Sorahiko stops at his front door and forces himself to breathe, and think.
He’s angry, obviously. Of course he’s angry. He has every reason to be angry, every reason to grumble and shout and curse and kick things. But the cause of his anger doesn’t exist at home, so it’s only right that he leaves his anger at the door. It wouldn’t be fair to bring it inside and subject Tenko to it, so he stays outside until he’s certain that his temper had cooled.
It’s not that he tiptoes and bottles things up around the kid, or that he folds himself up and pretends he’s anything but the cantankerous old bastard he is. But it’s also not the kid’s fault he’s mad right now.
Finally, he walks into the house and shuts it behind him, sighing in a mix of relief and irritation when the A/C hits him. On one hand, it’s hot as hell outside. On the other, A/C runs the bill up like nobody’s business, and Sorahiko’s not made of money.
But the cool air is nice for now, and there’s no reason to make himself more miserable, so he lets it slide and goes to grab the phone. Nighteye picks up after one ring.
“Torino. What is it? ”
Sorahiko pulls a face at the cool, clipped tone. “Nighteye. Thought you might want an update on the situation with the Foundation.”
“Yes.” Nighteye’s cold civility breaks to genuine interest. “Have you found out where the funds have been disappearing? ”
It is not a pleasant conversation, if a pleasant conversation between him and Nighteye is even possible. In all the years they’ve known each other, he’s never made his opinion of Sorahiko any secret. Sorahiko doesn’t blame him one bit; whatever Nighteye thinks of him, it can’t be any worse than the things Sorahiko has thought of himself in the past. He can’t do anything about it but move forward and be better with Tenko than he ever was with Toshinori.
Speaking of which…
“I need a favor,” he says, once he’s finished passing on information.
“What is it? ”
“I’m neck-deep in this investigation,” Sorahiko says. He is; since Sir Nighteye has his own agency now, Sorahiko can't help but take personal responsibility for the Symbol of Peace Foundation that was once the Mighty Agency. “It’s gonna keep me out of the house all day Sunday, don’t know how late. I called Inko to see if she could look after Tenko for the day, but she’s got a busy day herself. Said she having Izuku stay at your office.” Sorahiko clears his throat. “Was wondering if you could take one more. Just ‘til Inko can pick ‘em up.”
“Tenko is welcome, ” Nighteye tells him. “Fair warning however, Endeavor will be here that day. ”
Sorahiko grimaces. “Is it safe to have Izuku there?” he asks before he can think better of it.
“I have no intentions of revealing any secrets to Endeavor, number one hero or not, ” Nighteye says flatly. “Our meeting will take place in my office, so it’s not as if I’ll be touring him all over the agency. It’ll be easy for both of them to keep from getting underfoot, and if it isn’t, there’s always the tunnel under the street.” He pauses. “With Tenko, the only risk is a clash of personalities. ”
In spite of himself, Sorahiko snorts disdainfully. “It’s Endeavor,” he says flatly. “He clashes with every personality."
“I wish I could dispute that, ” Nighteye says. “But in any case, if Tenko needs a place to go for the day, then he is welcome here.” A pause. “And… thank you for the update.” The call ends only slightly less awkwardly than it began.
It occurs to Sorahiko, as he hangs up the phone, that it’s been awfully quiet since he got in. School would have ended at least an hour ago. He could have sworn he saw Tenko’s shoes by the door. He double-checks, and not only are Tenko’s shoes there, but an extra pair along with them.
That means they’re both here, and they’re both being quiet. This can only mean trouble, or something else that Sorahiko is in no way prepared to deal with.
God he hopes that’s not it, but Tenko’s thirteen and he really ought to have thought about what that meant sooner.
Bracing himself, he makes his way down the hallway to Tenko’s room, where he listens for a moment, knocks a few times, and reaches up to open the door.
“You two better not be getting up to any—” He steps inside and immediately loses what he was about to say.
Tenko and his friend are sitting together on the floor with the cats, which is nothing out of the ordinary by itself. Mamushi Shiori’s here most nights; Sorahiko doesn’t know the full story, only that her father’s debts put her in more danger at home than she would be in the streets at night. Sometimes she comes in smelling of cheap beer and cigarettes, but never strong enough to be drinking or smoking them herself. She’s rough and rude but a good kid underneath it all, and Tenko did a good thing in befriending her.
