Natsuo does not hear from Tenko.
Silence permeates the following weeks. Natsuo goes to class, goes to work, goes to bed in a rotating order. He picks up groceries, he cleans his apartment. He eats, sleeps, and showers somewhere between those things. He does homework. He smiles, he talks, he texts—he's social. He's personable. Professional.
It's play-acting. It's what he's good at.
He can keep it going for as long as he needs to for friends and professors and mentors. He can visit his mother and tell jokes and fill her in on the happenings of the past few weeks with some exceptions. He helps Fuyumi in the kitchen and asks her about her students and her lesson plans.
Everything is a hazy dream of fine.
And then, he wakes up.
Natsuo is asleep when his father's attack is broadcasted on the news. In any case, Natsuo has not been feeling news channels lately, but he could have done without the rude awakening from his midday nap by members of his father's agency breaking down his door and dragging him to a safehouse.
His father's P.R. agent tells him that there may have been a planned attack on his father and that, as kin and possible target, he would need to be kept safe.
Fuyumi is waiting for him at the safehouse. She is wearing one of her whimsical dresses, pale blue with little white lilies falling across the fabric. She still has her teaching lanyard around her neck.
"They pulled you out of work?" He asks, confused.
Fuyumi gives him a bland, Mona Lisa smile. "They think it's that bad."
"He's surrounded by heroes. The Agency decided he was safer there."
Natsuo works his jaw. "What's even going on?"
Fuyumi looks at him, lips drawn together. It's a face he knows. One she makes when she is trying not to make a harsh judgement. She is still in teacher mode. Natsuo is furious.
He pulls up his phone and searches for the live feed. "This is bullshit," He mutters as he stabs at the loading screen. "Bullshit."
"You can refuse the safehouse anytime you want you're over eighteen." Fuyumi intones, equally annoyed. "Just like Burnin said." Then, after a beat, she winces. "But, don't. Seriously, Natsu, we don't know what's going."
He mutters some reply and pulls up the screen the sidekicks were trying to keep from them. Its lagging, but chugging to keep up. An error on the broadcaster's side more than theirs. When the image clears, a reporter is recounting the events of the last hour in frantic detail and then, the camera swings to an active showdown in some dusted part of the city.
He recognizes his father immediately, bowed and bruised, and leaning against a feathered hero, staring down a third person in a long black trench-coat and purple skin.
This stranger moves.
It's only for a second, the dark hair, the spark, and then—
And the screen becomes awash with flames.
Screams fill the speakers and the camera topples. There's running.
He can hear his father's voice in there somewhere and—
The report cuts to the newscaster's main office, the hosts rallying to catchup and explain what just happened. Natsuo hears 'technical difficulties' and feels his stomach twist.
"Fuyumi," he whispers and his sister looks at him. "Those flames." He can hear his own excitement and feels a little disgusted by it. The hope beyond hope, the desperation. The needling little part of him that needs this. His tongue feels heavy. "Do you think, maybe—"
Fuyumi grabs his wrist.
"Don't," Fuyumi hisses, her nails curling into the back of his hand. Natsuo balks at her rejection, but when he looks at her—really looks—he catches the glassiness of her eyes, the sleepless, listlessness of her. The trembling jaw, the sweaty palms. He can feel her cool hitting against his own. Like glacial shifts. "Please, Natsu, I don't even want to think."
He is annoyed at first
Fuyumi may have lost her twin, but he was Natsuo's brother too.
"If I think like that," Fuyumi says slowly, voice hitching. "I'll go crazy. So please."
Natsuo never mentions it again.
The villain gets away.
In a grand show that leaves his father hospitalized and a couple blocks of downtown in need of repairs. Natsuo caught the fight from a bird's eye view camera and watched, fascinated, as Miruko swooped in to save the day, drawing a line in the power balance, and sending the villain packing.
It's a victory, even if it doesn't feel like one.
Natsuo throws himself back into his work, but there is a bump in his routine, a shift in his step. He keeps thinking about that fight, that villain.
