went by codename.

"Mm-hmm!"

It was his turn to 'wow' in amazement.

"I learned a lot. It was fun," she said almost melancholically, signing.

Was. Lots of 'it was' and 'I remember'. There was no guarantee how many would survive the evidential doom – who would make it, who wouldn't, or if any would make it at all.

Him, and (if she was real) her were alive, so why didn't he feel alive?

URAVITY DOWNLOAD 100% COMPLETED

He had both AI's open; his green text on the left windshield, her pink text on the right. He needed her to point him through personalized files. With two maps open, they compared their travel routes.

"So we both went here… and here…" he thought aloud, cupping his chin.

She suddenly pointed at the screen. "Oh! Top right. We both didn't go there."

Indeed. The only spot without a river line to mark a traveled path.

"Okay. Let's put a pin on that…" His fingers ran over the green glass on the armrest, rolled it, dragging a virtual pin across the screen and dropping it where they needed to go. Truth be told, he had little to no hope left in him; but they couldn't sit and do nothing. A goal was needed. A goal gave him a reason to live, to feel like the next few days would be worth it. "Let's check that out."

She was oddly quiet. He felt her question before she said it; "Midoriya? What if… what… If we don't find it…" Find One for All. "I know it's kinda useless to think about it but…what then?"

He didn't want to think about it, either. It hurt to. It ate him alive. It drowned him in his sleep, pressed down on his ribs until he begged his body to physically shut down so he couldn't think anymore.

"Do you want to head back?" he suggested. "Check if… You know. Check on things." Another goal in case that one turned sour. Just add more goals so it wouldn't all be for nothing. Stupid goals; useless goals; any goals.

"Yeah. Yeah. You don't know. Maybe they were wrong and everyone's fine." She sounded like she was reassuring herself.

He couldn't blame her. He'd been doing that, too, and still was.

"What do you think One for All has?" she asked. "I know it looks like Earth, but what's gonna different?"

He thought about it. "I know the animals look different. And the plants are brighter. Oh, and they night sky's brighter, too."

She hummed in response, imagining a scenario in her head. "It'll be nice if we found it and everyone's there."

"…Yeah. That'd be nice."

DAY 201

Turned out, Uravity had a different audio set. Whole files with music he hadn't heard in months, audiobooks new to him, and videos and clips he dared not open in respect of her personal privacy. For the few days on board with him, they exchanged casual conversation to feel less like robots. It was nice, even if the topics ranged from where they grew up, to what soap they used. At some point, he saw her touching the plants he'd grown in trays on the wall, her thumbs going over the soft greenery and the short hairs that grew on the stem.

Just feel.

He could understand.

He scrolled through his usual song list while she went to turn on the small lights above the leaning plants on the wall. He picked randomly, every beat memorized to the point his brain didn't register them as music. A piano melody.

It got her attention.

"That's nice," she said, coming over and leaning over his pilot chair. He got used to her doing that, leaning over him. "I heard everything I had a lot. Can I hear what you have?"

He rubbed the nape of his neck. "Yeah, sure. I usually have something playing when I'm working out." It used to be fun, until he heard it so many times.

"Can I try something?" She peeked over his shoulder to look at him curiously.

He could never voice how much he liked seeing those lively eyes. "Okay. Yeah." He got off his chair, thinking she was going to have a seat.

Instead, she simply used the controls on the armrest to open her music folder on the right side of the screen. His piano music was still playing on the right when she selected a song from her list; one with finger clicks and vocals. The two audio files played at the same time.

Maybe his ears were so used to listening to the same thing over and over, hearing the added sounds made him remember what music felt like. A gasp of amazement escaped him.

On the left screen, green music waves bounced with soft curves; on the right, pink zigzags jumped more erratically with the more old-style recorded saxophone.

She started bobbing her head, a wide smile on her face. "This worked better than I thought!" She began bouncing on her feet.

He joined in. It was instinctive. Something in him came to life.

She pulled him by the arms, giggling. "Come on!"

"Ah – I don't know how to dance!"

She laughed joyfully. "Just whatever works. Have fun!"

He probably looked like an idiot. He felt so, at first. She didn't seem to mind, giggling and smiling brightly and occasionally pulling him with her. He couldn't remember when he'd had this much fun. For once, he forgot they were one a lonely ship, sailing through space of emptiness, possibly being the only ones alive.

