When Natsuo scored his epic internship with I-Island’s biggest medical research lab, this really wasn’t how he saw his summer going.
“What do you mean the van is under attack?” A frantic voice sounds over the speakers.
“I mean that the driver and lab tech bailed—” Natsuo ducks into his seat reflexively as another flashy projectile rockets past the windshield “—and the League of Villains is playing tug of war with some other wack-jobs with your van stuck in the middle.”
“I just—I don’t understand what—” the head scientist sputters, but Natsuo’s barely listening. At this point, he already knows the man will be useless.
Unbuckling his seatbelt, he crawls into the back with the medical equipment they were transporting. Specifically, the “miracle cure,” which he’s sure the villains are after.
Snagging the briefcase that’s wedged in behind the driver’s seat, he pops it open and grabs the vial, shoving it into the inner pocket of his jacket before quickly relocking the case and stowing it where he’d found it.
Let the villains duke it out over an empty case, he thinks somewhat viciously, testing the door handle and peeking out into the street-bound battlefield.
One villain is popping up all over the place—on hoods of abandoned cars, on the pavement, even in the air. Following at almost comical speed are warp gates from the villain Kurogiri, evidently trying to capture and remove the teleportation guy from the battlefield. Meanwhile, off to another side, the League members Twice and Toga are tag-teaming against some kind of illumination dude who’s belching out beams of brilliant light. Just looking at him has Natsuo blinking spots from his eyes, so he averts his gaze.
Only to be blinded once more by the billowing blue flames of the villain Dabi, who evidently joined the fight against the teleportation villain after disposing of his own opponent. Natsuo swallows at those brilliant flames, reminded, as he always is, of Touya’s bright light, snuffed out far too soon.
The universe hates me: confirmed, Natsuo thinks despairingly, searching for a safe route through the villains. I took this internship to help people with quirk damage like Touya, now I'm running from a villain with a quirk just like his? Really?!
Dabi shoots out another wave of searing blue flames that the teleportation guy barely evades, and Natsuo’s expression tightens.
Dabi’s even left-handed, too. Freaking jerk.
Natuso is shaken from his dark thoughts, quite literally, when the van bounces from another impact. It seems that at least one villain has decided to take advantage of the confusion to go after the prize Natsuo currently has in his pocket.
Now or never, he thinks, eyes darting across the terrifying space between him and the relative safety of the alleyway across from him. Bracing against the unforgiving metal beneath him, he takes a breath, flings the doors open, and shoots out of the back of the van.
There’s a startled shout behind him, but Natsuo hadn’t been a track star in high school for nothing. He bolts as fast as he can for the alleyway, lungs heaving in the heated air, risking only one glance back to check for pursuers.
His eyes widen at the sight of the teleportation villain barely a meter behind him, with two glittering knives in hand, poised to throw.
Time seems to slow, and Natsuo can practically feel the hard impact of steel in his back, when several things happen at once.
Someone tackles him around the waist, driving the air from his lungs, a black portal appears directly in the trajectory of their impending asphalt-splat, and Natsuo’s world flips literally upside down. So much so that he lands on the person who’d just tackled him.
Disoriented, Natsuo drags his cheek out of a pile of leaves, spitting dirt and trying to roll off the gangly body beneath him. The medic in him panics at the wheezing he hears, but all of that screeches to a halt when he realizes that they are no longer in the middle of a pitched street battle, but a forest, instead. Also, that “they” now includes himself and Dabi.
"What the hell?” he yelps, scrabbling backward from the flame villain. His back slams into a rock, which is the only thing that prevents him from tumbling down the steep slope behind him. Dabi glares at his reaction, sitting up slowly in the indent they’ve made.
“The fuck?” the villain mutters, looking around, sharp blue eyes taking in the trees and mountainous terrain. He has leaves caught in his hair, but it makes him no less intimidating as his cold stare falls on Natsuo.
They hold gazes, and Natsuo could swear something flickers in the villain’s neutral expression, but he just as quickly dismisses it—terror immobilizing him while Dabi rises stiffly to his feet.
