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Stab My Back

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“...because of your upbringing, you should have had unparalleled knowledge of the rules of our hero society, and the consequences for breaking them…”

Beneath the defense table, Dabi’s hand curled into a fist on his knee. The chain wrapped around his waist clinked, and his lawyer gave him a warning look. The latest of many. Dabi gave the woman a grimace in return and she quickly refocused on the task at hand. He might be pissed that Endeavor’s parenting had repeatedly been used as evidence that he should have known better than to act villainously, but she was the one who had to fight it.

He still hadn’t gotten used to the idea that Endeavor’s money had paid for her to be here in the first place.

Dabi had been certain that his father wouldn’t pay for his medical bills or legal assistance. Hadn’t wanted him to, because neither would hurt the Number One Hero’s pocketbooks in the slightest, disgraced or not. What it would do was make him look like a hero. But Nezu, who had lately been his furry guardian ashhole, had given him a lecture on the obstacle debt would prove to be if he were trying to integrate back into society. Especially at his age.

Age had probably played a big factor in convincing Endeavor to tip. Nezu had gone to speak with him, and whatever had transpired between them, that had been the result. This lawyer was sharp-beaked but sharp-minded as well, and they’d put his body back in order at the hospital without any real complaints. After operating so long as a villain without a healer in his group, it felt almost like Dabi had gotten off easy despite being beaten nearly to death by his father.

Sometimes, in dark moments, Dabi thought it would be better if he had choked to death on his own blood during the fight. Then people wouldn’t be saying that his father had changed, could make amends, and this whole thing wouldn’t be threatening to slide off his back like water off of a duck.

But on a halfway-decent day Dabi had no intention of dying, if only to spite the old man. He’d wanted to kill Dabi.

The only thing stopping him had been Shoto.

Dabi glanced around the courthouse for that familiar red and white hair, even though he knew Shoto was at school. Just like Kaminari was. The other idiot who had been willing to step in and attack the Number One Hero for Dabi’s sake.

Thankfully, he hadn’t had to. If he had, he might not have been waiting for Dabi on the other side of whatever punishment they laid on him. He and Kaminari certainly had some things to discuss. Things which they really hadn’t been able to talk about. The last time he’d really spoken to Kaminari had been the day he woke up in the hospital.

It had been the last day they’d kissed, too.

Kaminari might not be in the audience, but a strikingly similar blonde head was visible down past the jury: Mirai Kaminari, mother of the guy he’d rescued from the League of Villains and been rescued by in return. She’d been upset when she found out just how much Kaminari hadn’t said about the nature of their relationship when she caught them making out on her couch, but she was still here. Nezu, too, was present. Probably because today was going to be the day it would all be decided.

“Your honor, with all due respect, my client suffered mightily at the hands of his father, and lost his mother at a young age. Law enforcement was aware of his situation but turned a blind eye when returning him to his father. Countless heroes who could have offered help did not. He was only a boy–and is still only a boy…”

On his first day in court he’d come from the hospital dressed in a black t-shirt and jeans. Originally, his lawyer had asked him to come cleaned up in a suit. But as it turned out, even when they washed his hair aggressively enough to turn it from black to a dark reddish-brown that was closer to his normal color, and put him in nice clothes...even when he removed all of the earrings from his ears and tried to minimize the impact of the dermal piercings beside his nose...there was really no escaping the patchwork face he’d earned from the impossible heat of his Quirk back before he knew how to control it.

So, belatedly, the lawyer had ordered him to put his earrings back in and to ruffle his combed hair. If he couldn’t pull off the groomed gentleman, than she would sell him as the ragged counterpoint to Shoto’s brilliance, as proof of what their father had shaped him into.

He couldn’t tell if that was better or worse, because when court adjourned on the first day they didn’t let him go back to the hospital or to the Kaminari house, where Mirai and her husband had offered to house him. They’d taken him away, stripped and dressed him in a jumpsuit, and closed him up in a solitary cell.

After a few weeks of that, he’d almost grown dumb enough to look forward to these hearings, even if he knew how awful they’d be. The things they’d do, what they’d say…

“...dangerous, amoral, and a threat to anyone in his proximity…”

It was just a rehash of everything that had been said before, in a shorter amount of time and without repetition of the evidence. With each darkening word, he reminded himself...he’d heard it all before.

A hand on his shoulder roused him from the fugue state he hadn’t even been aware that he’d entered.

It was time.

“Touya Todoroki?” The judge leaned forward on her dais, and Dabi had to wonder–how old would she have been when Endeavor debuted? Did she have posters of his father on her wall when she’d been Dabi’s age? How many criminals had his father single handedly put before her?

His lawyer was signalling for him to stand, so he did. Standing beneath the dais, he felt even smaller than he had already.

Despite what his lawyer had said, he tried very hard not to let his emotions show on his face.

“The harm you have done to others is undeniable,” she said, “as is the harm that has been done to you. The severity of the company you kept and your age both complicate matters tremendously. In the end, potential problems in each of our possible approaches have been pointed out. So we want to offer you a choice.”

...a choice? His lawyer hadn’t prepared him for that. What she had prepared him for was a cruel, underhanded legal process that would look for the best way possible to make Endeavor look good. He stole a glance back at her, but her expression wasn’t comforting at all. She must not feel like she’d prepped him adequately for this sort of thing.

“Prison has been ruled out, as none of your crimes...except the ‘attempted murder’ charge, which has since been dropped...were enough to have you tried as an adult.” The judge cleared her throat and he dragged his attention back to the front of the room. “There are few juvenile detention facilities prepared to house someone with either your Quirk or your notoriety. Mixing with other young criminals wouldn’t be good for your rehabilitation or theirs. Of course...the option that was presented to us by the faculty of UA was not particularly well-received, either.”

Dabi wanted to pretend that he’d never for a second believed something as incredible as Nezu’s solution would come to pass, but that would be a lie. He’d been filled with a most wretched sort of hope since the first time they’d spoken, and it had been awful having that torn away piece by piece over the last few weeks.

It was a punishment to the current students, some said.

It was unprecedented, others said.

It was dangerous, others insisted.

And, perhaps most damning of all, it was a reward . What kind of message did it send, giving someone who had threatened the lives of UA students and faculty the chance to train beside them?

To learn their secrets and their ways?

“You can choose juvenile detention, with a possible extended stay in solitary until facilities can be prepared for you. Or, you can submit to a ‘treatment’ of sorts that allows the people you’ve harmed to make you relive their pain, via our staff member’s empathy Quirk. Afterwards, you would be allowed to apply for acceptance into UA. If for whatever reason that fell through, you would end up going to juvenile detention anyway...but the facilities might be ready at that time.”

A chance at UA? Only a chance.

“–my client and I–”

He heard his lawyer stand and speak behind him, but she sounded very far away. “I’ll take it!” he blurted.

“...pardon?”

“The chance at UA,” Dabi clarified, fingers curling in the chains at his wrists. “I want to try.”

“Young man–” The judge looked between him and his lawyer, and for a moment she seemed to soften for the first time since she’d walked in. “You’ll want to discuss this with your legal counsel. The empathy experience won’t be pleasant.”

“I don’t care.”



He cared.

In the days that followed, victims and families of victims of the League were contacted and offered the chance to upload their anger and fear and pain directly into Dabi’s head as part of his ‘rehabilitation’.

Notably, most of the families of class 1-A refused. His lawyer struggled with the terms, vehement about cutting out people who had been impacted by the League at large rather than Dabi specifically. He hadn’t cared then, but he cared later, when his only child was in the hospital for the dozenth time, and he was filled with a panic unlike anything else.

Once the plain-looking woman who’d been brought in to do the transfers had dropped her hand from his head, he all but forgot about each person’s face in an instant. The people’s names, the specifics. All that was really left was a state of exhaustion and fear and anger. Perhaps that was the point.

When his lawyer said, “This is the last one, look alive,” he could have kissed her. But he wasn’t expecting the person who walked through the door.

“Mrs. Kaminari,” he said, shifting in his chair. He still hated her seeing him in prison clothes. It was bad enough how they’d met, but she’d been nice enough to ignore the circumstances. Now...he could feel her approval dwindling with every second she saw him like this.

“I told you to call me Mirai,” she said as she sat down. “That hasn’t changed.” She turned to the woman standing beside the table, awaiting instructions.

“Ma’am, I’m going to need you to focus on the target memory...it can’t be too complex, and the longer the period of time you focus on, the less impactful the emotions I can transfer. Please focus on something as specific and brief as possible. I’ll need you to look me in the eye and touch my hand.”

“Denki wanted to come,” Mirai said as she set her purse aside, pushing her bangles higher up on her wrist.

“He...did?” What on earth had Kaminari expected to get out of that sort of thing? What did Mirai want to get out of it??

“I told him absolutely not,” Mirai said, placing her hand in their minder’s. “That would only further complicate things between you.”

“Are you worried about that?” Dabi asked, glancing at the empath woman’s hand and wondering what exactly he was going to get out of it. Her anguish when her son was taken? Or perhaps her betrayal when she found out the boy she’d found her returned son kissing was one of the people who’d kept him from returning to her? “If they are still letting me leave with you…”

If you’re still planning on letting me…

“Yes. He’s moved out to the dorms this weekend, but...yes.”

Cool fingers pressed to Dabi’s forehead, and he was thrown once again into another person’s emotions.

It wasn’t pain, and for that he was grateful. No. This was...worry.

To be expected. But the shape of this feeling was all wrong. It wasn’t as crisp as the rest of the pain he’d been subjected to today. It was fuzzy around the edges, but still nevertheless sharp enough to make him gasp.

He was Mirai Suzuki. His new husband was distant and disinterested and he already knew the marriage wasn’t going to last. It had only been for the baby’s sake, anyway...the baby...the baby…

So this was about an infant Kaminari, exploding across over a decade of worrying about him. His future, his comfort, his happiness. His recovery. That last one was just a tiny blip before the hand slipped from Dabi’s forehead and, shaking, he was himself again.

As he caught his breath, he stared at Mirai.

What was she doing here? Had that been an attempt to follow the rule of the law without the spirit? Had she really thought it was necessary to communicate to him how precious her son was to her?

Was it a tacit threat?

Instead of answers, Mirai offered her hand. “Let’s go home.”

 




“So you’re a natural redhead,” Mirai said as they waited in line to retrieve his personal belongings and clothes.

“...yeah,” Dabi said, trying not to think about the time her son had made the same observation. “I can’t wait to dye it again, as soon as–”

“You can’t.” The man processing their paperwork dropped a bundle of clothes wrapped in plastic on the counter in front of them, topping it with a thin stack of papers. “Says so in the rules. While you’re on probation, you’re expected to follow a list of rules to help your ‘recovery’. This includes no delinquent behavior, such as dyeing your hair–”

Dabi fought the urge to cough one big ol’ bullstack at that.

“–or getting tattoos–”

“Do you really think getting a tattoo would tarnish my image that much?” he asked, gesturing to the patchwork skin of his face and the many, many piercings he’d crammed into a limited amount of space.

“I didn’t write the rules, kid, I just deliver them,” the man said, pushing the bundle to him and walking off.

‘Kid’. He hadn’t heard that in a while. He did not like it. It was going to be awful and uncomfortable, even more so than being treated like a criminal.

He didn’t say that, though. Dabi was wholeheartedly devoted to making this work. After all, if he wasn’t...what had all of that crap been for?

Though...the hair. He shuffled the papers and noted that a line explicitly banning piercings had been crossed out. Possibly because some of them were medical in nature, but...was this, somehow, his father’s doing?

He glanced into his reflection in a dark window as they left the courthouse, and even with the dark scars on his face, it was Endeavor staring back.

Endeavor’s red hair.

Endeavor’s blue eyes.

Endeavor isn’t here , he scolded himself. He’s ‘on vacation’ pending review by some board of heroes. And...hair? Is that worth giving up a shot at UA?

Of course it wasn’t. So he was going to suck it up and toe the line and try to be good for once, for as long as it took, and see how far that got him.

As he followed Mirai to her car, someone whistled. “Hey, big shot! ~♡ Think you’re a hero now, bastard?”

He turned abruptly, and Mirai stood up from unlocking her door abruptly. “What is it?”

“...it’s nothing. Some asshole who read the paper, probably.” Dabi scanned the parking lot, catching nothing.

Man, he hated being on the other side of this. And he’d only been on the other side of it for seven whole minutes!

As he climbed into the Kaminari family car, onto a discarded wrapper pile that made him wonder if Mirai had come to pick him up on the way back from dropping Kaminari off, he reminded himself that nothing was going to go wrong. This was going to work.

Chapter Text

“We should just refuse to admit him,” Ectoplasm said, voicing the thought on several other heroes’s minds. “A recommendation is, after all, only a recommendation. For the safety of our students, and for society, we can’t afford to do something so reckless.”

“Ectoplasm–I respect your caution, in light of recent events,” Nezu said, paws clasped before him on the table. “But I hope you’ll all consider my motivation for recommending Touya Todoroki in the first place.”

“If it was anyone but you, sir, I wouldn’t even be entertaining the idea,” Ectoplasm replied, looking sideways at Snipe. Snipe had been keeping quiet, but Aizawa suspected that meant he agreed–at least in part–with what Ectoplasm was saying. Which was illogical–he should speak his mind at a time as important as this. 

Now more than ever, UA faculty needs to stick together, he thought absent-mindedly as he fixed the knot in All Might’s tie.

Of course, it was in the middle of that small intimacy that Nezu waved everyone’s attention down towards them. “I was discussing as much with All Might–what we stand to gain from a rehabilitation effort.”

Aizawa finished the knot under everyone’s gazes, returning their stares cooly as he sunk back into his chair, leaving the speaking to All Might. He’d been sleeping before the uncharacteristically slouchy nature of his boyfriend’s (boyfriend! The concept was strange even now) neckwear has roused him from his nap.

“...I know it’s a subversion of the League’s intentions with young Bakugo,” All Might said, sounding worn out and unsure. It reminded Aizawa of the meetings following the training camp incident; he didn’t like that. “We take one of their best and brightest, and mold him into a model hero. It would show the public how resilient UA is, at any rate, and how weak the villains’ convictions are…”

“Besides, it looks bad for the family member of a powerful hero to be fighting against us–especially the Number One Hero . Not to mention, it’s bad for morale.”

Something about Nezu’s words made All Might sink deeper into his chair. Aizawa frowned. Was he really going to get himself down over being retired? Later, they’d have to have a discussion about that, from a hero who had never had delusions of being number one to the man who had defined it for so long. Aizawa hated the thought of his partner being down, and yet, he also hated how many of his students were fighting for the number one spot.

Didn’t they all realize that they’d block each other? Only one, ultimately, could stand at the top. That kind of competition could crush them even before the villains arrived.

And they could live quite comfortably anywhere in the top ten...or top twenty! Or they could even augment their salary by teaching brats who wanted to be number one, and making them into heroes.

As Aizawa mused over their culture’s obsession with number one, Nezu was continuing his train of thought. “As the criminal ‘Dabi’, Touya Todoroki came very close to becoming another Stain-like figure in the hearts and minds of certain criminal elements. Even in his short time in the spotlight, he made large changes to the world.”

“Are you suggesting we use him to anchor Stain’s ideology on the right side of the law?” Midnight asked incredulously, playing with the cuffs around her wrists.

Nezu didn’t seem so downtrodden. “Perhaps some day! But for now, I think it’s better that we transform him back into what he is: a child. A child has far less political clout, and they’re easier to shape than adults.”

“He has no potential for hero work,” Aizawa grunted from inside his capture scarf. All eyes turned to him.

Nezu made a ‘go on’ gesture, so Aizawa sat up slightly out of the scarf. “I fought his copies twice at the training camp. Both times they disintegrated in under a minute. He’s old enough to be a third year without the bare minimum skills necessary to be a first year at UA. If this is about keeping him occupied, you should find something better, because eventually you will have to find something else to do with him.”

Not only would it be supremely unfair to students like Shinso who were in General Studies or elsewhere to have him occupying space and resources in the hero course...but it would also be unfair to him. And what better trigger to slide back into villainy than devoting years of his life to a goal he’s destined to never to reach? It’s for the best…

“While that may be so–and this is assuming that the copies are representative of his powers–I still feel like there’s something to be gained from placing Touya Todoroki at UA,” Nezu said, reaching for his tea. Aizawa knew that meant this was serious business, and yet, he was determined to stick to his guns. “Just being around heroes, and good role models, will go a long way towards rehabilitating him. Much more than any cell would. And I’d like to keep him and Kaminari close. I feel that that is another vital key to the process.”

Aizawa shook his head coldly. “This is another place I don’t agree with you. I don’t think you should let this go on, for Kaminari’s sake.”

Powerloader made a noise of disbelief in his throat, as if he were surprised that Aizawa was involving himself in his students’ romantic pursuits like a nervous parent. But Aizawa knew that he was in the right, here. “He’s my student, so of course I’m going to prioritize his safety and learning environment as much as possible–I don’t think he’s mature enough to handle this,” he said simply.

“...specifically what part of ‘this’?” Mic asked, sounding pretty nosy for a guy who’d been so quiet up until now.

“Any of it.” Aizawa said bluntly. “I’ve already got almost a dozen students in relationships, who now live together, who need to figure out that that means changes for their relationship. Kaminari is not one of the ones I’d consider mature enough to handle that without my intervention–or with it. Frankly, he’s an idiot. Add to that the villainy aspect, the kidnapping, and just about any part of this...I can’t imagine it ending well.”

“Ah, but, Sh–Aizawa!” All Might sat a little forward in his chair. “Give the boy some credit! It’s probably because of him that we have Endeavor’s son wanting to work with us in the first place!”

“Dumb luck.” Aizawa said flatly. And blond hair.

His own problem-with-blond-hair was looking at him with teeth locked and eyes anxious, stopping Aizawa from going to more extremes.

“What do you think, Vlad?” Nezu asked, looking down the table. “You’ve been quiet.”

Vlad King looked at Aizawa first before answering. That didn’t exactly make him happy–he didn’t want to be the representative of the ‘no’ camp. He preferred to be the voice of reason, but siding against Nezu rarely made him feel logical.

“Ultimately, my answer is no.” Vlad reached up and touched his jaw. “I understand your thought process, Nezu, but I don’t think this would reflect well on UA. We don’t want to open ourselves up to any more criticism.”

“Ultimately–are we ready for a vote, then?” Nezu leaned forward. “There seem to be enough of us for an even split, but I will accept a draw as cause to withdraw. In order to pull this off, we need a majority of our staff behind it.”

Most of the teachers nodded, doing a tally in their heads. Vlad: no. Nezu: yes.

“The kid’s suffered so much,” Powerloader said, giving Aizawa some massive side-eye. “I think we should do something about this.”

“It does give the heroes access to him,” Midnight mused, spreading her hands. “Rather than leaving him to the prison system. Here, we might have a chance to reach him.”

“I agree with Kayama,” All Might said, summoning some of his old enthusiasm. “We should always try to help those within our reach!”

Four yes, one no.

“No,” Snipe said, with a sigh. “This could all be a trick, to get intelligence on UA.”

Mic looked guilty as eyes flickered to him. “The bottom line is, he hasn’t earned it. The kids work hard to be here. He hasn’t been through any of the exams–it wouldn’t be right.”

“It’s better than jail...though I don’t like it either,” Thirteen said, looking uncomfortable. They had sounded so much more sure when this meeting began. Aizawa suspected their hesitance to switch sides completely was due to the closeness of the numbers. Ectoplasm had already made his position clear. One more no would tie up the vote, and leave Touya Todoroki to his fate.

All Might was looking at Aizawa with those stupidly hopeful eyes.

“I vote no,” he said shortly, returning that look without wavering. It was illogical to agree with someone consistently just because you were romantically involved. “For the good of the students.”

A few of the teachers looked surprised–specifically Midnight and Mic. Did they really think he’d cave just to tip the result? Or to satisfy his partner? He glanced over at All Might and thankfully, All Might didn’t seem disappointed. One thing Aizawa hadn’t really expected getting into this thing with All Might was how well they had come to understand one another.

“Ectoplasm?” Nezu asked, though in Aizawa’s opinion that was just a formality. Ectoplasm had already said his piece, made his opinion clear. But Powerloader was clearly was expecting some kind of miracle, based on the way he leaned in.

“What I think,” Ectoplasm said, leaning over the table. “Is that you have to tell him no, he didn’t qualify for our program…”

Chapter Text

It brought Dabi an odd sense of déjà vu to sit in the passenger seat of Mirai Kaminari’s car, being driven to UA, his phone nestled up against his ear as he called Kaminari. Not that this woman and his father had anything in common except for giving him a ride, and Kaminari almost had nothing in common with the boys he’d been seeing on the sly at the time..

“Hello? Dabi!?”

Dabi felt a sudden rush of affection towards the voice on the other end of the phone. He sounded so surprised! Dabi knew that Mirai had kept him informed about when the trial was, and he’d even emailed Kaminari last night to confirm his freedom. “Yeah!” He couldn’t help but grin. “Did I catch you at lunch? I’m in the car–I didn’t want to call before and get you in class.”

“It’s lunchtime! You’re on your way here? That’s great!” The sound of loud chewing followed. Dabi snickered.

Mirai was mouthing ‘tell him I love him’ at Dabi, to the point where he felt compelled to share the message or have the car run off the road. “Your mom says she loves you. I don’t think I’ll run into you, but I’ll be on campus. Which is still crazy. Maybe after I speak to the teachers, I could try to come see you.” He ran his hand through his hair self-consciously, making a face up at the red strands at the edge of his vision. “I might look a little different than you’re used to, just a fair warning–”

“Oh! Ha ha, how?” Some more chewing followed, but not a long enough pause in which to answer. “By the way–I know you’re not my boyfriend, but…”

Something about his tone made Dabi’s neck prickle. He frowned. “...yes?”

“–I just thought you should know, I’ve been experimenting while you were gone.”

“.......oh.” What…..was he even supposed to say….? Dabi’s mind was a sudden, savage blank, with darker emotions curling up the far edges of his mind like smoke.

“Crap, that’s the bell–I’ve got to go! Let me know if you want to meet up afterwards!” Kaminari’s tone was impossibly cheerful as he hung up.

Dabi held the phone to his ear for several seconds too long before he lowered it down, his expression frozen in a mask of discomfort.

“Something wrong, hun?” Mirai asked as she turned into the parking lot.

Dabi shook himself. “No, I’m just...nervous.”

“Oh, don’t be! If the principal arranged this whole thing, it would be foolish for them to just turn you away at this stage, wouldn’t it be?”

“...right.” He knew that…but he’d also ‘known’ that part of what he was getting out of jail for was Kaminari. Which seemed like it had been a stupid idea.

...just what was he getting himself into, again?



“Kaminari, he’s going to think you meant you’ve been cheating on him, ribbit,” Tsu said, with an entire eye roll encapsulated in her tone.

“Nah, he knows what I mean!” Kaminari said brightly. He hadn’t made out with his hand for several cumulative hours not to tell Dabi about his hard work–it would build anticipation! It was probably silly to put so much into a relationship that didn’t exist yet...but he was hopeful! And he’d missed Dabi a lot .

It had been kind of uncomfortable for a while, with everyone knowing what had happened between them thanks to Jirou, but their reactions had calmed down since the first day. After that, no one believed Jirou fully and most of them had stopped looking at him sideways.

Now, he got the harshest looks from his teachers and Iida, and even then he didn’t always notice them. Mina had been a bro throughout everything, and that was all that mattered.

Pretty soon, Dabi would be joining them in the dorms and life on campus would settle into an even more acceptable ‘normal’. He was looking forward to that.



“We can’t let you in,” Nezu said, paws folded in front of him. “I apologize for the trouble we have caused you, and the court system.”

Dabi’s mind was running on a several-second delay, courtesy of Kaminari’s faithless confession, so it took him several seconds to blink and sputter: “–what?”

“It’s unfortunate how much your plans revolved around this, but your recommendation had to be reviewed by our staff nevertheless.”

Dabi’s mouth felt dry. This...after everything? He didn’t speak, so Nezu pushed on.

“It would be impossible to have you complete the practical exam that incoming applicants have to take, so instead we reviewed footage of your assault on the training camp.”

...ouch .

To add insult to injury, Present Mic was wheeling a television in, turning it on to display grainy footage of Dabi with his hand outstretched, sending a wave of flame from his palm.

This wasn’t a good look on him–this wasn’t a good look on anyone! Dabi had the distinct impression that he would have been angry if he hadn’t been so thrown off by his phone call with Kaminari. As things stood, he was just confused with a growing undercurrent of unease.

A cut to some forward-facing camera on the front of the mess hall, where students stumbled from the burning woods, coughing. He winced, and the picture changed again to him dissolving. Or–Twice’s copy of him dissolving.

Was this even fair? It...wasn’t. But he was locked in himself, unable to scream out at the unfairness of this.

“Do you have any questions?” Nezu asked, waiting.

Yeah. Just how many kids like me have you forked over from your little fourth-floor office here, ashhole?

“No,” he said, stiffly. He stood mechanically, not waiting to be dismissed. Maybe...when he got out of the door, he thought he might run.

And who knew how far? With this happening, he was going back to prison–

“Then congratulations–you’ve passed.”

You could have heard a pin drop. Dabi gripped the back of the chair so hard his knuckles had turned white, and his brain went utterly blank in a moment of blinding rage. At long last, he fought the anger and confusion down long enough to speak. “ What?

“In coming to an agreement about your place here, it became clear the traditional exams wouldn’t work,” Nezu said, not looking one bit sorry for whatever bull school was going on here. “We agreed on two conditions. You had to show concern for the people you’d put at risk in the past, without prompting...and you had to accept rejection with grace.”

The only reason he’d accepted rejection with grace was because he’d been too confused and upset to start spitting venom, but he was not about to bring that up now!

“So...I’ve...been accepted here?” he asked haltingly, almost afraid to ask for confirmation at the risk of triggering even more fibbery .

“Yes,” Nezu said. “Naturally, your arrangement will be somewhat different than the other students’ based on your joining late and somewhat unusual combination of experience and inexperience–you’ll alternate between classes for the remainder of the semester as both a refresher and preparation for the fall. At that time, you’ll be able to apply alongside the first years with the same exams and tests.”

“But for now,” Eraserhead said, sounding utterly done with everything, “You will be attending UA, which is a massive privilege.”

“Please do your best!” Nezu said, beaming.

“R-right...thank you, for this opportunity…” And the bull staff you just pulled.

As Dabi was frozen in a half-standing position, it seemed appropriate to continue to stand, shooting a glance at the door. Was that it? Could he go? If he hurried, could he avoid them changing their minds again?

No one stopped him, so after a few quick (and forced) bows, he was out the door.

He practically tripped over Mirai.

“Wha–I was not listening at the door–how did it go?” she said, forcing a clueless, concerned look.

“It–I actually don’t know.”

“Me either, but I couldn’t hear everything. C’mon–let’s talk in the parking lot where they can’t hear us .” She grabbed him by the arm and made a beeline for the door. Halfway there, she paused. “–wait. You wanted to try to see Denki before we left, didn’t you?”

He had...but after everything he’d dealt with just now? And ‘experimenting’? ...no. He couldn’t.

“He’s probably in class right now,” Dabi said, casting a sour glance at the campus. “Let’s just leave.”

Chapter Text

As Dabi stood in front of a mirror in the Kaminari household, buttoning the front of his new gray jacket, he couldn’t help but think of the first time he’d worn a UA uniform. He’d been rooting around in his parents’ shared closet and had put his father’s impossibly large jacket on, tying the tie into a series of knots rather than correctly, and had slipped on a pair of his mother’s shoes to complete the look.

Later, he had decided that his father probably saw this as the first sign of big, gay trouble. Dabi would almost have liked that, but he knew deep down his little game of dress up wasn’t about that at all. He’d wanted to be tall! Like daddy!

He’d run out to show daddy, and even though he hadn’t understood the words his father used, he’d gotten the message loud and clear–boys didn’t wear high heels.

Years later, he had his actual first Gay Moment. At least, this one he remembered , because someone had scolded him for it.

He’d been a tiny six-year-old just barely starting school. Shoto had already been training with their father for a year at that point, so he slept all the time when they weren’t training, and was kind of boring.

...except he was really precious when he slept. On one such occasion, Dabi had been perched in their mother’s chair, with his baby brother napping on his lap, watching little Shoto suck on the side of his own hand. Their father always snapped at Shoto when he saw it, but Dabi thought it was cute. And he wasn’t about to start a fight with his brother and risk getting maliciously icy fingers jammed up his nose–again!

