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A Job That No One Wants

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Mirio probably should have texted Tamaki beforehand, letting him know that Eri was staying with him that day. To this day, Tamaki didn’t spend much time around her. He didn’t know if that was willfully or coincidence but either way, he stood rigid in place after he opened the door to Mirio’s dorm room, seeing him and Eri sitting on the floor in the middle of the space.


Even though Mirio had told him to come in when he knocked, Tamaki looked unsure. “Uh,” he began, “I can leave.”


Mirio only smiled in response. He looked to Eri. “What do you think?” He asked her. “Do you want Tamaki to stay here?”


Eri didn’t look at him, keeping her eyes fixed on the floor. Though she was an unusual child, she wasn’t prone to going silent and shy around people she didn’t know very well. He could tell by how her eyes shone that clearly, she wanted him to stay. But she only shrugged exaggeratedly, bringing her shoulders all the way up to her ears and back down again. 


“I think it’s okay.” Mirio confirmed. Tamaki took a moment to hesitate by the doorframe. Then, he closed the door behind him and sat down, a foot or so away from them, as if giving them space, possibly still feeling like an intruder.


“Eri,” Mirio said. “Do you remember Tamaki?”


She fiddled with the hem of her favorite red dress. She shrugged again. Mirio thought that he may be the only one in the room talking today. “He’s my best friend, do you remember?”


Eri glanced up at Tamaki, but seeing that he was looking at her, looked away quickly. “He’s… um… a hero. Like you.” She guessed.


“Yeah.” Said Mirio, at the same time Tamaki said “Hero in training.”


“Were you….” Eri spoke, directly to Tamaki without making eye contact, “Were you there that night? I think I remember.”


Tamaki nodded. Mirio wasn’t sure Eri saw, so he reiterated; “He was, good job.”


He looked to Tamaki to explain farther. Tamaki held his gaze, not sure what he wanted, but then quickly got the hint. He cleared his throat. “I uh, I took out three of the bad guys so that the others could keep moving.” 


“He’s downplaying it.” Mirio explained. “He took out three major villains all on his own. They had flashy, powerful quirks, but Tamaki was even more powerful.”


Eri looked up at him, eyes bright and full of admiration, though she did not smile. Mirio knew that she could- the proof had taken place over a month ago- but she still didn’t do it very often. 


“I think you’re up-playing it.” Tamaki murmured, ears flattered and face red. Mirio probably shouldn’t have liked that, but he did. It was kind of adorable. But he avoided saying anything about it. Though he knew why his words got to him more than most, he avoided saying anything about that, either. 


The last thing Mirio wanted was to scare him off, and he knew poking around that minefield would do just that. Even if Mirio really just wanted him to say it. Just wanted to be out with it already. Just wanted to hear him say it, confirm what Mirio had already been sure of years ago.


But Mirio knew better than that- If Tamaki was going to say something about it, then he would. And if Mirio pressed him about it, then he would only retreat farther. And that’s the last thing he wanted.


Returning back to the conversation, Mirio gave Eri a warm smile. “Did you know that Tamaki is in his third year, just like me?” Eri nodded. “In fact, he’s the top student in the whole school.”


Eri looked over at Tamaki, as if trying to envision such a thing. But Tamaki only shook his head. “No I’m not, in second place. Mirio is above me.”


“Well, not anymore.” Mirio explained.


He saw how Tamaki’s face dropped, if only slightly. Mirio himself had mostly already come to terms with losing his quirk. It was a process, he supposed. Sometimes he would still walk straight into walls and have to ice his bruises. Sometimes he would forget entirely what he was and wasn’t capable of. Many nights he lay awake, staring at the ceiling, thinking, now what? 


What would he do if he never got us quirk back? If Eri never figured out how to reverse the damage? He couldn’t be a pro hero anymore. He’d probably never get his hero license. What would he do then? After all these years at UA? Would he have wasted nearly three years of his life, honing a skill he couldn’t use anymore? 


He thought he'd reapply to UA, maybe get into general studies or the support course. Whatever he would do, we still wanted to save a million lives. And he wanted to be there for Tamaki. Because of course Tamaki would still be a successful hero, and Mirio wanted to be here at his side, like they had always talked about.


