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Where the Light Hides

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It hasn’t always been this complicated,’ you think to yourself for what seems like the thousandth time, watching the orange light of the late afternoon sun throw long shadows into the empty classroom. After a few more moments, you turn away from your distorted shadow self and sigh softly. You’ve long since stopped fighting the faint pangs of loneliness, the emptiness lingering in the pit of your chest, and the occasional twinge of bitter resentment of how it all turned out. Of course you have regrets—who wouldn’t? There’s no changing the past, however, a fact you have to keep reminding yourself over and over.

 

It’s better this way.’

 

You can still remember what it was like to be happy, or at least something close to it. You can recall the warmth of your mother’s embrace, how she had cradled you and told you she loved you. Are her beautiful golden feathers still as soft and as glossy as they were back when you were small, when they had tickled your chubby pink cheeks? Long ago, her smiles were as radiant as the sun and they bathed you in a mother’s unconditional love. She had smiled at you after her disastrous attempt at making pancakes one eventful morning, but she made up for it by making omelette rice, your favorite, though she later confided in you that she knew how to make a mean bowl of cereal and not much else. You were eight then.

 

You don’t remember your father. You suppose you must’ve had one at some point or else you wouldn’t be here. Even so, you spent many hours straining your memory after your classmates had teased you mercilessly about not having one, ignoring your indignant protests and how your eyes had filled with tears. After several weeks of this, you finally broke down and told your mother what happened, watching as her beautiful face grew stonier with every word. Soon after that, you found yourself in a new school surrounded by new classmates, where a girl with soft round cheeks kindly offered you a lollipop on your first day.

 

“Your daddy is busy with work,” your mother had said, a line you parroted to anyone who asked and still do today, even though you know now that it isn’t true. Whenever you tried getting any information out of her, however, she changed the subject no matter how persistent you were, so you gave up.

 

It didn’t stop you from fantasizing about him coming back into your life, and though you weren’t sure what you’d do together once he showed since you had no idea how dads were supposed to be like, just the thought of him somewhere out there trying to find you and magically appearing was comfort enough.

 

It used to be, anyway. You now suspect he’s either dead or doesn’t care, and a rational part of you figures that the reason your mother’s so evasive is that she doesn’t know what happened to him either.

 

Despite this, things were good in the beginning. Your earliest summer was spent with your mother on a remote, tropical island off the coast, and it was there that she taught you the beauty of song. There was something about her voice that drew you in, something magical, and though you tried to sing along with her, your small voice was like a candle to a bonfire—there was simply no comparison. You marveled at the elaborate golden markings underneath her eyes that shimmered brightly as she danced on the soft white sand. During the early mornings, she’d stretch her magnificent golden wings and rise with the sun, flying high in the sky and filling the air with a song so beautiful you thought she alone brought the dawn. Her evening lullabies were soothing and never failed to lull you to sleep.

 

She was everything you wanted to be. Someone so wonderful needed to be shared with the world. At least that’s how you saw it.

 

You should ask your new friends to visit this island next summer,” she says softly. The sun is setting and the soft sand feels warm between your toes. The sultry air is making you sleepy and you lean back against her chest, making yourself comfortable as you sit between her legs. Her large golden wings come forward automatically, enveloping you in a soft, feathery hug.

 

Really? They can come?” you ask happily, excitedly thinking of their reactions to this beautiful place.

 

Yes. It’ll be so much fun, don’t you think?” You can tell she’s smiling, and when you raise your head to look up at her, her smile widens in a way that makes her look absolutely radiant. You hope she keeps looking at you that way. She hums happily for a moment as you look back at the sunset and snuggle closer. “I’m sure their moms would let them come here.”

 

A flicker of doubt arises. “But what if their mommies say no?”

 

She holds you closer at this, and something in the air changes. You’re not sure you like it.

 

They won’t.”

 

You wanted to be just like her: just as beautiful, talented, and amazing as she was. You weren’t sure what her Quirk was then, but if it gave you pretty wings like hers, that was just fine with you. You practically idolized her.

 

It happened at four and a half years old, when you woke one morning with delicate, soft pink markings adorning your face, starting from your temples and ending underneath the corners of your eyes. No longer did you have to watch your classmates with envy as their Quirks manifested all around you. Your mother wasn’t there to witness it happening, but you were excited to show your best friend in the whole wide world, so it wasn’t a complete loss.

 

Wow, that looks so nice!” gushes Miki as she bobs up and down in excitement, soft round cheeks flooding with color. “They’re just like your mom’s! Are you gonna get pretty wings, too? Can you fly? You’re soooo lucky!” As she talks, little pink blossoms begin to bloom in her short brown hair.

 

My mommy says she got her wings right away,” you reply glumly, running your finger over a colorful band-aid placed on your elbow, a souvenir from earlier that morning. You had practically barreled down the large staircase in your haste to find your mother, and halfway down, realized your feet were no longer touching the ground and you flew straight into the arms of a startled housemaid who happened to be walking by.

 

Some of her earlier enthusiasm seems to ebb away and her face falls a little. “So...you can’t fly, then?” she says, and a few flowers drop and lightly land on your desk. Her disappointment is clearly etched on her face.

 

You brush away the fallen blossoms just as your teacher enters the room to begin the day’s lesson, and you feel a slow smile unfurl on your lips. “I didn’t say that...”

 

You end up going to the Quirk Registration Office with your mother later that weekend, and you can’t help but glow with happiness at the way she looks at you with pride. “You’re just like me,” she says tenderly, and the idea that you’re going to shine as brightly as her one day is exciting. It’s what you’ve always wanted…

 

My little star...”

 

The name of your Quirk is written in unfamiliar characters and as you hold the form in your small hands, you frown. “I don’t get it,” you mumble moodily, tilting the paper this way and that.

 

It says ‘siren’, sweetheart,” answers your mother with a comforting hand on your head, smiling at the nice man sitting across from you who is practically bending over backwards to assist her. “You have Mommy’s Quirk. People will like you too much if you sing or dance around them. Even looking them in the eye will do that, so try not to until you can learn to control it, okay?” She looks down at you and gently runs her fingers through your hair. It feels nice.

 

They might...like me too much?”

 

Yes, darling.”

 

You pause before saying, “What’s so bad about that?” and her smile widens ever so slightly.

 

Life after that became remarkably uncomplicated and easy. You had many friends, but the one constant in your life was Miki, who held your hand and had a special smile just for you. You remember how she had begged her very stern-looking parents to let you spend the night, and in hindsight, they were probably just overprotective.

 

It wasn’t until they met you and your mother that they came around, just like that. It was almost eerie, but you chose not to question it, nor did you question why her home wasn’t a grandiose manor or why she didn’t have servants like you did. At least not out loud, anyway.

 

How wonderful it was to be loved by many. You never used your Quirk on anyone, but after the markings appeared, people seemed to be inexplicably drawn to you. It was a little strange at first, but you quickly learned to adapt, and you became a magnet to the friendless, and maybe your smiles were a little hard to come by—it didn’t seem to deter anyone. You didn’t mind much, especially since you started seeing your mother less and less as the years wore on. Your schoolmates marveled at the vast halls of the manor in which you lived in, delighted at all of its secret passageways, and were especially keen on a room full of toys you had previously taken for granted.

 

They were a nice distraction from the occasional pangs of loneliness, but it wasn’t enough to fill the void left from your mother’s continued absence, so you took vocal training and dance lessons as a way to connect with her in spirit. It was a bit intense, but you persevered, and it became easy to lose yourself to the music created from the songs that came forth from your lips or woven into the steps you danced.

 

Your schedule was rather full for a time, but that didn’t stop you from seeing your mother on billboards and even on television. She glowed like the sun, and on the rare occasion you happened to be watching, you stared with awe at how easily she captured the audience’s attention with a smile here or a wink there, and it didn’t seem to matter where she was. Sometimes she was singing for crowds of fans; other times she starred in dramas as the lead, and later went on to win awards for movie roles she played. Once, she brought you on set, and the only thing you remember about it was feeling very bored as hordes of strangers seemed to do little else but gush and fawn over you. “You’re such a cute little girl,” they’d say. “You’ll be just as beautiful as your mom someday.”

 

You seriously doubted this, but when you entered middle school, puberty hit you fast and hard, and it was awful. You matured faster than your friends, and perhaps you had changed more than you realized because now you attracted stares and whispers of awe wherever you went. Unfortunately, your mother was mostly absent throughout this and one of the maids had to explain to you how to put on a sanitary napkin, which embarrassed you both.

 

But Miki was there, who was supportive and kind, and she never failed to smile in that special way of hers. She’d sometime poke your growing chest with a hoot of laughter, then lose it whenever you squawked indignantly. After a while, however, a tightness grew around her eyes that hadn’t been there before.

 

Hey, is there anyone you like?” she says out of the blue one sunny afternoon. You’re both doing homework in your room, and it’s just the two of you today, a rare occurrence, but you don’t mind very much. Your other friends can get pretty loud and make it hard to get your work done on time.

 

Your response is immediate. “Ick,” you mutter without looking up from the equation you’ve been sweating over for the past ten minutes. Math is hard.

 

She hesitates for only a moment before saying, “Then...do you think I should confess my feelings to Hiro-kun?” Her voice is soft and unsure. You think you know which boy she’s talking about—someone rather tall with a slow smile that had many girls batting their eyes in his direction. Miki suddenly giggles nervously, and judging from how muffled it sounds, she’s buried her face into one of your star-shaped pillows. “I think he likes me,” she says, re-emerging. “I always catch him staring at me when he thinks I’m not looking. He’s not subtle at all.”

 

I say go for it,” you say, grinning. You finally glance up and are unsurprised to see a wreath of pretty pink blossoms forming on her head. “Just don’t forget about me when you guys become a couple and get all lovey-dovey, okay?”

 

She throws a pillow at you and it hits you in the face. “I’m not going to, you goof!” she says, laughing cheerfully. Several more flowers bloom in her hair, and her soft round cheeks flush happily. You’ve never seen her this giggly before. “Oh, now I’m getting all nervous! When do you think I should ask him out?”

 

Whenever, I guess,” you say. “There’s really no rush if you’re sure he likes you, so don’t worry about it too much.”

 

Easy for you to say,” says Miki with a snort. “Guys confess to you all the time.”

 

Yeah, but I can appreciate how hard it is to pour your feelings out like that,” you answer sagely. “All that effort, only to get rejected...”

 

Great, now I’m having second thoughts.”

 

Guess it’s good your boyfriend-to-be isn’t me then,” you say good-naturedly. “But I doubt he’d turn you down.”

 

...You think so?”

 

If he does, he’s an idiot and you deserve better.”

 

Your brow furrows at the memory and you rest your chin on your hands. You’re not sure what you could’ve done differently, but what came next changed the course of your life. The school is empty, surely, but the thought of going home to an equally empty manor isn’t very appealing. You close your eyes and lose yourself within your memories once again.

 

Can I say something?” Hiro says suddenly in the middle of your sentence. You tilt your head, bemused, and nod. He’s fidgeting a little, and you’re starting to wonder what has him so on edge when he breaks the silence. “The truth is… I’ve always liked you!” he stammers, blushing furiously. “I think you’re really pretty and ever since I saw you at the club festival, I’ve—” He cuts himself off and takes a deep breath before bowing. “Please go out with me!”

 

Stunned silence fills the empty classroom, and you struggle to speak. This isn’t happening. This has to be a joke, right? But Hiro is looking at you so seriously, and it’s all you can do to remain standing. Your thoughts race frantically, but your brain seems to have jammed and can’t process them properly. You had only wanted to ask how he felt about Miki and now…

 

Oh, Miki…

 

But you always,” you begin in a shaky voice and he leans forward a little, “you were always looking at Miki...weren’t you?” You’re desperately clutching at straws, hoping that maybe this is all a bad dream, but your worst fears are confirmed when Hiro frowns, confused.

 

Miki…? Oh!” he exclaims, realization dawning on his face. “You mean Harada-san!” You feel something heavy fall to the pit of your stomach as he laughs nervously. “I wasn’t looking at her. You guys always sit together and I, uh...couldn’t help staring at you. Not in a creepy way or anything!” he adds hastily. “I just...I mean, I guess she’s cute in her own way, but she’s not really my type.” He smiles sheepishly and shrugs, cheeks flushing again. “It’s always been you.”

 

What.

 

The.

 

Hell.

 

There’s really only one thing to do in this situation, and it’s not going to be pretty. You owe it to your best friend. It’s going to hurt, there’s no sugarcoating that, but you need to be there for her just as she’s always been there for you. Had you been in her situation, you know she’d do the same.

 

I’m sorry.” Your voice is firm, and trying not to look too closely at his crestfallen expression, you continue. “I can’t go out with you. I’m flattered, but I don’t feel the same.” There. Now there can be no doubts about this, no misunderstandings. You’re sure of it.

 

The next day, you find it easy to avoid Hiro, who keeps his distance in subdued silence. Your classes are a blur, though Miki seems restless. She keeps trying to catch your eye, and for a horrifying moment, you’re sure she found out about yesterday, but when you look at her questioningly while trying to ignore the guilty pangs in your heart, she only grins at you. You decide to ask her about it during break, but she just smiles mysteriously and assures you she’ll tell you soon. You’re glad she’s not upset, judging by the amount of flowers in her hair, but you have a sneaking suspicion.

 

You find out later in the cafeteria during lunch, and you suspect she waited until now for maximum effect. Your group of friends are all giggling hysterically at the envelope in Miki’s hands, and she takes their teasing with good grace as she laughs along with the rest of them. You’re not paying attention to any of it. All you can think about is how Hiro isn’t good enough for her, that he’ll ruthlessly break her heart just like you broke his, and picturing the little pink flowers wilting in her hair as he rejects her is more than you can stand.

 

Don’t do it, Miki.” Your voice cuts through the chatter like a knife, and all of your friends fall into a confused silence, but you don’t take your eyes away from your closest companion.

 

Um...what?” She tries to smile, but the corners of her lips don’t quite turn up the way they should, and her voice isn’t as steady as it normally is. “Why would you say that?”

 

Everyone stares at you with an intensity that makes you feel extremely uncomfortable. “Um, well...it’s just,” you stammer, “he’s not...I mean...you know...” This isn’t turning out the way you had rehearsed in your head, and the longer you speak, the more you begin to lose your nerve. You try to focus and take a deep breath, but guilt, overwhelming guilt keeps your eyes glued to the table. “Yesterday, I tried talking to him to ask what he thought about you, but...I never got the chance.” You refrain from looking up. “He, uh...he said he...” Your cheeks burn with a mixture of embarrassment and shame, and you inwardly kick yourself for looking like an idiot. “He kinda...well he...he, um...asked me out,” you finish lamely, and you actually wince at how dumb that sounds. The lack of response isn’t encouraging, so you finally look up, frantically waving your hands to explain yourself. “I turned him down right away, though! I made my feelings very clear that I wasn’t into him, so...” You trail off at the look on Miki’s face, and everything you had been planning to say dies in your throat.

 

Hiro-kun...said that?” she says so quietly it’s easy to miss in the din of the cafeteria. “He confessed to you?” She lets out a disbelieving huff, her not-quite smile still on her lips, and you’re horrified to see her eyes welling up with tears. “You mean...I never even had a chance?” Miki’s voice breaks at the last word and her face scrunches up in the moment it takes to bury it in in her hands. Her shoulders begin to shake, and right now you feel like the most despicable human being in the world.

 

Oh no...Miki...” says a friend sitting next to her, placing a comforting hand on her shoulder, and the group moves as one, offering sympathy and words of encouragement as you sit there numbly, hands slumping uselessly at your sides. This is all wrong. You didn’t mean to make her cry. As she gives a hearty sniffle, everyone closes ranks while you watch her miserably. You were supposed to be the one to shepherd her through this heartbreak, but now that it turned out like this…

 

If you had never spoken to Hiro, would he have turned her down just as harshly as you had done? Would he have mentioned his feelings for you in his rejection? You don’t know for sure, but none of that matters now. Guilt curls your shoulders forward as you stare at your half-eaten lunch. You caused this. You’re the reason she’s so miserable right now, and even if it isn’t entirely your fault, you were still the catalyst.

 

I’m...so sorry, Miki,” you mutter quietly. You never meant for things to turn out this way. You had only wanted to help…

 

A tense silence follows and her sniffles subside.

 

You’re sorry?” she finally says, and her voice has changed so dramatically that it wrenches your eyes upward to lock onto hers. She’s fixing you with a glare filled with so much hostility that you actually recoil a little. Her whole body starts to shake for an entirely different reason now. “You’re sorry?!” Her shriek causes the noise in the cafeteria to die down, and every eye is on the disaster unfolding in front of you.

 

Miki…?” You’re dimly aware of how meek and timid your voice sounds amid your stunned disbelief. “What…?”

 

Oh, that’s just rich coming from you!” she laughs humorlessly. “I told you how I felt about him, you knew, and I trusted you with my secret, but like always, you had to stick your nose in it and ruin everything!” She takes on a mocking, simpering tone as she continues, ignoring the hurt look on your face. “Oh, I’m Little Miss Perfect and I have everything I could ever possibly want—looks, talent, money, and oh, my mom’s super famous, too!” Her chest heaves with unbridled anger, and she stabs an accusatory finger at you. “You’ve never had to work for a damn thing in your life, ever, and do you know why? Because all you have to do is bat those pretty little eyes of yours and everyone bends over backwards for you. Even the teachers fall for your trick and it makes me sick!”

 

Every insult stabs through you like physical pain and it isn’t long before your vision starts to blur. Something breaks between you two, and it’s all you can do not to fall apart.

 

You could've let me have this one thing, but noooo, everything always has to be about you, doesn’t it? It must’ve been so easy to steal him from me, huh? All you had to do was use that awful Quirk of yours because it isn’t enough to have everyone fawning over you, it’s never enough to stroke that ego of yours, so when something was finally going my way, you just took it for yourself. All the guys already want you, so why didn’t you just let me have this?!” She suddenly rises from her seat. Nobody moves. Fury rolls off her in waves, and the bright cheerful girl you’ve known most of your life is gone. “I hate you!” she screams as tears roll down her cheeks. “I hate you and I never want to see you again!”

 

Something inside you finally snaps and you bolt from the cafeteria, heedless of whom you bump into. You find yourself in a nearby restroom and lock yourself in a stall, taking large gulps of air as you begin to cry in earnest. It’s so hard to breathe, but it’s impossible to stop once you’ve started because Miki had been your best friend and it killed you to hear her say those things about you. You desperately want to believe it had just been an angry outburst, but a part of you knows better. That was years of pent up frustration and anger, and Hiro’s confession was most likely the final straw. She didn’t just wake up one morning and decide to hate you, which makes it all the more horrible because now you’re not exactly sure when she stopped seeing you as a friend. When did the truth stop and the lies begin?

 

The fact of the matter is, you had never used your Quirk on that boy, not once. You know exactly what it does to people, and the first couple of times you activated it by accident had incredibly creepy results. Their eyes would grow unfocused and you’d put them into a sort of trance, not to mention persuading them to do anything was remarkably easy. It didn’t matter who it was—they just became mindless zombies. The implications of that stuck with you, and considering it was so easy to pull off, you started avoiding eye contact just in case it ever happened again.

 

So why…?

 

The bell chimes overhead, signaling the end of lunch, but you make no move to get up. The thought of facing Miki with puffy eyes and seeing her clear dislike on her face and the rest of your friends’ silent refusal to help is more than you can bear. What would you even say to each other anyway? She lost the boy she liked to someone who had no stakes in the game but lost everything in the end.

 

You don’t know how much time passes, but by the time you calm down enough to stand up, your head is pounding and you have an incredibly stuffy nose. You’re so drained that going back to class is the furthest thing from your mind. So you just leave, only stopping to change your shoes. Your bag will probably wind up in the lost and found office, so you make a mental note to pick it up tomorrow.

