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Chalk and Stale Coffee

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“Dadsuki?” a small voice asked as his hand hovered over the light switch.

“Yeah?”

“What if they don't like me tomorrow?”

Katsuki Bakugo turned to the small girl laying in bed. He moved back to sit on the side of the bed. Don't be stupid, he answered her in his head. But he was careful with her. So careful.

“What makes you think they won't like you, Eri?” he asked instead.

“I don’t know.”

“You do know. Think about your words and tell me.”

Eri was quiet for a minute. “I don't know anybody. What if they don't want to be my friend?”

“If someone doesn't want to be your friend, then they aren't worth worrying about. You will make friends and there are also going to be people that don't like you. Just like there's going to be people you don't like. It's okay to not like someone, but don't be mean to them.”

“What if they're mean to me?”

“Don't be mean back, because you're better than that. But don't take their shit either.”

Eri giggled. “You said a bad word, Dadsuki.”

The blond grinned. “I'm fucking full of them.” Once she finished laughing, he continued more seriously. “I was one of those mean kids when I was your age, so I know what I'm talking about. You just go in there and be yourself and they're going to love you. Just like I do.”

Eri smiled up at him. “I love you too, Dadsuki.”

“Are you going to be able to sleep now, Bug?”

It turned out that she was. He kissed her forehead again and wished her good night before turning the light off and closing the door over behind him.

Katsuki headed down the stairs and collapsed in front of the television. Raising a little girl was hard work. Raising her solo was even harder.

Eri’s parents died because he had failed as a hero. It had been a shitty situation all around, made worse when their day care called the police stating the toddler had been abandoned.

Not abandoned - orphaned.

Katsuki adopted Eri right away, trying to make up for his failures.

He swore when he brought her home that first day that he wouldn't lay a hand on her or say mean things to her. That second promise was the hardest part, but only because he said mean things to everyone. He had done it since he learned to talk and he didn't even realize he was doing it half the time. But he took an extra second to pause and reword so she wouldn't grow up hearing the things he had.

That was almost a year ago and life hadn't gotten any easier. Katsuki was not cut out for this parenting crap, but he gave everything his all and dammit if he wasn't being the best parent he could be.

Even today, he finished his patrols and picked her up from daycare, they made dinner and cleaned up together, then they worked on her reading.

Storytime was big in the Bakugo house. Eri would get ready for bed and pick a book. Katsuki would snuggle next to her and read, making the different voices and sound effects of course. Then she would read the story back to him.

Katsuki read a lot himself, although lately his reading list had gone from thrillers and murder mysteries, to Parenting 101 and raising adopted kids. Which he learned was different than biological children in terms of behavioural expectations. But at least Eri didn't act up the way the books said to expect.

He ran his hand over his face. What happened to him? He had never been a social butterfly, but he had a life at least. Now all he had was a four year old, a best friend he would be dead without, and a song about fucking fruit salad that wouldn't get out of his head.

If anyone should have adopted Eri, it should have been Eijiro Kirishima, or “Uncle Eijiro," as Eri called him. He was amazing with her, a complete natural that Katsuki suspected was because he had never grown up. He was also the fucker that got her calling him “Dadsuki" because Katsuki was just going to have her call him by his first name. Eijiro felt it was too impersonal and Katsuki would never admit to it, but he was glad his friend had insisted.

Whenever Katsuki was reaching his limit, a text of “your niece wants to see you” had Eijiro on his doorstep within minutes, ready to help out anyway he could.

A few years ago, if someone suggested Katsuki would ask anyone for help in anything, he'd set off his explosion quirk in their face. Now, he didn't know how to say thank you enough. That help was part of the reason the little girl was reaching a new milestone.

Eri was about to start kindergarten in the morning. Katsuki did NOT get emotional when she had wanted the Ground Zero backpack. The rest of her things were girly - unicorns, hearts, cats, and all that shit. But she wanted a backpack that looked like his hero costume, it was also a little too big for her which only melted his heart more.

Plagued by worry, he checked her already made lunch that sat in the fridge. Did she have enough snacks? Should he pack an extra juice box? No. She would be fine. The school had water fountains. But what if a villain contaminated the water supply?

“Then she can wait until she gets home,” he growled to himself. She wasn't even his kid for fuck's sake.

Who was he kidding?

He was the one kissing her knees after putting bandaids on them when she fell. He was the one playing dolls with her. He was the one that watched hours of YouTube hair styling videos and practiced on her dolls or Eijiro while she slept. He was the one protecting her, providing for her, keeping a roof over her head and food in her belly.

She was his.

If she wasn't his, she wouldn't be the first thought on his mind when he got a call at 6:38AM to say he was needed to take down a villain.

Katsuki called Eijiro while he got dressed. He needed him to head over and be there while she slept. And he needed him to get her to school.

-☆-

Katsuki “Ground Zero" Bakugo took every bit of his rage out on the villain. That fucker made him miss Eri’s first day of school. He would never have that opportunity again. He was missing out on important memories. The worst part was that the actual villain apprehension took maybe fifteen minutes. The rest of the time was spent dealing with police and reporters.

Eijiro was a true friend though. He sent Katsuki a video of them reaching the school together and the blond watched it some time later while he was supposed to be getting interviewed. Eri was wearing the dress he had laid out for her, but her long hair was down. It was brushed at least, but Katsuki had had a style he had wanted to do. He even practiced it.

It was too late for that. He bit his cheek to keep his expression neutral as she waved at the camera.

“Alright Eri. I'm sending this to your dad so make sure you show him what a big girl you are.” Eijiro’s voice was heard on the video. She stood as tall as she could.

