Actions

Work Header

the devil is not so black as he is painted

Work Text:

"Todoroki!"

His name seemed to clog up inside his mind, unable to truly settle down as though he were submerged in water and could not truly hear anything.

"Todoroki, wait!"

The image seemed burned inside his brain. He could see his father sprawled out in front of him, blood caking his face, and that image was flickering unsteadily, superimposed and yet shifting all the while like the flame of a candle that left a white impression upon his eyes.

"Todoroki!"

He was caught by the arm. He stopped, staring straight ahead of him, and he realized, bewildered, that he could see the image of his father, and himself, and his brothers, and his sister, sprawled across the floor, and it all culminated with the sickening flash of white-hot guilt that caught him in the heart when the sight of his father melted into the sight of his mother, lying sprawled across the floor, only visible through a crack in the door that was closed swiftly and loudly, like a clap of thunder lashing the sky.

Midoriya slid in front of him. Todoroki did not see who had caught him by the arm, but he suspected it was Kirishima.

"I know you're worried," Midoriya said softly, raising his round eyes to Todoroki's face beseechingly, "and that's okay, but you— you can't just go off to see him—"

"I don't want to see him," Todoroki cut in sharply.

"Wha…?" Kirishima tipped his head to get a better look at Todoroki's face. "You don't mean that."

"I do."

"But he's your dad!" Uraraka gasped from behind him, her sweet, bubbly voice riddled with concern. He couldn't focus on deflecting this right now. He couldn't focus on anything. He felt nauseous, and when he closed his eyes there it was again, like a ghost.

Maybe there was a ghost.

It was possible that each and every one of them were just ghosts. Each and every one of them had laid sprawled on the floor, eyes closed, imagining they were someone else, something else, somewhere else.

Midoriya was staring. His eyes, big and green, glazed over a little as the understanding hit. They watched each other dazedly.

Then, silently, Midoriya lowered his head. He stepped aside.

Todoroki tore his arm from Kirishima, and he kept walking.

"Where are you going?" Momo demanded. "If not to him, then where?"

"I don't know."

"You can't leave!" Kaminari cried. "C'mon, man, you know you'll get in trouble for sneaking out!"

"I'm not sneaking," Todoroki said, reaching the door. He stared at it, and the words did not come to him. Nothing came to him, and he thought that maybe he should say something. Say anything, really, say the truth. Say it all, spill it out, and let the consequences fall where they fell.

They never talked about it.

"Leaving without permission is sneaking," Uraraka said. Her voice was sharp and insistent, and perhaps if this were any other day he would listen to her. "Let us come with you, at least!"

"No."

"If you aren't going to the battle," Kaminari said uncertainly, "there's really no harm in us going with you. It's safer as a group, right?"

"Right!" Kirishima gasped. "Right, we can stay with you, and—"

"No!" Todoroki couldn't help it. He felt them all swarming closer to him, reaching out, trying to restrain him. He yelled, and his own voice shook inside his throat, coarse and shaken, and he stared at the ground for a few moments, startled at the sound of his own voice.

Todoroki raised his head, and once more he locked eyes with Midoriya.

His eyes were big and shining, worry creasing the line of his mouth into a tight grimace.

Then he turned, his eyes flashing to the door. "Someone's coming," he said softly.

Todoroki bolted toward the window.

"Todoroki, stop!"

He knew it wouldn't open, so he flung is hand out, his fingertips brushing the glass and sending a cascade of frost rippling across the surface. It swirled lightly under his touch before solidifying into ice. Without another thought, he jumped and kicked the window with both his soles slamming into the glass, shattering it into great, glittering shards. His body went sailing through the air, hurdling and flipping as he plummeted fast.

What am I doing, he thought, for the first time struck with the horror of all of this. He could not hear his peers above him, and instead could only focus on the roaring of the wind as it sliced against his ears.

The ground was coming up fast, and for a few moments it occurred to him that he wasn't doing anything about that.

It wasn't that he wanted to die. He just couldn't understand how he'd gotten to this place.

A few hundred feet, plummeting to the asphalt.

Something slithered along his left arm as he reached out with his right, finally bringing himself to propel some ice. The ice did not come, however, and he was struck with a bout of confusion just as his arm snapped up above his head, snatched by a white cloth. The shock of it all prevented him from fully feeling the injury, but he did hear a horrific pop as his shoulder slipped out of place and his body dangled in midair.

For a few seconds, he let himself dangle there.

Then he choked, and he hissed as he twisted himself, pain enveloping his entire arm and sending threads of agony lacing along his back and neck.

"Todoroki!" Eraserhead called. "I'm pulling you up now."

He doesn't realize I'm hurt, he thought wildly. I didn't scream. Why didn't I scream?

Screaming only ever made things worse, he reminded himself.

He sucked in a deep breath. If Aizawa pulled on the cloth, that would exacerbate the damage. He needed to let Todoroki down.

"Don't," he called, his voice shaking pitifully.

The cloth tightened, and he winced. Aizawa couldn't hear him. He was too quiet, it seemed.

He took a deep, shuddering breath. It filled his lungs, and pain lanced through his chest.

"Stop!" he yelled, laying his right hand on his left shoulder. It throbbed as it was jostled. "My— my shoulder, it's…"

The pulling stopped suddenly. He let out a small, relieved breath as he was very gingerly lowered to the ground. The moment his feet touched the sidewalk, the cloth loosened. Todoroki looked up and saw that Aizawa had jumped, using his cloth to leverage himself down. He'd let Todoroki go with the belief that he'd be on the ground before he could bolt again.

He genuinely felt bad for that breach of trust.

The moment his arm was free, he flung himself forward, skidding along the sidewalk to dodge another three darting cloths as Aizawa shouted for him.

"Todoroki," he hissed, his heavy footfalls almost drowned out by the chorus of shouts that came from the top of the building. "I know this does not look good. I know you're frightened, but—"

"I'm not," Todoroki growled, flicked his head to the side as another cloth came sliding past his ear. He dove away, using his good hand to cartwheel aside. The gates were right in front of him. He just had to get Aizawa to blink. "I'm not scared. I just need to be alone."

"You can be alone inside," Aizawa insisted, punctuating each word with a lash of the restraining cloth, "where it's safe."

Todoroki was not one to waste words, so he didn't. Instead he turned around, slipping beneath the barrage of cloth. He waited for an opening, his heart racing as he watched Aizawa grimace, his eyelids fluttering shut.

In an instant, Todoroki was in the air. Ice glittered around him, propelling him up and hurdling him over the walls of the gate. He glided along the wall of ice until he was able to slide down it, landing on his feet on the other side and once more breaking into a run. The gate behind him opened, shattering the ice he had made.

Todoroki took a deep breath. White specks were appearing along the line of his vision, and the pain in his arm was blinding. He swallowed hard, trying to blink away the images that were piling up inside his head. A body, one of their bodies, on the ground, sprawled out, defeated by their own stubborn pride.

He turned around slowly.

Aizawa was staring at him again. This time he looked well and truly pissed.

"That's enough," he said coolly. "I'd expect this kind of rash insolence from Bakugou, but not you."

"We're both in supplementary classes," Todoroki muttered. He sighed, placing a hand on his shoulder and wincing.

"That doesn't mean you are the same. What possessed you to run like that?"

He won't understand, Todoroki thought helplessly. He'll think it's stupid. I have to get away from here. I have to go right now.

"I just…" He struggled to find the words. He knew it, and he felt it, and the thoughts were bubbling up inside his head, pooling over the carefully constructed barriers he'd built for himself and flooding him with guilt and misery. "I… I think I need to be alone. That's all."

Aizawa's eyes narrowed. He held up his cloth with a scowl.

"Do I need to restrain you for you to come back inside?" he asked.

"No, sir."

"Then move."

Todoroki grimaced. He gripped his shoulder, held his head up, and took a step forward.

A heavy swooping sound caused him to raise his head. If Aizawa had not been cancelling out his powers, he would have sent up a wall of ice to shield him from the giant flying animal that had dive bombed him, talons glinting in the sun. He moved to dodge it, but it swerved, its foot knocking into the side of his head, and he toppled backwards as the stars that had gathered in his eyes burst apart in a supernova of white before all the light blinked out.


"What do you mean he's not answering?" Fuyumi demanded.

Natsuo chewed on the inside of his cheek, unable to meet her eye as she hovered over him, her hands wrung together and latched onto her chest. She'd been pacing incessantly since they'd arrived home, flitting between the kitchen and the sitting room and the garden fitfully. Her phone was clutched tightly in her white-knuckled hands. She had spent the past hour calling various people— heroes, first responders, the insurance company, their mother's hospital…

His only job had been to get into contact with Shouto. Of course he failed at that.

"I called him seven times," he told he very gently, "left five messages, sent him…" Natsuo checked his phone to be certain. "Seventeen texts, and I emailed him. He's not responding."

Fuyumi, to her credit, did not panic. She blinked a few times, her lips twisting among her teeth as she looked past Natsuo's head as though perhaps the answer was written on the burnt-orange wall behind him.

"Okay," she said. She set her phone down, and Natsuo looked away sharply. Her hands were trembling. Badly. "Okay. I'm going to make some tea."

"Yumi…" Natsuo murmured, his eyes flickering to her back as she whirled around. "You know him. He's probably waiting it out."

"Yeah."

Natsuo sat quietly at the kitchen table and he watched her bustle around the room, setting the kettle onto the burner and pulling the teapot down from the cabinet.

"Maybe he just doesn't care," Natsuo said.

Fuyumi dropped the cup in her hand. It clattered against the countertop, and she hissed in frustration, scooping it up and examining it for cracks.

Natsuo waited for her to reply. When she didn't, he lounged back against his chair and stared up at the ceiling.

"I'm being serious," he said.

Fuyumi set the teacup down. She braced her hands against the counter and took a very deep breath, like she had just been submerged under a thick layer of ice and had finally gotten through it— air rushed into her lungs like it was the first breath she'd ever taken.

"I know that," she said. "I get that. I know what you're saying."

Natsuo squinted at her back. "But…?"

"But," she said sharply, whirling around to face him, "you don't know Shouto."

"Oh," Natsuo muttered, "and you do? Okay."

"That's not what I meant."

"What did you mean, then?"

