Warnings: drinking, one (1) mention of weed.
Hanta wakes up with a knot of tension in his stomach that he doesn’t identify immediately. His room is silent and still, the air stuffy despite the open window. In the minute that follows he stares at the criss-crossing trails the street lights draw on his ceiling, courtesy of blinds that never close completely; and then he sits up abruptly and pats around himself for his phone as realization makes his blood surge, and he calls his emergency dial.
“We need someone to man the grill,” he gasps into the phone before Kaminari can even say anything.
It takes a moment before Kaminari answers.
“What?” is all he says. His voice is a croak, heavy and rough from sleep and confusion.
“We need someone to man the grill,” Hanta repeats, and his throat knots up. “Oh fuck. Kaminari, we forgot.”
“It’s three in the morning,” Kaminari moans. “Can’t you just ask Todoroki? He knows that shit. Flames. Cooking things.”
Todoroki isn’t even sure he can come. Hanta doesn’t say it because Kaminari would make a fuss if he did, and Hanta doesn’t know if Todoroki said this genuinely, as a busy person, or just because he was concussed when Hanta called him to confirm.
“We can’t ask Todoroki,” he settles on, scratching the back of his head and wincing—he’s still got a bruise there from three days ago that he probably should’ve gone to the hospital for. “The whole point is for all of us to be together. It’s useless if someone has to take care of the food while we all have fun.”
“I’m pretty sure Todoroki would love to have an excuse not to mingle.”
“Well I’m not letting him.” Hanta shifts on his bed, swears when he lifts his arm and his whole pillow comes up with it; the fabric’s stuck to the ever-present residue of glue around his elbow. He tears the pillow away slowly as he speaks again: “We need someone generic and non-intrusive to stand at the back while we all sit down and talk.”
“I regret this plan so much.”
“It was your idea.”
“I didn’t know you’d be calling me at three in the morning to shove your damn anxiety down my throat!”
Hanta picks at the scabbed cut on his foot. “It was your idea,” he says again, and ignores the loud, static-filled groan that Kaminari lets out on the line. “And it’s a great idea. Possibly the best you’ve ever had. Take responsibility.”
“Fine,” Kaminari says. Hanta hears the shift of sheets and the creak of Kaminari’s horrid bed frame as he moves, probably to sit up. He slurs his words less after that. “So who do we know who’d be willing to make food for twenty people?”
Hanta takes a second to think about it. His family is gone on a trip he couldn’t go to because he got hurt the night before. He thinks they’re still mad at him for it. And everyone he’s met since high school is either not close enough, frankly worrying, or a superior.
“Huh,” he says.
“We suck so much,” Kaminari agrees, and the crack of electricity in Hanta’s ear tells him he’s rubbing his forehead too hard. The thought makes him smile; he can almost see the sparks dancing on Kaminari’s tired face. “We could hire someone?”
“Ugh. I don’t want some fan to try to take selfies with Midoriya the whole time.”
“Maybe they’ll try to take selfies with Bakugou instead,” Kaminari says semi-hopefully.
Hanta laughs loudly at that. “Let’s just call the others and hope they’re better at socializing than we are.” He puts Kaminari on speakers and looks down at the screen of his phone. “I have Ashido’s new number, I think.”
“Dude, you are not calling Ashido at this hour if you want to stay alive.” Kaminari marks a pause. “Actually, don’t call any of the girls at this hour.”
“The meet-up is today, I don’t have a choice. And Jirou wouldn’t kill me.”
“Jirou would complain to Ashido about it, who would kill you.”
“Fair enough,” Hanta mutters. “Kirishima?”
“On the plane right now, I think. And before you ask, Kouda and Shouji won’t be discharged from the hospital until eleven.”
They both fall silent.
“I’m not calling Bakugou,” Hanta declares.
“It’s been nice knowing you,” Kaminari replies, empathetic.
“I am not calling Bakugou! Are you crazy?” Bakugou’s name and number glare at him from his screen as if to mock him. Bakugou didn’t even give him the number himself. Kirishima texted it to him ages ago with a solemn, Don’t expect him to answer, ever. “You know what, I’d rather face Ashido. I’m facing Ashido.”
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” Kaminari drawls, and Hanta hangs up on him.
Hanta gets out of the bed entirely. He makes his way to the fridge in the dark because he can’t be bothered to turn on anything and gulps down half a bottle of ice-cold water; there’s still three more stacked in the door that he’ll probably finish before the day is over. The glue on his tape gets too dry, not sticky enough, if he doesn’t hydrate thrice as much as normal people.
Closing the fridge’s door with his hip, he grabs some crackers from a cupboard above and proceeds to open it one-handed as he scrolls for Ashido’s number again. He sinks into his couch when he finds it and thinks, idly, that this may be his last meal. Crackers and some water.
