In the morning, a boy tells his mother it’s too sunny outside for mittens.
She calls him foolish and tucks his ears into his hat. He wrinkles his nose at her. It makes his grandmother laugh.
The boy’s grandfather teases him, patting his shoulder and telling him how much he would miss his fingers if they got too cold and fell off. The boy laughs and swats his grandfather’s hands away. He’ll be ten in the spring and thinks himself too old for childish warnings.
It’s a promising start to a perfectly normal day.
After school, he walks a classmate home. He thinks he might like her or, at least, that he should like her. He doesn’t feel anything special when she holds his hand, but maybe that’s the mittens messing it up.
She lives in the opposite direction of his house, so it’s getting dark by the time he’s anywhere near his neighborhood. The cold bites at his face but leaves his fingers be.
He’s ten minutes out from home when he hears a noise.
The boy thinks he knows what crying sounds like. Crying is loud and messy. That’s not what this noise sounds like.
This noise is soft, so quiet it’s almost inaudible. It’s closer to hiccups than anything else the boy has ever heard before. It slips under his skin immediately, spiking trembling dread into his bones.
Something is very wrong.
The boy drops his backpack on the sidewalk and hunts through the bushes. The sun is setting fast, and doesn’t have his mother’s phone light to guide him like when he chases bugs in the summer. His heart beats hard with a primal fear.
The boy finds a person on the other end of that sound. Another boy, smaller than himself, although maybe only because he isn’t wearing a puffy coat. This new boy is curled in on himself, hiding from the cold he has no jacket or mittens to stave off. Every inch of exposed skin looks painfully raw, even in the fading light.
The new boy looks up with fear in his eyes.
And the first boy passes over his mittens.
“So, what’s the verdict? Is Present Mic getting louder or calming down?” Ochako calls from the kitchen.
“Louder!” Izuku calls back.
“There’s a certain irony in you shouting directly into my ear about how loud someone is,” Shouto comments dryly. Izuku grins sheepishly and presses an apologetic kiss against his husband’s cheek. Shouto accepts the affectionate gesture by leaning ever so slightly into it and adjusting the arm he has around Izuku’s shoulders to pull him in closer.
Tsuyu leaves the kitchen with Ochako in tow, carrying a bowl of freshly microwaved popcorn. Shouto can smell the butter from here.
“What’d we miss, ribbit?”
“The kid with the wires got disqualified,” Izuku answers. Tsuyu sits down next to him.
“What for?” Tenya asks, following the girls with an armload of juice and soda. They’re way past legal to drink, but they never do when they’re gathering to watch the Sports Festival. These kids are their potential sidekicks over the next few years, so they need to pay attention.
“Illegal modification to his gym clothes,” Shouto explains, reaching over his husband to grab a handful of Tsuyu’s popcorn.
“I thought there was something fishy about his shoes!” Ochako says, squeezing into the tiny space between her wife and Izuku. She ends up halfway in Tsuyu’s lap. “Come join the pile, Tenya!”
Tenya accepts the offer with all the grace of someone who spent his high school years sharing the communal couches in the UA dorms. The five of them don’t really fit, even with the couples doing their best to merge into singular beings. Still, Shouto doesn’t mind the tight fit. It’s oddly calming to be surrounded by them like this.
It’s amazing what ten years of steady, consistent affection will do for a person.
While Tsuyu tries to find a position where Tenya’s elbow isn’t in her ribs, a new match begins. The two first years stand on opposite sides of the ring. Present Mic cheerfully introduces them as ‘Penance’ from class 1-B, and ‘Alpha’ from class 1-A.
The fight isn’t anything special. Penance does something to his opponent that knocks her straight off her feet and keeps her there. It’s a pretty standard knock out. They’ve already seen three or four like it today.
What catches Shouto’s attention is what happens afterwards. Penance, a lanky kid with his hair pulled back into a short ponytail, reaches out a hand to help his opponent up. She slaps it away and snaps something at him, and he flinches. It’s small and barely noticeable, more of a wince than anything.
But it’s familiar. Shouto can’t remember ever having that exact response, but it resonates on a deep, guttural level.
He must have gone stiff, because Izuku turns to look at him, his eyebrows knit in concern.
“Shouto? You okay?” he asks, softly in spite of the inevitability that their friends will overhear. They’re too closely crowded to miss it.
“Sorry. Something about that was…” Shouto trails off, not sure how to put the feeling into words.
