Sero Hanta hopped onto the knee-high parapet that ran around the edge of the roof of U.A. dormitories. It was a Friday night, with a star-splattered sky and whiffs of clouds that looked within reach if Sero just stretched his fingers out.
The dormitories were cold; emptied out after Todoroki, who always found a reason to be the last to leave. Sero had walked out with Ojirou, but doubled back to his room with a train station bento and a need to run away, high, high up–
The emergency exit staircase was unlocked. Friday returned like the dutiful son he was not, and Sero turned down karaoke night with Mina and Hakagure in favour of forgetting the fact without needing to force a smile. The wind was stronger today, tugging at his hair and the inside flap of his U.A. jacket.
Just in case, he sat cross-legged on the parapet and put a long strip of tape from the outside of the wall, over his thighs, and on the inside of the wall in a makeshift seatbelt.
He liked the quiet. The sky turned from pink, like the dusting of colour across Uraraka’s cheeks when somebody brought up Midoriya’s name, to blood orange, as in the colour of blood that nobody could properly scrub off the concrete in USJ.
Aizawa beckoned him after class was dismissed the next Friday.
Without preamble: “What are you doing on the roof?”
Sero thought Aizawa’s tone was a tad too indifferent, considering Sero’s right elbow was bleeding and his eardrums were ruptured. He had not expected Jirou’s roundhouse kick combined with her quirk.
Then, the question registered.
“I don’t know,” Sero said truthfully, and quickly backpedalled when Aizawa’s lips turned downward. “Uh, but it’s a good place to destress. From all the– stress.”
Sero hoped his words were coming out more confident and less muffled than what he was hearing. To make up for it, he wriggled his arm in front of his teacher. “A lot of stress,” he emphasised.
Aizawa looked like he could not care less. “Consider this a reminder that the campus is under surveillance. Every inch of it. All the time.”
“We also have school counsellors if you need somebody to talk to.”
Aizawa held Sero’s questioning gaze for a beat longer. Then, coming to a conclusion that Sero was not privy to, he sighed, “Alright. Get that elbow checked. And work on your reaction time in close combat.”
Weeks rolled into the end of the month. Typhoon season was approaching. The windows were boarded up, the corridors got cleared, and the roof was, as always, empty and inviting.
Sero’s tape, it turned out, was not strong enough for typhoon winds. Thankfully, his reaction time had improved.
Tape found footing on a pipe in the open balcony on the fourth floor. Sero’s body slammed onto the outside wall, bruising his entire left side, before he lifted himself over the barrier and dropped onto the floor.
After the adrenaline died, and his shoulders stopped trembling, he had an idea.
A handful of little coloured blobs, of classmates mingling on the dormitory grounds, any of whom might look up at any time and notice that there was somebody suspended on the side of the building.
It is different, Sero thought delirously, high on height, to be airborne for extended periods of time. It felt like cold water was pouring down his skin. How did Bakugou do this all the time with his explosions?
Eventually, his tape snapped.
Later that night, Sero marked in his notebook about durability and time periods and a hypothesis of increased calcium intake.
The emergency exit staircase was locked one day.
Nonplussed, Sero wandered off to find Kirishima.
“Let me get this straight,” Kirishima said, sitting at the counter in the kitchen, hand stuck in a half-eaten bag of chips. “You want me to break open a door?”
“Do you know how to electronically unlock the door?” Sero was not sarcastic. He was genuinely curious.
“Dude, no.” Then, in an afterthought, “Kaminari might though.”
“Sure, I do it all the time,” Kaminari said, without thinking. He scratched the side of his face. “Let’s not spread that around, eh?”
“’course not,” Sero agreed immediately, but he was suitably impressed. It was written all over his face. Kaminari ducked his head, cheeks going the same colour as the sky Sero once saw, and muttered, “Right, right, let’s get this over with.”
Like a skateboard, Kaminari shoved himself from his study desk so that the wheeled chair backed into his bedframe.
“What do you do on the roof?” Kaminari asked, without turning back, out of the door.
“Train,” Sero explained, explaining nothing at all.
“There’s a gym downstairs.”
“It’s not the same.”
“But what’s so special about the roof?”
Sero remembered reading the message from his father, and the suffocation that overwhelmed immediately after, and then how he looked up at the sky the first time he was on the roof and it was like walking into a dark room and someone had switched on the universe.