In his class, he pulls up his laptop and searches the statistics of element manipulation quirks—fire specifically. His father comes up and some other hero from Brazil, but a few scholarly sources note on the genetic weakness of fire quirks. Of all element-based quirks, they are among the flashiest, but statistically speaking, not the strongest when thrown into the gene pool.
The total number of people with fire quirks are thin.
Ones with blue flames are even less than.
Protective custody is, in Natsuo's opinion, a colossal waste of time and tax dollars.
Not for other people though, just him.
Natsuo prefers his space, he prefers freedom, he prefers feeling like he can sneeze without someone leaping on his back thinking he got hit with a sickness quirk or whatever. He prefers anonymity. He prefers getting to sit in the middle row of lectures for optimal note taking rather than the back closest to the nearest exit. He prefers taking his lunch in the outside cafeteria on nice days, not the corner for full vigilance.
He prefers people not knowing he's Endeavor's son. He prefers not getting those stares.
But, as always, as usual, what Natsuo prefers has been shuffled to the bottom of the list.
The appearance of the blue flamed villain scared his father into mandated guards.
He is going to have so much to cover with his psychiatrist.
It's a little after ten p.m. when Natsuo is getting coffee. It's the machine stuff from the cafeteria. The caramel mocha thing he pours into his Styrofoam cup is insanely hot and leaves a burnt taste on the tip of his tongue, but it shocks him awake enough for a couple more hours of study time.
The library is nearly empty when he returns with his escort to the other sidekick is regulated to watching Natsuo's bag
They're both a little miffed by Natsuo's studiousness, even though they won't say anything about it. Natsuo is getting tired of making their job hard for them already. It's not fun if it's not giving his father grief.
He taps at his keyboard a moment, retype his notes from his scribbled long-hand, line after line, when Natsuo get hit with it.
A moment alone.
His escorts are in the library with him, drifting between the shelves, poking at medical texts and tell-all's from private doctors of old heroes.
He pulls up the internet tab and stares at the search bar.
Cursor blinking in promise.
He looks up villain + dabi and gets several news articles and the video he watched about his father's fight.
The fight with his father and the Winged Hero, Hawks, is the headliner of most of the chaos, but not all of it. There are many more sightings of the cremation villain. The most reliable sources, he finds, are the blog posts. Most of them detailing accounts of sightings and blurry photos and even one account of someone who had seen the villain hanging around Kamino before the bust to save that kid from U.A.
Natsuo scrolls through his laptop, combing through articles and posts until much of the material starts to sound the same.
The speculation of the villain's affiliation to the League is universal though.
"Is this really necessary?" Natsuo asks, sitting across the table from his father and Fuyumi, the latter of which looking guilty and drawn, while the former narrows his eyes at him. Natsuo almost wonders if his father sustained any damage from the firefight with the cremation villain.
Just as Shouto said, it is a nasty looking scar.
"It is necessary when you continue to act like a child," his father retorts. "You forfeited your protective custody." Natsuo waits for the diatribe, waits for the boom, but they are in a public place—by Natsuo's choice—and he knows the value of a public façade. "You don't have license to use your quirk to defend yourself."
The café has an almost hollow air to it. The three of them tucked into a back alcove, away from the few patrons that packed inside, and out of earshot of the staff counter.
Natsuo just feels tired.
"Yeah, well, that's not really my fault." Natsuo stretches his legs out under the table. "I didn't have a fire quirk, so it's not like I could attend the Todoroki School of Hard Knocks."
"Natsu," Fuyumi mutters under her breath. Her admonishment is quiet. Complacent.
For a moment, Natsuo is furious with her. Her telling their father about his schedule. She probably even suggested that their father talk to him in person, try to get him back on their side to keep their fucked up little family together. Fuck that. And fuck her.
Like having two sidekicks follow her around had not put her in hot water at her school. No one wanted their kids being taught by someone who might be a target of villains.
Fuyumi matches his stare with her own.