You’re such a good older brother, ” their grandmother had cooed, stooping to pat Shoto’s head. Dabi had wanted to shoo her away, lest she wake the baby, but Shoto didn’t stir. After training, he slept like the dead.

Yeah, ” he’d told her, beaming proudly once she was no longer ruffling the sleeping baby. “ When I grow up, I'm going to have a baby just like him. ” 

 Of course, the only reason that he’d been set on that was because his grandma had told him that Shoto was growing up. He had wanted Shoto to stay little and cute forever, but apparently no one had thought to ask him about his opinion on this.

Oh, really?” The old woman had cooed, watching them over her shoulder as she cooked. She’d stopped by to ‘help’ their mother that day, as she did often...especially after their parents fought. Not that Dabi had understood, at that age. “Is there some girl you’re in love with at school?

I’m gonna marry Akito Tanaka,” Dabi told her, considering this his formal declaration to his elders and family.

Mm, that’s nice…

He has pretty blond hair.

For years after the fact, Dabi wouldn’t know why that had upset his grandmother. He’d assume it was something about blond hair, which wouldn’t cease its siren’s-song appeal for him. He wouldn’t realize until much later that it was the ‘he’ that had made her take Shoto off his lap and chase him off with harsh words about telling lies.

Years later, at twelve, it had been posters of jpop idols, cautiously hidden inside drawers or folded up where his father wouldn’t see. Sure, the female idols he had pictures of weren’t just for decoration either, but it felt like deception when he’d take one as soon as the other.

His secret was starting to weigh heavy, even then.

Hey,” he remembered the cute goth boy in his class whispering to him two years later, when he was fourteen. Still somewhat heartbroken after his old girlfriend, he’d frowned at the boy.

Don’t ‘hey’ me,” he’d said sourly, all the while asking–why did I say that? I like him!

Thankfully, Haru had understood that, even if Dabi didn’t. He’d been The First Boyfriend.

Much later that year, this time with another boyfriend, Dabi had had his defining gay moment. He’d been paging through UA’s student manual, and his boyfriend had draped himself over Dabi’s shoulders.

You’re really going to apply to UA?” he’d asked, lips tickling Dabi’s ear.

Of course!” He’d replied indignantly, twisting around to look at Himitsu. “I just wanted to check one thing.”

Himitsu had kissed him, and Dabi abandoned the student handbook open on the floor.

He’d been checking the policy of community, which affirmed each student’s right to a safe learning space regardless of nationality, religion, or sexuality.

He’d felt at that moment that maybe, just maybe, things could go his way.

And now...maybe they were going his way, except they weren’t. It was amazing how that happened! The universe must enjoy keeping him on his toes.

 As if to prove that point, his phone dinged.

 He slipped it from his pocket practically in slow motion, pulling open the email he’d known would be from Kaminari. (How could it not be?)

‘I guess you had to run, but I’m glad you got in! My mom told me.’

Was there...a question in that? Dabi was shoving the phone back into his pocket, irritated, when a second message dinged through. He growled softly because what was once super endearing was now actually incredibly annoying.

‘I know you won’t be needing it with the uniform really, but since your old jacket got trashed when your dad lit you on fire like a hobo’s trash can, do you want the old jacket from my hero costume? I updated and forgot that one in my closet anyway haha :p’

The third message didn’t even wait for him to finish reading before it came through. ‘It’s made of bullet and slash-resistant material. It’s probably heat resistant. And it’s black!’

All of which was perfectly irrelevant when, as Kaminari had pointed out, he would be adhering to UA’s strict uniform policy. Even so, Dabi couldn’t resist wandering upstairs and into the door he’d never actually opened–Kaminari’s bedroom.

It had this strange half-lived-in feel that Dabi assumed came from Kaminari having moved out and into the UA dorms. Not that there wasn’t tons of stuff still here: a little of everything, showcasing a million and one hobbies and franchises that had caught but not held Kaminari’s attention.

Dabi found that he could sympathize a bit with the Licecops action figures haphazardly shoved into a unit of clear plastic drawers on Kaminari’s desk.

He didn’t open drawers–that seemed like too much of an invasion, no matter how much this boy had made his heart ache. Besides...he didn’t know when Mr. Kaminari was coming home, with his keep-room-for-Jesus ears.

The closet had been directly mentioned, however, so Dabi crossed the room to the closet where Kaminari had spent so much of his time.

There were actually a disgusting number of clothes hanging in the closet, especially considering the fact that Dabi had only ever seen Kaminari in graphic t’s. Or...maybe that made sense, because he hadn’t brought any of this with him.

He found the jacket in question easily enough and slipped it off its hanger, pulling it on in one smooth motion.

A little short in the sleeve, but he could feel the thicker fabric of hemmed cuffs that could probably be let free. What had fit somewhat loosely on Kaminari clung to Dabi like a glove.

There was a small part of him that almost–almost–wanted Kaminari to see him like this. Wearing his clothes, or dressed for attendance at UA. Even with his hair ridiculous like this, he almost felt attractive when he smirked at the mirror hanging across the room.

...of course, Kaminari had probably lent his jacket to plenty of people. Maybe even the people he was ‘experimenting’ with, in whatever more-than-clothes-lending-capacity that implied. When he thought about it, Dabi couldn’t shake the gut-wrenching image of Kaminari awakening in his new dorm room...a new dorm room.

Before those thoughts could get him down, he took the jacket off. Putting it back on its hanger, he abandoned it in the closet and left Kaminari’s room, returning to his own.

He ignored those emails, and the several that came in afterwards. He had a big day ahead of him.

 


 

A foot was hooked around Eijiro Kirishima’s waist, the rounded heel of a sneaker pressing into his spine. These shoes were probably smearing dirt on both his clothes and the couch in the dorm room common area, but he could not have cared less. He’d pulled Bakugo into this indecent position knowing full well the costs.

 He’d been sort of peripherally aware of Sero, sitting on the other couch, but it wasn’t until Sero spoke up that Kirishima really noticed him.

“Uh...guys. I’m trying to listen to my recording of Midnight’s lecture...and your lip smacking is drowning it out.”

Bakugo pulled out of their kiss with an obscenely loud noise–defiant, perhaps–and fixed Sero with an utterly blood-chilling stare from Kirishima’s lap. “Then go to your filing room, Office Supplies.”

‘But...my room is on the fifth floor!’ Sero’s eyes seemed to say. To which Bakugo would probably snap that theirs were on the fourth and Sero must have a death wish. Which was why Sero was never going to stand up for himself like that. So it was probably a good time for Kirishima to step in! For the good of morale and his bros.

“Katsuki,” he said, rubbing his hands against Bakugo’s waist. “–why don’t we take this to our rooms? We can meet everyone here later for dinner. It’ll be just the two of us….” Rub-rub-rub-rub. Please-baby-don’t-freak-out.

Bakugo glowered at the world in general for a moment before sliding sideways off of Kirishima's lap. “Fine.” 

Kirishima saw Sero mouth ‘thank you’ as they left the room, with Kirishima’s arm slung around Bakugo’s shoulders. Kirishima beamed at him and flashed a thumbs up.

After all, this relocation wasn’t exactly punishment for him, either! He’d fully expected the school to try to pull something like they had at the training camp, putting one of them in another building. Instead, they were right next to each other! With no curfew or ground rules, either.

Kirishima would have been happy going to either of their rooms, but Bakugo pulled towards his own. Once inside, Kirishima flopped down on Bakugo’s bed with a level of familiarity that had made Bakugo twitch when they’d first moved into the dorms a few days ago.

He pouted when, instead of joining him on the bed, Bakugo walked over to a stack of boxes by his desk and began rooting through them furiously. “Babe, what are you doing?”

“Unpacking!” Bakugo snarled, seemingly still on-edge after the whole Sero thing. That made sense...Bakugo had been surly for days, ever since they’d moved into the new dorms. Like the grumpy cat that he was, he seemed ill at ease in this new environment. “I’m not one of these half- ask losers who’s going to leave their things lying around for months on end.”

I’m lying around,” Kirishima pointed out, rolling over onto his back. He tried using a duckface to lure Bakugo over, if only to try to smoosh the offending expression off his face. It wasn’t working.

“That’s your own dorm fault,” Bakugo said, beginning to throw pencils and pens into the cup on his desk in some actual order.

Kirishima rolled over again, this time onto his stomach. He had to wonder, when Bakugo pulled this kind of hot and cold act on him, whether there had been an element of Bakugo deliberately trying to make Sero uncomfortable in his behavior. He’d barely touched Kirishima since their first night in the dorms. At least, behind closed doors. In public he’d become aggressively forward, and now that Kirishima thought about it, it was at its worst when other people were around. How awful! It could almost make a guy feel used.

“Katsukiiiiiii.”

“If you’re going to whine, then help .” Bakugo reached into the box and pulled out a folder. “Help me separate classwork from everything else. I just threw everything on my desk into that in a hurry.”

He made a dissatisfied noise in the back of his throat, but even so, Kirishima began to do as Bakugo had asked. Really, behavior he put up with–

As Bakugo walked by to hang a baseball cap on the hook behind his door, he leaned down and kissed Kirishima briefly. At once, Kirishima’s grim demeanor transformed. He beamed at Bakugo and started sorting his boyfriend’s ridiculous amount of papers as best he could.

Eventually, Bakugo was going to settle in. And once he had, this was going to be really fun.

Chapter Text

Shinso had just finished hanging a posted of a peppermint-colored cat on his wall when there was a knock on his door. He opened it, blinking in surprise. “Mr. Aizawa! I was expecting Shoto.”

“That’s exactly what I want to talk to you about,” Aizawa said, looking at peppermint cat and not at Shinso. “—may I come in?”

...what an oddly frightening way to start a conversation!

 


 

“Of course. Sir. Just…” Shinso gestured helplessly around the mass of boxes more or less swallowing the room next to Midoriya’s. “I haven’t had a chance to fully unpack yet, even though I think Shoto’s already pulled out the floor in his room and remodeled everything—”

“So that’s what all that banging was when I was trying to take a nap,” Aizawa said thoughtfully, sounding much calmer than he felt.

‘Speaking of banging,’ he imagined himself saying, and screamed internally.

But no! He couldn’t crumble under the pressure! His pupil needed him to pass on some sage advice.

“Yeah. On the one hand, I’m impressed, but on the other hand, worried about how I’ll ever impress him …”

“About that,” Aiawa said at long last, and Shinso looked wary.

“...did Endeavor talk to the school again like he did about the training camp?” Shinso’s eyes narrowed, and at his sides his hands drew into fists. 

While Aizawa understood his pupil’s feelings towards the Number One Hero, he couldn’t encourage them. “No,” Aizawa said at once, because although Endeavor had thrown a prissy little batch fit about the fact that the school wasn’t going to place his child in a separate dorm from his boyfriend, this conversation hadn’t been a result of that. All Aizawa had done for Endeavor was pointed out dryly that moving Todoroki out of the 1-A dorm was both a punishment and an impediment to his studies.

Endeavor hadn’t backed down easily at that, but since refusing UA’s request to house his son had never really been in question because of his ambitions, Aizawa had napped upright through a large portion of the raging that followed.

So he was here not on Endeavor’s behalf, but as a mentor and teacher.

I wanted to ask you why you thought that there was no real discussion about rules when you moved in here, versus when class 1-A attended the training camp.”

Shinso frowned, but it wasn’t an emotional response. He was considering Aizawa’s words logically. “...because they’ve already been established?”

Wrong or not, Aizawa still felt proud. Endeavor especially seemed to be a berserk button for Shinso, which the boy would need to learn to suppress on his way to becoming a hero. Even if Endeavor had proved to be a particularly nasty case who might face actual consequences, often the heroes one worked with were less tolerable than the villains, because they kept coming back every week. “It’s because there aren’t any—at least, not that kind.” Aizawa looked at peppermint cat again as he said ‘ that ’. “The training camp was a school-sanctioned event. A field trip, more or less. The dorms’ connection to the school is more tenuous.

“In order to build them so fast, our principal couldn’t rely on taxpayer money. Probably knew he couldn’t rely on funding anyway, because they’re still furious he slipped a decimal point between the ‘1’ and ‘0’ on how many years the Giant Robot Budget was meant to be stretched across. How he raised so much money in such a short time is both concerning and not important—”

And probably involves an infuriatingly sunny ex-hero with a blood-coughing problem…

“—but the bottom line is, private housing, even on school property, can’t regulate its residents to that level. It’s an unfortunate loophole, in my opinion, that would open up far too much potential for underage drinking on top of everything else, but I know that even an actual series of rules wouldn’t be enough to keep some individuals from breaking them.”

Shinso opened his mouth.

“Yes, I mean Bakugo and Kirishima. Now—I won’t be having this talk with them, but I’ve asked All Might to do it (Bakugo respects him more, that little shot ), and I will be talking to Oijiro and Hagakure as soon as we’re done. You and Todoroki aren’t being singled out, either because of who his father is or because you’re both young men.”

He hoped, coming from him, that might ring true...even if his confession to Shinso that he was in a ‘something’ at the moment hadn’t specified a male something. “I’m asking all of the couples in this building to manage their relationships logically. I can’t tell you what not to do, but I can tell you, as an adult, that this move is going to change things for everyone. It’s going to give you opportunities you didn’t have before...along with challenges. It will be harder to get space when you’re angry or overwhelmed, and to draw boundaries. Most of you have known each other only a few months, and have been dating for less than that. To give your relationship the best chance to survive, you need to acknowledge that newness and proceed with caution.”

Aizawa dragged his fingers through his hair, grimacing. “For everyone’s sake as well as yours. If even one couple breaks up the next year at the very least is going to be miserable for everyone. With that in mind...this isn’t just about you and Todoroki.”

“Meaning ‘don’t monopolize the common area to make out and make everyone afraid to use the showers on the first floor’?” Shinso asked.

Aizawa cracked a smile. “Precisely. In all honesty, Shinso, I may be worried about you the least. You’ve been trying very hard to maintain my trust, and I appreciate that.”

Some greater emotion flickered behind the boy’s eyes, but he didn’t make a scene over it. “Thank you, sir. —have you talked to Sh—Todoroki about this yet?”

Aizawa forced himself not to make a face. “I started with the easiest talk and plan to work my way up. Your boyfriend will be after Oijiro and Hagakure...I’m sure his father has given enough lectures on the subject to make any sort of talk about sex with him uncomfortable for all involved.”

“We didn’t really talk about sex ,” Shinso said as he got up, probably tempted enough by curiosity to press Aizawa a little.

“Sex is overrated,” Aizawa said dismissively, “I survived over three decades just fine without it.”

 




“I’m surprised you didn’t take UA up on their offer for staff housing,” All Might ventured, and Aizawa lifted his cheek off the man’s bare chest in order to look at him.

“My ‘housing’ is perfectly fine.” Even if he was currently in All Might’s, and had been most nights that week.

It was a logical choice. All Might lived closer to campus, and Aizawa had grown more comfortable staying over in the fledgling days of their relationship helping All Might shower with a cast and slowly come to terms with his retirement. He could complete his morning routine anywhere—he didn’t have one. When All Might slept over at his place, there was a scramble to get a change of clothes, the horrific dawning realization that Aizawa didn’t own any hair gel (he’d borrowed Mic’s for the press conference), and a million other things that made life harder for All Might. So, when the question of whose bed they’d be sleeping in that night came up, Aizawa was quick to cut through All Might’s polite stammering and get to the point. He was fine, really, no matter where he slept; some nights he even prefered his solitude. But when they were together, he didn’t ‘need’ anything. Just All Might.

Who had, naturally, turned into an incoherent blushing mess at that dry comment.  Most of the time, Aizawa couldn’t understand the charm All Might seemed to find in him.

But...when it felt like this to be held, he was perfectly fine letting All Might continue to believe he was someone charming and sexy and desirable.

It was only logical to want to be happy.

“You’ve been worried about the children, and since you’re not particularly concerned about where you’re living…”

Ah, he wanted to know why Aizawa had turned down Nezu’s offer to move into a faculty dorm on campus. Aizawa would have preferred if he’d just asked, plain and simple, but maybe one day he could convince All Might to speak plainly with him.

But...maybe it was as hard for his lover to speak plainly as it was for him to dress his words up in optimism and smarm and pointless banter. That would mean they were on equal footing.

“I worry about the students,” he confirmed, pretending as through the fingers pulling lightly through his hair (removing the tangles he’d felt earlier while talking to Shinso) weren’t distracting him. “But I can’t watch them while I’m asleep. Ultimately, that’s what my home is: where I sleep. If they need me, I can always put in more hours.” A pause. The fingers didn’t still. “—besides. I like my privacy. Our privacy.”

Could they be doing this in a dorm for teachers? ...probably. Everyone was so grateful to All Might, and concerned for him, and in a pinch he supposed the staff would rally around them. So it was Aizawa who would be made uncomfortable by all those eyes on them—on him —and he hoped he’d conveyed a fraction of the pressure that would cause to Shinso.

The students would also have eyes on them , and unlike an underground hero and a retiree, what they did now would follow them throughout their entire careers.

“I understand—but I want you to know, I’m nothing but honored to be with you. Our age gap and genders are no one’s business but our own…”

All Might was saying his useless-but-pretty things, and Aizawa let him. But when he was done, he propped himself up further on All Might’s chest.

(Mindful... always mindful...of the scars.)

“How did talking to Bakugo and Kirishima go?”

“I— well ,”

“Toshi,” Aizawa groaned, dropping his face back to All Might’s skin, and therefore hiding the entirely undue amount of disappointment he felt. More important than any broken promises were the possible ramifications for both Bakugo and Kirishima, along with their classmates who would be subjected to the nuclear fallout of that relationship. “I asked you to help me for a reason! Tomorrow, I need to—”

“No, no, I did speak with them!” All Might said quickly. “—I just don’t feel like it went very well…”

Aizawa lifted his head again. “Oh, is that all?” He rolled off of All Might and scooted higher on the bed so that their faces were level, his propped on his hand.

“I’d been hoping to be able to bring you a favorable report—you’re not disappointed?”

“Of course not,” Aizawa scoffed. “It was inevitable that they’d present the biggest challenge. I asked you to do it to get the best possible results, not perfect ones. Tell me what happened.”

All Might fussed with the sheet where Aizawa had been as he gathered his thoughts. “I spoke to young Kirishima first. I don’t think I got through to him. He kept repeating that he and Bakugo have had a discussion about their boundaries, and they were fine.”

When All Might reached up to rub his forehead, he looked gaunt and tired. “In other situations—other lessons—the students have wanted to learn something from me. I’m not sure...how to convince them that I have something valuable to teach when they don’t already believe that.”

Did your book talk about that? Aizawa wondered, glancing at An Idiot’s Guide to Teaching on the table next to the bed. But he didn’t interrupt. “So Kirishima thinks they have things under control. What did Bakugo say?”

“He was...hostile.”

“Predictable.”

“Yes, I was ready for that!” All Might smiled that stupid sunny smile that Aizawa stupidly loved. “I told him that no one had to know that he’d taken my advice, and that it wasn’t even really advice, per se. Just an observation from further down the road.”

Further down the road, hm? Even if they were young and hot-headed, it was obvious to anyone what Kirishima and Bakugo were. They were young and stupidly in love. Some part of Aizawa did think that might have been nice, to find someone he worked well alongside much earlier. But at their age, he had had no idea that he’d be teaching at UA first and working as a hero second. If he’d envisioned a partner, it would not have been an older retiree who was now Quirkless.

Which just went on to prove that teenagers were idiots and he really did think that he and All Might had perspective that their students would benefit from. Not enough to tell them who he was dating, but perhaps he’d feel settled enough into all of this to tell them that he was seeing someone seriously.

“...what is it?” All Might asked, alerting Aizawa to the fact that he was smiling.

I’m just thinking how lucky I am, to not have to be madly in love from the start. That you’re confident and content that it’s inevitable.

“—it sounds like the sort of thing he’d listen to,” Aizawa said evasively. He’d bring... other things up as it became appropriate. “And I doubt that book came prepared to handle Bakugo. You’re doing just fine without it.”

‘Just fine’ was damnably faint praise, but All Might beamed all the same. “I should go grade papers while I’m on a roll, then—get my evening cleared so I can watch the sunset from my roof.”

Former top heroes and their stupid penthouse apartments…

Not that All Might made a big show out of his residual wealth. He nudged Aizawa as he climbed out of the bed. “Coming?”

“I’m going to sleep ,” Aizawa grumbled, rolling into the sheets to try to approximate the sleeping bag he was approximately one ‘I love you’ away from bringing along to All Might’s bed and forgoing politeness. He was already losing so much sleep from... this , between getting poked in the night by a scrawny elbow or keeping each other up late far more sweetly.

There were few things Aizawa hated more than sleep deprivation, but when he opened his eyes a crack and saw the disappointed slope of All Might’s shoulders in the doorway, he grunted, “Wake me up for the sunset.”

Chapter Text

Kaminari was not the type to brood. For one, he didn’t want to infringe on Tokoyami’s brand. For two, he was just a generally happy personality that could only pull off a long black jacket with a few layers of irony. But today, running his fingers along the edge of his new cropped jacket, he couldn’t help but brood. Had Dabi taken him up on his offer of the old jacket? Was he doing okay out of prison?

Why hadn’t he been replying?

He’d managed to forget that, briefly, when he dropped by the support classroom to pick up his modified costume. But now, alone with his thoughts…

Maybe I should just call him and ask what’s wrong… he thought, reaching for his cell phone.

“Hey—Kaminari! I’m glad I caught you!” All smiles, Kirishima jogged over to Kaminari as he slid his costume’s case back into its locker. He eyed the phone in Kaminari’s hand. “Are you busy right now?”

“No, haha—it’s probably a good thing you stopped me, honestly…”

“Great.” Kirishima grabbed Kaminari and hauled him towards the door, “Come work out with me. I wanna talk.”

“But—it’s almost time for dinner—”

“You can’t eat right before working out! We’ll push through and eat afterwards!” Kirishima grinned, and Kaminari felt it was safe to assume this talk wasn’t going to be anything too heavy. Not from such a buoyant personality! Still...it was a little weird.

“...don’t you usually do this with Bakugo?” Kaminari asked as Kirishima pushed open the door to the weight room that the school had been leaving open later now that students lived on-campus. Mostly for Kirishima, probably, though there were a handful of third years hanging around. And in the corner, a flash of green hair...Midoriya? Being spotted by Uraraka?

“Nah man, Bakugo and I work out in the mornings! This is an extra session I wanted to throw in now that they’re pushing us to come up with signature moves. Let’s start with the bench.”

Kaminari wasn’t sure how weight training of all things was supposed to help with the development of a signature move, but that wasn’t stopping Kirishima from sliding a lot of plates onto the bar before positioning himself beneath it.

This...did not seem like the sort of environment you could easily talk in. Especially not with Kirishima’s breathing timed and deliberate, exhale as he pushed up, inhale as he lowered it down. And when he popped up and asked a question, it didn’t have anything to do with anything! “Do you want less weight?”

“Well, yeah—but not that much less. I do work out too you know, Kirishima—you’ve seen my six pack!”

“If I’ve seen it then why are you taking your shirt off?”

“To prove that I still have it! And that twenty-four hour access to Lunch Rush’s cooking hasn’t ruined it!” Kaminari flexed aggressively.

Kirishima laughed.

That had better be with me and not at me, Kirishima, or I’ll stop defending your makeout sessions with Bakugo and start calling it your Hoover Quirk.

Teasing aside, he’d pretty much decided that Kirishima just wanted someone to work out with when the other shoe finally dropped.

“So,” Kirishima said, as he rubbed chalk on his hands. (They’d since switched to deadlift, and some seriously scary weights awaited him.) “We haven’t really talked about the guy...from the League of Villains.”

“Dabi.” Dabi-who’s-not-answering-my-emails.

“Right...one of the guys who took Bakugo.”

……….. oh. “Yeah…” Wasn’t that friending awkward?

“So, yeah, there’s that, and I can’t say that I understand it! You’re—well, you’re not always a smart guy, but Kaminari, you’re a good guy!” Kirishima clenched his fist feelingly. “I don’t believe you’d ever do something to harm UA! Or your friends! So while I feel like this guy’s bad news, I want to try trusting you.”

Kaminari was so moved that he could have hugged Kirishima. Except for how dangerous that could be while he was working out. And the fact that he was still shirtless. “ Dude…”

“Of course—” Kirishima went on, “It would have been a different story if I didn’t get Katsuki back.”

“Of course…” Kaminari bit back his words, then pushed ahead. “Look, Kirishima—I know he’s hurt people. And I can’t even begin to think of how he’ll make it all right—”

“You maybe should,” Kirishima said, his expression serious, “because when you vouch for him, or—Jirou said you were kissing him—”

“She really did not need to share that detail with the class…”

“—it seems like you’re making excuses for him. And condoning all he did.” Kaminari couldn’t think of a moment where he’d seen Kirishima look more serious. “None of that seems to match up, man, but you need to be careful. Bakugo hasn’t said anything about his attendance here, but I know it’s bothering Iida.”

“...Iida? Why?” Of everyone, he’d have thought that Bakugo might be a problem, and probably Midoriya, because of what had happened to All Might… Of course, Midoriya was Midoriya…

Dude. His brother?”

“— stab .”

“Yeah, Stain.” Kirishima started racking his weights, as if their chat was drawing to a close. “—I don’t know what you see in him, and I’m not sure I’m ready to have that conversation. It would probably be easier for everyone if when you thought about everything he’s done, you decided that he isn’t worth it—did you know All Might talked to us, and all of the other couples, about how the dorms and living together is going to cause drama? The class doesn’t need any more drama.”

“Uraraka—!”

As if on cue, someone shot past them with her hands over her face, fleeing a confused-looking Midoriya.

Kirishima watched her leave, then put his hand on Kaminari’s arm. “But, if you’re not going to do that...figure out how he’s going to fix things. At least with the people who have to live on campus with him. And I would appreciate if you started with my boyfriend. He’s been grumpy—”

“That’s just—”

“—er than usual, and I don’t want to see him struggle anymore, okay?”

Kaminari lapsed into silence as Midoriya wandered past them, looking dazed and confused. “...thanks, Kirishima.”

“Don’t mention it. What are bros for?” He heaved the bar back into place, tossing Kaminari’s shirt at him and headed for the exit. “It’s funny—I planned to get you out here to talk about how, when you’re dating big personalities, you have to remember to take time for yourself...I’d seen how you keep looking at your phone...but I just ended up talking about our guys anyway.” He sounded amused...mostly. Kaminari was struck by how little he knew about Kirishima under his blindingly sunny personality. Now wasn’t the time to dig, but...man, he wasn’t always the most observant, was he? Maybe he should try.

Maybe then he’d know why Dabi wasn’t answering him.

“...he’s not really ‘my guy’,” he mused as they left the gym, the sun kissing close to the horizon. “We’re not…”

Kirishima sighed. “—then wouldn’t it be so much easier if you didn’t sound so bummed about that?”

 




Aizawa had handled being woken up from naps before. Nearly always in the case of emergencies, but it wasn’t entirely foreign. As he leaned against the walled structure that sat like a pathetic tower atop All Might’s building, he was doing his best to act like it, instead of blinking like a newborn kitten being forced to see the sun.

Maybe it was the shade provided by the deep hollows around his eyes, but All Might was staring into the sunset with an expression of utter calm and contentment. Aizawa looked at the horizon and groaned softly.

“—something wrong?”

“My eyes are dry,” he grunted, closing them for an extended period before letting them flutter open. When they opened again, he saw that All Might was now frowning.

“I didn’t think, of course—”

“I don’t have to look at the sun,” he grunted, dismissive. “—while I’ll admit this isn’t my…‘thing’, I’m going to sit here, both because I said I would and because it’s something you enjoy.”

The tension in All Might’s shoulders seemed to ease, but his answering smile and shrug still held shreds of worry. “Usually when I think of couples doing something together, it’s something they both enjoy.”

“Statistically unlikely. Even two individuals who are very alike—”

Which they weren’t. He knew that worried All Might sometimes, and he cursed himself for pointing it out.

Even if he was correct.

“—they can’t enjoy the same things all the time. Or even most of the time.” He leaned his head back against the wall and watched All Might for a while, watching him rather than the sun. He broke the silence again as the light washing over his face turned pink. “Do you think it’s that important for couples to enjoy the same things, even trivialities?”

