"Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival." ~C. S. Lewis

Touma liked to joke that he was a no-good, idiot. His grades were his go-to proof and he'd wave his tests around with a mournful sigh and melodramatic complaints about his own stupidity. His classmates would laugh and join in, comparing grades and expressing their disbelief over the questions he got wrong. His teachers would roll their eyes and mutter something about applying himself more.

It was all in good fun.

After all, Touma knew that even if math equations made his head spin and he could never figure out those metaphors in the poems they read, he was good at other things.

For one, he was good with people.

People watching was a hobby or maybe a habit? Regardless, he liked watching people. He liked watching their expressions change and trying to figure out what made them react the way they did. He never got tired of watching crowds.

Ok, so he obviously didn't have a lot of friends growing up if that was his main past time, but after years of observation, he started to notice the little things that made people tick. For example, he knew that when his math teacher got that little crease between her eyes he should really shut up and not ask any more dumb questions or she'd give them extra homework.

It was little things like that. Small observations that made navigating conversations easier. It was also probably why girls liked talking with him, much to his male classmate's annoyance.

It was also, unfortunately, why he knew something was up with Academy City.

Honestly, he was surprised more people didn't notice, but he guessed everything was subtle enough that most people would overlook it, more focused on friends, jobs, or grades than potential faults in their precious city.

Maybe he was just paranoid, but he could never fully give up on the idea that there was more going on.

It was in the way some missing person posters went up for a couple of days before being taken down and never talked about again. It was in the way the local news reported some incidences in the city. He knew damn well that explosion wasn't a gas leak because he had seen the person who created that crater in the local supermarket. He had barely avoided being clip with a stray piece of rubble. He had seen the black vans pull up and armed guards swarm the building before he sprinted away.

It was also in the way that the cameras followed everyone. There were the normal ones on the street corners, that were supposed to watch for petty crimes and traffic violations. You could find those in any city. But, there were also the ones in all the trash can units that wandered the city and kept it clean. Those were explained away as the little machines needing to navigate the city, but Touma had seen them pause and watch people, especially when some hotshot esper was showing off their powers in public.

He had caught them watching him as well. Those days he didn't sleep very well and he double and triple checked that his front door was firmly locked.

Though, the most damning observation of all was really the esper system itself. That was something he noticed when he first came here when he was still just a kid. He was especially sensitive to other people at that time and was always watching for even the smallest sign of aggression.

(He watched hands a lot back then. Watching for the flash of a blade.)

So, instead of listening with awe over the explanation of espers, their powers, and the Power Curriculum System he watched. He watched as students went through the initial tests and watched the reactions of kid and adult alike at the results of those tests. The higher score you got more praise and rewards you received. The best schools invited you and the adults praised you.

But, if you didn't score well…

There were a lot of dropouts and delinquents in Academy City with a bone to pick with espers. Touma was used to being looked down on so it wasn't a big change for him.

It was better than being feared.

(He still sometimes had dreams about before. About whispers and the fear. It wasn't his fault. It wasn't his fault.)

Of course, the bullying wasn't the greatest, but again, he still thought it was a better deal than his hometown. He could actually do something about it here.

That brought him to the second thing he was good at.

He was really good split-second reactions to danger.

Probably due to years of dealing with his bad luck, he had learned to trust his instincts and move when they screamed at him. This saved him from anything between random falling pots to assholes who wanted to pick a fight with him. Coincidently this little skill led him to the realization that, although he still ranked Level 0 in the Power Curriculum Program he had some sort of weird negating ability when it came to esper powers. He found this out when he raised his arms to block a stray pyrokinesis attack from a group of espers showing off. As soon as the flames touched his right hand they disappeared with the faint echo of shattered glass.

Both Touma and the guys fooling around were left relieved but very confused. Upon further experimentation, and more fights than he'd ever admitted to his parents, he discovered his ability negated all esper powers.

Which was pretty cool...except when it wasn't...like right now.

He hadn't thought twice about catching the person he ran into when turning the corner into the next aisle. If he could prevent someone from getting hurt, especially if he was the cause, then he'd help. However, as soon as he grabbed the other guys' wrist he felt his ability activate with that faint echo of glass breaking.