"Natsuo." His father has a tremor on his jaw, a slight, not quite there rattle of his teeth that makes him look like a volcano trying not to erupt. "I am doing this to protect you. We do not yet know why the villain attacked, but we know it was a coordinated attack against me—"
"—and, as per my rights, I have decided to forfeit protective custody because it does not concern me."
"—but until such time that we do know more—"
"—when's that going to happen?"
"—if you would just—"
The clip of his father's voice knocks him back a few years, facing down a U.A. invitation on his high school enrollment board. The tension in his father's jaw when Natsuo ripped up that letter and applied to high schools with his interests, clubs and sports and college programs.
Killing those dreams before they could blossom in him.
Killing his autonomy to his quirk before he fully understood it.
"Well, you're not exactly making friends." Natsuo says sharply. He feels like a livewire, the shiver-shakes of adrenaline crawling through his veins and making his smile pull a touch too wide. "And we all know you have a public image to protect."
His father's jaw tightens.
"You're the Number One Hero, that's great, that's fine. You can do that, that's—whatever. But, it does not reflect on me. Your placement in the charts, your fan-club, your career, it is never going to impress me. And you know why."
Natsuo watches the moment teeter on the scale. The weight of his woes in silver and gold.
"You are entitled to your own—" His father begins a practiced, well-rehearsed lie. Natsuo can hear the P.R. agent in every word.
"I am entitled to book rights when I publish a tell-all if you don't drop this right now."
Natsuo lets the moment sit. Lets it stew.
He watches the red beginning to crawl up his father's shirt collar. The red so vivid it seems to burn.
"We're done here!" His father announces and then he stands and exits the alcove, straight-backed and looking damn ridiculous for his bravado as he sails out the door.
Natsuo just sits there, stewing in the aftermath.
It's a victory, even if it doesn't feel like one.
Fuyumi lingers a moment at the edge of the table, swaying between the pushed-out chairs and Natsuo; torn between wanting to stay and wanting to follow. Then, mind miraculously made up, she slides a mug into his knotted hands, the ceramic is warm against his chilly skin, almost too hot. "Here," she says gently, voice very tiny after their father's boom. "Call me later, okay?"
Then, she too turns on her heel and trails off after their father, weaving between tables and making a hasty getaway.
Natsuo allows himself to be momentarily touched by the gesture until he realizes that the hot drink Fuyumi had presented to him is, in fact, oolong tea, which he hates.
He takes a moment to soak in his own self-pity and the bitterness of it all, and lifts his head to find a waitress when he spots someone new face entering the café.
Natsuo watches the newcomer with a critical eye as he speaks briefly with the waitress at door and then ventures inward. Natsuo studies his approach, the faltering, almost careful way he picks through the café. His hands tucked in his pockets, shoulders hunched, hood tipped low as he makes his way over to Natsuo's table.
Part of him wants to run, to flee, to hide. Another part of him wants to see what's happening. What might happen.
Tenko, at least, has enough sense to not sit down right away. His head tips, pale hair spills over his forehead, and a plain, black facemask covering his nose and mouth. Natsuo is startled most by his eyes, the wariness in them, those red irises and that deep look of concentration. "Hey."
Something about this image, just Tenko, standing there in his Fake Nerd hoodie and mask, looking at him and just being, makes something shift and ache in Natsuo's chest.
Like the last time he saw him wasn't kissing him goodbye three months ago as he headed out to class. Like he had not watched Tenko disintegrate a hero on live tv.
Natsuo feels like bursting.
Screaming. Crying. Throwing. Freezing.
"Is that—" He almost chokes on his words, too quick, too hot, and snarls, "Is that all you want to say to me?"
"It's the standard greeting, yes," Tenko sounds almost thoughtful. Natsuo wants to flip the table. His father is just outside, the two of them could have brushed elbows on the sidewalk, though not likely given the posse his father has been walking around with lately. But, he has every chance to scream, to draw attention, to get his father to come back and—
—and what? Roast Tenko? Arrest Shigaraki Tomura?