What’s less ordinary about this is the fact that Mamushi is kneeling in front of Tenko, holding his face steady while she carefully puts eyeliner on him.
“Hold still, will you?” she snaps. “If you keep flinching this’ll come out looking like I did it in sharpie.”
“I’ll stop flinching when you quit shoving that thing in my eye!”
“It’s supposed to go on your eyes, idiot, it’s eyeliner!”
“On my eyes, not in them!”
Sorahiko waits until she takes the brush away from Tenko's face before clearing his throat. It’s a good thing, because she does jump.
“What’re you surprised for?” Tenko says. He looks ridiculous with only one eye done up. “He literally knocked before he walked in.”
“I was in the zone!”
“Am I interrupting something?” Sorahiko asks.
“Yeah,” Tenko says, inspecting his face in a small mirror. “It’s exactly what it looks like.”
Sorahiko considers this for a moment, and decides to file it in the "not a problem" box. “Alright,” he grunts. “I don’t get it, but if it’s anything like the rest of you, I will eventually. What do you want for dinner?”
“Curry,” the pair of them chime in unison. Mamushi gets started on his other eye, and Sorahiko leaves him to it.
Tenko joins him later in the kitchen, sporting matching made-up eyes with wings about as sharp and neat as a thirteen-year-old girl can manage. He looks almost smug as he rummages through the pantry for snacks.
“Mamushi said you were gonna be up my ass if you found out,” he says. “Thanks for proving me wrong, gramps.”
“I draw the line at stick-and-pokes and safety-pin piercings and whatever the hell else kids come up with these days,” Sorahiko says.
Tenko nods sagely. “Hire a professional, got it.”
“Language, old fart.”
Sorahiko snorts and goes back to chopping vegetables. “You wanna wash your hands and help, or do you two have homework?”
“Homework. I’m getting homework snacks.”
“Don’t spoil your dinner after you just said you wanted curry.”
“Nobody ever filled up on rice crackers, old man, they’re like fifty-percent air.”
It’s easy to slip into this—arguing about nothing, arguing for the fun of it, arguing to see who can go the longest without grinning. It’s easy. It’s fun. It’s an opportunity to get the kid to crack a proper smile instead of a smirk.
He didn’t do anything like this with Toshinori.
Obviously he didn’t. Toshi was a kid, but he was eighteen and wielding One For All like he was born for it, and Nana was dead and All For One was looming over their heads like a specter and—
There just wasn’t time.
That was what Sorahiko always told himself, at least. No time to grieve, no time to rest, no time to be soft, no time to be kind. It was life or death, and Sorahiko kept him alive the only way he knew how.
He’ll never know if it was worth it, or right. He knows what Nighteye thinks, because Nighteye lets him know loud and clear what he thinks.
But he also knows that he’s doing things different with Tenko, and more importantly, he’s doing things better.
He knows this because if he weren’t, then Nighteye would have rained hell on him, and Tenko would be somewhere else.
So. He’s doing alright, probably. He’s not screwing up or scarring Tenko any more than he already has been, probably.
Out loud, he clears his throat. “So. What’s the occasion, anyway? With the, uh, makeup.”
“Thought it’d be cool,” Tenko says with a shrug. “And Mamushi’s having fun.”
He pulls a face. “Father’s Day is on Sunday. Her dad always makes her do some stupid thing with him to pretend like they’re an actual family and he’s not a piece of shit.”
“Ah. She busy all day Sunday?” He’s a little relieved; if she needed somewhere to go, it might be a little harder to convince Nighteye to let her tag along.
“Yeah.” Tenko crunches a rice cracker. “You know, you’re a crabby old bastard, but at least you’re a better dad than hers. Or the last two who tried with me.”
Sorahiko splutters, turning his head so he won’t spit on the food by accident. He has had the pleasure of hearing some weird shit come out of Tenko’s mouth, but this was wild even by Tenko’s standards. It takes him a moment to find his words again.
“Wow, kid, that bar could not possibly be lower, but thanks.”
This actually startles a laugh out of the kid. Tenko stares at him, a little disbelieving, and Sorahiko knows why.
