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Seven Times I Fell

Chapter Text

This definitely wasn't the first time they met. Keigo saw the weird boy sneaking around the streets around the train station before. That black overcoat and ragged, too big for the slim body, was hard to forget. The threatening aura emanating from each line of his posture, too.

Keigo kept five steps away; his feathers rustled in danger signal, and they never missed.

“His name is Dabi,” Juno said, pointing a thumb at the boy. She opened a malicious smile. “From now on, you’ll be best friends.”

That's great, Keigo also smiled, the dark and disturbing figure will be my partner. Cool.

“Hello, Dabi,” he waved a hand. “You can call me Hawks.”

Dabi tilted his head to the side, and it was difficult to say with the high collar of the overcoat covering half of his face, but his expression seemed ironic.

“Hawks?” scalding blue eyes focused on Keigo. “Aren't you the chicken girl who wanders the overpass?”

Keigo's smile widened. Wow, chicken jokes. If he earned a yen for every mockery like that, maybe he already had enough money to buy a house and get off the streets.

“I prefer to be treated in the masculine,” he warned because this was relevant.

Okay, sometimes Keigo looked – and felt – like a girl. However, here, in the club, he was totally boy.

A hoarse and short laugh escaped Dabi's lips.

“If I had been born a useless woman, I would have done that too,” an unfamiliar accent outlined the words.

“Hey, brat, I'm a woman!” Juno exclaimed, then pointed a long neon-orange nail at Dabi. “Remember that now I represent the difference between you eating and starving. Don't try my patience.”

Dabi shrugged his shoulders, indifferent. An act of courage on his part. Juno was intimidating in her habitual mood. Irritated, she radiated authority from every inch of her two meters in height. The large dark glasses that hid her eyes did not lessen the effect of her frown.

Weeks ago, Keigo found a book on Roman Mythology in the library. Finding out that Juno was the goddess of marriage and fidelity earned him an earful for laughing uncontrollably in the reading area. Juno, the woman who collected people from the streets to fight in illegal tournaments, deserved to be the goddess of the underworld.

A person should have more than the courage to deal with her. Dabi needed a smart brain functioning below that mass of hair... gray? The strands appeared to be white, although they were stained with something dark, like soot.

Ugh, doesn't the guy take a shower?

“You two have twenty minutes to prepare before the first fight.” Juno walked towards the locker room door. The yellowish light from the lamps reflected on the sequins of her long dress. She was especially beautiful this night. The bets should have surpassed expectations again. “Hawks, don't let this dumbass ruin my show.”

“Yes, ma'am.”

Dabi crossed his arms as he watched the woman's steps.

“Abandoning the children to do the heavy lifting...” he murmured, the syllables drawn by the distinct accent and an unnerving disdain. “That does not contradict my argument, woman.”

Juno stopped in front of the exit, the hand resting on the doorknob, her shoulders stiff as the concrete on the floor. She turned her head slowly, the lips twisted in a snarl.

Keigo jumped into space between them, the wings flapping on your back. Damn, they would only have twenty minutes of preparation.

They had no time to waste.

“There is no child here.” He gave Dabi a sharp smile. “If you’re not prepared to fight the adults, you better leave now.”

Dabi pierced him with an icy look. Behind him, Juno uttered an amused laugh, then the door creaked when it was opened and closed. An oppressive silence filled the small locker room.

Keigo internally celebrated the fact that he prevented a problem. But, shit, Dabi looked ready to assault him.

“Hey man, don't seize me too seriously! I'm just breaking the ice. We'll be best friends, remember?” He reached out a hand to scratch his tense neck. “I imagine that if you had another option, you wouldn't be hither, right? We must win the doubles match to take the prize of the night. So...” he took on a grave expression. “Let's work together.”

The silence stretched for a long second. The muffled buzz of commotion outside floated in the air. The round of individual combat was about to end. Punters were twice as loud at this time.

Dabi sighed with a certain frustration.

“Does the old bitch at least pay well?”

Keigo's spine relaxed, his wings expanded in animation. It had been ages since he did not have a fighting partner. Even if Dabi was the complete opposite of friendly, it was still nice to meet someone close to his age.

“She pays a steady amount per fight, regardless of whether you win or lose. It's not much, but it serves to buy the basics.” Keigo turned to his locker and picked up the worn-out gloves from his backpack. It was his lucky charm. As well as the faded blue sneakers, the frayed jeans jacket, and the colored beads necklace. Oh, and the precious Endeavor doll, but he would stay in the locker's safety. “When we win the fight, we can take a percentage of the bets. Juno still keeps the majority, but the more bets they make, the more money we have left!”