“You,” Ashido breathes in fury after he has to call a second time—she didn’t answer the first—“better have a damn good reason, Sero Hanta.”
“It’s about the meet-up,” he says weakly.
“I’m going to kill you so slowly.”
“Okay,” he concedes, “but first you need to help me find someone to take care of the grill.”
She pauses long enough to absorb the meaning of his words and, no doubt, drag herself out of sleep properly. “Todoroki would do it. Gladly,” she adds.
“We are not taking advantage of Todoroki like this.”
“Fine,” she replies, voice dragging over the vowel with the kind of pure irritation that she reserves for tough villains and the sight of Mineta. “Shouji?”
“It can’t be one of us!”
“I don’t know anyone else,” Ashido deadpans.
“Not you too,” Hanta groans, picking at his foot again. “You suck, Ashido.”
“Hey!” she protests. “I’m the one you’re calling for help at ass o’clock on my day off!”
“Well do you know who knows anyone else?”
“We all suck,” Ashido replies wisely. “Tsu-chan sucks a little less, maybe.”
They don’t even entertain the thought of calling Asui, though, because they would both feel too bad.
Hanta hears Ashido take a slow, steeling breath, and his body tenses before she can even say: “Bakugou knows a ton of people.” Her voice is sweet, her tone engaging.
“I have a counterargument for that. It’s no.”
“I thought you and Kaminari wanted the party to be perfect,” she positively purrs.
“It’s only perfect if all of us are in good enough health to attend, and that includes me,” Hanta replies. “I’m not calling him.”
She swears, and he can picture her throwing her arms up in the air in frustration. If she were here she’d shake him by the shoulders, and he’d feel the stickiness of her hands against his skin. He’s smiling when she says, “Just put an ad online or something then, I don’t care.”
Hanta extends his legs in front of him until they’re set atop the coffee table. “Kaminari said the same thing, but I don’t know. We’re gonna be hosting a few big celebrities. I don’t want you or Midoriya to end up being followed around by some groupie.”
“Take the risk, Cellophane,” she retorts, but her voice is warm now. “And never call me while I’m sleeping again.”
Hanta salutes, though she can’t see him. “Gotcha, Pinky.”
He does end up calling Bakugou, because he really would rather Midoriya spent the one half-day off he takes actually having fun and catching up with his friends than making himself the polite, shrunk down, uncomfortable version of himself he becomes around strangers. Deku’s famous enough now that his name rings true the world over, but to Hanta—and, he knows, to the rest of their former class—he will always be the hardworking, timid boy they all met at fifteen. The one who flinched at elevated voices and broke his own limbs to defend all of them.
Hanta gets a little emotional when he thinks about Midoriya for too long.
Bakugou’s words are screams through the mic, audible at arm’s distance even without the help of speakers. “Do I look,” he intones, “like I give a shit!?”
Hanta wants to ride the mildly impulsive mood he’s in and reply, I actually can’t see you, but something explodes in the fuzzy background of the call loudly enough to be heard even with his phone away from his face. He brings it to his ear and asks, “Are you working?” disbelievingly.
“What the fuck do you think?”
“Why are you even answering your phone?”
A familiar voice says something pressing in the distance, and Bakugou replies with a virulent, Fuck off, Deku! that makes Hanta’s ear ring painfully but tells him more about the situation than Bakugou’s words ever will.
It’s almost sweet. Bakugou’s using the call to distract himself from being angry at Midoriya. Hanta grins despite the almost-certainty that Bakugou will make something explode in his face when they meet for the grill in a few hours.
Mildly impulsive turns to mildly suicidal, and he says, “Send my love to Deku, Kacchan.”
Bakugou cries out in rage.
Posted at 4:12AM, Sunday, August 13th, 20XX
NEEDED: Generic Father Figure for Backyard BBQ
Party of 20 including 3 vegetarians. Must not mix the boring vegetables with the meat juice. Must have experience with handling children. Mildly dangerous quirks and some explosive tempers. First aid will be provided in case things go south but we all tip well. Contact at (…)
“I hate you so much,” is the first thing Kaminari tells Hanta upon meeting him. It’s only nine but he’s already sweating, and Hanta has packed an additional water bottle in his bag for the day, because although most of them have taken the weekend off in preparation for the meeting later, he does have to work.
“We need someone for the grill,” Hanta replies with a shrug. “And you put me in charge of organizing everything.”
“I wish you’d tape your anxiety down as easily as you do this small fry.”
He’s gesturing to the two handbag-thieves that Hanta caught on the way. They’re waiting for the police, nicely tied up against a metal beam alongside the road.