There are a few things they don’t talk about, and Tenko’s family—Nana’s family—is one of them. Sorahiko is reasonably sure the kid's talked about it with his therapist, and that’s fine because his therapist will at least know what to do with it.
But if there’s one thing Sorahiko knows for a fact, it’s that Nana’s son, her precious Kotaro who she sent away to save, was not a good parent. He’s heard enough of the story to pick up that much. He’s just never said as much, no speaking ill of the dead and such.
Now, Tenko looks at him like he didn’t quite believe Sorahiko wouldn’t put Shimura Kotaro up on the same pedestal where Nana’s memory sits in his heart, when the man beat his kid for asking about his grandma and scarred his face with a garden tool when he was panicking and terrified of his quirk…
Well. Maybe he should’ve said something sooner.
“Crabby old bastard,” Sorahiko mutters. “I’ll show you a crabby old bastard. Go do your homework, and I’ll call you out to set the table when it’s ready.” He squints across the kitchen at Tenko. “I mean it about those snacks, boy. If I see you flagging over your food, I’ll take away the good stuff and leave the green peppers.”
Tenko mimes throwing up, complete with melodramatic gagging noises, and flounces back to his room.
Sorahiko shakes his head and turns back to the task at hand, swallowing down the cotton fluff in his chest before it makes him do something that embarrasses them both.
Mirai doesn’t bring work into the Midoriyas’ home anymore.
He used to do it frequently, back when Izuku was small and Inko needed more help with things. Those days are over, but once in a while, he finds a reason to do it again.
Inko has never been involved in All-Might’s world in any official capacity. Before meeting him she worked in the accounting department of an insurance company, and after his death she was left with enough money to provide for her and Izuku indefinitely, provided she wasn’t careless. And Midoriya Inko is not a careless woman. She may not be involved in the Symbol of Peace Foundation on paper, but Toshinori kept her in the loop back when he was alive and it was still a Hero Agency, and Mirai sees no reason not to do the same now.
Inko listens carefully and asks questions, good questions that most civilians wouldn’t think to wonder about. Nighteye answers them in detail, prompting more questions until he finds himself probing deeper and deeper into what he already knows, making connections that hadn’t occurred to him earlier. It’s a comfortable, familiar routine that organizes his worries into proper thoughts.
He’s so deep in the discussion that he doesn’t notice their audience until it’s over. Mirai happens to glance up from writing down his notes, and finds Izuku watching them with wide-eyed fascination from the nearest chair, a comic book open and forgotten in his lap.
“Do you need something, Izuku?” Inko asks, smiling.
“No, I was just watching,” Izuku says cheerfully. “That was really cool!”
Inko gets up from the couch to retrieve her empty coffee mug. “What was cool?”
“You guys!” Izuku answers. “It was like in those cop TV shows, when the detectives bounce ideas off each other until they figure out who the killer is.”
“Yes, well, luckily, there’s no killer involved,” Mirai assures him. “Just some people taking money that doesn’t belong to them.”
“And Mom’s helping you catch them?”
“That’s right. She’s very good at helping me see from all the angles available to me.”
Inko grins at him as she takes her mug to the kitchen. “And don’t you forget it,” she calls over her shoulder. “Mirai, are you staying for dinner? Don’t answer that, of course you are.”
There’s no arguing with that tone, so Mirai doesn’t bother to try.
“How was school?” he asks Izuku. “Hopefully your Friday was more pleasant than mine.”
“It was… good,” Izuku answers. Mirai squints at him, keenly aware of the hesitation in his tone. “Really! Nothing bad happened, I promise.”
Mirai can tentatively believe that. He’s had a much better time at school since the transfer, though he doesn’t seem to have made any close friends yet, even after more than a year. “I believe you,” he says. “Did you learn anything interesting?”
Izuku shrugs, fidgeting in his seat. “We started a new chapter in the math book. And we read a story for class. And, um…” He shoots a glance toward the kitchen. “We did an art project. Sort of.”
“That sounds interesting,” Mirai says in what he hopes is an encouraging tone. Is Izuku nervous about something?
“It was,” Izuku says, and seems to gather up his nerve to smile. “Want to see what I made?”