Tamaki made his opinion on the matter very clear. He didn’t want to do any hero work if Mirio couldn’t either. Mirio may have been afraid, for just a moment, that this would cause a gap between them. That Tamaki would go so far beyond Mirio’s reach, that he would only be holding Tamaki down. But Tamaki had only replied to his concerns with “Why would I ever want to be anywhere, doing anything, if you can’t reach me?” Like it was the most ridiculous question in the world. It might have been.


“He’s still an amazing hero.” Mirio continued. 


“In training.” Tamaki added.


“He works for Fatgum,” Mirio told Eri. 


“Well, I intern at his agency.” Tamaki corrected.


Eri put a finger to her chin. “Intern…?”


Tamaki realized at the same time Mirio did that those words meant nothing to Eri. Tamaki, for his part, looked like he regretted having a mouth in which he could use to speak words.  He definitely regretted coming to Mirio’s dorm. He certainly looked panicked, as he left his gaze on Mirio, hoping he would say something to fix his mistake.


“It means that he works for Fatgum right now, but he may not in the future.” Mirio explained.


“Oh.” Said Eri. “Does that mean you’ll be his sidekick?”


Tamaki put his hands over his ankles from where he sat crossed legged. “It’s certainly an option. I mean- maybe. I could. I don’t know yet.”


Mirio found himself laughing at his antics, though he tried not to, and the laugh came out very quiet, very fond, more so than he meant it to. And Tamaki looked away.


“Do you remember Fatgum?” Mirio asked.


Eri focused on nothing, trying hard to think. “Was he there too?”


Mirio nodded. “A lot of heroes were. But I don’t think you saw him that day. It’s okay if you don’t remember him. Do you want me to show you a picture?”


Eri nodded, her face close to a smile. Mirio did smile, pulling out his phone from his pocket, opening safari, and typing in the hero’s name. He clicked on the first photo that came up and held the phone so Eri could see. She looked at it unblinkingly for a moment, then held the phone on either side so it would stay still. Mirio let go of it, something Eri hadn’t been ready for, and it nearly dropped to the floor, but she held it in her tiny pink hands an inch or so away from her face. Then, she smiled. 


A shyer, quieter smile, but it was still a smile. And because Eri was still trying to get used to such a thing, Mirio felt like he had achieved something great. “He looks like…” she spoke, “he looks good. He looks like he would be good to hug.”


Mirio but on his lower lip to keep himself from laughing. “Does he?”


Eri nodded, still smiling. “He looks like… like the bear.”


“Bear?” Mirio asked, quickly racking his brain for anything he knew that looked like a bear. “What bear?”


“The bear.” Eri explained helpfully. “The one Eraserhead bought for me. It’s this big-“ she demonstrated by holding the phone in one hand and using that and her free hand to mime out a sizable oval, about as big as her torso. “Eraserhead says it’s good for hugging at night when I’m scared.”


“Oh, you mean a stuffed animal. A teddy bear.” Mirio exclaimed. “Yeah, okay. Fatgum could be hugged like a teddy bear. Tamaki, what do you think?”


Tamaki looked nearly surprised at being addressed. “Oh uh- sure. Yeah. He’s very… huggable. Sometimes he hugs me when I don’t want him to.”


“You know,” said Mirio, “since Tamaki sees him all the time, I bet we could walk him over to the agency, and you could give him a hug- if you wanted to.”


Eri’s smile dropped, and for a second Mirio felt guilty for mentioning it, for pushing Eri past a point where she was comfortable. But her eyes were wide and bright when she said. “Would that be okay? Is that allowed?”


Mirio beamed at her with all the warmth he could muster. “Sure it would! I know you haven’t met him yet, but he knows who you are. I’m sure he’d love to give you a hug.”


And Eri smiled even wider at the idea. Mirio already made himself mental notes to ask Tamaki when the next time he went to the agency was, and if Aizawa would let him have Eri that day, and if it was okay to take her off grounds, and if Fatgum would let them inside…


Eri was handing Mirio his phone back, and he slipped it back into his pocket. “Who else works at the agency, Tamaki?”


Tamaki gave him a meaningful look, as if to say “Stop throwing the conversation back at me.” Mirio smiled blankly, playing dumb to the silent request. Both he and Eri needed to work on talking more anyway, it could be good practice.