 

When you get home, you’re a dazed mess, hair in disarray with puffy red eyes to complete the image. You don’t even sleep that night and spend it staring listlessly at your phone, waiting for a text that never comes. Maybe it’s stupid to hope that Miki would apologize or even attempt to make amends, but when you try calling her, all you get is an automated message saying the caller is unavailable.

 

Morning comes slowly, and when you get ready for the day you notice faint dark circles under your eyes and your haggard expression, but you can’t bring yourself to care that much. On the drive to school, you’re tempted to tell the driver to turn around and take you back home, but you can’t do it. There’s no telling what’s waiting for you, and putting it off won’t make it better. Besides, it can’t leave you feeling any worse than you already are.

 

Right?

 

You’re proven wrong the minute you step into your classroom and are immediately assaulted by a wave of whispers and accusatory stares directed towards you by a rather large cluster of people near the back, and you’re saddened to see a majority of your former friends huddled there as well. They don’t stop even as you take a seat, feeling thoroughly downtrodden.

 

The rest of the day continues in much the same manner, and even though you’re a little surprised to see Miki, she doesn’t acknowledge your presence at all. You spend lunch alone on a secluded staircase, and any hope of one of your other friends coming forward to talk to you is extinguished. You gather that they either believed Miki’s outburst yesterday or have stronger ties to her in some way, but the former seems much more likely.

 

You grit your teeth in anger and pull your knees closer to your chest. The unfairness of it all is starting to get to you, and you know that even if you tried to force them to listen to you, they’d get the wrong idea and that you’d use your Quirk, which is incredibly stupid the more you think about it. Aside from the face that you make it a point not to activate it around anyone, they’d know if they were being subjected to it. It’s not exactly easy to miss.

 

You’ve never knowingly used your Quirk on anyone!

 

...At least you don’t think you have.

 

When you arrive home later that day, you’re vaguely surprised to find your mother there with her hair pulled back into an elegant bun and an excited smile on her face, looking impeccably stylish in light, expensive-looking clothes. She’s in the arms of a tall, older man, and it takes her a minute to notice you standing there.

 

Darling!” she squeals happily, pulling away from him and darting forward to straighten your hair. Her soft cool hands cup your cheeks and you can’t help but notice how nice she smells. “We were just talking about you!”

 

After what happened today, this immediately puts you on edge, and you step back with a guarded look. “What about?” you ask. You don’t mean to sound so sullen and hostile, but your mother doesn’t seem fazed. She simply smiles and takes your hands in hers, and you don’t pull away this time.

 

Good afternoon, young miss,” says the man. “I’ve been hearing a lot about you from your mother, all good things, mind you. I look forward to working with you because if you’re half as good as she says you are, then we’ve got plenty to be excited about.”

 

You blink in confusion, wondering what he’s getting at. “Huh?” comes your intelligent reply.

 

Let me tell her, Ichirou-san,” she admonishes playfully, then turns to look at you. “Sweetie, I’ve been thinking...” Her voice grows gentle and you can tell by the way she’s running her thumbs over your hands that she wants something, but you can’t seem to get your thoughts in order to figure out what it is. “I know how hard you’ve been working these past several years, what with all these lessons, and I want you to know how very proud I am, darling.” You’re touched, but still not sure what she’s getting at, and she continues. “So I’ve decided that this world needs a shining star to heal people’s hearts in a way that only you can do. You have so much potential to be something great, and someone like you shouldn’t have to be hidden away from the world. You could be everyone’s guiding light.”

 

Your eyes widen slightly in surprise. Putting aside the fact that she can say something that corny with a straight face, you start to feel a hint of admiration. So all those years of hard work hadn’t gone as unnoticed as you had initially thought. Even so, this line of thinking is unprecedented. Sure, you’ve entertained the idea several times as a child during your All Might phase, but to actually consider…

 

After the mess that happened at school, you must admit this is a welcome change, even a relief. Your mother’s appearances are definitely few and far between now, but there’s a part of you that is glad for her vote of confidence, her faith in you. If you go through with this, it wouldn’t matter if no one likes you now. You can prove them wrong, you can be someone. Someone who selflessly saves others and becomes a symbol of hope.

 

Like All Might.

 

...so we should get started right away, don’t you think?”

 

You come back to your senses with a start as your brain struggles to catch up. “Get what started?” you ask, though you feel a trickle of excitement. It’s almost too good to be true, but you can’t stop the swell of hopefulness rising in you.

 

Oh, you silly goose,” your mother says, beaming brightly. “Did you tune me out again?” She glances at Ichirou, who smiles back and chuckles indulgently. “I’m talking about your debut!”

 

This gives you pause and you frown. “Hold on...don’t you have to go through a hero program before you can even make your debut?” you ask quizzically. You appreciate your mother’s enthusiasm for the idea, but you have to admit, it’s a bit much and unrealistic, besides.

 

She blinks for a moment in stunned silence before bursting into laughter. “Hero program?” she repeats incredulously after she calms down enough to talk. “No, that’s not...” She shakes her head before her hands grip yours a little more tightly. “I’m talking about your idol debut! That’s how I started out, do you remember? I told you all about it when you were little.” She wiggles in place in her excitement, and her wings actually start to unfurl. “Oh, this is going to be wonderful! We can go through my agency—they’re so good at coming up with angles. Your training can also be a bit more fine tuned for the image you’re going to present to the audience, I suppose. What do you think, Ichirou-san?” she asks, turning to him.

 

She’s still babbling, but you’ve effectively tuned her out. You can feel yourself shaking in anger, but neither of them seem to notice. The last thing you want—especially after today—is to be paraded around for the masses in whatever contrived image some corporate big shot decides for you, and the thought of prancing and preening for strangers makes you sick. You’ll only prove Miki right in doing so, that you actually do crave attention and want to have everyone fawning over you when that’s the last thing you need. It isn’t you, not in the slightest, and as far as you’re concerned, you’re not going to start using your Quirk as an easy way to get through life the way everyone thinks you are.

 

No,” you say quietly, and the chill in your voice is palpable. You wrench your hands away from your mother’s grip, feeling somehow betrayed. “I’m not doing this.”

 

She stares at you. “Oh, sweetie, of course you are! Ichirou-san thought you should star in commercials first, but I thought it would be such a waste of your talent, so I thought—”

 

I said no!” you bellow angrily. Tears begin to fill your vision you furiously wipe them away, embarrassed at crying in front of her and this stranger. “I don’t want to do this! What about school and—” The mere mention of your school pulls you up short and you choke on your words, too overwhelmed to continue.

 

For the first time, her smile falters and she holds up a soothing hand. “Oh, honey… I know it’s a lot to spring on you all at once, but if it’s your education you’re worried about, you can always go to a performing arts academy. It’s the least I can do to help you ou—”

 

The dam breaks and everything comes rushing forth in an angry torrent. “No! Why don’t you ever listen to me?!” Tears pour freely onto your cheeks and you can just make out their stunned faces. The world starts to feel a little unsteady and you’re struck by just how tired you are. “What gives you the right to think you know what’s best for me?! I’m so fed up with this shit! You don’t know jack about me anymore, and you think you can just waltz back into my life and decide how I should live?!” Your face crumples and it’s all too much. You can’t handle it anymore. “I’m not you, okay?! I never want to be like you!”

 

You turn and bolt away in the opposite direction, taking a nearby passageway that leads straight to your room. Once inside, you throw yourself down onto your bed. Grabbing a nearby star-shaped pillow, you hold it to your face and start screaming into it. Miki’s faint scent stubbornly lingers and you fall apart, crying even harder than you did in the restroom stall. It seems incredible that you were smiling and laughing with your friends only two days ago.

 

You miss them. It was easy to forget how loudly your lone footsteps echo in these vast hallways, how large and empty your room is without their presence. You wish you had never met Hiro. You hate your Quirk so much right now, and you think how much better things could’ve been with Miki instead of this. It hurts so much.

 

After several minutes, you hear soft, tentative footsteps cross your bedroom floor before long slender fingers thread themselves through your hair, and you stop crying at once. You know who it is, yet you can’t bring yourself to pull away. For a moment, you simply lie there as your mother gently brushes your long hair, and despite your best efforts, a few stubborn tears manage to escape onto your already soaked pillow.

 

Sweetie...is everything okay? I didn’t mean to upset you,” she says quietly. She sounds genuinely sorry and a lot more subdued than her usual self.

 

You sniffle before sitting up and wiping your eyes. You know you must look awful because she wordlessly hands you a tissue box and you take one, clearing your nose. There’s a throbbing ache in your temple and all you want to do right now is sleep. For a long moment, you don’t speak. She doesn’t rush you, surprisingly, and when you finally look up into her eyes, her features are laced with concern.

 

You glance away and stare at a distant corner of your room. A signed All Might poster hangs there, looking out of place with the decor of your room, but you’ve kept it for ages. It had been a birthday gift from your mother, you recall vaguely. Your hero’s image gives you the strength to speak and you take a shaky breath.

 

Has your Quirk ever led to a misunderstanding?” you ask quietly.

 

A misunderstanding, huh?” she repeats, leaning back against her hand. “Did something happen at school?”

 

You don’t answer, but she correctly interprets your silence and smiles softly in a way that strikes you as almost sad.

 

I figured as much. It happened to me all the time in high school.” Catching your surprised look, she smiles faintly in understanding. “People less talented and those who had something to prove always said that I cheated through life using my Quirk, and it was especially bad after auditions.” She huffs slightly. “I was surrounded by people who either wanted something out of me or just hated my guts.” She reaches forward and paces a hand over yours and you resist the urge to pull away. “Even after all that, I still loved my Quirk. Knowing that I can enthrall an entire nation with a single look, a song, or a dance...it’s what I’ve always wanted to do. Sure, you get a lot of people saying that pro heroes are the real beacons of hope, but what I do is good, too. I like making people happy with my performances, and honestly, it feels nice to life their spirits in my own way.”

 

You frown slightly. “But...”

 

Darling, you have nothing to be ashamed of. You’re growing up to be a beautiful young woman with the kind of gift many people would die for, and the kind of opportunities you’ve been given can give you a real edge in this world. Whatever happened at school, sweetie...” She sighs softly and runs her thumb across the back of your hand. “It’s okay to be sad about it. There’s nothing wrong with being sad, but...if there’s one thing that’s stuck with me, it’s that life won’t wait for you.” She gets an unusually serious look and her eyes focus on something unseen, and you wonder what she’s thinking about. “It’s okay to be selfish and take what you want because if you wait too long, you’ll lose it one way or another.”

 

You’re not sure if you like this since it doesn’t really help with your issue, and being selfish isn’t going to bring Miki or any of your friends back. Nothing’s changed, and suddenly becoming comfortable with your Quirk won’t solve your problems. In fact, the mere thought of it being used destroyed your friendships.

 

She seems to sense your hesitation because she pats your head. “Maybe we can skip your lessons for today, honey. I always give myself a break from work every once in a while, too.”

 

‘So how come you hardly ever spend it here?’ you think dully, but something in you hunches over in defeat. From the sounds of things, she still wants you to perform someday, but you’re much too tired to argue and the last thing you need is a screaming match with your mother.

 

If school’s bothering you that much, I can always transfer you to a new one,” she suggests, standing up and stretching. “Maybe one that’s a little more...artsy? Why you ever wanted to go to the one you’re in now is beyond me, honestly...”

 

The thought of moving schools in the middle of the year is abhorrent and definitely one you don’t need right now, so you quietly shake your head.

 

No? Then how about changing classrooms? Would that clear your head a bit?”

 

You heave a sigh and nod, though you’re only going along with it because you know she’ll continue in this vein until you actually agree. You watch her wearily as she bobs around the room, babbling animatedly and undoubtedly congratulating herself on being a good parent. Transferring at this point in the year would be a logistical nightmare, but as she turns to you with a beaming smile, you wryly think she can have it arranged in next to no time at all.

 

Not two days later, you find yourself standing in front of a classroom full of people you don’t know. Expressions of great interest surround you as you bow and formally introduce yourself, but you keep your eyes glued to the floor. You end up taking a seat by the window in the back corner, though you’re not sure if this is a good thing or not because while you’re glad you don’t have to look at Miki anymore, you quickly grow tired of people people craning their necks to look back at you throughout the lesson.

 

During your first break, you’re immediately surrounded by a handful of girls while many of the guys hang back, trying (and failing miserably) to look nonchalant. Feeling it would be rude to ignore them, you slowly put down your book and sigh inwardly. You can only hope they’re at least somewhat friendly, but after recent events, you keep your face neutral. If they don’t have good intentions, you can’t show any weakness.

 

Hey, new kid,” says the girl directly in front of you. Her hair is stylishly short in a side-swept pixie cut, and she smiles at you in a way that puts you on your guard. “Name’s Ami. Gosh, I absolutely love your hair! What conditioner do you use?” She says this all of this very fast and you blink, feeling a little overwhelmed.

 

Has anyone told you that you look like a younger version of Astra?” chirps another girl with what you think is a mixture of admiration and envy — it’s hard to tell. “Some girls are just born lucky, I guess, I’m Risa, by the way.” When you glance at her, you can’t help but notice her perfectly curled hair and a faint whiff of perfume that strikes you as somewhat familiar.

 

Astra?” you ask, even though the name tugs at your memory.

 

They giggle at this and you’re left feeling a little dumb. Luckily, Risa comes to your rescue pretty quickly. “You know...Astra! She’s super famous and stuff. I got my parents to buy me her perfume, even. It was kinda pricey, but I just had to have it.”

 

Another girl with short, bobbed hair nods. “We’re all pretty big fans.” She pulls out her phone and hands it to you. “I have a poster like this at home, but I keep this as my wallpaper to motivate me.” She twiddles her fingers together in a nervous gesture. “I’m Michiru. It’s nice to meet you.”

 

Likewise,” you respond, figuring it would be the height of bad manners not to and glance down at the lock screen. It’s like being punched in the gut. Caught with a rapturous expression and arms raised to the heavens is your mother dressed in an intricate backless gossamer dress, golden wings spread wide and looking almost too ethereal to be human. You notice special care has been taken to highlight the markings around her eyes because you’ve never seen them glow like that.

 

Oh...yeah, I remember now,” you finally mutter flatly, but they don’t seem to notice your change in demeanor.

 

It’s strange, though. They’re pretty chatty and are almost too relaxed around you in an unnerving kind of way. Still, the more you get to know them, the more you lower your guard . At this point in time, you can’t afford to be picky even if they’re not people you’d normally hang out with. If you’re being honest with yourself, it’s nice to be around company after the last few days you’ve had.

 

So we were thinking...” says Ami near the end of break. “Do you want to sit with us during lunch?”

 

A small knot forms in the pit of your stomach. “Not...in the cafeteria, right?” you say in what you hope sounds casual , but your body tenses despite your best efforts.

 

Risa wrinkles her nose and shakes her head. “Yuck, no,” she says dismissively. “It’s way too crowded in there.”

 

Sometimes we eat here, but we mostly go on the roof when the weather’s nice,” says Michiru. “The door’s always locked, but getting up there’s a cinch if you’ve got the right Quirk.”

 

So what you do say, newbie? You coming with us or not?” says Ami, and it’s clear she’s expecting you to say yes.

 

...Sure,” you answer after a moment, feeling a little better as they all grow visibly happier. They quickly exchange numbers with you just as your break ends, which loosens the knot in your stomach a little. You do notice Miki’s phone number in your list of contacts, however, but you only give it a pensive frown and make a mental note to delete it later. Now that you’re not alone anymore, you don’t feel as heavy-hearted as you did a few days ago.

 

As the day wears on, you find yourself enjoying their company, and while they’re a bit of a giggly sort and spend more time gossiping than anything else, they make an effort to make you feel included, even if you are out of your element. The fiasco that happened with Miki almost seems like a bad dream, as if it had happened to someone else. You even feel good enough to accept their invitation to hang out with your new companions after school even though you’d normally head straight home to do your lessons. After all, what’s one day missed?

 

However, when they lead you into a karaoke joint, you immediately hang back, suddenly feeling a strong sense of trepidation, but they only laugh at your hesitation and before you know it, you’re in a private booth with an array of fruity drinks on the table in front of you. You don’t do much except sit quietly and take small sips while they have fun choosing various songs. Risa sings very well despite having no formal training, while Ami seems to enjoy herself immensely and eventually dissolves into hysterics when she accidentally burps during the middle of a song and can’t continue.

 

After Michiru has a turn singing, she unexpectedly hands you the mic and you fumble with it, nearly dropping it, and shake your head. Everyone looks at you quizzically, but you lower your eyes and half-heartedly make an excuse, but you can tell they’re not buying it.

 

C’mon, it’s really fun!” says Ami bracingly as everyone makes noises of agreement. “We won’t laugh, we promise.”

 

I don’t...I mean, I don’t really...know a lot of these songs,” you mumble nervously, but you might as well have said nothing for all the good it does.

 

There’s bound to be at least one,” comments Michiru sagely, adjusting her glasses. “It doesn’t matter to us if you’re not that good at singing.”

 

It definitely doesn’t stop Ami-chan here,” says Risa slyly, and the whole group bursts into laughter. When they finally settle down, she reaches over and grips your shoulder in a reassuring squeeze. “Just one, then?”

 

You really don’t want to do this. If you sing, you’ll undoubtedly enthrall them and after what happened recently, you’re not exactly keen on answering awkward questions regarding your Quirk. It might lead to another misunderstanding, and the thought of going through another dramatic episode is more than you can bear. The only consolation to this is that you haven’t known them very long. You wonder if there’s some kind of record for the most number of ruined friendships in a single week…

 

Shakily getting to your feet, you slowly peruse the song menu while listening to their previews, though none seem familiar to you. You do come across several of your mother’s songs, which range from jazzy to slow ballads, but you steer clear of those. Trying to stop the trembling in your hands is proving impossible, however, but your group doesn’t point it out, most likely thinking it’s due to nerves.

 

You pause at a song that you actually do know, one that you’ve secretly practiced on your own, mostly because it’s not that hard to follow and even though the lyrics are in English, you know enough to discern its sweeping instrumentals and uplifting message to make a go of it. Still, you hesitate. You have never actually sung in front of a live audience before. Even your lessons were never done face-to-face, as your instructors preferred to watch you through a camera since they wanted to offer critique without impaired judgment.

 

Do this one!” says Ami excitedly. She bounces a little in her seat as the rest of the group eggs you on, and you sigh softly. There’s no getting out of this anymore.

 

Your heart’s about to beat out of your chest, but you reluctantly press play on the panel in front of you. The place is filled with shushing noises as they sit back, and the last thing you see before you close your eyes are their excited grins.

 

The first notes thrum throughout the room, a curious blend of strings and trumpets underscored by a heavy bass beat, and you draw in a shaky breath and bring the microphone to your lips. Your last fleeting thought is that you’re glad this room is soundproofed before you start to sing.

 

Almost immediately, you lose yourself in the song’s sweeping melody as it washes over you in a way that nothing else can. Even your nervousness fades away. The piece isn’t difficult and while it doesn’t showcase your full potential, it’s special to you. The lyrics are heartening and bring a message of hope and courage that reminds you of your hero, All Might.

 

All too soon, the song comes to an end and as you sing the last wavering note, you feel a modicum of relief as some of the tension leaves your shoulders, even though you’re almost sad to see it end. The room is silent, so you slowly open your eyes, wondering for a fleeting second how it would be if your Quirk had gone to someone else, or better yet, didn’t exist at all.

 

Because when you take a closer glance at your companions, you’re not surprised to see their dazed expressions, pupils blown wide and mouths slightly agape. A feeling courses through you before you abruptly cut off the flow, like a thread being snapped, and they blink, coming back to their senses.

 

You should’ve known better. Coming to a karaoke joint had been an insanely reckless idea, and you have no one to blame but yourself. You can’t stop the stricken look that crosses your face, so you duck your head and let your hand fall to your side, clutching at the microphone tightly. Now they’ll leave. Now you’ll be alone again.