“I would like nothing better.”
Izuku scampers off to wherever he left his backpack. He’s back in less than a minute with something clutched in his hand. At first glance it looks like a folded piece of construction paper, but Mirai can see that there’s more to it than that.
“I made this in class,” Izuku says, pressing his creation into Mirai’s hands. He’s careful with it, so Mirai is also careful with it as he turns it over so that the lettering is right side up.
It’s a card. A Father’s Day card, to be exact, made evident by the off-center Happy Father’s Day decorating the front, with a surprisingly tasteful amount of glitter glue. When he opens it, he finds an explosion of similarly decorated artwork. Izuku has a good eye for drawing, and Mirai just about recognizes the scenes depicted. Going out for ice cream, playing board games at home, practicing katas, even the trip to the zoo from nearly two years ago before it turned disastrous. Mirai has been present for all of these activities, and his likeness is present in every little drawing on the card.
Izuku made a Father’s Day card. For him.
The feeling that realization brings is nothing short of joy, so tender and overwhelming that it almost hurts. He has about a split second to enjoy it before it sours into guilt.
It’s not supposed to be him in those drawings, in those memories, in this place in Izuku’s life. There’s only one man who belongs there, and Izuku barely remembers him
It should be him. Not Mirai or anyone else.
It should be his real father receiving gifts like this, handmade with all the love a child’s hands can pour into it.
And he’s gone, and Mirai knows he’s gone, and there’s nothing any of them can do about it, but.
The last thing he ever wanted to do was replace him. Mirai can never come close to being what Toshi would have been, and he knows it. What kind of awful friend would he be, if he were to—what? Usurp his place in this family, in his son’s life? What is wrong with him?
“Sensei told us to draw our favorite things to do with our, um, dads,” Izuku says awkwardly, unaware of the turmoil raging in Mirai’s mind. “So, um… I drew you instead of... um. Since, y’know…”
All at once, the near-panic eases as common sense sets in. Of course. It was only sensible. Even if Izuku could remember being with his father, he could hardly advertise the truth to the class. He and Inko have taught Izuku well, and he’s always been such a clever kid about keeping the secret. It even helps that Mirai dresses so plainly, even for hero work. There's nothing to make him stand out in those drawings. Not the way it would have been with Toshi.
Mirai’s heart is still beating heavy as he stuffs the guilt and dread deep down and replaces it with a half-joking sort of smile. “Oh thank goodness. For a moment I was afraid you’d gone and imprinted like a lost duckling.”
Izuku stares at him blankly for a few moments, before his mouth twists into a grin of his own, and he lets out a sheepish little laugh. “Yeah, I know,” he mumbles. “But it was for school, and we were doing it for a project, and I couldn’t put All-Might in it.”
“I suppose not,” Mirai concedes. “That’s all right then.”
“It was just a project,” Izuku says, a little plaintively. “And I... I'm the only kid in my class who doesn't have a dad anymore, but I didn’t want to just sit there.”
“Of course,” Mirai assures him. “You did very well. And none of that—of course you have a father.” Izuku raises his eyes, shining with a hope that twists at Mirai’s heart. “He may not be here with us now, but that doesn’t make you any less of his son. He would be proud of you.” Mirai picks up the card and hands it back with a smile. “And he would have been over the moon to receive a present like that from you.”
“Oh.” Izuku takes it back carefully, as if it’s made of rice paper instead of construction paper. “I worked really hard on it,” he mumbles.
“Yes, it shows.” Mirai tilts his head to one side, searching Izuku’s face carefully. His mouth is pressed shut in a tight line, but he’s too young to have a proper poker face, and Mirai can see the sad, almost longing look in his eyes.
“You know, Izuku,” he says gently. “I know you don’t remember your father very much. And, I’m sorry that—” that I couldn’t bring him home for you, that you lost him so soon and I’m no substitute for what he would have been— “that you don’t have your own memories of him. But… I’m always happy to share my own with you. Just ask.”
After a moment, Izuku raises his eyes. “Really?”
“Of course.” Mirai meets his eyes with a small smile. “I know it’s no replacement for having him with you. But I promise I’ll do my best.”