“Hm, that’s—” All Might tucked a hand behind his head, and smiled at Aizawa. “I do, I suppose! While it’s not the same thing as fighting for the same cause, or religion, maybe people who find each other beautiful should find the same things beautiful some of the time.”

He gestured to the sunset in a flustered way that suggested he’d chosen that phrasing exclusively to call Aizawa beautiful. At the risk of obscuring his meaning! That made Aizawa frown as he considered the matter.

The sun definitely wasn’t ‘beautiful’ in his eyes. It was fortunate that it existed—it made plants grown, and warmed the earth, even if Aizawa preferred the dark—but beautiful ?

He wasn’t going to drive himself mad worrying about this, but he would be thinking about it. The fact that he’d allowed himself to be gotten out of bed after only a few hours of sleep suggested he needed to start planning his actions around keeping their relationship going, rather than questioning whether it was the sane and sound thing to do.

Maybe All Might was still thinking about it, too, because when the sun dipped below the horizon he reached for Aizawa’s hand. “Do you want to get dinner tomorrow?”

“I can do lunch...tomorrow, I want to stake out the school around that time,” Aizawa said, frowning at the dark line of the horizon, and lights flickering on all over the city.

“It’s his first day, isn’t it?”

So All Might had been keeping tabs, too. But of course he had been. “Yes. I suspect the inevitable catastrophe won’t happen right away, but it’s the second most likely course of events. If things go smoothly tomorrow night, it will be weeks before things finally boil over…”

He couldn’t stake the school out every night. So he would tomorrow, and hope there were enough hints ahead of time to warn him when the time came.

“But you’re sure it will?” All Might asked sadly. Even if the little prick had fought against the former Number One Hero, he seemed a few classes away from becoming another one of All Might’s growing list of sons. Aizawa would have to meet with Nezu to discuss Touya Todoroki’s class schedule, to make sure that didn’t happen. To protect All Might, when the other shoe dropped.

“I’m certain that even without Ectoplasm deliberately throwing the vote to get his conditions met, the boy would have crashed and burned eventually. He doesn’t have what it takes to survive UA. It’s—” More logical. “— kinder to stop things now before he gets invested. But what they’ve decided to do...is cruel, and it’s going to backfire, and I am going to do everything in my power to make sure that my students aren’t caught in the explosion.”

Chapter Text

The water from his shower was barely stained black as Dabi got ready during his final morning at the Kaminari household. His hair was almost completely back to its natural shade, perhaps only a touch darker. The light-colored, boyish uniform didn’t help either. It felt unnatural.

Perhaps, if he’d known Mirai a little longer, he might have responded to her, “What is it?” with honesty.

I’m more nervous than I’ve been in years. “Nothing, just...thinking.” About Shoto, and Kaminari, and the rest of their classmates, facing them…

The one silver lining was, the dude Kaminari had been kissing

(Or worse, his mind whispered).

probably went here, so Dabi would get the chance to kick his ash. Just…in a way that didn’t get him expelled. He’d get creative.

“Mm, well, we’re here.” Mirai parked the car and twisted in her seat to face Dabi. “I know you’re probably so desperate to have me keep being your mom even though you’ve moved out of my house that you’d do anything, but please, be nice to my son.”

…‘nice’? Just the fact that she was joking about their relationship made it clear she wasn’t aware that Kaminari was much less serious about them than Dabi had thought.

Had...hoped? Static , Kaminari had been the one to ask him to be his boyfriend!

...and like a dumb fool, Dabi had said no. If he’d cared less—about tying Kaminari down to him in the face of a lengthy prison sentence, about how their relationship would look while Kaminari was under scrutiny—he would have said yes!

Should have said yes.

Maintaining a calm, collected expression, he stepped out of the car. “Yeah...I’ll be the nicest thing that’s happened to him all day.”

“...maybe shoot for second nicest, I’m not ready for grandchildren.”

Ha. “...okay.” What more was there to say? “Uh, thanks. ‘Bye.”

He felt kind of like he was running away as he walked to the huge doors of UA, even if it felt like the doors were what he should be running from.

He wasn’t allowed to be on campus unescorted for long.

 Nezu was waiting for him in front of the main building, flanked by two bony and tired-looking men.

...wait. If he peered through the messy of dark hair, he could see that it was Eraserhead, and…

The Ghost of Heroics Past himself, All Might.

“Good morning!” Nezu said, sounding and looking way too cheerful. “I take it the move went well?”

“There wasn’t much to move,” Dabi confessed, thinking of the jacket he’d left hanging in Kaminari’s closet and feeling guilty. “I spoke to my sister on the phone a few days ago and she said she’d hand over what old things of mine she could find when UA sent the truck. But, mostly it’s just me.”

Eraserhead made a sighing noise at that. Dabi watched him from the corner of his eye, unsure of whether he should get this out of the way now before the tour.

“Whatever she sent should be waiting for you in your room!” Nezu said, clasping his paws behind his back and beginning to walk. “We’ve placed you in one of the third-year dorms for now, although you’ll be attending several different classes during the next few weeks.”

Third years...makes sense. They have the most experience and are probably provisional hero license holders. Meaning if I decided to try anything, I’d be surrounded by twenty soon-to-be heroes that are allowed to fight. Besides, we’re the same age…

“And this is Building F, where Aizawa’s homeroom class lives…”

There were students outside of it. His mouth dry, Dabi deliberately looked away from the members of class 1-A. Eraserhead was a convenient alternative for his gaze. The hero stared back at him with a bored expression. “I’ve already stomped you into goo twice. I won’t hesitate to do it a third time if you cause trouble.”

 “I’ve seen the footage,” Dabi muttered. After all, Eraserhead had been there when the teachers had pulled their unfair and confusing false refusal trick. “So...I know it was you who fought my doubles. But I don’t share any of their memories...”

Their personalities, decisions, and strength...but that’s about it. If they’d been destroyed by Eraserhead so quickly, he’d learn from their mistakes and not try anything. His Quirk was basically what he had going for him in the combat department, as his fight with Endeavor had proven…

 “You don’t need to,” Eraserhead said, a threat both vague and terrifying.

Anything he might have said before was made impossible by his precarious position here at UA. Therefore he opted to say nothing, a silence underscored by All Might and Nezu’s.

All Might. The hero that Stain had so looked up to. It almost felt like he should say something, but given his track record with the law...it was probably a bad idea.

“Here’s a floor plan, and the key to your room. We’d show you inside but we’ve got some administrative work to see to,” Nezu said apologetically. “The structures are very new. But, if you look at this updated school map, I can show you where your classes will be…”

Dabi did his best to follow along, but even before the third cross-campus leap Nezu traced with his pawpad his gaze had slid away from the map laid out on the little wall surrounding a small campus garden, to the people that passed him by.

At first, most people passed without a second glance. But Nezu kept saying his family name, and it seemed ‘Todoroki’ was a name that turned heads around here. Between the hair and the piercings, it was only a matter of time before the smart ones put it together and pulled their friends aside, whispering.

...was there some reason they had to be doing this outside? Dabi looked at the teachers accompanying Nezu and was startled to find that All Might was looking directly at him, almost sympathetically.

Not wanting to be caught acting ungrateful for the opportunity being given to him, Dabi forced a smile. Compared to his usual go-to poker face, it felt wrong. “That’s...a lot to take in!”

“It’s only a rough draft, isn’t it, Nezu?” All Might asked, peering down at the paper. “We’d talked about having you in my class, for some of the exercises—”

“And exercise cleanup at the USJ,” Aizawa cut in. “That could also be arranged.”

...clean up? Seriously? Dabi could remember the judge saying something about community service, but the USJ was supposed to be a mess! It was also a bus ride away from campus. With the amount of running around he’d be doing, it would be a wonder if he’d have time to eat lunch, let alone sleep or study…

“For now, this is how we’ll be doing things, but yes it may change…”

“—but wouldn’t it make more sense for me to stay with one class?” Dabi asked, trying to make sense of the list being scrawled into the margins of the map. There was something fishy, but he couldn’t figure out what at this pace! “To have a more coherent, uh, curriculum—”

“This is UA,” Eraserhead said, cutting him off. “We go beyond. Now...does that make sense?”

“...I. Yes? My homeroom teacher...for this week, it’s going to be Ectoplasm…”

“Excellent. I need to go now, to stop one of my students from doing something stupid,” Aizawa said, in such a flat tone and with no movement of his eyes that Dabi didn’t realize what was happening until Aizawa walked past him and a voice called out:

Dabi.”

Ah…Kaminari. He turned, deciding that he must be the stupid thing Aizawa didn’t want Kaminari doing.

But he loves doing stupid things, Eraserhead! 

Jokes aside, his mouth went dry. The few weeks they’d been apart might as well have been a year, the way his eyes roved around and picked out subtle differences in Kaminari’s appearance. He’d gotten his hair cut, though not much—just to maintain the style. His uniform wasn’t entirely unfamiliar to Dabi, but the perfect tie knot and uncuffed sleeves were a certain graceful touch he wasn’t familiar with.

But maybe, even if he could find a dozen differences, he was self conscious to see such a change in himself compared to Kaminari.

His hair...how long ago had it been, when all he’d been worried about had been whether Kaminari liked red hair?

“Kaminari, might I suggest another time and place for this?” Eraserhead said, reaching for his shoulder. Kaminari had been looking past him the whole time, and he shrugged past his teacher as though he didn’t exist.

“You haven’t been replying to me, you dick—also your hair .”

“—you knew it was this color!” Dabi spit out, too thrown off guard to respond to the first part of the statement. Of course Kaminari hadn’t realized why he was upset. He should have expected! All this time... ugh . How frustrating! “I need—”

They were drawing a crowd, he realized. No one dared stop, entirely, not when Eraserhead was giving them the evil eye, but he noticed a girl with suspiciously long, pointy ears twitching them in their direction. Whatever happened would be all of UA’s business in about an hour. Not to mention, All Might and Eraserhead’s right now .

faculty . This couldn’t wait.

 He reached out and grabbed Kaminari’s arm, dragging them closer together. Just about every teacher and upperclassman around them tensed up as though for a fight, but he just wanted to lower his voice above the angsty shouting they’d been working up to. “I needed to say something to you, something I didn’t know how to say, so, I couldn’t say anything at all.” Was that vague enough to give them privacy...but not too vague that he’d lose Kaminari completely? He stared down at him, feeling the pull of those soft gold eyes. If he could get ahold of the boy who’d been holding Kaminari in his absence, he’d quickly forget his promise to behave while at UA.

He’d...not kill him. But he’d fantasize about it.

“You could have just emailed me about anime,” Kaminari said, shaking his head as if that were the most logical of all sentences ever uttered. “Anything. It didn’t have to be about...whatever it is you’re on about.”

This guy...was an idiot. Such an idiot that he made Dabi see red sometimes. “‘Whatever’? The guys, Kaminari—the ‘experiments’!” His grip loosened on Kaminari’s arm, because the alternative was going to be squeezing it until his fingers fell off, desperate.

“The…” Kaminari blinked up at him, then glanced at the teachers. ‘I have no idea what he’s talking about, for the record,’ his expression said.

“Kaminari—” Eraserhead cleared his throat in the moment before Kaminari broke eye contact to look back at Dabi.

“Boys—”

“—who?” Kaminari asked, and Dabi ignored Nezu’s hand-clap.

“I was trying...really trying to be good. Because I know the second I stop trying, it’ll all go at once, I can’t let myself slide. Not even a little. Look at how they’re looking at me,” he ordered Kaminari, with a note of pleading in his voice. “Look at them, before you answer me, okay? Because even I don’t know how hard this is all going to be and I didn’t want to ask you to go through it, too—”

“Dabi…” Kaminari reached out, seemingly hesitant, and touched both of his arms. “You’re really putting yourself out here right now, I can tell, but I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about.”

Dabi gestured fiercely at the gawking students, making a few yelp as they hurried on their way. “I may always be a villain, in their eyes,” he said, hating how speaking those words made them seem real. “—but I can’t just hang around knowing you’re dating other guys. You’d probably hate me, and I’d probably get expelled—be my boyfriend. Get rid of them. If...your offer still stands, and you...still want—”

Kaminari’s mouth popped open in an unfairly appealing way. “Yes.”

“Yes?”

Yes but also...I’m dating other guys??” He blinked at Dabi as though that was really the kind of information someone could surprise you with.

Dabi squinted. “...you said. You said you’d been ‘experimenting’. So—”

Kissing, Dabi!” Kaminari smacked his forehead. “I was—it was...my hand…..I do a nice thing for you, to surprise you, and you just decide I meant—”

Once Kaminari’s hand gestures and stuttering had gotten the message across, Dabi had whispered, “You…?” in a soft voice, utterly lost under Kaminari’s louder stream of words.

He ended up stopping Kaminari’s words himself, quickly before he could worry about the wisdom of such a thing.

The surrounding UA students watched them kiss in an uneasy silence.

 




Aizawa was trying not to understand exactly what this little drama had been about, and trying not to wonder if the way Kaminari clung to Dabi had been at all improved by his liaisons with his hand. He wasn’t having much luck.

As they rounded the twenty second mark, All Might leaned in to whisper into his ear. “Did you add Kaminari to your list of students to receive, ahem...the Talk?”

“.... ugh .” Aizawa shot a disquieted look at the students watching his student, noting their expressions.

Kaminari...how foolish did he have to be, to make such a public declaration of his feelings...his sympathies ? He hadn’t been the one to initiate the kiss, but when they broke apart, he clung to Dabi’s arms and leaned into him like a short girl at her first middle school dance in her date’s arms.

“...I think I’m going to let Kayama handle this one.”

“—you can’t be serious…!”

He was. 

Chapter Text

“Hey. Hitoshi.”

“Ugh.” Five more minutes…

“Hey.” The voice that had been addressing him was now connected to something—a hand?—that was gently touching his hair. “—you fell asleep during the last ten minutes of the movie last night. So I just kept you here, but you probably want to get out of here before anyone notices. It hasn’t even been two days since Mr. Aizawa pulled us aside…”

Oh .” Shinso sat up abruptly, relaxing moments later. Of course it was Todoroki, but he’d still been surprised by the traditional Japanese decoration and furniture around him. That was still unfamiliar to him, since they’d spent most of their time before the dorms hanging out at his place. He sat up, letting the sheets slip off to reveal his Grumpy Cat t-shirt and basketball shorts.  “...yeah. We’d be pushing our luck. The way he worded things, I think he’d be more disappointed that we had a movie night-sleepover than if I told him we disregarded his advice and had sex.” He chuckled at this, glancing over to catch Todoroki’s reaction.

Todoroki looked at him with a rather serious expression from where he sat on the other side of the bed, a comb unused but in hand. “You could always just tell him we had sex, then,” he said before he stood, wandering over to the mirror.

What the heck . Shinso felt his face get hot even as he puzzled over those words. Was that flirting? Or…a joke with not the right timing, probably. It just felt weird to joke about because the idea of someday going that far with his boyfriend was exciting in a heart-pounding, kind-of-scary way. He'd actually really appreciated Mr. Aizawa’s timing—it had helped him remember that even if they had slept in the same bed once before, this was still kind of a big deal. Maybe more than last time, actually…

“Or at least tell him there was some life-threatening mission as the catalyst, rather than a movie that News Nightly called—” He picked up the DVD case to squint at it, “—the third best film of Ren Eguichi’s career.”

“Who’s Ren Eguichi?” With a few strokes of his hand, Todoroki had combed out his hair. He didn’t have the monstrous burden that Shinso did.

Patting that now-crushed-flat mess, Shinso said: “I think he was the guy with the mole?” He abandoned the DVD in favor of looking for his shoes. If anyone had heard something banging against the walls last night, it had been his shoes, rudely chucked as a statement against timed hero exercises for non-combative Quirks against people like Iida, or Bakugo—

Speaking of which… “Hey, Shoto, do you think that Bakugo and Kirishima have—?”

Todoroki glanced over his shoulder as he stripped his shirt off, reaching for his school uniform. “Probably.”

...to whatever higher power that looks after me...got me into UA, and in this room right at this moment...thank you. If Mr. Aizawa asked him why he wasn’t in his own room, he’d just say that he liked the view in Todoroki’s better.

Before he could share his thoughts on the matter, Todoroki turned back to him as he tied his tie. “I want to see my brother today, since I didn’t speak with him last night.”

“Are you going to speak to Kaminari?”

Shinso and Todoroki had already been eating dinner and preparing to settle in for a movie when the news hit them that Kaminari had tracked Dabi and the teachers down on campus, kissing him in front of everyone. Outside of 1-A there seemed to be a rumor that he’d threatened to kick Kaminari’s boyfriend’s ash, but Aoyama’s account entirely left out that detail.

There were plenty of French exclamations and sighs when Aoyama told it, but he’d been right there . He seemed the most reliable.

“...maybe. After Touya.” 

Shinso fiddled with his shoelace, fighting the urge to comment on how strange it sounded, to hear the ex-villain’s given name in his boyfriend’s tone, almost fond.

But of course, what else would he call his brother ? Shinso shook off his reservations, pushing aside mental images of how the others had whispered about Kaminari once he got close to Dabi. It wasn’t his place to tell Todoroki what to do about his relationship with his brother, even if he was a dangerous and probably-unstable criminal who was going to tarnish the reputations of anyone who even tolerated standing by hi—

Not. My. Place…

 


 

They'd done it on purpose. Dabi awoke to a message from the principal, telling him to report to the office rather than his homeroom in the early morning. He’d been presented with a printed stack of documents—‘the rules’, apparently—and then cheerfully dismissed less than a minute later.

“—I don’t get it, couldn’t you have given this to me yesterday? Along with the map?” Dabi flipped through the papers quickly, skimming. Some were obvious, repeating basic laws about using your Quirk to cause harm or legal drinking age. But some were UA-specific, and included a Dabi-specific curfew he might easily have broken last night if he hadn’t been so uncomfortable hanging out in the common areas of his new dorm and called it a night early. “In my room by eight, for the night…?”

“Some have been updated,” Nezu said, almost apologetically. “You’ll want to read those over as soon as possible. And get to class—you’re late.”

Whose dorm fault is that??  he thought angrily as he sprinted across campus. Thankfully, most people seemed to be in their classes already, but the ditchers were going to see him running around looking like an idiot. Great. There went his shot at impressing the one group of people he'd practically been guaranteed popularity with: the delinquents.

Or does UA only have one delinquent, he wondered as he reached the massive door for classroom 3-B and pushed it open.

Nineteen pairs of eyes were on him at once. Or...twenty, though two were on the same face. Ectoplasm didn’t even spare him a glance, continuing his lecture and leaving Dabi lurking there in the doorway.

This wasn’t squaring up to be a fight—not that kind, anyway—but Dabi still took stock of the students while he waited. It wouldn’t hurt to hold eye contact and show them that he wasn’t intimidated.

Most looked away. There were your typical one or two Very Beefy students, though everyone in here looked like they knew from terrible firsthand experience how unforgiving spandex could be. Glasses-Boy-Class-Rep. Slime-Blob Girl. An angry-looking girl who didn’t look away when he made eye contact that he decided was probably The Bakugo. Long-necked Giraffe hero. He wondered if he should bother trying to learn all of their names, considering his class schedule. Though his classes with Ectoplasm might be the exception, he was rarely in the same place twice. Even if he saw the same students, they’d be moving classrooms and seats and he’d be scrambling to keep up for months.

“—which is why, after a few generations, we’ve begun to see pro hero families. To some degree, it’s a phenomenon that relies on the potency of their Quirk, but money and marriages chosen with hero work in mind create an environment where it’s unlikely for the children to fail. Take a seat, Todoroki .”

There were a few open—all but one in the back. Dabi slid into the one next to the Class Rep Boy in the second row with an unphased expression. Even though the use of his family name had made his skin prickle, and the snippet of the lecture he’d managed to catch seemed...rather pointed...

“One example from our current enrollment is Tenya Iida, whose parents and older brother all have led lucrative hero careers. Can anyone tell me other reasons heroic dynasties flourish in our current system?”

The angry-looking girl raised her hand.

“Yes, Amachi?”

“Children look up to their parents,” Amachi said, her voice completely taking Dabi by surprise. She didn’t spit or snarl or anything of the kind—her voice was deep but smooth, and completely didn’t match her aesthetic of Extreme Resting Bakugo face. “So children with parents who are heroes may want to emulate them, from a young age.”

Dabi scowled despite himself. Of course, that sounded nice compared to the other things Ectoplasm had listed—money, greed, parental design and Quirk marriages...and it was true. It was the reason he’d wanted to be a hero for so long. But some heroes weren’t worth looking up to.

He caught Class Rep Dude looking at him and turned the scowl on him briefly. Class Rep grinned and raised his hand.

“...Fukami.”

“They want to keep up that high quality of living,” he said, pushing his glasses up as though that was the cleverest sentence uttered in this classroom.

“I imagine that’s possible, but we’ve already discussed money...can anyone think of something we haven’t already addressed?” 

Dabi was half tuning Ectoplasm out, reading what was written on the board. The underline under ‘Quirk marriage’ seemed particularly damning, but it was seeing his family name listed under ‘Iida’ and a few others that really hit it home. This lesson was for him, and maybe him alone, since he couldn’t see how it was going to enrich the students of UA much at all. 

To further drive the point home, Ectoplasm looked straight at him. This utter bench . “Todoroki, any thoughts?”

Physical and emotional abuse? But the last thing he wanted was to have his answer make him look weak, or reveal a tender place for the class. The smart thing to do would be to say he didn’t know and leave it at that. But with everyone staring at him, the pressure to come up with an answer was staggering . “Power dynamics,” he said, the first thing that popped into his mind that didn’t directly stem from daddy issues.

Ectoplasm was frowning again the way he had when Fukami answered, so Dabi pressed on. “You grow up, and your parents are pro heroes...your siblings are going to be pro heroes...all of your family’s friends are pro heroes, and the kids you hang out with are going to be pro heroes...in order to engage with all of these people you know on the same level, it’s basically the only option.”

“How...interesting.” Ectoplasm sounded very obviously bored. “An interesting guess, now—”

“It’s not a guess, sensei , it’s an answer. After all...aren’t I the expert on this?” He didn’t really know anything about this guy’s family, but he did know that Ectoplasm hadn’t been in the same orbit as his family when he was growing up. And anyone who’d mattered in that way had . He pointed at his family name on the board.

If he’s going to wave it in my face, I might as well own it .

There were several snickers around the room at that, and that seemed to provoke Ectoplasm more than his words. The buff girl to his right covered her mouth with one hand in an incredibly dainty manner, shoulders shaking as she tried to compose herself under their homeroom teacher’s stare.

“Dzuyoi!”

“—yes Mr. Ectoplasm?” She rubbed her hand down her face quickly.

“Pass out these request forms for costume alterations to anyone who needs one. Take note, everyone—I don’t usually give homework to my homeroom, but I want all of you to write an essay about how we can avoid the negative impacts of pro hero dynasties in today’s society, due at the beginning of next week.”

Wow. Could he be any more—

“Uh, sir?” The Beefy Boy who sat behind Dzuyoi raised his hand.

“Gushiken?”

“I don’t really understand...what are we supposed to be doing, exactly? The negative impacts themselves, or…?”

“Solutions, mostly. Do you think we should get rid of the recommendation system, given how most children of pro heroes are more prepared to pass the exams than others? Should family income be considered when determining hero income?”

“Mr. Ectoplasm, some of us personally benefited from the recommendation system.” It was angry-looking Amachi, but she wasn’t looking at Dabi in particular. Did that mean she’d gotten in by recommendation? “Should we still write against it?”

“You don’t need to—I want everyone to write a solution that they firmly believe in.” As he spoke, his eyes were on Dabi.

Dabi looked straight back.

As people began packing up to leave, he finally had a moment to shove the rules and other assorted papers into his bag. He was short for time, but just running off wasn’t going to help him if he had no idea where Midnight’s class was at this moment in time. He really should have paid more attention to Nezu yesterday. As they streamed out of the classroom, he shouldered past a few people to grab someone’s shoulder.

“Hey. Class rep.”

Fukami turned around with a bemused expression. “Do I look like the class rep?”

“Yes.” As the only person in the room with glasses—no, the big guy Gushiken had been wearing glasses too, though the effect was kind of lessened when you wore two pairs—Dabi assumed that the position had been all but guaranteed for him.

“I’m not. Amachi’s our class rep.”

Amachi...crap. The girl with the RBF was already disappearing around a corner, flanked by friends. “—okay, then, you’ll have to do. Where the fork is this building?” He dragged out the map and pointed to the list Nezu had written in the margin.

Fukami tilted his hands until, little by little, the map was in his hands alone. He stared at it, and Dabi twitched. “I don’t have enough time to get anywhere on campus on time, so if you don’t know—”

“Oh, no, we had English here last year! I’ll show you.” Fukami folded the map up in one hand and marched off in the opposite direction as Amachi and the rest of their class had gone, making Dabi curse inwardly as he fell into step.

“You could just tell me. I’m sure you have a class to get to, too.”

“Oh, no, I want to help!” Fukami smiled in a way that was undeniably a bit creepy. Dabi wasn’t about to be scared of some little glasses-wearing, five-foot-maximum, bowl-cut-having punk, but he was beginning to get the impression that that was way more along the lines of Fukami’s persona.

They left the building at the first available door, circling around it from the outside. Dabi kept glancing down at Fukami and his self-satisfied little smile and the people stopping to stare at them.

“...you just want to be seen with me, don’t you.”

Fukami’s smile wavered for a second.

“—look, as long as you actually know where I need to be going, I don’t care. Tell everyone you beat me up or something.” But just because they’d never believe you . “Live your little fantasy of audacity and daring. Just help me get to class.”

“Oh, it’s not a fantasy!” Fukami stopped walking, and Dabi gritted his teeth.

“We’re in a time crunch, Fukami, can we talk and walk?”

Fukami blessedly started walking again, with a nod. “Right. My Quirk—it’s powerful, but because it’s so dangerous, I rarely get a chance to use it in class exercises. I think it’s made my classmates think I’m not as strong as I am. So sometimes, a little reminder…”

Dabi spotted a building with the right name on it and stopped short. Fukami kept walking for several paces before he noticed. “Were you just going to walk us right past it so more people could see what a tough crowd you hang with?” Dabi demanded.

“...no,” Fukami said, having the decency to look embarrassed. “There’s a door on the other side of the building that’s a little closer to Midnight’s classroom—”

Which he did not have time to wander around to. “Uh huh. Thanks, Fukami.” Good luck with your clearly deeply-ingrained issues of self-worth . He turned his back on his new classmate and marched into the building, a frown briefly settling in on his expression.

A teacher’s pointed lecture and manipulative assignments was cause for concern, but he didn’t like the idea that people like Fukami were going to be all around him, using him for their own curiosity or self-image.

He was an oddity, not their peer. It was a sobering thought, that in this new environment fraught with pro heroes with a grudge against him, his list of allies was more or less nonexistent, except for the select few who he could drag down with him.

Chapter Text

“So, Kaminari, did Eraserhead tell you why I called you here today?”

“Not really, Ms. Midnight…” Kaminari couldn’t help but look around Midnight’s office with warring feelings of curiosity and fear. “He said something about group activities review before zipping up into his sleeping bag and rolling away…”

“Oh, these activities are so much more fun in a group,” Midnight said, petting her flogger. “But what they’ve asked me to do is have a chat with you about your relationship with the Todoroki boy.”

“Dabi,” Kaminari said, both as a way to distinguish between him and the Todoroki, and because he got the feeling that that was what Dabi wanted to be called. “...your desk has wrist restraints on it.”

“Why, of course! You never know when and where a villain will need to be restrained...I have several in my home.” She winked, then folded her hands as Kaminari leaned back. “Anyway—‘Dabi’.”

This chill up his spine...Kaminari had last felt it when a warp gate opened up in the middle of the street in front of him and his friends, ending with him being kidnapped. Where would this all lead?

“There’s undeniably a thrill to dating a ‘bad boy’. Especially when you feel like you have access to a side of him no one else does—compassionate, or maybe small and vulnerable...but you should be prepared to meet the bad boy again in the bedroom. For starters, I’d bet a month of my salary he probably has a few piercings you haven’t seen…”

“Uh.” Kaminari’s face was bright red, and his mind was mush. What...and why...was she implying…?

