The Eve of Ragnarok
The gods are fallen and all safety gone. And there is one sure thing about the fall of gods: they do not fall a little; they crash and shatter.
-John Steinbeck, East of Eden
It was over. And it was all Izuku's fault. He sat on the ramp of the truck with the Ultra Armor in it, with a blanket wrapped around his shoulders. The snow had stopped falling, but the air was chill as dawn lit the sky in muted winter colors. Flashing lights played across the churned ground as police swarmed over the area. They hadn't arrested any of 1A. Yet. Mei was hugging Izuku tightly, humming softly. Eri was snoring in his lap, having refused to be parted from Izuku. Mei didn't seem to mind sharing Izuku's attention with the young girl, which was probably for the best at the moment. Not even the police wanted anything to do with a girl who could make people vanish.
But Izuku's eyes couldn't leave the other couple huddled together. Bakugo was laying wrapped in a blanket, on the tailgate of an ambulance his eyes wide as he stared at nothing, unblinking. His head was resting in Uraraka's lap, and she stroked his hair as she whispered to him. There was a bandage around Bakugo's left arm, but the bleeding had been minor at best and the bruising slight. The damage, however, went far deeper. And the paramedics could do nothing.
Katsuki Bakugo. The boy who had made Izuku's life a torment for 10 years. The golden child, born with one of the strongest quirks in the world. He had always scored at the top of the class; academically, physically, and in popularity.
But some time in the past year, things had changed. True, Bakugo had scored at the top of the UA entrance exam. But Izuku hadn't needed to take any entrance exam, he'd gotten in on recommendation, his place given to him instead of needing to prove himself. Izuku had made a close friend, more, he'd found the love of his life. Bakugo had been rejected and ostracized.
Then came the Sports Festival. There, Izuku had triumphed, crushing even Bakugo at every turn. He'd made friends in the hero course before he even entered it. True, Bakugo had helped save Izuku at the summer camp. But then it had been Izuku who led the charge against the League of Villains to save not just Mei, but All Might. If anything, Bakugo had been his ally, even his follower. The media had labeled Izuku a hero. Bakugo was called a demon.
And now, the ultimate reversal: Bakugo had reached out to save Izuku. And in doing so, he had lost his quirk.
Izuku slowly stood, gently passing Eri to Mei.
"Izuku?" Mei asked, looking concerned, but quietly placing Eri's head against her shoulder.
"I'll be right back," Izuku promised. He walked over to Uraraka and Bakugo. She looked up, tears in her eyes.
"He won't say anything," she whispered. "Please, Izuku. You've known him the longest. Please. Help him."
A lump formed in Izuku's throat. When had they gotten together? Bakugo, the violent, ill mannered hooligan, and somehow captured the heart of the sweet, polite Uraraka? But then, she wasn't so sweet, nor so polite as she once had been. The trials they had endured had changed them all.
"Bakugo. Katsuki?" Izkuk said kneeling. "I...thank you. You saved me. Again."
Bakugo's eyes flicked up at Izuku, but then they lost focus, and he stared off into the distance again.
Izuku swallowed. What to say? What words could help?
And then he knew. Izuku stood, looking down at Bakugo and extending his hand.
"Young man. You too can be a hero," Izuku said, his voice suddenly strong and full of confidence.
Bakugo suddenly sat up. "What? How can you even say that?! You're the one who told me! Those bullets destroy quirks! How can I be a hero with no quirk! I'm nothing, I'm a weak quirkless nobody like-"
Bakugo's mouth slammed shut, and he stared at Izuku with dawning horror.
"Like me," Izuku said quietly. "Though I must say, you've got a hand up on me."
Uraraka snorted. "Izuku! That's terrible!"
Slowly, Bakugo reached up, his hand clasping Izuku's. With a grunt, Izuku pulled Bakugo to his feet.
"I'm sorry," Izuku said quietly. "It was my fault. You came to save me, and it cost you everything."
Bakugo glanced at his shoulder, where Uraraka's hand rested. "No. Not everything. Just...just my quirk." He managed to smile, tears coming to his eyes. "It was worth it. To save you, you damn nerd."
Izuku blushed and looked away. "I don't know. What I did was so stupid. I thought...I thought I could find a way to help Endeavor. To stop the MLA. To even...to even redeem Chisaki."