A shiver of dread crawled down his back.

His instincts were going haywire.

When he met those red eyes he knew he was in real trouble.

He liked feeding the stray cats around his apartment and while some of the animals had warmed up to him enough to allow him to pet them, others were completely feral. He could always tell those cats from the others by their eyes. There was a wild, cornered look in them when someone got close. And he had learned the hard way that a cornered animal will turn violent at the drop of the hat.

This guy had the same kind of eyes.

Touma slowly let go of the thin wrist, trying to broadcast his every movement so as not to startle him into violence.

Distantly he noticed that along with the red eyes the guys had pale skin and hair. In the back of his mind, the part not currently cursing and panicking, he vaguely remembered a lesson in science class about this phenomenon though he couldn't remember the exact term.

"Ah, sorry dude." He smiled nervously. "I should really watch where I'm going. You okay?"

Red eyes narrowed. He almost groaned.

"How did you do that?"

Well, he supposed now was the time to implement the third thing he was really good at.

Pretending he was an idiot.

"Do what?" He allowed his expression to turn more confused as he tried to subtly look for the exit. He didn't fully understand why he never told anyone about his ability, something always held him back. So, while he used it to protect himself he usually scurried away before any further questions could be asked. When he couldn't run immediately he bluffed his way through.

Something told him that wouldn't work on this guy though. There was a familiar pit in his stomach that he got whenever his bad luck was acting up in a serious way.

(He should have known something like this would happen. He had been doing pretty well for the past couple of days. Something big was bound to happen.)

This whole situation really sucked. He needed his groceries if he wanted to eat tonight, but he didn't think this guy would let him continue on his merry way. He sighed internally.

Rotten luck.

"You!" The guy had a real mean snarl, but even when he drew himself up to his full height he was still a couple of inches shorter than Touma. "What. Did. You. Do."

Touma managed to raise his arms in a placating gesture right before the guy did...something. It must have been his esper power because he felt his own ability activate in response. They stood in complete silence for a moment.

Touma watched as the guy's eyes flashed through a series of emotions as his scowl deepened.

(He thought for a very brief moment… he saw fear in those red eyes.)

"Um," He started. "I'm sorry?"

Real smooth. But, to be fair he was panicking. His voice seemed to drag the other guy out of his own mind and he took a menacing step forward.

"Fight me."

This time Touma did groan. "Look, man, I'm really sorry about bumping into you. I could buy you something if you want, but I really don't wanna fight you much less in a grocery store."

The guy blinked and for the first time since this whole encounter started, he seemed to realize where he was. He saw the guy's eyes dart to one of the freezers, specifically the coffee brand Touma only saw at this store. A weird thing to focus on considering the situation, but dammit if that coffee saved his life here than he'd buy a whole crate.

"Fine. We'll fight outside." With that, the guy turned on his heel and stalked out of the store.

Touma wasted no time abandoning his basket with a silent apology to the store employees who would have to put everything away and raced to the back of the store. The bathroom of this particular store had a window he could squeeze himself through to escape, though he was getting a little big now. He knew by the time he went into high school next year he wouldn't be able to fit.

As is was, it only took a little bit of wiggling and contortion to get through. Once out he ran home without a backward glance.

An empty stomach was a small price to pay for avoiding whatever nonsense he was about to get into with that guy.

Of course, he should have known his luck wouldn't let him get away that easily.

Touma realized when he got home that somewhere along the way he had lost his wallet, probably while he was climbing out the window.

He cursed up a storm but eventually accepted it.

That was the fourth thing he was really good at. Accepting things as they were. Honestly, what else could he do with luck like his?

Needless to say, that skill was tested to its limit when the red-eyed psycho showed up to his apartment the next morning, wallet in hand.

I haven't watched the main series in years, but I started watching Accelerators spin-off today and this just flew off my keyboard at lightning speed. Are there other fics where these two meet before canon? If so please tell me. I haven't been in this fandom in a while and the only fic I remember clearly was that one where their roles were switched and Accelerator ended up taking care of Index. That was really good.

In any case, expect some AU and frequent use of headcanons with this one. I like the idea of playing around with pre-mind wipe Touma and fleshing out what his life was like. And of course, throwing him and Accelerator at each other.