Touya slipped into the dockyard at the cover of night, a vice grip tightening around his lungs with each step he took. He’d warned him. He’d warned him. His father was not someone to be trifled with. Any promise, any bargain he would offer, came with strings. The type of strings that would wrap around your throat and string you up from the nearest tree - and then he would light you on fire for good measure, just to be an asshole.
And now he had Keigo.
Touya didn’t know how this had gone so wrong. Keigo hadn’t even told him that he was looking into his father again. Touya would have warned him away from it instantly - which, now that he thought about it, was probably why Keigo kept it from him. Keigo had always been insistent that he needed to stop living with the sword of his father dangling over his head, but he didn’t understand! He didn’t understand that it was safer to live with that sword, safer to spend every day of the rest of his life checking over his shoulder at every turn, than to try to face the man head on.
He would always outsmart them. He would always win.
He knew where his father would be. He’d brought Touya to these docks as a kid, to the last warehouse on the left. It was where his father stored his victims.
It had been a slow realization, when he was a child. His mother had given him the first clue - when he’d crawled in her lap at five years old, telling her how he wanted to be just like his father. She’d burst into tears, clinging him to her chest and making him promise he would never become his father. She disappeared less than a year later; Touya wouldn’t know until he was much older that his father had overheard him that night. He said their mother left them, chose to vanish into the night. Touya knew better now.
He’d never hurt them. But with the amount of time he spent away from home, Touya essentially had to raise his three younger siblings after his mother left. But he never doubted his father, back then. His dad was trying to do this all on his own - he did whatever he had to keep them happy and safe.
The day he became a teenager, his father took him aside - told him he was finally old enough to learn what his father did on his nights away from home. He took him to the docks, showed him his warehouse, showed him his collection. Trinkets, stolen from women that he’d killed and buried beneath the floors of the warehouse. A lock of hair here, a scrap of fabric torn from a dress. Touya still remembered the tears stinging his eyes when he spotted his mother’s wedding ring sitting among the collection. His father hit him for crying.
She betrayed us, Touya. Betrayed me. Anyone who betrays me deserves the justice I bring to them.
Touya didn’t see any justice in that dimly-lit warehouse. That was the first moment he’d truly feared his father. He’d tried to flee, stumbling into a dark corner of the room as far away from his mother’s ring as he could get, and that’s when he heard the dripping.
Drip. Drip. Drip.
His nose wrinkled as an acrid scent overtook him. He whipped around to bolt, running straight into a pale, naked form dangling in the air in front of him. A brunette woman, strung up by her ankles, swung from a beam overhead. Blood dripped down her slackened face from the massive wound on her throat, mixing into her long, curly hair as it pooled on the concrete.
Touya screamed, shoving himself away from the dead woman and casting around for something, anything to use to defend himself. His father caught him before he could make it more than a few steps. He’d hit him again, for making so much noise, and then he’d dragged him home, making him swear that he would tell no one what he’d seen. If he did...if he did, the woman he’d seen would look good compared to what his father would do to him.
Touya hadn’t celebrated his birthday since. But he held his tongue - when his father realized his control was slipping, he would threaten his siblings. If he told anyone what he’d seen, it would be Fuyumi who paid for it. Or Natsuo. Or Shoto - perfect little Shoto who had already been through so much. Who had managed to get a burn across the left side of his face - Touya hadn’t been home the night Shoto got hurt, and his brother was silent about what had happened. But Touya knew. Touya knew it was their father, and he realized it didn’t matter if he kept his silence or not. They weren’t safe. His siblings weren’t safe, no matter what.
It took six months. Six months for his father to slip up. Six months for his father to relax in his control and overlook something. Six months to trust his son. And that spelled his downfall.
When Enji left that night, Touya sprung into action. He’d bundled his siblings up in their winter coats and walked them the four miles to the police station. He’d had to carry Shoto most of the way, and Natsuo had given Fuyumi a piggy-back ride the second leg, but they made it all the same.
The police had believed their story. The determined word of a half-frozen teenager clinging to his three smaller siblings was easy to believe - even when it was directed against one of the most prominent businessmen in town. They’d arrested Enji Todoroki that night, and though Touya hadn’t followed the details of their investigation, he did know that they’d managed to identify most of his victims, closing dozens of unsolved disappearances from the last twenty years. Digging their remains from the concrete under the warehouse. Giving their families whatever solace they could.