For once, he could listen and feel her touch and see her and be alive. She grabbed his hands and they looked like clumsy drunks. He let her. That laugh of hers was enough to make his chest flutter in the inside.

Alive. What did it mean to be alive?

What was the reason for it?

DAY 232

"Aaaand six!" She counted the dots on the dice.

Accepting his defeat, he relaxed his stiff back against the chair. He chuckled as she moved the small cake-shaped figure up the ladder, past the plastic shoe that happened to be his character, and plopped it on the house.

She threw her hands up. "I finally won!"

He could tell she was happy about that. "You were really determined to beat me."

"You always won. You're too good at this!"

"No way, you gave me lots of close calls." He hadn't had a good opponent since Yagi Toshinori taught him how to play.

"I remember playing this back home," she said with a sad smile, grabbing the dice and rolling them between her fingers. "My mom and dad used to play with me. Took me to the swings and the parades they used to have in town."

He noted the dip in atmosphere. "Uraraka…"

She laughed it off. It was a breathy sort of laugh. Mostly air with no real voice. From her. "It's okay. I just don't want to forget the good parts, you know?"

"I understand. I mostly think of my mom. I didn't really have friends, but she was the one there for me."

"Was that her picture?" she asked calmly, dice still in hand. "In your bed."

"Yeah. That's my mom." He had the picture attached to the inside of his pod. He knew she had a picture of her own parents somewhere. He'd seen it before. They came to the mutual agreement to falsely believe their parents had made it to One for All. It made them feel better. Made it easier to talk without falling into a deeper pit of depression. "I hope she's doing well."

"I miss them," she admitted. Her thumb traced the dots drilled onto the surface of the dice, exploring parts she had yet to be bored of.

He cupped her dice-holding hand. "Everyone's okay. I'm sure they're all getting used to One for All."

Her hand. Soft, warm, human.

Alive.

He lingered longer than what he deemed appropriate. "Ah – sorry… I…" blushing, he pulled his hand back, only for her to drop the dice and reach for his fingers.

The movement had been desperate, longing, starving for a comforting touch. This time, he didn't pull away.

She looked at him with shy hopefulness. "Can I… hold your hand, please?" she requested meekly. Something she wanted for a long time. Something right there he could give the both of them.

Something he, too, had been afraid to go for but wished to have.

"…O – Okay. Yeah. Okay." He sounded like an idiot, because the feel of her fingers was all he could think off.

Like a drug he tasted after being away from for so long, hi body craved more. His other hand went out to caress her palm, the back of her hand, noting how small her hand was compared to his. Her second hand joined in, and they intertwined their fingers, their cheek blushes clear but welcomed.

Human affection.

Perhaps this sort of thing wouldn't fly on Earth, where human traditions and social rules applied. This, however, was not Earth. Unspoken laws did not apply here. They had tried to implement them; keeping distance, pretending just having the other around didn't remind them of content.

They'd hold each other's hands forever if possible. It was not possible; not after the strange beeping from the computer that snapped them out of their trance. They glanced at each other, a second, then hurriedly walked around the board game-holding table, their shoulders bumping the walls of the narrow corridors to get to the nose of the ship.

Space was endless. Bottomless. It was hard to find anything, much less pick out something never seen in one's lifetime. Izuku had tried to be falsely hopeful. The human mind didn't fare well with despair. He could only give it the illusion of hope.

The illusion was sucked clean away at the sight of floating pieces of what used to by aircraft parts. A space highway of ship debris. Bits clunked against the windshield. One evacuation ship was sliced in half; floating with its insides exposed; rows and rows of floors lined it top to bottom. The first and only evacuation ship they'd come across out here, where One for All was supposedly located, only, there was no planet. Instead, the half-ship was surrounded by bits of volunteer crafts, some drifting in awkward angles, some in halves or threes, a loose pilot's chair drifted across the screen with wires sparking from the bottom. A helmet knocked the windshield and spun away.

Debris turned out to have arms and legs.

It answered the question as to where everyone had gone.

They watched in silence, shock turning off their brain functionality. It was the worst possible time to stop and think, wonder: what happened? The worst ever possible time. For those few seconds, they could've thought better than to linger.

Idiots.

A muffled sound of crashing waves, followed by the distant explosion that reminded them of sudden underwater dives, then, the physical vibration that shook the spacecraft and momentarily made their vision blur.