Dabi didn't share his enthusiasm.

“Okay, my exploration definitions have been updated.”

Keigo designed the lips in a pout. Of course, the money offered was not worth the danger of the fights. That was why Juno suffered so much finding a stable partner for him. However, he was a fifteen-year-old boy, homeless and uneducated. What else could he do to survive?

There were also some advantages in this work. Where else could Keigo develop his quirk, huh? Victories or defeats always generated learning. The accumulated experience paid off. Someday, in his incredible future, he would give motivational talks based on this troubled period of his life. He just needed to get there.

Keigo closed the padlock on the locker and decided to ignore Dabi's comment.

“What's your quirk?”

Dabi raised a hand. On his wrist, a purplish-red crust stood out amid pale skin. It was a fresh bruise, certainly painful. Keigo approached, willing to offer his first aid kit to treat the injury.

He didn't have a chance of making the offer.

Dabi's fist became a torch, in which a ball of blue fire crackled. Heat radiated through the space between them and warmed Keigo's skin. The sensation was not bad, but the smell of burnt meat traveled directly to Keigo's stomach, making him sick.

“Fire. Right. Nice, but, um, doesn't it hurt?” He pointed to the fist still in flames.

An abrupt movement of Dabi's hand and the fire went out. The light in his eyes was as warm and intimidating as his quirk.

“What do you do?” He reduced the distance and leaned forward, studying Keigo's wings with curiosity. “These things seem too delicate for a fight.”

Keigo revealed his teeth in the wildest smile in his collection. Suddenly, he opened its wings, the feathers arranged in the most exact imitation of a hawk descending on the prey.

The sudden action forced Dabi to step back and take a defensive posture, hands extended in front of the body.

“This is my quirk: Fierce Wings,” Keigo said, and for three heartbeats, the tension weighed the atmosphere. Then... “But, yeah, they’re very beautiful, right?" He gently flapped his wings, sending a breeze to play with Dabi's fringe.

To his surprise, the other boy laughed. Not the sinister and cavernous noise from before; it was a more elaborate, vibrant, and shrill sound like the ringing of bells, although a little rusty.

“Good, you won’t be a dead weight. Just stay out of my way and try not burning yourself.”

"Wait, who assures me that you won’t be a dead weight?” Keigo launched a hard-hitting look at Dabi's fist. “The wound, how serious is it?”

“It's nothing too much”, his voice remained light and playful. “You know, I guess I'm used to it.” He pulled on the collar of the overcoat and revealed a darkened, misshapen jaw. Burned. Metallic dots ran across the cheeks and traced a line from the chin to the lower lip.

O-kay, Keigo breathed in, my poor first aid kit is not an option.

“Can you- can you fight in this...” he gestured vaguely to Dabi's body, “in this state?”

Dabi's face soured. Keigo hastened to add:

“I don't want to offend you or anything. It’s that most of the competitors are older than us. They won't take it easy and today is your first day. So, can you-”

“Worry about your ass, chicken,” Dabi interrupted him. Rude words, but absent from anger, just... tired, maybe? He turned and headed toward the exit. “It's almost time, right? Let's go.”

“Hey, wait!” Keigo ran after him. “We should come up with a combat plan. Do you have any special attacks? The audience likes flashy moves. Juno can even pay extra if the show is big!”

“A sublime debut!” Juno threw a handful of confetti over Dabi's head. “I knew you were talented, I knew!”

Dabi kept his expression flat. The colored papers were stuck in the stormy mess of his hair, giving him an oddly festive appearance. Keigo would like to make a sarcastic remark about the look, but his brain was working below capacity.

He has not yet discovered what was more exhausting: protecting himself from opponents or the flames of Dabi. Damn Dabi! Keigo probably received more burns than the guys they fought with. Most of the “friendly fire” would have been avoided if the bastard remembered they were fighting together.

“Where's my money?” Dabi asked, abruptly, and walked into the Juno office. He was limping from his left leg, hit in the thigh by one feather – a blow that might or not have been intentional.

“Straight to business, great,” Juno went to the elegant table in the corner of the room and rummaged through the pile of envelopes deposited on it.

The environment was dark and stuffy, similar to the rest of the club. The smell of alcoholic drinks and incense pricked Keigo's nose. He leaned against the door frame, unable to force himself to go any farther.

The goal was to take the money, get out as fast as the scorched wings can handle, and sleep for the next seventy-two hours. After, he would buy an enormous portion of fried chicken.

He deserved eating fried chicken.

“Here it is,” Juno offered one of the envelopes to Dabi. “Do the thing of fire wall more often and this pack will be more stuffed.”