He’d tried to shield his siblings from the worst of it, but he could only do so much before they were all split up. With no family left to speak of, they’d been sent to different homes, and even though Touya desperately tried to find them, he’d had no luck, year after year. Eventually, he’d had to give up, focus on keeping his feet under him. Trying to make something of himself, something that his father couldn’t touch.
And then he’d met Keigo. And Keigo never judged him, taking the time to get to know him and slowly break down those walls. Touya had tried to keep him at arms’ length, tried to stop himself from getting attached. He knew better. He knew that getting attached only gave the world something to hurt you with.
But then his father escaped from prison, and everything changed. And Keigo learned the truth and still didn’t leave. And Touya let himself believe that he could have something, one little ray of light that his father couldn’t touch.
He should have known better.
He’d gotten the message from his father that morning. On his personal cell phone, because of course his father would have had his phone number. He could never keep anything from him. How long had he been watching him, watching them? Just biding his time and waiting for the perfect moment to let Touya know that he would never be free.
He just had to hope he wasn’t too late.
Touya clambered up the shipping containers as quietly as he could, making his way toward the last warehouse on the left. The windows had been broken years ago by teenagers, eager to take some sort of honorable revenge on the serial killer who’d lurked there. Touya slipped into the warehouse through one of those broken panes, finding his footing easily on the metal catwalk.
A lone light glowed at the far end of the warehouse, and he could hear an eerie creaking drifting across the concrete floors. Touya’s stomach twisted as he moved forward as quickly as he could without alerting anyone to his presence.
He caught sight of his father first, a large hulking figure standing with his back to Touya at the far end of the warehouse. The mantle of flame that usually enshrouded him was dormant for the moment, which served to make him even more unsettling.
And then he moved.
As he stepped to the side, Touya’s heart stopped. Keigo hung by his wrists, the chain looped over one of the catwalk’s support beams. He was still wearing the shirt he’d been wearing when he left their apartment that morning, but it was barely recognizable, laying tattered on his shoulders. Gashes criss-crossed his chest, blood trailing over the sculpted abs Touya so often traced with his tongue. Feathers littered the floor, broken and plucked from his wings, which lay at awkward angles from his back - probably dislocated, if not worse. His head hung, blond hair mixing with blood on a mottled face, but he could see his lips moving, mumbling a response to something Enji had said. He was still alive. Now Touya just had to get him out of here.
He could melt through the chains. He just didn’t know how well Keigo could catch himself if he did it from above. The cleanest way to do it would be to deal with his father first - how quickly could he incapacitate him before his father started fighting back?
“Oh, but wait - I think we have a guest.”
Enji turned, piercing blue eyes meeting his son’s on the catwalk above them. Touya froze, a chill running down his spine. He should have known. He could never get the jump on his father, no matter how hard he tried.
“Come on down here, Touya.”
He couldn’t light the warehouse up, not with Keigo still chained to the catwalk. Instead, he dropped lightly onto the concrete floor below him, facing his father with squared shoulders. Golden eyes raised from the ground, widening with panic when Keigo focused through the swelling on his face.
“Touya, no!” His voice broke, his wrists jangling the chains above him. “No, get out of here, you can’t - !”
Enji cut him off, pulling one of the remaining feathers out of Keigo’s wings and incinerating it without a thought. Keigo whimpered, biting on his lip to try to silence the cry, and Touya took a step forward.
“Let him go.”
Enji turned, a wicked grin spreading across his scarred face. He hadn’t been scarred when he’d gone into prison - though, Touya supposed, prison wouldn’t likely be kind to a man with his father’s personality.
“My boy!” Enji boomed, turning fully from Keigo, his hostage forgotten. “So glad you decided to join us. I was just telling your pet here that it was only a matter of time until you arrived to save him.”
Touya took another step toward them, his fingers tensing into fists at his sides, blue flame licking at his skin. His father’s eyes flicked down to his son’s hands before his grin grew.
“Now now, Touya. There’s no need for that. I’m more than willing to let Keigo go.”