Izuku nods. “I know. You always do.” He pauses for a moment. “Um… You know that thing you and Mom were doing before?”
Izuku nods, hesitates one last time, and asks, “Did you do that with Dad, before? When you were hero partners?”
“I did,” Mirai answers, his smile widening. “And with your mother as well, even back then. She has a way of seeing things with clear eyes when I—when we got bogged down with the details.”
With that, Izuku seems to cast off the rest of the sadness. He leans forward, bright and eager the way he always is when he hears them talk about Toshi. Over the years, Mirai has found that news broadcasts and retrospectives about All-Might send Izuku out of the room or diving to change the channel, but his eyes go soft and bright whenever Mirai or Inko get nostalgic.
It was hard, the first time Izuku asked. Looking into Izuku’s eyes while he talked about Toshi once sent grief crashing in on him in pounding waves. But it’s easier now, especially when it makes the boy so happy.
“Go ahead,” Mirai urges, patting the sofa cushion. “Ask away. I know you want to.”
Izuku hops up to sit with him. “It’s kind of silly,” he mumbles.
“I very much doubt that.”
“Did… you all do things together?” Izuku asks. “You and Mom and Dad? ‘Cause I know you’re friends with Mom now, and she always says you were Dad’s friend first, but were you all friends at the same time too?”
Mirai blinks, hiding his surprise. Usually Izuku asks about Toshi as All-Might, often to confirm whether something he heard on TV or from classmates was true or not. “Oh, well, yes,” he replies. “I knew Toshi for a few years before he met your mother, but it didn’t take long for me to befriend her as well. And yes, we did things together. It wasn’t always easy to spend time together in public, with Toshi as well-known as he was, and their relationship a secret, but we carved out a space for our friendship where we could.”
“Like how?” Izuku presses.
“Hmm.” Mirai taps his chin. “Well, your father and I both discovered that playing any sort of card game with your mother is a terrible idea.”
Inko comes striding out of the kitchen, drying her hands on a dish towel. “Oh, and you’re one to talk,” she gently teases. “Izuku, this man got Scrabble banned from the house. He’s a nightmare with a word-a-day calendar.”
Izuku giggles. “What about Dad?” he asks. “Was there something he always beat you at?”
Mirai and Inko groan at the exact same time, at nearly the same pitch. “Jenga,” Inko sighs. “I swear, that man was the biggest show-off. Hold on, let me see if I still have that picture saved…”
“Don’t show him the picture,” Mirai says wearily. A few minutes later, Inko is doing exactly that. It shows the exact coffee table that they’re sitting around in the living room, with the most ridiculously balanced tower of Jenga bricks imaginable, complete with an empty soda can perched at the top. A much-younger Mirai stands blurry in the background, yelling at Toshi just off camera. Seeing it tightens the back of Mirai’s throat, and the bitter grief mixes far too well with the sweetness of a good memory.
“Did Dad do that?” Izuku asks.
“Everyone has their talents,” Inko replies.
“The physics degree didn’t hurt,” Mirai mutters, half to himself. Izuku hears anyway and gapes. “Yes, people were always surprised to find out about that. As if one can wield his level of power safely without understanding the science behind it.”
“He liked science?” Izuku asks eagerly.
“Yes, well, most of the time,” Mirai replies. “Ethical science.”
“The rabbits,” Inko sighs.
“The rabbits,” Mirai agrees. To Izuku he explains, “We raided an illegal research laboratory once. Toshi took issue with their methods when we found the animals they were using. Luckily, we were able to save most of them.” He quirks a smile. “Picture it: the Symbol of Peace with his hands cupped like this, filled with baby rabbits. I wish I’d had a camera.”
Izuku giggles again at the image, dispelling any lingering grief from Mirai’s mind before it can properly form.
All is well for now. He’ll just have to be mindful of himself in the future.
“Stand up straight,” Enji snaps. “Stop cringing, you look like a mouse.”
Shouto blinks at his words, hard enough to count as a flinch, but says nothing. Thank goodness for small mercies; the early morning training session was only a short one, and the boy gets mouthy at home when he hasn’t had all the energy worked out of him. Letting him slack doesn’t just soften his muscles; it softens his discipline, as well.