 

What...was that?” says Risa, and you raise your eyes to look at her. She looks awed instead of frightened, which isn’t what you were expecting. Her face splits into a grin. “That’s amazing! I didn’t know you could sing like that!”

 

I’m so jealous!” squeals Ami with a giggle at your reddening cheeks. “You can give Astra a run for her money!”

 

Hang on,” interjects Michiru, cutting through the excitement. She fixes you with a scrutinizing look and your stomach sinks unpleasantly. “Something happened to us while you were singing. Don’t get me wrong, you’re really good, but the feeling I got was weird, like some part of my mind wasn’t really there.”

 

The other two blink in surprise before they all look at you with a hint of uncertainty and you slowly set the microphone down on the table. You knew this was coming, but now that you’re here, you’re not sure where to start. Resigned to your fate, you heave a sigh as your shoulders slump. It becomes hard to look at any of them, so you don’t.

 

It wasn’t your imagination,” you begin, shifting uncomfortably. “It’s part of my Quirk. Whenever I do certain things, it puts people into a trance of sorts.” You can feel yourself start to shake and you force yourself to stop. You’ve already gone this far — might as well continue. “That’s why my Quirk is called ‘siren.’ My mother passed it down to me.”

 

You risk looking up and are surprised to see admiration on Ami’s face, not fear or uncertainty. She grins and hurries forward, clasping your hands tightly. “Wow! That’s so amazing!” she says brightly. “I didn’t know you could do something like that!”

 

So you can make people do whatever you want?” muses Risa thoughtfully. “I’m confused.”

 

That’s a really powerful Quirk, and rare too,” comments Michiru, who’s fighting down a smile as Ami starts hopping excitedly in place. “We’ll just have to be more careful around you, that’s all.”

 

The longer they marvel at your ability, the less tense you become until you finally return their smiles with a shaky one of your own. All this time, you were expecting them to turn tail and run, but they haven’t done anything of the sort. Overwhelming relief floods through you, and it’s incredibly cathartic the way they not only accept you but embrace your Quirk. More drinks are ordered, and though they don’t pressure you to sing again, the way they smile at you speaks volumes. Some part of you wonders if your destroyed friendship with Miki paved the way for friends who are infinitely more understanding, and while thinking of her still brings pangs of regret, it’s hard to feel sad at the moment when you’re so overjoyed. Maybe she was the price you had to pay in exchange for this slice of happiness…

 

The rest of the year goes by without too much of a hitch, and even though you sometimes pass by Miki and your old group, you’re always in the company of your new friends, too busy chatting animatedly to notice the pained look that crosses her face whenever she glances at you. Stares and whispers still follow you, but they somehow diminish around Ami, Risa, and Michiru. There’s something about the way they hold themselves, that self-assured confidence in the way they navigate through life that lends itself to a different sort of vibe compared to the one you had known before. Had you not been included in their circle, you might’ve found them slightly intimidating. As it stands, however, it feels nice to be included, and you particularly enjoy your lunches spent on the rook thanks to Risa’s Platform Quirk, which explains how they’ve been getting up there in the first place.

 

You don’t know when the change happens, but at some point, it gets to where you can’t open your shoe locker in the morning without finding a least a dozen letters crammed inside. Ami finds them laughably cute and teases you mercilessly, but Risa regards the letters with cold dismissal and throws out the entire lot before you even have a change to go through them.

 

People who can’t even confess to you face to face are losers,” she says with a curled lip. “You can do way better.”

 

When summer rolls around, you impulsively invite them to spend some of their vacation at the island, and your friends are more than delighted to come. Seeing their ecstatic faces at the sight of your paradise’s soft white sand, private beach villa, and luxurious cabanas dotted throughout is almost comical with the amount of enthusiasm they bring , and though you feel a faint pang of nostalgia for your time here as a child, you find yourself enjoying their company more than before. It feels nice to relax without the pressure of school looming your head, and as your friends dance around a bonfire while fireworks light up the night sky, you quietly think to yourself that this is the happiest you’ve ever been.

 

The sun is now almost entirely gone and you’re sure you won’t run into anyone if you leave now, so you stand up, grab your bag, and sling it over your shoulder. I’m getting sentimental,’ you think, but it’s somehow fitting, spending your last day of middle school alone with your thoughts. Your heartbeat seems to rattle inside your chest as you head downstairs to change out of your school shoes. You’re most definitely late for your lessons, but you can’t bring yourself to care. It’s hard to care about a lot of things these days.

 

When you arrive home, there’s a faint smell of perfume hanging around in the entryway, which means your mother is most likely home. You feel a very faint twinge of annoyance, but it soon fades and leaves a hollow indifference in its wake. You don’t remember how long it’s been since you’ve last seen her, but she would’ve sent a text if she wanted to spend time with you, something she never does nowadays, and when you glance down at your phone, you’re not surprised to see a distinct lack of messages.

 

You heave a sigh and take the long way to your room in order to clear your head. You’ve almost succeeded when loud raucous laughter pulls you up short. It’s coming from a door off to the side, carelessly left ajar. Now you’re even more surprised how you managed to hear anything as heavy, thrumming dance music filters through.

 

Shaking your head dismissively, you pass the door without bothering to look through and continue on your way, but you’ve only taken a couple of steps when you hear someone stumble out, and there’s something in that airy giggle that sends your anger through the roof. You slowly turn around and take in your mother’s drunken appearance.

 

She’s wearing some skimpy little strapless dress that she’s having some difficulty with, constantly pulling it back up over her rather large bosom, and she’s talking about getting more drinks, her voice slurred and almost incomprehensible. Your mother obviously hasn’t noticed you yet, but maybe she’s so far gone that someone as inconsequential as you simply falls by the wayside in pursuit of far more insidious delights. And speaking of…

 

“Babe, the guys found some more sake back there. You comin’ back or what?” says a man who looks like he’s in his mid-twenties, shirt disheveled and smudged lipstick stains near his collar. He isn’t terribly drunk, but he’s certainly getting there.

 

“Oh, good! That’s good,” says your mother, drawing out the last word in what’s clearly supposed to be a seductive purr, but she hiccups at the last minute and dissolves into a fit of fresh giggling.

 

The last time you saw her, her hair had been long and pulled into a high ponytail, but now it’s cut stylishly short, and even though she’s obviously hammered, you can’t help but grudgingly admit that she still looks better than most models posing for a photograph. Her friend seems to think so too because he can’t seem to keep his eyes off her.

 

“Darling!” she squeals all of a sudden, finally spotting you in the shadows. She moves forward to embrace you, but as you gets closer, you notice her smeared lipstick and several blooms of color peppering her neck and bare shoulders. You immediately back away in disgust. She pouts a little but otherwise doesn’t seem fazed, which only infuriates you even more. You hate that you want her to care.

 

“Hey, babe, this your kid?” slurs her companion, throwing an arm around her shoulders. As she leans into him with another drunken laugh, he gives you a slow once over and you resist the urge to shudder. Fucking creep. They both reek of alcohol and your stomach turns from the fumes.

 

“You said something about more sake?” she asks breathlessly, completely forgetting you and playing with his exposed collarbone. “You naughty boy, you’ve been holding out on me, haven’t you?” She pushes him towards the door. “The others will think we ditched them. Let’s keep this going, okay?”

 

“Sure thing,” he says, his eyes still on you. He gives you a wink your mother doesn’t seem to notice and you retaliate by flipping him off and storming away without bothering to see his reaction. Asshole.

 

You finally make it to your room, feeling somewhat queasy and resolving to never take the long way again. Your trainer is probably going to let you have it tomorrow, but you’ve got more pressing matters to worry about. Sleep comes slowly and your dreams aren’t pleasant, reliving the day your treasured memories turned sour.

 

It’s lunchtime, and the air buzzes with excitement. Tomorrow is the start of summer break and all around you are people making plans, though a few not so diligent students gripe about having to take summer classes. You head for the vending machines to get some drinks for the girls with a faint smile on your lips. It’s almost funny how a passing student openly gawks at you before colliding into someone else, but this happens far too often to have much of an effect anymore.

 

Besides, you’re far too excited to care. Tomorrow, you start packing for your island vacation with your friends and spend your break having the time of your lives.

 

As you make your way to the back of the school, plastic bag full of drinks on hand, you hear an unfamiliar voice call your name from behind you. You pause and turn around to face a fellow student that you don’t recognize. She looks nervous and you scan the area for any others, but there’s no one.

 

Yes?” you say, already wanting to get back to your group. What could this girl possibly want with you on the last day of school?

 

I’m glad I caught you,” she answers breathlessly. Upon closer inspection, you notice her cheeks are flushed and one of the buns atop her head is starting to come undone. You frown in confusion. Did she run here? “You’re almost never alone that’s it’s so hard to—” She cuts herself off mid-sentence and turns bright red, then pats her cheeks.

 

She’s definitely acting a little weird. “I’m sorry, what?”

 

The girl lets out a high-pitched squeak and actually flails her hands a bit, shaking her head. “No, that’s not what I wanted to say! Um...I...” She starts stammering, twiddling her thumbs and somehow turning redder than before. As she goes into a deep bow, it suddenly clicks and you know exactly what she’s going to say an instant before she says it. “I really like you, senpai! Please go out with me!” she squeals.

 

The first thing that registers is annoyance, and while you’re glad no one’s around to witness this girl make a public spectacle of herself, you still feel irritated by how dense she is. ‘At least wait until school’s over, you idiot,’ you think harshly. You’re not sure why she picked now to confess, unless she feels confident you’re going to accept.

 

But that doesn’t make any sense. Why would you?

 

I know...that you’re really popular, but I couldn’t stand the thought of you going out with anyone else. I thought long and hard about how I want to live out the rest of my time here.” She grows more confident as she speaks, and had this not involved you, you might’ve admired her nerve. “I know I’m not ideal, but...I’ll do my best to make you happy, even more than all the others! That’s why I want to stay by your side, for as long as you’ll have me.”

 

Your expression remains impassive but you cringe on the inside. How can she say something so nauseatingly honest with a straight face? She’s not the first person to confess to you — it’s happened a couple of times over the past year, but you really don’t want to deal with this right now.

 

I’m not really interested in dating right now,” you respond curtly, watching her expression fall. “I’m currently just focusing on my studies.” You turn your back on her, but you haven’t taken more than a few steps when you feel a slight tug on the back of your sleeve.

 

Please don’t go,” she says very quietly, and even without turning around, you can tell she’s starting to cry. “You don’t have to be my girlfriend. We can just...I don’t know...”

 

You turn to stare at her with wide eyes, stunned at the implications. “...What?”

 

She uses her free hand to wipe away her tears but she’s not looking at you anymore. “Is it...because I’m a girl?” she says with a sniffle and steps closer to you.

 

You freeze and turn away quickly. You’re not entirely sure how to handle this, and more than anything, you wish your friends were here. They’d know what to do in a sticky situation like this. Your heart hammers in your chest and you stare longingly at the ground, wishing it would open up and swallow you whole. “Um...that’s not why...” you say uncertainly, but you’re not sure how to continue.

 

Am I...no good?” she whispers, and she’s so close now that you actually jump a little. “Please tell me what to do and I’ll do it.”

 

You finally come to your senses and jerk away, feeling incredibly uneasy. “Please, just...leave me alone,” you say quietly. You walk away and even with your heartbeat thrumming in your ears, you still hear her sniffling.

 

Finally, you arrive at your destination near a secluded area at the back of the school, still feeling a little unsettled. You look around to make sure there aren’t any teachers around before your feet leave the ground and you ascend slowly. You’re still gathering your thoughts when you hear Ami shriek with laughter. There’s something derisive about it and you stop near the roof, still out of sight. What’s going on?

 

I don’t give a shit if she’s used it on a hundred people,” she says dismissively. “Who cares about a bunch of nobodies? It’s all the same to me, anyway.”

 

The rumors are starting to get out of hand, though.” That’s Michiru, and you’ve never heard her sound so dispassionate before. “If any of them are true, she could damage our reputation and then where would we be? We can’t keep defending her forever.”

 

Now that I think about it, she does get confessed to a lot,” muses Risa “But if she’s using her Quirk, why would she turn them down?”

 

She says she turns them down,” snorts Ami. “Maybe she likes to have fun with them. Bet you that’s how she spends her ‘lessons’ after school.”

 

You press your back against the wall, heart beating very quickly. They can’t be talking about you. They’re your friends. This could all just be one big misunderstanding. Maybe they’re just talking about some other girl. It wouldn’t be the first time they did it. Your hands tremble so much that you almost drop what you’re carrying.

 

Wow, really? Is that what people have been saying about her?” says Risa. “Holy shit, it’s even worse than I thought.”

 

It’s pretty serious,” remarks Michiru. “Apparently, she likes to get around.”

 

Not just with students either,” interjects Ami. “Those good grades? Yeah, she uses her Quirk on the teachers, even! Then she’ll do some ‘extra credit’ to seal the deal, if you catch my drift...”

 

Seriously?!”

 

Whoa...”

 

Yep! But c’mon...it’s not like I’m gonna ditch her just because she sleeps around. She’s filthy rich and her mother is Astra! I almost died when we met her last year, do you remember?”

 

Yeah, there is that, huh?” There’s Risa again. “I’m just hoping to get a good word in with her agency. Anybody can be a star nowadays, but I’m pretty good, much better than the talentless hacks on TV. It can’t be that hard.”

 

Wow, you’re really gunning for fame and fortune, huh?” says Michiru.

 

Of course! But before all that, we’ve still got our island getaway tomorrow, don’t we?” There’s a loud chorus of appreciative laughter, but you’ve heard enough. Breathing hard through your nose, you can feel yourself shaking and as a warm breeze starts to blow, you belatedly realize how wet your cheeks are. Anger pulses through your veins, but the bitter sting of betrayal keeps you rooted to the spot.

 

These people were never your friends. They used you. They lied to you. Everything up until now had been a farce. What did it matter that you had come to care for them? The only thing that was worth anything to them was getting what they wanted, and once you had outlived your usefulness, then what? You would’ve been discarded and neglected as if the past year and a half meant nothing, as if you had meant nothing. Maybe it was better that you found out sooner rather than later.

 

But it still hurts so much. You had opened yourself up again, learned to trust again, and look how it turned out. You called them your friends, had let them in...it was Miki all over again.

 

‘How stupid can I be?’ you think, sick of the taste of duplicity in your life. You glance down at the bag you’ve somehow managed to hang onto this whole time and throw it away from you as hard as you can, watching as it splatters its contents all over the ground below. The noise seems to alert the group because they suddenly stop laughing, but when they come to investigate, you’re long gone.

 

You ignore the influx of texts later on in the day as you lie on your bed, and when it becomes too annoying, you take a sort of savage pleasure in blocking each of your contacts so that there’s no one left to talk to. Photos that once made you happy are purged from your phone. Even your social media accounts aren’t safe, and even though you hardly ever used them, you still delete them anyway in case anyone tries getting a hold of you there.

 

That’s how you spend your afternoon, obliterating every trace of them from your life, so all you’re left with is a large gaping hole where they used to be. You take solace in that void; it’s blessedly empty and though some part of you wonders if this is healthy, you shut it out by retreating farther into its embrace, letting it consume you entirely. All that’s left is a detached sort of apathy, and something about it is almost a relief. You simply don’t give a damn anymore. Forget ever having friends. What good have they ever done? You don’t need them.

 

You don’t need anyone.

 

You spend your summer at home training extensively. Your dance moves become fiery, even aggressive, and your voice becomes stronger than ever, and even though your trainers are a little alarmed at the change, they praise your new drive and accommodate, finding songs that are faster, stronger, and more passionate. They even come up with a couple of original songs tailor-made just for you, which suits you just fine. At this point, you’d do just about anything to strengthen your Quirk.

 

Because now you know what you want to do, the only thing left that matters that doesn’t involve friendship or loyalty. Forget all of that. You want to live your life your way, everyone else be damned. As you do some stretches after a particularly intense training session, it occurs to you that the tiny part of you that hasn’t died is still hanging on, still trying to give your life meaning. You’re tired of living this shallow, superficial existence. What better way to do that than to be a hero?

 

Of course, that’s much easier said than done. For one thing, the acceptance rate for the world’s most prestigious hero program is depressingly low, but while the old you would’ve been discouraged by the odds, you’re not the type to settle for a second-rate school. Maybe you had been before, back when you were content to follow Miki into a public middle school instead of a private academy, but that person is long gone.

 

So when you enter your third and final year of middle school, you already have your sights firmly set on U.A. and everything else seems to fall by the wayside. People around you no longer bother to keep their voices down as you pass by. “Slut,” they say. “How many people is she going to fuck this time?” They don’t hide their sneers, but they never confront you directly and always become unpleasant little shits whenever they’re in groups. Always safety in numbers. “Careful, she’ll use her Quirk and you’ll become part of her collection...”

 

Even the teachers, who are normally oblivious to student gossip, become cold and distant, acting far less lenient with you, and something inside you ridicules their weakness, their desire to save face and prove that they alone are immune to your imagined wiles. So you work even harder, not wanting to give them any excuse to give you bad grades. You submit your application to U.A., and despite your homeroom teacher’s best efforts to discourage you, you remain resolute. It’s the only high school you apply to, which is a gusty move, but you don’t care.

 

Despite all of the negativity surrounding you throughout the year, confessions are still a commonplace thing. They’re usually done by horny idiots, people who think they can change you, or by hopeless romantics who don’t know any better. You survey them coldly and can only muster the barest flicker of contempt, which is more than they deserve.

 

Then you brutally reject each and every one who has the audacity to think they alone understand the real you, that only they have any hope of breaking down your walls.

 

So when they inevitably become furious and accuse you of using your Quirk on them in an attempt to justify their shallow attraction, you laugh. It’s a humorless, empty sort of laugh, and it’s just callous enough to stop them in the middle of their tirade.

 

Sure, go ahead and think I’d ever bother using my Quirk on someone like you,” you say coldly. “In fact, tell everyone we fucked like rabbits and that I dumped you like a sack of rocks after we were done. It’s what you want, isn’t it? Poor, miserable you. This way you get to be the victim and not lose face in front of your friends.” It’s easy to ignore their stricken looks as you turn your back on them. “Then you get to call me a slut behind my back and everyone will believe you because I’m apparently willing to fuck every sap that confesses to me.” You let out a derisive snort and shake your head before walking away. “I’ve heard this song and dance before. You’re not the first dipshit to pull this stupid stunt and you won’t be the last.”

 

When your alarm wakes you early on the morning of the U.A. entrance exam, your face is set as you pull off your covers and get ready for the day. In next to no time at all, you sit in the back seat of your car, face impassive as you’re driven to the school. Soon, you pull up in front of U.A.’s large school gates, where students are already heading inside, though a few gawk at your vehicle, some even nudging their friends and pointing, though they can’t see you through the tinted windows.

 

You take a deep breath and exhale slowly, keeping a firm reign on your nerves. Your back straightens as your driver hurries over and opens the car door for you. You slowly rise from your seat and head out, thinking that you’re finally taking the first, definite steps towards your future.

 

 

Chapter Text

The weak morning sun reflects off the windows of the towering U.A. building, and while you do find it slightly intimidating, you press forward determinedly, eyes focused on the set of large doors at the end of the path ahead. Your driver closes the door behind you before taking off, and while you hate to admit it to yourself, you feel a tad exposed like this.

 

Some of your hair falls forward over your shoulders, and you idly wonder if you should’ve tied it up into a more sensible hairstyle since you suddenly remember there’s a practical portion to the examination, but ultimately decide to leave it alone. It’s too late to go back home and fix it anyway. Besides, you’ve got more pressing matters at the moment.

 

You can keenly hear whispers around you and the back of your neck won’t stop prickling. You snarl internally and fight the urge to run up and kick them. You’ve gotten used to this sort of treatment by now, but it doesn’t make it any less irritating. ‘I do not need this shit today,’  you think viciously. ‘I’m under enough pressure as it is.’