"He's just…" Fuyumi fiddled with the ends of her hair, her eyebrows creasing behind her unruly bangs. "He's changed, that's all. School's really brought out the best in him."

"He wasn't so bad before."

"No," she conceded, "but he was quiet. Angry, too, I think."

"At dad," he said pointedly, his voice low. "Like, rightfully. If anyone was ever justified for straight up murdering that guy, it's Shouto."

"Natsu!" Fuyumi scolded.

"It's true."

"That doesn't make it right," she said, shooting him a hard look. "Don't say stuff like that. Not now."

Natsuo sucked in a sharp breath, shrinking underneath the harshness of her stare and the tremor of her voice.

"Is it bad?" Natsuo murmured. "Is it… is it really bad that I don't feel anything?"

"What?"

Natsuo sighed. Fuyumi had always been the best of them. She was so in touch with her feelings, so empathetic and warm, it was really no surprise that she seemed to be the most well-adjusted. Oldest child, wisest child.

"I'm not, like, worried," he said, wincing at how whiny he sounded. "Not for dad, at least. Isn't that awful?"

Fuyumi stared at him. She shook her head.

"No," she said. "I don't think so."

"Really?" He wrinkled his nose, and he groaned. "Don't go lyin' to me now."

"I'm not." She shrugged lightly. "You said it yourself earlier, didn't you, Natsu? He feels like a stranger. It's not so surprising that you just…"

"Can't connect?"

"Yeah."

"Is it like that for you?"

She eyed him over the frames of her glasses pointedly. He shot her a lazy smile, and she shook her head.

"I don't know," she admitted. "I don't hate him, if that's what you're asking."

"Nope, that's not what I asked."

"Well, then," she said, "I really haven't a clue. I'm really scared, I think, but… I don't know if it's for dad."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah."

Natsuo pursed his lips. Hearing even Fuyumi admit that she wasn't certain of her feelings right now was a little validating. He wished that Shouto was here to hear it.

"I think," Fuyumi sighed, leaning back against the counter, "what I'm afraid of most, is change."

The chirping of the telephone, an unfamiliar sound of their landline ringing, caused them both to jump. Fuyumi dove for it, her hands clutching the receiver and slipping it against her ear.

"Hello?" she said breathlessly, her left hand dragging through her hair, leaving clumps of white strands in disarray.

Natsuo had leaped to his feet upon hearing the phone ring. His eyes were big and his heart was thudding in his chest. He felt inexplicably cold, and when he looked down he saw that ice had begun to crystalize on his fingertips. He shook it off, scraping his fingernails beneath the frost and letting the crystals fall to the tile.

Fuyumi was pacing again. He could hear her breathing, her breaths coming in short, like she might start crying.

"Yes," she said sharply, "yes, I know. I know already. Can I speak to Shouto?"

He held his breath. He watched in silence as Fuyumi's shoulders tensed up. She stood for a few moments before turning slowly to face Natsuo.

The expression on her face sent him collapsing back into his chair.

On the stove, the kettle began to scream.


The vomit was pooling over the toilet bowl. He felt like he'd been there forever, his forehead pressed against the cool glass, and outside the door the sobbing grew louder and louder. His throat burned, and his back ached, and he sat with spittle and bile and sick drooling down his chin and half-drying on his silk red night shirt.

The door creaked open. He flinched.

He squeezed his eyes shut as he listened to the soft padding of bare feet against tile.

A light hand grazed his back, and he jerked away.

His brother hovered over him, his face half obscured by the dim yellow light. He stood for a few moments, and then knelt beside him.

"Here," he said, setting a glass of water on the ground at his feet.

He stared at the water. The room was darkening, and he could feel himself flickering like a flame. His brother flickered too. They were both half-gone, half ghosts, half-glazed over projections on the white tile floor.

He took the water and tried to wash the rancid, burning taste of vomit out of his mouth.

His brother sat quietly, his blue-green eyes shadowy.

They never talked much.

The sobbing had turned to whimpering, and they both bowed their heads.

"It's my fault," he said dazedly.

His brother shot him a cold glare.

"No," he said. "It's not."

And then he got up and left.

Todoroki woke up feeling sluggish and confused. His eyesight adjusted to the dim light quickly enough, though his ears were ringing dully. He thought for a moment about his surroundings before it all hit him at once, and he sprung upright, his whole body rigid and ready to spring into action at any moment.

His left arm ached, but when he moved it, he realized something.

It had been dislocated before. Now it was not.

He froze, unable to truly digest that fact. He rolled his shoulder tentatively, and aside from the sting of residual pain, it was fine. He blinked rapidly. Then he touched his head. Dried blood flaked onto his fingers, and he hissed a bit as he brushed a nasty cut.

"My bad," a low voice drawled. "I was gonna bandage it, but you were pretty out of it after I popped your shoulder back in."

Todoroki jumped to his feet, his arms up defensively as his eyes locked on the familiar villain. His heartbeat was thudding inside his ears. Had he really been kidnapped? Now of all times?

I can't die here, he thought numbly. I need to see my family again.

Imagining them now made his throat constrict.

It would be cruel of him to cause them even more pain.

His death would exacerbate an open wound. The last thing that Todoroki Shouto wanted was to be a burden.

"You're one of them," Todoroki said. His mouth was dry, and his vision was swimming. "One of the League."

He had to think hard to remember the villain's name. While he frowned and thought about it, the villain rolled his eyes. He was sitting on a backwards chair, leaning against its back with his chin on his folded arms. He looked… casual, and tired. All he was wearing was a black tee-shirt and distressed, washed out denim jeans. Todoroki could see his wrinkled knees.

"I thought you were supposed to be the smart one," the villain remarked. His eyes seemed to glow in the dark room, bioluminescent and starkly cold.

Todoroki exhaled shakily. His head hurt. He knew he had a concussion, but he also knew that this man's quirk— it was fire based. He could deal with fire.

"Dabi," he said suddenly, the name rising to the front of his brain like a buoy in a tsunami. "Dabi is your name."

"I guess so."

Todoroki's lips twisted in frustration, and he glowered at the man. "What do you mean?" he demanded. "Are you, or aren't you?"

Dabi glanced at him. His head lolled against his arms, and then he snorted.

"If that's easier," he said, "call me that."

Todoroki stared at him for a few moments. There was a distant nagging in the back of his mind, like a loose plug that had been wedged out of place. There was something distinctly off about this encounter, something that made Todoroki feel vaguely ill.

"What do you want from me?" Todoroki asked thickly.

Dabi rolled his eyes. He lifted himself from the chair, and instinctively Todoroki through up a defensive barrier of ice between them.

After a short silence, Dabi's scarred, wizened hand clapped onto the top of the wall, and Todoroki watched at it began to melt away slowly. Dabi's eyes appeared behind the indentation, sunken and bright with the intensity of starlight, and Todoroki found himself struck by a panicked thought.

He backpedaled so fast that he hit the wall behind him. Hard. He knocked a box of records off the shelf above him, and he flung his arms over his head to protect it from the falling objects.

Dabi barked a cold, cruel laugh.

"Ah," he said dully, "so you figured it out?"

Todoroki lowered his arms and stared at the man in disbelief.

"You're…" He couldn't say it. The name felt heavy and cold in his mouth, like he had tried to swallow a block of ice. In his mind, the image flickered once more. His father, his mother, Natsuo, Fuyumi, himself, sprawled across the floor. And then… "Tou—"

"You don't have to say it," Dabi snapped.

Todoroki's mouth fell open. He could feel himself fading a bit, like he might dissipate into the air and evaporate into nothing. If he could, he'd be glad, and he would never ask for anything again. It seemed more manageable to become steam than to face this demon.

"What…?" Todoroki's head was spinning. "What do you want me… to say, then…?"

Dabi melted enough of the ice that he was able to vault himself over the wall Todoroki had made. He wiped his hand off on his jeans, and he tilted his head at Todoroki curiously.

"I don't expect anything from you," he said, his voice clipped and bitter. "Perfect brat."

That stung. He remembered it stinging once, a long time ago, but now it stung even more.

"Are you…" Todoroki found himself sinking, slowly, his back sliding down the wall as he slipped onto the floor. "Are you this way because of me?"

Dabi glared down at him. His teeth bared in a wild sneer.

"Idiot," he muttered, his shoulders tensing up. He dragged his hand through his hair, his lips twisting in an odd way that made his teeth catch against his damaged lips. "Fuck. This is why I didn't want to say anything."

"I don't understand," Todoroki said flatly.

"I'm not gonna explain it to you," Dabi said, his eyes sliding to Todoroki's face dangerously. "I'm not gonna coddle you."

"Coddle me," Todoroki repeated faintly. He stared up at Dabi with huge eyes, a spike of rage flashing through him. "Do you think I was coddled?"

"No!" Dabi grimaced, his eyes flashing away from Todoroki's face. "Shit, that's not what I mean."

"Then what do you mean?" Todoroki asked sharply. "What the hell is going on? Why are you like this? What happened to you?"

Dabi's grimace twisted into a cruel smirk.

"Dad never told you?" he asked in a blank, yet chilling tone.

Todoroki could only stare.

Dabi folded his arms across his chest expectantly. When Todoroki did not answer, he nodded once, stiffly, and shrugged.

"He fucked up my face and neck arms a bit," Dabi said with the sort of nonchalance of someone relaying the weather or the evening news. "I can't remember when. How old are you now?"

"Fifteen…"

"Fifteen? Really?" Dabi rolled his shoulders, and he rubbed the back of his neck. "Damn. Time flies, huh?"

"Tou—"

"Dabi."

Todoroki's tongue was heavy inside his mouth as he stared at the man before him. He was angry, but he couldn't place why.

"I won't call you that," he said firmly.

"Then don't call me anything." Dabi glared at him. He had the leisurely atmosphere about him, the air of laziness that reminded Todoroki achingly of Natsuo. "Anyway, I must have been twelve."

"That wasn't that long ago," Todoroki whispered.

"No. It wasn't."

"Why don't I remember this?" he asked, blinking up at Dabi wildly. "I don't remember you getting hurt."

"You weren't conscious."

"What?"

Dabi shot him a dull, pointed stare.

Todoroki's eyes widened.

"Oh," he choked out.