“Then do it,” Touya bit out, watching the blood slowly trickling down Keigo’s chest.
Enji glanced over at Keigo, humming thoughtfully, and Touya recognized the look that took over his father’s face. Enji never did anything without a reason. His victims had been people who wronged him, people who owed him something - people who had embarrassed him. Touya could feel the weight of his mother’s wedding ring where it hung against his chest, the chain heating along with his skin - a warning. His father certainly was willing to let Keigo go, but what did he want in return?
Touya probably should have been more concerned by his determination to give his father whatever he wanted. He would do anything, as long as it meant Keigo was safe.
Enji chuckled, the sound absolutely humorless as it echoed through the empty warehouse. “Well, son. I can’t do it without you.”
Touya’s jaw clenched, but all it took to break him was a glance at Keigo, his bronzed skin paler than it should have ever been. Keigo’s eyes were locked on him, wide with desperation as he shook his head. Touya watched those eyes flutter as Keigo’s vision spun, watched the lazy path the blood took across his face.
“Touya…” Keigo breathed, his usual strength gone from his voice. “Touya, no. Please, don’t listen to him, don’t -”
“Quiet,” Enji said sharply, flames flaring to life on his face, a warning clear in the action. “I’m talking to my son.”
Touya took another step forward before his father’s patience could wear too thin. He needed to get Keigo out of here. Everything else was a distraction.
“What do you want me to do?” he asked, keeping the shake out of his voice. He couldn’t be sure if his voice was shaking from anger, or from fear - with his father, he could never be certain.
Enji’s grin sharpened, his eyes narrowing very slightly. Touya had learned at a young age how to measure his father’s moods - how to read the slightest shifts in his energy. He had been hyper-aware since the age of three - he could never let his guard down around his father. He couldn’t slip. If he slipped, someone else would pay the price.
He stood with his shoulders squared, refusing to shy away from the danger he saw in his father’s eyes. He would not fail Keigo the way he failed his mother.
“Well, that’s simple,” Enji murmured, smiling with something almost akin to warmth. “Take your place at my side, and I’ll let him go.”
Touya froze, his blood turning to ice in his veins, and his father seemed to revel in the shock on his face. He turned back to Keigo, running a rough, flaming hand over the raw skin of one of his wings. Keigo cried out, the sound hitting Touya deep in his soul.
“Now we’ll see how much my son truly loves you,” Enji muttered, his voice dark with the danger that Touya had dreaded. His father was serious. There was no doubt in Touya’s mind that he would kill Keigo in a heartbeat if Touya didn’t agree to join him.
But he’d spent his entire life trying not to become his father. Sometimes, late at night, he would think he could feel his father’s rage, his father’s darkness, curling inside him. Then Keigo would roll over, take him into his arms, and show him exactly why he couldn’t become his father. Listening to Keigo’s breathing in the dark, Touya made the promise to himself, night after night, that he would not fall to it. He would not let his father dictate his life. He would not let himself become his father.
Enji was always convinced he’d return, always convinced Touya was destined to follow in his footsteps. And now, he had all but ensured it. He took the one thing that Touya had always managed to keep out of his reach.
“Unchain him first.”
Keigo shook his head fiercely, fighting against the chains as Enji approached him, energy seeming to flood into his limbs. Or was it desperation driving him forward?
“No! Touya, no, you can’t! Please, don’t - don’t do this! I’m not worth -”
Enji melted the chains in a quick blast of fire, dropping Keigo unceremoniously to the floor. He cried out as he fell into a heap on the concrete; Touya moved without thinking, rushing to his side. He dropped to his knees, ripping his hoodie off to begin trying to stem the flowing blood. Keigo grabbed at his shirt, his eyes desperate and pleading.
“Don’t do this. You can’t do this, don’t throw your life away for me. Please, please! Touya, I love you, please -”
Touya ducked his head to brush a kiss against his lips, clinging to his last chance at happiness. His last chance to have the life he wanted. But he couldn’t keep it. Because he had never deserved it.
He should have known. He was the son of a monster. He didn’t deserve a chance at happiness. Everyone could see it - everyone but him. And Keigo. Keigo had never seen the darkness lurking inside him. He was about to show him - the faith that Keigo had in him was misplaced. He had never deserved Keigo.
