“...because of your upbringing, you should have had unparalleled knowledge of the rules of our hero society, and the consequences for breaking them…”
Beneath the defense table, Dabi’s hand curled into a fist on his knee. The chain wrapped around his waist clinked, and his lawyer gave him a warning look. The latest of many. Dabi gave the woman a grimace in return and she quickly refocused on the task at hand. He might be pissed that Endeavor’s parenting had repeatedly been used as evidence that he should have known better than to act villainously, but she was the one who had to fight it.
He still hadn’t gotten used to the idea that Endeavor’s money had paid for her to be here in the first place.
Dabi had been certain that his father wouldn’t pay for his medical bills or legal assistance. Hadn’t wanted him to, because neither would hurt the Number One Hero’s pocketbooks in the slightest, disgraced or not. What it would do was make him look like a hero. But Nezu, who had lately been his furry guardian
ashhole, had given him a lecture on the obstacle debt would prove to be if he were trying to integrate back into society. Especially at his age.
Age had probably played a big factor in convincing Endeavor to tip. Nezu had gone to speak with him, and whatever had transpired between them, that had been the result. This lawyer was sharp-beaked but sharp-minded as well, and they’d put his body back in order at the hospital without any real complaints. After operating so long as a villain without a healer in his group, it felt almost like Dabi had gotten off easy despite being beaten nearly to death by his father.
Sometimes, in dark moments, Dabi thought it would be better if he had choked to death on his own blood during the fight. Then people wouldn’t be saying that his father had changed, could make amends, and this whole thing wouldn’t be threatening to slide off his back like water off of a duck.
But on a halfway-decent day Dabi had no intention of dying, if only to spite the old man. He’d wanted to kill Dabi.
The only thing stopping him had been Shoto.
Dabi glanced around the courthouse for that familiar red and white hair, even though he knew Shoto was at school. Just like Kaminari was. The other idiot who had been willing to step in and attack the Number One Hero for Dabi’s sake.
Thankfully, he hadn’t had to. If he had, he might not have been waiting for Dabi on the other side of whatever punishment they laid on him. He and Kaminari certainly had some things to discuss. Things which they really hadn’t been able to talk about. The last time he’d really spoken to Kaminari had been the day he woke up in the hospital.
It had been the last day they’d kissed, too.
Kaminari might not be in the audience, but a strikingly similar blonde head was visible down past the jury: Mirai Kaminari, mother of the guy he’d rescued from the League of Villains and been rescued by in return. She’d been upset when she found out just how much Kaminari hadn’t said about the nature of their relationship when she caught them making out on her couch, but she was still here. Nezu, too, was present. Probably because today was going to be the day it would all be decided.
“Your honor, with all due respect, my client suffered mightily at the hands of his father, and lost his mother at a young age. Law enforcement was aware of his situation but turned a blind eye when returning him to his father. Countless heroes who could have offered help did not. He was only a boy–and is still only a boy…”
On his first day in court he’d come from the hospital dressed in a black t-shirt and jeans. Originally, his lawyer had asked him to come cleaned up in a suit. But as it turned out, even when they washed his hair aggressively enough to turn it from black to a dark reddish-brown that was closer to his normal color, and put him in nice clothes...even when he removed all of the earrings from his ears and tried to minimize the impact of the dermal piercings beside his nose...there was really no escaping the patchwork face he’d earned from the impossible heat of his Quirk back before he knew how to control it.
So, belatedly, the lawyer had ordered him to put his earrings back in and to ruffle his combed hair. If he couldn’t pull off the groomed gentleman, than she would sell him as the ragged counterpoint to Shoto’s brilliance, as proof of what their father had shaped him into.
He couldn’t tell if that was better or worse, because when court adjourned on the first day they didn’t let him go back to the hospital or to the Kaminari house, where Mirai and her husband had offered to house him. They’d taken him away, stripped and dressed him in a jumpsuit, and closed him up in a solitary cell.
After a few weeks of that, he’d almost grown dumb enough to look forward to these hearings, even if he knew how awful they’d be. The things they’d do, what they’d say…
“...dangerous, amoral, and a threat to anyone in his proximity…”
It was just a rehash of everything that had been said before, in a shorter amount of time and without repetition of the evidence. With each
darkening word, he reminded himself...he’d heard it all before.