“Teachers don’t make that much, Kaminari, but maybe that means it’s even more important to hold onto what they pay me—I’m sure enough that I’ve prepared some material on the subject.” She pushed a pamphlet with the face-igniting title So Your Boyfriend Has His Junk Pierced across the desk. “For the most part, genital piercings have rounded parts that shouldn’t catch or scratch. But they can increase friction, which can cause condoms to break. You can come to me if you need condoms, by the way—there are lots of options, and I’m all stocked up—but for now we’re just going to cover the basics…”

 




An hour later, Kaminari felt certain that he knew more about sex than anyone his age ever had, ever. And Midnight wasn’t done talking.

“—so, it shouldn’t be a big concern right now, but I’m going to talk you through the basics of the female orgasm because that’s something everyone should know—”

There was a knock at the door. Kaminari almost fell out of his chair in relief.

“Kayama—” It was All Might, peering around the door frame. “Shouta wanted me to make sure you were done, here, since you’ve been talking to Kaminari since before we left for lunch…”

Huh, All Might and Mr. Aizawa had gone to get lunch? Lucky them. Kaminari was starving . “I could eat…” he said, standing. His legs shook a little like a newborn fawn under the weight of all of this new knowledge.

“Wait, Kaminari, one more thing!” Midnight stood, and picked her flogger back up to crack it in his direction. “When the time comes, remember—anyone and everyone you choose to share your body with is incredibly fortunate! You are a goddess, and mustn’t accept any distractions—old boyfriends, money troubles, personal fantasies—they’re with you in that moment, and you alone! You deserve that!”

“Uh THANKS—” Kaminari was embarrassed but incredibly relieved as he ducked out through the door that All Might was holding open. It drifted slowly shut when All Might let go, and after awkward sighs they looked at each other.

“I’m...not sure the school endorses whatever advice you just got, young Kaminari,” All Might said.

“I’m not sure if I endorse it,” Kaminari said, glancing back. “There’s only one guy—one person!—I’ve kissed more than twice and she was trying to give me advice on when to call the paramedics after—”

“Wait!” Came a voice from inside the office. “I didn’t get to give you the condoms!”

All Might and Kaminari looked sharply at each other.

“—run.”

 




Kaminari almost ran into someone as he rounded the corner of the building, then saw who it was and ran into him anyway.

Dabi made an ‘ooph’ of surprise before he recognized his attacker, and wrapped his arms around him. “I was looking for you. Eraserhead said you’d be this way. Why….were you running?”

“...I think I just left All Might to get strangled with contraceptives. Let’s keep walking.”

“...do I wanna know?” Dabi asked, turning them around and keeping his arm draped over Kaminari’s shoulders as they walked.

“Probably not. You’ve met Midnight?”

“Yeah, I had a class with her today.” He sighed heavily, brooding about something hard enough that Kaminari almost warned him that The Brooding Guy was already Tokoyami’s thing.

But, he was actually wondering… “Hey. Uh. Dabi?”

“Mm?”

“Do you have—”

They rounded another corner, and his half-uttered question was interrupted by just about the last person Kaminari wanted to bump into right now.

“...Kaminari, excuse me.” Iida eyed them both, and gave Dabi a wide berth as he stepped around them and continued on his way. Dabi watched him leave before turning back to Kaminari.

“...you were saying?”

“Um...never mind. I think we’ve got other things to talk about first, anyway…”

“Can it wait?” Dabi glanced around the next corner before they turned it, but it seemed their string of running into people had run dry. “I want to speak to my brother...we haven’t had a chance to, yet, since coming here...and I have homework .”

“On your first day?” Kaminari asked, with the appropriate amount of horror.

“Yeah...math. English. Classical Japanese. But this is what has me really worried.” He pulled the prompt he’d copied down in Ectoplasm’s class out of his bag to show Kaminari.

Kaminari read it twice, frowning. “That’s weird. I’ve never had to write anything like that. But...that’s the third year class, so maybe they start trying to do stuff that involves the real world more the older you are?”

“I don’t think anyone’s ever had an assignment quite like this before—I think it’s a trap.” Aside from being a sore subject and deeply personal… “It’s a different angle, but it’s still asking me to write about my vision for hero society. If I write something like the talks I used to give in the League…”

The sort of things you still believe, basically, Kaminari thought, noting how Dabi didn’t come right out and say that.

“...well, that’s villainous, isn’t it? And if I’m insincere and try to write something that won’t get me expelled, Ectoplasm can claim I’m being deceptive and trying to pull something over on everyone.”

“...I see your point. What are you going to do?” Kaminari didn’t want their conversation to wait—about Iida and Bakugo and making things right with all the people who’d been hurt by the League of Villains, and about them —but it didn’t seem like they’d get anywhere with that for now.

“I’m going to ask Shoto’s advice.”

“About the essay?” You could always ask me , but go for it I guess…

“Right. I also have a backlog of noogies to deliver.”

“...dude,” Kaminari muttered, trailing after him. “I’m an only child. You have to translate what you just said into only child-ese.” And not because I thought noogies were a type of bread for like ten years.

“I’m going to tell him that I missed him,” Dabi said with a snort, pulling Kaminari along thoughtlessly. The pressure that had once felt comforting and endearing now felt a tad annoying.

 Relax. He’ll make up for freaking out for no reason earlier and literally everything else he’s done in the last two years later...once he’s settled in.

 


 

When Aizawa tracked All Might down, he found his partner walking through the hall with a makeshift sack fashioned out of his suit jacket hung over one shoulder. “What...is in that?”

The task he’d sent All Might on and the strained expression on his face didn’t bode well.

“Ah, Shouta… When I went to go rescue Kaminari from Kayama, she read me the riot act for interrupting her attempt to give the boy contraceptives. She ended up, uh, leaving them with me…”

Aizawa eyed the improvised bag with poorly-concealed horror. “Right.”

“It didn’t seem right to throw them out—”

“No, that would be a waste, yes…”

“—but I would like to get rid of them quickly, if possible.”

Hm...where would it be logical… “If you can leave them discreetly in your office, I could always drop them off at a clinic after school.”

All Might frowned as Aizawa put several steps between them. “Not going to help me now?”

“There’s no need, it’s a one-person job.”

“You could always distract anyone who decides to ask questions—”

“—besides. I can’t imagine going public with our relationship, much less in this way—do you want to field the questions that would come from being caught in this situation together ?”

The frown deepened.

Seriously, Toshinori? You do?

But that must have been in his head. “Of course, Shouta, of course. I’ll go do that. You don’t have to worry about revealing our relationship to the world until you’re ready.”

“I do if you keep using my given name!” Aizawa pointed out, even though part of him did still thrill just hearing All Might say his name like that.

This was a good thing, that they had. And he was going to work hard to make it work. But right now, there were bigger issues at hand…

Chapter Text

UA’s campus was secure, but when they’d put in the dorms they’d added another level of security for the students anyway. Each dorm only opened for the student IDs belonging to the students who resided in that building. To get into a building you didn’t live in, you had to have someone else let you in. Or you had to follow close behind someone else going in, and walk in like you owned the place.

“It’s called shoulder-surfing,” Kaminari explained, “They get pretty pissed if they catch us doing it.”

“Ah.” Dabi was only half listening to him, peering curiously around at his brother’s building. It wasn’t that different from his own, though it had a certain sense of its residents. Meaning it felt vaguely unwelcoming, in the sense that the people who lived here probably didn’t care to see him.

Most of them, anyway…

At least two people spotted them on the way in: gravity girl and the flighty french kid who Dabi could recall cowering in the woods. Both made themselves scarce quickly—he wasn’t going to be hanging out casually with these people, well...probably ever.

They reached an elevator, and Dabi turned to Kaminari impatiently. “Which floor?”

Kaminari was giving him the strangest of looks. “...fifth.” They rode up to the top floor in silence, side by side. When the time came Kaminari led the way and rapped on the door himself, stepping aside.

Shoto opened the door, wide enough to reveal that he wasn’t alone. That same purple-haired kid from the fight against Endeavor was there too, somewhat robotically positioned next to him.

What does this kid think he is, a bodyguard? First of all, Shoto didn’t need one...and second of all, though purple kid’s Quirk was amazing, it was better suited for people like Kaminari. Dabi was confident he’d never fall for it again. 

“Shoto!”

“Come in,” Shoto said, in that embarrassingly understated way he had. It was sad, considering he’d known how to speak up as a child! Had their father beaten that out of him? Dabi stepped into the room, Kaminari probably behind him, and a little life actually entered Shoto’s tone. “Touya—this is Hitoshi Shinso.”

“I remember. Mind control kid. You were in the Sports Festival with my brother.” He reached out for a handshake, which the kid reached for a little too sharply .

“He’s my boyfriend.” 

Okay, that warranted giving purple kid— Shinso —a second look. They were about the same shrimpy height so Dabi couldn’t tease Shoto about that , but he had great hair and the haven’t-slept-in-days look was a good one in his case. Dabi broke into a grin. “ What —that’s great! Are you telling me I managed to corrupt you before I left?”

Shinso blinked. Shoto smiled, just a bit. “Hardly, you didn’t even let me shake your boyfriend’s hand. Not really leading by example.” 

“Speaking of boyfriends—” Kaminari said from his side.

“Oh, yeah, but you two have already met—” Dabi said, chasing that little sparkle of happiness he’d seen when his brother talked about Shinso. He’d definitely want to make sure this guy was decent, but for now, that was enough.

“Yeah—Kaminari and I are going to go get coffee,” Shinso said, stepping past Dabi and grabbing Kaminari’s arm. “You two catch up. I’ll see you for dinner, Shoto.”

“I love you.”

Now...wasn’t that just the cutest thing! Dabi had seen his brother’s softer moments, usually when he was younger, but he’d never thought he’d see him peering out a doorway at the vanishing back of the man he loved . “Shoto,” he breathed, grinning like a madman. “That’s so—that’s great,” he repeated, reaching out to shake Shoto’s shoulder. “—is he good to you?”

Shoto scoffed.

“Shoto, that’s not a yes —”

“Then yes , stop pulling at my hair.”

“I can’t help it. You haven’t changed your hair in over fifteen years and you have a boyfriend . I’m in shock.”

“My hair’s fine,” Shoto said, twisting from Dabi’s grip with an easy, practiced motion. Almost a foot of height and two years didn’t make much of a difference when it came to years and years of martial arts training. He knew that Shoto could kick his ass, and he loved him for it. “—and so is Shinso.”

“Aren’t you going to tell me about him?” he asked, flopping down on Shoto’s bed.

“I assume you came here for a reason, before you knew about my boyfriend?”

“Oh, yeah—could you toss me my bag?” Dabi said, gesturing at the tote he’d discarded by the door.

Shoto sat on his desk’s chair. “No.”

C’mon... please?”

 




Shinso dragged Kaminari halfway across campus to the little coffee place beside the gym. It would would never stack up to brand name coffee, but was all the students had most days since they were discouraged from leaving campus unless necessary. Kaminari ordered something with an unhealthy level of espresso shots and tapped moodily away at his phone while Shinso was getting his drink.

“Are you seriously sulking about this?” Shinso asked, not half believing it.

“Yes,” Kaminari said, sulkily.

“Dude...aren’t you being really selfish right now? They’re brothers . They haven’t had a chance to catch up yet, and you’ve had the chance to publically make out with Dabi on campus.”

“Shut up, Shinso, you just tied your straw in a knot,” Kaminari said, pushing himself up straighter in his seat, eyes narrowed. “You’re worried about this too.”

Shinso flicked his useless straw to the side. “That doesn’t matter! I’m—it’s completely different for me! I don’t want Shoto to get hurt. If his brother leaves, or things start going wrong, he’ll be hurt. And I don’t want to be the one to hurt him.”

So I can’t tell him not to hang around Dabi, villain or not. I have to support him and try to take care of him. Which is completely different from Kaminari’s problem! 

Kaminari slurped his drink angrily, then set it down a little harder than necessary. “That’s not the same! What I’m dealing with—he ignored my messages for days , and when I finally find out what he was mad about (which was nothing by the way) he makes a big scene and it made things really public. And since then, I hadn’t seen him at all!”

“It’s been what, a day?”

“Ha ha, how often do you see Todoroki, Shinso? He just got out of prison! —which is a problem for a lot of reasons. But the bottom line is, we need to talk about some things, ideally in private, and he’s totally wrapped up in other things. ...I’m worried.”

Shinso had to admit, some of that sounded reasonable. Which...whatever. He wanted Kaminari and Dabi to figure their crap out because it directly influenced his crap, but he was going to prioritize his own goal, aka mission Brotherly Bonding. “Don’t you think it’s a good thing that they’re hanging out, though? What kind of relationship would you two be able to have if he literally only got along with you and no one else at school?”

“...I don’t want that.” Kaminari’s expression had fallen, and he turned his cup around and around in circles, smearing the condensation ring into wider circles. “I want him to be happy. But I don’t think Todoroki’s the real problem with that!”

“Then who is?” Shinso lifted his drink, setting it back down because it was way too hot to drink straight from the lip. Why had he destroyed his straw, again?

“Bakugo and Iida.”

“...okay, good point. I would have thought the teachers would have spoken to Bakugo, at least, before bringing him here...any idea if they did?”

“I don’t know. I don’t think so.” Kaminari stopped messing with his drink, looking up. “He’s been super moody lately; Kirishima wanted to talk about it. I guess it’s affecting their relationship or something? Not that it’s stopping them from sucking face in the common room constantly, but...just talking to them would solve some of this! ...it’s all I want.”

It probably wasn’t that simple, but Shinso wasn’t going to pull any other troubles out of Kaminari using his Quirk. They were already arguing in a public space, of which Shinso was now keenly aware. Were the people here staring at Kaminari, or was it both of them? How much scrutiny had Shoto been subjected to, and how much would he be in the future?

He thought about what Dabi had said, about corrupting Shoto, and the word hung heavily over him. He was kidding. Probably. But was there any grain of truth in the idea that Dabi’s dating history had opened Shoto up to the idea of relationships with men...or, at least, emboldened him? Old scars over the idea that he was just a phase to Todoroki had healed well, but there was still an ache there. Mostly now in the idea that people would look at them and say ‘I guess that’s where Shoto got it from’. ‘He dates boys because his creepy older brother with the face piercings does, too’.

Even if there wasn’t a single shred of truth to that, the idea was out there, ready to overshadow the truth when his relationship with Shoto finally came to light with the public. One day, that would happen...and it wouldn’t just be about them, anymore. There would be Dabi, grinning, proudly claiming credit. 

The idiot wasn’t even around…

But that wasn’t Shinso’s job to worry about! He didn’t have a right to question Shoto’s relationship with his brother. He frowned across the table at Kaminari. “Let’s give them an afternoon, okay? After that, Dabi has some loose ends to tie up. And maybe Shoto will want to help him. But right now let’s let them...play Mario Kart or talk about boys or whatever.”

“They’d better not talk about boys,” Kaminari said, mouth pulling up a little at the corner.

“Yeah, right, unless it’s nice things about us.” Shinso sighed internally with relief. Kaminari was going to help him give Shoto what he wanted.

“By the way...Shinso?”

“Mm, what?” Shinso finally took the plunge and gulped down hot coffee with only a slight wince.

“Why are you dressed like you’re going to do a job interview?” Kaminari looked down at his school uniform as he said this. Shinso had forgone his uniform in favor of a button up. 

While it was true that uniforms were common around campus, but they weren’t required when a student wasn’t heading to class! Shinso felt his face heat up.

“...it’s not important. I might have had twenty minutes’ warning from Shoto that his brother was coming by, that’s all.”

“Do I get to make a joke about you trying to impress my boyfriend?”

“No,” Shinso said flatly, taking another sip of coffee. “Pick something else to talk about. We’re going to be here a while.”

 


 

Shinso thought he was a pretty good boyfriend. Not only did he save Shoto and Dabi from Kaminari’s intrusion for several hours, but he even managed to drop Kaminari off at the cafeteria with the promise that he’d bring the boys himself. He rode the elevator up to the fifth floor alone, thinking he’d find Todoroki alone, or at the very least helping Dabi with the essay Kaminari had mentioned.

He found the door unlocked, and neither of those things. Shoto was nowhere to be seen, and neither was Dabi. 

Following the moment of blind panic where he envisioned every terrible thing Dabi could have roped Shoto into in the last three hours, his eyes locked on the shoes still by the door and the discarded messenger bag. They were still here, then, but—where?

“Shoto…?”

“We’re in here,” Shoto called, and Shinso traced the sound to the half-open bathroom door. Light spilled out from it, now that he’d noticed, and he only had to take a few steps into the room to see their reflection in the bathroom mirror.

They’d dragged Shoto’s desk chair into the bathroom, and Shoto sat in it in front of the mirror, looking some combination of exasperated and indulgent.  His face looked utterly exposed without its usual sweep of hair, and his face was being gently cradled by two hands that ended in burnt, scarred arms.

Shinso wasn’t experiencing the sort of jealousy he’d expect, seeing another guy touching his boyfriend—it was how much this touching was allowed that bothered him. Shoto still had difficulty being open with even Midoriya, and his brand of friendship was very hands-off. So it was strange, seeing him utterly relaxed having someone touch his scar.

“Leave it alone—you’ve seen it before,” he said dismissively to Dabi, brushing him away.

“Not recently . I still can’t believe…”

“Leave it alone,” Shoto repeated, leaning his head back and closing his eyes.

Rather than stepping away, Dabi ran water over his hands and then pushed them through Shoto’s already-wet hair, a line of hair products now conspicuous on the sink’s edge. “You know, if you cut some off the front…”

“I’m already indulging you,” Shoto said, opening his eyes to fix them on Shinso’s reflection in the mirror. “I have no idea how long this is going to take, Hitoshi, you might want to get dinner without me.”

“Um...okay.” The ‘what are you doing’ was probably heavy in his tone, but before he could make it explicit, Dabi was speaking.

“I’ll make you a delinquent yet. Have you ever thought about piercing your ears?”

“No.”

“What about—”

No .”

“Inverse navel piercings were made for washboard abs like yours,” Dabi tisked, squeezing mousse into his hand.

“—I had thought about a tattoo.”

“Oh, really?” Dabi perked up at that, seemingly satisfied with whatever body alterations he could talk his little brother into. Shinso’s gut felt heavy.

This is the first time I’m hearing about it. Did you just forget to mention it, or has it only taken a few hours for him to talk you into something serious and permanent, Shoto? Seriously...there was something just so wrong about watching the same guy who’d kidnapped Bakugo and Kaminari and fought to break into Shoto’s house not that long ago literally shaping who Shoto was.

It wasn’t until one gray eye and three ice-blue ones met his in the mirror again that he realized he’d been standing there, frozen, for over a minute.

“Hitoshi—”

“Yeah, dinner, I’m going,” he backed up a few steps, cutting them off from view. “ Have fun .”

Chapter Text

“Dude...are you okay?” Sero leaned over the table to wave a hand in Shinso’s face.

“Do I look not okay?” Shinso asked tersely, looking up from his plate with his chopsticks still pressed against it, threatening to snap them.

“Yes,” Kaminari said helpfully.

Jirou glanced up from her meal. “Yep.”

“Yeah, dude, you do,” Kirishima said, eating entirely one-handed because the other arm was slung around Bakugo’s shoulders. 

Bakugo looked up from his brooding to squint at Shinso. “You look like sick,” he said bluntly.

“Oh, thanks, Meat Shield. It’s probably from watching you try to count Kirishima’s teeth with your tongue where I’m eating,” Shinso said flatly.

I could kick your abs, you know!

“Katsuki, hey—” Kirishima pulled Bakugo a little tighter to him, trying to break the tension with a sunny smile. “We really have been mostly kissing in public lately...why don’t we give everyone a bit of a break, and hang out in my room tonight…?” When his hand dropped, Kaminari was sure he was going to go for a butt-grab, but all he did was rub circles on Bakugo’s lower back. 

Bakugo shrugged him off. “You wish. Some of us want to study for things.”

Kirishima’s eyes widened. “Katsuki, I didn’t mean—”

“Just drop it.”

Kaminari discreetly scooted away from Bakugo and Kirishima’s place on the bench, closer to Jirou. 

“Do you think Bakugo’s going to be like this until he gets his Provisional License...?”

“Kaminari, they’re right there,” Jirou pulled her food closer. “Do you have a death wish?”

“They’re completely lost in their own world, see?” Kaminari pointed. “Like Midoriya and Uraraka, who still aren’t making eye contact for some reason...and Iida has had that same chunk of meat in his chopsticks for ten minutes, and you’re here instead of sitting with Momo—”

“She’s busy, and taking me to Paris over the break as an apology. Don’t include me in your count of emotionally-compromised toddlers.”

“Well okay but we can definitely include Shin—”

Something invisible smacked him in the back of the head. Kaminari’s eyes darted over to Shinso, wondering if he’d somehow manifested a mind-slap power from his Quirk in the last few days, but then he caught a school uniform marching away from the corner of his eye, and he heard footsteps from the other direction.

“Shouldn’t we be talking about this—?” Oijiro called after his girlfriend.

“Hagakure and Oijiro,” Jirou said, counting them on her fingers. She lifted two more without saying anything, glancing down the table at Shinso and the empty spot beside him where Todoroki usually sat. Then, looking Kaminari in the eye, she counted off two more fingers.

Hey

Before Kaminari could attempt to defend his honor (or Dabi’s), a blur of pink flung herself down at the table on Kaminari’s other side.

“This is all your fault!” Mina moaned, dropping her head onto her arms.

“Mina...what the heck?”

“Mina and Tsu,” Jirou said, counting down more fingers.

Kaminari frowned at her, and then shook Mina’s shoulder. “Hey—what did I do?”

You made out with a villain,” Mina said into her arms.

“—and?”

Denki Kaminari, how is that an ‘and?’ statement??” Mina’s head popped up, and she frowned at him. “Of course I ended up having to defend your honor. I told Tsu, ‘he’s really stupid sometimes, that’s probably why this happened’—”

“...”

“—and she said she needs some alone time to process that kind of acceptance. So I’m not sure what that means, my stomach hurts, and it’s totally your fault.” She reached over and stole his food, digging in like it was her right. 

Kaminari frowned down at her. “Okay, just an observation...that doesn’t sound like you really stood up for me at all.”

Mina doubled down on the aggression behind her eating. “Kaminari...seriously. You need to appreciate how many of us are still here for you. Basically the whole class! Even Bakugo’s here—”

“Because I’m not scared of some two-bit punk who was too scared to even take my restraints off,” Bakugo sneered, even as Kirishima reached out as if to comfort him.

“—and some of the other classes, what they’re saying—”

Ha! Isn’t it strange that it’s class 1-A that’s having a problem with one of their students dating a villain?” Monoma yelled across a table as he walked through the lunch room, that unhinged grin on his face. “But...you’re supposed to be the most experienced with handling villains! Could there be a downside to that? Oh no! I wonder what your honeymoon will be like...blowing up a hospital?”

Kaminari knew Monoma, and knew what he was like, but even then those words made him feel ill. Dabi wasn’t like that...neither of them were! To have someone say it, well, that just proved Monoma liked running his mouth! But how many of these fellow students were silently thinking it...?

“Hey loudmouth, why don’t I blow up your face ?” Bakugo asked, and Kirishima grabbed his arm.

“Dude, no.”

Previously silent and uncharacteristically unobtrusive at his side, Aoyama took an uncomfortable step back from Monoma. “Mon amor...there are some things you really shouldn’t say.”

“But babe, you’re not like the rest of class 1-A! You’re dating me. Clearly you have a level of taste that they lack—”

It’s not that simple—”

“Kaminari. Where’s Shinso?”

Kaminari jerked his attention away from what was building up to be a sparkly, sparkly breakup and looked behind him. Todoroki?—holy shin, his hair … “Uh...he was right here?” Kaminari gestured at the half-empty plate Shinso had clearly abandoned sometime during the commotion.

Todoroki scanned the lunchroom quickly, frozen in place, expression falling as he failed to locate Shinso. 

 “What’s going on?” Kaminari asked, frowning again at Todoroki’s hair. “He said he was going to bring the two of you to dinner, but then he pouted the entire time and left without a word.”

Food,” Todoroki said feelingly, turning around without answering that question and hurrying out of the lunchroom. 

 


 

It isn’t a big deal. It isn’t a big deal. It isn’t. A big. Deal. This is fine everything is fine I’m overreacting it’s not like I could say something anyway I need to just suck it up and—

“Hitoshi!”

Shinso stopped short in the middle of the hallway, rubbing at his eyes before turning around. He hadn’t been crying, but it probably looked like it, and he hated that. He hated how he was making this a bigger deal than it needed to be. Hated that it was a deal at all!

Maybe I can claim I’ve got dryeye now. Went full Eraserhead…

 Todoroki was breathing heavily, like he’d been running around the building looking for Shinso, and his hair was...uh. Wow.

For all his talk about making Shoto a delinquent, Shinso had expected something spiky and more like Dabi and Endeavor’s usual style. But instead, Shoto looked like he might be on his way to a fancy party. His hair was parted slightly off-center, combed so that only a few wayward strands of red bled into the white that had been teased and gelled to dominate the style. Even if it was the color they shared, Dabi had swept the red back, minimizing it, and revealing Shoto’s scar more completely. In some ways, opening up his face like that made him look younger, his wide, concerned eyes more visible. In others...he looked more grown up.

A deep-seated sense of shame burned hot over Shinso’s appreciation of it, though. “Oh….hey.”

Shoto leaned against the wall to catch his breath, giving Shinso a ‘seriously? You’re going to “hey” me?’ look. “I was worried. Kaminari said you’d just left, and you didn’t eat—”

“No! It’s fine! I’m just...I’m overreacting! It isn’t anything and I—”

Stop. Stop doing that.” Todoroki reached up to run a hand through his hair in frustration, then lowered it when he touched the gel. “Obviously, it’s something. Stop pretending everything’s fine and just tell me.”

“It doesn’t work like that!” Shinso protested, clenching his fists. “If I go around telling you how to have a relationship with your brother, I’m a bad boyfriend.”

Several emotions flickered across Todoroki’s face. His eyes widened, then his brows drew low on his forehead. “How would you have me do it, then?”

“I wouldn’t, wouldn’t tell you what to do, that’s the point —”

But?”

“But I’m worried! I’m worried he’s going to leave you again. Or do something that ends up impacting your future as a hero. Or what if, we finally get to be public about our relationship, and he’s doing things like telling people he corrupted you?” Shinso felt all of that rushing out, but the weight of his selfish thoughts didn’t really leave him. They were just visible, now.

Shoto brought his hand to his face, touching his curled fist briefly to his lips. “...you get the kind of things we were told when we were little, right?” He didn’t sound mad, but there was a concerning weight to his words. “Your parents are great . There was never any question of acceptance—”

“I know that! And I wish—!”

“And it’s not your fault that we didn’t have that,” Shoto went on, dropping his hand and shoving it into his pockets. Man, he looked so serious. “But when I was little—and Touya, probably, too—we had to make light of a lot of nasty things people said about boys liking boys. So when he says things like that—he doesn’t mean it. It was part of deflecting it all. ‘Yes, sure, I’m confused,’” he said, and Shinso hated himself for even opening this can of worms. “‘I must just want attention’. But always sarcastically.”

“Look, Shoto—I’m sorry. I didn’t want to bring it up because I knew it was stupid—” Shinso said wretchedly. For the first time since moving to the dorms, his parents felt really far away. This whole situation sucked.

“It’s not stupid because you have a point,” Shoto said flatly. “The last thing I want is for the media to go from gal-paling us to implying that there’s some corrupting influence going on. Saying something to Touya about that isn’t a bad idea. In private, I don’t really care how he talks, I’m used to it—but I care if it bothers you.” He reached for Shinso’s hand and held it firmly. “Does it?”

“...kind of.”

“So I’ll tell him not to joke like that around you. You may have to remind him every few years, but maybe you’ll feel more at ease with him, then.”

Shinso squeezed Shoto’s hand, wondering  what kind of future he envisioned for himself, years later, where Dabi and Shinso were both still a part of his life. “Thanks.”

“I wish you’d have just told me,” Shoto said, and for a moment, his expression was distant. “We’ve been through so much—you should know, Touya’s my family, but he’ll always be my family, no matter how hard I do or don’t work to keep things that way.” He gave Shinso’s hand a squeeze. “I do have to put in the time to keep you in my life, and I want to. That’s why I wanted to introduce you two. I want him in my life again, but he has to accept you’re a really big part of it, now.”

Shinso sniffled. Shoto’s eyes widened.

“Hitoshi, what’s—?”

It’s nothing— really nothing this time…” He wiped at his eyes aggressively. “—I’m just really lucky, you know? And I want to deserve that.”