There had been a night when Todoroki, certain that his father had pushed him a bit too hard in training, had woken up in the hospital. He didn't remember much, but he had been told that he'd lost control of his fire, and though they'd saved most of the house, he and the rest of the Todoroki children had been brought in for minor injuries.

By that point, the second son of Todoroki Enji had been at boarding school.

"You weren't… supposed to be home…" Todoroki said quietly.

"No."

Todoroki pulled his legs up to his chest. He stared up at his brother dazedly.

"Why?" he asked.

"Why did he burn me, or why did I run away?"

"I—" Todoroki shook his head uncertainly. "I'm not sure. Both?"

Dabi's lips twisted once more, but Todoroki couldn't tell if it was a sneer or a smile.

"I was mad. I was there. I was sick of him." With every sentence, he gave a lengthy pause and snapped his fingers, blue fire springing from his fingertips. It fluttered in the air for half a heartbeat, and the smell was phosphorescent. "I would have burned him too, if I had the chance."

"But he was…" Todoroki swallowed. He slumped against the wall, and he turned his head up toward the shelf above him. "Bigger."

"Meaner."

"Crueler."

"He was psychotic," Dabi snapped.

"Well," Todoroki said sharply, "you certainly don't get it from mom."

Dabi stared at him hard, his eyes widening in alarm for a second. It was enough that Todoroki found himself panicked and numb. He knew he shouldn't have said it, and yet he could not help it. His mother was the one that everyone thought was crazy. They all knew better.

Astonishingly, Dabi laughed. It was a coarse, shaky thing, like pebbles crunching beneath boots. He smiled so wide it made him look truly horrifying. The staples in his face only made his lips stretch so far.

"You know what?" Dabi grinned at him. "Fair."

"How did it not get out that dad did this to you?" Todoroki asked quickly, unable to sate his curiosity.

"How did it not get out that he was beating our mom?"

Todoroki squeezed his knees against his chest and tried not to look too hard at Dabi. He tried to look anywhere else, in fact. He felt cold and he felt sick and he wanted to get out of here.

 

Dabi smirked down at him. He sat down, very casually, on the ground not so far away.

"I don't expect you to like me," he said. "I don't want to be your friend."

"Then why am I here?"

Dabi watched him. Then he shrugged.

"I wanted to talk to you," he said. He glanced away from Todoroki's face sharply. "Before things get ugly."

Todoroki jumped to his feet. "What are you going to do?" he hissed.

Dabi smirked up at him, his head tipping to the side. "Relax," he said. "It's not so much what I'm going to do. It's what I've done."

Those words settled in fast. They caused him to lower himself back to the floor dazedly.

"Oh," he said. "You're the one… who sent the Nomu."

"Yeah. Thought that would've been obvious."

Todoroki sat quietly. He stared down at his hands.

Dabi's eyes were glued to him, trying to absorb as much information as he could by the troubled look on Todoroki's face.

"Do you hate me for that?" he asked in a low, bored tone.

It was a simple question.

There were no simple answers.

Not in this family, at least.

Guiltily, Todoroki's eyes slid away from Dabi's face. Then, summoning up all his courage, he glanced back at him.

"No," he said.

Dabi blinked rapidly, leaning back in shock.

"I hate you," Todoroki said matter-of-factly, "because you're a murderer."

"Oh," Dabi said. He blinked once more. "Well, that's not so bad."

"What?"

"I can respect you for hating me for that," Dabi said. "You want to be a hero, don't you, perfect brat?"

"Don't call me that," Todoroki growled.

"Then stop being one," Dabi taunted him. Then he grinned. "You really don't care that I did that to our old man?"

"I didn't say I didn't care," Todoroki said coolly. "I just said that I didn't hate you for it."

"Yeah. Okay. But, really. You hate him, don't you?"

Todoroki closed his eyes. He didn't want to say anything. It seemed like an incredible curse to answer such a question now, when his father was likely close to dying.

"Yeah. I thought so."

Dabi pushed himself to his feet. He shot Todoroki a wicked grin.

"I've got a proposition for you, brat," he said.

"I don't want to join you," Todoroki said dully.

Dabi snorted. "As if," he said. "If Bakugou wasn't going to join, a goody-two-shoes like you sure wouldn't."

"Uh… thanks…?"

"Anyway," Dabi said, waving offhandedly, "I want you to take me to see mom."

"You…" Todoroki couldn't quite believe it. He shook his head. "I'm sorry, what?"

"Mom. Our mother. I want to see her."

"Um…" Todoroki had to think very fast. "Will you let me go home if I say yes?"

"Sure," Dabi said with a roll of his eyes, "why not? You can go home, and I can go home, and we can pretend like this never happened."

"Aside from your little fratricide attempt," Todoroki said coolly, "of course."

"Of course," Dabi repeated with the same coolness to his tone.

Todoroki inhaled sharply. He shook his head and dragged himself to his feet. "Fine," he said. "I'll take you to see mom, but… she's going to be worried."

"I know."

"You look like shit."

"Oh," Dabi said, his smirk tight and bitter, "I know."

"Does she know what happened to you?"

"No, probably not."

"Are you going to tell her?"

"No," Dabi repeated, his eyes fixed on the wall to his left, "probably not."

"Fine." Todoroki nodded at Dabi curtly. "We'll play civil. For mom."

"For mom."

They made their plan quickly. Dabi led Todoroki into the kitchen, not trusting him to be alone, and took a wet towel to the cut on his forehead. Todoroki hissed and leaned back.

"You're a little baby," Dabi grumbled, gripping the top of Todoroki's head and turning it to the side. It wasn't as rough as Todoroki expected, and he had no idea how to feel about it. "Stop squirming, or mom will get worried."

"Have you… seen her?" Todoroki asked Dabi faintly. "At all?"

"I leave her flowers every now and again," Dabi said, scraping the rag along the side of Todoroki's head. "But… no. It's better that way."

"So why now?"

Dabi frowned. He did not answer. Instead he scrubbed a little harder, and Todoroki shoved him away.

"Come on," Todoroki snapped. "You can't just kidnap me and then decide you don't want to talk to me."

"I mean, I could toss you to the League," Dabi said, tossing the rag aside. "I'm sure Toga would love you."

At the mention of the unbearably creepy girl, Todoroki gave a short shudder.

"Ha." Dabi prodded Todoroki in the ribs. "Scared of girls, Shouto?"

"Just that one."

"Yeah, she's really got it out for that kid. Midoriya." Dabi had ripped open a bandaid and moved to stick it onto Todoroki's forehead. The intimate gesture of him smoothing back his hair and dressing a wound felt so familiar.

When he pulled his hand back, Todoroki snatched it with his right hand and sent ice skidding over his arm. Dabi yelped and tore his arm away, stumbling backwards.

"Don't," Todoroki said, glaring up at him.

"Touchy," Dabi remarked, a little breathlessly, as he melted the ice on his arm. "Noted. If I kill Midoriya, would you hate me?"

"I'd kill you."

"Ha." Dabi nodded approvingly. "Good. I look forward to that."

"Okay," Todoroki said, rolling his shoulder and wincing a bit as he remembered how hurt it had been that morning. "Let's go."

"Oh, not in those clothes," Dabi said.

"What?"

"You think you can just stroll around, looking like you do?"

"Have you looked in the mirror lately?" Todoroki asked irritably.

"Come on." Dabi nudged him toward a room on the left of the kitchen. It was sparsely decorated and uncannily neat, but there were a few framed posters of punk rock bands carefully hung on the walls and a row of guitar picks above the bed.

"I forgot you played," Todoroki remarked, leaning closer to look at them. They seemed customized.

"I stole those."

Todoroki exhaled sharply through his nose.

"Of course you did," he muttered.

Dabi shot him a smirk, and then tossed him a heavy military bomber. As Todoroki gripped it, he realized it must be real, and it appeared to be an antique. It was faded and weather beaten.

"Uh…"

"Here." Dabi slapped a baseball cap onto Todoroki's head. "Now no one will recognize you."

"How have you not been caught by now?" Todoroki grumbled, pulling on the jacket hesitantly.

"Because I'm good at being bad," Dabi said tossing on a hooded jacket and shooting Todoroki a dull glance. "Duh."

Then they headed out. Dabi steered Todoroki away from any significant street markers, pushing him into dark alleys that made him worry that maybe this man was going to kill him after all.

It was dusk. Todoroki tipped his head toward the sky, and he frowned.

"This is the only time I'm going to let you go without a fight," he warned Dabi.

"Sure. That's fine." Dabi stuffed his hands into his pockets and stared straight ahead. "This is the only time I won't try to kill you."

"Would you?" Todoroki asked curiously.

"What?"

"Kill me?"

Dabi paused. He glanced down at Todoroki, and his mouth twitched.

"Brat," he said. He started walking a bit faster, and Todoroki struggled to keep up. His legs were long.

"Wait," he gasped. "You didn't answer me!"

"Depends on you," Dabi said, "I guess. But I…" Dabi sighed, and he shook his head. "Nah. I don't want to hurt mom."

"Oh." Todoroki stared at Dabi uncertainly. "But… you know you already have, right?"

"Yeah."

"What is the point, then?"

"You ask way too many damn questions," Dabi said, "you know that?"

"Yeah, but…"

"Just stop."

The truth was, Todoroki was holding back. He had a million questions that bubbled up inside his brain, begging to be released. As they walked, and the evening chill passed through the alley, Todoroki tried to summon the image of his older brother as he had been ten years ago.

Dabi's nightmarish face overlapped with the memory, and Todoroki tore his eyes away from the man's face.

"You know this is going to hurt mom," Todoroki said, finally finding the words to express how anxious he felt, "right?"

Dabi's shoulders tensed up, but he passed off the clear discomfort as a shrug and tipped his head up toward the sky.

"Everything I do is going to hurt her," he said simply. "Just by existing, I've hurt her."

Todoroki was chilled by that remark. He didn't want to think too hard about it, but it was already beginning to form in his mind.

"That doesn't mean she doesn't love you," Todoroki said. "Hurting dad… hurting me…? She'll just blame herself."

"I know."

"Then why?" Todoroki gasped. "Why can't you just leave her alone?"