Still, Shouto minds his manners in public. He learned his lesson after the last time Enji was informed of his misbehavior. It won’t be tolerated, especially not on a day like this.
“Have a good morning, sir!” the receptionist chirps as Enji makes his way through the lobby to the elevator. He grunts in response. “Ah, a Father’s Day excursion?”
This is a sufficient deviation from the usual front-desk script to make him pause and look back, glaring in irritation. “What was that?”
The bland smile on the woman’s face freezes, as if she senses that she’s said something wrong. “It’s… June, sir. Third Sunday of the month? It’s Father’s Day, and you’ve got your son with you…”
Enji turns and continues walking before she finishes babbling out her explanation. What a ridiculous notion. This is a hero agency, not some bland white-collar office. The only time holidays are relevant is when they cause an uptick in villain activity.
His usual car and driver are waiting for them down in the garage. In the back of the car, Enji shuts the divider so he won’t be overheard. The drive won’t be very long, only to the other side of Musutafu; he has that much time to reinforce the rules.
“I expect you flawless behavior from you,” he says. Shouto stares straight ahead, but Enji knows he’s listening. “Embarrass me today, and there will be consequences. Is that clear?”
“Yes,” Shouto says, still staring at the divider.
“Now, you have been watching me run my agency since you were small,” Enji goes on. “While I expect you to learn a great deal from that, the best heroes are those whose influence reaches other offices, other agencies. This means dealing with the same heroes who are your competitors and opponents.”
“I thought villains were your opponents,” Shouto says.
Enji considers cuffing him for speaking out of turn, but decides against it. Better he gets his attitude out of his system now than in front of others. “All heroes compete with one another to reach superior ranks,” he says, barely holding back his annoyance. “You know that. I’ve told you that many times before. Don’t waste my time being willfully ignorant.” Shouto says nothing. “You will be compelled to cultivate alliances as a hero. An unfortunate and tiresome necessity, but as long as you don’t waste your time fraternizing, it can benefit your standing. As tiresome as he is, Sir Nighteye can be an asset.”
Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Shouto shoot a quick glance at him. It seems he’s captured the boy’s genuine interest for once.
“He’s no threat, at least,” Enji says dismissively. “He cares nothing for rank, which is to be expected. As All-Might’s old sidekick, he’s used to leaving the glory to greater heroes while he stays in the background where he belongs.”
“I thought heroes need rank,” Shouto breaks in. “For getting better missions and more money.”
It’s a genuine question rather than petulance for once. “He’s clever,” Enji explains gruffly. “Not clever enough to better his own position, but clever enough to be useful in long-running missions and investigations. His agency operates much the same as he did when he worked for All-Might: by handling intelligence from a distance and passing the heavy lifting to others. He’s a bottomfeeder that survives by clinging to bigger fish.”
Shouto doesn’t question him further.
“In any case, today’s meeting concerns a fairly minor villain who’s becoming a nuisance in West Tokyo,” Enji says. “It’s all very run-of-the-mill, so it will be a good experience for you. It will also do you good to know Nighteye’s face. He may be a tiresome paper-pusher, but he may be an asset to you, once you are a hero.”
They reach Nighteye’s office soon after, and the car makes its way down to the subterranean garage. The front entrance passes within view, and Enji notes with a small amount of satisfaction the smattering of reporters camped out on the lawn. It’s been years since he had to deal with that nonsense.
At least the lobby is closed off to the outside. No glass doors, no windows, nothing that would allow enterprising cameramen to catch a glimpse of even the receptionist’s desk. Said receptionist opens her mouth to greet him, and he walks by her without slowing down. Shouto follows him only a step behind.
In the bullpen, the desk closest to the entrance belongs to the sidekick Relay. Since Enji loathes dealing with Relay, he usually walks by her to address Centipeder instead. Today, however, he stops short. Centipeder’s desk is unoccupied; many of the other desks are, aside from sidekicks that Enji does not care to know. Relay's desk is occupied, not by the sidekick but by a child that barely looks old enough for middle school, slouching over a handheld game.
After a few seconds, the boy finally looks up, does a double-take, and settles on Shouto. “Wow,” he rasps. “Guess it’s Take Your Kid To Work Day after all.”