“Then tell me, next time, when something’s bothering you,” Shoto said, still looking concerned.

Shinso hugged him. “Okay. ...your hair looks nice.”

“Could you tell Touya that, next time you see him?” Shoto asked, rubbing small circles on Shinso’s back as he held him.

“Yeah.”

“I need to get food...are you coming?”

Shinso let the embrace linger a few more seconds, then pulled away. “No, I...think I’m going to pull myself together, and think about some things. Kaminari was talking earlier...about your brother making amends for what he’s done, or needing to, and I think he made a good point...especially about Iida.”

Shoto nodded. “He probably will. I’ll come by your room as soon as I’m done, if you want to talk.”

“Yeah! ...thanks, Shoto. I’ll see you later.” He lifted one hand to wave. “I love you.”

 




A hush fell over the chattering lunchroom as Touya Todoroki carried a tray of food to the center of the lunch room and sat down beside members of class 1-A. Even the students at the table didn’t seem sure what to do.

Kaminari broke the silence. “Hey. You’re...cutting it close to the kitchen closing.”

“You can’t rush art,” Dabi said cheerfully, “Did you see him?”

“Yeah, I did. Shinso’s going to flip.” Maybe in a bad way I don’t know.

“I hope so,” Dabi said, with a relaxed smile on his face. “He’s doing okay for himself, but Shoto’s been raised since basically birth to be the vehicle of our dads’ ambitions. He’s been told who to be so long, I feel like he never really played around with who he is on his own…”

Kaminari eyed Dabi’s piercings, specifically the cluster beside his nose. Before he got burned, his face still would have been unforgettable. Even with his usual subdued poker face. But right now, he looked happy, and that was...nice.

Sure, he wanted to point out that Bakugo was sitting just feet away, looking tense. Sure, he wanted to point out that Iida had just gotten up and left. But he’d let that wait until tomorrow. Right now, he was going to let Dabi be happy. Because he did care for him, as a person, not just if he managed to fit the mold of UA and hero society in general. Hadn’t that always been the case?

“How long until you talk him into a nose ring?” Kaminari joked, setting the topic of reparations aside for the night.

“Ha—I wish!

 




“Shiozaki!”

“Oh my—Iida!” Shiozaki stood in the doorway of her room, wearing a t-shirt and capris with a faded flower print. Behind her, only the tiniest sliver of room was visible, several potted plants and a cross hanging on the wall. Still, she stepped forward so that the door would close behind her. “Are you not well? And how did you get in here?”

Iida fumbled with his glasses in embarrassment—could she see the strain behind his eyes? It must be obvious, then. “Your class representative was kind enough to let me in. I need—to ask your advice about something. Can we talk?”

Shiozaki’s eyes widened in concern, and she nodded. “Let’s go for a walk. I’ll just grab a coat.” She unlocked her door and retreated inside, reappearing momentarily with a denim jacket that she buttoned up as she walked. “I’m ready.”

They didn’t speak until they’d left class 1-B’s dorm, but Iida found the silence peaceful. Shiozaki’s presence at his side was as warm as a clasped hand. He pulled his glasses off as they walked, cleaning them on his shirt and replacing them to bring a moonlit garden into focus. “—I’ve never been to this part of the campus before.”

“It’s new, they put it in with the dorms,” Shiozaki said, reaching out to touch a flower drooping from a wire form arch with vines growing around it. “I pray here, sometimes.”

“That’s UA, of course, putting city planning into practice when they increased the time and number of students who will be here…”

“What’s on your mind, Iida?” Shiozaki asked gently, turning away from the flowers and looking only at him. 

Iida knew what he was going to say—he’d planned every word. But the first few were the hardest. “It’s about him...my classmate’s brother, and now fellow classmate...he was a follower of the Hero Killer’s ideology. Still is, probably...and the Hero Killer is the person who ended my own brother’s hero career, nearly ending his life in the process.”

“Oh, Iida…” Shiozaki clasped her hands together, very real pain on her face.

He hated to think that he was causing her pain by sharing his own, and yet, he’d decided to anyway. Because he wanted her advice...and there was no one he trusted more with this that Ibara Shiozaki. Except, perhaps, Midoriya...but his friend was having his own troubles, and Iida felt it wasn’t right to add to his burden.

“I don’t want to question the teachers’ decision to bring him here, and if I put my trust in them, I really can’t make it any more difficult for them, can I? I have to do what I can, not just as another student of UA, but as the class representative of 1-A, to make sure Touya Todoroki’s time here is spent learning heroics without incident.”

Shiozaki sat down on a stone bench as he spoke, and he felt his body move of its own accord to mirror her action, moments before he buried his face in his hands. But I can’t.

“You still have hard feelings that need to be addressed,” she said, gentle as a bee touching down on a flower. The words didn’t sting—they rang true.

He nodded. “I don’t know how to go about it, though...how to ask for it, or how to forgive him for the part he played in an organization that has directly impacted my family.”

“I think you need this as much as he does,” Shiozaki said, and as Iida turned to face her he felt her hand settle over his own. “Maybe more.”

In the dark, perhaps she wouldn’t see the color in his cheeks…

“But how—?”

“You’re the class representative, and the boy dating him is in your class,” Shiozaki said, tapping her chin with her free hand. Her other hand didn’t move. “You can ask them to speak with you without abusing your position—but I don’t think you should make this about you.”

“—what do you mean?” Iida asked, frowning, but his train of thought veered dangerously close to going off the tracks when Shiozaki shifted her hand and their fingers laced together.

“Your brother is out of the hospital, right?”

“He is. He’s been living at home for now, but he’s gotten skilled using the wheelchair his support team built for him, and he’s been talking about moving back into his apartment."

“I’ll be praying for his transition back into an independent lifestyle,” Shiozaki said, and she looked away from Iida. Maybe...her cheeks were red too, now, as Iida’s fingers tangled with her own. “I don’t know your brother personally, but they say he was a great hero who didn’t just help people through conventional means. He also hired several times the usual number of sidekicks, to give new heroes exposure and experience on the job. If he’d be willing to meet, you should arrange to introduce him and the ex-villain.”

For a moment, Iida had thought she’d meant meet her. And he could picture it! Holding the door for her, one hand lightly on the shoulder of her denim jacket as he introduced her to his parents, and Tensei. But what she had suggested was far more interesting than a momentary fantasy.

“You mean, have Tensei speak to him…?”

“About his experience. About his goals, as a hero, before his career ended. Because I, too, believe there are problems in our establishment—” She said, suddenly squeezing Iida’s hand. “But that doesn’t mean we should condone vigilante justice! Show him that there’s another path, one where he doesn’t need to give into despair at the state of hero society. He can become an improvement, by calling out wrongdoings but always looking for the good in people. That’s why I think you should help him, Iida. The desire to make heroes better is ultimately a pure one, and probably comes from a place of pain for him. If you save him, you save yourself all this pain and anger.”

Iida couldn’t remember the last time he’d been so overcome by emotion—positive emotion—perhaps when he’d been named class representative? The emotion bubbled up in his chest and threatened to spill over, but he didn’t let it. “Shiozaki...thank you. I can’t begin to express my gratitude for your kind words, and your wisdom…”

“You’re a good person, Iida—I always want to be of help to you, when I can…” She was blushing again.

Emboldened by a newfound sense of optimism, Iida stood, twisting his hand around so that their fingers locked palm-to-palm. “Just this one time, perhaps you’ll let me repay the favor and help walk you back to your dorm…?”

She smiled. “I’d like that.”

 




“Mr. Aizawa?”

Oh, great, the absolute last person I want to see while carrying around one of All Might’s jackets stuffed with contraceptives. “Yes, Shinso?” When Aizawa turned, it was quite clear to him that the boy had just been crying, which softened his initial irritation a lot. At least, at Shinso. Someone was responsible for this, and he’d find out soon enough whether he’d need to be mad at anyone in particular. 

“I’m just...surprised to see you here so late.” The kid rubbed his eyes, more or less signing someone’s death warrant, though Aizawa would probably have to ditch the condoms first. Probably.

While wondering who could have upset Shinso—and hoping fiercely it wasn’t his boyfriend—Aizawa glanced down the hallway. No other witnesses were approaching, that was good… “Well, I almost broke a promise to help my boyfriend, and he’s been tolerating a lot from me, so I made an extra stop to avoid trouble in the long run—”

He realized his mistake a split second before Shinso did.

“—boyfriend?

“I already told you I was involved with someone,” Aizawa said, trying to make it sound like no big deal. Honestly, it had been a bigger deal to tell Shinso that he was dating in the first place...but he was holding All Might’s jacket, which was stuffed with condoms, and his words had at the very least heavily implied that he was dating one of his coworkers.

“I know, sir, I just—didn’t think...and that’s actually—”

Aizawa raised an eyebrow, waiting for the rest of that sentence. “You have some emotional investment in me dating a man rather than a woman?” he prompted.

“It’s nice. A-as a guy dating a guy. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’d care if you were dating a woman! I mean I’d care but—this is—”

“Shinso.”

“It’s nice,” Shinso repeated, flustered. Hopefully too flustered to ask whose jacket Aizawa was carrying. 

Aizawa nodded. “I’m glad you think so, I guess—”

“Sir, if you don’t mind me asking—”

“I do.” Aizawa tried to keep his voice gentle, because the boy had just been crying, but just the idea of telling people that he and All Might were an item made him want to zip up in his sleeping bag and stay there indefinitely. “Believe me, Shinso, you’re high on the list of people who’ll know, eventually…but now...”

He didn’t really have any intention of finishing that, but Shinso was staring at him expectantly. “Oh. ‘f course...heh.”

“‘Heh’, young man?”

“It’s just—” Shinso seemed a little less worried about offending him now, which might have been a good thing. Or a bad thing, if it emboldened him. “It drives me crazy, when the newspapers go around, getting everything about me and Shoto wrong…”

“Is that what this is about?” Aizawa asked, gesturing to his face.

Shinso sniffed self-consciously. “—kind of. So, sir...want to give me some advice about keeping things under wraps? Tell me why I should wait and keep quiet about things for now? Tell me your reasons,” he added, sounding way too curious.

“They aren’t good reasons, and therefore would be of no help to you,” Aizawa said flatly.  “Now...if you’re all cried out for the night, go wash your face and go to bed. You’ll feel better in the morning. I have an errand to complete.” 

“Yes, sir. And thanks,” Shinso added over his shoulder, turning to leave with admirable promptness.

So, now Aizawa could get off campus, drop these at a clinic, and do his rounds on the way home. Or...maybe go by his house, check the mail, and get a second sweep done as he headed back towards UA and All Might’s apartment. He could sleep in, if he slept there, with the shorter commute...and maybe they might not sleep, just for a bit…

But while weighing all of those considerations—more patrolling, more time to sleep, the possibility of sex and the promise of a warm, inviting smile—he had to pause and consider his words to Shinso.

Do I really think my reasons for not going public with the relationship aren’t good ones? No, that couldn’t be it. If he didn’t, he would have told Shinso! Most of the reasons they’d discussed as a couple—All Might’s recent retirement, workplace dating, age gaps and the like—all were stupid reasons. But Aizawa did have one final, good reason to hold back.

He hated the idea of people knowing. Plain and simple, it made him uncomfortable. So while it might be illogical, it was only as illogical as the sort of feelings All Might talked about, regarding him. They related to comfort. They were valid.

But he was probably going to spend the rest of the night worrying about how his ‘coming out’, in more ways than one, would happen. Which was all the more reason to go to All Might’s. The man made him happy. So, when he unceremoniously dumped Kayama’s gift into the mail slot of the nearest Planned Parenthood like a cat leaving a rat corpse for its owner, he slipped one into the pocket of All Might’s jacket before taking off.

Hopefully those kids had had their drama wind down and he’d have a little time to sort out his own in the next few days.

Chapter Text

It was official: getting a third of your body burned and pierced and leading a counterculture movement was less time-intensive than a first week at UA high school. He was either running across campus, working on homework, or fending off the occasional bold jerk who decided today was the day he was going to solve ALL of UA's problems by chasing off the villain single-handedly. 

Before, Dabi had only waited to reply to one of Kaminari’s emails because he wanted to think about his reply. Now, it was more about finding the time to answer, in between one class where a phone’s use was prohibited and running to the next. That was why, his first Friday back, he didn’t have time to ask for clarification on even the simple question that Kaminari sent him. 

Do you want to go on a date today after class?

Yes

He was half certain he was replying too late anyway, too late for them to figure anything out. He wasn’t even sure if he was allowed off campus. Probably not.

But as he finished up his last class and shouldered his growing messenger bag, he was met halfway back by Kaminari.

“Hey...how’d you know where I’d be?”

“You left your schedule thing on my desk yesterday, when you stopped by for shoe polish…”

Dabi pulled a face. “At least you found it...today was hell without it. I had to ask Fukami for help...which is creepy because he had copied it one of those times we were sitting next to each other. But also that’s the only reason I survived. Have I mentioned that he’s creepy?”

“A couple times.” Kaminari frowned. “Is he the...guy?”

“I have no idea what those hand gestures mean,” Dabi said, rubbing his eyes. “I’m too tired to think straight.”

Honestly, I’d love to just go back to my room and sleep...even if it’s early. But once it’s eight o’clock I can’t leave the room, so if I want to get off campus, we have to go now…

“He—if it’s him, it’s probably a good thing he hasn’t done it to you, he won the second year Sports Festival last year but they basically said he went too far...anyway. It’s probably him.”

“O...kay?” Dabi exhaled. “...what should I change into?”

“What?”

“I mean…” Dabi forced himself to make coherent sentences, thinking (somewhat short-tempered) that he was dealing with a sweet boy who nevertheless wasn’t always the most intelligent. “—when I drop off my school crap in my room, what clothes should I put on? Where are we going?”

Oh. Well, options are a bit limited because someone fell out of the sky in the middle of the street and kidnapped me a few months ago…”

“...that’s fair. Okay.”

“...but I guess, anywhere on campus. It could be worse! They have food, and the pool, though you’re supposed to reserve that ahead of time and it’s a little cold anyway…”

“How about somewhere with the least amount of people?” Dabi asked, as one student literally rotated her head 180 degrees to keep watching them as she passed.

Kaminari seemed to mull that over before exclaiming, “The new student garden, then!” He grinned up at Dabi. “Don’t worry, I know how to make a boring old garden entertaining.”

“...color me intrigued.” Finally smiling, Dabi hiked his bag higher, following after Kaminari.

They reached the garden before reaching their dorms. Dabi would have liked to have pointed out that he’d still like to change, or drop off his stuff, but...whatever. 

It was pretty, certainly, but the lack of people was far more appealing. Here and there there’d be someone reading a book, or a couple wandering hand in hand, but for the most part it was quiet. “Your idea?” Dabi prompted, when Kaminari stopped short in front of a covered structure with a large, flat roof that had plants spiraling down its legs and off its roof.

“Yeah, hold this.” Kaminari passed his bag to Dabi, before approaching one column with intent. Dabi watched as, yes, he curled his fingers around the posts meant for the plants to catch on and scrambled his way up to the top.

It wasn’t that high, but Kaminari still looked ridiculously pleased with himself as he grinned down from the top. “Now pass the bags up.”

“We could have just left them in our rooms—” Dabi pointed out, but after a few tries they were up on top of the picnic area with Kaminari, and he was joining them.

The roof of the structure wasn’t completely solid, but someone had laid large sheets of wood down flat across it to set the planters that lined the edges on. This created a secret little room that a few feet high, shielded by planter boxes, open to the sky.

“It’s not as cool as I thought it would be, but still, I don’t think many other people know how to get up here—”

“It’s perfect,” Dabi corrected him, dropping his bag at the far corner and resting his head on it. His hands came up to loosen his tie and free a button. “—I might fall asleep up here.”

“Are you going to take your shirt off?” Kaminari asked with a snort, lying down next to him.

“Ha, you wish.”

Kaminari chuckled and scooted closer. Dabi reached down until he found his hand, and held it. “The sunburn would look weird.”

“My body already looks weird—” Dabi trailed off, eyes flying open as something moved beneath them. Kaminari must have heard it, too, because he was looking back at Dabi with the same expression: anxiously straining to pick out who the people below them were.

“Deku...I’m sorry, if...if I’ve been acting strange lately…”

Kaminari rolled away from Dabi to press his eye to the crack between boards. When he removed his face, he mouthed ‘Uraraka’. Whoever that was. Dabi nudged Kaminari over to peer through the crack himself.

Ah, gravity girl. With...Izuku Midoriya

“I have been worried, uh, lately...that I did something?” Midoriya laughed, a painfully nervous sound. “The day at the gym…”

“No! That was my fault…”

“And later, at dinner…”

“It wasn’t like that! I promise, Deku, it wasn’t you! Or, it was you, but, it wasn’t your fault—”

Kaminari tried to get a look and ended up headbutting Dabi hard enough that his head swam. He gently shoved Kaminari’s head back a few inches, then rubbed his own. Ow.

Apparently gravity girl’s stuttering and rapidly speeding up speech wasn’t helping Midoriya calm down at all. He was visibly sweating now, and his fingers looking likely to snap off at any second if he kept tapping them together like that.

Given his Quirk…

“It’s just...for a long time, I—”

“...you?” Midoriya asked, wide-eyed like he was staring down the barrel of a cannon.

Oh, you idiot. Dabi thought. Can’t you tell when someone’s about to confess to you?

“I’ve been wondering—and I’ll understand if you don’t want to, but— would you like to go on a date with me?” she blurted.

Next to him, Kaminari gasped softly. Dabi poked him to keep him quiet. Frog yes, you go and get what you want, gravity girl.

The object of her affection was clearly having trouble responding, though. Dabi frowned. Did the kid seriously not have a thing for her? He hadn’t been here long, but they were always together, and when Kaminari spoke about this it was a plainly-accepted fact that they were wildly in love with each other but didn’t know it.

Again, it’s Kaminari...not always the brightest… He looked up at Kaminari, and Kaminari used that opportunity to steal the peephole from him.

“Deku…?”

Uraraka…”

Oh my God. Is he crying?  

“I-I’m sorry, Uraraka...I must seem so uncool..it’s just...you’re so cool, Uraraka, and pretty...and one of my best friends, I—” 

Is that a yes, you monster? Don’t leave her hanging! 

Unable to resist, Dabi rolled Kaminari off of the board and pressed his face back to it. He almost regretted it for the sound it made, but the pair below wouldn’t have noticed. Their hands were clasped, and the boy was beaming like a small sun.

“Yes! I’d love to go on a date with you!”

The girl burst into immediate relieved laughter. “I...because I didn’t know what you would say...I figured I’d probably run in the other direction regardless, it was too scary...but maybe...we should figure out where we’re going to go? Together?”

As he watched the happy scene unfold, Dabi felt Kaminari lean against his shoulder. Probably trying to steal the crack back, but Dabi willingly leaned back anyway. He had a sense that this little scene had come to its close. 

Still clearly hyperventilating, the couple began to wander away. Kaminari scooted to the edge of the roof and propped himself up on his elbows to look through the plants.

“Stop, they’ll see you!” Dabi reached out, grabbing a handful of Kaminari’s shirt and tugging. When Kaminari snickered, he tugged harder, unable to stop his own vicariously happy laughter.

“Both of those kids could dunk me, but I’m insanely happy for them all the same,” Dabi whispered, scooting closer so that he could slide his cold hand against Kaminari’s exposed back along with the next tug. “Seriously. Down.”

Kaminari yelped. “You’re ridiculous,” he said with a snort, letting Dabi pull him back down below the level of the plants.

“Oh? Is that why you tolerate me?”

“No! I...do that because I’m in love with you,” Kaminari said, brushing a leaf off of his shirt.

He wasn’t even looking at Dabi. Dabi felt the moment stretch out, impossibly long. He wasn’t saying ‘haha’. He wasn’t calling it a joke. After such a pleasant, light-hearted scene, it left him feeling like he’d taken a sucker punch to the gut. “...what did you just say?”

“I just said I love you,” Kaminari said, turning back towards him, sitting cross-legged. He frowned. “What, why are you making that face? I’ve said it before.”

...when…?

“...the day your dad almost ground you into a pulp?”

“.................oh.”

Oh.

“Yeah,” Kaminari said, reaching out and plucking a leaf off of one of the branches draped over his knee, “I can remember what I do and say while I’m all shorted out, so…”

Oh.

“Look,” Dabi said slowly, sitting up as well, pulling his legs under himself and wrapping his arms around them. “It is way too early for you to be saying that.”

Something about his words must have pissed Kaminari off, because he kept tearing leaves off of the plant, and he glowered at them as he let them drop. “It’s how I feel, so…”

Kaminari...if that’s how you feel now, it doesn’t mean what it’s supposed to mean!

He couldn’t find the words to speak, though, or dispel the ugly feeling hanging over him.

“...please don’t let this be the start of some you’re-too-young-to-know-what-love-is thing,” Kaminari said, looking up at him with sulky eyes.

He was cute...even when mad. Dabi wanted to kiss the angry little lines off of his face. But...love him? They weren’t there yet. He knew they weren’t there yet. It was probably watching that scene unfold below, it had gotten Kaminari excited and in love with love… “No, I wasn’t thinking anything like that...but, it’s too early to say that,” he repeated, louder now that he was sure Midoriya and gravity girl were gone. 

“...so. You don’t want me to say it?” Kaminari asked, looking at Dabi like he used to, well—

Back where there had been bars between them.

“...please,” Dabi said softly. “Don’t.”

You’ll see...I hope. If you wait, later, it will really mean something…

Assuming, that was, that a relationship so clearly on different pages could survive long enough. Not wanting to get caught up in such a depressing thought, Dabi asked, “Do you want to go back to the dorms?”

Dorms. Maybe, after sulking for a while, Kaminari would stop glaring at him.

“...no, actually,” Kaminari said, surprising him and stretching out. “...there’s some stuff we have to talk about. —I promise, I’m not going to say it again,” he said, when Dabi moved to protest. “This is about Bakugo.”

“Bakugo...what about him?” Dabi was already squinting at Kaminari. From what he'd seen of their interactions, Kaminari could hold his own effortlessly against Bakugo’s temper. But when push came to shove,Bakugo could easily crush Kaminari in a one on one fight, and probably Dabi as well. He wasn't the kind of person you messed with without a solid plan and a good reason.

“You sort of kidnapped him.”

‘I was there’, Dabi almost said, but….yeah. The last few seconds of the mission had been all him. He’d snatched Bakugo out of the air between Shoto’s fingers, and hauled him by the throat into the dark. So...yes. That was a thing he’d done. But with everything that had happened since, he tended to brush it under the rug.

“...he tolerated me, when I ate dinner with you.”

“Yeah, but his boyfriend took me aside the other day and said you need to...apologize, or something.”

Kaminari looked so unsure, and crappy as it was, Dabi leaned into that. “Does Bakugo seem like the kind of guy who likes apologies?”

“...I don’t know. Look, if there was an obvious solution, I’d tell you.” Kaminari ran his hands through his hair. “But you should at least try. You’re worried about people thinking you’ve changed, right?”

Had he, really? As he was sitting down and writing that essay for Ectoplasm, he’d mulled over just how largely his ideals had been preserved from the night he’d kidnapped Bakugo, and fought alongside the League of Villains. Not much. His methods, they’d changed, but how comforting would it be to tell people that if he could change them right back?

“Yeah.” He’d been up late last night, re-writing his paper after what had seemed like either a stroke of sanity or cowardice. What had initially been a paper detailing mandatory counselling for the children of top-100 pro heroes had morphed into a toothless rambling about the way heroes were paid. “I want people to see that.”

“So...figure something out. Maybe you could complement his resolve or something? He likes being told he’s the best, but I don’t get the impression that he’s very grateful…”

“I promise, I’ll figure something out,” Dabi said, in part to make up for his harsh words earlier.

Even if I’m completely right…

“...so,” Kaminari said, after nodding and lapsing into a thoughtful silence. “Is today just completely thrown off, or do you want to make out while we’re up here?”

Dabi hesitated, and Kaminari was quick to add: “I promise, I’m not going to say anyth—”

“No, sorry, I’m just...tired.” Dabi sighed. “I am glad to get to see you. These last couple of days I’ve been run ragged...I barely have time to think, I think my eye has developed a twitch…” Kaminari was making a sympathetic face at him, and honestly, the one thing he wanted to do was collapse into a soft bed and cuddle with Kaminari. But there was no way his poor reaction earlier had left room for pressing any boundaries they hadn’t already explored.

Fortunately for them, making out was old hat now. “—come here,” he said, and Kaminari scooted closer and leaned into his embrace.

They kissed like that for a while, Dabi trying to regulate his worries and thoughts of ‘it’s because I’m in love with you’ to the back of his mind. Sooner rather than later, a voice called up to him: “Dabi, is that you? Hi!”

He pulled his lips away from Kaminari’s, awareness of the people and things around him increasing sevenfold. “If that’s Fukami I swear to God…

But it wasn’t Fukami. It was Amachi, waving up at them. “I thought that was you! You really shouldn’t be up there. But it’s nice to see you! I thought you’d be busy working on that assignment for Ectoplasm since it’s your first day commuting to the USJ tomorrow!”

Dabi groaned. He’d forgotten about that. “Thanks , Amachi…” As his class rep bounced away, he let his hand slide from Kaminari’s shoulder to his waist, and sighed. “I do have some stuff to take care of. We should head back. But I promise, I’ll try to figure out how to best smooth things over with Bakugo.”

Just...forget about everything else we talked about up here, okay? ...I’m not ready.

Chapter Text

Aizawa hadn’t paid much attention to the sign in his favorite cat café’s window for quite a few years. Maybe when he’d first started coming he had noted it, a fat orange cat cut out of cardboard with the words painted across its stomach in looping white cursive. The cat had a stupidly satisfied look on its face, eyes no more than happy curved lines. It had the skeletal tail of a cartoon fish hanging out of its mouth, and some of its spots were shaped like hearts.

He glanced over at All Might, not for the last time wondering if this trip would make his partner think he was foolish, but saw no indication of the kind. All Might glanced at the fat cat—'meow meow, come again!'—and glanced away. What deep, unfathomable thoughts was he having as Aizawa led him into a place that he had up until now only talked about, not really shared? A place that acted as both sanctuary and nourishment for him after long patrols and lonely weeks during school breaks?

 




Cute, All Might thought.

 


 

The woman who owned the café knew Aizawa well after all of these years, and she led them at once to the couch in the part of the room furthest from the street. All Might might have been wearing a hat and scarf, but Aizawa still appreciated it. Now that people knew that the scrawny Yagi Toshinori and brawny hero All Might were one in the same, they were unlikely to find peace unless thy stayed out of sight. 

Fewer people chased him with cameras these days, but the numbers weren’t dwindling as fast as they had been when he’d still been in a cast and a mysterious figure had approached gawkers irritably, tugged a microphone from their hands, and ordered them not to bother the man who had done so much for them, especially while he was recovering from injuries incurred on their behalf.

All Might hadn’t exactly been happy with the way Aizawa’d chosen to word things, but he’d seemed to appreciate that someone was watching out for him. He'd always been worse at watching out for himself…

Now, Aizawa had always thought that All Might's sense of self-preservation was dreadful, but when he spent most of the time Aizawa was around him as several hundred kilograms of pure muscle, it was easier to ignore. Now, as their host promised to bring out, ‘the special entertainers’, Aizawa watched All Might remove his scarf and hat with laser focus. Once, All Might had looked unstoppable. The man sitting before him was impossibly fragile by comparison.

He sometimes couldn’t believe how quickly he’d gotten used to this All Might, with scrawny limbs and blood so often at the corner of his mouth. And, despite All Might’s doubts, he liked this one just fine too. But...he could have done with a little less blood. A little more strength in those limbs, less wear on his face. But despite all the signs of a hard life and pain, All Might’s eyes still burned with the fierce determination of the symbol of peace. And that would always be more attractive than even a freshly-debuted All Might, lacking the drive and aura of a true hero.

This true hero lit up and sank at once to his knees as the café owner delivered a basket between them, brimming with kittens.

“Now...what will you boys have?”

‘Boys’. Aizawa looked up at her, wondering briefly if she suspected anything about them being there together. He’d never brought anyone here before. All Might was too focused on the kittens to answer at first, startling somewhat when she asked a second time.

Or, maybe it was just because one of the kittens batted at his hand with sharp claws extended.