"You're such a—" Natsuo cuts himself off, teeth clenching down. He has to remind himself, suggest to himself, not to bite at his own tongue in frustration. He's trying to stop that.
The burn from the coffee still has his nerves dead and stinging between his teeth.
"What?" Tenko perks, picking up on his tone. "You left quite the message for me earlier. You can reuse one of your previous insults and try again."
Natsuo can feel his mouth pulling into a grim, apathetic line. "I wasn't sure if insulting a member of the League of Villains was a good idea." He draws, sarcastic, and a touch too loud.
Tenko looks stricken, brows lifting.
"Oh, what? You gonna disintegrate me for not being happy to see you?"
Tenko looks almost hurt by the statement, as if Natsuo had slapped him. Natsuo wants to slap him. Scream. Do something. Be the hero who takes down the bad guy and move on with his life, but he is weighed so far down by everything he wants to say, everything he wants to do.
He keeps think that if he had not seen the broadcast, had not seen the face of Shigaraki Tomura unveiled to the public, that they could have been sitting here together, having a normal date, talking about movies and memes, playing would-you-rather.
It stings a little how much he wants that to be his reality right now.
Natsuo can feel his gall building, his witty, snappy impulses firing and going up in flames and fizzle.
Tenko mumbles something and Natsuo perks, like a dog at attention. He watches Tenko ball and unball his hands in his hoodie pocket, his gaze skipping his before darting to the table, the rings of water-stains and pushed-out chairs.
"I would not hurt you." He says, or maybe he repeats. There is a bit more steel and bone in his voice when he says, "I'm not going to hurt you."
Natsuo stares up at him, still stuck on the conviction in his tone. How sure he is.
He is not sure what he is expecting seeing Tenko again. He has not even entertained the idea in passing, but it hits him like a sledgehammer.
Those warm feels wrapped in silk, now feel tepid.
"You already did." Natsuo says before he can stop himself. He can feel the quiver in his voice, the tell-tale hint of frost curling against his fingers and wrists. He can taste it in the air; the very watery flavor of his own grief. He curls his fingers tighter, and tries to breathe. "You—God, why are you here? I told you, I told you to leave me alone—"
Natsuo cuts himself off and leans back in his chair, scrubbing at his mouth.
Tenko makes no moves to sit down, or reach for him, just the same wary, curious animal stare. Hands tucked into his pockets. Natsuo crosses his arms over his chest.
"I needed to talk to you." He says, after another moment. "I didn't think you would take a phone call well and I didn't want to give you a chance to backout, so this seemed like my best bet."
Natsuo takes a sip of his drink, just for something to do and grimaces.
"You hate oolong." Tenko says and the splinter inside of him digs a little deeper because Tenko remembers more than his own sister. He wonders, idly, it that too had been part of his mission. His mind is awash with the thought as Tenko sinks into the chair across from him, shoulders hunched and fingers steepled.
He can see the pale-white peaks of Tenko's wrists, the delicate leather clasps around them. The gloves that he used to love and puzzle over the only barrier between his skin and Tenko's.
At any time, if Tenko had taken those gloves off, he could have killed him without even trying.
The thought sends a shiver down his spine that balloons in his chest, an anxious, shaky feeling, nerves and fear coiling together in a carbon dioxide of dead breath. His fingers curl into his inner elbows, seeking warm, seeking stable.
"What do I even call you—?" He breathes, the shaky nervousness trailing his tone.
"Tenko is fine."
Natsuo grimaces. "Did you get so attached to the name that—"
"Oh." He says, then squints. "What?"
"Before I was Shigaraki," He says, voice lower. "I was Tenko."
Natsuo's eyebrows pinch. His gut giving a brutal squeeze.
Just then, the waitress passes by, oblivious to their tension; she sets a coffee pot on the table along with the usual calamity of pots and bowls that come with the order. Coffee is no small ordeal here, and Natsuo always enjoys the decadence of the heavy creams and sugars and cinnamon.
He used to come here on bad days. He used to come here with Tenko.
The memory feels curdled with the aftermath.
