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fire burns

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 Mako never met his parents.


He’s told that his father had a nasty, twisted scar on his face that left him blind in one eye. His mother had a long black ponytail that hung limp and lifeless. His other father - there were two men, he’s told, who raised him those first few years along with his mother - had sharp hands that moved ruthlessly.


His captors do everything they can to turn his heroic parents into villains.


He’s never met them, but he knows perfectly well who they are. 


Shouto. Creati. Ingenium. 


He was ripped from their arms as a child by these terrible villains, the one with the blood manipulation and the other with the telekinesis. He was ripped from their arms and manipulated since he was three, molded into the perfect villain.


And he was. For a very long time, he was.


For his captors, he killed his first person at age eight, and his body count only went up from there. He set group homes full of children on fire and dragged the barely living bodies of people his own age back home, the bodies of the ones who seemed to have useful quirks to their new masters. He pretended to be nothing but an innocent child, garnering them free food and information and passage across borders. 

Finally, they are back in Japan, believing it’s been long enough that some of the hounds will be back in their cages, no longer after Mako. It’s been twelve years, after all. 


Finally, they are back in Musutafu, and Mako has made his escape.


He would have done this a very long time ago. But what would he have done after that? Stranded in America, or Russia, or the Dominican Republic, or wherever they happened to be that month? He couldn’t go to the police. He was wanted in every country. Not that they knew who he was, they just knew that someone was out there killing orphans and they wanted to take them down. 


They didn’t know the killer was a child himself. 


Mako has spent the last few years, after realizing his parentage and the truth of his childhood, in a quiet rebellion. He’s carefully timed his fires to when little to no children are in the homes, he’s started avoiding the kids with the stronger quirks, he’s started leaving as much as he behind with whoever he robs. He’s still a criminal. His acts are still despicable. But the lower his victim list is, the better. 


Sirens go by. He ducks behind a dumpster. 


He needs food. He’s been creating too much and it’s starting to take a toll on him.


But another thing he’s in dire need of is time. He can eat when he has that - for now, he needs to find his oasis. 


Mako has had one address in his mind since he realized what was going on - a time in his life he very creatively dubbed The Realization. Did he find this address by hacking into and snooping through UA teachers’ emails? Maybe. Let him live. 


Or don’t. He doesn’t mind either way. 


He’s only blocks away from it now. It’s been three years since The Realization, since he found the address, and he prays that this address will still be the oasis he imagines. 


It’s raining, a light but miserable dribble that’s been going on for days and has left Mako soaked through his thin sweater to his bones. His docs were once waterproof, but they’ve both got holes in them somewhere and his mismatched socks are filled with water. His stomach rumbles - he’s about two seconds from eating himself from the inside out.

It doesn’t matter, he reminds himself. Oasis. 


His oasis isn’t much to look at. An apartment in a building tucked away between two shady looking shops. One of the windows is boarded up. 


But still, he watches a young woman walk out of it, holding a baby to her chest. It’s not abandoned. Besides, he’s lived in worse places. 


He grits his teeth and finds the right apartment number. His knock seems to echo in the near silence - near only because of the chatter of rats and the drip drip of leaky roofs. 


Eventually, Mako hears the clicks of what must be a significant amount of locks and the door swings open, revealing his angel.


His angel, with his face gnarled by scars and his piercing turqiose eyes that match Mako’s. His angel, with black hair and white roots, a hand shoved into an old jacket. His angel, who one of UA’s teachers had described in one of his emails as a ‘slightly feral but lovable rat man’.


“Can I help you?” The angel rumbles, rubbing sleep from his eyes at three PM. Mako swallows.


“Yes,” he says. What language did he just speak? At the man’s raised eyebrow, he’s thinking not Japanese - did he say it in Spanish, in his nervousness? Mexico is where his earliest memories lay. He had to teach himself Japanese, and it always comes out broken and clumsy, his tongue tripping over the rhythmic syllables, more used to the dancing lilt of Spanish or English. 


“What do you mean, yes?” His angel asks. Good. He hadn’t made a fool of himself and spoken something else. “ How can I help you?”

Mako has to take a second to mentally translate the words. Then, “You are Todoro-”


The door slams.


“Wait!” Mako shouts, banging on the door. “Wait, I am Mako! Please, I need help!”

The door opens again, just a bit, not even enough for Mako to see all of his angel’s face. “What did you just say?” He asks. Mako isn’t very good at deciphering Japanese words, but he can sense the tone, and his angel’s words sound much less like a question and far more like a threat.


Nonetheless, Mako says, “My name is Todoroki Mako. I am your nephew. You are Todoroki Touya?”

“Mako is dead,” his angel hisses. The door shakes, and Mako imagines the hand on the doorknob is shaking, too. “Tell me who you really are.”

Mako pulls his photograph out of his pocket. Him as a baby, and his angel holding him in his arms. His angel looks scared, nervous, but his smile still looks fond. The picture is creased from years of hiding beneath the covers with a flashlight and unfolding it, staring at it for hours on end, then refolding it the second footsteps come down the hallway. 


He shoves it forward, pointing to the baby. Him. His angel stares at it for several moments before taking it and shoving it in his back pocket. Mako’s heart skips a beat at the loss of his picture, but the door is now opened fully, so he doesn’t complain. 