“Bye Dadsuki! I'm sorry you had to work! I love you! Bye bye! Have a good day!”

The camera stayed on her as she ran towards the man he assumed was her teacher. The man raised his hand in a wave at Eijiro, whom Katsuki assumed waved back. Friendly fucker.

As Eri made her way into the school, Eijiro's voice was heard again, trembling this time. “Damn I'm gonna cry. She's gotten so big. You're doing good with her, Blasty.”

The video ended there and Katsuki turned his attention to the reporters.

-☆-

Eri’s daycare was at the home of fellow hero and one of Katsuki’s old classmates from when he went to hero school, U.A. High.

Ochako Uraraka had been a pro hero for a couple of years before deciding to take a break to raise a family. As soon as her daughter was in school all day, she planned on returning to the field.

Katsuki knew first hand how ferocious she could be when she needed to be. He entrusted Eri to her care without question. He also offered to refer her to his agency when she was ready, if she didn't go back to her old one or her husband's - who was none other than their old classmate Shoto.

Ochaco had been shocked when Katsuki called her up. He was never the type to need other people, and he definitely wasn't the type to become a father. He was too gay to have one accidentally and never in a million years did she think he would adopt. And yet he was paying her monthly to watch his little girl.

Ochako picked Eri up from school with her other two charges and kept her at her house until Katsuki was done work.

As a favour to an old classmate and fellow hero - friend was still a stretch as she hadn't gotten along very much with Katsuki in school and didn't speak with him very much as adults and when she did, it was only about Eri - if he was late due to a villain, she didn't call child services or the police even though it was technically in their contract. She always knew he would show up. For all of his faults, he was reliable. Or if he couldn't make it, Eijiro would. She liked those days better. He had always been nice to everyone.

While Katsuki may not be her favourite person, Ochako loved Eri. She was a smart, caring little girl and had patience that ran a mile long.

Ochako looked at her phone, both to check the time and to see if there was a message from Katsuki. It was nearing dinner time and she wasn't sure if the girl was staying.

The front door opened and she smiled as her husband's voice sounded by the front door. She rounded the corner to greet him.

“Bakugo is pulling into the driveway.”

“Perfect.” Ochako floated herself up to kiss Shoto. “Rei’s been asking for you all day.”

Shoto opened the door as Katsuki got to the front step.

“Hey IcyHot. Ochako.” Katsuki had been confused as to what to call them both when he got in contact with her again. He used to call her Round Face, but as she got older and her face matured, it became more defined. He couldn't really call her Uraraka because that was now Shoto’s last name, having severed the final tie to his father, and any time he said their last name damn Icyhot would answer too.

Eri heard his voice and made her way to the door, holding Rei’s hand so she could see her own dad.

“Dadsuki!”

“Hey, Baby Bug. Ready to get going?”

Eri nodded and let go of Rei’s hand when the toddler was in Shoto’s reach, then ran the couple steps into Katsuki's arms. He kissed her hair as he scooped her up before addressing the other adults.

“See you guys tomorrow.”

As Ochako closed the door, she smiled as she heard Eri start gushing about her day.

“I made so many friends today, Dadsuki!” she told him as she smooshed her face against his.

“Yeah? Glad to hear it kiddo. I told you everyone would love you. What do you think of your teacher?”

“He's so nice! He got us a class hamster!”

“Really? That's pretty cool,” Katsuki told her as he buckled her into her booster seat. “Your uncle is going to love to hear all about it. Did you know his favourite animal is a hamster?”

Eri's eyes lit up at Katsuki's lie. The redhead loved animals, but wasn't a fan of rodents. In fact, they creeped him out. Eri didn't know that though. Eijiro preferred dogs and dragons. Hero life wasn't good for having pets like dogs, so he had a couple of lizards that looked like dragons.

Eri loved animals too, especially cats and ponies, but Katsuki had to deny her a cat. He could only handle so much on his plate. As a compromise, he took her to ride ponies a couple of times a year.

When they got back to the Bakugo house, Eijiro was already there. Streamers were up, hot pizza was on the table and a crown was waiting on Eri's chair for her.

“A party?!” she squealed.

“You betcha!” Eijiro crowed. “We're gonna celebrate your first day of kindergarten.”

The idea had been Eijiro's and Katsuki had loved it the moment he read the suggestion in a text. From the smile on the little girl's face, she did too.

In addition to the pizza party, they all sat around to watch her favourite animated musical. Having seen it more times than he could count, Katsuki sang along with her, and even Eijiro sang the most popular song. He hadn't seen it quite as many times.

Not long after, Eijiro headed home and left the pair to themselves. Katsuki ran her bath and when she was finished getting clean and dressed, she found a chapter book that was too advanced for her to read.

“Dadsuki, can you read this?”

“Are you sure?”

She nodded. “I'm big now that I'm in kindergarten. I wanna read big kid books.”

“I like your style kid, but this is a pretty heavy book. You might not understand it.”

Eri looked at him with large eyes. “Can we try?”

“We sure can. But if you don't understand something, just ask me. Now, how about I read a chapter a night at bedtime, but during the day we practice your reading with your own books?” Katsuki suggested.

Eri nodded. “Deal!”

“Alright. Ready?”

Eri snuggled close to him, leaning against him so she could see the book as well despite there being no pictures. Katsuki's arm went around her and he kissed her pale hair before beginning to read.

"Did Mama sing every day?” asked Caleb. “Every-single-day?” He sat close to the fire, his chin in his hand. It was dusk, and the dogs lay beside him on the warm hearthstones.