"Yeah. Well, that bastard got what was coming to him, and he'll get more soon," Bakugo said, looking over Izuku's shoulder at Eri.
"You should have let me kill them," Uraraka growled.
"No. You would have regretted that," Bakugo said with a sigh. "We all would have. What I did...I don't know. But I hope Togata is worth it."
Tears entered into Izuku's eyes. "Bakugo, I-" and then, Izuku did a very Mei thing. He stepped forward, and wrapped Bakugo in a one arm embrace.
Bakugo stiffened at first, then, slowly, he relaxed, his own arms wrapping around Izuku.
"Listen, um, we can be friends and all again, but, well, Ochako and I are sorta-"
"I love you," Izuku said, blinking back tears. He smiled, pulling away. "Like a brother, Bakugo. This is...I don't know. This is painful. But I hope...I hope we can have what we should have all along. Even if the price was too high."
"Oh shut up. You damn nerd," Bakugo hiccuped. "I-"
Bakugo suddenly stiffened.
"What?" Izuku asked, stepping back, frowning. "It's OK, I know you don't mean it as an insult now."
"She's here," Bakugo said through gritted teeth. "Why did they let her come here?"
"Katsuki Bakugo! What the hell do you think you were doing, crying to me on the phone!"
Izuku spun about to see Mrs. Bakugo striding towards them through the snow, her face flushed. She looked a great deal like her son save that she was abundantly and obviously female, for they had the same wild hair, determined expression, and manic gleam in their eyes. Despite the fact that he'd known her for over a decade now, she looked like she had hardly aged at all. Izuku suspected it was because of her quirk. She produced glycerin all over her skin, half of the quirk that Bakugo had inherited. His father could make small sparks. Combined, those two innocent quirks had created a potent weapon.
"Mom," Bakugo said, his teeth grinding together. "There's something I have to tell you."
"Well you scared the hell out of me, and your teacher did it again when he talked to me! I called a cab, your father has the car and he's away in Nagato for business! What is it that you couldn't say? I saw you beat up more villains, but did you really need to drag me out here to brag?" Mrs. Bakugo ranted.
"Oh, hello, Midoriya. Guess we haven't spoken in a while. I have to say, for a quirkless runt, you did pretty good for yourself," she said, smiling at Izuku. She actually seemed to think she was being pleasant, but Izuku felt her words like a stab to the gut.
"Now speak up? What is it? Oh my God, Katsuki! Are you seriously crying? Knock it off! I thought I taught you better than that, people are watching and there's going to be cameras soon if there isn't already! Hero's don't-"
"Ma'am?" Uraraka said, stepping forward and putting herself between Bakugo and his mother. "Kindly shut the hell up. Please."
Mrs. Bakugo flushed. "What the hell is wrong with you, young lady? You're that Brawl girl? Hmph. Well, I suppose if this is about Katsuki dating you, I suppose you're worthy of my son but-"
"I said to shut up," Uraraka growled, stepping forward. "You can either do it, or I can shut your mouth for you. Which is it going to be?"
Mrs. Bakugo smirked. "Well, got a mouth on you, huh? Well, if you're going to date my son you'll learn-"
Izuku managed to block the blow before it connected with Mrs. Bakugo's face. He winced, shaking his hand out. Uraraka had clearly not been holding back in the slightest. Mrs. Bakugo had a look of utter shock on her face.
"Um, Mrs. Bakugo? You should maybe listen," Izuku said quietly.
"Hey, who's the rude lady?" Mei said, coming over. Eri was still slumped on her shoulder, snoring softly. "Be quiet! Eri is sleeping. She is very tired!"
Blinking, Mrs. Bakugo slowly nodded.
"Katsuki?" Uraraka said gently, putting her hands on his shoulders and pushing him forward gently. "Can you tell her? Or should I?"
"Mom, I…" Bakugo swallowed, then blurted. "I'm quirkless."
"What? Don't be stupid, you damn well know you're not," Mrs. Bakugo said, recovering. "You've always bragged about your quirk! Christ, half of this is my fault for not reining you in earlier, but I-"
"His quirk is gone," Uraraka said firmly. "It was taken in the fighting."