“What is the meaning of this?” Enji grits out through clenched teeth. “What is a twelve-year-old boy doing here?”
“That’s a great question,” the boy replies. “I’m thirteen, and gramps called ahead about me.”
“Where is Nighteye?” Enji demands.
Instead of answering, the boy turns back to his game. “Did you sign in? Relay says you never sign in.”
Irritated, Enji makes to storm past the desk and find an actual hero instead of a mouthy, undisciplined boy, only for Nighteye himself pass through the bullpen with Relay and Centipeder at his heels. They, too, stop short when they see that Enji has let himself in.
Relay eyes the boy in her seat. “Comfy?” she asks dryly.
“Yep,” the boy replies without looking up.
Nighteye rolls his eyes, then turns to Enji and pulls a double-take when he catches sight of Shouto. “Endeavor, what .”
“It’s no concern of yours,” Enji cuts him off. “Merely preparing my son for his future. It will do him good to see how a hero make use of his resources.”
“He’s eight,” Nighteye says flatly.
“I don’t expect you to understand,” Enji says with forced patience. The sooner Nighteye gets over it, the sooner Enji can finish up here and leave. “Some of us have legacies worth passing on. Not to mention children born to carry them.” He glances at his son, only to find him slouching like a delinquent. “Stand up straight, Shouto.” Shouto blinks hard again and obeys. Enji gives him one last warning glare before turning back to Nighteye. “Let’s get this over with, Nighteye.”
Nighteye massages at his temples with his free hand. “Endeavor, I am terribly sorry for apparently misrepresenting the tone of this meeting to you. In fact, had you called ahead about this, I would have explained the situation properly. We will be discussing matters of Level 9 clearance. It is literally against regulations for him to attend this meeting.”
For a split second, Enji almost loses his temper then and there. “Level 9?” he snaps. “For a minor villain? This is preposterous!”
“It sure is,” Relay mutters.
“Just charge him for day care fees,” the boy at Relay's desk pipes up. “Everybody needs a side hustle.”
Nighteye sighs, before his irritation smooths over into a mask of professional calm. “May we compromise?” he suggests. “My sidekicks are working on other projects, many of them more suitable to the exercise you intended for your son. While we talk, I can place him in the care of a competent hero willing to show him the ropes. Would that satisfy you?”
“Barely,” Enji says reluctantly. “But I suppose I don’t have a choice.”
“He can sit in for the meeting in Conference Room C, then,” Nighteye says. “And if ours runs longer, then I can have one of my sidekicks show him around the office, give him a proper look at hero work behind the scenes. Centipeder, if you would show Endeavor the way to my office? It’s been a while since his last visit.”
“I know the way,” Enji snaps. Turning to Shouto, he fixes him with one last glare. “Best behavior,” he reminds him. “I’ll know if you’ve been slacking or mouthing off.” Shouto nods once, then goes to follow Nighteye out of the bullpen. Only then does Enji allow Centipeder to lead him away.
“You all right, boss?” Relay asks.
Oh, right. His temper is beginning to show on his face. “I will be in a moment,” Mirai answers tightly. “The nerve of that man, bringing his eight-year-old son here as if he owns the place—”
Watch it, Relay reminds him through her quirk, jerking her head toward the child at their heels.
Mirai forces himself to slow his pace and take a breath. “Pardon me, Todoroki-kun,” he says. “I’m a bit irritated with your father, but not with you. And I’m terribly sorry you’ve been dragged here. I can’t imagine that the work we do here would interest you very much.”
The boy simply shrugs and says nothing, scratching at the edge of the mark on his face. It’s either a birthmark or a scar, and Mirai desperately hopes that it’s a birthmark. If it’s a scar…
Pretty slick back there, boss, Relay’s telepathic voice cuts off his thoughts. Level 9 clearance? That’s the biggest whopper I’ve heard you tell since the last time you chased that tabloid writer off the front lawn.
Mirai smiles thinly, wishing that he could reply in the same fashion. Ahead of them, Conference Room C comes into view, right as Tenko finally catches up to them in the hallway.
“There you are,” Relay says. “What kept you? My message didn’t miss your brain, did it?”
Tenko shrugs unapologetically. “Figured I’d wait til he was already in the office, so he wouldn’t see me following.”