"Because she's my mother," Dabi said in his usual low drawl, his eyes stuck forward and his jaw tight. "I know it's only gonna get worse from here. You must sense it too. There's a big change coming, and the old heroes and villains are all gonna die out. Someday soon, it'll be you and me on every TV screen in Japan, and they'll write songs about how wonderful you are and how evil I am."

Todoroki couldn't help but gaze up at Dabi in mild horror.

"That's not how it should be," he said distantly.

"But it's how it will be. That's a promise."

"Can't you just walk away?" he found himself begging, sliding in front of Dabi and staring up at him confusedly. "You're not evil. You don't even want to hurt me! You just want revenge, and I get that, but can't you stop? Even just for mom's sake?"

Dabi's bright eyes, cold and intense, watched Todoroki's face with mild disgust crinkling on his scarred mouth.

"No," he spat. "I can't."

"Why?"

"Because I like this," Dabi snapped, shoving Todoroki back so hard he collided with the asphalt. "I like being bad. I like killing people."

"That's bullshit," Todoroki murmured, nursing hand which now sported an ugly looking scrape. "You're… you're a liar."

Dabi glared down at him. For a moment, as he glared, Todoroki feared he might actually lash out.

Instead, Dabi sidestepped him, and kept walking.

Todoroki let out a short breath. Then he gathered himself up and jumped to his feet.

"See?" Todoroki gasped. "If you were really evil, you would have hurt me."

"I did hurt you," Dabi pointed out, pointing towards his hand and then gesturing vaguely toward his head.

"A scrape and a cut?" Todoroki eyed Dabi disbelievingly. "Really? Do better."

"I have literally murdered people," Dabi said coolly. "Don't test me, kid."

"Yeah, well," Todoroki said, brushing past him, "that doesn't mean you're evil. It means you need to go to jail, and maybe see a therapist, but you're not evil."

"Oh, wow. Shut the fuck up."

Todoroki did not respond to that, feeling that it'd be a mistake. It was true, after all. Dabi was a murderer. He was a murderer, and Todoroki should hate him as much as he hated his father.

Maybe he felt so desperate to prove that Dabi wasn't so awful because in his heart, he could understand where Dabi came from.

If Todoroki looked into Dabi's face long enough, would he see his own face staring back?

Was that what his mother had been so afraid of, all those years ago?

"You're no better than him, then," Todoroki muttered indignantly.

Dabi glanced down at him, and then smiled wickedly.

"Oh, no," Dabi said, "I am so much worse."

This is a performance, Todoroki thought, it has to be. There's no way that he could… there's no way.

But Todoroki knew it was true. The murder, the brutality, the madness of it all.

Dabi was a villain.

Dabi was a murderer.

Dabi was the boy who had slipped into the bathroom in the middle of the night with a glass of water.

Dabi was the boy who had smoothed back his hair and bandaged wounds.

Dabi was the boy who had taught him how to dribble a football in secret, who had snuck him shaved ice when his father was not looking, who had punched Natsu in the mouth for making fun of a stammered word— the boy who had never whined, who never asked questions, who cleaned up his messes and took the blame for things that he didn't do.

It seemed so impossible.

Todoroki had not forgotten about him, but rather… really, it was easier to pretend, wasn't it?

He had spent years operating around the gaps in his heart where his mother and brother had been.

Maybe the only way to heal himself was to give Dabi a chance.

After all, he could sympathize.

He understood.

Even if it hurt, even if it was terrible, he had to recognize that what had happened to Dabi— what Dabi was, what he became— that was an echo of Todoroki himself.

It was like staring into a magic fountain, asking thrice for his future, and seeing three possible outcomes.

A haughty, abrasive, abusive hero, a ruined, reckless, rueful villain, or something in-between.

"Why mom?" he finally asked. "Why not Natsu? Or Fuyumi?"

"Natsu will hate me," Dabi said firmly. "He's always been that way."

Dabi waved at that, a suggestion hanging between them that was left unspoken. It felt too familiar, like he was speaking to Midoriya or Iida or Kirishima.

Because of course he understood what that way meant.

"Yes," he said hesitantly.

Natsu was the most calm, most casual, most emotive and fun loving of all of them. He liked dogs, and he liked taking runs, and he liked laughing, and sleeping, and old movies, and he liked to smile.

He also liked to be brutally honest.

Todoroki had always thought Natsu would make a good hero. He was like Midoriya, or that third year, Togata. He had a natural draw to him, a natural charisma and a natural moral compass. He hated their father as much as Todoroki did, and he hated himself more, probably, for being an idle watcher during the duration of their childhoods.

Todoroki didn't know him all that well, but he knew this well enough.

"Fuyumi…" Dabi sighed, and he scratched the back of his neck. "She might accept me out of obligation, because she's good like that, but I think she'd try too hard."

"She has a big heart," Todoroki said defensively.

"Yeah," Dabi agreed, "and I don't want it to get broken, you hear me?"

Todoroki chewed on his tongue to keep from asking why it even mattered, if he was so evil and cruel.

"Why did you have to go and tell me, then?" Todoroki muttered.

"Because this is not the last time we'll see each other," Dabi said.

"Great," Todoroki muttered, "my whole hero career is going to be chasing you around."

Dabi's lips twisted into a smirk, and he turned his face away silently, neither confirming nor denying anything.

They walked in silence for a few more blocks. Dabi shoved Todoroki's head down as they passed beneath a CCTV camera, his fingers locking around the back of his neck.

Todoroki realized he was trying to appear more threatening.

"What should I tell Fuyumi and Natsu?" he asked.

"I don't know. Whatever you want." Dabi steered him toward a crowd, his fingers oddly cold against Todoroki's neck. "It's not really about them."

"Don't you miss them?" Todoroki frowned. "You were close. Closer to them than to me."

Dabi didn't answer. They settled into an uncomfortable silence, and eventually Dabi unwound his fingers from the back of Todoroki's neck, folded his arms across his chest, and turned his face away.

Eventually, after making some more small talk and arguing lightly with one another, they reached their mother's hospital. Dabi stood before it, his eyes darkening. It looked like he might whirl around and bolt down the road.

"Are you scared?" Todoroki asked.

"Are you fucking kidding?"

Todoroki almost smiled. He looked down at his shoes, and he realized suddenly that it was probably a good thing this had happened. He had spent those precious few minutes after watching the news that morning fending off a panic attack, and while Dabi hardly helped with his anxiety, there was something comforting about… well, not feeling entirely alone in his apathy.

Maybe, though, he should have thought to call Fuyumi or Natsuo first.

They entered the building, and Todoroki stepped forward, taking the lead for the first time. Dabi followed close behind. The woman at the desk— a sweet, middle-aged woman three eyes and long, silver-struck hair— spotted him and smiled wide.

"Ah, Todoroki," she gasped, all three of her eyes lighting up, "you're here? You just missed your siblings—"

She cut herself off abruptly her eyes flashing fearfully toward Dabi's face. Todoroki felt guilty for putting her in this situation, and he bowed his head as low as he could as Dabi's fingers found the back of his neck once more.

"Ms. Hina," he said, his voice thick, "I'd like to see my mother."

Ms. Hina stared at him. Her mouth parted open, and her eyes glazed over as she gazed at him. There was a distinct uncertainty to her expression, like she was torn between running and calling the police right then and there.

Todoroki sucked in a sharp breath. Dabi's fingers, as gnarled and scarred as they were, were strong. They bit into his skin.

"Please," he gasped.

Then, shakily, Ms. Hina lifted a clipboard and set it down before him.

"P-please sign in," she said.

Todoroki lifted his head, snatched the pen from her fingers and signed his name sloppily on the form. As his eyes trailed along the names before his own, he noticed Fuyumi's neat, gentle scrawl. She had been there that morning.

He swallowed a lump in his throat, wrote down the time and date, and slid the clipboard back to her.

Then, without warning, Dabi wheeled him away.

"What are you doing?" Todoroki hissed at him as he was half-pushed, half led down a hallway. "I thought you wanted to be discrete about this!"

"Yeah, that only works on the street," Dabi said miserably. "It's kinda hard to hide this face in a one-on-one situation."

Todoroki sucked in a deep breath. His scar itched in a way that reminded him of his childhood, when it had been new and raw.

"Yeah. Okay." He nodded stiffly before whacking his arm away. "Just know you don't have much time here. I give it ten minutes, tops."

"You want me to get away?" Dabi taunted him. There was something strange and stinted about the way he grinned. "Maybe there's hope for you yet."

"I was about to say the same to you," Todoroki said sharply. He marched forward angrily, his steps heavy, and then he remembered where he was all at once, and he relaxed his posture and his face and his movements. Then he shot a glare at Dabi. "Be kind. She might be upset."

"I know."

Todoroki could only give him a hard stare before shaking his head and taking a step toward the door.

His mother was sitting by the window as he slid the door open. She had a book in her hands, and upon hearing him, she looked up.

Her brown eyes, ignited by a warm yellow lamp beside her, widened a bit at the sight of him, and a smile broke across her lips.

"Shouto," she said softly. Her fingers tightened on the cover of her book, and he knew she was anxious, so he took a step inside and smiled at her as best he could.

"Mom," he said, "I brought someone."

She reached for him, and he knew she must feel scared or uncertain, because when he reached and grasped her hand she squeezed it so hard he thought his bones might break.

Dabi stepped into the room, slouching a bit as though his head might hit the doorframe, and he slid the door shut behind him. He stood sheepishly as their mother stared at him, her brow furrowing confusedly, her mouth growing taut, her eyes glazing over.

Then they widened, and she raised a shaky hand to her mouth.

"Uh…" Dabi averted his gaze. "Hi."

Their mother pressed her knuckles to her lips. Todoroki held her other hand in both of his, staring intently at her face.

"Mom," he said, giving her hand a reassuring squeeze, "do you know who—?"

"Yes," she said immediately, her voice small and sharp even as she spoke into her palm.

Well. That made things easier.

Dabi did not move closer. He held his hands up in front of him so she saw that he was unarmed, and he slumped a little.

"Sorry," he said. His voice was a little muffled as he chewed on his lips. "I should've come sooner."

Very hesitantly, their mother lowered her hand. Her eyes were glistening.

"It's alright," she breathed. "It's alright. Come here."