 

A commotion up ahead cuts through your annoyance, and upon closer look, you spot someone with dark curly green hair flailing in midair and the source of all the noise judging by his panicked expression, but he’s quickly saved by a girl who presses her hands together, and soon, both of his feet are back on the ground. You can’t hear what she’s telling him from this distance. It’s an odd situation, clearly, but something in you grows quiet and you’re not sure why it happens. There’s something about the back of her head that looks familiar. She looks just like…

 

Your heart rams itself into your throat and you falter slightly, but only for a moment. You take several deep breaths in an attempt to calm your racing heartbeat and close your eyes to find your center once more. ‘Get a grip!’  you think to yourself. ‘It’s not Miki...it’s not her. Stop freaking out already!’  You know this to be true because everyone back at your old middle school knew you were applying to this school. They never shut up about it either.

 

I hope you fail the entrance exam. They don’t accept sluts at U.A. you know...”

 

“With a Quirk like that? I’d be surprised if you don’t become a villain at this rate.” 

 

Fucking poser! You don’t deserve to go to the same school as All Might did!”

 

Miki would never apply here. Not if she knew there was the slightest chance you’d get in. There’s too much bitterness and resentment for any chance of reconciliation. Slowly, but surely, your heart slows to a more manageable rate, and while you’re not as calm as you’d like to be, you chalk it up to examination jitters, but you’ll have time to worry about that once you’re inside.

 

Suddenly, you collide into something, not hard, but it’s enough to startle you into opening your eyes, just in time to see the curly-haired guy from earlier stumble forward a few steps. The Miki lookalike is gone, thankfully, but you still feel a faint warmth color your cheeks from embarrassment. ‘Way to go, genius,’ you think dully to yourself. “Sorry,” you say out loud, inwardly kicking yourself for not paying enough attention to your surroundings.

 

He turns around, opening his mouth to presumably say something, but he only succeeds in choking out a weird, strangled noise at the sight of you, wide eyes meeting yours for a split second before you step aside and continue on your way. Whoever he is, you probably won’t see him again. There’s no way someone that jumpy will ever make it into the hero program.

 

At least that’s what you tell yourself anyway.

 

When you head inside, you follow some signs to a large, lecture hall classroom and take a seat at the end of a row, keeping your eyes on a note card you were given on the way here. It’s got your picture and test center on it, along with other miscellaneous information you don’t particularly care about. Soon, once everyone around you has filled the rows, including a young man who’s looking especially flustered about sitting next to you, the lights grow dim and a very exuberant man with crazy-looking hair takes the podium, waving his arms and gesticulating wildly.

 

He then tries pumping up the crowd but is met with only silence, which makes you cringe a little, but he doesn’t lose heart from this, surprisingly. He introduces himself as Present Mic, and you suddenly remember where you heard his voice before. He’s a popular radio host with his own show, but you never actually tuned in yourself, catching only snatches of it on the drive to school. He goes onto explain that your practical exam will actually take place before your written exam at various battle centers located somewhere on campus, and even though he’s doing his best to put everyone at ease, you refuse to be lulled into a false sense of security and stay on your guard.

 

Unfortunately, this doesn’t do a thing for your nerves, and you find yourself on edge once again. Judging by the way Present Mic is going on about the practical, you feel that that’s where it’s really going to count. He starts to explain the rules and what’s to come, but you’re barely listening at this point, too caught up in your own thoughts, but you do hear someone muttering throughout his speech, and it’s starting to get a little distracting.

 

Despite doing your best to listen with your rising anxiety fighting for your attention, only a few snatches of crucial information manage to filter through. Something about defeating enemies for points, and that gives you pause. You were hoping for some kind of an obstacle course, something that would put your stamina to good use, but this...this gives an enormous advantage to people with offensive Quirks, and there’s no guarantee your own Quirk would be effective against these enemies. You scowl down at the card in your hands and sigh softly as the lights turn back on. ‘Great...’

 

You rise from your seat, your jaw set as Present Mic directs everyone to various buses that take you all to your exam centers.

 

In next to no time at all, the bus pulls up before a looming gate, and as you stand before it with the rest of the students waiting for the test to begin, you take deep calming breaths, forcing yourself to focus. You don’t have a plan right now, but you’ll make do somehow. Rolling with the punches isn’t your strong suit, but you’re not going to give up before you’ve even begun.

 

This isn’t working. You’re still really high-strung because you can hear people muttering around you, undoubtedly psyching themselves up for the examination ahead or else trying to work through their nerves like you are, and it’s frankly rather annoying.

 

Shut the fuck up already!’ you think furiously before your thoughts are interrupted by someone clearing their throat behind you. Your shoulders tense, but you don’t immediately turn around. Maybe they’ll leave if you ignore them. Then you feel a light tap on your shoulder and you only take a moment to close your eyes and smooth your expression before turning to see a girl with pale pink skin and puffy hair in a hairstyle that reminds you of that jumpy guy from earlier. She grins when she finally gets your attention.

 

“Wow, heh heh...you’re even cuter than I thought!” she says cheerfully, then extends a hand to you with a smile that’s almost blinding. “Name’s Ashido Mina! Good luck on the exam. I hope we both get into the hero program!”

 

You blink down at her hand, but you’re saved from answering when you hear Present Mic's voice blaring from the top of the wall.

 

“Okay, ladies and gentlemen! Are you ready?!” he announces exuberantly, and really, can he get any louder…? “Let’s! Get! STARTED! You’ve got exactly ten minutes to get those points, so give it a plus ultra! Aaaaaand…GO!”

 

You don’t even have time to panic as the massive gates in front of you swing open and there’s a mad dash for the entrance. Thankfully, your instincts kick in and you quickly rise above the oncoming rush, narrowly avoiding getting trampled, and soar over everyone’s heads, barreling into the fake city inside. You’re the first one in — a good sign and you touch down, running quickly and scanning for any enemies to destroy. As to how you’re going to do it, you’re not sure, but you’ll have to figure that out and soon.

 

You’re rewarded for your efforts a few moments later as a large green shape emerges around a corner, a large number one painted on its hard, exterior shell. It’s a robot, you realize, with gleaming red lights for eyes as it spots you immediately. “ENEMY DETECTED!” it screeches, advancing menacingly. “PREPARE FOR IMMINENT DESTRUCTION!”

 

You back up, heart hammering in your chest before you steel yourself and clench your fists, your face drawn in a cold scowl. Fear is setting in, but you absolutely refuse to back down, not with so much at stake. In that split second, an idea hits you, and you back away even more, but not from cowardice. After a moment, you take a running start and fly forward, activating your Quirk to let it carry you towards the robot and you hurtle into it feet first, slamming it with enough force to send it careening away and hitting a nearby pole with a heavy crash. You can’t help but grin triumphantly when it doesn’t get back up and lies there in a smoking heap.

 

“One point,” you say to yourself, adrenaline coursing through your veins. The sounds of battle surround you, but you’re only interested in finding more robots to destroy. You head deeper into the heart of the city, passing by a really angry guy blowing up several robots at once and even Ashido, who’s currently hurling acid from her hands. She actually looks up as you run past, but you don’t have time to chat as your attention is drawn to a horde of automatons converging on a very short boy with really weird protrusions on his head that look a bit like oversized grapes.

 

He’s screaming bloody murder and actually throwing those strange round things at them, but it’s pretty clear he’s panicking because none of them are hitting their mark and land uselessly on the ground.

 

You don’t think. Before you know it, you’re flying through the air and crashing into the row of robots with much more force than necessary, but you’re no fool and know how to make use of your strong dancer’s legs. They soar away from you and crash into a nearby wall, falling apart and lying there, bringing up your total points up to twelve.

 

Waving away the smoke emanating from the downed robots with a slight cough, you look over at the boy who’s evidently just collapsed to his knees, presumably from relief. “Watch yourself,” you say quietly, then frown at the way he stares up at you, goggling and slack-jawed.

 

“So...so beautiful...” you hear him mumble, and you immediately regret saving the little twerp. With an irritated toss of your hair, you head towards another pair of advancing robots and take your anger out on them with another flying kick, feeling immense satisfaction as they fly away from the force of your attack with a resounding crash.

 

You don’t stick around, however, and run toward another area rife with downed robots, scanning the area frantically. Your breath is starting to depart from its steady rhythm, and while you’re not exactly tired, the adrenaline from earlier is starting to wear off and the effects aren’t exactly doing you any favors. Your legs are starting to ache, so you lift off the ground, giving them time to rest somewhat, but you know you’re putting your Quirk through its paces. You’ve never used the flying aspect of it for combat, so you’re starting to feel the strain.

 

You don’t know how much time passes as you soar overhead, but it can’t be very much and you almost scream with frustration because you barely have any points. Your thoughts are interrupted by a very loud rumbling up ahead, and while you can’t feel the floor shaking underneath, you still hear windows shattering and walls collapsing. Your voice fails you as you slowly look up at an absolutely massive robot rolling its way down the street, towering over all the other surrounding buildings with its enormous claw bearing down on you.

 

Nope nope nope!’ you think in the second it takes you to turn around and bolt in the opposite direction. Even you know when you’re outmatched, a sentiment obviously shared with some nearby retreating students. The destructive power of the massive robot is so great that when its claw crashes down on the place you were mere seconds ago, the shock wave actually sends you flying off course and crashing to the floor. Your hands and knees get scraped pretty badly, but you ignore the pain and fly as far away as you can. Let that robot be someone else’s problem…

 

Soon, you arrive at what looks like a plaza, but even here, all you see are metal heaps of robots, of no use to anyone. You snarl and run to another area, feeling desperation setting in, especially as you hear Present Mic announce “Five more minutes!”

 

Fuck!” you scream in anger before hurtling around a corner at a fast swerve. You didn’t come all this way just to lose it in the entrance exam! You can’t mess up everything you’ve worked for here! All you can think about is your own failure, and you want to secure a spot so badly in the hero program that it almost hurts. Your legs still ache from repeated use and you’re exhausted. ‘Please...please just one or two more!’ you think, panting heavily as your feet touch down and you start to run, doing your best to ignore the pain. “Please…!”

 

You round another corner and suddenly collide with a robot who appears out of nowhere, a large number three painted on its side. The impact sends you flying backward and sprawling onto the pavement, and it feels like you can’t breathe from the force of the impact. The world seems to spin for a moment, but you’re given no time to recover, and in a matter of a few seconds, the robot is bearing down on you, mechanical arm already swinging down on your position. Your body grows numb as you stare up at it, and all noise seems to cease as you focus on this one, immediate threat in front of you. You want to move away, but you can’t. ‘No...it can’t end like this…!’

 

A red blur barrels forward with an almighty crash and topples the robot off to the side, and it’s like you can think clearly again. You blink a few times to get your bearings and bring a hand up to your head.

 

“Hey, sorry for cutting in like that!” he says, straightening with a grin and revealing two rows of pointy teeth. “You looked like you needed the help, though!” He turns his body to face you fully, and out of habit, you duck your head and avoid his gaze. “Hm? You’re not seriously hurt, are you?” He startles you by crouching down on his knees and peering at you closely with a look of concern, though it’s quickly replaced with a deep flush that matches the color of his brilliantly vivid red hair once he gets a good look at your face.

 

“Thanks,” you mutter quietly, feeling a stab of regret at your own ineptitude. You quickly get to your feet and brush yourself off, looking around for any more robots. You’re dimly aware he hasn’t moved from his spot when a robot rolls into view, and this time, you don’t hesitate. Literally flying into action, you charge into it feet first and send it careening away from you with a crash as your legs scream in protest from the impact.

 

You’re at your limit. Panting much more heavily than before and feeling like an absolute wreck, you sink to the hard pavement with a cry of exhaustion, legs practically throbbing in agony. Something’s wrong, and when the world tilts, you’re not sure you have the energy to hold yourself up anymore. You fall forward onto your arms, but they tremble violently with the effort and your hands feel like they’re on fire. You slump forward as you vaguely register rapid footsteps converging on your location.

 

Someone’s strong arms wrap around you and turn you around, and if you had the energy to scowl, you would have. Blearily opening your eyes, you see the boy who had saved you earlier looking down at you. You wish he wouldn’t hold you so closely — he’s pretty sweaty and much too warm to be comfortable. His spiky hair looks even more ridiculous up close.

 

“Hey, it’s going to be alright,” he says, using a much deeper and more pleasant voice than the one you heard earlier. “That last robot looked like it did a number on you.” With the sunlight bearing down and framing his face, you suppose this sort of angle might’ve worked on some stupid girl with a weakness for the heroics, but you’re not exactly the swooning type.

 

“Time’s up!” blares Present Mic in the background, and it’s just as well because you’re not entirely sure you can move. “Hope you got enough points, ladies and gentlemen!” He goes on about something else, but you’re not paying attention anymore.

 

You close your eyes for a moment, your breathing gradually returning to normal. You don’t think you did so well today, and the thought actually makes your throat constrict. There’s still the written exam left, but it’s small comfort at this point. If you had any energy to spare right now, you’d scream.

 

“Hey, Recovery Girl’s coming around,” he says, cutting through your thoughts. “She’ll be able to fix you up.”

 

“Oh my, today’s youth are so passionate,” you hear someone say with a small chuckle. “Love on the battlefield already?”

 

You feel a stab of irritation as the guy holding you sputters and grows even warmer, making the whole experience even more uncomfortable. ‘Just let me go already!’ you think, but you can’t even move from the pain, let alone prop yourself up. You open your eyes to see a tiny old lady wearing a kindly expression with traces of amusement on her wrinkled face.

 

“Can you sit her up for me, sonny?” she asks him, and he immediately obliges. “I’m not sure she can move around very well, poor thing.” She tuts and shakes her head after examining you closely. “Hmm...you’re pretty banged up and you’ve done quite a number on your legs.” She sighs a little bit before smiling in a weary sort of way. “Young people push themselves too hard nowadays. It’s to be expected in an examination like this, but all the same...” She reaches forward and presses several bear-shaped gummies into your mouth. “Eat these. You’ll feel better soon.”

 

She leaves soon afterward to attend to other injured students, and after chewing the gummies (they taste nowhere near as good as they look), you have enough energy to at least get up. The steady throbbing in your legs has faded to a dull ache, and you find you’re able to stand without too much trouble. You avoid the guy’s searching gaze and start to head back, feeling a little relieved.

 

“H-Hey, um…!”

 

You stop without turning around. ‘Just get this over with as soon as possible...’

 

“I didn’t get your name. I’m...Kirishima Eijirou,” he says from behind you.

 

You pause, wondering if you should even honor him with an answer. He did save you earlier, though. You’re not happy about it, but you think that at least deserves a modicum of courtesy.

 

“...It’s (Surname).” Your reply is brief, but you feel a flicker of uncertainty. You don’t want to seem like an ungrateful bitch either, so you add, “Good luck on the rest of the exam.”

 

“Thanks. You too,” he replies, sounding a little happier at this even as you walk away.

 

The written exam isn’t terribly difficult, at least not as much as you were expecting it to be, and though you do your best considering how haggard you still feel, you’re not sure you answer every single question correctly. You finish on time, but when the test is over, you’re in a very bad mood. Could you still have done something more, something a bit different to tilt the odds in your favor? You internally beat yourself up over this even as students file past you, some expressing hopeful optimism about their tests to their neighbors, and you want to strangle them. ‘Fuck you and your stupid confident attitudes!’ you think brutally. You know you’re just being bitter at this point, but you don’t care.

 

On the car ride home, your driver seems to notice something wrong because he plays calming, classical music on the radio, and while it doesn’t do anything for your increasing pessimism, it reminds you of how tired you are and you close your eyes.

 

When you arrive back to your grand manor, you’re mildly surprised to see your mother waiting for you on the front steps surrounded by her entourage of servants, though judging by her expression, she doesn’t seem too pleased. “Darling,” she says sharply as you wearily get out of the car and walk towards her, and there’s something in her voice that tells you this isn’t going to be a pleasant conversation. “I heard from the staff today that you went to U.A. this morning. Can you explain that to me?”

 

You scowl darkly up at her, but to her credit, she doesn’t back down, so you decide to go ahead and tell her the truth. She’ll find out anyway. “I took the entrance exam,” you mutter, feeling your temper start to rise. You don’t know why she’s even bothered to show up today. She barely comes around the manor as it is, but you know she’s still keeping tabs on you, which is infuriating, but there’s not much you can do about that. Still, trust her to pick today of all days to act like a parent. You’re not buying her charade, however. You know exactly why she’s angry with you.

 

“You were supposed to go to this school’s auditions today, young lady!” she snaps, flashing an official-looking paper with a notice printed on it and shaking it vigorously. “Why on earth would you go to U.A. of all places?” She pinches the bridge of her nose and puts on a long-suffering voice and it’s all you can do not to interrupt her spiel. “Now I have to go to the board of admissions and make a case for you to get in without auditioning!” She sighs in exasperation and fixes you with a stern look. “I’m very busy, you know! I can’t just go taking off whenever I want. I have enough responsibilities to worry about without

 

“Oh yeah, like getting shitfaced every night and hooking up with sleazy assholes who only care about your fame and money?” you interrupt brutally. “Yeah, real responsible, mom.”

 

She looks as though you’ve slapped her, but recovers quickly and grows rigid with anger. “How dare you talk to me that way?” she hisses through gritted teeth. “I’m trying to help you and this is the kind of attitude I get?”

 

“I’m not going to that stupid school of yours!” you retort furiously. “I applied to U.A. because I wanted to! I’m not your stupid puppet, and nothing you say or do is going to change my mind, so get off my back already!” You rudely push past her and head up the stairs, ignoring the furious look she throws your way.

 

“I’m only doing what’s best for you!” your mother yells at your retreating back. “This school will nurture your talents more than the hero program ever will!”

 

“Since when have you ever given a damn about my future?!” you snarl vehemently, rounding on her with your fists clenched. “All you care about is booze and your career, and pretending to give a shit about me doesn’t make you a better mother.” You feel a surge of vicious satisfaction at the stunned, hurt look on her face. “Take a hint. I’ve stopped trying to be like you a long time ago.”

 

You’re still seething later on as you soak in your luxuriously large bathtub in an attempt to calm down, but you’re so angry that it’s hard to relax. “I hate her!” you scream furiously, slamming your fist down on the bubbly water and it sloshes over you, covering your hair with suds. You breathe hard through your nose and glare up at the elaborately-worked tiles decorating the ceiling.

 

Soon, however, anger gives way to worry as your thoughts drift to the entrance exam. You know you’re supposed to get your results in a week’s time, but you’re not sure you made it, and the wait is going to be agonizing, besides. You sink lower until only the top half of your face is submerged and close your eyes. More than anything...you want to prove your mother wrong. You want to prove the world wrong, that they had the wrong idea about you. Applying to U.A. was an act of rebellion in itself, and it’s the boldest thing you’ve ever done against her, but the thought of being rejected is more than you can stand. There’s no fallback plan, no backup school to go to. You can just imagine the smug look on your mother’s face at your rejection letter right before she packs you up and hauls you to that performing arts academy she’s always wanted you to go to, and there wouldn’t be a thing you could do to stop it.

 

In retrospect, maybe applying only to U.A. wasn’t such a great idea, but there’s nothing you can do about it now. You’re stuck, with everything riding on that letter bearing your results.

 

And arrive it does. When a maid timidly knocks on your door holding an official-looking envelope sealed with U.A.’s crest exactly one week later, it feels as though your chest implodes. You take it with trembling hands and she has enough tact not to stick around.

 

You spend a good ten minutes deliberating on opening the letter now sitting atop your desk, chewing on your lower lip and squinting at it so hard you’re almost surprised it doesn’t burst into flames. With a deep breath, you shakily break the seal and tip it over, and out pops...something. You’re not sure what is, and you’re about to reach over and grab it when the little device flickers to life.

 

A hologram of a beautiful woman with long, jet-black hair appears, and even though she’s covered head to toe in a skintight body suit, it doesn’t leave much to the imagination. You blink, wondering if you received something in the mail by mistake.