Mirai opens the door to Conference Room C and leads the way inside. Contrary to what he told Endeavor, there is no meeting here today. In fact, the room’s only occupant is Izuku, who is currently absorbed in whatever he’s watching on the tablet in front of him.
Mirai can feel Todoroki Shouto staring at him. “Izuku? Sorry to interrupt.”
Izuku looks up, brightening as he pauses the video. “Hi, Nighteye! Hi Tenko—oh, who’s that?”
With one last glance down the hallway behind them, Mirai beckons the boy forward. “Izuku, this is Todoroki Shouto. He’s visiting the office for today. Would you mind keeping him company for me?”
“Sure!” Izuku waves. “Hi, Todoroki-kun! I’m watching a TV special about Crimson Riot. Want to watch with me?”
Todoroki is still staring at Mirai, occasionally glancing toward the hall, as if he’s waiting for the other shoe to drop. He stares at Izuku for a moment, then at Mirai again.
“Don’t look at me like that,” Mirai says, raising an eyebrow. “I told him I’d make sure you were looked after, so I’m putting my best man on the job. This is Izuku. He's about your age, and he'll take good care of you.” He pauses. "Do try to keep Tenko out of trouble, as well."
“Thanks,” Tenko says, without any real ire behind it.
“In any case, you’ll have a much better time with someone your own age than a bunch of heroes doing busy work,” Mirai continues. “As for your father, well, I won’t tell if you won’t.”
Todoroki’s penetrating stare holds him for a moment more, before the boy finally speaks for the first time.
“You lied to him.”
He doesn’t sound particularly upset about it. If anything he seems almost… awestruck. As if he can’t believe that Mirai isn’t simply going along with exactly what Endeavor wanted. As if what Endeavor wanted isn't patently ridiculous.
Maybe the boy before him will become a hero and maybe he won't. But right now he's eight years old, and the only thing eight-year-old boys should be doing on a Sunday afternoon is enjoying childhood while they still can.
“He’ll live,” Mirai says coolly.
“You three have fun!” Relay calls to them as she follows him out. Before they’re even out of earshot she’s already carrying on the conversation mentally. Good thing they were here today. Izuku especially, he’ll brighten that kid’s day right up.
“Thank his mother for having a job interview scheduled today,” Mirai answers.
“Oh, good for her,” Relay says aloud. “What brought that one?”
“There’s been… trouble at the Symbol of Peace Foundation recently,” Mirai explains. “A few employees had to be let go for certain transgressions. Inko has her eye on one of those vacant spots. She’s very keen.”
“Nice. I hope she gets it.”
“I think she will. It’s an honor to be a part of All-Might’s legacy, and I can think of no one more deserving than someone like her.” Mirai looks sidelong at his employee. “Speaking of which, I suppose congratulations are in order.”
“Ahh, thanks, boss.”
“We’ll be sorry to see you go, of course,” Mirai says. “But I’m also not surprised that you received an offer. I hope to work with you again in the future, Relay.”
She beams at him. “Won’t be Relay much longer. I’ll be re-branding. Me and Pinpoint—remember Pinpoint, with the search quirk? We’re teaming up with a couple of heroes from Ehime and Kagoshima. It’ll be a theme group, rescue-focused. I think we’ll do well together.”
“I think so as well.” They’re nearly back at his office, and Mirai takes a deep breath. “Well. Poker faces ready.”
“Better scrounge up some Level 9 material to throw at him, boss.”
Not an hour later, disaster strikes. A villain attack a few miles away prompts a call to action, and of course the number one and those nearest to him must answer.
In the meanwhile, Midoriya Izuku drags Todoroki Shouto downstairs to the special underground tunnel that leads across the street, for the sake of agency employees wishing to bypass the press on their way to lunch. At the other end of the tunnel lies, among other things, a park with a playground, a bookstore, and an ice cream shop. Shimura Tenko follows them, keeping one eye on the clock just in case.
They're back at the office, clean of any grass stains and chocolate smears, well before Endeavor returns to the office.
Shouto looks back as he follows his father out of the office, just in time to see Izuku poke his head around a corner and wave. With a quick glance to make sure his father isn’t looking, he waves back.