Dabi's eyes shifted to her face, and Todoroki saw something spark inside them that he had never seen before.

Fear.

Paralyzing fear.

He stood there like they weren't on a time limit. Like Ms. Hina hadn't immediately notified authorities the moment Todoroki had been dragged away.

"Come on," Todoroki said, waving him over. "Are you going to make her wait all day? She's a busy woman." He paused to search his mother's face, and she blinked up at him in alarm. "Right, mom?"

Her lips trembled, but they slipped into a small smile nonetheless.

"Right," she said shakily.

So Dabi blinked, rolled his shoulders back, and stalked forward. His long limbs looked gangly and awkward in this light, and he looked less monstrous than rather pathetic and strange.

"Hi, mom," he said. His voice was so quiet, it was barely over a whisper. He lifted a scarred hand to the back of his neck, exposing that ugly scarring to the light.

They stayed silent, the three of them, bathing in the glow of the yellow lamplight, and Todoroki thought they might as well be laid to rest here. It was all they could hope for. At least here, now, in this moment, they were a family. At least they were together.

I'll save him, Todoroki thought, staring up at Dabi's shadowy face. I'll save him from himself.

Their mother's hand lifted slowly, and her movements were jerky enough that Todoroki found himself hovering over her protectively. He looked down, and he saw a single tear had spilled from her left eye, and it glistened on her cheek.

Dabi knelt down before her, and he bowed his head. Her fingers grazed his cheek, running over his bumpy, discolored scars, and over the protruding silver staples, and over his waxy, taut skin. Her lip caught between her teeth, and she shook her head.

"I don't… understand," she breathed.

Dabi took her hand delicately. "You don't want to know," he said darkly.

"Yes," she said, her eyes glued to him, "I do. Did— did he—?"

Dabi's shoulders sloped. He leaned into their mother's touch for just a moment, his eyes fluttering closed. Then he pulled away.

Todoroki wrapped his arms around his mother's shoulders as fat tears welled up in her eyes.

"I'm sorry," she whispered.

"Don't be," Dabi said. "My outside matches my inside now."

A small, sharp sound escaped her lips, and it sounded more or less like a strangled sob. Todoroki shot Dabi a glare.

"What?" he muttered. "It's true."

"You don't have to say it," Todoroki said.

"I won't lie to her," he replied, focusing on their mother's face. "You hear me? All the filth and all the scum in the whole wide world, and you're the bright, pure center of it all."

Their mother shook her head mutely.

"It's true," Dabi said. "I'm part of that. That scum. I'm not a good person."

She shook her head more fervently.

"I don't want you to know what I've done. I don't think it matters much. You don't deserve a shitty, good for nothing son like me."

She took a deep, shuddering breath, and her hand wilted in the air.

"Did you do it?" she asked softly.

Todoroki and Dabi shared equal glances of alarm.

When Dabi didn't answer, their mother's shoulders slumped, and she took a deep, shaky breath.

"Tou—" she began.

"That's not who I am anymore," he cut in, sharp enough to make her flinch. She was shaking in Todoroki's arms. "I'm sorry. I know it doesn't mean much, and I know you're disappointed, but this is who I am."

She stared up at him. Big, fat tears were rolling down her cheeks. Very slowly, she shrugged Todoroki's hands off her shoulders. She leaned forward, and she took Dabi's face in both of her hands.

"You are not a disappointment," she said, her thumbs grazing the staples on his cheeks. He stared at her with wild eyes, like an animal caught in a trap. "You are my son. You are my beautiful, beautiful son."

Todoroki wrung his hands in his lap, and he turned away sharply. If he kept staring, he might begin to cry as well, and he couldn't cry in front of Dabi.

He was still a villain.

They were still enemies.

Yet everything had changed so suddenly, and Todoroki wasn't so sure.

"I'm sorry," Dabi murmured. He lowered his head, and he let their mother hold it gingerly. "I'm sorry."

Todoroki glanced out the window. It was not barred, but it scarcely opened.

Then Dabi pulled back. He stood up suddenly.

"Shouto and I will be rivals," he warned his mother.

"You always were," she said calmly.

"I might hurt him," Dabi said. He didn't look at Todoroki then. Instead, his eyes flashed away from both of them, as though a shade of shame had swept over him.

Their mother stared at him. Then, very unsteadily, she pushed herself to her feet.

"Mom," Todoroki gasped, reaching out.

She grasped his outstretched hand, and then she snatched Dabi's. She held them both tightly, and then pulled them together.

"You two," she said, her eyes soft and glimmering, "are two bright stars. Like suns orbiting around one another. I always thought you two were similar. You burn so bright."

"We're just a black hole waiting to happen," Dabi said miserably. "It's only a matter of time. We'll just eat each other."

"No." Their mother stepped back. She smiled up at Dabi. "You will stabilize each other."

"I don't think any of that is how astronomy works," Todoroki mumbled.

Dabi didn't listen. He swept down and kissed their mother's hair, pulling back fast and leaping onto the window sill. He crouched for a moment, and then his cold eyes flickered to Todoroki's.

"I guess," he said, "this is it, kid."

"No." Todoroki leaned back. He stared at Dabi's face, wondering how he had ever missed it the first time. "We'll see each other soon. Brother."

Dabi's gnarled lips twisted into a grin. He kicked out the screen of their mother's window, wedged it open as far as it would go, and then slipped out of it with the deftness of a contortionist.

His mother collapsed in her chair, her face in her hands.

"Mom," he gasped, kneeling beside her. "Mom, it's okay. It's okay."

She shook her head mutely. She kept shaking it, even as he tried to soothe her, even as he rubbed her hands, and her back, and offered to read to her, and sat beside her.

She was still shaking her head when the door burst open a minute or so later.

Todoroki raised his eyes, his hands tight around his mother's, as she stared at the wall and shook her head.

"You just missed him," he informed Aizawa curtly. Then he went back to soothing his mother.

Aizawa stood in the doorway, his eyes turning back to their usual dark shade and his brow furrowing confusedly as he stepped into the room. Behind him were Midnight and Mic, looking all too serious, and Todoroki sighed.

"What happened?" Aizawa demanded.

Todoroki rubbed his mother's hand gently. She jumped at the sound of Aizawa's voice, and suddenly the reverie was broken.

"Mom," Todoroki said gently. "Mom. I have to go."

Her eyes glazed over. She stared at the wall, yet he knew she was completely lucid.

"It's my fault," she said.

Todoroki winced. He shook his head fiercely.

"No," he gasped, bowing his head. "It's not. It never was."

"But…" She turned her face slowly, facing him with horror glimmering in her eyes. "If I had… if I had just been there…"

"No."

"If I had been there, would he…? Would this be happening?" She blinked rapidly, and Todoroki watched her sink into her chair. "Would any of this be happening?"

"This is not your fault," Todoroki told her firmly. "None of it. Not him." He gestured toward the open window. "Not me." He gestured vaguely toward his scar. "None of it."

She didn't answer. She frowned at her hands, and Todoroki stood up. He gripped her hands tightly.

"Before I leave, I need you to say it," he said.

She looked up at him. The tears were glistening on her eyelashes, and her lower lip trembled.

"Shouto…" she sighed, closing her eyes.

"Please say it," he said.

She took a deep breath. It rattled in her chest for a moment before she looked up at him again.

"It is not my fault," she said. Her voice was small, and faint, and entirely unsure.

It was a start.

"Keep saying it," he said. He squeezed her hands, and then let go, turning away toward Aizawa. They stared at one another tiredly. "Is… is my father…?"

Aizawa's eyes darted from Todoroki to his mother and then back. He gave a curt nod.

"He's stable," he said.

Todoroki grimaced. He nodded, however, and stepped forward.

"Take me to him," he said.

Aizawa frowned at him, and he looked as though he might object. Before he could, however, a lanky, skeletal man poked his head in between Midnight and Mic.

"Alright," he said casually, earning a frustrated glower from Aizawa.

"All Might?" Todoroki uttered faintly. Behind him, his mother perked up a bit. "What are you doing here?"

"I came to be sure you were safe!" All Might jerked a finger in Todoroki's direction, and it was long and thin. "You did run off and get kidnapped. That's a hard thing for anyone to shake off, especially so soon after a tragedy."

"Oh," Todoroki said vacantly. "Right."

"Kidnapped?" his mother asked softly.

Todoroki whirled to face her, panic rising in his chest. Her expression was stricken, and when she looked at him, her eyes shined.

"It's nothing, mom," he said. "Nothing happened."

"He said he would hurt you," his mother whispered.

Damn. Todoroki and Dabi… they were going to have to exchange some harsher words next time.

"It's okay," he said gently. "He wouldn't kill me. It's okay, mom."

The heroes before them stood silently, and Todoroki could feel them absorbing his words uncertainly. He pressed his lips together and squared his shoulders. He had to be strong today. He had to be strong for all of them.

"I'll see you soon, mom," he said, sending her a small, reassuring smile.

When she stared at him, her eyes big and her lips trembling, guilt swamped him. He had done this. He had agreed to bring his brother here, and now she was terrified.

Todoroki lifted his hand slowly and rested it on the table to his right. The moment his fingers hit the wood, ice sprouted from his fingers, interlocking and weaving together like organic matter.

He plucked the ice from the crystalline roots he'd attached to the table, and he brought it to his mother very carefully. She stared at it as he offered it out.

"Oh," she said, reaching out and grasping the ice rose. Her eyes glimmered, and a faint smile stretched on her lips. "Shouto…"

"I'll be back," he promised.

She looked up at him. Her fingers were tight around the stem of the ice.

Then she nodded firmly.

"Okay, Shouto," she said. "I— I will see you soon."

Todoroki nodded right back, and then he turned sharply, faced his heroes and his teachers, and he brushed right past them.


The brown façade and green grass were burnt orange in the dying daylight. Everything around her seemed to be burnt, glowing like flames, and she lowered herself into a short crouch to get a better look at a wilting tiger lily. She cupped its petals in her hands, examining the undersides of each of them, and then decided it was not getting the water or sunlight required.

"Yumi," Natsuo called, poking his head out the window above her. "Dad's been taken to the hospital."

Fuyumi blinked. She dragged her watering can closer to her side.

"Ah," she said.