A hand on his shoulder roused him from the fugue state he hadn’t even been aware that he’d entered.
It was time.
“Touya Todoroki?” The judge leaned forward on her dais, and Dabi had to wonder–how old would she have been when Endeavor debuted? Did she have posters of his father on her wall when she’d been Dabi’s age? How many criminals had his father single handedly put before her?
His lawyer was signalling for him to stand, so he did. Standing beneath the dais, he felt even smaller than he had already.
Despite what his lawyer had said, he tried very hard not to let his emotions show on his face.
“The harm you have done to others is undeniable,” she said, “as is the harm that has been done to you. The severity of the company you kept and your age both complicate matters tremendously. In the end, potential problems in each of our possible approaches have been pointed out. So we want to offer you a choice.”
...a choice? His lawyer hadn’t prepared him for that. What she had prepared him for was a cruel, underhanded legal process that would look for the best way possible to make Endeavor look good. He stole a glance back at her, but her expression wasn’t comforting at all. She must not feel like she’d prepped him adequately for this sort of thing.
“Prison has been ruled out, as none of your crimes...except the ‘attempted murder’ charge, which has since been dropped...were enough to have you tried as an adult.” The judge cleared her throat and he dragged his attention back to the front of the room. “There are few juvenile detention facilities prepared to house someone with either your Quirk or your notoriety. Mixing with other young criminals wouldn’t be good for your rehabilitation or theirs. Of course...the option that was presented to us by the faculty of UA was not particularly well-received, either.”
Dabi wanted to pretend that he’d never for a second believed something as incredible as Nezu’s solution would come to pass, but that would be a lie. He’d been filled with a most wretched sort of hope since the first time they’d spoken, and it had been awful having that torn away piece by piece over the last few weeks.
It was a punishment to the current students, some said.
It was unprecedented, others said.
It was dangerous, others insisted.
And, perhaps most damning of all, it was a reward . What kind of message did it send, giving someone who had threatened the lives of UA students and faculty the chance to train beside them?
To learn their secrets and their ways?
“You can choose juvenile detention, with a possible extended stay in solitary until facilities can be prepared for you. Or, you can submit to a ‘treatment’ of sorts that allows the people you’ve harmed to make you relive their pain, via our staff member’s empathy Quirk. Afterwards, you would be allowed to apply for acceptance into UA. If for whatever reason that fell through, you would end up going to juvenile detention anyway...but the facilities might be ready at that time.”
A chance at UA? Only a chance.
“–my client and I–”
He heard his lawyer stand and speak behind him, but she sounded very far away. “I’ll take it!” he blurted.
“The chance at UA,” Dabi clarified, fingers curling in the chains at his wrists. “I want to try.”
“Young man–” The judge looked between him and his lawyer, and for a moment she seemed to soften for the first time since she’d walked in. “You’ll want to discuss this with your legal counsel. The empathy experience won’t be pleasant.”
“I don’t care.”
In the days that followed, victims and families of victims of the League were contacted and offered the chance to upload their anger and fear and pain directly into Dabi’s head as part of his ‘rehabilitation’.
Notably, most of the families of class 1-A refused. His lawyer struggled with the terms, vehement about cutting out people who had been impacted by the League at large rather than Dabi specifically. He hadn’t cared then, but he cared later, when his only child was in the hospital for the dozenth time, and he was filled with a panic unlike anything else.
Once the plain-looking woman who’d been brought in to do the transfers had dropped her hand from his head, he all but forgot about each person’s face in an instant. The people’s names, the specifics. All that was really left was a state of exhaustion and fear and anger. Perhaps that was the point.
When his lawyer said, “This is the last one, look alive,” he could have kissed her. But he wasn’t expecting the person who walked through the door.
“Mrs. Kaminari,” he said, shifting in his chair. He still hated her seeing him in prison clothes. It was bad enough how they’d met, but she’d been nice enough to ignore the circumstances. Now...he could feel her approval dwindling with every second she saw him like this.
“I told you to call me Mirai,” she said as she sat down. “That hasn’t changed.” She turned to the woman standing beside the table, awaiting instructions.
“Ma’am, I’m going to need you to focus on the target memory...it can’t be too complex, and the longer the period of time you focus on, the less impactful the emotions I can transfer. Please focus on something as specific and brief as possible. I’ll need you to look me in the eye and touch my hand.”