“Um, a boy from the first year. Uh- Deku’s class.” Tamaki clarified. “Have you met anyone from Deku’s class?”


Eri thought for a moment, and then she smiled again. “They were the ones who put on the song and dance.” She said it like it was one word. Songanddance . “I remember, I remember!” She bounced in her seat excitedly. “It was loud, but in a good way. And there were a bunch of shiny lights and everyone was happy and moving.”


The sound of her voice brought a flutter of warmth in his chest. “Yeah Eri, that was them! Tamaki, who in that class works with you and Fatgum?”


“His name is Kirishima.” Tamaki explained. “He has red hair. It’s very spiky, and so are his teeth.”


Eri went back to thinking. Tamaki thought quick, mimicking what Mirio had done earlier. “I can- uh- I can show you a picture. If you want.”


Eri said nothing, but she held his gaze expectantly. Tamaki pulled out his phone and within a few seconds he had pulled an image up from his photo album. He had to lean far over to pass the phone to Eri, since he had sat such a long and purposeful distance away. But Eri took the phone from him no problem.


Mirio leaned over her shoulder to view the image as well. Kirishima was clearly the one taking the photo. He was close to the camera and the only one actually looking into it. He smiled wide and brightly, dressed in his hero gear. He held Tamaki by the arm, and was pulling him into the picture, and down to his level, so he was blurred and out of frame. Mirio didn’t laugh, but he found it deeply endearing. 


Eri held the picture to her face and showed her teeth, and pointed at them with a single finger. “Pointy, yeah?” Mirio asked.


She nodded. “He smiles good.” She said very seriously, as if she tallied such a thing on a scale of one to ten. 


But Tamaki nodded just as serious. “He does that. He’s very bright, very good… sometimes like Mirio.”


Mirio didn’t know how to take that, but Eri nodded in deep understanding. Mirio thinks maybe these two being friends is a bad idea and he was a fool to let it happen under his watch. Abruptly changing the subject, Mirio asked; “Eri, do you remember what Tamaki’s hero name is?”


As Eri was in the process of handing Tamaki his phone, to which he had to lean over again to take it, she paused to think. “… Limillion?” She asked.


“Close, that’s my hero name.” He said. 


She scrunched her eyebrows, thinking hard. “It’s… Sun? The sun?”


“Close, you’re so close.” Mirio encouraged. “It’s Sun-something. It has something to do with his quirk.”


“He… turns into animals.” She thought aloud. “Sun-animal?”


“Almost, almost.” Mirio spoke. “He eats things that turn him into animals… so his hero name is…?”


A second of confusion followed, then her face cleared and she smiled wide. “Suneater!”


Returning the same enthusiasm, Mirio beamed. “Yes! That’s right! That was so good, you got it!” He held his hands out to her and she flinched slightly at the movement. Mirio scolded himself, he was too loud, too sudden. But Eri only hesitated for a moment, then she realized what Mirio was doing, which was offering a high five.


She then raised a single hand and touched it gently against one hand, and then the other, which couldn’t really constitute a high five, but Mirio thought this was much cuter.


Very aware Tamaki was in the room, as he always is, Mirio turned his gaze to look at him, and catches Tamaki looking at him with an expression he rarely saw, that he maybe caught him giving a precious handful of times. 


Eyes half lidded and eyes rows knitted, a soft smile that spoke of unimaginable fondness. Mirio only saw Tamaki look at him that way. And only out of the corner of his eye, in a reflection, in candid photos when Tamaki was so sure that no one was watching, that Mirio couldn’t see. And when caught he would always-


He and Tamaki locked eyes for a second, and Tamaki’s smile fell quick, and his eyes darted to the floor. He did it everytime. Afraid, ashamed at being caught, at feeling the way he did in the first place. 


Mirio wished he wouldn’t. He loved that look. He would die for that look. He wanted all that love to exist on the outside. He wanted Tamaki to let it spill out, instead of keeping it all cooped up, away from where Mirio would be able to see it. He wanted to see it, he wanted to see it so bad. 