Natsuo stared down at her. The sunlight had burned his pale hair a crisp reddish orange, and his brown eyes were struck gold.

"Should we leave him?" he asked.

It was such an innocent, casual question. She hated how easy it was for him to just spout out the truth of what they were all thinking, because she had so much trouble addressing it, and Shouto…

Well, he was repressing a lot more than the rest of them. That wasn't healthy, but she knew well enough that nothing about their family was healthy or well adjusted, so she let it slide.

"Natsu…" she sighed, watering her flowers with a frown. "Stable— it doesn't mean he's okay."

"So?"

Fuyumi set the watering can aside, and she shot him a sharp glance.

"We need to be better than him," she said.

"We already are."

"Actions speak louder than words," she chided.

"Sitting still, looking pretty, and not doing a damn thing is an action all on its own, sis," he said.

Yes. They both knew all about that, didn't they?

"Maybe we should go see mom again," she suggested.

"So she can get worked up about a guy who triggered her mental breakdown?" Natsuo snorted. "Not to mention Shouto."

"We don't have to say anything about that."

"Of course we do," Natsuo said, resting his chin in his arms and staring out into the yard. "Isn't it worse if we pretend nothing's wrong? Mom knows when we keep stuff from her, and if we didn't tell the truth, she'd think it's all her fault for some reason or another."

"Telling her would make her think it's all her fault somehow."

Natsuo smiled down at her lazily.

"You know how I feel, Yumi," he said. "I don't want to see him."

She couldn't find it in herself to fault him, or to become angry, or to say something unkind. She knelt among her flowers, feeling more and more the deep chasm between herself and her brothers, and how she had never done much to mend it. Letting them go, letting them lead their lives how they wanted… where had that gotten them?

It wasn't like she hadn't tried. When they'd been young, she had tried to step into the void that their mother had filled, but all it had gotten them was a recluse, a runaway, and a chronic responsibility dodger.

"Well," she said, rising to her feet and dusting off her dark pants, "I'm going with or without you."

"Idiot." Natsuo groaned into his hands. His eyes slid away from her face. "He doesn't care about you, so why should you care for him…?"

"It's the right thing to do."

"No it's not."

"I'm not going to argue with you about this," she said, swooping down and snatching her watering can. "I won't. Sometimes, Natsu, you have to suck it up and be an adult."

"Only if you don't have a dad to be an adult for you," Natsuo said bitterly.

Fuyumi stared at him. She took a deep breath, and she turned to walk away.

Her phone began to buzz in her pocket.

Natsuo jerked upright, half dangling out the window as he gazed at her. His mouth was slackened, his eyes big and fearful. They'd had too much bad news today, and it was straining him.

She pulled her phone out of her pocket, glanced at the number, and closed her eyes.

Okay, she thought, pressing the phone to her ear, okay, I can do this.

"Hello?" she greeted, her voice much more relaxed and deliberate than it had been earlier that day.

"Hi, Fuyumi."

Her breath hitched in her throat. The watering can slipped from her fingers and toppled over, water splashing over her shoes and ankles.

"Shouto?" she gasped, her fingers latching onto the front of her shirt. Natsuo lurched forward, vaulting over the side of the window and landing in the grass in a crouch. "Oh my god, are you okay? What happened? Are you hurt? Where are you? Are you alright? What do you need—"

"Fuyumi," Shouto said sharply. "I am fine. I promise. Please don't worry about me."

Natsuo pawed at her arm, mouthing for her to give him the phone. She glared at him, and batted him off.

"Not worry?" she breathed. "Shouto… how could I not worry about you? I always worry about you!"

She heard herself say it, and she realized maybe she never said it enough. Guilt was a tiny pinprick in her heart that was letting blood leak out slowly. Her lungs were filling up with the things left unsaid, the things that had been hounding her for hours as she'd paced around the house listlessly, making calls, cleaning out the fridge, mopping the floors, disinfecting the countertops and the bathroom sink and the leather upholstery, watering her garden— yet all the while, the guilt was a hole in her heart that grew bigger, and the helpless feeling that she had let the people she cared for the most slip through her fingers without so much as an I Love You or I Miss You or I Need You made her feel sick to her stomach.

Shouto was quiet for a long time. Natsuo allowed her this moment, staring at her inquisitively as the silence stretched on. When no one spoke, he leaned against her and shouted into the phone, "Don't scare us like that again, Shouto! You almost had Fuyumi crying!"

"Not so loud!" Fuyumi gasped, shoving him away. "Also, no! I didn't. I didn't cry!"

"She almost did, Shouto, I swear!"

"Enough," Fuyumi grumbled, planting her hand on his face and pushing him into a tall rose bush. "Enough out of you."

"Ah! Yumi, that hurt!"

On the other end of the line, she heard Shouto take a deep, shuddering breath.

"Natsuo's there?" he asked quietly.

"Yeah. He came in this morning."

"Oh." Shouto sounded a little lost. That made her anxious, and she chewed nervously on her lower lip. The skin was peeling again, and she twisted a loose filament of dry skin between her incisors. "That's good. I'm glad. I'm… sorry. I didn't mean to make you worry."

"No, don't be sorry," she sighed, running her fingers through her hair. "I'm just happy to hear your voice."

"Me too!" Natsuo chirped, bouncing back beside her. "Though Fuyumi won't let me hear you."

Fuyumi scowled at him. She put the phone on speaker, and she glowered at him as he gave her a smug, satisfied smile.

"Brat," she said, kicking his shin playfully.

"What was that?" Shouto asked.

"I said Fuyumi wouldn't put the phone on speaker, but now it is. Hi, Shouto! I'm glad you're okay and not dead in a ditch somewhere!"

"Natsu!" Fuyumi smacked him over the head. "I'm going to kill you!"

"Though I guess I might be dead in a ditch somewhere, if Fuyumi has her way."

"Away with you," Fuyumi said, wheeling him around and shoving him toward the door. "We don't know what he's just been through, you inconsiderate little beast."

"It's fine," Shouto piped up, sounding the tiniest bit amused. "I haven't heard him in a while. I… I'm glad. That you both are okay."

"Why wouldn't we be?" Fuyumi asked uncertainly. She and Natsuo shared a glance of equal and desperate confusion.

"Ah. I don't know. I'm sorry."

"No, Shouto," she sighed, "don't apologize, just…"

"Just tell us," Natsuo gasped. "We're okay, we just need to know what's wrong!"

Shouto was silent once more, and a low voice on the other end of the phone asked him if he was okay.

"I'm okay, All Might," he said.

"All Might?" Fuyumi repeated faintly.

"Wha…? Really?" Natsuo's eyebrows shot up, and his face split into a bright grin. "Oh, I forgot All Might works at U.A.! How cool! Shouto must be freaking out, All Might was always his favorite!"

"Ahh… Natsu, keep your voice down," Shouto said quickly, embarrassment leaking into his tone. Fuyumi couldn't help but chuckle into her hand as Natsuo laughed. "Anyway… if it's okay with you two— really, it's good that Natsuo's home—there's something important that I have to tell you."

"As long as it's not dire," Fuyumi sighed, "I'll take anything."

"You're not going to like it."

Fuyumi met Natsuo's eyes once more. They stared at one another for a few seconds before he swallowed hard and looked away.

"What do you mean?" Fuyumi asked.

"It's… it's hard to explain. I don't want to say it over the phone."

"If you come home," Natsuo offered, "then we can—"

"No, I'm on the way to the hospital right now."

Natsuo's expression hardened. He leaned forward so his mouth was closer to the receiver.

"Mom's hospital?" he asked hopefully.

"No."

Natsuo exhaled sharply.

"Damn it, Shouto," he muttered. His hands were clenched into a fist, and he raised one to his forehead. "Fine. Only for you."

"What Natsuo means," Fuyumi said hastily, "is we'll be there soon."

"Okay. Thank you, Fuyumi. Natsuo."

"Don't thank us," Natsuo said sharply. "There's nothing to thank us for."

"That's right," Fuyumi said.

"Oh." Shouto paused, and she could hear him shifting on the other line, like he was uncomfortable. "Okay. So… I'll see you soon?"

"Yes. Absolutely." Then, after thinking quickly, and sensing that Shouto was about to hang up, she added, "Shouto?"

"Hm? Yeah?"

"We love you."

She heard the sharp intake of breath on the other end of the line, and she waited patiently. It hurt that he had to pause at all to take it in, and for the first time that day she truly, fiercely understood how much Natsuo hated their father for what he had done to their brother.

"Oh." He sounded strange. She could almost hear the gears turning in his head as he processed it. "Thanks. I mean—!" The boy swore, and then quickly apologized to his teachers. "Sorry. I love you too. Both of you."

Fuyumi relaxed. She allowed herself to smile, and she and Natsuo leaned against one another. His hand rested on her head.

"Be safe," Natsuo chided.

"I will."

"Listen to your elders," Fuyumi warned.

"Okay."

"Don't talk to dad until we get there," Natsuo said sharply.

That earned of scoff.

"No promises," Shouto said darkly.

"Well," Fuyumi said stiffly, "don't kill him, at least."

"Not until we get there so we can see it!" Natsuo gasped.

That earned a real, true laugh from their little brother. Natsuo's face broke into the most delighted smile she'd ever seen.

"Right. I'll keep the murder to a minimum."

"I bet his teachers think we're crazy," Natsuo whispered to her.

"Hush," Fuyumi said. "Okay, Shouto. See you in a bit."

"Yeah. Got it. Bye, guys."

He hung up. They both stood in the garden, dusk settling over them comfortably. Fuyumi pressed her phone to her chest, and she exhaled in relief.

"I really thought…" she said softly.

Natsuo nodded. "Yeah," he murmured.

"If we lost him…" Fuyumi stared hard at her flowers, her vision fluttering in and out of focus. "I don't know, Natsu. I don't know what I would have done."

"I know. I feel the same way."

"Are we lousy siblings?" she asked. "We never helped him. Either of them."

"Or mom," Natsuo said miserably. He glanced up at the sky, and he shrugged. "I think about it a lot. I feel guilty about it. But, you know, we were just kids. My therapist says—"

"You go to a therapist?"

"You don't?"

"Well…" Fuyumi frowned. "I don't know. I never thought I needed one."