“That was exceedingly poor sportsmanship,” Tenya complains from the other end of the couch. His stern disapproval feels more like an archetypical teacher than any of the actual teachers they had in high school. It breaks whatever spell had been cast by watching that teenager get shut down. Something sharp is still sticking in his chest, but he can breathe around it now.
Izuku is still looking at Shouto with worry. Shouto gently bumps his forehead against Izuku’s temple, a little gesture of reassurance. It’s enough to convince Izuku to relax.
It shouldn’t surprise Shouto that the next words out of Izuku’s mouth are exactly what he needs to hear. They’ve been married for two years and in each other’s orbit for ten, but sometimes, it’s still alarming how well Izuku gets him.
“Let’s send Penance an internship offer.”
Shouto feels the prickly feeling in his chest ease. He nods.
The process of making an internship offer involves a surprising amount of paperwork. Nouko Hokyuu, the agency’s office manager, handles of as much as she can, but Shouto needs to do a lot of it himself this time. Taking responsibility for a minor, even temporarily, is more legally complicated than he was expecting.
At the end of the journey is a phone call to the school, which Izuku cheerfully volunteers for. All Might still teaches at UA, and in all their years together, Shouto has never seen him turn down the chance to talk to his mentor.
“How do they get anything done if they have All Might answering administrative calls?” Nouko asks Shouto, who is lingering by her desk. She sounds more curious than anything, and when Shouto turns to give her his attention, she holds out the little bowl of hard candies she keeps on her desk. He wordlessly takes one and starts unwrapping it. She swaps the flavor every week or so; it’s melon today.
“They don’t. They just transfer calls to his desk if anyone says ‘Deku’.”
Nouko exhales sharply, which is the closest she usually gets to laughing. She’s a very quiet person, which is something Shouto really appreciates. He loves his husband and friends, but they’re very loud. Nouko and Hitoshi are the only people he sees on a regular basis that aren’t sunshine personified, so it’s refreshing.
“Good to know that’s the trick if I ever need to contact him,” Nouko says, typing something without looking at the computer screen. She’s been writing emails to set up this internship all morning, and Shouto makes a mental note to buy her some fresh flowers for her desk. If Tenya doesn’t beat him to it, at least. Tenya is very diligent about Nouko’s flowers.
Shouto smiles in acknowledgment of the joke, but doesn’t interrupt her writing any further. He’s content to watch his husband through the glass wall of the meeting room he’s taken the call in, walking back and forth and gesturing as though All Might could see. Cute.
After a few peaceful moments punctuated only by Nouko’s rapid typing, the fax machine beeps loudly. Shouto watches the papers print off with mounting anticipation.
“Here you go, Shouto-san,” Nouko says, handing them over. It sounds more familiar than it is; Shouto still uses his first name as his hero name.
He shakes off the thought and takes the file.
UA Class 1-B, student ID #0012
D.O.B.: June 28th, 20XX (15 years old)
Weight: 165 lbs
Class Rank: 6th
Quirk: Kinetic Absorption
Physical manifestation is a set of quarter-sized circles of cartilage behind the ears. This quirk allows the user to absorb all kinetic energy from a chosen area, causing motion to stop within that space. This energy then vibrates the cartilage behind the ears as a vent, with side effects ranging from auditory interference to severe damage to the surrounding tissue and bones. The size of the area depends on a number of factors such as quantity of energy in the area, the user’s concentration and the physical health of the user. This quirk relies heavily on the user’s spatial awareness to correctly aim the area of absorption, so damage to the inner ear from overuse can render this quirk temporarily unusable.
After the page of basic information is a medical history, test results, and a copy of his disciplinary record. It’s eerily reminiscent of Izuku’s old medical records, with repeated instances of pushing himself to the point of requiring hospitalization. It looks like it happened every few months in the year leading up to his admission to UA.
A hard worker, but one who desperately needs to make taking care of himself a higher priority. There’s a certain nostalgia to that mindset, and Shouto is more sure than ever that he and Izuku are a good match for this kid. He’s been there.
“Would you mind bringing some papers to Froppy, Shouto-san? They sent over the information on the student she’s mentoring too,” Nouko speaks up, pulling Shouto out of his thoughts. She’s holding out a freshly-stapled stack of papers similar to his own. Just from a quick glance, he can see the word ‘rabbit’ about twelve times, which matches what he remembers of the kid Tsuyu had been talking about.
“Yeah, no problem.” He glances over at Izuku, who shows no signs of finishing up his phone call any time soon. “I’ll probably be back before he’s done.”
“If Deku is done chatting before nightfall, I’ll tell him where you’re off to.”