“Ugh,” Kaminari says, rubbing his eyes so hard that his fingers sizzle. “At least Mashirao wasn’t home when you called.”
“He’s visiting family, right?”
“Yeah. His mom’s not getting any better.”
Kaminari doesn’t offer any more details, and Hanta doesn’t ask for them.
They’ve got a busy day ahead. Cellophane operates without sidekicks and Chargebolt only has one, a timid-looking girl nicknamed Flood who was their kouhai at UA. She’s got a nifty water quirk. She’s not here now, though. The villain they’ve been tracking—Raze—is on the trickier side as far as opponents are concerned, his quirk is wildly dangerous against water especially, and she’s already gotten hurt.
Fortunately, his quirk makes Kaminari’s react in an innocuous but weird way that makes him easy to locate.
“I’m getting this guy today if it’s the last thing I do,” Kaminari says between his teeth.
Hanta elbows him, and Kaminari makes a disgusted sound when the glue sticks to his arm for a second. “Don’t get hurt,” he replies. “I can’t drink all the beer we bought by myself.”
Their banter dies down as they start making their way through the abandoned warehouses just west of the city where Raze is said to have been seen last.
Truth be told, Hanta has a bruise the size of his palm at the back of his head that he wants revenge for too; it’s not as bad as the burns alongside Flood’s arms and chest, but it still stings. At his ego if nothing else. He doesn’t enjoy being knocked out from behind and having his partner carry him to safety in a rush.
Kaminari’s body starts emitting zapping sounds when they approach the darkest and most decrepit of all the warehouses, and both of them exchange a look before crouching down further around the wall. Hanta taped some safety routes along the way, just in case. He tapes one now to the top of the warehouse and leaves the long strip hanging behind them, swaying softly in the stuffy summer wind.
“Hostages,” Kaminari mutters.
They can see them now. Two men and a little girl, tied with chains against the door of the warehouse. The chains are metal and their naked feet are drenched with what looks like water, which means that Kaminari won’t be able to go full-out for fear of hurting them.
Raze walks out of the warehouse in the following seconds. Kaminari’s skin positively vibrates.
He’s a scrawny man, dark of hair and pale-faced, with a deceptively delicate way to him that’s led Chargebolt and Cellophane both to underestimate him the last time they met. There’s smoke coming out of his mouth and out of the palms of his hands, and Hanta understands without needing to ask that he’s vaporizing the air’s humidity as it touches him.
A very dangerous quirk at the hands of a man who has already robbed five stores and made fifteen injured—almost two dead. When Flood had tried to attack him, he had only needed a touch to make all of her conjured water explode in a rush of white-hot gas. A third of her body had been burned. As far as Hanta knows, she’s still under anesthesia for the pain.
“You can’t fight him,” Hanta whispers, soft at the tip of his tongue.
“I know,” Kaminari replies, and his frustration hangs heavy between them. “I’ll get the hostages out of the way. You keep him occupied.”
There’s no need to notify the police because the police were the ones to notify them in the first place. Raze is cornered—knows he’s cornered, that’s why he must’ve taken the hostages in the hour between the last police report and now—and his only option now is to flee. Cellophane doesn’t intend on letting him. Chargebolt even less.
Hanta climbs the wall of the warehouse, silent like he’s learned to be ever since the day he first set foot into UA; the sun faces him, which reduces his visibility but makes it so his moving shadow isn’t noticeable from Raze’s side of the building. He reaches the metallic roof, doesn’t wince against the sun-heated plates he’s crawling on, and drags his body forward until he reaches the edge.
Raze is hovering around the hostages, but he hasn’t made a move yet. His face his paler than it was the last time they fought. The fact that his quirk is active belies his apparent relaxed stance. If it weren’t for that Hanta would believe the humidity on his face is condensation rather than sweat.
Hanta bends his elbow, and the tape shoots out from above to wrap around Raze’s left wrist.
Immediately the man crouches, silent as an owl, and the sweat on his body explodes into vapor. He’s not quick enough, though; Hanta has leapt over the roof’s edge and tugged him away from the hostages, and though Raze manages to get out of the bind, there’s now two heroes standing between him and the people he took.
“Let’s just get this over with,” Hanta announces, in his deep and booming hero voice. It comes to him as naturally as breathing now. “You’re over. Don’t make this difficult, Raze.”
Raze doesn’t reply. Hanta’s never heard him say a single word in the three times they’ve met, wouldn’t even know what his voice sounds like if it weren’t for the occasional grunt.
Raze’s hands smoke. Hanta secures his foothold and bends his elbows, ready to jump or strike alike.