He wished Tamaki didn’t choke it down, like the world would end if anyone saw. Like Mirio might find it awful. There was nothing awful about Tamaki. All he wanted was to see it, hear it, know it’s real.


And if Tamaki spilled his guts, Mirio could too. He could say it out loud, he could talk to Tamaki the way he wanted to, hold him the way he dreamt of, kissed him like he meant it. The only reason he hadn’t already was because he knew Tamaki wouldn’t like it. He knew Tamaki wasn’t ready, and that it would only scare him off.


He had to take all the ways he loved him and push it back down. Tamaki wouldn’t appreciate the attention. It made his heart ache and his head hurt. All this yearning was what would kill him one day. Or maybe it would be what ruined them.


Mirio could see it now. He forgets- forgets that Tamaki needs space and quiet. He lets it spill out of him. He says something stupid I love you and Tamaki does the same thing he did a moment ago. Smile whipped clean, look away. Maybe run away. Afraid because Mirio took it too far. He hopes it never happens, he doesn’t think he would be able to handle that.


He felt Eri pat him on the knee. Her eyes were wide and full of confusion and concern as she looked up at him. Too late, he realized it must have shown on his face. He wondered what that level of wanting must have looked like, but it couldn’t have been good. Eri needs to think Mirio is invincible, that he’s full of sunshine and rainbows. He can’t let her see him sad, or whatever he looked like, he was supposed to be strong for her.


He smiled down at her, hoping he hadn’t made her worry. Or even worse, feel guilty for causing it (though that couldn’t be farther from the truth). “I need to go to the bathroom.” Was what she said.


“Alright, we’ll walk you there.” Mirio said. He stood up and Eri followed quickly. She took his hand, as she normally did. But then she looked at Tamaki. And though he knew Tamaki wouldn’t be able to tell what she wanted, Mirio knew immediately. He found himself smiling again. “Hold her other hand.” He explained.


Tamaki went red, deeply confused and startled by the idea. But as Eri continued to stare at him- blank and expectant- he stood up and walked over to her. He didn’t take her hand, but he held out his own for Eri to take or refuse. But she took it, and Mirio led the three of them out into the hallway.


Around this time was usually when the third years had a break between classes, so a few of them were out and about around them, but the hallways were still mostly empty.


They got a few stares as they walked passed, it reminded Mirio of when he dropped out of the hero course with no explanation and returned with a child. Everyone assumed Eri was his. He found the rumor hilarious and never commented on it. Now with Tamaki on one side and him on the other, the rumors might change to Eri being his and Tamaki’s child. Mirio found this even funnier, though he knew Tamaki wouldn’t.


They reached the communal restrooms and Tamaki and Mirio stopped outside. “You know what to do, right?” Mirio asked. When Eri nodded, he added; “We’ll be right outside if you need anything.”


Eri scampered inside the girls room rather quickly, leaving him and Tamaki alone. He let the silence pass, knowing Tamaki was probably tired of talking anyway.


But then- “Toogata…” the sound of his own name made him flinch, and turn in the direction of the boy who spoke it. Tamaki’s voice was soft- as it usually was- but Mirio couldn’t think of a better sound. “You’re… you’re very good with her.”


Mirio laughed under the praise. Not that it was ever rare coming from Tamaki. He was totally fine with showering Mirio with oddly phrased but surprisingly sweet compliments all the time. He supposed they held a deeper meaning in his own head, and Mirio sort of adored it. “Aww, it’s not like it requires all that much work. Eri’s a sweet kid, I love it when I get to babysit her.”


Tamaki smiled, but didn’t look at her. “I can tell. You’re very patient with her. You do that with me, too.”


Mirio hoped the confusion didn’t show on his face. Patience? He wasn’t sure that was the right word. Nothing he did really required patience when interacting with Eri, or Tamaki for that matter. Why would it? “What do you mean?”


“I just- she’s very quiet. Shy. Not used to talking to others. Like I am. And you know when to cut in and make the conversation, and when to push her or let her talk. You’ve always done that for me, even when we were really little. So yeah, very patient.” Tamaki explained. “Very patient, doing a job no one else wants to.”