Without answering, Dabi snatched the envelope. He tore the side and went on to count the money.

“And here's yours”, Juno tossed the package towards Keigo. A feather slashed the air to keep the envelope from hitting his face. The woman smiled and raised her thumb. “Handsome and agile as always. Customers continue pleading for one hour of your time. Did you think about it?”

“Yeah.” Keigo opened the package and slid a chipped fingernail over the bills. The quantity was exactly what he expected. “The answer is still no.”

The Juno smile slipped. She shrugged, then sat down in her swivel chair.

“The upcoming show will be on the sixteenth.”

Keigo acquiesced and turned to leave. His ribs ached, his feathers were a mess, and the burn on his shoulder stung like hell. He wanted to get home soon.

Juno's deep voice halted him.

“Some stupid hero was seen asking strange questions in the neighborhood. They're probably looking to end our fun. Be very careful where you walk and who you talk to, guys.”

Dabi walked to heavy steps to the door.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever.”

Keigo let him pass. The stench of smoke and sweat followed him down the narrow corridor.

Please, gods, allow this man to take a shower before our next meeting.

Keigo waved to Juno again.

“See you, ma'am.”

He dragged the feet to the back exit. Outside, a refreshing breeze greeted him. The waning moon had already disappeared behind the buildings of the industrial complex and dawn crept timidly across the night sky. Before long, the sun would assume the leading position on another spring day.

To fly in the daylight was to beg to be approached by the police.

Keigo put the backpack on his unhurt shoulder and went out through the dimly lit alley. Well, a morning walk wouldn't kill him – even if it took triple the time.

I just wanted a flight license, he whined to himself. The casual thought drew a harsh response from his subconscious: if you had entered the heroes course, you would have one.

He stumbled, dazed; the heart tightened by unmet expectations. C’mon, he rubbed his chest to relieve the pressure, be nice to me. He walked more slowly, his lips in a thin line. Be patient.

All was not lost. This year he would save enough money for the entrance exam. Keigo would be late compared to the other students, but so what? He would enter the UA. He would be a hero and help people.

Like Endeavor, he smiled. Life was difficult, many chains pulled him down, but he had wings. Wings that allowed him to fly above the clouds, above the difficulties.

Get ready, world, because Wing Hero is coming!

Energy infiltrated the spirit of Keigo. Oh, instead of spending the day sleeping, he could study at the library. Or rather, train his quirk. Or, better yet, be useful to someone.

There's always someone in need of help, he turned a corner, I can help- A single car passed down the main street. The headlights illuminated the person propped up against a wall beside the alley. In the millisecond of clarity, Keigo's gaze met Dabi's.

Keigo stopped.

Dabi had one hand in the pocket of his overcoat while the other held a lit cigarette. The shadows of the street hid his face; his posture, however, showed a slight stiffness before the presence of Keigo.

It was no surprise that Dabi was always alone. The guy emitted constant “stay away” signals. The disfigured face and the cold look were also not very inviting. The personality? A burning shit.

Who would be stupid to approach him?

“Hey, Dabi,” Keigo greeted. He also had no friends, after all. “Thought you were already gone. Were you waiting for me?”

A cloud of smoke escaped Dabi's nostrils and spiraled into the darkness. Keigo wrinkled his nose at the bitter smell.

“No way. I'm just killing time.” Dabi took the cigarette to his lips. “It's not like I have much more to do,” the words sounded grumbled, almost incomprehensible as if not even he wanted to hear them.

Keigo's feathers fluttered. His instinct felt in the air something that his brain has yet to reach. Dabi posed a poignant threat; one that went beyond the consuming blue flame he fired from his hands.

Still, Keigo found himself asking:

“Where are you from?” Dabi's head turned towards him. Keigo could feel the other's questioning expression. “Your accent is different,” he explained, defensive. “I traveled a lot through Kyushu when I was younger. Like, I know most of the dialects from here. Your accent is just unlike anything.”

The standard Japanese gained deep and striking notes in Dabi's mouth. He was certainly not a native of Kyushu. So where?

Seconds were lost in the silence of the deserted street. Then, in sudden movements, Dabi threw the cigarette on the floor and crushed it under his boot. The dawn chose that moment to fully rise to the sky. Sunbeams bathed Dabi's slender structure, revealing his half-enraged, half-melancholy countenance.

“It's none of your fucking business,” he snarled and turned his back on Keigo. Without a second look, Dabi crossed the street and took the opposite sidewalk.

Confusion kept Keigo rooted to the ground.

Well, he blinked, did I say something wrong?