 

“Greetings,” she says in a sultry voice, and you’re now considering whether to grab the little device and destroy it before anyone walks in. “Thank you for applying to U.A. My name is Kayama Nemuri, otherwise known as the pro hero Midnight!” She winks and you take a seat on your bed, deciding to keep your distance. “Firstly, I’d like to commend you for your written examination results! While some of my colleagues seemed to think the answers you gave to your essay questions had a little too much...erm...cheek, so to speak, others — myself included — sensed a fighting spirit within your words.” Her cheeks grow flushed and she cracks a whip she seems to have pulled out of nowhere. “The spirit of youth is truly an invigorating experience!” She comes to her senses and clears her throat, returning to her somewhat more professional persona. “Now...the practical examination then.”

 

You sit up a little straighter, fists clenching your bed covers. “You did reasonably well considering the limits of your Quirk — a little unorthodox, but you made it work. However, while you showed courage and perseverance during the exam — good qualities in a hero, in other words, you did not accumulate enough villain points to qualify for the hero course.”

 

Midnight’s last words ring throughout your head over and over again, echoing numbly as your hands grow slack. So that’s it then. You didn’t make it. It was all over…

 

It hadn’t mattered that you had given it your all. It just hadn’t been enough. You were going to that academy your mother wanted you to go to. She had won.

 

“Which is what I would say if villain points were the only thing we graded on!” she says cheerfully, then starts laughing and muttering under her breath, and you’re not sure, but you think her breathing gets heavier all of a sudden. “Oh, did I make you panic for a bit there? I bet I did, didn’t I?” She smiles and tosses her hair back. “Defeating villains is all well and good, but it’s only part of being a hero. You have to be there for the people during their time of need.” She presses a button and a small screen behind her plays a clip of you rescuing that weird guy with the grapes on his head. “You displayed a selflessness we’ve come to expect in future heroes, and even though we told absolutely no one about this hidden grading system, you still rose to the occasion and pulled off this impressive display of heroics in order to save this young man.” She presses another button and the clip is replaced with a long list of names and their scores, but you only have eyes for your name. A large, bright green ‘25’ flashes under the previously unknown “RESCUE” category, and a lump wells up in your throat. “It is my great pleasure to welcome you to U.A.’s hero program. Congrats!”

 

For the first time in what feels like forever, you smile.

 

Over the next few days, you receive all sorts of letters from U.A., all with various information. Some are enclosed with the school’s code of conduct, including improper Quirk use, and you even get a student guide that you doubt you’ll ever use except maybe to check the map. One of the letters has your hero costume form in it, and you decide to take this one seriously and spend most of two days coming up with a design, finally settling on a very functional, yet sleek outfit that doesn’t stand out too much. It’s admittedly a bit plain, but you remind yourself that not all heroes have flashy costumes and the thought makes you feel a bit better.

 

Your mother catches you putting the finishing touches on it late at night, holding a mug of hot chocolate. It’s surprising to see her sober for once, but when she peers down at your design, you feel a surge of annoyance.

 

“What’s this for?” she asks quizzically, setting down the mug down beside you. There’s a light frostiness in the air, and you know she hasn’t forgotten your last conversation, but for whatever reason, she’s not bringing it up.

 

Well if that’s how she wants to play it…

 

“It’s my hero costume for U.A. It’s due in a couple days,” you reply curtly.

 

Her expression clears and she smiles gently in a way that makes your heart constrict a little. “So my little star passed the entrance exam,” she says happily. “I figured you’d make it.” She studies the paper in your hands, but for once, she doesn’t criticize it or offer any “helpful” advice the way you thought she would. “Is this what you’re going with? It looks nice.”

 

This is...really strange. She’s behaving very oddly today. “Um...thanks, I guess,” you say, a little unnerved by her sudden change of heart. You were so sure she was going to bring up that stupid academy or something. It’s a relief to see her so agreeable for once, but you’re not buying it. Not yet. But if she’s going to put on a pleasant facade, you might as well milk it for all it’s worth.

 

“If you’re finished, I could mail in your hero costume for you,” she offers helpfully, glancing at the pile of U.A. papers on your desk. “You look like you could use a hand.”

 

She’s being awfully generous, but still, if she’s offering, that’s one less thing you have to worry about. “Uh...thanks. I’d appreciate that,” you mumble before stifling a yawn. It’s very late and there’s still so much to do, like order your uniforms for school.

 

“Oh, you look bushed. I got you this so drink up before you turn in,” she says soothingly, pushing the drink towards you a little. You had assumed the mug of hot chocolate was for her. It’s full of whipped cream with tiny chocolate chips on top, just the way you like it. You’re not sure if you should actually drink it, though. Sweets before bed tend to give you nightmares.

 

Later during the week, you start to feel pretty good, especially after your uniforms arrive. Your mother is once again present for all of this and insists on having you try them on, but after initially refusing, she practically forces you in them, which doesn’t make you as angry as you had thought it would. She gushes and takes lots of pictures on her phone, but she refrains from posting them on social media after a scathing look from you.

 

“Oh, you look so grown up and proper now!” she squeals, taking even more pictures with what you assume are flattering angles. “This reminds me of when I started high school! Seems like it was just yesterday...” She looks down at her phone and smiles wistfully, and you wonder what she’s thinking about.

 

It’s been a long while since you’ve spent so much time with her, and it’s jarring. You’re not sure how to feel about it, but for now, you go along with it. You still don’t trust her, not after everything that’s happened, and yet…

 

The night before the first day of class finds you pacing in your room. Sleep evades you, and you sigh heavily, running a nervous hand through your hair. Nothing’s working. You glance up at your reading nook nestled high above and fly up, settling on the soft recliner and staring out the arched window at the moon. You try reading a book, but find you’re unable to concentrate and you put it back on the shelf.

 

I shouldn’t be feeling like this. What’s wrong with me?’ you think, listlessly staring at a speck of dust floating in the air. Not much can happen on the first day, though. So why are you so nervous? You try taking long deep breaths, but you’re so on edge that it doesn’t help much.

 

There’s a faint knock on your door and your mother steps inside. She looks around until she finally spots you with a small smile and gestures for you to come down. The knot in your stomach lessens slightly and you gently float down to her, worrying your lower lip. She looks understanding at your barely-concealed panicked expression, but she doesn’t say anything and instead leads you over to your bed, tucking the covers up to your chin and turning off your lamp.

 

“Everything’s going to be fine,” she says at length in a soothing voice. “I know you’ll shine the brightest. You’re my little star, after all.” She brushes her hand against your hair, and though you initially tense at her touch, she doesn’t pull away until you finally relax, and for a moment, it’s easy to forget how unstable she really is. Her interest in you won’t last, a fact you have to keep reminding yourself. Still...it’s nice just to pretend.

 

Just for a little while.

 

Despite the odds, you feel yourself start to drift off to sleep, and you dimly wonder if the lullaby you hear is real or just a byproduct of a dream of simpler, happier times.

 

You wake up feeling restless the next morning, and after a moment’s panic, you gather your bearings and relax a little. Your mother is nowhere to be seen, but you weren’t expecting her to stick around. A glance at your nearby clock tells you that there’s still a few hours before class starts, but there’s no way you’ll be able to go back to sleep now. So you rise from your bed and decide to get ready for the day.

 

You spend some time rinsing off in the shower with a pensive frown. You’re not sure what to expect for the coming day. You’re glad you were able to get into the hero program, but you don’t know what that even means. Will it entail extensive Quirk training? That much is obvious, but the thought of making full use of your Quirk is...unsettling. It’s not like you’re going there to make friends so there’s no danger of getting hurt, and this is the thought comforts you as you finish combing the soap out of your long hair.

 

Soon after, you find yourself staring at your reflection in the mirror, fully decked out in your full U.A. uniform. There’s a satisfied look on your face and you turn this way and that, trying to see yourself from every angle. Since everyone will be wearing this uniform, you won’t stand out at all, which suits you just fine.

 

It’s time to go. Grabbing your bag from your bed and slinging it over your shoulder, you head outside and find a driver waiting for you in front of a black car. He holds the door open as you slide in and fasten your seat belt and closes it for you before taking the wheel and heading out. You run your hands over the luxurious leather seat in an effort to calm your nerves. There’s faint classical music playing over the speakers, and you try to lose yourself in the music, but it’s slow going.

 

On the way to school, you hit heavy traffic, which would be normal but it’s way too dense to be part of the usual commute, and when your driver turns on the radio, your worst fears are confirmed. A large scale villain attack is currently underway about two miles ahead of you and traffic is backed up while the pro heroes try to restore order. You want to scream in frustration and settle for gripping your skirt tightly in your hands and press your lips in a thin line. ‘Why today of all days…?’ you think in exasperation.

 

It takes about two hours for your driver to navigate through the mess and find an alternate route, and when you finally arrive at U.A., you’re almost half an hour late. “Fuck...” you mutter under your breath as you exit the car and make your way down the path. It doesn’t seem as though you’re the only one late, however, as a few students hurry past looking as haggard as you feel.

 

You don’t want to arrive to your class all sweaty and gross, so after a quick look at your map, you fly to your designated classroom with a calm air, but you’re anything but relaxed right now. You glance around at the doors that whiz past until your eyes land on a large door marked 1A. Taking a deep breath to steady yourself, you retreat into your emotionless center until it surrounds you and finally, your heartbeat becomes manageable enough. You knock a few times to announce your presence and slide the door open.

 

The first thing you see is a tall, shaggy-looking fellow with long dark hair that falls past his shoulders, and judging by his body language, he’s a little irritated.

 

“Pardon the intrusion,” you say quietly with a deep bow of apology before straightening and heading inside. Almost immediately, you feel many pairs of eyes on you and the room suddenly erupts into whispering. Some aren’t as adept at keeping their voices low enough and a couple of their words reach your ears.

 

“Thank you, God! I’ll never ask for anything ever again!” says a high-pitched voice in an excited whisper.

 

Holy crap...they sure don’t make them like that anymore...”

 

“See? I told you I wasn’t making her up! She got into the hero program after all!” That last voice sounds a bit familiar…

 

“Alright, settle down,” drawls the shaggy-haired man, and though his words slur slightly, he sounds more fatigued and run down than drunk. When he turns to look at you, you keep your head inclined respectfully, though you don’t know what kind of person he’ll be. “Listen, kid. It’s the first day, and I don’t know who you think you are, but tardiness isn’t tolerated in the hero course. I’d rather not have this conversation with you again. Try to be here on time from now on. Got it?”

 

“Yes, sir.” Despite your mild answer, you feel a flash of annoyance run through you and the void breaks. It’s not like you chose to be late on purpose, but something tells you this isn’t a man you should cross, so you keep your real feelings hidden.

 

“Good. There’s a seat for you in the very back. Go ahead and sit down,” he says, dismissing you with a wave of his hand.

 

The walk there seems to take an eternity, and the weight of so many eyes on you curls your shoulders forward slightly. You finally spot the empty desk and sit down, raising your head to face the front and spot several heads spinning back to face forward so quickly it’s a wonder they don’t get whiplash. You’re getting a vague sense of deja vu here…

 

“As I was saying before the interruption,” says the teacher with a pointed glance in your direction and you fight the urge to roll your eyes, “I’m going to be your homeroom teacher in this class. Name’s Aizawa Shouta, so don’t wear it out.” He picks up a clipboard and scans the paper on it before checking something off. “Okay, looks like everyone’s accounted for. I was going to take you outside to do an activity instead, but...I guess I’ll save that for tomorrow.” He looks around at everyone with a something of a bleary look and sighs heavily. “For today, there’s the entrance ceremony that’s going to take place in a little bit, so leave all your stuff here. We’ll be back in time for lunch...I hope.”

 

There’s a flurry of activity as the class assembles by the door and you follow silently, pushing in your chair and heading out with everyone else. Aizawa leads the way with his hands in his pockets, and soon you see other classes join your entourage. It becomes rather noisy, but it seems your class has some of the rowdiest people in it because you can still hear them above the clamor.

 

“Hey, you said you knew her, right?” says a guy with blond hair off to the side. You can see him sneak a glance at you out of the corner of your eye. He nudges his friend playfully, whom you recognize with a jolt as Kirishima from the entrance exam. “Go talk to her. Introduce me, yeah?” He laughs as he says this, and it’s clear he’s only poking fun.

 

“Knock it off, Kaminari,” mutters Kirishima, his ears turning red. He looks extremely uncomfortable and shrugs him off. “I didn’t say it like that, okay?”

 

“Puh-lease!” pipes up the little pipsqueak you rescued and admittedly a large part of why you’re standing among class 1A. “I actually did talk to her during the practical exam.” He sounds extremely haughty as he says this, and even though it’s clear he’s trying to strike an impressive image, the effect is somewhat ruined by the red flush staining his cheeks, and those ridiculous round things on his head don’t exactly inspire envy. “Looks like I’m going to be popular among the girls here too!”

 

This brings a round of arguing among the three and several students from different classes look around in alarm for the source of the noise. Luckily, it breaks up pretty quickly with a glare from Aizawa and they fall silent as he turns back around, then quickly resume their conversation much more quietly, so you’re unable to hear the rest of what they’re saying, though you can guess.

 

As you file inside a large auditorium, Aizawa directs the class to two rows of seats, and once everyone’s settled, he promptly makes himself comfortable in a large yellow sleeping bag he seems to pull out of nowhere and takes a nap, evidently heedless to the noise surrounding him. You don’t pay much attention to your surroundings and sit back in your seat, idly fiddling with the starchy fabric of your skirt.

 

With everyone seated so close together, it’s not exactly hard to miss what they’re saying as conversation erupts around you. You try your best to tune them out, but it’s not easy.

 

“C’mon, man, she’s right there,” hisses a voice somewhere behind you on your right side. “Hurry up before the ceremony starts.”

 

“I don’t wanna bug her, alright?” mutters Kirishima directly behind you. You silently agree.

 

“Nice excuse,” someone else snorts, a girl this time, and to your absolute horror, you feel a light tap on your shoulder.

 

You try not to tense and pretend you didn’t feel anything, but it’s no use. There’s another tap on your shoulder, a little harder this time, and wincing slightly, you slowly turn around in your seat and come face to face with Ashido Mina, who grins at you in recognition.

 

“Hey, I knew I remembered that face! We talked before the practical!” She giggles and you find it hard not to glance at the small yellow horns protruding out the top of her head. As if you could forget someone who looks like her…

 

“We met too!” interjects Kirishima, seemingly taking heart from Ashido’s efforts to break the ice. “I saved you from a robot, remember?” He offers you a friendly smile, but man, that hair is distracting.

 

You only nod at this as he flushes at your impassive gaze. “Kirishima Eijirou...right?” It’s almost funny how happy remembering his name makes him look. “Thanks again, by the way.”

 

“N-No problem,” he answers much more quietly, his cheeks steadily reddening as Kaminari sitting beside him tries (and fails) not to look too impressed. “So...your Quirk lets you fly, right? I saw the way you used it to kick those robots away. It looked super cool, like something a pro hero would do!” His smile turns sheepish and he rubs the back of his neck in a nervous way. “My Quirk doesn’t stand out much, but...now that I’m here in the hero program, I’ll give it my best shot.”

 

You feel yourself tense slightly at the mention of Quirks, but you don’t bother to correct him. You don’t know how long you can go without people finding out, but you don’t plan on screaming it from the rooftops either. As far as you’re concerned, it’s only brought nothing but trouble. ‘Why couldn’t I have gotten a different Quirk…?’

 

You’re saved from answering when your attention is brought to the stage as a strange...bear thing takes the podium and everyone falls silent at once. The principal of U.A. has a distinctly odd appearance, certainly, but you try not to think about it too much as he begins his speech. You feel a vibrating in your pocket and you pull out your phone and find a message from your mother.

 

Taking a quick glance at Aizawa, who’s still dead to the world, you glance down at your phone and read your mother’s message.

 

Hey, my little shining star! Something came up at work so I wasn’t able to see you off on your first day, but I’m sure you’ll do great! You’re so good at making friends, so I know you won’t be lonely. Not sure when I’ll be back, though...so just bring a friend over, like that nice Ami girl from middle school. You guys still keep in touch right?

 

Mom loves you!

 

This is followed by a slew of heart emojis and plenty of ridiculous stickers featuring little animals, but you’ve seen enough. Shoving your phone back into your pocket, you try to stifle the swell of resentment that comes from her message, but fail spectacularly. You spend the rest of the entrance ceremony stewing in your own anger, and when it’s over, you speak to no one, an easy task amid all the commotion.

 

You’re not as angry during lunch, but still very much annoyed, though you do perk up slightly at the sight of a freshly cooked omelette rice on your plate. You pay for your order and turn to face a crowd of students occupying various tables inside U.A.’s absolutely massive cafeteria, and you fidget slightly in place. Thankfully, you finally spot a lone table that’s a little removed from the rest and you head over there, avoiding the gazes of many who openly gawk as you walk past. When you finally set down your tray and take a seat, you heave a sigh and frown at your food.

 

You’re used to sitting by yourself, having done it for a solid year already, but...as much as you hate to admit it, it was easy to forget your loneliness when your mother briefly came back into your life. It suddenly dawns on you how heavy solitude really is, and as you pick at your omelette rice, which is quite tasty, you wonder what might have happened if you had done anything differently up to this point.

 

For the majority of the lunch period, you eat in silence as you watch various students around you chat animatedly, forming friendships or else rekindling old ones after a whole summer of being apart. Their laughter fills you with nostalgia for days gone by, when you had spent time with Miki and the others as children, which is ridiculous because pretty much all of the friends you’ve acquired over the years have turned out to be fake. Still, it had been nice...only because you had been living in ignorance, too blind to see people’s true intentions.

 

You’re determined not to make that same mistake again. You’d rather be alone than get hurt again, and maybe it’s selfish to think this way, but you know what popularity does to people, especially if it’s not real. Your mother is a prime example of it in excess — drowning herself in spirits and hooking up with strangers to fill the void in her heart so she can imagine, just for a moment, that she is loved in a way you obviously can’t give her, at least not the love she’s looking for. It’s almost like a drug, the way she indulges in it to the point where she forgets you’re even there.

 

“Um...excuse me,” says a kind voice, pulling you from your thoughts.

 

You blink, look up, and feel your lungs freeze in your chest. A pretty girl with short brown hair and a round face smiles timidly at you from across the table, and though there are some small deliberate differences in her appearance, the similarities to Miki are uncanny. All that’s missing are the little pink blossoms in her hair…

 

“You’re in class 1A, right? I saw you during the entrance ceremony but I didn’t get a chance to say hi earlier.” She tilts her head to one side and clasps her hands behind her back. “My name is Uraraka Ochako. I’m in your class too!” Her smile is overwhelmingly friendly in a way that would easily tear down your defenses had you been anyone else. “But why are you sitting here all by yourself? Aren’t you lonely?”

 

When you don’t answer immediately, she seems to take your answer as affirmation. “Well...if you want, you can come sit with me during lunch break tomorrow. Us girls have to stick together, you know!” She finally notices your numb expression because she suddenly frowns in concern, leaning down and peering closely into your eyes. “Hey, are you alrigh...” Her pupils dilate and her face grows slack in the instant you rise to your feet, your heart lodging in your throat from fear.

 

Oh no...oh shit, please not now…!’ you think desperately as she continues to gaze at you with a blissfully blank look clouding her chocolate brown eyes. Power thrums through your veins, and you’re horrified to see her take a step closer to you, and you roughly push past her and run from the area without looking back. The thread snaps and you hear her confusion from this distance, but you keep going until you find a secluded spot near class 1A.

 

The latter half of the day is pure agony. You feel somewhat grateful you sit at the very back of the classroom, but your eyes can’t help but flit towards the back of Uraraka’s head during your afternoon lessons. Once or twice, you catch her glancing back at you with a look you’re not sure what to make of, but after what happened, you quickly lower your eyes to your desk and don’t raise them for some time.

 

Goddammit!’ you think to yourself, gripping your pencil so hard the tips of your fingers turn white. ‘How could I have let this happen…?’