Shouto chuckles and grabs an extra candy off Nouko’s desk. Tsuyu will be sad if he doesn’t bring her one.
He finds Tsuyu in the training room, doing warm-up stretches with Ochako. Tenya and Hitoshi are out on patrol already, and they overlap shifts to make sure there’s always somebody out, so the girls will be heading out before they get back.
Ochako is sitting on the floor, reaching for her toes with Tsuyu’s hands on her shoulders. It’s much easier to look at than when they swap; Tsuyu is alarmingly flexible and it always gives Shouto a bit of vertigo to watch her contort herself into unnatural poses before suiting up.
“Tsuyu-chan, delivery for you,” Shouto says, getting her attention.
“I’ve got this,” Ochako says, grabbing her own ankle to hold the stretch without her wife’s assistance. Tsuyu presses a quick kiss between Ochako’s shoulder blades and stands up.
“More internship paperwork?” she asks, accepting the papers and glancing over them.
“Profiles. And one of Hokyuu-san’s candies, as a bonus.”
Tsuyu beams as she takes this second offering.
“Thanks, ribbit. Did Penance accept your offer too?”
Shouto smiles back at her.
Ochako abandons her stretch in favor of joining the conversation, getting to her feet with a practiced ease.
“Congratulations, Shouto! I take it Deku’s still on the phone?”
“Of course,” Shouto says, which puts a fond smile on her face.
“Some things never change, huh?”
“Not unless we change them ourselves, true,” Shouto says, smiling. They’re talking about Izuku. It seems like all he ever does is change things Shouto thought were immutable.
“Listen to you, you sound like a mentor already! You’re going to do great!” Ochako is both sincere and delighted.
Shouto really hopes she’s right.
FINALLY THE KIDS ARE HERE also i swear i'll get to replying to comments soon it's been a weird week
In what feels like no time at all, the first day of the internships arrives. Nouko has to talk everyone but Hitoshi out of going as a group to pick up the kids.
This is a moment of independence for them, don’t try to rescue them from it, she’d said. Then she’d called them a bunch of helicopter parents and handed out the patrol schedules.
Which brings them to right now, with two teenaged boys in their lobby. Teitarou is taller than Tsuyu’s intern, Sachito, by quite a bit; the other boy only comes up to his nose. He has rabbit ears, but they’re angled backwards instead of upwards so they don’t do anything to close the gap.
All of this makes it a bit of a spectacle that Teitarou is walking behind him so closely it almost looks like he’s trying to hide.
Tsuyu beats Shouto to the punch on welcoming the kids.
“You made it! Ribbit,” she says, waving. Teitarou takes an abrupt sidestep to get out from behind his classmate and straightens his back. Sachito breaks into an easy smile and bows. His body language is the exact opposite of Teitarou’s, loose and excited instead of stiff and nervous.
“Thank you for having us!”
The rest of the agency converges on them like a spell has been broken. Ochako and Izuku are out on patrol, but Tenya and Hitoshi are more than happy to fill that void. Well. Tenya is happy. Hitoshi can be a little hard to read. Even Nouko is into it, getting up from her desk to join the gathering circle of heroes.
Teitarou glances around at all of them with a hint of alarm in his expression. Shouto steps up to take control of the situation before Tenya can launch into a speech about all the enrichment they’ve planned for the kids.
“Let’s just begin with introductions. Did your teachers give you our profiles?”
Teitarou nods and Sachito one-ups him by both nodding and giving a thumbs up.
“Yeah, they did! I was really impressed with the way you guys balance search and rescue with combat, I’m usually more on the rescue side of things but--”
“You can tell them,” Teitarou mutters, staring at the floor. He’s obviously aware that he just got the entire group’s attention on him, because he turns viciously red. Sachito laughs and rubs at the back of his neck.
“Yeah, okay, okay. Honesty hour with Sachito Fukuashi starts now. I really am impressed by your agency’s accomplishments, but I’m way more into the fact that you judged Teitarou for Teitarou, not his dad.”
Shouto’s breath catches.
“Our agency doesn’t research our interns’ families,” Nouko explains, gently. “It’s our policy to judge students on their own merits.”
Shouto used to call it the Endeavor rule back when they were forming the agency.
“Wait, so you don’t know about--” Teitarou starts, but Sachito claps his hands together to cut him off.
“That’s great! Teitarou is great! Everybody here is great! So, how does this start? Are you giving us a tour or…?”
Teitarou frowns at his friend, then glances guiltily over at Shouto. Shouto wonders what he’s thinking. Izuku should probably be the one managing the kid’s internship. He’d know what to do here.