"Can I get you anything else?" The waitress asks, already half-turned away, and Natsuo shakes his head. He cannot speak. Not yet.
The café is so crowded now, although most trailed out after Endeavor when he left. It's an intimate sort of crowd. Just enough people to make a scene. Not enough to worry about eavesdroppers.
Tenko reaches across the table and takes up a clean mug. Natsuo tries not to fixate on the scabs at the bends of his visible fingers, the fresh pink of a new scar forming on the back of his hand.
He got it from fighting. He realizes, breath quickening. He gets all his wounds from fighting heroes. How many times have I patched him up? How many times did he hurt someone and come to me to fix him?
He thinks of other scars, the ones he had seen under that hoodie, the ones he had touched and kissed.
His teeth dig against the burnt tip of his tongue.
Tenko fills the mug a fraction from the brim, the thick curls of steam and the heavy scent of rich dark roast hanging enticingly in the air. He takes the cup and sets it in the no man's land between them, beside a small pot of cream.
"Before I go," Tenko's voice drift across the table. "I have a favor to ask of you."
Natsuo only wishes he could do something with his hands. Prepare his coffee in an unaffected manner. Busying himself with sugar cubes and cream, turn the deep brown into a shade of caramel and stir for a long diligent moment, resting on the fault's edge of the question.
But his hands are shaking like his voice.
He can barely eek out a sentence, let alone make a coffee.
And he hates it. He hates not feeling in control of his own body.
Tenko stares at him and reaches for the mug, pulling it across the polished wood back to his side. He then takes up the cream. "I am the last person you want to talk to. I know." He pours a heavy helping of cream into the cup. A few drops fall across the table. "You saw me on the news. Did I scare you?"
Natsuo glares at him.
He sinks his teeth into his tongue. Unable to speak.
Tenko tops the cup with a bit of sugar. Not too much.
"I scared you."
It's not a question.
"What do you want?" Natsuo asks, the words heavy in his mouth.
Tenko is quiet for a long moment, assessing him with his eyes before he speaks, and shakes Natsuo's world once more. "I thought you would like a chance to see your brother again—"
And that just cracks something in Natsuo.
For whatever he feels, he is not allowing Tenko to threaten his family.
His hand, still gripping the table, curls like claws. Ice skirting out under his fingers and around them. Natsuo digs his nails in. "If you hurt Shouto. I swear to—"
"Not Shouto." Tenko says quietly.
Natsuo can feels the wallop of his words. Straight to the chest. Ice in his veins. He breathes in, breathes out. The ice across the table melts, pearling into a watery dew. Natsuo can feel something shaking inside him. That brittle, gripping hope. Tenko's permeating stare.
"Don't fuck with me."
Tenko blinks. "I'm not."
He wants to says it. He dares himself. "Touya?"
Natsuo can feel his heart constrict. Something shuddering, shifting into place. Something he knew and should have felt sooner. "Touya," he whispers, subsequently surprised and not by the rough pull in his chest. "Touya is—he's—he's alive?"
Tenko nods again and Natsuo is not sure if he wants to fly across the table and hold Tenko or beat him over the head with his cup because his chest is expanding and this is all too much.
He puts his face in his hands, digging his fingertips into the hollows of his eyes. He can feel the tears as they flow, salty and warm across his burning skin. He has a very red face when he cries, he knows. He knows he needs to pull it together, but it's all too much.
Touya is alive and Tenko is telling him about it.
That delicate cord of hope seems thinner somehow.
"So, you not only betrayed my trust and hid your identity," Natsuo wipes his face. "But you watched me cry on my brother's death anniversary when you knew he was alive?"
"I didn't know until he told me." Tenko says.
Natsuo is not sure he believes that.
They sit for a moment together in silence. Natsuo trying to piece himself together, settle those thoughts in his mind; the joy, the horror, the rage burning through him at a glacial pace. At least he has stopped crying. At least.
When he looks up, Tenko has pushed the coffee mug back over to him.
Natsuo takes it up and takes a drink.
It's perfect. He feels sick.