“Nothing in particular,” Sero replied.
Kaminari made a right turn instead of left. Another right. Just beyond Satou’s room, Kaminari pointed out, “Fuse box.”
He explained the switches. “I short circuit my room all the time, so I had to learn how to reset it. You can switch off the electricity too. Look, here.”
A flick of the switch.
Sero heard the hard splatter of raindrops against glass first. He glanced up, and it startled him considerably when a hand appeared clutching the part of the parapet where his tape extended from where he had it wrapped around the ventilation box.
Then the top of a blond head.
The other hand stretched out, and Sero was ready for that one. Kaminari pulled Sero over the parapet and they fell onto the floor in a heap.
The sheet of rain rendered the background grey, its rhythm speeding up and relentless. Everybody who had sense had already scurried indoors, those who did not were ultimately convinced by the sudden consecutive flashes of lightning.
An electric yellow crackled along Kaminari’s arms as static shock built up and discharged on instinct. Sero winced, hair on the back of his neck and arms standing.
“Sorry,” Kaminari said, quickly, shoving Sero unceremoniously aside.
Sero untangled the loose tape that shrivelled up in the rain, to dispose of later. Though drenched, Kaminari did not look like he felt the uncomfortable clamminess of skin.
“What are you doing here?” Sero asked, shivering. He had to shout to be heard.
The next lightning flooded the roof with light, temporarily blinding Sero. He was vaguely aware of strong hands tugging on the back of his shirt, leading him to the roof door.
Kaminari rattled the doorknob. It did not open.
“Auto-lock. Looks like we're stuck."
“We can scale down to an open balcony,” Sero suggested. The howling wind drowned out his sentence. Thunder roared like Bakugou’s explosions; loud, angry, and closer than what one might want to believe.
“That’s a no,” Kaminari said. He slid down the door, into a crouch, hugging his knees to his chest. He watched the sky, clouds churning in violent waves, lighting up in purple. Lethal lightning strikes cracked the sky in red. All through the cacophony, Kaminari looked happy. Not wild, fist-pumping happy, but ordinarily, peacefully, content.
Sero watched him. “This is the first time I’ve seen you up here. And I’m here. A lot.”
“I know,” Kaminari said. “Everybody knows. It’s hard not to notice a foot dangling outside your window, sometimes.”
“You’re always up here when you get your ass handed to you during training.” Kaminari shrugged. “But when you came into my room earlier, your face was, well. The opposite of happy.”
“No, not sad.” Kaminari hummed in thought. “Something all mixed up, between sadness and loneliness and a little bit of hatred, all at once. Did Todoroki do something to you?”
Taken back, Sero said automatically, “No.” Then, running his fingers through his wet hair, “Not directly, no.”
Consecutive lightning flashes illuminated the different sides of Kaminari’s face. His mouth was gentle, as he said, “What d’ya mean?”
Sero pulled at a fraying end of tape from the small mountain between his soaked-through shoes. The wet material was already disintegrating beneath his fingertips. “The Sports Festival,” he shrugged, “A rerun got aired in my hometown.”
Seeing the blank look in return, Sero added, “It’s a really small village in the mountainside. The only working television is in the village chief’s house.”
A snort of laughter. Then, a sobering thought. “They all saw Todoroki’s iceberg, huh?”
Sero’s shoulders slumped. He tipped his face up. “Yeah.”
He reached into his back pocket and handed Kaminari a flip phone. The back was haphazardly taped together.
“So, right after the rerun ends, my dad digs out his own phone – and it is ten times more ancient than this one, trust me – and sends me, well, that.”
Kaminari scrolled through the email messages until one with an attachment and that lacked a subject line caught his eye.
It was a photo. A blurry version of Sero’s face. Sero with not quite such good colours and a grey streak at his temples, but also with the same large-tooth smile and large, expressive eyes that radiated something all mixed up, between happiness and love and a lot of pride, all at once.
When Kaminari looked up, Sero’s face was wet.
“I came to U.A. to be a hero,” Sero said, and if his voice sounded raw, Kaminari did not comment on it. “I'm going to be the– the best hero. You hear me?”
Again, the roof brightened for a brilliant second, outlining a single silhouette, a warm embrace, before fading back into darkness.