They heard it and felt it before they saw it.

It, being the fiery-blue wave slicing its way vertically through the already-chopped craft parts with ease. A giant knife of gases cutting downward – and their conjoined spacecrafts screamed upon being clipped. Izuku and Ochaco were thrown to the side; she slammed the wall, he instinctively gripped the armrest as the craft tilted and red alert lights flashed. Sirens demanded to be heard, going on-and-off.

Idiots.

Wavy words sizzled on screen. He was too busy trying to remember how the control panel on the armrest worked. The visual of human parts and the haunting insides of one of the evacuation ships flashed repeatedly behind his eyes. He clumsily steered DEKU and URAVITY to the side by tolling the ball on the armrest, running away from death like cowards.

Humans were idiots. Emotional idiots.

INSECURE LINK

-BREACH

WARNING–

–LEAK

WARNING: LEVEL 4 OXYGEN LEAK – the glitchy English words on the screen said.

She was jostling him by the shoulder, trying to get him to respond after they'd stayed still on the floor for what was possibly ten minutes. Oxygen leak. It explained why the spacecraft was drifting to one said, being pushed by the air they desperately needed.

"Midoriya?"

He barely heard her over the siren noise. He stayed on his knees, his hand still on the armrest, his body finding no reason to move, to fight for another day, to survive for a goal that was no longer there.

"Midoriya…" She sat down next to him, her hand squeezing his arm, begging to not be left alone in this.

How could he do this to her?

How could the universe be this cruel to them?

"Izuku?" she finally gave in, using his first name – the one he hadn't heard in over a year. Maybe it was out of desperation or frustration; maybe it was the frightening thought of dying at any moment without getting to call his name. Either way, it was welcoming, even if he would've liked it to be under different circumstances; maybe she'd call him that in a more relaxed setting: a sandy beach, or a humid aquarium, or a corn-smelling cinema.

What was all this for? What was the point? Where had the goals all gone?

"Is it okay if you call me that?" he whispered tiredly. His neck gave out and he rested his forehead on the armrest. Despair sucked away his remaining energy.

"…Izuku?" she tested.

And his name coming from her voice was oh so wonderful to hear.

"Yeah… Thank you."

Her voice had all the emotions he wanted to melt into at the moment; concern, sadness, loneliness, hopelessness, deprived of human love and begging to love and be loved.

To love, to feel loved.

To feel human.

He felt her arms wrap around his stomach and her face press to his shoulder. Her heartbeat. Hear moving chest, soft. Her breath, whispery whistles by his ear.

Alive.

His hand slid off the useless control ball and reached for one of her hands on his stomach.

"Can you do the same for me, please?" she requested through her exhaustion. "Can you call me Ochaco?"

The idea of there being no tomorrow in the upcoming hours fell upon them. No tomorrow. No chances. Things to regret. Do them now; don't regret them when you breathe your last breath.

Don't regret. The last two living beings. Don't regret.

DAY ?

They trapped themselves in his pod, managing to squeeze both of their uncoordinated limbs into a pod meant for one body. Half of the normal lights aboard the craft had died, leaving them with the flashing red warning light and the angry yelling of the alarm. The pod muffled out the sirens.

Nothing mattered anymore.

He rested on his right side, she, on her left, facing him; their arms lazily draped over the other's waist. The sleeping bag was underneath, flattened by them. A goosebump-inducing chill reminded him of their inevitable doom. The cooler it got, the tighter they held each other. Despite the chaos, he'd never felt this kind of rush in his chest – not for a long time. Her half-lidded eyes were calming, accepting. Maybe his mind had automatically gone deaf to the sirens, because he managed to hear his own exhales. He felt. The slight shift of her fingers gliding over his side; her arm slightly moving with the swelling and fall of her ribcage; the skin on skin contact as their heads touched.

Dizzy and tired, he managed to clumsily reach for the music switch and turned it on. Anything would be good. He heard it, through sirens and the shock of letting go of the need to survive, he heard it: the musical mix – the first one they'd put together. Pod speakers weren't as high quality, but, in a way, it was nice to hear it muffled and slightly distrusted. Somehow, something in it reminded him of home, of sitting in his bedroom and doing homework with his earbuds on.

He was cold. She was getting stiffer.

"Hey, Izuku?" she whispered through the low-volume music and the flashing red light over their heads.