“I think we can manage a tour,” Hitoshi says, glancing over at Shouto, then at Tsuyu in a silent question. They’re technically in charge here, but the rest of the agency is going to be doing plenty of work this week.
“Yeah, let’s start with a tour,” Shouto agrees easily, thankful for the backup.
“Awesome! Any chance you could show me the bathroom first?” Sachito asks, grinning playfully.
“Yes, of course! I’ll show you right away!” Tenya says, gesturing with the same enthusiasm he’s had since they were fifteen. It soothes Shouto’s anxiety a little to know he’s here.
Teitarou latches onto this opportunity before Tenya’s taken more than three steps in his new role as bathroom guide. The moment Sachito’s back is to him, he makes solid eye contact with Shouto and approaches him without a hint of hesitation. Once he’s actually opening his mouth to talk, though, the anxiety seems to bubble back up.
“Um. Can we talk?” he asks, nervously playing with his hair. He seems to be making effort to keep eye contact, but he keeps glancing off to the side. He’s wearing a hair elastic like a bracelet, reminding Shouto that he’d had his hair in a ponytail during the sports festival.
“Sure. I’ll show you my office,” Shouto offers, because there was an unspoken ‘in private’ at the end of that request.
“Thanks,” Teitarou mutters, finally losing his battle to hold eye contact and looking at the floor instead.
Shouto looks at Nouko, who takes a second to stop watching Tenya and Sachito with a fond smile and look his way. Once he’s got her attention, he tilts his head towards the hallway to his office. She nods silently, catching his meaning immediately.
Without further alerting the group, Shouto leads his intern to the office he shares with Izuku.
It’s a cheerful little room, decorated in the same calm greens as the rest of the agency. There are pictures of their friends and families and especially All Might all over the walls and desks, and the bookshelf is full to bursting with old notebooks and strategy binders. It’s so obviously a place Izuku works that Shouto can’t help but feel softly about it. Shouto’s own personal touches are almost absent; he’s happier surrounded by Izuku than anything he would have chosen himself.
Teitarou doesn’t get even moderately distracted by the room full of a pro hero’s mementos. Instead, he starts talking the second the door is closed behind them, without even waiting for Shouto to turn back around and look at him.
“My dad killed four hundred and sixty seven people before they got him in a jail cell,” he blurts out, like the words are poison and he desperately needs to get them out of his body. “Two of them were pro heroes and fourteen of them were cops. Nobody wants to work with me.”
Shouto doesn’t know what he was expecting. It wasn’t this.
“None of that was on you,” he tries, but Teitarou just shakes his head.
“No, no, I don’t blame them, I-- I have his exact quirk, and he used it to kill people in an instant. If I stopped someone’s heart, it wouldn’t start again. He was a monster, and I’m the child of a monster. Apples, trees, you know? I could be a monster too. That’s why I’m here, because I need to cancel out what he did.”
Teitarou swallows and balls his hands into fists. He looks Shouto right in the eye.
“I need to balance out what he did, so I’m going to save four hundred and sixty seven thousand lives. One thousand for every person he took from this world. I want to ask you to help me with that.”
There’s a beat of silence while Shouto searches for words, and then, much to his surprise, Teitarou buries his face in his hands.
“Oh my god, that was so cheesy, I sound like something out of a poorly written police drama, ignore me, I’m garbage,” he whines, and the fact that this is a child rushes up hard in Shouto’s stomach.
What would Izuku do?
Shouto walks over to his intern and sets a gentle hand on his shoulder. Teitarou drops his hands from his face to stare at him.
“Yeah. I’ll help you.”
Startled and hesitant, Teitarou smiles.
Once Shouto has made it clear that he sincerely isn’t bothered by his family history, Teitarou is happy enough to return to the group. His body language has changed completely; he holds his head up and looks around at the decor instead of staring at the floor.
“Are you guys really friends with Red Riot?” he asks as Shouto leads the way back to the lobby. There’s a photograph of Eijirou, Mina and Denki near the door out of the office, so that’s probably where the topic came from.
“We were in the same year at UA. I don’t think there’s anyone he isn’t friendly with.”
Teitarou nods, and Shouto notices a spark of excitement in the teenager’s face.
“I must have listened to his speech about everyday heroism once a week during middle school,” Teitarou admits, smiling sheepishly. Shouto remembers that speech; a news woman had caught Eijirou after a major battle and he’d just started gushing about the civilians who’d already arrived to help the victims. It ended up going viral on youtube.