The explosion doesn’t surprise him; he’s wearing heat-proof clothes for this job and so is Kaminari, so he doesn’t have to worry about more than singed hands as long as he doesn’t get too close. Hanta ties himself to the walls neighboring him and leaps forward feet-first. He feels Raze avoid the kick by a second.
He doesn’t have to hurt him nown though. Or at all. He’s just keeping him in place and waiting for Kaminari’s signal.
Raze gets predictably entangled in the trap Hanta has laid out for him, feet and legs glued in place. The explosion has blinded them both but Hanta has a knack for thinking ahead.
Which, he thinks faintly, makes it really annoying that he forgot all about finding someone to mind the food for this evening.
Kaminari’s signal comes in the shape of the sleek cable he carries rolled into his hero suit’s sleeves. The length crackles with energy as it surges next to Hanta, missing him by an inch, yellow-bright and noisy; and Raze lets out a cry as the shadow of his body rolls sideways through the searing smoke to avoid it.
“Slippery bastard,” Kaminari pants, halting his run beside Hanta.
“The hostages?” Hanta questions.
“With the police. Step aside, Cellophane, I’m finishing him.”
Hanta shrugs and obeys.
The smoke is vanishing, now, and Raze is a sight for sore eyes, caught as he is in Hanta’s tape. Hanta notes with satisfaction that half of his mouth has been bound shut by it as he tried to crawl away. Both of his hands are caught in it—he doesn’t have enough skin left bare to create an explosion.
Kaminari’s cable shoots out to wrap around the tiny man’s neck, and Raze doesn’t whimper but his eyes widen with fear.
“Do I have to shock you or will you come willingly?” Kaminari asks lowly.
This is a side of the popular hero Chargebolt that the public doesn’t get to see, Hanta muses quietly. No one got to see it at all until it crawled out of Kaminari one day after using his quirk for far too long, way past the point of mindless dizziness. The boy who emerged on the other end of that overuse was drunk with power, the path of his veins golden under his skin and his eyes turned to steel. Soft-voiced and terrifying.
Hanta crooks his arm in Kaminari’s direction and refuses to blink despite the heavy dampness of the air. If things do go wrong, he needs to be faster than lightning.
Thankfully, Raze seems to come to reason by himself. He lifts his bound hands and nods, and Hanta approaches from Kaminari’s side to help him to his feet. He tapes his eyes shut as a precaution.
Kaminari doesn’t unhook the metal cable from around the man’s neck until he’s safely in police custody.
Hanta thinks he’s done rather well for himself since graduation.
It helps that so much happened before graduation. The class 1-A that gathered together on a spring day so many years ago, full of hopeful strangers and bitter acquaintances, emerged a class 3-A of almost veterans, hardened by real battle and—for some of them—scarred heavily. As individuals they gathered experience to rival pro heroes with only provisional licenses under their belts; as a group, they formed a reputation that had stopped surprising the country by the time their senior year sports festival rolled around. Midoriya and Bakugou at eighteen were saddled with more than just stardom. Ashido has a company to her name and, according to tabloids, the most active online fanbase of them all.
Hanta has a long, jagged scar running up his left calf that he acquired at seventeen. He has a mirroring one on his left hip from the razor-sharp burst of wind that struck him at nineteen. He’s got the experience of having an archenemy, though his has been caught and dealt with already.
He doesn’t know if it’s worth the schism this caused in his family during the whole affair, but he has that.
Kaminari ditches him after the chase to go fetch Ojiro from the train station, and Hanta moves to Hagakure’s house with a spring in his steps. He stops by his apartment to drag the coolers out to his car and drives the rest of the way thinking resolutely of nothing but the excitement of all of them being together for the first time in years.
Hagakure jumps into his arms the second the door opens, her cats meowing loudly behind her as she squeals his name. He catches her around the hips with his face burning crimson.
“Dude,” she giggles, breath warm in his neck. She smells of lemons, just the way he remembers. “I feel like I haven’t seen you in ten years. Ten years.”
“We haven’t even known each other for ten years,” he replies, and tries not to sound as emotional as she does.
She slaps the back of his head lightly before letting go. “I’m an old soul. In my heart you’ve been my friend for centuries.”
He rolls his eyes, just for the pleasure of hearing her laugh again.
Hagakure doesn’t work in Japan, is the thing. She moved to Hong Kong three years ago and found her livelihood there, and she only comes back about once or twice a year now to see her friends and her family. Her parents’ house is perfect for the party, though, because it has a wide backyard with tall enough walls that they don’t need to worry about strangers peeping.
She tells him her parents left them the house for the next few days if they want to—though she’s precised numerous times that they only need the one day—and takes him on the grand tour. The place is wide and luminous, somewhere Hanta can perfectly imagine her growing up, wide-eyed and energetic. The three cats she owns are friendly. One of them hisses when it rubs against Hanta’s elbow and gets stuck, and it makes her laugh once more.