Mirio flinched. Though Tamaki didn’t seem to realize there was anything wrong with what he had said. “Tamaki, that’s not what- that’s not why I-“


Tamaki had just about met his gaze when Eri returned from the bathroom. She looked up at him with wide and concerned eyes, and Mirio realized he must have been doing it again. He forced his face into a smile for her benefit. “All done?”


She nodded her head quietly, and grabbed onto Mirio’s hand. “You washed your hands, right?” He asked. She nodded again. Then he looked back up, Tamaki had his phone out. “It’s uh, close to my next class. I should probably go.” He gave Mirio an apologetic smile, and Mirio suddenly noticed how tired he looked. 


It hit him all at once that this was Tamaki’s break in the middle of classes. Mirio recalled that usually, he could close himself up in his dorm- and before they had dorms, somewhere hidden in the bushes- and just lay there, recharging his batteries before having to face the world again. Usually, Mirio joined him, and they’d just lay there together. 


That’s why Tamaki must have shown up, that’s why Tamaki texted, asking if Mirio was in his dorm. Again, he told himself he should have told Tamaki Eri was there. Tamaki probably just wanted that time back again. Now that Mirio didn’t attend classes, he usually wasn’t available that time of the day, Tamaki just sat in his room alone instead. 


And Mirio hadn’t thought about it at all. Did Tamaki miss it? Had he been trying for a chance to just lay around with Mirio? When he wasn’t busy? Maybe he didn’t like how things had changed so suddenly. Mirio wasn’t in his classes anymore, he had just been through nonstop social interaction (more than usual, because he’s the top student now- he had to do a bunch of stuff in Mirio’s place that he probably hated) and he had gotten no break in between, and was now headed right back out there. He had counted on Mirio for a quick break, a solitude, and he had let him down. 


He hoped the guilt didn’t show on his face, but he was sure it did. “Alright.” He said, attempting to keep his voice light. “I’ll see you after classes, then. I’ll be in my dorm after Eri leaves.”


Tamaki nods. He looks down to Eri and says “Goodbye, Eri. I’ll tell Fatgum all about you.”


She smiles and gives him a small wave. Then they head in opposite directions.


When Mirio and Eri make it back to his room, Eri sits down in the exact spot on the floor she was in before, and Mirio sits beside her. She was quiet and blank faced. She must have seen him looking upset. The main reason he didn’t want her seeing him that way was because she was so used to the adults around her acting that way. She knew that when others were upset or mad, the best thing for her to do is clam up. Go silent and rigid. Do nothing to attract attention to herself, because that anger could be taken out on her.


Mirio tried for a smile, hoping to show he wasn’t upset. “What did you think of Tamaki? He’s pretty cool, right?”


Eri looked away, still concerned. “Is Tamaki… bad?” She asked.


Mirio felt his eyes widen. “Bad? Of course not. Do you mean like, a villain?”


Eri shrugged, then went silent. Though he was worried, he waited for Eri to continue. “He made you sad.” She said after a minute or so of silence. “Twice. You’ve never been sad before. Does that make him bad?”


“No!” Mirio said quickly. “Not at all. I wasn’t sad, he doesn’t make me sad. Tamaki is my best friend, I’m happy when he’s around. What you saw- sometimes I just… I make myself sad.”


She blinked up at him, finally meeting his eye. “Why?”


“Well, not on purpose.” Said Mirio. “I-“ he paused, wondering how in the world he was supposed to explain how complex he was feeling to this little girl. “Tamaki is my best friend, and I care about him a lot. And sometimes, I want to tell him how much I care. But Tamaki doesn’t like that, usually.”


“He… doesn’t like to be cared about?” Eri asked, face wide and confused, the face only a child learning something new could make. 


“He doesn’t like it when people tell him that they love him.” Mirio explained. “He doesn’t like the attention. Do you know when, sometimes, you want to be alone? When something makes you feel bad and suddenly everything is too loud?”


Eri does sometimes shut down and refuse to talk, usually hiding until things feel right again. It was similar enough to what Tamaki experienced that she could get close enough to understand. And she did, furrowing her eyes seriously and nodding. “Okay, yes. I get it. He feels that all the time?”


“He feels it just a little bit all the time.” Mirio tried to explain. It certainly wasn’t a perfect analogy, but Eri seemed to grasp his point. 


“So he doesn’t like hugs all the time then, or people talking to him.” Eri assumed.