"Yeah?"

"Do you think One for All will be nice?"

"Yeah… with nice wind and… maybe a beach somewhere…" Dreams could be reality, too.

"Is the water nice?"

He hummed. "And pretty skies." His bones wore cold.

"Like when it turns colors?" she added to the list of positives.

"Uh-huh… and rain. We'll get rain."

"I miss rain."

"Me, too."

With the last bit of strength left in her, she pulled herself tighter against him. Heads touched. Noses nudged. He wasn't sure how she managed. He was hardly able to turn his head.

Hold and never let go.

"I want a house… Dad can have a garden and mom can have a pond… with big fishies."

"That sounds really nice." Since when had blinking taken effort?

He couldn't move anymore. Their bones froze in place with their arms around each other, locking onto each other. He saw how her eyes became unfocused. His own vision began to blur.

"Ochaco?"

"Hmm?"

"I'm happy." He couldn't tell why he'd said it. Maybe he hadn't felt anything in a long time, that now any bit of joy was a firework. For once, it, this, all of it, was all worth it.

Hold and never let go.

He tried staying awake for as long as he could manage. Just look at her relaxed face for just a little longer.

Don't pass out, now. Just a little longer.

DAY 1

He briefly felt himself jostle. It was the kind of movement similar to when he rode on buses. A vehicle moving on its own. The sound of beeping, clicking. A woman talked in a language he did not understand.

He squinted up at the white ceiling. His back was flat against a cloth-covered table, hard on the back of his head. His exhales were whispers in the gasmask over his face. The old woman he couldn't see said something. Her voice was later followed by a different feminine voice.

"Mr. Midoriya? Mr. Midoriya, can you hear? Are you with us?" she asked.

He heard her from the left. Tired but confused, he managed to turn his head. People in lab coats and two in plain white shirts. One spoke in German, the other translated.

"Can you hear me okay, Mr. Midoriya?" she asked again.

He tried to speak. Nothing came out of him on the first try. A second try: "Where…?" There was no filter between his brain and his mouth.

"I know this must be frightening. Please, try to relax."

His eyes scanned the room. A small, windowless examination room was his closest guess. It made no sense. Someone in a lab coat took notes on a clipboard. Another person operated the computer full of changing numbers. He had to look down to notice the wires stickered onto parts of his body.

"It's alright. We're just monitoring your progress. Take a moment."

"I… I'm sorry but… where is this?" Head foggy and disoriented, nothing was clicking in his mind.

"UA's main facility."

One of the evacuation ships. It wasn't adding up. Pictures flashed in his eyes. Pictures of pretty brown eyes and rosy cheeks. "How – Where?" He pushed himself to sit up, and his elbows failed him. One of the researchers caught his head before he could slam it down against the badly-padded table. He couldn't understand what that person said.

It finally occurred to him: this was an international group of people.

"You're alright, Mr. Midoriya. You were passed out when they brought you and Ms. Uraraka in."

The name was a nail hitting his memory. "Ochaco... She's… she's here? What's – I…" He had so many questions, they mixed into each other. "We hit a – then ship, they… and… UA, how?"

"It's alright. Breathe. You're alright. She's alright. You made it."

He sat up, successfully, this time, mouth agape. "Made it?" he asked stupidly.

The translator gave him a gentle smile. "This is One for All. Welcome. It's still under construction, but we hope you enjoy your stay."

He was one of the many luckiest or unluckiest pilots. One for All had been there. It had always been there. It had a… not-so-simple door to get to. A ring-shaped door that happened to close and open occasionally. Had he flown straight past it without noticing? Was that why he couldn't find it on the map? The sliced ships… had it closed on them? A few of the pilots who had made it through had ventured out after DEKU and URAVITY had been hit by the door.

The hit had been the door violently opening. The door no one was aware of was there in the first place. Four crafts had surrounded the conjoined crafts and dragged them in carefully.

It was too much to take in, so he sat deathly quiet in the examination room for what felt like hours, dressed in only boxers, letting experts hear his heart and check his blood pressure, inspect his eyes with light and a small tonometer. He could've been dreaming. He could've been dead. It was the most believable thing so far. Was that it? Did he need to die to get here?

"Turn your head down, please," the translator instructed, placing a hand on the back of her own neck to demonstrate where they needed to check.