“You might meet him this week,” Shouto says, and revels in the way Teitarou’s eyes go wide with surprise.
“He’s interested in the internships,” he explains. It isn’t the whole story, of course. Eijirou has been complaining for three weeks about Katsuki’s incident record keeping them from getting their own intern this year. Hitoshi had made a dry comment about Eijirou’s taste in men that made Izuku choke on his lunch.
“Awesome,” Teitarou says, sounding more than a little awestruck.
But after a moment of looking impressed, he suddenly winces.
“Oh god, wait. I shouldn’t be thinking about other pro heroes, I already totally embarrassed myself in front of a whole bunch of them with that pity party in the lobby. The last thing I need is more cool, famous people to be weird at.”
“You did fine,” Shouto says, unsure what else to add. If Nouko tries to put him and Izuku on different patrols again tomorrow, he’s going to beg to have them switched.
Before Shouto can stumble any further, they find where the rest of the agency has disappeared to. They’re all crammed into the little office kitchen, excepting Nouko, who has probably returned to her desk. Sachito is happily chattering away.
“Yeah, mom’s got lop ears and so does grandpa, so I don’t really know where I got the perkiness. Like, I’m grateful, they don’t fall in my food-- Teitarou! There you are!”
“You should use your hero names while in the office! It’s good practice for using them in the field!” Tenya says, using that lecturing voice he probably perfected before his voice broke.
“Oh, okay. Penance, there you are!”
Teitarou smiles and ducks his head a little as if he’s trying to hide it.
Sachito frowns dramatically, which is accompanied by a twitch of his unusually-pink nose.
“Aw, dude, come on, it isn’t Jackrabbit, it’s Jack of Rabbits.”
“That’s harder to say, nobody calls you that,” Teitarou points out, and there’s a hint of playfulness on his face when he does.
“It’s a clever play on words! Like jack of clubs and jackrabbit mixed together!”
“You probably shouldn’t have made your name an obscure joke about gambling and luck quirks in the first place,” Teitarou says, and Sachito groans theatrically. Shouto realizes all at once that this isn’t even teasing, not really. This is an inside joke, something said so often that it’s almost a script.
Tsuyu is watching the boys with an expression that Shouto recognizes as her ‘aww cute’ face. He sort of understands the sentiment.
Once they’ve got the whole group back together, it’s mostly a matter of finding a safe place to leave the boys’ belongings and heading out. The kids change into their costumes and Shouto needs a moment to take in the differences in their aesthetic senses. Teitarou’s Penance costume is almost entirely black, with a soft gel neck guard in teal to absorb the vibrations his quirk generates. His gloves and hair elastic are the same teal, but it isn’t quite enough to feel balanced.
Sachito’s Jack of Rabbits costume goes in entirely the opposite direction. His color scheme is all creams and soft browns, with the only exception being the tiny pink rabbit silhouettes on the backs of his gloves. It feels more like the sort of outfit that would be completed by a fluffy sweater.
It’s been awhile since Shouto and Tsuyu were patrol partners, but he appreciates her calm, easy way of talking. The kids have a lot of questions and Shouto has never been the best at explaining.
True salvation comes about forty five minutes in, when they stop to get lunch.
“I’ll pay for everyone,” Shouto offers mildly, which flusters both kids but just gets a smile out of Tsuyu.
“Thanks, Shouto. I’ll get the tab next time,” she says, before turning to examine the menu with a finger on her chin. The place they picked serves mostly fried foods, but pretty much every item they sell is intended to be carried while you walk. A great place for patrolling heroes.
“Are you sure? I brought money!” Teitarou says, reaching into one of his uniform pockets to produce his wallet. It’s a pretty standard black zip-close one, except that Teitarou has clipped a phone charm to the zipper pull. It’s a cute little siamese cat. Shouto decides not to point it out.
“I’m happy to pay,” Shouto assures him, which barely seems to soothe his intern.
“It’s rude to turn down free food, Tei-- Penance,” Sachito says, grinning at his friend.
“Don’t make up social mores just because you’re hungry!” Teitarou hisses. It’s a ridiculous enough exchange to make Shouto smile.
“Well, that’s a good sign! A happy Shouto is good luck!”
Ochako seems to have come out of the woodwork, and when Shouto looks up, he finds that Izuku is with her. He’s smiling, bright and sunny, his mask off to indicate he’s on lunch break.
Shouto feels immediately relieved. Anything he’s been floundering with, Izuku will fix.
He always does.
EDIT: this is Teitarou's phone charm, which I forgot to link last night like a fool