They spend lunch together with convenience store sandwiches and tranquil conversation. In the afternoon Jirou joins them, looking tired but delighted, and the hand she grips into Hanta’s shirt as she hugs him is firm. They set up chairs and tables in the garden, chase sunbathing lizards off with the sound of their voices, get started on making ridiculous amounts of salad and appetizers. They crack a couple beer cans between themselves, throats parched by the heat.
“Did you ever find someone for the grill?” Jirou asks Hanta while they laze in two of the plastic chaise longues. He looks at her from under his sunglasses, and she smiles. “Mina texted me earlier.”
“I got an offer,” he says, taking off his phone and looking at the message he received while he and Hagakure were eating. “Some guy named Yagi. He seems nice enough.”
“I hope it’s not a weirdo,” Jirou mutters, shifting into a more comfortable position.
They’re woken from their nap by Kouda’s arrival, which causes Hagakure to shriek at a frankly alarming volume. He’s brought flowers with him that turn out to be colorful butterflies, and Hagakure coos as they fly around her head and settle where the top of her hair must be. Kouda hugs all of them in turn.
Then everyone just starts trickling in, one after the other.
Kaminari and Ojiro show up, then Asui, then Shouji, then Ashido and Yaoyorozu. Jirou and her drag Kaminari off to a corner as soon they’re all together, leaving Hanta alone to welcome Satou since Hagakure is too busy getting everyone a drink. Tokoyami slithers in like a shadow until Asui catches him with slimy hands, and Aoyama’s grand entrance is foiled by the edge of the carpet he stumbles on in his hurry.
Hanta knows Kirishima’s arrived from the way Kaminari yells his name and the unmistakable sound of the both of them wrestling each other into the ground and laughing like idiots. By then Hanta is starting to gather the food outside where the sky is burning a soft yellow, and his grin clings to his lips. Bakugou bursts out from the mass of guests in the living room and marches outside, followed by a rumpled-looking Kirishima who immediately leaps in Hanta’s direction, roaring, “Sero!”
It takes some maneuvering not to drop the plates Hanta’s holding while Kirishima slams bodily into him, but Hanta manages through his laughter.
“This is the best idea you’ve ever had, man,” Kirishima says, eyes suspiciously shiny once he steps away and takes a load of plates off of Hanta’s hands.
“It was Kaminari’s idea, actually,” Hanta replies. His smile is so wide it aches, but he couldn’t stop it if his life depended on it.
Kirishima snorts. “Yeah, like Kaminari has enough brain matter to organize something like this.”
“I heard that!” Kaminari yells from his end of the backyard.
Midoriya walks into the house fifteen minutes later to a general cheer. Hanta leaves the side of the grill to go see him, finds him wearing his dirty hero suit and locked into Asui’s hug in a way that makes his own eyes water. He blames the beer, and the affectionate heat that has suffused the air he breathes ever since he smelled lemons on Hagakure’s skin. When Asui steps off he grabs Midoriya’s shoulder and smiles at him so hard that he can’t even find words to say.
“Sorry I’m late,” Midoriya mutters, urgent and low, “ah, Tenya-kun’s going to be arriving soon…”
“Relax,” Hanta replies warmly. He feels his body obey his own advice—Midoriya’s presence is synonymous with safety, the sight of his face with aching relief. “There’s a bathroom upstairs if you wanna get changed. Second door on the left.”
“You can shower if you want,” Hagakure adds from Midoriya’s other side. The fabric of Midoriya’s suit sticks against his skin suddenly, telling Hanta that she’s put an arm around Midoriya’s shoulders. “It’s so good to see you, Midoriya-kun.”
Midoriya smiles at them wetly, his face marred with exhaustion as much as by the ugly pink scar that crosses it diagonally. He looks like he’s never been happier in his life.
Midoriya slips away upstairs after a few more accolades. Jirou takes over the general attention when she uses her quirk-boosted voice to demand, “Who the fuck else is missing?”
“Todoroki-san and Ochako-san,” Yaoyorozu tells her. “And Iida—”
Iida pushes the door open before she can finish, panting harshly, the pipes in his legs almost red-hot. They start fuming furiously within seconds. He gulps in a whistling breath as he straightens up and declares, “I apologize for being late,” with the face of someone heading for the gallows.
Ashido explodes into laughter right in his face. Hanta barely has time to glimpse the scandalized expression Iida wears before it disappears into her pink hair. He makes a choking sound, probably from having swallowed a few strands into his open mouth.