"Like mine," Mei agreed. "The Mask took mine. The Glove man took Bakugo's with a bullet. It is different, but also the same."
Her mouth opening and closing, Mrs. Bakugo could only goggle for a moment. "No, that's impossible! You can't just take quirks!"
"I lost mine to the Mask," Mei said quietly. "I used to have a quirk. Not anymore."
"You're lying!" Mitsuki snapped, but her lip was trembling. She looked to Bakugo, her expression pleading.
He folded his arms over his chest. "I'm quirkless. If you're going to just reject me now, get the fuck out of here. I already have people who give a shit about me."
For a brief moment, Mitsuki looked like she was going to argue further. Then tears filled her eyes, and she darted forward, wrapping both Bakugo and Uraraka in her arms. "Oh God. Katsuki. I'm so sorry. Oh God. This is all my fault. I'm a terrible mother! I can't-" She broke down sobbing.
Izuku stepped forward. "Actually, it's-"
"Chisaki's," Uraraka said firmly. "Don't say yours, Katsuki. Or you, Izuku. The only one to blame managed to erase his own quirk. And he's going to jail for a very, very long time."
"Oh Katsuki," Mrs. Bakugo wept, her tears soaking into her son's hair. "I'm so sorry. If I had just...I don't know. Been a better mom. Not pushed you so hard. Maybe...maybe you'd still be strong."
"No." Bakugo pulled himself away from his mother and Uraraka, standing alone in the cold. He pointed to Izuku. "You think he's weak?"
Mrs. Bakugo glanced at Izuku. "Well, no, not anymore. He did win the UA Sports Festival, and, well, you've all stopped so many villains and Midoriya always seems to be at the center of it. He's hardly weak."
"Well guess what. Now I'm just like him." A feral grin covered Bakugo's face. "So, if anything, I'm stronger now. Because God only knows Izuku's been stronger than me for a long time. Guess now I've finally caught up."
"Bakugo, I-" Izuku swallowed. "You can have the Ultra Armor. The Power Suit. Whatever you need. Right, Mei?"
Mei nodded, stepping close to Izuku so that he could put his arm around her shoulders. "You saved Izuku. You can have any of our babies." She looked down at Eri. "It seems we have a new one to take care of, anyway."
"No." Bakugo shook his head, frowning. "That's your way. Not mine."
"So, what? You're just giving up?" Uraraka demanded. "I don't accept that! You can't tell me you're going to just lay down and die, Katsuki! You can't leave me! What about us?!"
"I'm not going anywhere!" Bakugo roared. "But I'm not a damn nerd! I won't be piloting some stupid robot!"
Mei swelled up in outrage, but a squeeze from Izuku caused her to deflate, though she started to mutter angrily under her breath until Eri stirred. Then Mei began to hum again, and Eri smacked her lips and lay still.
"Look, I don't know what I'm going to do yet. Not really," Bakugo admitted. "But I'll find my own way of being a hero." He reached out, pulling his mother forward. "And mom? I want you to meet someone special. This is...this is Ochako Uraraka. She's...she's the best person I know. And she's what makes me strong."
"Um, hi," Uraraka said, blushing. "Sorry I tried to punch you earlier."
Mrs. Bakugo studied Uraraka for a moment, then shrugged. "Eh, if you're going to be in this family, you're going to have to get used to some tough love."
Slowly, Izuku steered Mei away, walking her and Eri back towards the truck so that Bakugo could have his own private moment.
"I'm glad you're ok," Mei said, looking up at Izuku. "I was very scared. Now I know how you felt when the Mask had me. It was not fun. But we saved you. Just like you saved me."
"You did," Izuku said, gently kissing the top of Mei's head. "Thank you. I'll try not to do anything so stupid again."
"It is ok." Mei looked down at Eri, who was snoring softly. "I think it is OK, because now Eri is safe. I did not think human babies could be so cute, but she is nice. We should keep her."
"I don't think that's going to happen," Izuku said, smiling gently. "Eri's quirk is still dangerous. We'll have to find a way to help her, but she'll need to find a good home."
"Izuku...what about Bakugo's quirk?" Mei asked.
"I don't know. I guess it's gone forever just like yours." Izuku sighed heavily. "I wish we could get it back. Who knows. Eri's quirk is reversing time. Maybe we could find a way to have her help both of you. If you could both get your quirks back...well, that would be amazing. I still feel bad that you lost yours."