 

When the bell chimes overhead signaling the end of class for the day, you don’t waste any time. Shoving your things into your bag at lightning speed, you book it for the front door and hurtle past your classmates before most have even left their seats. You don’t stop running until you’re far from the school. You brace yourself against your knees, panting heavily as sweat drips from your brow and onto the pavement below.

 

You know you can’t avoid Uraraka forever, not with you being in the same class. It’s impossible. But even so, the way she looked at you…

 

You give your head a shake to clear it and start walking. More than anything, you’re furious with yourself for running away. What will it even serve? You’re just making things worse.

 

It’s what you’re good at,’ says a small voice viciously in your head. You try to ignore it, but it persists. ‘You couldn’t face Ami and the others when you came back to school, so you ignored them until they finally got the hint. You didn’t even attempt to fix things with Miki because you were scared of what she’d tell you, and you’re still afraid because now you’re running away from Uraraka. How pathetic! All because she looks like Miki...’

 

“Shut up...just shut up…!” you whisper to yourself, but you know it’s true. You can’t lie to yourself. You walk faster to escape the feelings of shame welling up, but it’s no use. You don’t know how long you keep up this fruitless endeavor, but it isn’t until a salty sweet breeze tickles your nostrils that you finally stop and look up.

 

The sun burns a fierce orange low on the horizon, suffusing the soft white sand and gently rippling ocean with its late afternoon warmth. It’s breezy enough to cool your sweaty cheeks and best of all, the beach is blessedly empty. You pass by a sign reading “Dagobah Municipal Beach Park” and frown at the gorgeous scenery. You remember this place being a total dump before, with mountains of trash heaps piling up on the surf, but now it’s spotlessly clean. You wonder who cleaned up the place before deciding it doesn’t matter.

 

Taking a moment to remove your shoes and socks, you step onto the sand, feeling its warmth between your toes, and you’re taken back to your summers at the island. With the gentle breeze caressing your face and the sun reflecting glittering jewels off the gently-rippling water, this does more to calm you down than your walk did. Unfortunately, it doesn’t completely abate the overwhelming sense of unease that’s been plaguing you ever since the start of the entrance exams, and you sigh heavily.

 

The ocean laps at your bare toes, but you don’t care how cold it feels. Gazing out at the sunset, you move forward listlessly, but instead of feeling the water rush over your ankles, your feet only touch the surface. You’re dimly aware of how odd that is, but a much larger part of you threatens to engulf your very being with a heavy sense of hopelessness.

 

You’re not sure why you do it, but you take a deep breath and softly sing a few words from a song you remember your mother sang to you as a child on the island many summers ago. You stop for a moment, overcome with a multitude of emotions before starting again, your voice gaining momentum as you go. Your eyelids slide shut, blocking out the sun and the wave of emotions, but you’re powerless to stop the oncoming rush, so you let them sweep you away, letting them carry over into your song.

 

You’re not sure what you want anymore. Certainly not your mother’s love since she’s such a fickle thing, easily seduced by the call of adoring fans — which is a bit ironic — and the allure of alcohol where she could forget about the mistakes she made in life. You don’t want friends like Miki or Ami, who fed you poisoned honey and convinced you you were wanted. Not stuttered confessions from strangers who would turn and run the second they discovered the real you.

 

The music you create sweeps you along, and soon, your feet beneath you aren’t the only thing that’s wet. The salty air feels cold against your damp cheeks and you begin to move slowly, arms moving gracefully through the air the way you remember your mother doing, and it’s as though that summer spans across the years to reach you, and the words you sing speak of a lost love, of being dyed in the colors of seasons. Small rivulets of clear saltwater rise to your fingertips and break into glittering droplets around your gently swaying form. You no longer feel the water beneath your feet. You’re not sure when you started dancing, but it’s hard to stop now, and the longer you do this, the more the fog lifts from your troubled mind. For a few moments, you’re sure you see feathers, as beautiful and as translucent as the droplets surrounding you, but they disappear before you can see them properly.

 

Before long, your song draws to a close with one last wavering note, and you slowly sink back down to the water, feeling drained, but somehow not nearly as hopeless as before. Your heartbeat thrums in your ears as you watch the sun slowly sink beneath the horizon in a saturated red, turning the sky pink. You wipe your eyes against your arm, letting the fabric of your uniform absorb the moisture there.

 

I’m being stupid,’ you think, but for once, there is no bitterness in your thoughts. You’re not sure if you’re ready to go home yet since you’re not sure what you’ll find there. Most likely nothing, since your mother did get caught up with work.

 

This doesn’t bother you that much, so you decide it doesn’t matter. You sigh softly and turn around, figuring you could use a nice long bath and a good night’s sleep. It’s only when you look up that your stomach plummets and shock reverberates throughout your body.

 

A guy with a mass of dark green curls piled on his head stares at you with wide, viridescent eyes, and you suddenly remember him as the person you saw at the school gates before the start of the entrance exam. His face is stunned, lips parted slightly, and when he notices you staring at him, his freckled cheeks flood with color.

 

“That was...what was…?” he croaks in a daze, and your worst fears are confirmed when he steps close enough for you to see his diluted pupils and blank face, all telltale signs of someone thoroughly enthralled into a stupor.

 

Your whole body shakes and you want to scream. The day hasn’t even ended and you’ve already managed to accidentally enchant two poor unsuspecting people. ‘What the fuck is wrong with me?!’ you think as you become short of breath.

 

Rushing forward, you grab your things in a frenzy borne out of desperation, which seems to snap him out of it because you can hear his stuttered protests, but you ignore him and take off without stopping to listen to what he has to say.

 

When you get home, you promptly bury yourself underneath your horde of star-shaped pillows and don’t come out for a very long time, absolutely dreading the day to come.

Chapter Text

I’m a fucking idiot,’ is the first thought that greets you as your struggle to open your eyes the next morning. Your legs and back feel incredibly sore even in your sleep-induced daze, and as you gingerly sit up and stretch, there’s a stiffness to your muscles that you’ve come to associate with particularly strenuous training sessions, which you know you didn’t do because—

 

Oh.

 

You groan into your hands as it all comes rushing back. The fiasco with Uraraka in the cafeteria and your subsequent flight to the beach, where you thought you had been alone only to find a curly-haired witness who had unfortunately been privy to your moment of weakness brings a wave of shame that you try to stifle, but to no avail. “Fuck…!” you grumble, wondering if it’s even worth getting out of bed. You don’t remember falling asleep last night, but that’s the least of your worries right now.

 

Breathing deeply through your nose and feeling more awake now, you turn to your thoughts with a pensive frown, exhaling slowly. Okay, maybe it isn’t as bad as you think. As far as Uraraka is concerned, she had only been enthralled for a moment, not long enough for the feeling to be remembered all that vividly. If she asks any questions, you can always ignore her. The last thing you want is having people butting into your business, and if she doesn’t get the memo, you won’t hesitate in giving her the sharp side of your tongue you were so infamous for in middle school. ‘Who cares if I hurt her feelings?’ you think dismissively.

 

That leaves the curly-haired guy at the beach. You don’t remember much about him if you’re being honest with yourself—just another unremarkable face in the rabble. He looked about your age and while he had definitely been at the entrance exam, you’re not sure if he even made it. Had he been in your class? Was he even a student at U.A.? You rack your memory for more details, but the only thing that comes forth is the teal tracksuit he was wearing at the time. It definitely wasn’t the U.A. school uniform. The thought of possibly never seeing him again calms you down enough to get out bed.

 

Running away again?’ sneers the little voice in your head, but you’ve gotten a lot better at ignoring it. So what if you are? It’s not like it bothers you. You haven’t given a damn about anyone for the better part of the year and you definitely aren’t starting now. All that matters is becoming a hero and everything else is just a distraction. It sounds heartless, but that’s the way it has to be. Being nice and trusting others never amounted to anything good and people who believed otherwise were only kidding themselves. Soft-hearted losers, the whole lot of them!

 

You take care of your soreness by sinking into your large bathtub, and while you know this is just a stopgap measure, it at least offers some relief. Now you’re just hoping that whatever activity your homeroom teacher mentioned yesterday won’t be too strenuous. You’re not sure your body can handle any more stress.

 

Aizawa, as it turns out, is unlike any teacher you’ve ever had before because the minute class begins, he tells everyone to change into their P.E. uniforms and meet him outside behind the main building. While everyone mutters excitedly at this as they begin to head out towards the locker rooms, you can only think of how tired you are from the day before and wince slightly.

 

As you zip up your shirt inside the changing room, the hairs on the back of your neck begin to rise. One quick glance around the area reveals the culprit as Uraraka, who seems to have every intention of talking to you, but you turn your back on her and begin lacing up your shoes, so she keeps her distance. Ashido’s voice fills the room, and you put it down to her outgoing personality because she soon engages the others into friendly conversation. All except you, that is.

 

“I hope we get to use our Quirks today!” she says excitedly. “I mean, that’s why we’re here, right?”

 

“We’re not allowed to use them normally,” remarks a very pretty girl whose name you think is Yaoyorozu Momo, and there’s something about the feminine way she speaks that makes you wonder if she comes from money. “It’ll be quite fascinating to see how U.A. incorporates student Quirks into its curriculum.”

 

“I don’t know...I just hope whatever we have to do today isn’t too hard,” mumbles Uraraka with a nervous giggle. “I don’t want to make a fool of myself in front of everyone...”

 

“I’m sure you’ll do great!” replies Ashido encouragingly. “Hey, wanna hear about my Quirk?” This brings a round of discussion about their various abilities, which you want absolutely no part of. You finish straightening your uniform and head for the exit, but you’re only steps away when Ashido calls your name.

 

“Man, you have it so easy, being able to fly wherever you want,” she says, trying to draw you into the conversation. “Today’s probably going to be a cinch for you.”

 

The others turn to look at you expectantly, and though you suspect the feeling in your chest might be dread, you retreat into the void you’ve come to rely on so much to escape it. How else could you have survived your final disastrous year of middle school? You doubt you could’ve endured your classmates’ scathing remarks otherwise.

 

Something in Ashido’s smile falters at the frigid look you must have on your face. ‘Let them make friends,’ you think, turning away and leaving the room at last. You don’t want any part of it, that’s for sure. Let those hopeless idiots go on with the delusion that people can be trusted for even a moment. They’ll all learn in the end.

 

Someone with red and white hair steps out of the adjacent locker room and there’s something about him that’s vaguely familiar. You can’t help but think of those small peppermint candies you used to enjoy as a kid, but his actual disposition is anything but sweet, however, as he heads for the stairs down the hall and only sparing you a single unfriendly glance. This doesn’t bother you since you’re not exactly in the mood to talk to anyone anyway.

 

As you start to make your way down the hall, you hear someone else step outside behind you and make several, somewhat high-pitched panicked noises. It’s so bizarre that you actually look back in confusion, though you immediately wish you hadn’t. Even in uniform, there’s no mistaking that curly mop of dark green hair. Your emotionless center quivers almost violently and threatens to shatter, but you manage to reign in your feelings through sheer force of will as you try not to think of what happened yesterday at the beach. So much for never seeing him again…

 

He’s only a few inches taller than you now that you’re this close, and his mouth gapes open, freckled cheeks burning a vivid red, but you don’t dare look into his eyes again. His whole body stands stiffly as he struggles to get words out, but the last thing you want is for him to bring up what happened the day before, so you resume walking without a backward glance. True, it had been entirely your fault to begin with, and yet the thought of reliving your stupid mistake is more than you can stand.

 

His voice, which is a little high-pitched and rather boyish, falters at your cold dismissal. You know you should feel guilty about being so rude, but you don’t. Your quiet footsteps are the only thing you hear for a few moments before he speaks up, which you weren’t expecting.

 

“Um...do you know where exactly we’re supposed to meet up with Aizawa-sensei?” he asks, and you wonder how a guy this meek and timid ever made it into the hero course. “I’m...I’m not really sure where to go...the campus is so huge that I’m still not used to it...”

 

You don’t answer him and continue walking, hoping he gets the message. He doesn’t, unfortunately, and you soon hear his quick footsteps fall behind you. “Oh! Uh...I guess I’ll just follow you then...” he mumbles from a few feet away, much closer than you’d like. You tense slightly, but don’t slow your pace. “My...my name is Midoriya Izuku. Um...I, uh...hope we get along well this year.” He pauses for a moment at your ongoing silence and clears his throat quietly. At this point, you reach the stairs and begin heading down, brow furrowing in annoyance. “So, um...I heard from the other guys that today’s supposed to be really difficult, which is to be expected in the hero course, obviously, but...I’m a bit nervous about it. If...if we have to use our Quirks, I’m not really sure I’ll do that great...I almost didn’t get into the hero program, you know? Oh, b-but I’m sure you did well! Erm...I mean, you must have since we’re in the same class...”

 

By this time, you’ve reached your limit. Feet lifting a few inches off the floor, you float down the rest of the staircase and touch down on the next landing, walking more briskly now. You feel thoroughly irritated at this point, though you’re careful not to show it on your face. Midoriya falls silent at your frosty reception, but he still follows you even though he’s having some difficulty keeping up. You quickly catch up to peppermint boy at the rate you’re going, but you don’t bother looking at him as you pass him by.

 

You arrive at the practice area located behind the main building where the majority of Class 1A is already assembled. Kirishima notices your presence right away and he breaks off from his group with a wide smile, raising his hand in greeting. Your eyes can’t help but linger on his vividly red hair and wonder how much hair gel he has to use every morning to keep it that way.

 

“Yo! Good seeing you again,” he says genially, and even though you know he’s the friendly, approachable type, those pointy teeth of his are very distracting. He’s using that deep pleasant voice you remember from the entrance exam, which is strangely at odds with his...interesting appearance. You half-expect a guy like him to be really loud and boisterous at least.

 

“...Hey,” you reply at length before surveying the class with a critical eye.

 

Kaminari’s off to the side arguing with that little pipsqueak Mineta, though you can’t tell what it’s about from here and frankly don’t give a damn. There’s a girl whose face resembles a frog with a finger to her lips conversing with a shrewd-looking guy wearing glasses who keeps making these sharp motions with his arms and next to him stands a...bird man? Weird...like that fellow with his chin to the sun and acting like he’s God’s gift to mankind. He notices your stare and strikes a ridiculously flamboyant pose, complete with a wink. ‘Ugh...’ you think until your eyes settle on the person nearest you, who seems to feel your impassive gaze right away because he immediately glares at you. If looks could kill…

 

Several pairs of footsteps alert you to the rest of the class’s arrival, and you try not to think of how your stomach squirms unpleasantly at the sight of both Midoriya and Uraraka. Kirishima remains oblivious and tries engaging you in conversation again with a hopeful-looking Kaminari inching his way closer, but his efforts cease once Aizawa shows up, who is his distinctly unkempt self.

 

“Okay, settle down,” he drones, hands shoved in his pockets as everyone gathers round. “I was originally planning to do this yesterday, but since someone showed up late, I pushed it back to today.” He doesn’t spare you a glance, but he might as well have because you suddenly feel everyone’s eyes on you, darkening your mood considerably.

 

Asshole,’ you think angrily. ‘It wasn’t even my fault.’

 

“Today you’re going to perform eight physical tests so I can gauge your individual fitness levels. You may have done something similar at your previous school, but this time you’ll be using your Quirks,” he continues. “Think of it as your starting point, but that doesn’t mean you should slack off either.”

 

You think of your aching muscles, which haven’t quite recovered from yesterday and your mood sours even further. There’s no possible way Aizawa knows just how much you’re suffering right now, but that doesn’t stop you from envisioning scenarios involving your homeroom teacher, all of them drawn out and painful. Apparently, you’re not so adept at keeping the anger out of your face because both Kirishima and Kaminari edge away nervously.

 

Bakugou Katsuki, the guy who had given you such a dirty look before, gets called out to do a demonstration of one of the tests. Aizawa gives him a special ball for him to throw and the whole class watches expectantly as he steps up to the plate. For a moment, Bakugou doesn’t do anything. Then he draws his arm back in a pitcher’s swing and launches the ball with literal explosive force, and you swear you could hear him scream “DIE!” amid the blast, which would be funny if it weren’t for the absolutely murderous look on his face. It takes a while for the ball to finally land, and when it does, the class grows visibly excited at the prospect of using their Quirks.

 

Despite everyone’s enthusiasm, Aizawa grows visibly annoyed and cuts through the chatter. “Keep this in mind,” he says quietly, and everyone falls silent at once. “You’re not here to fool around. These next three years at U.A. will put you through the wringer. Today, I’ll see if you have what it takes to make it through the hero course.” The tension is almost palpable at his next words. “Whoever has the lowest score will be determined to have no potential and will be expelled. Understand?”

 

Your hands grip the fabric of your tracksuit, heedless of the worried mumbling surrounding you. Like hell you’re getting expelled. Not after everything it took to get here. You don’t care if anyone else takes the fall, but it’s not going to be you. You inhale slowly and steel yourself for what’s to come.

 

As it turns out, all of the tests are pretty standard, just with Quirks thrown into the mix. As you wait your turn for the 50 meter dash, you observe everyone, scouting for potential threats, which of course includes Bakugou, who outstrips Midoriya with ease, and not for the first time, you wonder just what exactly Midoriya did to pass the entrance exam. The best runner so far is Iida Tenya, who outperforms everyone thanks to his superior speed, but unless he can utilize his Quirk in more creative ways like Bakugou can, you don’t see him amounting to much.

 

Finally, it’s your turn. Taking up your starting position, you ignore Kaminari, who won’t stop staring, and take off the second Aizawa blows his whistle, soaring through the air and skidding to a stop at the end after only a few seconds. You make your way back among the class and feel a flash or irritation when you hear Midoriya muttering about the versatility of your Quirk, including speed, duration, and application in various situations, though he thankfully shuts up after Bakugou finally snaps at him.

 

You breeze past the standing long jump test, but since a good chunk of the class can do this just as well, if not better, you’re not exactly thrilled about this. Mineta blows everyone out of the water at the sustained sideways jump, and while he does look ridiculous doing it, he still receives a high score, which only makes you click your tongue in irritation.

 

Your mood only worsens at the grip strength test, and you score even lower than Midoriya, who’s been shooting you brief glances throughout the examination, though he quickly stops once you catch him at it. You sigh softly at the device in your hands and resist the urge to fling it away from you. So far, your scores have been good, but you’ve always been a little hard on yourself. They’re fine, sure…but they could be better. This is the hero course, after all.

 

“Hey, don’t worry about it too much,” says Kirishima bracingly, coming up behind you. “You did great on the other tests! I’m sure you’ll be okay.”

 

You don’t answer him and stare down moodily at your dismal score. You can hear Sero screeching something about a gorilla in the background to another classmate, but you’re far too dismayed to listen that closely anyway.

 

The ball pitch is just depressing since your Quirk isn’t really suited for it and you resume your place among your peers. It doesn’t help when Uraraka manages to hurl the ball into outer space, and while everyone marvels at her ability, you have to slide your hands into your pockets so no one can see them shaking.

 

You’re not paying attention when Midoriya steps up looking nervous, but a commotion pulls you from your negative thoughts. You’re not sure what brought the change, but Aizawa looks legitimately angry now. You hear him hurl words like “liability” at Midoriya, who only stutters until strips of cloth hanging from Aizawa’s neck snap forward. They tighten around Midoriya, and you can’t hear what he’s telling him, but whatever it is, it can’t be good.

 

After a few moments, your homeroom teacher releases him and steps away, resuming his place on the sidelines with a critical eye. It’s only until now that you notice the subtle change. Midoriya’s features grow into a razor-sharp focus as though the rest of the world falls to the wayside where nothing can break the look of deep concentration on his face. This person is so at odds with the meek, stuttering mess you’ve only ever seen before, and when he launches the ball away with extraordinary power, all you can feel is stunned disbelief.