Hanta watches his former classmates slowly move in direction of the backyard. The sky has darkened enough that Hagakure turns on the electric lamps, and Hanta hears Jirou lazily order Kaminari to zap any mosquito that approaches her. Kaminari mutters something rude in her direction, but soon enough there are short electric buzzes ringing all the way to the entrance hallway where Hanta waits.
‘Yagi’ texts him within five minutes to say he’s almost there. Hanta leans against the wall, yawns into his hand, takes a sip of lukewarm beer. His entire body feels drowsy with contentment.
Someone knocks firmly against the wooden panel of the door. Hanta opens it unseeingly, his attention on his phone as he sends a quick, demanding message to Uraraka and Todoroki. “Hey,” he says, watching the sending icon settle to delivered, “thanks for coming, Yagi-san. Er, I just wanted to warn you before anything else that you might recognize a few people here, and we’d all really appreciate if you didn’t make things weird—”
“Of course,” interrupts a voice that makes Hanta’s heart jump out of his chest. “I wouldn’t want to ruin the atmosphere, Sero, my boy.”
Hanta knows his mouth is gaping stupidly as he looks up and meets the eyes of the man standing before him. He seems to be waiting for his reaction, sunken eyes warm with delight and a nervous grin tugging at the corner of his mouth.
“All Might?” Hanta croaks out.
All Might laughs, loud and assured in spite of the breezy quality of his voice. His large hand presses onto Hanta’s shoulder in a way that makes him feel fifteen rather than twenty-four. “Never worry,” he declares, lifting up the bags he’s holding until Hanta notices that they’re packed full of food and kitchen things, “for I am a barbecue expert.”
Hanta can only watch in disbelief as All Might makes his way through the living-room into the garden.
Ashido is the first to notice the newcomer, her voice jumping three octaves as she yells, “Sensei!” and runs toward him. Everyone more or less follows suit, except Bakugou who chooses to freeze in his spot instead, something close to wonder settling into the lines of his face.
Midoriya walks down the stairs in the midst of high cheers and tearful greetings. His hair is wet, his face flushed from the shower, and he smells like lemon too, now. He pauses at the sight of Hanta’s dumbstruck expression before glancing toward the glass doors that lead outside. His mouth softens into a smile immediately.
Hanta regains the ability to speak. “Did you do this?” he asks.
“Kacchan mentioned that you were having trouble finding someone for the grill,” Midoriya replies with a shrug.
Hanta doesn’t know how to say thank you enough, so he doesn’t say anything.
The smell of cooking meat permeates a few minutes later, though the crowd is still thick around All Might’s tall, skinny figure. Despite the years since his retirement, he hasn’t lost the habit of wearing loose-fitting clothes. He looks ready to burst into the shape they’ve all known him as any second now, though Hanta knows it’s not possible anymore. All Might is in the middle of lavishing praise onto a very red-faced Shouji, so Hanta leaves them to it and rejoins Ojiro and Kaminari to the side of the garden where one of his coolers sits.
He’s starting to feel a little buzzed, and he doesn’t know if it’s from the early start he got on drinking with Jirou or from the excitement alone. He takes another can out of the cooler and sits on the lid with a sigh.
“How are you doing?” he asks Ojiro after his first sip. “We haven’t talked in a while.”
Ojiro is one of the people he regrets losing touch with the most. The only one of them who didn’t become a pro hero. The man smiles at him and leans a little closer, and Hanta notices that his tail is hooked around Kaminari’s arm, the soft end of it under Kaminari’s palm as he talks to Yaoyorozu. Hanta looks away, cheeks warm.
“I’m all right,” Ojiro says. “Very happy to be here.”
“School isn’t killing you yet?”
It drags a laugh out of him, which Hanta counts as a victory. “It’s trying to, but I’m sturdy.”
“Mmh.” Hanta drinks again. “I think it’s great,” he says hesitantly. “What you’re doing.”
Ojiro gives him a lopsided smile. “Are you trying to ask me if I have any regrets?”
“Well, yeah,” Hanta mutters. “Sorry.”
“It’s fine. Denki asked me the same thing for almost a year.” Ojiro sits down next to him, tail slipping out of Kaminari’s hold and making Kaminari glance in their direction briefly. “I don’t regret it,” he says. “I’ll always cherish the memories I have of fighting alongside everyone, but it just wasn’t meant for me in the end.”
“And becoming a doctor is?” Hanta feels a little bad for pressing, but the question has been eating at him for a long time.
Ojiro’s eyes hold nothing but certainty as he answers. “Yes, it is.”
Hanta’s phone saves him from having to talk again by buzzing loudly against his thigh. He navigates it one-handedly, tensely pressing his drink to his lips as he reads Uraraka’s message: Sorry. OMW. Was taking care of a lost stray.