“They’re so small,” All Might said—marveled—as another one grew bold enough to get sassy with him. “But they'll fight the old Symbol of Peace without a shred of fear...almost like our students!”

“The café doesn’t have kittens that young loose most of the time because they’re easily frightened, and not as laid-back as the adults...but she made an exception for us, because we came during the hours where they have the least customers.” One of the kittens bounced over to his shoelace and attacked it. Aizawa plucked her up at once, not letting her near the shoe, but gave her a few fond strokes when no one could see before putting her down.

Or...when almost no one could see. All Might was too close to have missed that. It was odd, having company here. Usually it was just him and the cats. They understood each other. Sometimes the other customers of the café would complain because Aizawa had fallen asleep in his sleeping bag at the back of the café, and every last cat in the building wanted a chance to sleep on top of him. He liked the owner well enough to not want to cause her trouble, so most times when this happened he found somewhere else to nap.

It did make him want a cat of his own, but he’d been holding off since the last one. When he was never around, it was better to make friends with cats who worked at cafés, because when he didn’t have time for them he wasn’t truly neglecting them. It was part of the reason he’d taken to sleeping over at All Might’s—he liked sharing a bed with something or someone warm.

These vaguely indecent thoughts gave way to a kind of pleasant void as he sipped his tea and watched All Might’s drink grow cold as the Symbol of Peace—former, he thought wistfully, though All Might’s presence still brought him a great deal of peace—fawned over a litter of kittens.

One caught onto his scarf and rolled over as it was dragged along, threatening to put pulls in the wool. All Might was infinitely tender as he removed the pest from his clothes, and he froze utterly still as one leaped onto his back and tottered there, triumphant.

At long last All Might remembered his tea, and he seemed to chuckle at himself when he brought it to his lips. “Will they stay here when they get older, and work full time?”

“Most will probably be adopted out,” Aizawa said, setting his own cup down. “Some of these cats have been here as long as I’ve been coming, but about half of them rotate as the café takes adoptable cats from local shelters, and helps them find homes.

That—along with the owner’s truly magnificent customer service of letting him sleep in her café—was the reason Aizawa always tipped big here.

“And how—a ha, I see you, little villain!” All Might laughed as the kitten who’d latched onto his scarf dropped into a crouch and wiggled its butt back and forth, threatening to pounce on him. All Might knocked it over with the lightest of taps—the kitten had all the drama of a Shakespearean stage actor—and it sunk his sharp little teeth into his hand. The look on All Might’s face—!

“Like Bakugo,” All Might said, and Aizawa almost spat out his tea. He glowered at All Might for provoking such an undignified reaction, even as the kitten (who...did look like Bakugo, with its stripey yellow-and-orange coat and angry little face) gnawed on All Might’s hand. “How long have you been coming here?”

“Three or four years, since the last place I liked moved to the other side of the city.”

“You’re a creature of habit, then,” All Might said, rubbing the kitten's head with his thumb and shockingly eliciting a purr. So even little bastard kittens loved him.

...loved.

“They have punch cards,” Aizawa said dismissively, drinking the last of his tea. 

That made All Might laugh, as he sat there on the floor next to a perfectly good couch, while kittens played on his lap. “So—which one’s your favorite?”

“Oh, I don’t have a favorite,” Aizawa lied. “The kittens are so new, and the others—”

As if determined to prove him a liar, The Indomitable Kitty-Catty announced her presence with a throaty meow and hopped up onto the couch beside him, demanding attention.

Kitty-Catty was...not a pretty cat. She had never been remarkable, likely, just one of a thousand tabby strays in Tokyo. Her ears were ratty and the fur in front of them was suspiciously bald. Even with the café owner bathing her twice a year, her skin got scabby sometimes from seasonal allergies. And, most notably, her belly was also bald and sagged almost to the height of her paws. 'Fat', Aizawa would dare call her, when just the two of them conversed. But now he had company, and Kitty-Catty seemed taken aback by the very notion, meowing as she pawed at his lap.

That’s his favorite,” the café owner said as she walked past and deposited a plate of cookies between them. “On the house. Brown are for humans, the other ones are for the cats.”

 




After explaining that yes, that really was her name and that no, someone else had named her, Aizawa had tried to talk All Might through the delicate operation that was gaining Kitty-Catty’s trust. Of course, she made a liar out of him the second he opened his mouth by stepping onto the table, delicately jumping to the floor, and being in All Might’s lap and asleep before Aizawa could even begin to explain her backstory.

“Traitor,” he muttered to her as they got ready to leave, giving her head a final scratch. But you have good taste.

“So ‘someone’ rescued her and brought her here?” All Might teased as they waited to pay, stealing glances back at the ugly little cat Aizawa had befriended.

“...yes. Maybe some pro hero. Maybe a kid on his way home from school. We may never know.” He stepped up to the counter, leaving his same generous tip and giving All Might his patented don’t-you-even-THINK-about-paying look that had, thus far in their relationship, worked for things that he suggested. If All Might took him somewhere, he’d usually relent and allow him to pay after the formality of offering half. After all, he would hate if All Might made some big show out of the disparity of wealth, on top of everything else. Usually, he didn’t worry about it. It was only a faint glimmer in his mind even as All Might hung back by the counter.

Don’t pull something like that...things have been going so well up until now!

“Excuse me,” All Might said to the café owner, leaning over the counter. “I hear you have punch cards?”

Moments later the proud owner of a bright orange card that said ‘Meow Meow Come Again’, All Might followed Aizawa out of the cat café and down the street.

He’d been thinking about it since they’d arrived, basically, but he waited until they’d turned the corner (and he could see that the street was more or less deserted) before he slipped his hand into All Might’s.

“You know...I love you.”

All Might might be frailer, now, but when he stopped short Aizawa was jerked to a halt as well.

He was beaming.

“Hey—hold on a second,” Aizawa said, as All Might started to lean in. Clasping All Might's hands in his, Aizawa looked up and down the street, then dragged them both back into an alley beside the café. “Here.” There, away from prying eyes, he let All Might kiss him silly against a wall.

Is this what it’s like for our students? Hormones, heart racing...God, I hope not. But he let himself ride the crest of his emotions—who knew if he’d ever feel this moment again? Hopefully not!—and wrapped his arms around All Might.

When his partner finally pulled away, it was to stare down at him with a look of such tenderness and affection that Aizawa felt obligated to point out just how illogical such things were…

But obligations could suck it. Right now, he had something else on his mind. Uh...how to say it...?

“Do you...also...love me?”

His tone must have worried All Might, but the words themselves seemed to leave him relieved. “Of course!” he said, cradling Aizawa’s face between his hands. “I have been loving you, for a while now, but I didn’t want to say it early and make you feel obligated to respond...and I suppose, selfishly, I wanted to see if it mattered to you…”

“It does matter to me,” Aizawa said, trying not to make his sigh of relief external. “Very much.” He brought his hands up to cover All Might’s, and held them there.

Deep, deep down, a part of him was aware that this didn’t change the things he’d been worried about earlier, during the sunset. Maybe both he and All Might liked cat cafés, but that was something of his he’d shared. What ground they could share on equal footing was still elusive.

But he was going to try so dark hard to find it. Because he was in love, for the first time in his life, and All Might loved him back.

“—say it again,” All Might said, breathlessly.

“...saying it the first time is communicating valuable information. After that, it becomes an obvious fact that people state as greetings, excuses, just about any time where it doesn’t make sen—”

“Shouta,” All Might said, tracing his cheekbones with his fingertips. “I love you.

There was only one logical way to respond to that. “I love you, too. Now kiss me before someone else comes through the alley—”

 


 

I love you,”

“No, no—shut up.” Dabi covered his ears, but in dreams, you don’t really have ears. Any sound comes from inside your head.

 It was Mirai Kaminari, but her hair was white. She was really his mother, he knew on some levels. Just like she was Kaminari, too. After all, why else would she be aggressively ripping leaves off of a plant growing in his mother’s window box, letting leaves fall into something that was sometimes a soup pot, and sometimes a kettle.

“I love all my children,” Mirai Todoroki said, and her eyes had a touch of madness to them. “Just…don’t look at me like that. Stop looking at me like that!

Like what?? He’d yelled at the time, when she’d been real and her eyes had really gotten that hollow look whenever she looked at him. What am I doing wrong?

 “I love you, Touya, it’s just...mommy’s very tired right now...maybe give mommy some space...I can’t look at you right now, can’t look at him right now, Touya, Touya—”

He sat upright in bed, chest tight and skin clammy, and hated himself a little for indulging in something so childish as a bad dream like that. He hadn’t had nightmares in a long time, except ones where his father and Shoto were always in the other room, and Shoto was crying. Or retching. But something about this new dream was worse than that, especially since he hadn’t really dreamed since coming here. He worked too dream hard. He didn’t have to look far to guess the cause.

“‘I love you’,” he said sarcastically to the air, before sliding off of his bed to go take a shower.

Didn’t Kaminari realize that a million times a day those words got uttered by people who didn’t mean them?

...but he had bigger things to worry about, as always. Bakugo. Today...in between running around to the USJ and figuring out what he’d be doing there on weekends...he was supposed to be figuring out what the heck he could do to make up for his actions...without an actual apology because Bakugo was the kind of guy who didn’t make things easy.

“What a fracking pain,” he muttered as he marched towards Ectoplasm’s office, feeling half-dead. Of course his schedule couldn’t be a single pain, it had to be several—and it seemed that he was going to get a talking-to about his essay after everything. Or, before everything, chronologically. He wondered if it was too early to fake cholera and just stay in bed.

Perhaps the thought came too late, because someone else seemed to be up at this ungodly hour, and they were heading his way.

“Fukami,” he groaned, as his classmate caught sight of him and made a beeline towards him. “If you’re following me on a Saturday morning you’ve officially gone too far. I’m going to have to leave you in a locker until I’ve graduated, and I may not remember to push food through the slits every day.”

For some reason, Fukami thought that was the height of comedy rather than a half-serious threat. “Of course not! I’m on my way to talk to Mr. Ectoplasm about my essay. Something about ‘originality’...”

“Wow,” Dabi said, trying not to sound too interested, “Your Quirk must be something else if they put up with you being a lazy student.” 

Fukami smirked.

“Oh for the love of—Fukami, you’re literally everywhere I go and you’re always leering about your Quirk. Just tell me what it is already.”

“Well! There are a few ways I could show you,” Fukami said, actually wiggling his eyebrows. “Some are...more pleasant than others…”

“Todoroki, don’t let him show you.”

Amachi?” Fukami stared at their classmate. “Why are you here?”

“My ideas are too revolutionary for this institution,” she said with a shrug, patting the bench beside her. “I wanted to get it out of the way so I could take my girlfriend home to play tennis with my parents, but it doesn’t seem like Mr. Ectoplasm is here yet…”

“Girlfriend?” Dabi asked, his interest piqued. “—and ‘Dabi’ is fine. Kind of clinging to the underworld name despite everything…”

“Tennis?” Fukami asked at the same time. “Amachi, she’s a blob of goo.”

“You say that like you know anything about either tennis or being made of an amorphous substance,” Amachi said, closing her eyes and tilting her head back. It was almost funny—she didn’t look anywhere near as angry in the morning. Perhaps her face got scarier as the day wore on. Was it just from using her Quirk? What use did she have for sussing out people’s weaknesses and strengths in day to day classes?

At first he thought she must have forgotten his question, but a few moments after Dabi took the seat beside her, Amachi spoke without opening her eyes. “So, ‘Dabi’.”

“Yeah.”

“Pretty cool...are you in trouble for being a radical, too?”

“...I hope not?” Dabi said, squinting at her. “All I did was suggest flat rates for hero work. Some guy’s thinkpiece went viral about half a year ago with the same idea…”

Oh, so you’re here for plagiarism like Fukami,” she said, sounding amused. 

No!” he said, even more offended because she was probably right. “—what did you write about?”

“Eight pages about how pro heroes shouldn’t have children—no offense.”

“Oh, none taken—I respect people’s rights to write to the maximum page count even if it makes me look bad,” Dabi said, brushing off the fact that she more or less had said he shouldn’t have been born. Only in a hypothetical sense! “...why?”

“Oh, lots of reasons...mostly because I knew no one else would write it. But also because of the history—the children of pro heroes who are killed in the line of duty are way more likely to radicalize than children with parents who do a less dangerous job. And—look at how few of the top ten heroes are women! It isn’t because women are bad heroes, it’s because of stuff like this! If no heroes were having babies, the top ten would probably even out for the first time. And look at All Might—again, no offense—he never even dated during his career! It was simple, honest dedication to his hero work above all else! If you’re looking for a way to test a hero’s goodness and morals, why not ask them to make sacrifices?”

...I can see why you’d get called in for something like that , Dabi thought. Amachi was the class representative. Had she always liked saying and doing provocative things, or was this something new that had arisen after her appointment? What was UA planning to do with her as her graduation loomed and she was cut loose with such fragmented, deliberately audacious ideals?

“...I honestly think you’re going about it all wrong,” he said flatly.

Dude,” Fukami said, and elbowed him in the side. He elbowed Fukami back.

“They’re interesting ideas! But I think, if you come at something with the angle of ‘what hasn’t been argued before’, your argument is always going to sound weak, and so will your ideals. Even if it’s been argued a million times, you should start with an idea you actually believe in. This is UA, after all—it’s not like middle school. Maybe the things you write will make a difference some day.”

“...says the plagiarist,” she teased.

“Yes! ...that was unintentional. I had another paper written up that I trashed last minute. There’s more going on for me, behind the scenes…”

Sure,” Amachi said, leaning back and closing her eyes. “You’re the expert in this matter, if I recall your sass to Mr. Ectoplasm correctly…”

He groaned softly. It was too early for this! “You have to admit, as the son of a pro hero, I have firsthand experience with this—”

“So justify it!”

“...what?”

“Justify your existence,” Amachi said, kicking his foot lightly as she stood. “You didn’t like my idea—why should pro heroes have kids?”

“...they contribute to the passing along of powerful Quirks?” Dabi said, listing the first reason that came to mind.

Amachi crossed her arms. “And do you plan on making sure your Quirk gets passed along?”

“...that’s an incredibly personal question.”

Fukami was watching them, back and forth, like a kitten in a cat café. Dabi didn’t feel offended, really, but at the same time...what did Amachi want from him??

“So you’re drawing from what you know about other people, and not yourself,” she said, gesturing to him. “So let’s get you off your high horse and pretend we’re on equal footing for a moment here. What about mandatory child-bearing, or at the very least sperm and egg donation from people with Quirks deemed ‘valuable’?”

“We can’t do that. A society like that would destroy itself.” It would be like Quirk marriage...only so, so much worse.

“What about healing Quirks? Don’t you think it would make the world a better place if there were ten Recovery Girls running around instead of one? What will UA do when she retires?”

“...still, we can’t.” Though of course, Dabi understood the importance of people with healing Quirks. In his ideal world, there would be some sort of rewards program for people who wanted to try to increase the number of healers in the world...but then, you couldn’t really force the children it produced to work as healers, either...all you could do was make it as appealing a path as possible, and hope…

“So, I just proved two things,” Amachi said, tapping her foot.

“...and those are?”

“One, forcing pro heroes to not have children is way better than forcing them to have children, so my paper could have been worse. And two—the number-one weakness that my Quirk pulls up for you is ‘social reform’. So it really sucks that you’re so into this but you ended up turning in someone else’s thoughts.”

He could almost agree with her...but no! It was complicated. “How is that a ‘weakness’, then, if I’m good at it?”

“Fun fact about my Quirk,” Amachi said, tapping her temple. “It’s actually all one list. Most people’s strengths and weaknesses are exactly the same, just...altered, somehow. So you’re passionate about social reform, and you’ve probably read a lot of rhetoric, and you enjoy it; but it can also be used to distract you, or frustrate you, or anger you.”

“Uh-huh...just out of curiosity, what’s my second weakness/strength?”

“Boys.” Amachi said flatly, and Fukami snickered.

Dabi was wishing the bench had dividers so that he didn’t have to look at either of them when Amachi spread her hands. “Hey, don’t think too much about it, we’re all gay here—except Fukami, who’s every gay kid’s annoying little brother until he finally decides to come out of the closet.”

Hey.”

“Don’t even act like you don’t a hundred percent deserve that analysis, you’re such a freaking fanboy— ” She cut off as Fukami started an annoying ‘I’m-not-listening’ chant. “—anyway, Dabi. What’d you write about before you threw the idea away?”

“...it’s stupid.”

“I doubt that,” she said, fixing him with an intense gaze. “After all. It wasn’t too long ago there were people willing to kill for the ideas you were spreading.”

Somehow, when she said that, it didn’t sound like an accusation. “...mandatory counselling for the children of pro heroes.”

“Wow—that’s a good one!” Amachi looked genuinely impressed, even if Dabi didn’t think it was the most original idea that had come out of the class. Or even the most original reasonable idea.

“I ended up getting lost in the details—when you’re providing a service for pro heroes, who make more than most celebrity entertainers, you don’t want to give the service for free...but you also don’t want them to be able to opt out...so, perhaps having the city pay the psychiatrists directly, a chunk from the hero’s paycheck? Ideally though the pro wouldn’t know exactly who was seeing their child, for total confidentiality, but with small firms and single parents that would be next to impossible...and if you do put it into effect and offer it free of charge for heroes who make less and stay out of the spotlight, what’s the cut-off? And how do you enforce it?”

“You sound like you’re actually going to put it in motion,” Amachi said, with her head slightly tilted as she watched Dabi speak.

“Well...I think for an idea to be convincing, you have to approach it like you’re going to try.” But he actually wanted to do this, he’d realized. Just think...any other kids like him, afraid and dealing with too much...with a guaranteed shoulder to cry on...and a guiding hand…

“Amachi,” a voice called, breaking through his musing. “We’re here to cut down on the provocative nature of your writing, not inflame it. Come inside...I obviously have several of your classmates to speak to today."

Amachi made a face and gave a little wave. “Bye, guys. Good luck with your plagiarism.”

After the door slid shut, Fukami looked over at Dabi. He was grinning.

“If you say it, I‘m going to punch you,” Dabi warned.

“Twins.”

Dabi hauled back and aimed a poorly-executed swing at the side of Fukami’s head, more intent on a light smack than anything. But Fukami’s grin widened and when he reached up to catch Dabi’s hand, their flesh shuddered and—

For a split second, Dabi thought he was going to pass out. It was a disturbing, staticy feeling in his arm, paired with the distinct sensation of Fukami strumming his veins and tendons inside of his arm like a guitar.

Dabi jerked his arm back, and thankfully Fukami’s hand stayed where it had been.

Though where it had been was inside of Dabi's arm, briefly. He squeezed his arm, then brought it to his chest, glaring at Fukami warily.

“You don’t get to feel violated,” Fukami said. “You just tried to punch a kid with glasses. I only have one pair.”

Ugh, you’re such a little creep. Why are you like this?”

Dabi couldn’t imagine someone asking anything else after what Fukami had just done, but the guy actually seemed to be surprised, considering Dabi’s words. “My Quirk is called Flesh-Feel,” he said, lifting his hands and demonstrating by reaching one hand into the other. “I can’t phase through any other objects, even really thin fabric—just skin. So I’m really powerful in a battle, as long as I can get a weak point...reach in and pinch the right nerve, or their heart…” He grin-grimaced, as if knowing and loving the audacity of his statement in an edgelord-type way. “...but they don’t let me use my powers on real people. Not anymore…”

“God, Fukami, why are you trying to be some haunted little edgelord about it? You know where you should be right now? In the infirmary.”

“I know I’m sick—”

Learning how to treat wounds. Not all healing Quirks are kiss-it-make-it-better. Instead of worrying about tearing someone’s heart out or whatever, why don’t you learn how to stop internal bleeding, or pull shrapnel out of a wound? Yikes, you guys are supposed to be heroes in less than a semester!”

Dabi finished his little rant, trailing off into thoughts—of heroes, and heroic speech, and how that rarely translated into heroic action. It was one thing to train a bunch of idealists how to punch people, but had they really learned how to be a positive change in the world? Even Amachi, who was the class rep…

Fukami was staring up at Dabi with an inscrutable expression, but before Dabi could think of another word for ‘edgelord’ Ectoplasm cleared his throat from the doorway.

Both boys looked up.

“Fukami...you seem rather energetic for a Saturday. Are you hoping I’ll assign you to trash clean up at the USJ with Todoroki?”

“Yes,” Fukami said, and Dabi wasn’t sure whether to be annoyed or admire his moxy.

But more importantly...how does this guy know I’m headed out to work at the USJ after this? My schedule’s too complicated for me to memorize…

“Come in, then, Todoroki...we’re going to discuss your little speeches just now.”

“Aw—I thought we were here to discuss my paper.”

“That, too,” Ectoplasm said darkly, and beckoned him inside.

Chapter Text

The following day, Dabi woke up more sore than he could remember being in his life. He’d spent nearly the entire day Saturday more or less alone at the USJ. The entire place had stretched out before him like an amusement park, in what had seemed to him a perfectly reasonable state of disarray for an Unforseen Simulation Joint. But the teacher in charge of the USJ had informed him that the facility had actually taken quite a beating after the latest exercises were held in it, and he’d been tasked with running around, making a list of things that needed to be cleaned, repaired, or tested. He’d made the mistake of delivering this list completed an hour before he was supposed to go home. After a moment’s consideration, Thirteen had handed him a bucket.

He’d spent that last hour hauling massive chunks of debris pitifully short distances before collapsing, panting, to the ground. He hadn’t worn his school uniform, luckily, just jeans and a t-shirt. As his arms got scuffed up, he thought sadly of Kaminari’s jacket, still in the closet, and wondered if he could ask Mirai to bring it for him.

With a groan, he rolled to the edge of his bed and climbed off, crawling over to the two unpacked boxes waiting against the wall.

There had only ever been three—most of the things Fuyumi had sent were furniture. Though she hadn’t come right out and said it, he got the feeling his father had thrown many of his belongings out. The ones that sat around the room had been preserved in part because he’d shared a room with Natsuo, and he’d left some things behind when he moved out and got work overseas.

So he still had some books, a poster, and a lamp set up in his room. The personal items that he’d outgrown or wasn’t comfortable leaving around had stayed in the second box, like his old teddy bear and childish things like that.

The third box had been more of a surprise: little things that had never been his that Fuyumi had included anyway, out of some kind of concern or obligation. Or...foresight, since one of the items Dabi had noticed rattling around the top was your garden-variety pain killer, and his aching body was not going to function without it today.

The next stop, then, would be breakfast... after a quick break on the floor. 

His phone hadn’t always been as heavy as it was while he checked his emails in line for food.

‘Want to get breakfast together?’

‘Or brunch at this hour, I guess…’

‘Sorry,’ he wrote, fighting off a yawn. ‘I slept in. I’m getting food now but I imagine you’re probably already done?’ He’d just get his food and eat quickly and quietly, so he could make the most of his Sunday with Shoto and Kaminari and—

Dabi !”

He was not used to that kind of energy and affection being put behind his name from a non-Kaminari source. “Amachi, Jesus Christ, it feels way too early in the morning for you to be doing that…”

“It’s not that early,” she pointed out, first trying to peer over his shoulder and then peering around him to get a look at the food. “I thought we could eat together. You challenge me to strengthen my ideas, though you tend to think you’re smarter than the people you’re talking to...and did you sic Fukami on me?!? He was all over me yesterday, asking me to use my Quirk…”

“Amachi, I tried to kill my father , but there are some things I would never do. I don’t know why he was after you.”

She made a ‘hm’ noise as the line shuffled forward. “I get that...but I hope you don’t hate him. Because, well...he’s been difficult our entire time at UA. But he clearly thinks you’re cool.”

“Because he’s a little edgelord,” Dabi pointed out, finally getting a plate to put some food on.

“Well, that’s true...but that isn’t a personal failing on your part.” Amachi shooed him down the counter. “I’m hoping that the talking-to will actually help him and not, I dunno, fling him onto the path to villainy. Or worse: failing.”

I mean...I hope not? “I’m really tired, Amachi...so I don’t know how much I’ll be able to make conversation.” He didn’t even bother looking for the table Kaminari usually ate at—he’d missed him. He just took the first open seats he could find, sinking down into it with his food as Amachi sat across from him.

“Ooh...do you want coffee? I brought some for after I finish up in the library later, but it’s probably cold...they have a microwave I use there…”

“Metal cup?”

“Of course I don’t microwave the metal cup—”

“No, just—hand it over.” Dabi gestured towards himself, and when the cup was firmly in hand, he casually lit that hand on fire as he continued to eat with his right.

The surrounding students could have tried to not all go silent at once, staring at the blue flames licking gently against the cup.

“Neat,” Amachi said.

Dabi couldn’t help but grin as he extinguished his flames and reached up to unscrew the lid. “It’s the first time I’ve gotten to use my Quirk on campus, if you’ll believe that…”

“Really? That’s so weird. With you running all over the place and taking classes with everyone, you’d think you’d have gone through some hero exercises by now,”

“Right? I haven’t been in All Might’s classes, either…” Or any with Kaminari or Shinso at all. That is weird…

 


 

“Touya.”

“I wasn’t sleeping,” he said, groggily lifting his head off of the table.

Amachi looked up at Shoto and Shinso, her lips pursed sympathetically. “He was sleeping. I’m Amachi—his class rep.”

Both his brother and his auditioning-for-the-role-of-brother-in-law shook her hand when she extended it, looking somewhat bemused.  

Dabi wanted to look them in the eye, but then again, the table had felt nice…

Shoto leaned in, his concerned face filling Dabi’s field of vision. “If you moved to your room or mine for this, fewer people would be staring at you.”

“Nah, I like it!” Amachi said, her tone bright. “He’s dozing off completely exposed in front of everyone. What a power move!”

“Maybe I could crash in your dorm for a while...even if I am tired…” I’ve barely had time to speak with him! “—and I have assignments to work on later...unless I’m interrupting something?” he asked Shinso, who shrugged heavily.

“Not really.”

“Alright, then—thanks for the coffee, Amachi. Watch out for Fukami.”

“I don’t need to, he’s right behind you...ha! Made you look.”

 


 

By the time they got back to class 1-A’s dorm, the coffee had perked Dabi up a bit. He sprawled out on the floor because he’d definitely still fall asleep on the bed, and looked up at Shinso and Shoto lounging side by side. They were ridiculously cute together, Shoto leaning back against Shinso’s chest, with Shinso’s arms draped lightly around him. He sent off a quick email to Kaminari saying he could pop by on his way out, then lost himself in the alien pleasure of idle chitchat with his brother.

(And brother’s boyfriend, who honestly did a lot of the talking until Shoto started one of his infodumps, but still pretty great.)

“—so what did you do then?” he prompted Shinso. “When he realized that your costume was basically cosplay.”

“I didn’t do anything. Couldn’t do anything…”

“So you just owned it? Ha...that’s pretty cool.” Eraserhead was an interesting choice to fanboy over, but having seen him in action, Dabi wasn’t about to call it a bad one.

Shinso was grinning. “Okay, but I’m not the only one who takes inspiration from a favorite hero. Kirishima even—” He paused, glancing down at Shoto. “Babe, I just remembered. The thing.”

The thing? Clearly that meant something to Shoto, because he slid off the bed and opened one of his drawers. From the drawer he pulled a convenience store bag, tossing it lightly into Dabi’s lap.

“What is this?” Dabi asked, turning it over in his hands to find the top of the bag, even though between the opaqueness of the bag and the weight and shape of it, he already knew what it was.

“We thought you might be missing it,” Shoto said.

Black hair dye. The nice kind. The quick surge of excitement before the reality settled in made it that much harder to say, “Aw, Shoto—Shinso—thanks. ...but I can’t.”

“Huh?”

Dabi flipped the box over, ruefully reading the small print telling him how many weeks it would keep his daddy issues at bay. “When they let me out of prison, they set out a bunch of rules I had to follow. No tattoos...no travel outside of the county, and no dyeing my hair.”

Rather than looking disappointed, Shoto nodded. “Ah. That would explain why you’ve stuck with red for so long.”

“Maybe I just wanted to look more like you, kid, ever think of that?” he tried to tease, but they all knew it—his dad was a piece of second and he’d always hated looking so much like him. If it hadn’t been for that gargantuan stack of papers with rules, he’d be running to the bathroom this instant!

Shinso may have looked a little disappointed. 

“How’d you get it, even?” Dabi asked, determined to appreciate the gesture for what it was. “They haven’t even let me look off campus.”

