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..
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.”
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
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
“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
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.”