“I love you,” Touya whispered, resting Keigo’s hand over the hoodie pressed to his chest. “Keep this here. Help will come soon.”
“Touya,” Keigo’s voice broke, bloody fingers trying desperately to grip Touya's hand. “Please. Please, not for me. This isn’t you. This isn’t you, Touya.” When Touya pulled his hand away, Keigo let out a choked cry. “No! Touya, no, don’t do this!”
Touya stood slowly, every fiber of his being urging him to go back to Keigo, wrap him in his arms, take him somewhere far away from here. But he couldn’t do that. He knew he couldn’t do that. The only way to save Keigo was to embrace his destiny.
Enji grinned, an obscene sort of glee flickering through the flames on his face. “That’s my boy,” he held his arms open wide, clapping them against Touya’s shoulders. “We’ll call an ambulance for him once we’re safely away.”
Touya was going to be sick. His father had finally made him who he always knew he’d be. He let his father grip his shoulder, turn him heavily toward the door, his deep voice rumbling about some plan or another.
He glanced over his shoulder, looking at Keigo one last time while he still could. While he was still someone worthy of Keigo’s attention - someone Keigo could love. Keigo’s eyes were locked on him, tears mixing with the blood on his face. His lips were still moving, though he’d lost the energy to give his words volume.
I love you. Please. Please don’t leave me.
Touya leaving wasn’t what Keigo should have been worrying about.
All at once, Touya’s fist wreathed in blue flames, slamming into his father from behind, sinking deep into his back before his father could react. Enji’s body swelled into an inferno, his own flames surging to attempt to fight Touya off, to stop the inevitable he’d fought so hard to bring about. Touya could feel his father’s flames rending his skin, but he couldn’t stop now. Touya poured every last bit of his flame into his father, burning him from the inside out, listening as the man finally let out a tortured scream, his body glowing with the internal heat of Touya’s flames.
He finally let his father fall, watching as the mountain of a man sank onto his knees, his fingers scrabbling at his own chest like he could rip Touya’s fire out of him. Touya knelt down in front of him, his face impassive as he watched his father struggle.
Enji stretched out a hand for him; Touya smoothly leaned back, out of his father’s reach. Enji dropped onto his hands and knees, coughing blood onto the concrete floor below him. Touya leaned down, watching to catch each wheezing breath.
“I will never be you. And you will never hurt anyone ever again.”
Enji’s bloodstained lips curved into a smile, the flames flickering out around him, making him look smaller somehow. His hand fell heavily to the concrete as he began to slump, the fight going out of him.
“My boy….” he said faintly, another cough wracking his frame and splattering blood across Touya’s face. “You are my son. You are exactly like me.”
Touya watched his father go still, staring at him for a moment longer than necessary. He had to be certain. He had to know his father was dead.
His father may have forced his hand, but when the moment came, Touya didn’t hesitate. He’d always thought, when the moment inevitably came, he would at least hesitate. But he’d killed his father without a moment’s hesitation. What kind of person did that? What kind of monster did that?
Keigo’s voice was faint, and it re-centered Touya’s world. His father didn’t matter. Touya surged to his feet, hurrying over and sweeping Keigo up in his arms. Keigo cried out with the movement, but Touya didn’t have time to be gentle. He needed to get Keigo to a hospital. That was what mattered. Keigo could tell him to leave once he was safe.
“I’ve got you,” he promised softly, unable to look Keigo in the eye.
When Keigo’s arms wrapped around Touya’s neck, Touya thought he might shatter apart completely. He hid his battered face against Touya’s shoulder, clinging to him like he still feared he might disappear.
“You aren’t him,” Keigo whispered insistently, his lips moving against Touya’s throat. “You saved me. You saved me. I love you. You are nothing like him.”
Touya wished he could believe that. Touya wished he could believe Keigo meant what he said. But he’d just shown himself to be exactly the same as his father. He’d murdered without hesitation, spilling blood and burned flesh over the floor of the same warehouse.
His mother’s ring felt scalding against his skin.
Promise me, Touya. Promise me you will never become your father.
He’d failed his mother’s memory and granted his father’s dying wish in one night. It was only a matter of time before Keigo realized exactly who he was.