"We all need one. Dad most of all."

"That's an insult to mentally ill people everywhere," Fuyumi said, unable to keep the tinge of bitterness from her tone.

Natsuo grinned down at her.

"Love you, sis," he said tossing his arm over her shoulder and leading the way toward the house.


Todoroki handed the phone back to Aizawa and bowed his head under the scrutiny of his teachers. They had all asked him, repeatedly, what had happened, and he had said, repeatedly, he'd explain after speaking to his father.

They were all getting impatient. So was he.

"Your siblings," All Might said conversationally. Mic and Midnight had gone back to U.A. to tell everyone that the situation was under control. "They seem nice."

"They're loud," Todoroki said, sinking into his seat.

"Not much like you, then," All Might pressed on.

"No."

"Were they not interested in becoming heroes?"

Todoroki clenched his jaw, and he stared down at his hands miserably. Heroes. Villains. Average human beings. He wondered if Dabi would give up everything in an instant to be like their siblings. Todoroki certainly would.

"They would be good at it," Todoroki said, cutting into All Might's attempt to settle any awkwardness between them. "Natsuo… is a lot like Midoriya. Or Togata Mirio. He's good at making people smile, and he doesn't beat around the truth."

"Oh?" All Might sounded truly curious, and that hurt.

"Fuyumi is a little shy, but… I don't know. Maybe." Todoroki rubbed his hands together. They were callused and chapped, and palms scratched against one another. "She cares a lot."

"Did they not want to become heroes?" Aizawa asked tentatively. He didn't like prying, and Todoroki respected him for that, but this was the most they'd gotten him to talk since he had left his mother's room, and they were going to milk that for what it was worth.

"I think Natsuo did when he was little."

"What happened?" Aizawa frowned. "Certainly with your father's influence—"

"It was my father's influence that turned him off it," Todoroki said coolly.

They both sat in silence, exchanging glances but never acting on them. Instead they sat in silence for a few more minutes before Todoroki leaned against the car window and closed his eyes.

"Young Shouto," All Might said gently, "the rift between you and your father… it couldn't be that all your siblings feel distanced from him?"

"All Might," Todoroki said tiredly, his eyes still closed, "every single one of us hate him. The only thing that varies is our degree of conviction."

This silence was much more tense than the last. Todoroki couldn't find it in him to care.

"Then this morning…" Aizawa said. "What happened?"

"I told you. I just wanted to be alone. Go for a walk. Clear my head."

"I'm sorry, then," Aizawa said, bowing his head low. "I truly thought—"

"It's okay," Todoroki sighed. "You were right to stop me. I was acting… I guess I was acting childish, and it wasn't right of me to run away like that."

"Hate is such a strong word," All Might said conversationally, his hands doing most of the talking. "Your father… I know it must have been hard growing up. He probably wasn't around much—"

"All Might," Todoroki said, opening his eyes and glancing at the man sharply. "Thank you for your concern, but with all due respect, you have no idea what growing up with that man was like."

That shut All Might up so quickly that Todoroki heard his teeth click.

The silence rang out between them, and the tension skyrocketed. No one said another goddamn word.

When they got to the hospital, Todoroki waited as patiently as he could as Aizawa spoke to the lady at the desk. He was thinking about Dabi, and the images, and how he did not know the whole story, and of course Dabi was a villain and he could be lying, but the truth of it all was that Todoroki was more inclined to believe a villain like Dabi than his own father. He probably would have believed him even if he didn't turn out to be his long lost older brother who had mysteriously never made contact again after being sent off to boarding school in the country.

How had none of them suspected anything?

When they brought him to his father's room, Aizawa paused. He and All Might glanced at each other.

"We'll wait outside," Aizawa said.

"Thank you," Todoroki said. He took a deep breath, stared at the door, and then pushed it open.

His father was sitting up in bed, looking a little pale, a bandage around one eye and stuck to his chin. He took up so much of the bed that the blanket looked like an overstuffed sausage casing.

His one visible eye sparkled at the sight of him.

"Shouto!" he boomed, his arms folding across his chest. "Come to see me…? Did you see me fight? I put my all into that fight, I—"

"Shut up."

Todoroki's face contorted. Rage trickled through him slowly, his fingers trembling on the door. Shut it, he thought. Shut it before you do anything else.

He could feel All Might and Aizawa's eyes on his back. They had moved away from the door, but paused upon hearing him snap at his father.

He tossed the door hard, not bothering to check if it closed, and then he took a shaky step forward. Then another. His shoes clapped loudly against the floor as he stomped closer and closer to his father, his shoulders quaking.

"This is your own damn fault," Todoroki told him firmly.

His father's eye flashed with anger, and he struggled to sit further upright, wincing a bit as he pulled at some stitching or another.

"Excuse me?" His father exhales sharply through his nose. "I fought that Nomu… I fought my damnedest, and I thought only of you—"

"Shut up!" Todoroki cried, his heartrate leaping as he shrunk under his father's gaze. "I don't care! I don't care what you thought you were doing, whatever you were fighting for, I don't care! I can't believe you!"

"I'm tired of this attitude," his father said gravely. "I realize— I understand, I made some… mistakes—"

"No!" Todoroki heard his voice raising several octaves, and it broke pitifully. He was shaking so badly, and the rage he felt was all encompassing. "Shut up— will you stop talking for a minute? Will you listen to me for once in your goddamn life, and understand that I cannot stand to be around you? Do you even know what a mistake is? A mistake is burning a hole in your favorite shirt because the iron is too hot. A mistake is forgetting to set your alarm when you have to be up early the next day. A mistake is not isolating your children— beating them—" He felt All Might and Aizawa at his back. He knew they were there, and that they were listening, but he realized now that he just didn't care. "—causing your wife irreparable psychological damage—"

"Your mother was sick," his father snapped. "She snapped. She was not fit to raise anyone! You blame me for these things? After what she did to you?"

"She was scared of me because I reminded her of you!" Todoroki snarled, angry tears burning his eyes.

"You were a child. How could a child scare a grown woman?"

"Because you tortured her for years, physically and psychologically!" Todoroki could hear the tears in his own voice, but he knew he couldn't stop. He knew it. It hurt, and he knew it, but he had to say it. Someone had to say it. Someone. Anyone.

He wished Dabi was here.

"I did not torture her," his father scoffed. "What lies has she been filling your head with?"

"Why do you think she'd say anything to me about you?" Todoroki whispered. "She and I don't talk about you. Though I guess you can't imagine that maybe we might be perfectly happy without you in our lives, huh?"

"The mistakes that I've made, Shouto— you need to understand why—"

"Was it a mistake when you broke my leg?" Todoroki demanded. "When Fuyumi had that bandage on for two full weeks because you popped all those blood vessels in her arm— yeah I remember that, because I wasn't allowed to see her, and I remember I was scared. What about when Natsuo had to tell everyone he'd fallen out of tree because he had a black eye? Or how about the fact that you burned Touya's entire body."

That stunned him into silence. He stared at Todoroki with one huge eye, and his mouth fell open.

"Are you even going to deny it?" Todoroki asked.

His father's jaw clenched. He had the social grace to bow his head shamefully, and Todoroki shook his head slowly. He shook it, and he felt like he might throw up.

Instead, he laughed.

"You really… you really did that to him?" Todoroki blinked rapidly, tears burning in his eyes. "I thought I might be sick, for believing that it was true without really thinking, but… you're not even going to deny it. Do you have any idea what you've done?"

"That," his father breathed, "was a mistake. We fixed it."

"How? How the hell did you fix something like that?"

"Skin grafts. It… it was painful, and expensive, but…"

"So you nearly burned your child to death, slapped some new skin on him, and then dumped him in a boy's home five hours away?" Todoroki couldn't help but sneer at that. He clapped thrice. "Bravo, Father. You just created a murderous villain."

His father stared at him. His eye went wide, then it narrowed sharply.

"What?" he hissed.

"Did you think I was being hyperbolic when I said this is all your fault?" Todoroki snapped, gesturing to his father's hospital bed with a sweep of his arm. "This is all your fault."

"You're lying," his father said sharply. "You think this is funny, Shouto? Your brother—"

"Is a fucked up murderer, yeah," Todoroki said, folding his arms across his chest. "Yet somehow, he's still a better conversationalist than you. Go figure."

The door slid open— he realized it must have been nearly closed, which was better than it hanging open, as he had initially suspected, and All Might took a tentative step forward.

"Young Shouto," he said, looking into Todoroki's eyes. There was a degree of empathy, sadness, guilt, and despair there that Todoroki had not expected. Certainly not in All Might's sunken eyes. "Your siblings just arrived."

"Oh. Thank you." Todoroki's energy seemed to have been zapped out of him. He nodded quickly, and then bowed his head respectfully. "Please tell them I'll be right out."

"Right…" All Might's gaze shifted to his father. It hardened, and then the skeletal man shuffled from the room.

Todoroki exhaled, and he drew his hands over his head, dragging his fingers through his hair and blinking rapidly. The tears were in his eyes, and they would not go away.

"He heard all of that," Todoroki whispered.

His father was quiet. Then, haughtily, he said, "I don't care what All Might thinks of me."

Todoroki swallowed hard, the lump in his throat only tightening. He shook his head.

"Go to hell, dad," he said quietly.

He left without looking back at his father once.

Once he was in the hallway, the door shut behind him, he leaned heavily against it and exhaled shakily. He took a few deep breaths, blinking rapidly, and he squeezed his eyes shut as Aizawa took a step forward. There was a lot of regret written on his tired face, and Todoroki did not want to see it.

"Todoroki," he said, his voice very small. "I— I think we all owe you… and your siblings… an apology."

"No." He shook his head. "Don't. It's… it's not like it will change anything. I never told anyone about it for a reason."

"You could have told someone," Aizawa told him gently. "You know you could have told me or All Might, and we would have believed you?"

"I didn't," Todoroki admitted, opening his eyes and staring at the floor. "I didn't think anyone would believe me."

Aizawa watched him for a few moments. Then, very gingerly, he placed a hand on his shoulder.

"I am a very good listener," he said hesitantly. He considered Todoroki's face for a moment, and he tilted his head. "You know, you might find yourself getting along with Eri."