“Denki wanted to come,” Mirai said as she set her purse aside, pushing her bangles higher up on her wrist.
“He...did?” What on earth had Kaminari expected to get out of that sort of thing? What did Mirai want to get out of it??
“I told him absolutely not,” Mirai said, placing her hand in their minder’s. “That would only further complicate things between you.”
“Are you worried about that?” Dabi asked, glancing at the empath woman’s hand and wondering what exactly he was going to get out of it. Her anguish when her son was taken? Or perhaps her betrayal when she found out the boy she’d found her returned son kissing was one of the people who’d kept him from returning to her? “If they are still letting me leave with you…”
If you’re still planning on letting me…
“Yes. He’s moved out to the dorms this weekend, but...yes.”
Cool fingers pressed to Dabi’s forehead, and he was thrown once again into another person’s emotions.
It wasn’t pain, and for that he was grateful. No. This was...worry.
To be expected. But the shape of this feeling was all wrong. It wasn’t as crisp as the rest of the pain he’d been subjected to today. It was fuzzy around the edges, but still nevertheless sharp enough to make him gasp.
He was Mirai Suzuki. His new husband was distant and disinterested and he already knew the marriage wasn’t going to last. It had only been for the baby’s sake, anyway...the baby...the baby…
So this was about an infant Kaminari, exploding across over a decade of worrying about him. His future, his comfort, his happiness. His recovery. That last one was just a tiny blip before the hand slipped from Dabi’s forehead and, shaking, he was himself again.
As he caught his breath, he stared at Mirai.
What was she doing here? Had that been an attempt to follow the rule of the law without the spirit? Had she really thought it was necessary to communicate to him how precious her son was to her?
Was it a tacit threat?
Instead of answers, Mirai offered her hand. “Let’s go home.”
“So you’re a natural redhead,” Mirai said as they waited in line to retrieve his personal belongings and clothes.
“...yeah,” Dabi said, trying not to think about the time her son had made the same observation. “I can’t wait to dye it again, as soon as–”
“You can’t.” The man processing their paperwork dropped a bundle of clothes wrapped in plastic on the counter in front of them, topping it with a thin stack of papers. “Says so in the rules. While you’re on probation, you’re expected to follow a list of rules to help your ‘recovery’. This includes no delinquent behavior, such as dyeing your hair–”
Dabi fought the urge to cough one big ol’ bull
stack at that.
“–or getting tattoos–”
“Do you really think getting a tattoo would tarnish my image that much?” he asked, gesturing to the patchwork skin of his face and the many, many piercings he’d crammed into a limited amount of space.
“I didn’t write the rules, kid, I just deliver them,” the man said, pushing the bundle to him and walking off.
‘Kid’. He hadn’t heard that in a while. He did not like it. It was going to be awful and uncomfortable, even more so than being treated like a criminal.
He didn’t say that, though. Dabi was wholeheartedly devoted to making this work. After all, if he wasn’t...what had all of that crap been for?
Though...the hair. He shuffled the papers and noted that a line explicitly banning piercings had been crossed out. Possibly because some of them were medical in nature, but...was this, somehow, his father’s doing?
He glanced into his reflection in a dark window as they left the courthouse, and even with the dark scars on his face, it was Endeavor staring back.
Endeavor’s red hair.
Endeavor’s blue eyes.
Endeavor isn’t here , he scolded himself. He’s ‘on vacation’ pending review by some board of heroes. And...hair? Is that worth giving up a shot at UA?
Of course it wasn’t. So he was going to suck it up and toe the line and try to be good for once, for as long as it took, and see how far that got him.
As he followed Mirai to her car, someone whistled. “Hey, big shot! ~♡ Think you’re a hero now, bastard?”
He turned abruptly, and Mirai stood up from unlocking her door abruptly. “What is it?”
“...it’s nothing. Some asshole who read the paper, probably.” Dabi scanned the parking lot, catching nothing.
Man, he hated being on the other side of this. And he’d only been on the other side of it for seven whole minutes!
As he climbed into the Kaminari family car, onto a discarded wrapper pile that made him wonder if Mirai had come to pick him up on the way back from dropping Kaminari off, he reminded himself that nothing was going to go wrong. This was going to work.