"I don't understand why you're doing this. Why are you doing this to me? Why me? Is it my dad? Is it my family? You know I hate my father, why would you continue to mess with me?"
"I'm not messing with you. I'm here as a—"
"As a fuckin' what? Do you think I want to see you? Do you think I can look at you now and not think, 'well, he didn't give a fuck about me.' Just like everyone else. God, how much did I annoy you when I got into my moods?"
"That's not what I'm here for. Dabi—uh, Touya, needs a doctor." Tenko explains. "And, we can't take him to an official one."
Natsuo listens to this. Processes it.
Touya is Dabi, as Dabi is Touya. Two beings rolling into one. Same afflictions, same feelings. That creeping, crawling feeling of unease and the unbridled terror of the aftermath of his brother's quirk.
When he saw Touya last, the slights of flames singed his skin.
When he saw Dabi, he launched a fireball the size of a city bus.
Tenko continues, "If you come with me, I'll let you see him."
"You—you'll let me?" Natsuo's voice cracks. "The way I see it, you owe me. You owe me at least that much."
Tenko snorts. "I don't owe you anything."
"Are you—are you kidding me? You—you fucker, you made me think you were someone else."
"So did you, for a time," Tenko says blandly. "I didn't know who you were until you got cagey about your name."
"Shit to the bull." Tenko retorts. "You were the one who got quiet about tell me who the hell you were." Natsuo knows that, but could he really be blamed for it?
"But, you were the one that lied." Natsuo snaps back. A few patrons look up, curious, but look away when they get caught in Tenko's stare.
"Would you knock it off?" Tenko mutters. "The last thing you want is—"
Irritation sparks. Natsuo's jaw sets. "Keep talking like that and I will cause a scene."
The threat hangs there, palpable, real.
"Really?" Tenko snorts. "You're going to cause a scene like a little child—"
"—and you'll be arrested." Natsuo says neatly. "I can see it now, 'civilian tips off heroes to dangerous villain in the area, head of the league now behind bars, more at nine'." He stares Tenko down. Testing for cracks in the foundation. "Try me."
The skin under Tenko's eye has a deep groove of a scar. It wrinkles when he glares. Natsuo never noticed before. "Or," Tenko leans across the table towards him, as if calling Natsuo's bluff. "You cause a scene and I kill everyone in this restaurant."
Natsuo feels the threat.
Feels the edges of it colder than him, colder than ice.
The groove under Tenko's eyes and the way he means it.
His stomach tightens. "You're in the city with most hero agencies per capita." He says slowly, ironing the shake from his tone. "You kill a few people, everyone here, everyone on the street, you are still in a heavily patrolled area. You could get knocked out by Kamui Woods, cut down by Edgeshot, or even shot up by Gunhead. Maybe even Mount Lady will stomp you out on the pavement." Natsuo jerks his thumb towards the door, the sunny afternoon glowing behind the dim of the café. "Take your pick."
They stare at each other.
Natsuo takes another drink of coffee. It's beautifully made, warm and creamy with just a touch of cinnamon flavoring the darker notes.
"What happened to you?" Tenko asks.
"You did." Natsuo says, setting his mug down. He touches the side of his neck where he feels most vulnerable and anxious. He digs his nails in. The tension eases. Tenko looks tight and uneasy in his seat. The tap of his finger is his tell. "I want to see my brother." Natsuo knocks his knuckles against the table between them, emphasizing the words. "You owe me that."
Tenko says nothing. The two of them stare at each other, wrapped up in the moment, the feeling bubbling between them like something volcanic. Natsuo can feel his stomach turning over when Tenko final rises to his feet.
"Come with me."
It's worn, restrained.
And then, he is weaving through the crowd, hands tucked into his hoodie pocket and head tipped low. Natsuo watches him go with a growing unease in his chest. That expanding, bubbling feeling like something infectious and living in a wound.
His feelings for Tenko—
His love for his brother—
His loyalty for his mother, his sister, his life—
By the time Tenko reaches the threshold, Natsuo is on his heels.