“Security is elevated, but that may in part be specific to you…” Shoto glanced back over his shoulder. “...they let the students with provisional licenses off campus a little more readily.”

So...not you.

“I got it,” Shinso explained, looking embarrassed to point out that he’d accomplished what Shoto had not been able to. “Shoto told me what to get…”

“I appreciate it,” Dabi repeated, folding the plastic bag over and setting it by his side. “And our first break, I’m going to use it.” Something else had been bothering him about this conversation, though. “So...Kaminari should be able to go off campus, right?”

“Yeah...he actually got to use his the other day, before anyone else. Bakugo wouldn’t even look at him while he was bragging.” Shinso tilted his head. “...but he didn’t brag to you?”

“No.”

“Probably for a stupid reason,” Shoto said dismissively. “Since he had a stupid reason to brag to those of us who failed the initial exam—‘You’ll all get your licenses in a few months anyway, with the makeup test!’”

“Maybe. Maybe, since I don’t really have a shot at getting permission to leave, even if I did have the training…” Dabi tch-ed and draped an arm over his face. Shoto and Shinso had gone quiet, so he ended up just coming out and saying the thought that had been festering under the surface this entire time, poisoning a peaceful moment with his family: “I think they’re deliberately keeping me from any kind of hero practical exercises. At this rate, I’ll never actually become a hero.”

Shinso shifted uncomfortably on the bed. “Wasn’t that the agreement with the principal in the first place? That you’d be able to…” He trailed off into hand gestures.

“Fight for my cause from the right side of the law?”

“Yeah, that.”

“I thought so,” Dabi said darkly.

Shoto was frowning down at him, eventually climbing out of his boyfriend’s embrace to perch on the edge of the bed and look down.

“It’s fine—” Dabi waved dismissively at this massively unfine suspicion. “You’ve got so much going on, extra classes for your provisional license….don’t worry about this. I don’t even know for sure. Might as well give it a few more weeks, see if they finally let me use my Quirk here.”

“It would be foolish of them not to…” Shoto mused, glancing out the window at the sun setting over UA. “—are you leaving?”

“Yeah, I promised Kaminari I’d drop by before I left…” And I’ve done enough to worry you.

“Well...good luck.” Shinso said, without much optimism to back up his tone.

Dabi waved at him with the hand clenched around the plastic drug store bag. “Thanks.” 

 


 

Kaminari was studying when there was a knock on his door. Well...he had his notes spread out on his desk as he watched videos on his phone. Either way, he leaped up to let Dabi in, eager to put even more distance between himself and his studies. 

“What’s that?”

“A gift from Shoto and Shinso...I think he’s trying to make a good impression.” 

“A gift?” Kaminari could make out what it was through the plastic, and it didn’t help that it was exactly the sort of thing Dabi would want. “Should I have gotten you something, too?” Aside from the jacket...which didn’t go over well, but it was second-hand...why gifts, anyway? It can ’t be a birthday thing, his birthday is in January…

Dabi dropped the hair dye bag beside his shoes. “If anything, I feel like I should have gotten you something...I heard you got to make use of your provisional license...where…?” He’d been sweeping his gaze around the room, noting that most surfaces someone could sit on were either occupied (the desk chair) or strewn with this and that. This was his first time in Kaminari’s dorm room, and Kaminari almost wished he’d cleaned up a little. But...this reflected the natural state of his living space! Better to be honest upfront.

“You can sit on the bed...it was nothing, really.” He shrugged. “I saw a guy crash his bike on my way to my parents’ house.” Kaminari scooted the desk chair closer to the bed, which Dabi’s tall frame almost hung over the edge of. “I went over to see if he was okay. He’d hit his head so I improvised a bandage to stop the bleeding like Yao-Momo taught me and kept talking to him until an ambulance arrived. Technically something anyone on the street could have done.”

You only need a license to cause injury with your Quirk, really...the rest of it, like running into disasters, we’re only really scrutinized because we’re heroes in training. 

Still —” Dabi paused, reaching out a hand. “...come here.”

Curious, Kaminari scooted the chair right up to the bed and reached out for Dabi’s hand. He was promptly hauled off the chair and onto the bed, which thankfully was more prepared to take two teenagers side-to-side than longways. Even with some room between them, Kaminari found himself flustered. They’d made out once on the bed in his guest room, but this was his actual bed and Dabi was in it.

Dabi reached out to pet his face, drawing fingers back to his hair. “Helping people is what heroes should be all about. Just as much as fighting people who harm others. Or more, since it’s more direct.” He leaned in for a brief, soft kiss. “You could have decided that since anyone could help that guy, someone else should . It’s people like you who are going to save today’s heroes from themselves.”

Oh . So they were doing this . It didn’t help how flustered Kaminari was, but it felt nice. Hero theory might be abandoned on his desk in defeat, but here was a boy willing to kiss him and tell him what a good hero he was. It was insanely obvious which of these he’d prefer to pay attention to.

“Really, was nothing—”

“Imagine if every person in need would have that, regardless of whether there was some villain around, or money involved…”

It was ridiculous of Dabi to speak like that now, to fill each moment between soft kisses with half drowsy praise and half world-changing speech. But that was Dabi.

I love you, Kaminari wanted to say, but didn’t. He knew Dabi didn’t want to hear it. So instead he tried to communicate as much as he could by tracing the seam between skin and scar on Dabi’s face, nuzzling his cheeks and neck and even kissing the scarred tissue under his eyes. He hadn’t loved Dabi when he’d been held captive, or even when he escaped, but by the time he’d been standing there, watching Endeavor beat him into the ground…

Was it so wrong, to have started to feel tugs in his heart so early? Was it really so early? They’d been through so much. All he wanted was for a soft interlude in their lives, where Dabi could become a hero instead of whatever crap the teachers were having him do, and he wasn’t kidnapped or threatened by villains in that time.

Was that impossible now? Surely not?

It was hard to believe that their struggles in daily life or against the forces of evil would be insurmountable when he was being handled so tenderly. During a prolonged, lazy kiss Dabi reached out and rested his hand on the small of Kaminari’s back. Kaminari felt a spill of heat in his guts, echoing a much more solid ache in his heart. An ache that wanted good things.

He cautiously closed the gap between them when Dabi broke the kiss, embarrassed to glance up as he snuggled close until he heard a soft but unmistakable snore.

The glance up now was to confirm it—Dabi had succumbed to the heaviness evident in his movements and had fallen asleep.

Chapter Text

Also napping in his boyfriend’s arms was one Katsuki Bakugo.

Part of learning how to be with Kirishima had involved very loudly and aggressively pointing out to their classmates that they were an item. That way, no one would get the stupid idea that Kirishima was doing him a favor by letting Bakugo sleep leaning against him. He didn’t need Kirishima to cradle him against his firm chest with his strong arms, nor did he need Kirishima to wake him up at a specific time so that he was both well-rested and ready in time for his cram classes.

He wanted it, and since Bakugo getting what he wanted was as normal as Mr. Aizawa rolling up to class in a sleeping bag, these extras should be used to seeing it.

“Hey, babe,” Kirishima said, running his finger up and down Bakugo’s jaw. “Wake up, it’s seven…”

“Mmmgph,” Bakugo said, coming out of sleep in the awkward, grumpy way he usually did. If it was anyone else’s hands on his face, they’d get their fingers bitten off. “...do you have to wake me up like that?”

“Oh, sorry. Good evening, gorgeous,” Kirishima teased, pinching his cheek.

Bakugo’s mouth actually opened, like he was considering a warning nip anyway. “It’s ‘Lord Explosion Murder’ or nothing,”

Sorry...Explosion Boy,” Kirishima said, dropping a kiss onto Bakugo’s forehead as Bakugo growled at him.

“Thin flaming ice, Kirishima,” he said, not trying to be careful at all as he climbed off of the couch.

Kirishima laughed off the elbow-bump to the nose and smoothed his rumpled shirt, but Bakugo knew he was in for it the second his boyfriend’s expression grew serious. “You know, I know you’ve been going through a lot lately...working hard on extra classes, all the kidnapping stuff, and moving...but you promised you were going to treat me right a while back…”

Right… shirk. “I’m not mad at you, I’m mad at...other things,” Bakugo said, not needing to look at Kirishima directly to know that his expression would be softening. “I’ll make it up to you later.”

First, though, he needed to get ready for class. He’d deal with the wrinkles in his uniform, though they weren’t really important, and they were far less horrendous than the ones he’d put in Kirishima’s tasteless rainbow button-up…

A hand reached out to him, and he stopped. You have twenty seconds, he thought, but did not say.

“Maybe tonight?” It was so wrong to see puppydog eyes and bedroom eyes combined like that. “You never want to do anything when we’re alone these days, you’re so wound up about everything...but we had a lot of fun last time…”

Bakugo fought off a surge of unease. He was Katsuki freaking Bakugo! He’d been number one in the sports festival, held his own against the League of Villains countless times, talked back to All For One’s face…

...so why was it so hard to have a freaking important talk with his boyfriend?

One that would leave him sounding weak and childish...

One that started, yeah, it was fun, but afterwards I felt like we went too far. And it wasn’t even that freaking far at all! ...but it got me worried that the next time, because it feels so good and I love you, I’ll just go along with it and wish I hadn’t later. And I don’t want that...and I’m not about to do that, because I’m not some loser idiot who puts himself and his boyfriend in that position...so that’s why I haven’t—we haven’t—

“Yeah, Eijiro, it was fun. B—”

Guys, ” Sero said, putting down his book. “I appreciate the fact that you aren’t making out right now but this is arguably worse!”

Shut the file up, Office Supplies! ” Bakugo snapped, all efforts to be casually open with Kirishima evaporating. “Maybe if you paid less attention to us then you could find your own relationship!

“Katsuki—”

“I’m leaving, I have class,” Bakugo said stiffly. Kirishima didn’t sound mad, so he was probably in the clear…

As he buttoned the top button of his uniform, Kirishima cleared his throat. “Katsuki. About tonight—are you going to stop by, or—”

“I have better things to do,” Bakugo said harshly, with a sideways glance at the still-infuriatingly-there Sero. The last thing he needed was his issue becoming common knowledge...who knew how freaking Deku would make that all about himself or the bonds of friendship or whatever?!?

“...even for a short....?”

“—than you,” he said bluntly, and hated himself for it the second it was out. It didn’t help that instead of sounding harsh, he’d sounded...scared.

Dammit. Dammit dammit dammit. As he made his way back to his room for his school things, he curled his hands into fists, and once inside his door he snatched the abandoned soda can off of his desk and blew it to a withered nub.

Somehow, that didn’t make him feel much better.

 


 

Dabi woke up to the sound of Kaminari writing something at the desk across the room. The bed was cold next to him, so he’d been there a while. Dabi rubbed his face as he sat up. “Kaminari… What time is it?”

“Uh...seven twenty?”

“—you let me sleep for three hours?

“Well, yeah, you seemed tired?”

Now he barely had forty minutes to get dinner—twenty, really, with ten minutes from dorms to the lunch room—and then he’d have to get everything done from within his room… “My curfew—

“Oh—crap!” Kaminari sprang up, then helpfully began throwing Dabi’s possessions at him. Book bag, hair dye… “I didn’t remember that.”

“It’s okay, neither did I…” Dabi threw his bag over his shoulder, turning around sharply to kiss Kaminari goodnight. “—I’m sorry I haven’t been available a lot lately, and I’m tired when I am—”

“That’s nothing—it’s fine.” Standing in the door to see him off, Kaminari forced a laugh. “It can’t be for forever, right?”

 


 

“Hey...Kirishima. I’m sorry,” Sero said. “...if I just made that awkward or anything. Like, I don’t want to hear about your sexploits, but you’re dating freaking Bakugo, so that can’t be easy…”

Kirishima sighed and leaned back into the couch. “It’s whatever, Sero. Because he’s so rude to everyone, we’ve talked about this before.” He crossed his arms. “...so he should know better.”

“...yeah, it seemed like he got carried away...are you sure you’re okay, man?”

Kirishima waved away Sero’s concern, even though his own ran deep. He had to ignore that as well, for his own well-being. “He’s been back-sliding lately and of course that’s hard to deal with. I try to be understanding, but I’m not going to run after him to check on how he’s doing after this. He knows I’m not about to let him take his troubles out on me like that. He can find me and apologize when he’s done being testy,” Kirishima said, crossing his arms.

Sero frowned. “...and if he doesn’t apologize?”

“He will.” He had to say that, because he didn’t want to put the alternative into words.

I’ll have to break up with him, of course, if he doesn’t respect me and takes his anger out on me. Like I promised.

Chapter Text

“It has recently come to my attention that you’ve complained about not being offered hero training coursework,” Mr. Ectoplasm said.

Fukami, I’m going to kill you. Dabi tried to keep his tone neutral as he responded. “I don’t really recall...they were private conversations.”

“At any rate, that’s why you’re here today...step over here and face me,” Ectoplasm said...no, taunted.

As Dabi did as he was bid, Ectoplasm’s eyes seemed to shine above that mocking, static grin. The rest of Ectoplasm's class were gathered around them, wearing their hero costumes. Dabi just wore a UA PE uniform. “Let’s have a look at Endeavor’s legacy…”

“His legacy...will be the last fight I was in,” Dabi said, glancing back at Fukami (who he was going to kill) an Amachi (who looked politely concerned for his well-being). Another one I knew I was going to lose, more or less…

The inevitable defeat would still be interesting. What did Ectoplasm hope to gain from this? He’d just pointed out that Dabi was untrained, and he was woefully under-protected as far as clothing went. Amachi's costume in particular made his PE clothes look flimsy, a full suit of samurai-inspired armor, but her Quirk wasn’t really combat-suited. If he’d had his way, Dabi would have been looking for something that could at least protect him from flame...whether it was being hurled at him from someone’s hands, or deflected from his own…

But he wasn’t fighting Endeavor here, or Naoko Bakin. When Ectoplasm’s first duplicate sprinted for him, he lifted one hand and burnt it to a smear of ash on instinct. But that in itself made him think of Twice, who he hadn’t seen or heard from since the day he left the prison, but was almost certainly out there still…

Thoughts of the past hung heavy, and by the third duplicate reduced to ash they had gotten better at evading his opening—and finishing—move.

The sixth got behind him and delivered a savage kick to his kidneys. Dabi crumpled, and for a moment, it was as though he were locked in a moment in between blows from Endeavor’s fist.

But when hands touched him next, it was to restrain and not to punch. Small blessings.

The entire encounter had taken less than two minutes.

“Do you see why you’re being directed away from my lessons?” Ectoplasm asked as his duplicated released Dabi, vanishing one at a time.

“No…” Dabi said, rubbing his side and turning to glare at Ectoplasm. “Why don’t you teach me?”

“Because you aren’t fighting at a third year UA student’s level. In fact, I think you’ve been beaten by some of our first years in the past.”

My little brother could kick your ash any day…that’s a compliment to them, not an insult to me…

He was still very much prepared to take it as an insult coming from Ectoplasm, however.

 


 

“Cheer up!” Amachi said as she stripped off her armor piece by piece, now dirtied and worn down by her own (much more balanced) match. “The first few, you vaporized. Which is way cooler than holding your own for a few minutes without taking any of them out.”

“I think you did well,” Dabi said, not bothering to point out that he’d been killing Ectoplasm’s clones in the hopes that it caused him pain, not because he thought it was a viable strategy in the long run. (Too villainous.) Without cover, he’d been a goner.

Guys,” Fukami yelled as he collapsed dramatically to the ground beside Amachi’s armor, “That was way hard. No cover, no assistance…”

“It was a lot like the Sports Festival,” Amachi pointed out. “And close quarters single combat is a skill that we need to perfect.”

“Well, true, but to have it be Dabi’s first physical training exercise?” Fukami said, sounding genuinely bleeding-heart about it. “Completely unfair!”

I’ve fought heroes before, Dabi thought sullenly. And villains. “Hey Fukami, has everyone figured out that your hero costume is basically a cosplay of Neo from The Matrix?”

“It’s Trinity ,” Fukami said indignantly, as Amachi stifled a laugh behind his back. “Honestly. They never put Neo in latex...have you even seen the movie?”

Okay, so he’d picked the wrong place to probe for self-consciousness. “You didn’t last much longer than me, anyway. I wouldn’t worry about me if I were you.”

“The teachers don’t care that much if I don’t perform well in one-on-one combat...if I mess up, I could kill someone so very easily, so they appreciate my caution…”

“You do need to practice more,” Amachi scolded him, dropped the last of her costume on his long latex coat, making him yelp indignantly. “You’re not always going to want to kill the person you’re fighting...rarely will, actually. I’ve told you in the past that I’d help you...and that extends to you, Dabi.”

He raised an eyebrow.

“Yeah—there’s some paperwork that needs to be filled out, and you need faculty approval, but if you wanted a chance to work on that stuff on your own time, Fukami and I would be happy to train together with you.”

“You’re just going to volunteer me like that, class rep?”

“Okay, then I—”

Of course I'll do it.” Fukami said indignantly, whipping his sunglasses off. 

The ghost of a smile crossed Dabi’s expression. “Thanks, Amachi.” 

I don’t think you’d ever get permission...but thanks. Both of you...it means a lot.

 


 

“Guys...what is this about?”

“C’mon...just trust us,” Kaminari said, dragging Dabi by the hand across campus. Every so often, when he lagged, Shoto would give him a push from behind. Shinso was walking alongside him, far more dignified than either of them, carrying what appeared to be a picnic lunch.

It was baffling. First and foremost, Dabi had spent most of his time with either Shoto or Kaminari, not the two of them together. (It seemed they had separate groups of friends, Shoto’s centering around Midoriya while Kaminari somehow operated in Bakugo’s orbit.) Secondly, Dabi had agreed to drop by Shoto’s dorm room on the condition that it would be brief, as he had homework. And thirdly—

“Todoroki!”

The hands left his back. Dabi stopped, too, though he hadn’t quite gotten used to answering to his family name yet. It wasn’t for him, anyway—Tenya Iida was bowing to his brother,  speaking through tensed features. “...I’d like a moment to speak to your brother.”

Welp. Dabi turned fully, waiting for the guy to straighten up from his right angle bend. He looked angry. And probably tearful.

In that moment, he remembered preparing to descend on UA’s training camp, with Spinner going on about wanting to kill the glasses-wearing boy who Stain had tried and failed to eliminate.

This was him, then.

“Todoroki…if that’s what I should address you as…”

“That’s fine.” What do you want?

“...it has weighed heavily on my mind that you, a former follower of Stain’s ideology, has come here to study…”

Yeah…’former’...about that, buddy… But that sort of things would be stupid to say! He had the vague sense that Iida here represented hero society as a whole. He must make amends to him if he wanted any sort of chance at integrating back into society.

But DO you have a chance? Some sinister voice whispered in his head. It sounded like Shigaraki Tomura...or maybe Twice, though Twice would never be so decisive. The heroes don’t seem very willing to help you on your journey here. This is what they want you to do...to apologize, and give information, and give up your freedom, and give, and give, and they will never stop taking and you’ll never get anything out of it…

But no. Though this whole experience had renewed the bitter taste in his mouth at the thought of heroes, it was still the old guard who kept the doors locked in front of him. Amachi, Fukami, Kaminari and the rest... they would be the pro heroes, some day. So maybe he’d have to wait a little while to be accepted...but it would happen, when the new replaced the old.

He could be the new, if he tried hard enough.

“I’ve seen for myself the corruption of our top heroes,” Dabi said, trying very hard not to sound like a man giving a speech from the shadows behind a podium. “—from a very young age, I was disillusioned. And...I still am. But...I’m not ignorant to the fact that Stain wasn’t just hurting people like my father.”

Did that sound like an excuse? Would it make Iida angry? His fist was still clenched at his side, shaking gently, but when Iida replied his tone was even. “My brother was one of the best heroes I’ve ever known. He took on a massive number of sidekicks every year, to help new heroes find their way in a competitive market. The good he did for the world was cut short to everyone’s detriment.” He inhaled, bringing his fist up, eyes gleaming with determination. For a split second, Dabi thought he might intend to fight. But no—he came with a different challenge.

“I’d like you to meet with my brother.”

“...what? Ingenium?”

“Yes.” Iida pushed his glasses more firmly onto his nose. “You still consider yourself a follower of Stain, don’t you?”

“Dabi—” Behind him, Kaminari reached out and took his hand again, giving it a gentle tug. “Iida, I don’t think—”

“If I answer that honestly, I risk my position here.” Dabi said, eyeing Iida up. “...but I imagine that answers your question.”

“It does.” Iida looked from him to Kaminari, and back. “My brother was a good hero. He didn’t deserve to be singled out. Maybe none of them did, at the end of the day. That’s why our society needs heroes—not vigilantes. At the end of the day, force must be backed up with a robust and fair legal system.”

“So you’re hoping, if I speak to your brother…”

“That you’ll see the error of Stain’s ways? Yes. It’s heavy-handed, I know. But I’m taking the advice of a very good friend...and I’m not sure my spirit can rest easy unless we reach some conclusion here. This is UA, after all...but they’re also capable of making mistakes.”

So, I’m a mistake if I don’t bend to your demand, is that it? Has my privilege of getting to clean up after you heroes and be shuffled among the most boring classes imaginable here been so great that I have to grovel to men I’ve never met to continue to earn a place here? In some ways, I’d prefer p—

“I think you should.”

He looked over at Shoto, eyes narrowed. “Oh?”

“Yes. Iida was with us for Bakugo’s rescue...and when I helped him at the Hosu incident, I saw the true measure of his inner strength. He’s someone it will be worthwhile to have on your side, in the future.”

Baby brother...who knew you were so into making friends these days?

“Fine,” Dabi said.

“Fine?” Iida repeated, as if unsure whether Dabi had been speaking to him or to his brother.

“Fine. Tell me a time and date, and make sure the teachers will let me off campus. Or—give me enough warning and I’ll do that myself,” he said, after a hard look from Shoto.

Iida’s expression was still tense, but some of the lines on his face smoothed. “—thank you. I will speak to my brother, and facilitate this meeting.” He bent in another hurried bow, and left without another word.

Dabi exhaled. “What a pain…”

“He has a point.” Shoto said, as Dabi let Kaminari resume dragging him out to some giant field on the UA campus, with a circle painted on the ground. PE grounds, maybe?

“At least he wasn’t rude, but c’mon, do you really think this is necessary?” Dabi watched as Kaminari dropped his hand and reached for his bag, pulling it off his shoulder unceremoniously. “I know that Stain hurt people who fell short of my definition of evil…”

“He’s one of the people you have to smooth things over with,” Shinso pointed out, “Why not be glad he started things?”

“Fine.” Dabi watched the three of them moving around, Shoto unzipping his jacket to reveal a sleeveless shirt. “...are you going to tell me what we’re going to do now, or…?”

“Yes,” Shoto said, without actually elaborating. Shinso seemed too distracted checking his boyfriend out to answer, so Dabi turned to his own.

“Kaminari?”

“Oh—you and Shoto are going to spar!” He beamed, pulling books out of Dabi’s bag in a careless way that was VERY concerning.

“...I have homework.”

“That’s why I’m here! I’m going to do your homework for you. It’s stuff we’ve seen before, at any rate…”

“Kamianri, that’s sweet, but I have basically no faith in your ability to do your own work, let alone mine—”

“That’s why I’m here,” Shinso added, with a rueful smile, tearing his gaze away from Shoto. “I’ll help him. You wanted to actually get a chance to use your Quirk, right? Go have fun.”

His expression said ‘have fun without hurting my boyfriend’, but he probably had enough faith in his boyfriend to not add that last bit. Dabi had enough faith in Shoto to not point out that he wouldn’t, anyway.

Even though...it was weird. The last time he’d fought someone with a powerful emitter Quirk, he had been aiming to kill. He was basically an idiot when it came to these things, but Shoto didn’t seem concerned, having abandoned what could have served as protective outer layers as he put a moderate distance between them, backing across the field. “How far is your average distance? Or your maximum…”

“I haven’t measured either,” Dabi said, pushing back the sleeves of Kaminari’s jacket. (Mirai had brought it for him after a sheepish text—thanks, Mominari.)

“Alright, then...aim a little high if you’re unsure,” Shoto said, with that same air of casual unconcern. He placed one arm across his body, stretched, and then extended his left hand before him.

Before he felt even the slightest lick of heat, Dabi mirrored him by instinct and sent an explosion of blue flame roaring from his palm and arm, crashing against orange flame to tangle with and consume it as both fires choked the other.

The nearby birds had gone silent, as had any insects. Something about the sheer power they had released, even in a tentative first blow, made a fierce smile curve across Dabi’s face.

 


 

“Do you think the teachers are going to come over here?” Kaminari asked, as another massive wall of flames collided and burned out over the field. “...this is pretty crazy.”

“Shoto got permission for this from the principal directly, and he said he’d let all the teachers know...so no one should have a reason to complain,” Shinso said, looking up from the math problems he was filling in for Dabi.

Kaminari hoped Shinso was right. He was kind of worried that they’d end up setting the grass on fire, even though both Todoroki brothers were aiming high. There was something kind of terrible and kind of amazing about watching them fight.

Dabi swung his arm in an arc in front of him, creating a shield that swallowed up Todoroki’s flames somehow, and the latter approached, seemingly with a question. Dabi moved so they stood shoulder-to-shoulder and repeated the move for his brother to imitate. He was probably explaining how it worked, too, but Kaminari was too far away to hear.

He was supposed to be helping Shinso with the math, but they both knew he was kind of terrible at it, so he didn’t feel too bad about neglecting the book in front of him to watch instead.

Now when they circled each other, their flames seemed better matched. But Dabi could send flames from both hands at once, outweighing and out-matching those Todoroki could produce, so instead of standing and meeting this attack, Todoroki fell forward into a roll and when he came back up, he reached out with his right.

Ice, now—!  

He sent out a blast of ice that was terrifying in magnitude, but Dabi had been prepared for that as well. He twisted his arm back to meet the ice halfway, with a roar of flames that cradled and consumed it at once. Todoroki scowled and locked his jaw, more ice streaking from his foot and hand, but they were evenly matched here.

Kaminari had never seen Todoroki’s all-powerful ice powers stopped so efficiently. Even if Dabi did look exhausted and the field was flooded with water, it was a sight to behold.

 


 

Shoto let his hand fall to his side as Dabi approached him, but he looked discontented. “You’re stronger than me. I can’t believe…”

“What?”

“—can’t believe dad didn’t see that,” Shoto said, then shook his head. “I didn’t want to bring him up. Let’s not talk about him.”

“I’m glad he didn’t, honestly…” Dabi hopped over a particularly water-logged portion of grass. “But Shoto—for the record, I’m not stronger. Using two hands against one, it’s no contest. If you were using both at once, you’d beat me into the ground. Probably would anyway eventually, from stamina or training…”

Shoto stared down at both his hands. “—I have used them at the same time, now, once or twice...but it’s difficult. “

So even the wonderkid had things he was trying to learn, huh? Dabi reached out and squeezed Shoto’s hand. “I know what you mean! But the best thing I ever found for it was practice, so it’s good you aren’t stifling half your powers anymore.”

Shoto raised an eyebrow. At first, Dabi thought he was irritated that father had come up in conversation again, but instead he asked, “—you know what I mean?”

“Well...yeah. It’s hard to get two flames going at once, whether it’s hands—” He lit one palm on fire pensively, “—or anywhere else…” Flames licked up one side of his face, and then also across one shoulder (he wanted to show off) before all three extinguished. “But it gets easier with practice. I usually attack with one hand because the precision's better, but when it comes to sheer volume…”

Shoto’s frown was deepening. “But, for me—it’s like there’s a concentrated force I have to focus on, and it can’t be too many places at once—”

“Oh for God’s sake, Shoto, I think that’s the tai chi speaking. Am I right?” Dabi shook his head fiercely for emphasis. “Using your Quirk isn’t like centering your chi or whatever. (I never paid much attention in martial arts.) It’s in all parts of your body, all the time. You just need to get your focus in both places at once. Here...try.”

He stood there, holding both of Shoto’s hands, palm up. It was so weird, as though they had stepped back in time. The height difference between them was still considerable, and except for their scars one could say they hadn’t changed that much. Funny, to think that at one point he’d believed even this small bit of familiarity with his family was gone forever.

Maybe Shoto was thinking the same thing, because there was a delay before his right hand grew cold. A tiny pillar of ice formed, crystals bending off of it, but his other hand remained unmoving.