“Yes, exactly.” Said Mirio.


“But then, why are you sad?” She continued to ask.


“Because sometimes,” Mirio explained delicately, “I want him to know how much I love him, and it makes me sad that I can’t.”


Eri stared at him for a moment, probably trying to wrap her little head around something so complex. “Okay, I think I get it.” She said. 


Mirio brought up the animated show about the pig she liked on his phone and they didn’t talk about it again. 




Tamaki didn’t text him when class ended, but Mirio went to his room because he knew when he’d be there. As predicted, he laid on top of his bed with the lights off and his face down. Mirio may have laughed to himself as he asked; “Mind if I join you?”


Tamaki didn’t lift his head, only waved at him with as little movement as possible. Mirio took that as a yes, and laid down next to him where there was room. And the next few minutes passed on like that, neither one moving. Mirio didn’t feel the need to start conversation or even escape by going on his phone. Though eventually he did ask.


“Before, you came to my room because you missed how we hung out during that time when I was in class, right? Why didn’t you say anything? You didn’t have to hang out with me and Eri.”


Tamaki didn’t respond for a moment. Then he said; “Cute.”




“You and Eri.” He explained. “You’re cute. It was worth it.”


Mirio smiled to himself, because he knew Tamaki couldn’t see. And then they were back to silence. Eventually, after a few minutes more, Tamaki rolled onto his side and faced Mirio. “Before,” he began, “What I was trying to tell you, it came out wrong.”


He stopped, but Mirio looked at him politely, waiting for him to continue. “I wanted to say- uh… you’re good with kids. With Eri. And um, I had only realized that you act around her a lot, um- the way you act around me. It’s similar. And I realized that you’re good at it. Being around me, I guess. I don’t mean- it’s not a skill, not entirely. I- a lot of people, uh, they try to be like, patient and overly aware of how anxious I can get but you don’t- you’ve never done that. You don’t have to think about it, you just are. Does that make sense? That doesn’t make any sense, does it?”


As he floundered, he moved his hands, long wiry fingers, open and closed. They looked like fluttering butterfly wings. Before he knew what he was doing, Mirio placed a hand on his wrist. Tamaki stuttered to a complete halt, all movements stopping completely. He also stopped talking, with no intention to start again, looking oddly at the contact.


“It made sense.” Said Mirio. “You know that… you’re not a hassle. To be around. It’s not a hassle to ‘put up’ with you.”


“I know!” Tamaki said a bit too quickly. “That’s not what I- I mean-“ he tried starting a sentence several more times, and eventually gave up. 


Mirio tried leaning in, not too much, not enough to scare him away. “Of course I’m good at being around you, I have lots of practice. And I do it because I want to. Because I enjoy it.” He waited for Tamaki’s reaction before continuing, which he gave readily. Open and listening. No sign that this is a surprise to him. “And I love Eri because she’s a sweet little girl. She needs special attention, she needs to be shown the world little by little so she can heal. But I love you because you’re my best friend. You know that.”


Tamaki took a deep breath. In. Out. “Yes.” He said.


“And I know you love me.”


His eyes shut and his ears flopped down to his neck. “Yes.” He agreed, like an admission, like a secret. 


“See? You’ve got it all wrong. How could you think I only hang around you out of some weird kind of pity? Tamaki, if I didn’t know any better, I’d be offended!”


Tamaki could probably feel his laugh through the sheets of the bed. “I don’t.” Tamaki replied. Finally, he looked up into Mirio’s eyes. In the dark, he looked so soft at every angle. If Mirio was the sun, then Tamaki was a tiny shaft of light in a cold, dark room. Beautiful not because it was blinding, but because it was so vital, so important. As beautiful as it is small, a quiet kind of beauty. That small smile on his face made him think the butterflies from his hands made their way to his stomach. 


Then Tamaki leaned forward, arching his back so he didn’t have to move their hands, and bumped his forehead against Mirio’s chest, and stayed there. Mirio’s smile must have looked stupid and dopey, but he didn’t care. He barely had to move at all to rest his face in Tamaki’s hair.


“I do love you.” Tamaki said, barely above a whisper. 


And Mirio didn’t know what kind of love he meant when he said “I know.”