"Eri…? The little girl Midoriya saved?" Todoroki blinked up at Aizawa, and his brow furrowed. "Why?"

"I think, maybe…" Aizawa closed his eyes, and he shrugged. "Maybe you two might find you have some things in common."

"Uh… I'll think about it, sir," Todoroki said nervously. He didn't like the sound of that, but thinking back to what he'd seen of the child, it… made a sick amount of sense.

Aizawa led him through the hall and into a waiting area. He looked up, feeling a little overwhelmed at the sight of his other two siblings after the ordeal with Dabi, his mother, and now his father. Getting back to the dorm where there were no more Todoroki's to stare at him would be nice. Except he was going to have a bunch of Midoriyas and Iidas and Kirishimas to worry about.

"Shouto!" they both gasped. Fuyumi's hands clapped over her mouth, relief glimmering in her eyes, and Natsuo grinned broadly at him.

Without warning, they both were at his side, throwing their arms around him and squeezing him tight.

"You really scared us," Natsuo gasped into his ear. "Like, for real. I don't think I can let you leave me sight again, kiddo."

"What's this?" Fuyumi demanded, her fingers immediately finding the lone wound that Todoroki had received from this whole ordeal. She pushed back his hair and peered up at his forehead. "What happened here? Who hurt you?"

"It's nothing," Todoroki said, shifting awkwardly between them. "A scratch. Touya patched me up."

Both siblings froze right where they stood. They were stiff as they stared at him, their mouths falling open in awe and confusion.

"What?" Fuyumi gasped, leaning back and snatching his hands. "You saw Touya?"

"That little shit hasn't so much as messaged me in five years," Natsuo muttered. "I'm gonna kill him."

Todoroki pulled back. He glanced back at All Might and Aizawa, who were hanging behind them at a respectable distance. He sighed, and he looked between his two remaining siblings.

"You two might want to sit down for this," he said quietly.

There was enough foreboding in that sentence to drive even Natsuo to silence. They floated dazedly to the nearest seat, and Todoroki sat across from them. He held Fuyumi's hands as delicately as he had held his mother's just a few hours earlier.

"Shouto…" Fuyumi's brow was furrowed, and she chewed on her lips nervously. Todoroki realized, sickened, it reminded him of Dabi. "We've had enough bad news today to last us a lifetime. Please don't tell me that… that he's…"

"He's alive." Todoroki grimaced. "Dad did a number on him, though. A few years back. I don't know the full story, and he didn't tell it, but he made it sound like I… had been knocked out, for whatever reason, which… you know, checks out."

"Yeah," Natsuo said, glaring at his hands. "Sounds about right."

"I guess he came home from school and found me, and Dad… I don't know. They must have had a bad fight."

"Touya was always one to fight back," Fuyumi murmured.

"Yeah, he was an idiot like that," Natsuo said, his eyes glazed over. Then they flashed to Todoroki's face. "What happened to him? Where is he now? Why isn't he here?"

Todoroki winced. This was not going to be pretty.

"Yeah… about that…" He sighed. It was difficult to say it to them. Much more difficult than it had been to say it to their father. "The Touya we used to know is gone. I need you both to understand that before I tell you who he is now. What he's become."

They both stayed silent. By the dawning horror on their faces, Todoroki could tell they were already putting it together.

"You guys… know about the league of villains," he said, "right?"

"Why are you so dramatic, Shouto?" Natsuo asked, sounding desperate. "Please. Tell us."

"I don't know if I want to know," Fuyumi whispered.

"Yumi," Natsuo said, looking down at her with wide eyes. "It's Touya. It's our brother. He's still our brother, no matter what he's done."

"And our father is still our father no matter what he's done?" Fuyumi asked him sharply. That shut Natsuo right up. "No. It isn't right. I don't think I want to know."

"I won't tell you," he told his sister gently, "if you really don't want to know."

She stared at him. Her eyes flickered, bewildered, between him and Natsuo.

"Oh," she moaned, bowing her head. "Just say it."

Todoroki took a deep breath. The tears were still prickling his eyes.

"Our brother has become a villain who goes by the name Dabi," he said, his voice small and mechanical. "He was one of the villains who kidnapped Bakugou, who fought us— he was part of the incident at Kamino, and he sent the Nomu to attack dad today."

They both stared at him. Fuyumi's eyes began to well up with tears, and Natsuo sat with a blank expression, his whole body crumpling under the weight of this revelation.

Todoroki glanced at Aizawa and All Might, who were nearby and, expectedly, listening. They were not looking at him, but instead glancing at one another.

"Is he…? Is he that bad…?" Fuyumi's voice broke, and she shook her head. "I don't know what I should be saying, or thinking. Why would he become a villain?"

"Oh, I get it," Natsuo said flippantly. He didn't sound angry, or surprised, or even horrified. He simply… spoke. He stared straight ahead, like he might be watching the evening news. "Dad burned him? You know how Touya's quirk worked. Remember when he was three and he stuck his hand on that candle?"

"Don't remind me," Fuyumi murmured. "Dad did that."

"What?" Natsuo's body jerked a bit as he sat up straighter. "No. I don't remember that. Are you sure?"

"Yes. I was eight. I watched him put his hand over the flame. You were in the other room with Shouto." Fuyumi's eyes were glistening, and yet so very far away. "Mom screamed at him to stop, and then he—"

"No, I remember that part," Natsuo said bitterly. "Don't remind me."

"Sorry."

Todoroki leaned back. He looked between his siblings, and he found himself feeling a resounding sense of solidarity as they spoke. It had been so long since the three of them were together— and really had they ever truly been together? He could not remember having a conversation with both of them at once.

"I'm not saying he's a good person," he said hesitantly, "because he's… a really, really bad one. But I did talk to him for a while, and… I get it. Why he is this way."

"Of course you do," Natsuo said with a stiff nod. "If anyone understands what he's gone through, it's you."

Fuyumi took off her glasses, sniffled, and wiped her lenses on her jacket.

"Couldn't he have said something to us?" she murmured. She frowned deeply, as though their brother running off and becoming a villain was more of an inconvenience than a life-changing event. "He has my number. Couldn't he have called?"

"Yeah, couldn't he have just rung us up, like, 'Oh, hey, Yumi, Natsu, Shou! Love you guys to bits, but I've got this new gig and it's called murder!'" Natsuo snorted, and Todoroki couldn't help but smirk. "I'm sure that would have gone over well."

"Like any of us would have told dad," Todoroki said.

"Ah," Fuyumi sighed.

"Yeah," Natsuo said.

Todoroki smiled. He shook his head. "Well, in any case, he probably won't be contacting me again. Unless he wants to get arrested."

"A true hero," Natsuo mocked him playfully, holding a hand over his heart.

"He… wouldn't hurt you, would he?" Fuyumi asked him worriedly.

"You and mom…" Todoroki murmured. "No, I don't think he will. At least he won't kill me. Probably."

"Wait, mom knows?" Natsuo groaned. "Well, that sucks. I doubt she took that well."

"It went as well as you can expect," Todoroki said thoughtfully. "He wanted to say goodbye to her, I guess."

"Goodbye? Really?" Natsuo frowned. "So he's going all in with this villain stuff, huh?"

"Afraid so."

"Please be careful, Shouto," Fuyumi told him, popping her glasses back on and shooting him a hard stare. "Touya… he's our brother too, but…"

"But if he hurts you," Natsuo continued for her, his expression easy but his eyes dark, "we'll make him sorry."

That statement warmed his heart more than he thought either of his siblings could ever know. He stared at them, his eyes wide, and finally the tears he had been holding back leaked from his lashes and splashed onto his cheeks.

"Oh," Fuyumi gasped, reaching forward to touch his cheek. "Oh, Shouto…"

He let himself cry, relaxing as she pulled him close to her and forced him into a sandwich between her arm and Natsuo's. He cried silently, blinking dazedly as Fuyumi stroked his hair and Natsuo hugged him.

When it was finally time to say goodbye, sometime later, with neither of their siblings going to see their father, Fuyumi asked Aizawa if she could visit U.A. on the weekends. Aizawa bowed his head and promised her he would sort something out for her and Natsuo, should he ever want to visit.

"I also will speak to the rest of the teachers," he said, glancing at Todoroki carefully, "and see to it that your father… has as little contact with him as possible. We can't fully prevent him from seeing him, as it would provide a legal issue, however—"

"Thank you," Fuyumi said firmly. "It means the world that you'd even try. No one's… ever really tried before."

All Might and Aizawa stared at her in shock.

Natsuo rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly, and then he smiled bright.

"I heard U.A. has the best food," he said, tipping his head toward Todoroki. "Can you steal me some?"

"Sure."

"Kay!" Natsuo hummed, tapping his chin thoughtfully. "Well, I'd like dumplings, you know, and teriyaki, and katsudon, and—"

Todoroki left him rambling. He nodded to Fuyumi, thought twice about it, and returned to her side to give her a hasty hug before retreating back to the car and leaving her to stare after him.

Once they were back inside the car, they sat in silence. Todoroki wrung his hands nervously.

"I didn't want anyone to know," he said quietly.

"We gathered that," Aizawa murmured.

"It is not your fault, Young Shouto," All Might said quietly. "It is ours— it is ours for never noticing."

"He was good about keeping it hidden. And when people did ask, he just said… he said it was part of my training, or he'd call my mom crazy, or say that my siblings were too rowdy." Todoroki blinked rapidly, he shrunk in his seat. "It stopped eventually. I don't think he's a monster, or anything, I think he just…"

They both watched Todoroki as he fumbled to defend his father. He frowned, and then looked away, leaving the sentence hanging.

"I think we need to talk about your brother," Aizawa said finally, after a lengthy silence.

Todoroki exhaled. He nodded once.

"How long have you known?"

"Since this morning."

"He was the one who kidnapped you, then?" All Might asked curiously.

"Yeah." Todoroki rubbed his head where the Nomu's scratch remained. "He also sent the Nomu after my father. Who is responsible for the way that he looks, so I can't say I really blame him for that."

Aizawa grimaced. All Might hunched over, and he stared at his hands.

"I think we need you to confirm it for us," Aizawa said.

Todoroki looked up. He nodded slowly.

"Right," he said. "The villain Dabi is my brother. And I'm going to do everything within my power to save him."