C’mon, Shoto… “It’s not fire and ice...or mom and dad...it’s just one of your hands and the other, okay? They’re both stuck on your body, and work the same way…”

Unless they didn’t, and there really was some fundamental difference that he couldn’t understand as someone with a single Quirk, but just as Dabi had that thought, a small flame guttered in Shoto’s hand. The ice had frozen, so to speak, no longer growing, but after a moment Shoto’s expression tensed and it began to grow once again. The flame didn’t die.

Dabi made a small, embarrassing noise of pride moments before applause from the edge of the field yanked them both from the moment.

“That’s my boyfriend!” Shinso hollered, clapping with the math book settled on his lap.

Kaminari was also clapping across from him, looking more than a little confused. “And my boyfriend...is helping! I think…”

Dabi snickered, and they dropped their hands. “—it’ll take more than that to make you an expert, though,” he said. “Practice. You don’t even need me—you just need to do it over and over again, until it’s second nature, and then you can learn to do really cool things with it.”

“Cool things?” Shoto asked, glancing up from staring down at his hands.

“Aw, c’mon Shoto...don’t tell me you’d master two powers at once just to use them a little more closely in succession? Think about it, you could do so much! Like…” Like...okay, so I might be able to come up with something better not on short notice… The ground squelched beneath his shoe and he looked up with a triumphant grin. “Water!”

“...water.” Shoto did not sound impressed. Because he was woefully unimaginative.

Dabi could fix that. “Well, for one, it can put fires out…”

“Ice can do that.”

“Okay, Mr. Smartyboots...but if you freeze a tree to save it from the flames, you’re really just killing it another way, right? It’s still going to die. And maybe that’s not important in the big scheme of things for a hero, but what if you wanted to put out a person that was on fire? Or...move them out of harm’s way? Seems like ice is better for immobilizing a foe than shoving someone out of harm’s way.”

This, at least, seemed like it caught Shoto’s attention. Good.

“Look...let me show you.” Dabi took Shoto’s shoulders and marched him a little deeper into the field. “...this is going to be weird with the height difference, so I’m going to crouch when the time comes. On the count of three, I want you to send a blast of ice, not at the ground but into the air…”

Shoto didn’t look entirely convinced, but he did as he was told. Dabi stood behind him, and as Shoto raised his right hand to blast a sheet of ice into the air, Dabi fell into a crouch beside him and lifted his own arm mere inches beneath Shoto’s.

For one person to do this, it would take more coordination...but as the ice fell, down through a bloom of blue flames, it hit the ground with a thunderous liquid crash. Both Shinso and Kaminari looked up, utterly confused at the light mist of water that dusted them.

Both Dabi and Shoto looked at the (now even more) soaked field, and maybe it was the look on his brother’s face, but Dabi couldn’t help a single, delighted laugh. “So much for hot and cold! They’re going to have to start calling you icy-hot-and-wet once you figure out how to do that on your own.”

Shoto grinned, and shoved him. “Ew.”

“Ew yourself...I can’t believe someone who placed second in a UA sports festival even needed my help figuring out something like that. They might as well make me a teacher, here!”

Shoto didn’t respond right away, but Dabi was going to assume from the peaceful look on his face that he felt at least a little elated, like Dabi did.

He hadn’t thought...hadn’t really expected, ever, to get a chance to stand as Shoto’s equal...no, as his brother again. It was like teaching him how to open a soda bottle on a street sign all over again.

And this was one more way that Endeavor would watch his prized son turning his flame power into something else, something far less harsh and punishing. And Dabi would take that pleasure to the grave…

...but thinking about Endeavor so much today put a bit of a damper on things, so the feeling burned off as he and Shoto sank back to the grass beside Shinso and Kaminari.

“How’s it going, guys?” Shoto asked.

Shinso had been doing something on his phone, but he put it down in a hurry. “It’s...fine! Yeah, the problems are taking a little longer than I expected...so I’ll take them back to my room, Dabi, and get them to you tomorrow morning.”

His smile seemed a little forced, and Dabi couldn’t shake the creeping feeling that had begun to grow.

He reached for his own phone, but was stopped halfway when Kaminari more or less dove on his hand. “So...dinner? Or...lunch? Guys?”

The feeling...was worsening. He turned from his phone to Kaminari. “If you’re hungry, the lunch room is always—”

“Oh, no!” Kaminari righted himself, still clinging stubbornly to Dabi’s hand. “—I was thinking—we were thinking—that maybe today, to, uh, celebrate, we could get food from off campus! —of course, you can’t go, and neither can Todoroki, but I can go get something for all of us….what do you want?”

Hm. “...it’s really up to me?”

“Yes.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Mm-hm.”

O...kay. Those were three very prompt, very similar responses. “...kake-soba. Or, soba in general, since Shoto likes his cold…”

Except Shoto had seemed willing to agree wholeheartedly, even before that last little bit was added.

Flaming weird…

“Okay, then. I guess...you’re gonna go get that?” Dabi raised an eyebrow at Kaminari, who seemed to be just standing there until Dabi put his phone into his pocket and shouldered his bag.

“Yeah, I’m just...going to walk across campus with you guys,” Kaminari said, pulling a soda from their picnic basket and offering it to Dabi.

Well...weird, but whatever. Dabi glanced at Shoto and Shinso, who seemed to be sharing some kind of weird look as they lagged behind. Wrapping his arm around Kaminari’s shoulders, Dabi pulled his boyfriend close. “Hey...what’s up with those two?”

“Oh, um…” Kaminari glanced back at them, and then back at Dabi with a look of anxiety that seemed to confirm his suspicions. “They...uh...it’s hard to explain, but...I think it’s about Todoroki using his flames. Shinso, uh, doesn’t want him to Endeavor—UM—use his flames, like, at all…”

Really.” Was Dabi going to have to have a talk with this guy? He’d seemed so perfect, on the surface! But...that just seemed weird, given his clapping and such, earlier. But everyone was acting weird as skit and Dabi couldn’t shake that awful, awful feeling.

“You four—where are you going?”

Stopped once again—this time, by Eraserhead. 

“We’re going to get food—” Shoto said, wrenching himself from whatever intense discussion he was having with his boyfriend.

“...is that so,” Eraserhead said, eyeing Dabi in particular, for some reason.

He’s getting food,” Dabi said, pointing to Kaminari and feeling efficiently singled-out. “I’m not going anywhere.”

“That’s a relief to hear. I hope you understand, your position with us hasn’t changed…”

“......whatever that means,” Dabi said, as he walked away. “That was weird, wasn’t it? Don’t you guys think?”

Both Shinso and Shoto seemed happy to ignore whatever issue they were having to agree with him, and by the time Kaminari left them at the school gate, Shinso had probably said that Ectoplasm was a dick at least three times.

“So, if you’re doing my homework…” Dabi gave Shinso a sideways look, “...what are our plans for this evening, Shoto, did you have something in mind?”

About a billion years of sleep would be nice, though…

“Yes,” Shoto said, at once and abruptly enough that Dabi squinted.

“Oh? What is it?”

Shoto seemed stuck, and at that moment, Dabi saw through his charade. ‘Yes’ hadn’t been yes until he asked. As much as Kaminari and Shinso, Shoto was off-balance...and trying to keep his attention fixed firmly on them.

Shoto must have seen the suspicion settle over Dabi’s features, but he still gave it a try anyway. “—whatever you want. You deserve a break, you know, they’re working you too hard…”

“The teachers would never have given you permission to practice with me,” he said, with more harshness than he intended. “I know they already told Amachi and Fukami no. And—hot soba? You hate hot soba! And Kaminari was tripping over his words...what’s going on?”

Neither of the other boys said anything, but the look they exchanged suggested a form of camaraderie that would probably be lacking if they actually were fighting.

“...c’mon, Shoto,” Dabi said, with a forced laugh and a growing sense of panic. “—you’re acting like we all did when Fuyumi’s cat died, trying to make sure she had a great day before she found out—”

No answer came, so he plunged his hand into his pocket. Kaminari had stopped him from doing that, before...it might have answers.

Shoto spoke before he could light the screen up.

“Touya—we didn’t want you to find out, right away, after such a hard week...dad got his hero license back today.”

Chapter Text

‘Investigation into Number One Hero Endeavor Concludes’, read the headline on his browser’s homepage. ‘Hero license restored. No wrongdoings discovered’.

“No wrongdoings discovered,” Dabi said, and he thought he might vomit just from speaking those words. 

“Touya…” Shinso was dead silent, but Shoto seemed to have overcome his momentary stumble. “I know this is bad—it feels bad…”

“So, what—you were just not going to tell me?” Dabi heard the edge of hysteria in his voice, and fought it down. “Not like it's not on every news site, every social media, every one’s going to be talking about it by tomorrow—”

“That's right! And that's why you've got to calm down!” 

Dabi gave Shinso a cold look. “Do you have any idea how this paints me—and what it means for the sacrifices I've made—?”

“Hitoshi—” Shoto reached for his shoulder, but when Shinso brought his hand up to cover it, he kept talking.

“This whole thing was about giving you something else to focus on when you found out…”

“‘This whole thing’, so, even brotherly bonding?” He parroted Shinso’s words, but it was Shoto he looked at. 

“It was the justification I gave Principal Nezu when I asked him to allow us to train,” Shoto said bluntly, calmly.

How could he be calm?!? Dabi felt like he was going to explode. “Just once... I was hoping, just once, we could do something with our Quirks that had nothing to do with him …”

“Please, Dabi—”

“Touya, they're watching you.” Shoto said bluntly. 

“What?”

“You saw, earlier, with Eraserhead. He thought you knew already… They're waiting to see if you crack, if you can be trusted. Dad may be coming back, but that doesn't change the fact that you're here. Don't let him take this from you.”

Take this from me...don’t let him…

“Right,” he said, the tone sounding far too bright for his ears. Like it was coming from above him, in a brighter and happier place. Knowing any smile he faked now would be ghastly, he settled for a bitter grin. “I can be calm. I can be good . He won't take this from me.”

Even if 'this’ is a stifling, exhausting, unrewarding collection of disjointed moments that I'm sure I'll find the catch to in just a short time…

That bitterness was going to leak out of his heart and burn itself into his features, so he knew that he had to get away from Shoto…and anyone else with eyes. He stood abruptly.

“Touya—”

“I'm going to sleep this off,” he said forcefully, shoving his hands into the pockets on his jacket. “...tell Kaminari he can have my soba.” 

Then, without waiting for a word—without waiting for permission —Dabi stalked off.

There was only so much stalking he could manage before he heard footsteps behind him, and stopped.

“Shinso,” he said, an edge to his tone. He wasn't prepared for idle pleasantries, or threats… Though Shinso’s expression made him think it was the latter that was coming. His hands were clenched into fists at his sides, and his face looked more dead inside than usual. “—I'm not about to answer any questions—”

“I love your brother,” Shinso said, cutting Dabi off. “... it's ridiculous, how much I love him. So I want him to be happy. At first, that meant making sure he got to spend time with you. But, if you do anything that will hurt him—”

“Ah. So it is threats.”

Shinso drew back, ever so slightly, but it was a reminder—even to a boy he'd been on picnic lunches with, or whom he'd chatted about costumes with on the floor—he was frightening. “I want to protect him,” he said, almost a plea. “—don't you think this is hard for him, too?”

“I think,” Dabi said, “that I know better how he's going to feel than you do.”

Then he left, and Shinso let him go.

 


 

'Todoroki told me what happened. I'm really sorry, Dabi.’

'Todoroki your brother not any other Todoroki.’

'But you knew that.’

'Just talk to me when you're ready, okay? I'm here for you.’

This string of emails couldn't be from anyone expect Kaminari, and he almost responded. But right now...he couldn't. Besides...he had work to do. He was waiting for the bus that would take him to the USJ for another un-freaking-rewarding day of cleanup for exercises he'd never get a chance to do.

But! He was calm! He'd slept on it and he could be cool, calm, collected...all of the people on the train with him would know what had happened, and his face would give away nothing. He'd be the picture of indifference.

A familiar face was also waiting, clad in unfamiliar street clothes.

“Fukami... why are you here?”

Fukami must have registered the unfriendly note in his tone, because he fidgeted. The train came to a stop in front of them. “I...may have told Mr. Ectoplasm off. Repeatedly. With...not particularly nice language,” he said as he stepped onto the train, quickly taking an empty seat. This early, they practically had the car to themselves.

Dabi sat across from him, now slightly more interested but still largely more annoyed than anything. “What kind of language?”

“I'd… Rather not say….”

Hmph. Some edgelord. “Why would you do it, then?”

Fukami’s fidgeting cranked up to high gear, as he twisted the black-and-lavender hem of his shirt around and around his finger. “I heard what happened, and... I didn't want you to have to do this alone today.”

Dabi stared at him. The fidgeting now encompassed Fukami's gold-rimmed glasses and the bento box perched on his knee. 

“...you don't have to say thank you or anything,” Fukami said, fingers stilling. 

“I don't think I was going to,” Dabi said honestly. “I...kind of want to be alone right now.”

Which… Is more honesty than I've given my boyfriend or my brother in the last twenty-four hours… So, congratulations, you got that out of me? Though maybe that shouldn't be surprising for the guy whose Quirk is reaching inside is people and messing them up.

But...no. He shouldn't be acting defensive. Pulling up Kaminari's emails and firing off a quick 'thanks, but I'm fine! I promise. I'll see you probably tomorrow’, he prepared to play it cool with Fukami.

Fukami was already mid-sentence. “Right, and I get that, but sometimes it's not always the best thing for a person…a while ago, I…”

“If you care that much, then, fine. Hang out with me. I'm fine.”

I'm fine. 

He was—


not fine.

He thought, as he scribbled a few more lines onto his clipboard. 

(Had this job even existed before he'd come around? It was always the same things broken, always the same massive list at the end of the day.) 

Three people on the way to the USJ had mentioned his father to him. That wasn't even counting those around him, who talked freely about his family business.

T he people who had spoken to him were sympathetic. 'We heard about your father… Heard what he'd done… That's rough, son. I hope you're doing okay.’

But the people around them…

'Finally! I thought they were going to drag this out forever.’

‘He's no All Might… But I feel safer with him back on the streets.’

‘It's ridiculous. My parents raised me within whatever methods they thought necessary… Children today…’

His knuckles had grown whiter and whiter, until he'd probably been about to get up and make things worse when the train came to a stop, and Fukami reached out and guided him off the train by his elbow.

He'd pulled away once they were off the train. “What are you doing?” he'd snapped, eyes narrowed. 

“Keeping you from making things w—”

“I wasn't going to do anything!” he lied, the concern in Fukami’s pale green eyes more upsetting than anything he'd heard on the train. Like he might snap at any minute, and Fukami—idiotic, impossible-to-avoid Fukami—was bracing for the blow. “I'm dealing with a lot right now. I don't need your little crush making things even more complicated. My boyfriend's pretty laid back, but most guys would care and be giving me short , you know that, right?”

Fukami lapsed into a pained silence, and Dabi almost felt bad until he spoke. 

“...I'm not gay.”

“Oh, denial too?” he snorted. Does he think that's cute or something?

Fukami hadn't spoken to him since, and although he'd relished the silence, something had been eating away inside of him ever since they'd arrived. Not regret—that would have to wait until a more decent hour.

No, it was Thirteen's words upon their arrival.

“Now! Since there's two of you, we'll need two separate lists...and, Todoroki?” Thirteen froze in the process of handing him a clipboard.

“Yeah?” he asked, feeling on the verge of snapping something unkind. 

“I'll be doing equipment checks today, but I'll be in the central control room if you need me.”

Meaning you're watching everything I do, you bastard… Can't just let me feel in peace…

So it built and built, with each bullet point he added, until he couldn't take it anymore. 

One dumpster in the fire simulation area had been damaged, meaning that it continued to periodically spray fire even after the rest were shut off. 

Woosh! Woosh! Just a massive dumpster that sprayed fire… Which didn't remind him of anyone he knew, at all… He paused to write it down on his clipboard. When he looked up, he was looking straight into Endeavor’s eyes.

The clipboard had already hit the ground before he realized that they were his—his reflection in a smoke-darkened window, lines around them just as deep and cruel as the ones he remembered.

It wasn't a conscious decision to shatter that first window with a blast of flame, but the second was. And another and another, destroying every pane of glass that was left, and then he turned on the flaming dumpster.

If I'd only held my ground… And given him everything, everything I had…

His voice gave out several seconds before his Quirk did, and he was only vaguely aware that he'd been screaming until he couldn't anymore. The dumpster—what had been a dumpster—was just a pile of cooling slag, and he was on his knees for some reason.

The window panes stood empty, now, but that was only this street. Outside…was full of mirrors, some of which were people, and all would reflect Endeavor when he stood before them.

Part of him never wanted to stand again. It felt so much bigger now that the part that wanted to track Endeavor down and fight until one of them was truly dead was gone.

He sat there for who knows how long, fingers curled tight enough in his hair to be painful, until someone cleared their throat behind him.

Dabi looked back over his shoulder at Fukami. “What?” he asked hoarsely.

“I just wanted you to know that they're headed our way now—it's probably time to stand up and dust off.” He glanced down at his clipboard and narrated as he wrote. “Windows… And windows… And windows… And a new flaming dumpster thing.”

“Why are you still here, Fukami?” Dabi asked tiredly.

“... well, at first I was pretty angry I was going to be spending the day with you even if you're being pretty mean and don't want my help, but then I realized that's probably when you need a friend more.

Dabi looked skeptical, but he was too tired to argue much. “Really.” He felt around in his pockets for his list, then looked around the street. “... Any chance that extends to letting me copy your list?”

“Nope. You're being a dick and you're on your own with that. But I forgive you for what you said earlier, because this is a lot of sh—tuff, that you're dealing with right now.”

Now he felt guilty, if only a little. Fukami was kind of a creep. But...he was also one of the few people who'd been ceaselessly nice to Dabi since he'd arrived.

And he'd taken his emotions out on Fukami...and Shinso, too. That was going to cause problems in the long run.

When he walked past Fukami, his classmate opened his arms and Dabi surprised himself by accepting the hug, if only briefly.

“Still no list-copying, though.” Fukami clarified.

“Yeah, I know.” In the big scheme of things, the list didn't matter. He might get yelled at or lectured, but Dabi didn't think he could feel much worse than he did right now.

But he did know something that would make him feel better.


“Hey, guys… I'm sorry to bother you…”

“We spent most of yesterday together and you brought us food, Kaminari, you aren't bothering us,” Shinso said, having the decency to look almost as unbothered as he claimed to be. Kaminari had found them in Shinso's room after checking Todoroki's, and sending another string of emails that seemed destined to go unanswered.

After a moment's hesitation, he stepped into Shinso's room and closed the door, collapsing into Shinso's desk chair. “I don't know what we're going to do.

“Kaminari,” Shinso said, “I'm not sure what we can do…”

“He's wrestling with his emotions,” Todoroki said, staring off through Shinso's window with a far-off look in his eye. “Those battles can last years, or a lifetime…”

“I know, babe,” Shinso whispered, squeezing Todoroki’s hand. “—for Dabi this is a big kick in the face. Shoto, too… But when they can't do anything to change it, they've got to react in a way that makes them look good to the public. I don't think Dabi doesn't know this, exactly, it's just…”

“He chooses not to,” Shoto said. 

“So... what does that mean? ” Kaminari pressed.

“Mean?”

“What can I do , Todoroki? I haven't spoken to him since before this all happened except for a single email, and he's probably freaking out , and I— I can't do anything!”

“...You can wait here with us, if you want,” Shinso said, after a long pause.

It was at once a weak offering, and something that Kaminari had to cling to like a lifeline.

“Do you think this is something he can deal with?” he asked, looking at the picture on Shinso's desk of him and Todoroki, looking happy. He was too scattered to think of getting Dabi something like that—would Dabi even want it?—and the forethought didn't seem very Dabi-like, either. Compared to the always-together-and-stronger-together thing Shinso and Todoroki had going on, he sometimes felt like what they had was as fragile as wet tissue paper. 

“Well, he lashed out at Shinso yesterday… He’ll probably either have calmed down when we see him, or he'll get worse, and you and I should expect to be caught up in his anger next…”

Babe, ” Shinso said, shaking his head. “Look—he's tough, right? He's been mad at his dad before. He…” Shinso fumbled, as if recalling exactly how Dabi had handled the last large clash he'd had with his father. “... He's got coping mechanisms, I'm sure…”


Dabi poured out the supplies he'd need beside his sink, a sort of maniacal glee sitting atop the horrible crushing upset and disappointment.

He was going to stick it to his father, and all of them, even if he could only do it in tiny ways right now.

A few breathless chuckles escaped as he leaned over the sink. Inky black liquid dripped into the porcelain.

When he finally looked up, fingers dyed black, the face peering back at him from the mirror wasn't his father's anymore. It was his own, for better or worse, dark hair and eyebrows framing the bland poker face of a man you might not look twice at in an alleyway...or might not dare to.

Chapter Text

News of Endeavor's cleared name spread fast through UA and, like with Stain, there were those who sympathized with him.

Just...far more.

Dabi didn't care. He felt like every moment he'd spent with his hair red and his hopes up he'd been an emotional, obvious mess. Now he had his mask back on, something to hide behind and someone to be who wasn’t going to be crushed by the realization that things were going to be hard here—maybe even impossible.

The man with the inky black hair and dead eyes could survive anything—he had before.

He’d been met with more worried emails from Kaminari in the morning, and he’d done his best to answer them.

He was?

Fine.

He’d see him?

Later.

“It’s like something from a nightmare,” one girl whispered, openly gaping even though her voice was low. “His hair...it’s just like on the news, now, and he’s wearing a UA uniform…”

Hey. Wow. Your hair?” Amachi closed the gap between them with startling speed and threw her arm around Dabi’s shoulders. “You look like you’re having a moment. You should put my hat on,” she added, popping the gray cap that appeared to be made out of UA uniform fabric off her blond hair.

“I didn’t think we were allowed to have hats,” Dabi said, neglecting to point out that there were also apparently rules about dyeing hair...at least, him dyeing his hair.

“My girlfriend made it for me. On an unrelated note, if you don’t get the hat back to me, you’re dead.”

“...thanks, Amachi,” Dabi said, taking the hat but just holding it there, heavy in his hands.

“Put it on,” she ordered, in a low and scary voice.

Spurred to action by her tone, he obeyed.

“That...really doesn’t help, sorry. Keep it on, though. Geez.” Amachi tugged her fingers through her hair. “...how are you feeling, Dabi?”

‘Fine’, he almost said on instinct, but the sheer intensity of her stare made him rethink that. How was he?

“...I feel better than yesterday,” he confessed, tucking a stray piece of his hair behind one ear, wondering how awkward this looked with a cap on. “I worked on some of my emotions, and dyed my hair…”

“They’re going to yell at you about that.”

“They should know better, it’s not hurting anyone...and Fukami was actually being nice, believe it or not.”

“Oh, I believe it. He was saying something about you ‘owing’ him?”

Dabi chuckled, and he almost felt the amusement. “Creepy little arm hole.”

“So you’re okay, then?”

“As much as I can be, I guess.”

“I...hope that’s enough, man.” 

“Thanks, Amachi.” Dabi fiddled with the cap as they neared the door of the classroom. “...it’s just going to be what it’s going to be.”

 




What it was going to be turned out to be a summons to the principal’s office waiting for him when he reached his second classroom of the day, but he wasn’t due to report until the end of the day. So he could anticipate it for the next few hours! Fun.

He should have known—even before he saw the other teacher standing inside with Nezu, Ectoplasm—he should have known

“Have a seat, Todoroki,” Nezu said, gesturing to a chair that faced the desk he stood on.

A rat. I’m about to get lectured on proper school etiquette by a rat and a poor excuse for a man…

“I’m sure you’re aware, you’ve violated one of the rules set out for you when you were first enrolled here…”

It’s a miracle it’s only been one, rat man.

“Yeah?” he said, posing it as a question.

I dare you. I dare you to sit there and say, to my face, that it doesn’t matter that my old man did what he did and got away with it, and you’re going to force me to look like him out of some sick glee, I’ll shave my head bald, down to the eyebrows, before I let you do that to me…

“We take our image and yours very seriously,” Nezu said. “I’d anticipated giving you a punishment myself, but as Ectoplasm has been acting as your homeroom teacher these last few weeks, I’m going to grant his request to handle the matter. I trust his judgement, and defer the matter to him.”

Are you… frolicking kidding me.

“Sir, may I speak to my student alone?” Ectoplasm sounded so polite , not like the snake he was, and Dabi wondered if Nezu was really fooled. His Quirk was smarts, right? And could a rat really not smell a snake?

“Of course. I’ll be in the break room if you need anything,” Nezu said cheerfully, hopping off the desk and climbing down staggered drawers to walk across the floor.

When the door closed behind him, it left only Dabi and Ectoplasm alone in his office. 

Dabi was content to let the silence stretch on forever, but Ectoplasm wasn’t intimidated by him. “You must have realized you were breaking the rules.”

“Dyeing hair takes forever—not that you’d know—so, yes, for the hour or so it took, I was pretty aware every second. Are you going to expel me?” he taunted, though the words made his stomach lurch.

Ectoplasm glowered at him. “Even I don’t have that kind of clout. You’ll be cleaning classrooms at the end of the day for a week.”

...with my already packed schedule? Fridge you. Aw ,” he mocked, faking bravado. “I bet you’re disappointed you can’t expel me.”

“You’ll be washing that out of your hair, also—”

“Too bad it’s the good kind, then, huh? You’re going to have to wait for it to grow.”

“—and trust me, if I could have you expelled, I would. Next time, I’ll fight for it.”

“There’ll be a next time, don’t you worry.” He crossed his arms, and then for good measure lifted one booted foot and rested his heel on Nezu’s desk, staring defiantly up at Ectoplasm.

Maybe the guy had something about school property, but this seemed to really get under Ectoplasm’s skin. He scowled, and Dabi added his other foot for good measure.

“You’d think you’d appreciate what you have, here—” Ectoplasm said.

“Mmmm no, not really,” Dabi said, looking up at Ectoplasm with a lazy expression masking his emotions.

Ectoplasm was doing a worse job of hiding his anger. He paced back and forth behind the principal’s desk, smacking it with his fist. “To be able to serve out your punishment here, rather than in prison!”

…what.

He hated the way that knocked him off balance, but it did. Trying to stay as cool as possible, he tilted his head up to look at Ectoplasm. “Pardon me? Punishment here?”

“Yes,” Ectoplasm said, not in a taunting tone—but that made it worse. That made it real . “Even if we wanted to take you in, it would be a hassle during the middle of the year. And your crimes...well, I wouldn’t even consider admitting you. And though it wasn’t up to me, in the end, I was the tie-breaker.” He lifted his chin. “You should be grateful. You might just learn something if you stop dreaming of being a hero and focus on the lessons you’re being taught. This was never about you becoming a hero—that will never happen. But your punishment should never have been left to the court systems. Heroes know what makes a villain tick, and what they deserve.”

Hero.

Heroes.

Villain.

Dabi stood abruptly, and he felt gratified that Ectoplasm flinched—or, fell into a more defensive stance, at the very least. It didn’t matter. He wasn’t going to attack right now—and he didn’t know what, if anything, mattered.

“Now, leave—” Ectoplasm said, pointing to the door. “And don’t do anything stupid. There are a lot of rooms in UA, and you start tomorrow.”

Oh, no, Mr. Ectoplasm...if you’re not my teacher, you don’t tell me what to do. I don’t listen to my jailors…

Still, he left the office. He didn’t know where he was going, precisely, or even where he was until he ran directly into someone.

His heart leapt and for one moment, the longing for Kaminari was so sharp and fresh that he saw him—but this was just his classmate, Iida. Looking very determined and not at all like he was about to step out of the way and let Dabi pass to go process what was going on in his head right now.

“Todoroki! I was looking for you. It’s come to my attention that my brother intends to leave our parents’ house and return to his apartment starting next week, so tomorrow, it seems, might be our best chance to—”

Flay your brother,” Dabi said, sparing Iida only the barest of glances. The boy went rigid, his expression one of a man drowning.

“—I, beg...your pardon…?”

“You heard me,” Dabi said, dropping cold eyes to his face. “Why does he deserve an apology from me, someone who’s never met him, when the man who tortured my family for years is receiving a hero’s welcome? Realize the kind of world we live in...and get out of my way.”

Maybe Iida did. Maybe Dabi just shoved him out of the way. Either way, he had other things to focus on right now.

He was going to do exactly what Ectoplasm had told him not to.

He was going to do something stupid.