The man examines him for a second. Mako isn’t much to look at, truthfully. He’s got a motheaten black sweater with a skull embroidered over the pocket, a t-shirt for a band he doesn’t know that he fished out of the dumpster, long sweatpants, old doc martens. His hair is white on one side and black on the other, long overdue for a cut and pulled into a low ponytail. His eyes match his angel’s. His skin is pale, his cheeks sallow - he’s been told he looks sickly, half dead. 


“Well, you look the part. What’s your quirk?”


Mako, unable to find the words to explain it, says, “Mom.” He holds out his right hand and despite his meager nutrients, creates a small figurine of a doe.


The man takes it in his hand, turns it over a few times. Then, after a long sigh, steps aside and swings his arm out further into the apartment. “Come on in, I guess.”


Mako takes in the apartment meant to be his oasis. A mattress with no frame on the floor, a coffee table with a block under one leg, a pile of dirty clothes in the corner. 


Yeah, definitely not the worst place Mako has slept in.


(There is a pair of shoes next to the door too big to belong tohis angel, and a clean and crisp tan jacket lined with fur thrown over the back of the chair. Interesting. Or at least, Mako thinks so.)


“Sit,” his angel grunts, pointing to the chair without the jacket. Mako does, but his angel stays standing on the other side of the coffee table. “Explain. Where did you go? We - your parents were worried sick, do you know that?”

Mako stays quiet for a long moment to choose his words. Japanese is hard, especially when you are learning it on your own. It practically becomes a different language depending on who you’re talking to, and Mako can’t decide how he should speak with his angel. This is his uncle - so he should be more casual? But still respectful, as is the basis of Japanese culture. 


His angel is starting to get antsy, but he doesn’t pressure Mako to speak as many others would.


Finally, he says, “Kidnapped. I was turned into… villain. Killed children. Robbed elders. I’m sorry. Sorry. I was a child.”

His angel chokes.

“I call you… Touya Ojiisan?”

The man chokes again. “How about Dabi?”

Mako concentrates and tries to wrap his tongue around it. Not hard to pronounce, when he grew up with English and Spanish, but difficult to understand. Why would his angel use it?


“That’s my name now, kid. Use it or get out.”


Well, Mako definitely doesn’t want to leave, so he says, “Dabi Ojisan?”


“Just Dabi.”

“Dabi Ojisan or just Ojisan.” Mako is nothing if not respectful.

The man narrows his eyes, arms crossed over his chest. For a second, Mako’s heart rate picks up. Did he say something wrong? Is his angel going to kick him out of the oasis?

Finally, the man relents. “Whichever one, I guess.”

Mako mentally settles on Ojisan. Then, “You will help me?”


Ojisan sighs long through his nose, dragging a scarred hand down his face. Mako wants to know the story behind the scars, but figures it would be rude to ask. “Yeah, whatever. Let me go back to sleep first.”


“It’s afternoon,”  Mako says. Ojisan rolls his eyes and collapses onto the mattress.


Mako, for his part, has not slept in a long while, so he settles on the floor - facing the door, with a knife of his creation in hand. 


This is not the angel or the oasis he imagined. But it is good enough for him, and he will protect it while he's here.



Mako’s angel screams in his sleep. 


Mako, to be entirely fair, only know this because his own nightmares woke him up.


Ojisan continues to scream and scream. Mako figures he will only intervene if Ojisan’s quirk activates. After all, Mako himself hates to be woken from nightmares by others. Too many times, he has hurt people in his hysteria. 


A small part of Mako wishes Ojisan’s quirk would appear. He read about it in the emails between two UA teachers (the one with the long black hair and the one that screams - they’d been demonized by his captors nearly as much as his parents were), back when Ojisan was still being put through villain rehabilitation. It was described simply as blue flames. Mako sometimes wishes that, through some sort of stroke of genetic luck, he had inherited it. He’s never seen it, but in his mind, it’s beautiful. 


Blue tendrils of flame, licking at his skin. They rise upward into the air, dancing in his open palm. Their smoke chokes him as he stares, entranced at the building overflowing with children - they run, screaming out of the flames he created, bright red and orange and yellow with not a hint of blue. The children are tripping over themselves, screeching and crying, their caregivers push them out as much as they can in their panic - a girl grabs Mako’s arm, thinking he is one of them - that he is good like them - and drags him along. Acting on instinct (acting with the vision of his parents’ - his captors - watchful eyes in his mind), he pushes her back into the fire and runs back into his captors’ too tight arms.


Mako notices distantly that Ojisan’s screams have dissipated. 


Instead, he is sitting straight up on his mattress, staring at Mako in the waning afternoon light. 


Mako touches a hand to his face. It comes back wet. 


“Sorry Ojisan,” he mumbles. Ojisan shrugs and lays back down. 


There’s silence for a few minutes, in which Mako thinks nothing more will be said, until Ojisan finally says, “Why are you crying?”

No language could ever properly describe it, so Mako simply says, “Fire burns.”

Ojisan rolls over to face him. The mattress is laying straight on the floor (it’s really thin, too, and Mako realizes suddenly it’s not that he’s too broke for a frame, it’s just that he’s Japanese and using a futon), so they are at about the same level. Ojisan’s face looks pinched, like he just ate a whole lemon.


“Yeah, it does,” he says. Mako is glad Ojisan understands. 


“I made the fire burn,” Mako elaborates despite the pit in his stomach.

Ojisan closes his eyes. “Me, too.” Then, he reaches across with a closed fist. “Solidarity, my man.”

Mako doesn’t know what solidarity means, but he definitely knows a fist bump when he sees one.