 

Your lips part as you stare at him in an entirely new light. His scores had been relatively subpar compared to the majority of the class, but now he’s blown your expectations out of the water. Uraraka cheers happily and even Aizawa looks impressed, but your world actually seems to grow a little colder. You thought Midoriya had only been accepted on a fluke, but if someone like him can surpass you in an instant, then…

 

For a moment, your gazes meet. You’re not sure what he’s thinking, but you quickly look away as you try to ignore the mingled feelings of jealousy and inadequacy stirring in your chest. Your hands shake even more, and the longer you stand there, the more bleak your future starts to become. Will things keep progressing this way? If they do, you’ll only fall behind and then your dreams of being a hero would…

 

“DEKU, YOU BASTARD!” Bakugou charges forward with his arm raised, and suddenly, the old Midoriya is back, just as fearful and skittish as he was before. “You better explain what the hell is going on!”

 

He hasn’t taken more than a few steps before he’s quickly immobilized by Aizawa, who looks just about done with everyone’s shit, and you’re left with your thoughts again in the calm that follows. You know that you have to work even harder than ever, but you honestly thought that being in the hero program was enough to prove you were good enough, that you deserve to be here. Now...it seems as though your own efforts aren’t worth as much as you thought they did.

 

Kirishima offers to hold your feet during sit-ups and you’re too out of it to refuse. You actually do pretty well, but at this point, even Kirishima’s encouragement doesn’t reach you. You find yourself growing surly and frustrated the longer you think about it. Just how much are you going to have to push yourself, and when you do, will you even be able to catch up?

 

You’re still brooding during the seated toe touch, arms resting on your crossed legs with a closed off expression, and you evidently get so lost in your thoughts that you don’t even notice Aizawa standing in front of you until he clears his throat.

 

“Are you going to spend all day sitting there or are you going to get on with it?” he says sharply. Everyone turns to look at you and this pisses you off so much that you actually throw your homeroom teacher the dirtiest look you can muster, and only then do you grudgingly reach forward and touch your toes with ease. He doesn’t say anything, but the tension in the air noticeably increases, and you briefly wonder if you’ll pay later for your show of disrespect.

 

The last test, the long-distance run, is taxing on your sore muscles, but you persevere, ignoring your classmates as you shoot past them, your long hair whipping behind you as you fly. You only stop to run to give your Quirk a break, but years of training have given your body incredible stamina, and whenever your classmates start to catch up, you simply fly forward again, so you wind up finishing only second to Iida. Everyone’s stunned silence is almost enough to make you forget your lousy mood. Almost.

 

“Here are the results of your evaluation,” states Aizawa once the class gathers around him. You score better than you expected, but you still raise your eyebrows at Midoriya’s score, which is dreadful. You don’t dare look at his reaction, though you do hear him having a fit of some kind a little ways behind you. “Oh, by the way,” continues your homeroom teacher, “I lied about the expulsion earlier.” He grins at everyone’s flabbergasted reactions. “It was a rational deception to bring out the upper limits of your Quirks.”

 

What an asshole,’ you think amid the ripples of disbelief, crossing your arms.

 

“Of course he was lying,” remarks Yaoyorozu in such a superior tone that you have to fight the urge to strangle her. “It should have been obvious if you stopped to think about it.”

 

Thankfully, Aizawa dismisses the class soon after this, and you heave a sigh. You’re pretty exhausted and feel pretty gross after all that, and you figure you could take a quick rinse off in the shower. Just as you step away, however, a heavy hand falls on your shoulder, effectively preventing you from moving.

 

You grow cold at this and glance up into Aizawa’s stern face. ‘Shit!’ you think, heart pounding furiously, and your sense of trepidation only grows when he pulls you aside until you’re both out of earshot.

 

“Listen,” he growls. “I’m going to make something very clear to you, so pay attention. During the evaluation of your entrance exam results, I was against your acceptance to the hero program despite the face that most of my other colleagues liked your potential. I wasn’t convinced.” His disapproval is so high you can actually feel it. “I really don’t like your attitude either. You show up late on the first day and disrupt my planned lesson, and what’s more, I received a letter from your previous homeroom teacher citing behavioral problems, and after today, I’m starting to see where they’re coming from.”

 

The injustice of his accusations render you so incensed that you’re momentarily unable to speak. ‘Behavioral problems…?!’

 

He interrupts your angry thoughts with a heavy sigh. “Do you honestly want to be here?” he asks you with a scowl. “I’d prefer it if you stop wasting both our time if you’d rather go somewhere else.”

 

It takes a moment for you to trust yourself not to hurl abuse at him, and when you speak, your voice is strained. “I do...want to be a hero.” It’s obvious he senses the fury in your voice because he tenses slightly, and his next words are razor-sharp.

 

“Is that so? Doesn’t sound very convincing to me,” he snaps. “You can’t just half-ass it in the hero course or you’ll never make it.” When you don’t immediately respond, his patience runs out. “Look me in the eye and tell me just how much you want to become a hero. If you can’t convince me, then leave.”

 

Images of Uraraka and Midoriya from the day before flash through your mind and you visibly flinch, panic shattering the wall of anger. “I...I can’t.” The fire burning in your heart goes out and is replaced with ice cold fear, and you’re horrified to hear just how feeble your voice sounds now. “I—my Quirk...it might—“

 

“I know what your Quirk is,” he interrupts sharply, crossing his arms. “As do all the teachers. Are you trying to tell me you can’t control it?”

 

“I can!” you say, balling your hands into fists. “I mean...I could. I’m having trouble with it lately...”

 

“Why?” he demands, and you falter, thinking of the doubts that plagued you in middle school. You shrink further into yourself and his anger seems to dissipate. He heaves his largest sigh yet and runs a hand though his hair. “Okay, look...I know you might think I’m just antagonizing you here, but I’m not. I’m trying to help, but that will only work if you cooperate with me.” He takes a step back and the air around him shifts. “It’s okay. You can look now,” he says quietly. “I’ve erased your Quirk so it’s safe.”

 

You hesitate for a moment before slowly raising your eyes to meet his. They shine a vivid red and his hair stands on end instead of resting on his shoulders like it usually does. It’s been so long since you’ve looked at anyone so directly who isn’t your mother that you find the experience unsettling. It doesn’t help that he looks extremely intimidating, but he only stares down at you as though he’s waiting for something.

 

“I’ve...always wanted to be a hero ever since I was young,” you say after taking a deep breath, and even though you speak quietly, your voice grows stronger the longer you talk. “At some point, everyone stopped believing I could do anything worthwhile, so I set out to prove them wrong. It’s all I have left now.” Your face hardens as echoes of your old classmates’ taunts reverberate in your mind. “I’m not in it for the fame, or money...or even the recognition. I don’t care about any of that.” You think of your hopeless mother who fell victim to all three and ended up neglecting you as a result. “I just want to make a difference in people’s lives, to be there when they need it most. I don’t want them to be alone.” Your lips press together as you remember how much you cried as a child when the weight of solitude became too much for your small shoulders. “I’m not so naive to think that I can save everyone, but...if I can save just one person from thinking that no one’s looking out for them, then that’s good enough.” You finally look away so he can’t see the surge of resentment in your eyes. “I’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen. I don’t want them to end up like me.”

 

He’s silent for so long that you begin to worry you’ve said the wrong thing, but he surprises you by placing a large hand on your head with a small huff. This throws you off so much that all you can register is extreme confusion. It’s been so long since anyone, let alone an adult, has treated you with kindness, and that fact that it’s coming from Aizawa of all people makes the whole thing doubly bizarre.

 

“‘End up like you’, huh?” he repeats, more to himself than anything. He takes his hand away and rubs one of his eyes, which are now back to normal. “Good grief, you’re melodramatic.” There’s no real bite to his words, so you don’t take this as an insult.

 

“Um...sir? There’s something else I’d like to say,” you mumble at length. “Well, it’s more of a request, actually.” You gather your courage and plunge forth. “Can you...keep my actual Quirk a secret from the rest of Class 1A?”

 

He raises his eyebrows at this. “Why?” he asks suspiciously.

 

Your jaw clenches, but you can’t dodge his question or he’ll call you out on it, which will only lead to more questions. Might as well get it over with. “That’s because...knowing what my Quirk was capable of ultimately led my peers to mistrust me. I was falsely accused of using it for self gain to the point where even my teachers thought I was untrustworthy.” Your mouth twists in agitation at the memory. “Nothing I said ever made a difference, so I stopped trying to convince them.”

 

He grows pensive at this and shoves his hands in his pockets as though considering his next words carefully. “I see,” he says after a moment. “I’m not going to pretend I understand your circumstances, nor am I excusing their behavior, let me make that clear. But that was then and this is now. You’re in the hero course and not knowing your full range of abilities can hinder your classmates’ ability to plan accordingly during training. Pro heroes oftentimes rely on the help of other heroes in many situations, so having the knowledge of each other’s Quirks minimizes the risk to themselves and any civilians.”

 

Your face falls, but he holds up a hand before you can protest. “However, I know this is a sensitive matter for you, so for now...I’ll keep your silence. I’ll relay this to my colleagues so they’re aware of your situation.”

 

You want to feel relieved, but you don’t dare lower your guard. There’s gotta be a catch.

 

“Keep in mind that you’re only hurting yourself by staying quiet about this. Like it or not, the truth is going to come out eventually.” He regards you with a contemplative look and you mentally brace yourself for what’s to come. “You’re going to have to cooperate with the rest of the class—there’s no getting around that. You don’t have to think of them as your friends,” he adds at the disgruntled look on your face. “But they are your allies for the time being and you’re going to have to rely on them.”

 

“So what do you want me to do?” you finally ask, already dreading his answer.

 

“Trust them,” he replies firmly, and he makes it sound so easy when you know nothing could be further from the truth.

 

You turn this phrase over and over in your mind as the bell chimes overhead some time later, signaling the end of class. You put your things away as the room fills with idle chatter. Aizawa doesn’t seem to understand the gravity of what he’s asking you. Trust them? You don’t even know them. No matter how nice they may seem on the outside, every single person in this room is more than capable of cruelty.

 

Your arms tighten around your bag. Everyone you’ve ever known has yet to prove otherwise.

 

Today has been a long one, so you decide to rest your head atop your bag, feeling bushed. Peppermint hair surveys you with a frigid stare from the next seat over, but you’re too tired to care, so you close your eyes for a quick nap. With any luck, everyone will be gone by the time you wake up. Who cares if he sees you? No amount of stink eye is going to get between you and a well-deserved rest.

 

But geez, these guys have no sense of volume control and their conversations reach you despite your best efforts to tune them out.

 

“Uwah...what a cute sleeping face,” you hear Kaminari mutter. “I should ask her out sometime before someone else beats me to it.”

 

“She might turn you down,” comments Sero. “She’s a little bit...”

 

“Unapproachable?” supplies Ashido quietly.

 

“You guys are missing the point!” pipes up Mineta. His voice is so grating on your ears that you want to throw a (preferably heavy) book at his face. “Ice cold beauties are pretty hot, you know. Once you get past all her defenses, you’ll uncover a cute side she’ll show only to you! Just imagine it…!”

 

“M-Mineta-kun, I don’t think you should bother her,” stammers Midoriya, and your stomach squirms unpleasantly. “She must be really tired...”

 

“Hey, did anyone else notice she got held back by Aizawa-sensei?” whispers Sero after a pause. “Talk about scary...”

 

“You don’t think...”

 

“What, that she got in trouble? Yeah, maybe.”

 

No one says anything until Kirishima breaks the silence. “Whatever, it’s none of our business anyway. Just leave her alone.”

 

You find yourself drifting off into an uneasy sleep so that their voices soon fade in and out until they disappear completely. Let them talk. It’s not as though you aren’t used to it by now…

 

When you come to, it’s late afternoon judging by the orange light in the room. Your hands have fallen asleep from their prolonged position and you sit up with a sleepy sigh, stretching and squeezing your fingers to bring back some feeling into them. “What time is it…?” you ask quietly to no one in particular and rubbing the sleep out of your eyes.

 

“A quarter to five,” someone answers promptly, making you jump a little. The voice comes from the guy sitting next to you. He’s holding open a book and fixing you with a distant gaze, but it’s much less frigid than before.

 

“Oh,” you mumble, looking away. You glance around the room and find that it’s empty save for the two of you. “Did everyone else go home?”

 

“Yes. Aizawa-sensei was in here earlier and told me to make sure you don’t spend the night. I was about to wake you.”

 

“I...see.” Odd. Aizawa seems like the type who’d unceremoniously rouse you from your nap regardless of how tired you are. At first, you think he’s showing you another kind gesture, but the more cynical, rational side of you suspects a different motive. You frown, thinking hard. It’s too much of a coincidence that on the very day he tells you to trust your classmates, lo and behold, there’s one waiting for you here. Which means, you realize, that he’s forcing you to interact with them, starting with half-and-half. You were under the impression that you’d be able to go at your own pace, but obviously that’s not what Aizawa has in mind.

 

You quickly grab your stuff in your haste to leave as fast as you can when you notice he hasn’t moved. You pause and slowly begin to fiddle with the small All Might keychain on your bag, feeling awkward. Out of all the people Aizawa could’ve chosen, why him? It would’ve been disastrous if you had been left alone with Midoriya or Uraraka, but still...he could’ve picked someone a little more charismatic. You’re not exactly overflowing with charm either and your social skills are pretty rusty, but that’s beside the point.

 

I really don’t want to do this,’ you think miserably, but you figure the longer you put this off, the harder it will be later down the road. Might as well bite the bullet.

 

“Hey, um...” you begin, and he looks up from the book he’s reading. In spite of yourself, you feel a cold aura of intimidation emanating from him, but you do your best to ignore it. He’s just another guy, right? “What’s your name?” you ask. This is perfectly neutral ground, nothing super invasive or overly friendly...at least you hope so.

 

You don’t expect him to answer, but he does. “Todoroki Shouto,” he says, and he surprises you even more by putting his book down. “And you’re (Surname) (Name), aren’t you?”

 

You blink, then nod. “Yeah...that’s right.”

 

He taps the corner of his eye a few times. “Those markings...I’ve seen them on a famous singer before. Her pictures were on some old albums my mother used to listen to.” Something clouds his expression before it passes so quickly you’re not sure you imagined it.

 

You slowly look away and stare down at your bag. Even after all you did to get away, she still manages to find you here… “Yeah...I got these from my mom,” you mumble, fiddling with your keychain even more. This conversation is getting a little too close to Quirk talk for comfort, which isn’t something you’re ready to divulge yet. You sneak a glance at him out of the corner of your eye. He’s not doing much, just observing you quietly with a thoughtful expression. You’re starting to feel a little nervous he’ll begin asking questions, so you blurt out the first thing you can think of. “I, uh...I like your hair,” you say in a voice a tad higher than normal.

 

“My hair,” he deadpans.

 

“Y-yeah. It kinda looks like candy cane hair, y’know?” You feel yourself growing warm with embarrassment. ‘What the hell was that?!’ you think, feeling more mortified by the second. ‘Out of all the things I could’ve said…!’

 

He’s silent for a solid minute and you almost bail from the room. When you feel brave enough to look back at him, he’s squinting up at lock of his hair he’s fiddling between his fingers and silently mouthing the word ‘candy cane’ with a frown. It’s so ridiculous that you can’t help but let out a snort of laughter.

 

“What?” he says, sounding vaguely offended.

 

You hold up a placating hand. “No, please don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not making fun of you, I promise.” You take a deep breath to calm yourself down. “Sorry...it’s just...I’m not very good at this. I’m kinda bad at talking to people.”

 

“We’re talking now, aren’t we?”

 

This brings you up short. “Yeah...I guess we are,” you say, face clearing. For a moment, it’s as though things are going to be okay, but it still feels as if you’re forgetting something important. When it does finally hit you a few seconds later, you cover your face with your hands and groan. “Aw shit...” you grumble.

 

“What is it?”

 

“I’m late for my after school lessons,” you reply with a grimace. “I didn’t go to the last one either, so my instructors are probably going to really let me have it.”

 

“Oh...sorry. I would’ve woken you up earlier if I had known,” he says.

 

“No, it’s not your fault,” you sigh, getting up and slinging your bag over your shoulder. You frown, hesitating. You wonder if there’s something you can do to make this interaction just a bit more meaningful. It’s a marked improvement over the ones you had with Uraraka and Midoriya, but that’s not saying much. “Hey, uh...Todoroki?”

 

He looks up. “Yes?”

 

You bite your lower lip for a second before deciding ‘fuck it’ and go ahead and ask. “Do you want a ride home? It’s my fault you got stuck babysitting my sorry ass.”

 

He raises an eyebrow at your choice of words before he surprises you yet again with a nod and stands up. “Sure.”

 

The car ride to his home is quiet, so you press a button that plays classical music to fill the silence. He doesn’t seem to mind much and alternates between looking out through the tinted window, gazing curiously at the lavish surroundings, and occasionally glancing at you. It’s still a little awkward, you have to admit, but after embarrassing yourself once, you decide not to say anything for now.

 

When your driver finally pulls up in front of his large, traditional-looking house, Todoroki offers a quiet “thanks” before getting out. As he closes the car door behind him, you impulsively roll down the window and give him a small wave.

 

“See you at school tomorrow,” you say, then immediately second guess yourself. Wait, was that too friendly or was it just the right amount of casual? Aren’t you being a little creepy? These thoughts quickly run through your head before you firmly tell yourself that you don’t care.

 

He doesn’t notice your internal conflict and nods, and while he doesn’t smile or anything, he seems less closed off than he did initially. You watch his receding figure until you turn the corner and you lean back with a sigh of relief. That...hadn’t been too bad. You managed to have to your first conversation with one of your fellow 1A classmates without completely fucking it up, which is a start, at least.

 

No one is home when you finally make it back, which you were fully expecting, so you change into more comfortable clothes and tie your hair up before heading over to your private dance studio. It’s late enough for you to think your instructor has gone home for the day, but much to your dismay, you find him waiting for you with a deep furrow on his brow. He lectures you for a solid ten minutes before he has you do some of your most difficult routines back to back, watching you with irritation behind tinted glass. By the end of it, you’re lying on the cold floor covered with sweat and breathing hard as though you’ve just run a marathon. At the rate you’re going, you wonder if your sore muscles will ever catch a break.

 

When you arrive to class the next morning, you still feel exhausted, though the only outward sign of fatigue is that your movements are a bit slower. Many of your classmates are already here, the majority in little groups and chatting animatedly with each other. How they can be so friendly is beyond you. Spotting Todoroki at his desk with his nose in a book, you start to head over but find your way blocked by Iida, Uraraka, and Midoriya, who are so engrossed in their conversation that they don’t even notice you at first.

 

“I’m not really sure since it happened so quickly,” she murmurs thoughtfully. “But Deku-kun said that he felt it too!”

 

“While it is most unusual, we can’t rule out any possibilities,” says Iida seriously, who has his back to you. “But don’t you think it would be more prudent to ask her directly?”

 

“That’s...what I thought, but going so far as to ask? I don’t know, Iida-kun,” says Midoriya with a worried frown. “She might just...” He finally notices you standing there and trails off at your stony expression before he freezes mid-sentence, face turning white. Beside him, Uraraka also visibly pales.

 

“You’re in the way,” you finally say without bothering to keep the frostiness out of your voice. Midoriya practically knocks over several desks to make room with a panicked look while Uraraka tugs Iida out of the way with a fearful glance at you.

 

As you walk past, Midoriya nervously opens his mouth to say something, but he ultimately decides against it because he closes it again. You’re almost to your desk when you hear him heave a relieved sigh and mutter, “She...kind of reminded me of Kacchan for a second there...” which doesn’t make any sense to you so you take your seat, wondering grumpily if you can go one morning without someone ruining it for you.

 

It’s only when you glance over at Todoroki, who’s still reading, that your anger dissipates slightly. ‘Maybe...it’s not all bad,’ you think. You wonder if you should say hi. Do allies normally greet each other? Would that be too much? What if he doesn’t want to be bothered? You deliberate for about another minute before deciding to go for it. If it doesn’t respond, then the only thing that will be hurt is your pride, which isn’t all that big to begin with, so with this in mind, you gently brush his sleeve to get his attention.