Oh. His microchip.

He craned his head to look down, exposing the naked nape of his neck. It was uncomfortable and, in his undressed state, revealing. A hand brushed his hair up. The memory of Ochaco's hands flashed in his mind. A beep, and the hand was gone.

"Is… Ocha – I mean, is Uraraka here?" His voice cracked. Dry.

"Yes. She's under quarantine, just as you are."

"Is… she okay?"

The translator went back and forth between Japanese and German. "As healthy as you are. Are you calm enough for a few questions or do you need more time?"

It all felt like a dream-like haze. People didn't feel like people – not like how he remembered. It had been a long time since he'd been in a room with a group of people. Bits of just-gathered information slipped out here and there. Nevertheless, answers were temping. There was no use refusing the offer.

He took a deep breath to steady himself, aware of the wires still stuck to him. "I'm ready."

Surrounded by people, and yet, still alone. The lack of familiarity was alienating. He was already that, now: an alien. They all were. They gave him his own room. A temporary one. An actual room, with a real bed and a desk and a nightstand, curtains and an intercom system. They gave him a white shirt and white pants. A food tray sat on the bedside table, holding sliced apples with a toothpick flag that read GREENHOUSE GROWN. Take a shower – he'd been told.

He lingered, holding the extra spare of white clothes.

He'd held her. She'd been there. He would've been convinced that was all a very, very long dream, but she'd been there. Her touch – her voice, had been the most real thing he'd experienced in a long time.

There was a bright yellow rectangle glowing in the center of the curtains. A covered window. Placing his extra set of clothes at the end of his bed, he shuffled on naked feet to the curtains and, with hands that didn't feel like his own, brushed one of the curtains aside.

Not a painting. The sea of golden wheat swayed. It stretched over corves in the distance, the tips tickling the underbelly of the mega-sized ships standing on metal feet with doors open like mouths and platforms tilted out like straight tongues. Across the field, flattened patches of geometric shapes marked where a few crafts had sat. Bright blue skies. A shade of blue his eyes lingered on. Movements went up and down the platforms: people in plain white attire walked in and out of the giant ships that made them look like ants.

According to what he'd been told, approximately eleven million survivors made it. Only eleven million. Not enough time, not enough room, not enough hope, not fully convinced, too scared to move, accepted fate – the list of reasons had been endless.

All this, and he felt nothing. A few knocks on the door. He forced himself to answer.
"Come in." His voice cracked.

The door was pushed open, and he made eye contact with his mother. "…Izuku?"

Her voice hooked onto memories from the depths of his mind and pulled them to the surface. Not a picture stuck to the inside of his pod. His real mother, with red-rimmed eyes and chubby cheeks, wearing the same white attire given to everyone he'd seen thus far.

"Izuku…" She held back a wail, failed, and began crying, stumbling forward on weakening legs and reaching for him.

He met her halfway, holding her and letting her squeeze him tightly – like he'd vanish if she loosened her grip. This. This was real. Familiar affection he starved for. The warmth of arms, the scent of his mother's hair under his chin, the high-pitched cries, his watery vision. Alive.

"Mom…" You're okay, he wanted to say, voice failing. It hurt. His chest; his head. It hurt, but he wanted to stay alive like this.

"My baby!" she wailed.

He suspected she had more words to say at once. It came out as watery gibberish. He looked down and she palmed his wet face, ran a hand through his overgrown hair and tilted his head so she could give him a number of desperate kisses on the forehead and cheek and under his eye.

"I'm really sorry, mom," he managed to say through a tight throat. "I didn't mean to worry you." Knowing how emotional his mother was, he couldn't imagine how hard he'd broken her tender heart by vanishing from her life oh so suddenly - how many nights she stayed awake wondering where her only son had gone. He'd done that. He'd hurt her in the worst way possible. "Mom, I'm sorry…" He grabbed the hand on his cheek and pressed it to his face tightly.

She gripped him into a tighter hug.

Hold and never let go.

His window didn't open. Grassy air had seeped into UA's ship; natural and free of chemicals. The scent of dirt and the stench of cattle he only saw from outside his window. Eleven million people. He could only see four of the ships, scattered across the wheat field. There were probably a few more somewhere hidden over the yellow hills. A few people walked around outside, looking more like white upright grains casually strolling through the waist-high scratchy grass. He had to remind himself it was not a film on a screen.