“Don’t follow me,” the villain orders, brushing off his coat before he just… starts hiking down the mountain. Natsuo stares after him in horrified wonder for a solid ten-count, then rises to his feet himself.
Which is, of course, when he sees that Dabi has taken the only viable path down the mountain. If he wasn’t so freaked out, he’d laugh.
Universe: 2. Natsuo: nada.
Before just waltzing off after the villain, who’s cursing further down the path, Natsuo checks the medicine and his phone to see if they’ve both survived the fall.
He’s pleased to see the vial is fine. He’s less thrilled to see the flickering screen of his smashed phone.
Biting his lip, he squints down at it, trying to turn it on again, hoping it’s just the screen despite the unnatural bend in the middle. But it’s no use, and in the fading light, he can barely…
Fading light? Natsuo thinks, eyes darting up to the sky. True, it’d been getting on toward early evening when the villains had attacked, but in the well-lit city, it’d been far less noticeable.
Can’t stay out here, he acknowledges, eyeballing the path Dabi had taken. No clue how far I am from food, water, civilization… Guess there’s nothing for it.
Natsuo picks his way down the path, using both hands on the steeper bits and testing each foothold before giving it his full weight. He feels the urge to go slower to avoid Dabi, but resists it in favor of survival instinct. Still, it surprises him when, only a few minutes later, he catches sight of Dabi’s spiky hair not that far ahead.
At least, it's surprising until Natsuo’s hand slips on one of the boulders, and he realizes it’s splattered with blood. He stares at his wet hand for a moment, tracking his eyes back the way he’d come and then down the way Dabi had gone, noticing several crimson smears along the path.
It’s funny, in a way, that Dabi’s very human ability to bleed is what gets Natsuo to speed up.
“Thought I told you not to follow me,” Dabi growls, not bothering to look back. His left hand is braced against a pine as he searches for footing below, while blood drips from the fingers of his dangling right arm.
“I’m not a goat,” Natsuo returns with a remarkably steady voice. “S’the only way down, as far as I can tell.”
Dabi’s shoulders stiffen at his voice, but still, he doesn’t look back. Odd, for someone on the most wanted list. If Natsuo had the inclination, he could shove him between the shoulders right now and cause Dabi some serious damage with the fall. Save Japan’s finest some trouble.
He won’t of course. Medical oath and all that. But it’s still curious.
“So... you’re bleeding everywhere.” Might as well state the obvious, while they’re courteously not-murdering each other.
Dabi snorts. “Nothing new.” Then his head dips, almost like he’s flinching at his own words. In the fading light, Natsuo sees piercings flash across the shell of Dabi’s scarred ear.
With skin that mangled… yeah, maybe it isn’t anything new.
The sun also catches on the hilt of a knife, sticking out of Dabi’s shoulder. Which, you know. Explains a lot.
“You have a knife sticking out of your shoulder,” Natsuo points out helpfully, the medic in him already calculating the best way to get some pressure on the wound without removing the—
Dabi grunts, glances over his shoulder, and reaches back with his good hand. Natsuo’s eyes widen.
Too late though. Dabi yanks out the blade with a sharp tug and tosses it to the ground, his hand cupping over the wound as he curses between clenched teeth.
Natsuo hears the curses loud and clear, because his feet propel him to the villain’s side without any conscious thought; his hands ripping his jacket off and tearing it along the seam, desperate to make a bandage. Dabi squints back at him, blue eyes hazy with pain and suspicion.
“The hell are you doing?”
Natsuo, working fully on autopilot while his training overrides both his brain and heart, snaps back, “Could ask you the same damn thing. The hell did you remove the plug for? You’re gonna fucking bleed to death.”
“Thought med students were supposed to be smart,” Dabi coughs, before an odd hissing noise fills the area. Natsuo stops tearing long enough to see smoke rising from between Dabi’s fingers and catches the all-too-familiar stench of searing flesh.
“You have a hole in your jacket,” the villain remarks, nodding at the rip Natsuo started.
Natsuo glares, unimpressed. “So do you.”
A quiet chuckle, and the villain turns to continue his trek down the path, with Natsuo trailing behind sullenly.