A what now? he thinks, bewildered.
He doesn’t have to wonder for too long, because she steps into the backyard not five minutes later, dragging Todoroki with her by the back of the neck. Todoroki looks about ready to either die or kill. Midoriya and Iida fall into step with the both of them almost immediately, which lessens the murderous turn of Todoroki’s mouth and brightens Uraraka’s face until she laughs her loud, comforting laugh, accent slipping for a second into something rougher as she hugs Iida.
Asui kisses her next, which makes Hanta’s blood rush to his face even more strongly than Ojiro and Kaminari’s quiet affection did earlier.
“Bakugou-kun!” Uraraka says, delighted, walking toward where the man is standing, “I love the beard.” She pats his chin in the lapse of time it takes for him to understand what she’s saying at all and continues with: “Makes you look all soft.”
“I’ll kill you,” Bakugou growls, nudging her hand out of the way.
Uraraka grins and steps aside so Kirishima can greet her.
Bakugou is holding his own chin now, blushing furiously, fingers digging into the thin scruff of blond hair that he’s let grow up his neck and cheeks in the four months since Hanta has met him last.
Hanta leaves his seat on top of the cooler with a last brief word in Ojiro’s direction. Hagakure slides next to him, wrapping an arm around his back, which he reciprocates with one around her shoulders after a second of determining where her shoulders are. They fall into step together toward where All Might has started piling up what he’s grilled. Midoriya, in spite of probably being the most exhausted person in the whole house, is helping serve everyone their food.
“This is great,” Hagakure says beside him. Her voice is soft, but it carries enough for Hanta to hear, and he relishes in the approval he hears. “We absolutely need to do this again, I’ve never cried so many tears of joy. My face is a mess.”
“It’s not like anyone will notice,” he replies lightly.
She pinches his side and laughs at the high-pitched sound that escapes his lips. “For real, Sero,” she goes on. “This is by far the best day of my year. Maybe my life.”
“Good thing you’re not prone to hyperbole.”
“Someone has been getting eloquence drilled into their head by a PR team, I see.”
He makes a face at the reminder.
All Might looks as happy to be here as they all are. He’s conversing with Kouda, Midoriya a silent help by his side, and though his face is more wrinkled than Hanta remembers, all of its lines are soft with joy. It’s Midoriya that Hanta walks to once Hagakure unhooks herself from him.
“Need any help, sensei?” he calls.
“Sero, my boy,” All Might replies. “If you could relieve young Midoriya…”
“I’m fine,” Midoriya says predictably. The burn scar on his face twists when he smiles. “Really, Sero-kun, there’s no need—”
Hanta grabs his shoulders and pushes him away from the grill gently. “This is your party too, Midoriya,” he says, as firmly as he can when the person who’s saved all of them at least once is looking at him with worry creasing his forehead. “Go have fun.”
“But you already organized everything…”
“Sero-chan loves organizing things and helping around with chores,” Hagakure croons, taking Midoriya by the elbow. “You’d be making him miss out on his fun, Midoriya-kun.”
Hanta glares at where he hopes her eyes are, and feels her smirk at him in answer.
All Might wasn’t lying about being an expert. The smell from this close is mouth-watering, worth the sweat that clings to Hanta’s back because of the heat and the tears that wet his lashes from the smoke. He pokes the vegetables piled onto the metal sheet some distance away from the meat, judges them adequately softened, and takes them off the flame.
Kouda and Yaoyorozu look relieved to finally have something to eat when he hands it to them.
“I heard about your accomplishments this morning, young Sero,” All Might says. They’re standing elbow-to-elbow, and he doesn’t seem to mind that the sleeves of his shirt adhere to Sero’s skin for a second every time they move away from each other. “Raze seemed to be quite an opponent.”
Hanta blushes. He can’t help it. Hoping All Might will think it due to the barbecue, he replies, “That was mostly Kaminari’s doing, sensei.”
“Nonsense, young man. Your partnership is what made it happen.”
“Thanks,” Hanta says awkwardly. “I wish we’d caught him before he put Flood in the hospital.”
All Might wraps long fingers around his shoulder in understanding. “The girl will be fine.”
She will. The doctors told them as much. She’s just in too much pain to be woken up right now. Hanta has had to repeat it to himself for three days now as he lays awake at night, guilt hurting him more than the wide bruise above his nape.
“My boy,” All Might says. He turns to look at him after placing what looks like chicken atop the grill, and the soft expression he wears makes Hanta feel like a child once more. Like the Villain Alliance just broke into USJ to attack during training, and only the booming voice of the number one hero will be able to save them all.