He was reminded of the authenticity of it all when he grabbed the browning apple slice and took a juicy bite. Not a dry-frozen apple. A fresh one. He'd crunched on them like his life depended on it, even wiping the plate with a half-slice to not waste any juice. His doctor and translator came for a visit with questions like: are feeling nauseous? No pains? No dizziness? No, no, and no.

When they seemed satisfied, he had a question of his own. "Can I… If it's okay, can I ask how Ochaco's doing? I know it's not my place - I just..."

Like always, the translator had to filter the conversation between him, her, and the examiner.

"She's been asking about you. Her parents were called down to see her. You'll both be released, soon. We just need one last health update from you in an hour. Let me know if you feel unusual. I'd like a urine sample so we'll leave the container here for you. If you have any questions just use the intercom and press four."

He did end up using the intercom as no one came to check up on him after what felt like two hours. The more he sat in silence, the more jittery he became. It was that awful mixture of silent excitement and fear. They handed him slightly oversized white boots meant for walking around outside and was instructed to switch them out with indoor ones on his way in. They were heavy with plenty of straps. His new bedroom would be upstairs, where everyone else shared bunk beds to save up on space.

All the new changes were coming at him all at once in every direction. This sensory overload made him dizzy. Even the way doors opened with ease was something he had yet to get used to, still using unnecessary force to yank open the door of his temporary quarantine room.

He stood in the hallway, his hand on the knob, rows of doors on either side of his quarantine room. Sounds all around; trollies rattling, a herd of boots trotting from above and below and in the air, the vibration of life in the ship. One pair of footsteps stood out. It was close, and getting closer, louder, nearby.

"Izuku!" someone squealed his name.

He would've assumed it was Ochaco's voice in his head – his delusions taking over. He turned just in time to see her face and her wide smile and big eyes before she crashed into him. By instinct, he hugged her and they fell over. The floor was hard on his back. Her arms wrapped around his shoulders. His senses zeroed in on one person and one person only.

"Ochaco." He could finally focus.

Hold and never let go.

She grinned at him. A tiny scar on her temple glinted under the bright lights of the ceiling. She was in the same white clothes everyone else wore here. Plain, simple. No space-travel gear. Just soft cotton. For the first time in a long time, he could relax and let life happen.

"I'm so glad I get to see you again!" Her happiness was contagious.

He saw the fatefulness in her lively eyes. The shimmer and reflection off of them and every movement. He cupped her cheek, his fingers disappearing under her hair. "I'm glad you're okay," he said earnestly.

There was a noticeable brightness to her permanent blush marks. She kept on smiling and touched foreheads with him. "You wanna go outside? Mom and Dad said it's really nice out."

To think he'd one day come back to the feel of grass over his palm and appreciate the dusty residue left behind on his fingers; the cool wind breathing through his hair and batting at his loosely fitted clothes; smell the rivers, hear the windmills turning and watermills churning over running water, the sound of cowbells and the distant yell of people calling to each other from afar. Bright. Everything was bright; from the golden wheat to the blue skies to the white fuzzy dandelion seeds parachuting in uneven clusters to the right.

And most of all, he heard her charming sound, and got to hold her hand. It was all surreal, dream-like; perhaps, not even real, but a figment of his imagination.

If this was death, he didn't want to be alive.

He could hold onto this. All of it. She did the same. There was no telling what the next few days held. For now, it didn't matter, so he held her.


Notes:

-I'll re-read this again and fix a few things.
-The science and plot in this make no sense but I just wanted to write this. Was one of those ideas that nagged at me when I'm trying to sleep.
-I was hoping it wouldn't get this long. Of course, things didn't go as planned.
-I could've finished this sooner but life's been a sinking ship so it took longer to get to the end. I'm not good with space stuff but my brain wanted to get this done. I wasn't sure if I should post this for an event but the tone was very different than the other works I have planned out.
-I'm always interested in things like nature and technology, visual descriptions, memories and all that. Letting the character's mind to linger, question, observe and think. Just wanted to go back to that. Had fun with it.
-Is it a new planet? Another dimension? Something in-between? Up to you.
-I was conflicted between letting them die or letting them live. I decided on a gray line, so if you want to:
believe they truly did die,
or are on the verge of dying and are dreaming,
or, they survived.
I have my own pick.

-I will not be reading comments.