Over an hour later, and there’s still no end to the mountain in sight—just trees, rocks, and a treacherous pathway. The villain is stumbling more often, but has made no moves to stop. Natsuo frowns at his back, that curious feeling digging at his hindbrain.
Stubborn as a fucking mule. Bet he’d keep walking ‘til he stepped right off a cliff.
Annoyingly, it’s another trait the villain shares with Touya. Natsuo smothers the thought and instead calls out: “Oi, we should stop for the night!”
Ten feet ahead of him, Dabi stumbles to a stop and painfully cranes his head to glare at Natsuo, who shrugs and points past the villain’s shoulder.
“Can hear a stream up ahead,” he says. “Might as well make camp.”
Surprisingly, Dabi just steps aside and makes a sort of “lead the way” motion. Natsuo’s eyes narrow at the thought of having the villain at his back, but he wasn’t raised to back down.
Touya never backed down, he thinks, passing the villain with his head held high, ignoring the way Dabi smirks. That’s who I learned it from. We used to be unstoppable when we fought back together.
The painful memories linger in the back of Natsuo’s mind, but he’s distracted by a small stream appearing through the trees and rocks. He hadn’t realized until now just how thirsty he was.
Dipping his fingers into the freezing water is a relief beyond measure—the cold calling to Natsuo’s bones and quirk like a siren song. As usual, he ignores it, though he does allow himself a sigh when he cups the water and takes a long, refreshing drink.
At his side, Dabi eases himself to the ground, his shoulder obviously locking up after the day’s exertions. Natsuo eyes him.
“You should probably rinse off your burn.”
He almost says “new burn,” but refrains. Dabi just arches an eyebrow.
Natsuo’s not sure about that, but then, Touya hadn’t often faced infections either; the temperature he burned at was a killer to most germs.
A killer to most everything, even himself.
Natsuo shakes his head. Stop thinking about him. Just because they have similar quirks, doesn’t mean anything.
Except it’s not just the quirk, is it? A more clinical side of him points out.
He can’t be, though. Touya would never attack Shouto like this guy did. End of discussion.
Natsuo huffs out a breath that fogs in the rapidly cooling air.
“I’m gonna catch some fish for dinner,” he says, nodding toward the flashes of scales just under the water. He glances at the villain pointedly. “If I ask you to build a fire, are you gonna burn the whole forest down?”
Yeah, there’s an edge to his voice as he jabs the villain with his past misdeeds. Oddly enough, Dabi reacts to it, pressing his lips into a thin line and rising without a word. Natsuo feels the slightest bit of something… unease? Foreboding? But he pushes it away in favor of fish and still having enough light to catch them by.
It takes him some time, as using his quirk has always been hard. Still, ten minutes later, he has two medium-sized fish caught in a couple of ice blocks. Natsuo smiles, happy to be useful with his quirk for once in his life.
Until he turns to see Dabi giving the fish a hostile look as if they’ve personally wronged him.
“What?” Natsuo asks, suspicion roaring back through his brain at full force.
“Nothing,” Dabi grumbles. “This way.”
Natsuo follows, cradling his fish blocks as Dabi leads him through the trees into a tiny flat space where he’s built a nice fire.
A nice, bright blue, fire.
It’s not him, Natsuo reminds himself, placing the ice blocks on a wide rock by the heat to thaw. Dabi settles on the other side of the fire, casually tossing another log in without fear of the flames. Blue light reflects off of his turquoise eyes.
But if it’s not him, then why… Why the same color flames? The left-handedness and the stubbornness? Why the burn scars? Even if they’re more extreme, Touya’s were starting to stick around even after healing sessions. And if Touya didn’t die in the fire, he would have still been hurt. Would still have been scarred.
Touya wouldn’t attack Shouto, he reminds himself obstinately. Except… except if he aimed for Shouto’s left side, where he’s totally fire resistant.
Shouto hadn’t been injured in the camp. No burns, despite having faced Dabi.