“You still tend to underestimate your own impact,” Hanta’s old teacher says. “You were no less vital in catching this man than you were in catching all the villains you did before him. You were vital to my classroom and you are vital to your friends.” He smiles, all teeth bared, and gestures to the garden full of people behind them. “Just look at how happy you made all of them. I believe I’ve seen even young Bakugou crack a smile. This is, also, the work of a true hero.”
Hanta is tearing up, and this is pathetic, truly, but when All Might drags him into a hug he falls forward immediately, his hold light against the man’s side where he knows he’s injured.
The space between All Might’s arms feels even safer than Midoriya’s nervous-determined smile.
“I am so proud of you, my boy,” All Might says lowly. His hands are firm against Hanta’s back. “I look forward to seeing all that Cellophane accomplishes in the future.”
Hanta’s heart soars.
Surprising no one, the party drags on until early morning.
Hanta gets drunk enough that his memories of it will no doubt be distorted by the warm glow of alcohol and low inhibitions. Jirou drags out the oldest-looking CD player he’s ever seen some time after midnight and proceeds to force everyone to dance. She’s smashed, which means that she even tries to drag Bakugou around in some poor imitation of a waltz. Kirishima, caught playing cards against a cheating Ashido, is almost too late to save her.
Hanta is not drunk enough not to feel the kiss Hagakure presses against his cheek as they cross paths in the middle of twisting, amateurish moves, but he giggles all the same.
The only people among them who know how to dance, it turns out, are Ashido and Yaoyorozu. Everyone pretty much stops in their tracks to cheer and applaud when Ashido dips Yaoyorozu so low her hair is flat against the grass.
All Might stays until one and then starts to get tired. He refuses Midoriya’s quiet offer to accompany him home and attempts to say his goodbyes quickly and collectively. His plan is thwarted when everyone tries to talk to him at once. Hanta gets in a few words before Satou latches himself to All Might’s arm, bawling, begging him not to go. He and Todoroki exchange a look at that, and Todoroki may have trained all his life to appear composed and serious, but there’s still the threat of a grin at the corner of his lips.
After that, Kaminari, Ashido, and Jirou huddle in the very back of the garden, a suspiciously acrid smell clinging to the smoke that looms over their hunched heads.
The sky is light-colored when they all start leaving. Midoriya looks about to collapse, leading to Hagakure offering to let him sleep at her house; he denies her kindly and says his own goodbyes. Iida follows pretty closely after. Bakugou has been thoroughly softened by the vodka Uraraka broke out after All Might’s departure, and he doesn’t do more than grunt when she hugs him, laughter spilling out of her lips. She leaves once he and Kirishima are gone.
So do all the others, eventualy. Yawning and grinning, drunk on the booze and the company.
In the end there’s only Hanta and Hagakure left.
“You can crash upstairs,” she says. “My parents’ bedroom is all yours.”
It’s not like he has a choice. His car is here, and they’re both too inebriated to drive.
“Shouldn’t we clean all this up first?” He waves toward the inevitable spread of paper cups, empty cans, and half-full plates that litter the grass and tables.
“I fucking knew you would say that,” Hagakure groans.
They do clean up before sleeping, despite Hagakure’s complaints. The air is cool on Hanta’s drunk-warm skin, the light easy on his eyes. He and Hagakure fill a good three trash bags and tie them off with additional tape from him to prevent spilling. She cleans the dishes and he dries them, her cats meowing between their feet as they wait for food and water. Their conversation is slow and gentle. Comforting. Hagakure tells him about Hong Kong and her work in slurred words. Hanta laughs even when there’s no need to. It’s like the joy is caught inside his throat, like he’s sick with it. He talks about Raze. About his family.
They sit down outside with their backs against the glass window and some herbal infusion that Hagakure prepared—to prevent hangovers, she told him. Hanta has his leg pressed against hers as he sips on the scalding, tasteless tea. They watch the day rise in silence, and the sunlight’s caress on his skin is worth more to him in that moment than anything he owns.
“You should call your mom,” Hagakure says sleepily. He feels her head fall against his shoulder. She must be uncomfortable, with his elbow digging into her side, but she doesn’t complain. “S’no good to let arguments fester like that.”
“Yeah,” he replies quietly.
One of her cats has joined them. It trots past them and rolls on its back onto the grass, purring in the light.
“You’re a good guy, Sero,” Hagakure mumbles.
Hanta smiles. Her quiet breathing doesn’t hitch when he snakes his arm around her back and shifts to settle more comfortably against the window.
He knows he’ll be sore and regretful when he wakes up later. Right now he doesn’t care, though. He falls asleep with Hagakure’s snores against his ear, his tea forgotten by his side and his mouth sweet-tasting from drinking too much.
He’s really done better with his life than he ever thought he would.