"I don't mind so much anymore," Mei said as they settled down on the ramp again. She leaned up against Izuku, humming softly to Eri. After a few minutes she stopped. "Izuku?"
"Don't be mad at me."
"Mei, why would I ever be mad at you?" Izuku asked, puzzled. "I know you guys probably did a few illegal things to rescue me, but well, I'm starting to realize that maybe the world is more broken than I thought."
"We did, I think. I'm not sure. I am not very good at rules," Mei admitted.
"I know. I think that's probably a good thing. I'm a little too good at following them," Izuku laughed.
Mei nodded. "Yes. But, Izuku, I lied to you."
That hurt, more than Izuku thought it would. "I...well, I'm glad you're telling me, Mei. It hurts that you thought you couldn't tell me the truth, but I understand. I've probably lied to you before and it was wrong of me."
"Yes." Mei sniffed, a tear trickling down her cheek. "The Rice CRISPR is finished."
That baffled Izuku for a moment, then he nodded slowly. "You mean your gene sequencer? Did Togata have All Might's quirk? I'm starting to think he did give it to him."
"Yes, but that is not what I am talking about. Do you know what a CRISPR is, Izuku?"
"Well, it's a gene sequencer, right?" Izuku asked.
"That is part of it, yes. It is the clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats," Mei said by way of explanation.
Unfortunately for Izuku, it did not clarify what Mei meant. "Um, Mei, let's just assume that you're having to explain this to Denki."
Mei nodded. "DNA is like legos, but it is what makes people instead of toys."
"Um, maybe like you're explaining it to Kyoka," Izuku interrupted.
"The CRISPR allows you to edit the human genome by designing specialized viruses that implant the desired genes into the target site," Mei said.
For a moment, Izuku didn't quite understand. Then he did.
"Mei! That's incredible! You could-"
"Shh," Mei hushed as Eri sniffled and stirred. "I think so, yes. But I am not very good at biology. We will need lots of rats."
"Rats?" Izuku asked, confused.
"Yes. I do not want to give Bakugo a virus that will hurt him. We will need to do testing," Mei explained.
"That's wonderful! You're amazing Mei, you and Bakugo can both get your quirks back! And Ragdoll too!" Izuku said excitedly, keeping his voice low.
Mei frowned, looking up at Izuku. "Maybe. It will be hard. But I do not know if I want mine back."
Izuku felt as though a hand were squeezing his heart. "Why? Is it because of me?"
"It was, a little bit," Mei admitted. "You said you loved me without my quirk."
"Mei, I meant, I meant that I still loved you. Even if you lost your quirk," Izuku said, feeling ashamed. "I didn't mean…"
"I understand now. I am sorry. I am still learning social skills," Mei said. She snuggled up tighter to Izuku, reaching up to touch his stump. "But this, this is how I know you love me."
Then she touched her eyes. "And this is how you know I love you. Besides. Would you want me to give you a quirk?"
Izuku was dumbstruck. They sat alone for a long time as the police and other emergency workers continued to work. As the sun came up, the clouds parted, and the rays of a new day washed over Izuku.
"No," he said at last, looking back at the Ultra Armor. "You made my quirk for me. I don't want another one."
Mei touched the goggles that were perched on her forehead. "And you made mine."
The End of Book 2
This is the end of Book 2 of Rejected Stones, but it's not the end of the story. The final part of the story of Izuku and Mei's journey to become the world's greatest heroes will come in Book 3, where they face down the Meta Liberation Army for the final time, and Japan is rocked by conflict that will determine just what it means to be a hero. Thanks for sticking with the story this far. It's been quite the journey up to this point, and we're just about to the end. The story will return at the beginning of next year, with a couple of chapters in December that will go over just what the Meta Liberation Army is up to, and how Japan is faring with Endeavor locked away, and Class 1A and Togeta's reputation in tatters.
If you have the time, please let me know what you think think of the story so far. What elements of it did you enjoy, and what parts didn't work for you. Feedback like that helps me improve as a writer, and helps me write even better stories. And, hopefully it will help me end Rejected Stones in a satisfying manner.
Thanks for reading and reviewing