Touya… would have had good reason to become a villain, Natsuo acknowledges, moving the fish from their little puddles and impaling them on a couple of sticks Dabi helpfully passes him. Natsuo’s eyes narrow further as he sets the meal to cooking.
Why not roast me here, now that he’s got food and no need for me?
Natsuo draws his knees up to his chest, heart pounding hard against his thighs.
Why save me?
Natsuo has never had a problem with confrontation, but the sheer enormity of this thought, this idea, that he might be within touching distance of his dead brother is making it hard to fucking breathe, let alone go off shouting.
“They’re gonna burn if you leave ‘em any longer,” a quiet voice interrupts Natsuo’s spiraling, and he looks up to see Dabi watching him cautiously. Natsuo gives him a strained smile and plucks the two sticks out of the ground, the fish still sizzling from the flame.
“Here,” he says, proffering one of the fish at Dabi.
The villain eyes it, then turns his face away.
“You eat it. Not hungry.”
Just then, Dabi’s stomach growls loudly in protest, and the stick drops from numb fingers.
The villain flinches, whipping his eyes around in surprise, and Natsuo’s whole being shakes. He doesn’t even register when he launches himself across the campfire, barely even hears the strangled “oof” from Dabi as his back hits the ground under Natsuo’s weight.
“Touya?!” Natsuo repeats at a much higher volume, fists bunched into Dabi’s lapels. Birds burst from the bushes nearby, and Dabi’s wide blue eyes stare up at him in something almost like fear.
Natsuo’s rage, grief, and trauma hit a brick wall at the realization, and he jolts backward off of his brother, dragging him upright in the process.
“Natsu—” Dabi barely gets the word out before Natsuo is hauling him into a fierce, desperate hug.
“Touya,” Natsuo croaks out once more, burying his cheek into leather and staples that barely shield a too-bony shoulder. “It’s really you. You’re alive.”
The villain is stiff as a board, but he doesn’t shove Natsuo away. In fact, Natsuo feels a tentative hand reach up to rest against his back—can feel Dabi’s pulse hammering against his ear. That starts up the waterworks: Natsuo’s anger crumbles completely in the face of having his brother back. Hot tears hit Dabi’s stupid goth jacket completely unchecked as possibly all the emotions known to man collide like a pileup inside Natsuo’s being.
“How the fuck did you figure it out?” Dabi huffs, almost to himself. Natsuo laughs wetly.
“Dude, Touya hated fish. He was the only person on this whole damn island that did.” He sniffs hard and pushes Dabi back so he can glare into the villain’s face. “You idiot.”
Dabi juts his chin exactly like Touya used to when he was being stubborn, and Natsuo finds himself looking into Dabi’s face, seeing up close all the damage that’s been done. Purple scars pull at surgical staples, showing Dabi to be more mangled than he is man.
The only things that remain the same are those blue eyes Touya had gotten from their father. Though Enji’s eyes had never held much more than anger, unlike the roiling mix of feelings Natsuo can see so clearly in his brother.
Looks like neither of us knows how to act.
“Was it Endeavor?” he asks, gaze tracing the scars. Dabi’s expression tightens.
“Might as well have been.”
Natsuo can feel his pulse throbbing against his temple while his world shifts, clicking into place firmly with the last bits of doubt removed. Endeavor had been responsible for what happened to Touya.
Gingerly, actually remembering the knife wound this time, Natsuo grips Dabi’s shoulders.
“Well, we’ve got a whole-ass mountain to climb down,” he says. “I want to hear everything. No more of this broody villain gig.”
Dabi arches his eyebrow imperiously. “Were you always this much of a brat? I remember you being cuter when you were shorter than me.”
“Yeah?” Natsuo snorts. “When was that?”
Dabi scowls, and Natsuo can feel a grin pulling at his lips, despite the weight of the situation. He knows this is going to be hard, but that’s nothing new. Touya is one stubborn bastard, and it’s going to be a challenge to change his mind or get him to accept help. Again, water is fucking wet.
But if Touya is an immovable object, then Natsuo is an unstoppable force. Now that he knows Touya’s not dead? He’s going to make sure it stays that way, even if it kills him.