 

He looks up right away and you rearrange your features into a neutral expression. “Morning,” you say quietly. You can feel someone watching you intently, but you don’t dare look away to see who it is.

 

Todoroki blinks and some of the coldness on his face fades. “Oh...good morning,” he replies with a small incline of his head.

 

Despite your best efforts to hide it, you brighten a little. So yesterday hadn’t been a complete disaster after all. Taking heart from this, you decide to get the ball rolling. “So do you think we’ll do any hero training soon?” you ask, settling on a neutral topic.

 

“It’s possible,” he answers thoughtfully.

 

“Well,” you say with a stretch, “as long as it’s not today, I’m good.” You rest your head on your bag. At his questioning look, you offer him a small grimace. “My trainer wasn’t too happy with me last night and made me work my butt off until I was coughing up a lung.” You bury your face in your bag so your next words come out muffled. “I’m still tired.”

 

He actually sounds mildly interested. “You mean you do physical training?”

 

“Yeah, but it’s mostly—” you begin, but are interrupted by the arrival of Aizawa, and there’s a mad scramble to get back to everyone’s seats. He looks as tired as ever as he takes roll, and you could swear he stares at you a second longer than necessary, but aside from this, he continues as though yesterday never happened.

 

“Oh, right,” he says as though remembering something. “You’ve got a special hero lesson planned for today with one of your other teachers.” He pulls out his yellow sleeping bag and crawls into it. “Just try not to kill each other, alright?”

 

Confused murmurs fill the room as he zips himself up and settles down to take a nap until you hear a voice you’ve only ever head on television before All Might himself bursts through the door in a frankly bizarre position, but you hardly care. There’s cries of delight from your surrounding classmates at the Symbol of Peace standing before you, and even you have to fight down the urge to jump up onto your desk to get a better look at him, which is pointless since he’s so massive. For a moment, it’s almost like you’re a kid again. To be this close to your idol is—

 

Then you come back down to earth with a start and realize you’re on your feet with one of your hands planted on your desk, the other clutching a pencil that’s been snapped cleanly in half, and while Todoroki isn’t laughing per say, he still looks faintly amused at your over the top reaction. You quickly sit back down and avoid looking at him for some time.

 

“You’ll be getting your hero costumes today,” says Aizawa, which brings another excited cheer from the class as several sets of briefcases emerge from the wall, each marked with a large green number. “When you’re done changing, meet All Might in Grounds B.”

 

You pay very little attention to your surroundings as you clutch your case close to your body once inside the locker room, feeling your chest welling up with emotion even as everyone pulls on their costumes with enthusiastic giggling and preening. Unable to stand it another minute, you set it down on a lone bench away from the others and open the case with a small smile.

 

However, your happiness is short-lived and what follows is only confusion because the costume resting inside doesn’t look familiar at all. For a moment, you wonder if there’s been some sort of mix up. Then you take it between your hands and lift it up, studying it closely.

 

It’s a dress, you soon realize, and a really fancy one at that. While your original design had been made to look inconspicuous, this one seems to grab as much attention as possible. It comes with a petticoat and the dress itself is styled in a high-low cut with the front falling just above mid-thigh and the back trailing very nearly to the floor and edged with frills. The obi that comes with it is tied into a dramatic bow on the back, and it’s only when you notice the small, star-shaped beads forming constellations sewn all over it that it finally clicks.

 

“What...the...fuck…!” you growl, quivering with barely-suppressed rage and gripping your costume so tightly in your hands that you can feel your nails digging into your palms. There’s only one person who could’ve done this—the only other person who had access to your original design and made so many changes without your consent. ‘That bitch!’ you think furiously, so incensed you could tear the garment into shreds with your bare hands. ‘When I see her again…!’

 

It’s not that you hate it—the dress is actually quite beautiful and comes with separate long sleeves that shimmer at the slightest movement, but the idea the whole thing represents is so reprehensible that it costs you an enormous amount of effort to change into it. You slip on some plain stockings and tug your feet into your shoes, which are thankfully just some flats with a wing on each side. The last item in the case is a headband with more star beads embroidered in it and attached is a rather small transparent veil that covers your forehead and ends at the back of your neck, which is a bit of an odd design choice.

 

You glance over at your reflection in a nearby mirror and notice something else, something that makes your blood run cold. A tiny microphone extends from the bottom of the headband to rest near your cheek, and for a moment, you just stand there. Then you viciously tear it off—it’s actually just a plug—and throw it back into your case. This is the last straw. You kick your locker so hard it leaves a small dent, and the noise around you dies in an instant. You breathe hard through your nose, fists clenched and blood pounding in your ears. Then you storm out, slamming the door closed as you go.

 

When you finally make it to Grounds B, a good chunk of the class is already there and crowded around All Might, and the sight of your hero is enough to calm you down. You really want to go talk to him, but the thought of fighting through that horde isn’t very appealing, so you hang back, feeling uneasy.

 

You spot Todoroki standing a little apart from the group facing away from you, so you nudge him on the back of the shoulder, and when he turns around, you find yourself envying his rather plain hero costume. “Hey,” you say in greeting.

 

He blinks, mouth parting slightly in surprise and undoubtedly caught off guard by your ridiculous getup. Thankfully, he recovers quickly and returns to his usual standoffish expression. “Hey,” he replies. You’re relieved when he doesn’t bring any attention to your costume.

 

“Nervous?” you ask, crossing your arms.

 

He shakes his head. “Whatever it is, it’s probably nothing I can’t handle,” Todoroki says simply without a trace of arrogance in his voice. You briefly wish you were as confident in your power as he is.

 

The rest of the class arrives by this point, but you only spare them a brief glance and instead look around at the building surrounding you. They remind you of the entrance exam and you hope you don’t have to fight any more robots. You’ve honestly had enough of them to last a lifetime.

 

“Wow, Deku-kun, your outfit looks great! Very down to earth!” Uraraka babbles excitedly behind you, and his spluttering is drowned out by her sheepish giggle. “I should’ve been more specific about what I wanted, so I ended up getting a tight bodysuit...”

 

For a moment, neither of them say anything. Then Uraraka lowers her voice, but it doesn’t do her much good because you can still hear her every word. “Um...Deku-kun? Please be careful if you decide to talk to (Surname)-san. She was steaming mad in the locker room earlier. It was pretty scary...”

 

A firm hand to your bare shoulder puts a stop to your eavesdropping and you look over to see someone whose name you think is Aoyama Yuuga dressed in an absolutely ridiculous costume. ‘Who the hell is he supposed to be, Prince Charming?’ you think with a wry expression.

 

He strikes a dramatic pose with a flourish of his cape. “My, what a beautiful costume, mademoiselle!” he cries. “Why, it’s almost as lovely as mine!” He winks and you edge away slightly, already a little annoyed. People around you are starting to stare. “We make a perfect match, don’t you think? Just imagine it—me, the shining hero, side by side with his bewitching maiden. Even the gods themselves would squirm with envy at this heroic duo!”

 

You’re about to let him have it when Kirishima suddenly appears with a curious look. He brightens considerably when he sees you. “Hey, great costume!” he says happily with a smile. Apart from a pair of shoulder guards, he’s completely bare-chested. Alright, that’s a little weird, but you don’t exactly have any room to judge him at this point.

 

“Thanks…?” you mumble, looking away and feeling a little fed up. “It wasn’t exactly what I asked for, though...”

 

“It wasn’t?” asks Kirishima, frowning in confusion. “How come?”

 

“Reasons,” you say vaguely.

 

“Gather round, boys and girls!” booms All Might heroically, and the closer you get, the more impressive he looks. He pulls out a little notebook and begins to read from it. “We’re going to do a fun activity today! A simulation, in other words, of how to infiltrate a villain’s hideout. You’ll be split up into teams of two, one acting as the heroes while the other assumes the role of the villains. The heroes will have to go into a building and disarm the weapon that’s hidden in one of the rooms before the time limit. The villains will already be waiting inside and are tasked with protecting the weapon. Alternatively, you can immobilize your opponent with capture tape to end the simulation. Sound simple enough?”

 

It does, but he’s bombarded by a slew of questions from many of your classmates. It’s annoying, but the only good information that comes out of it is that you won’t be risking expulsion this time. At length, All Might picks up a small yellow box by his feet and holds it out to you. “Go on, take one!” he says jovially.

 

Trying your hardest to calm your suddenly racing heartbeat at being directly addressed by your hero, you reach in through an opening at the top and pull out a slip of paper. You step away just as everyone clamors forward.

 

Unfolding the paper in your hands, you blink down at the large letter ‘A’ printed on it. You glance around and see the first pairs beginning to group up, then look back down at the slip, secretly hoping you don’t have to work with someone like Aoyama.

 

Todoroki’s sudden appearance makes you jump a little. He wordlessly stares down at your paper with a pensive look. “What did you get?” you ask curiously, and in response, he holds up his own marked with the letter ‘B’. You hum thoughtfully. “Guess we’re not on the same team then,” you say. You can’t help but feel a tad disappointed. Just a little.

 

“Um...does anyone have Team A?” you hear Midoriya call out from behind you. Your lungs freeze in your chest and your heart jumps a mile a minute. ‘Okay, screw what I thought earlier!’ you think in a panic. ‘This is actually even worse!’

 

“Todoroki!” you hiss in desperation and pray to God Midoriya doesn’t hear you. “Switch with me!” At his blank look, you throw all caution out the window and clasp your hands together. “Please…!”

 

He opens his mouth to speak when Shouji turns up out of nowhere. “Oh, Todoroki-san, you’re on my team,” he says in a surprisingly quiet voice despite being so massive. “I think we have to go wait over there with the other teams.” To your utter dismay, Todoroki gives a small shrug and allows himself to be led away.

 

You scowl heavily and cross your arms. ‘Traitor...’

 

“Um...anyone?” says Midoriya anxiously, and he’s starting to look increasingly more distressed the longer he goes without a partner. You actually feel a little sorry for him…

 

Groaning internally, you exhale slowly through your nose. Grudgingly, you walk up behind him and, bracing yourself as though you’re expecting a bomb to go off, tap him on the shoulder. He turns around, and if things weren’t so messed up between you two, you might’ve found the way he nearly has a heart attack funny. He calms down enough to timidly point at the paper in your hand.

 

“U-Um...are you…?” he asks nervously. When you nod, he makes a weird, high-pitched noise and flails his hands around a bit. “Oh, uh...I see! Then...I look f-forward to working with y-you!” he babbles almost incoherently. “Let’s d-do our best!” You glance up at the bunny ears that are part of his costume and think how fitting they are for a jumpy guy like him.

 

“S-So...you have a flying Quirk, right?” he mumbles timidly, pressing his index fingers together. “I, um...noticed it yesterday...”

 

Your eyes immediately narrow suspiciously. Is he making fun of you? Surely he remembers what happened to him at the beach a few days ago. It should’ve been pretty obvious then that flying isn’t all you can do. Either he’s unbelievably dense or he’s choosing to play dumb. Whatever the reason, it suits you just fine.

 

You make a noncommittal noise in the back of your throat and the conversation dies in the ensuing silence. It’s so awkward you can’t stand it. ‘Why did I have to get paired up with him?’

 

“Your costume...really suits you,” he mumbles so quietly that you’re sure you’re not meant to hear it.

 

Your lips press together in an irritated line, but you decide not to pick a fight, partly because he looks like a total pushover and also because you don’t want to look bad in front of All Might. You consider Aizawa’s words from yesterday, but it’s hard. You even wonder if he asked the other teachers to keep tabs on you to make sure you’re doing what he told you.

 

All Might then picks the teams facing each other at random and you click your tongue in frustration when yours is announced. Great, just what you need. Iida and Bakugou? ‘Jesus Christ, some day I’m having,’ you think crossly.

 

All Might hands you the floor plan you’ll be testing in and instructs you to memorize it while also giving you a pair of communication devices, one for you and the other for Midoriya. Then he leads the rest of the class inside the building. “Remember young Midoriya and young (Surname). Time starts once you’re in!”

 

You still feel really uncomfortable, but you realize you have no choice but to work together for now, whether you like it or not. “About this training exercise,” you begin, and Midoriya looks at you in surprise. Maybe he wasn’t expecting you to be so cooperative. ‘He can think what he wants!’ you think dismissively. “My flying’s not going to do us much good. Look how narrow these corridors are.” There is the matter of your Quirk, but if you sing so much as a single note, Midoriya will get caught up in it (again), and if you try to get up close to enthrall Bakugou, you’ll most likely just end up getting your face blown off. What’s more, you also won’t be able to catch up to Iida either. Besides, the thought of using it is so abhorrent that you push it away.

 

“So charging in wouldn’t be ideal,” he mutters thoughtfully. “We’ll have to operate by stealth.”

 

With that said, you go ahead and start the infiltration by climbing through a window, Midoriya taking the lead. You feel a little ridiculous sneaking around in this sort of outfit, but it can’t be helped.

 

The hallways are narrow just like you predicted and each corridor has this frustrating sameness to it, completely rife with blind spots and unmarked doors. “Um...(Surname)-san?” he whispers quietly after a bit of walking and you feel a flash of annoyance. Doesn’t he know when to shut up? “I, um...wanted to ask you something. Erm...that is, if you don’t m-mind. I-It’s probably n-nothing, but I wanted to hear it from you, so...um...”

 

You’re about to tell him to put a sock in it when you hear a yell and Midoriya suddenly tenses and tackles you to the ground just as a loud explosion goes off right where you both stood just a moment ago. You land painfully with a small grunt, but he’s up in a second. “Are you okay?” he asks worriedly, but you can’t help but stare up in shock. ‘Holy shit, half his mask just got blown off…!’

 

“What the hell happened?!” you say angrily, but another furious yell answers your question.

 

“Deku…!” Bakugou growls, miniature explosions flaring up in in his upturned palms. You don’t think you’ve ever seen anyone look so livid. “Don’t even think about dodging!”

 

“The fuck is this asshole’s problem?” you mutter, getting to your feet.

 

Bakugou ignores you completely and charges at Midoriya with a wide right swing, but to your utter astonishment, Midoriya catches his arm and hurls him over his shoulder, slamming him down to the ground with enough force to knock the wind out of Bakugou.

 

He turns to you quickly with a terrified look, though you see a trace of the determination you recall yesterday during the Quirk apprehension test. “Go! I’ll hold him off! Find the weapon!”

 

You don’t need telling twice. You quickly leave them behind and head up another floor, more than willing to get away from the fighting. Even from this distance, you can hear faint explosions coming from the floor below and you idly wonder if they’ve succeeded in killing each other yet. There’s no sign of Iida anywhere, which can only mean he’s holed up somewhere guarding the weapon. Finding nothing on this floor, you go up another flight of stairs, rubbing your elbow where you had scraped it earlier.

 

“(Surname)-san,” says Midoriya suddenly in your ear, which makes you start a little. He pants slightly as though he’s out of breath and speaks very quietly. You assume he found somewhere to hide. “Any luck?”

 

“So you’re not dead,” you respond dryly, and he laughs a little nervously as if he’s not sure whether you’re joking or not. “Not yet. Second floor’s empty and I’m poking around the third right now.”

 

He sighs in disappointment. “Oh...well, please keep looking. I’m counting on you, okay?” You suddenly hear a faint noise on his end that sounds a lot like Bakugou screaming his head off. “Crap, Kacchan found me! I gotta go!” Then the line goes quiet.

 

“‘Kacchan?’” you mutter to no one in particular. ‘The heck?’

 

After some time, you finally find the weapon stashed up on the fifth floor, which admittedly isn’t all that hard to do because you can hear a certain moron cackling in what’s clearly supposed to be villainous laughter that’s so exaggerated you don’t know if you’re supposed to take it seriously. You quickly hide behind a pillar, and while Iida continues to do his stupid villain impersonation, you touch a finger to the earpiece.

 

“Weapon’s up on the fifth floor in the middle room,” you whisper. On the other side, you hear Midoriya’s ragged breathing, and though you tell yourself you don’t care, you wonder just how hard those two have been duking it out in the time it took you to get here.

 

“Good,” he replies after a pause. “I’m going to try to meet you there, but—” You hear a loud ‘boom’ and a tirade of furious swearing in the distance. “Just do your best, (Surname)-san! I’m not sure we have much time left.”

 

“You’ve been careless, hero!” declares Iida suddenly and you curse under your breath. “You’ve been spotted! There’s nowhere to hide!”

 

Rolling your eyes, you step out from behind the column. The first thing you notice is the helmet covering his face. ‘Well, shit,’ you think. ‘Can’t make him drop his guard, huh?’ One of the drawbacks to enthralling someone by sight alone is how close-ranged it is, and even then you have to be able to make direct eye contact. You can always sing, of course, but that would mean outing yourself to Iida and ultimately everyone, and you definitely don’t want that.

 

The weapon, which is shaped like a nuclear warhead, sits beside him, and you’ve just taken a step forward when he places a hand on it. “I wouldn’t if I were you!” he says, then adds an evil chuckle to reaffirm that yes, he is in fact, a villain. You resist the urge to pinch the bridge of your nose in irritation. “I can move this weapon anywhere I want with my superior speed so you have no hope of catching up to me! There’s nothing you can do!”

 

“Dude, this is just a stupid training exercise,” you deadpan, just about done with his crap. “You don’t have to take it so seriously.”

 

He falters at your display of indifference, but quickly regains his composure. “Nice try, hero, but I shall not be fooled so easily!” he bellows, laughing evilly.

 

Suddenly, the entire building gives an almighty shudder from a few floors down that nearly makes you both lose your balance. There’s only one person who could be responsible for something like this…

 

“That Bakugou…!” mutters Iida furiously, finally breaking character. “He’ll bring down the whole place if he keeps this up!”

 

You quickly press a hand to your earpiece. “Midoriya!” you yell, and Iida remains uncharacteristically quiet and watches you closely, no doubt concerned for his friend. “What happened?” you demand.

 

He doesn’t respond right away, which only unsettles you. “Is...is he…?” asks Iida quietly.

 

You finally hear a cough followed by labored breathing. “I’m...I’m fine...” says Midoriya hoarsely, and he sounds like he’s in a great deal of pain, which only alarms you further. Just how much have things deteriorated in his fight with Bakugou? “Just...get the weapon before...we run out of time…!”

 

For some reason, this pisses you off immensely. You clench your teeth and ball your hands into fists, then suddenly kick a nearby column in a fit of anger. “What the hell is everyone’s goddamn problem?!” you scream, and even Iida takes a step back. “You all make the stakes so much higher than they have to be, and for what?! For what?!” You’re so incensed that you can’t think straight. “This isn’t real, none of this is real!” Your chest heaves and there’s a strange tightening in your chest that you can’t explain. When you speak again, your voice wavers and is much quieter. “I don’t get it...why do you try so hard? What’s the point?”

 

There’s a pause, then Midoriya startles you with a response. “That’s because...we want to become heroes,” he says quietly, and despite the fact that it’s clearly costing him an enormous amount of effort to speak, you can hear the smile in his voice. “We’ll do anything...to make it happen.” The line goes quiet soon after.

 

I’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen!” You said the same thing to Aizawa only yesterday, come to think of it. Maybe you’re more alike than you thought.

 

“Is Midoriya-kun alright?” asks Iida worriedly. “If Bakugou went overboard, I—”

 

“I don’t know,” you answer honestly. “He was talking, but that’s not saying much since Bakugou’s out for his blood. He might’ve done a real number on him by the sounds of it, though.” You sigh in exasperation. “I still think you’re all a bunch of idiots.”

 

He stands there awkwardly and you make no second attempt for the weapon, which only seems to confuse him. You’re not in the mood to hunt him down on a wild goose chase around the room and you don’t think you have enough time for it anyway.

 

“(Surname)-san! Grab onto something!” screams Midoriya in your ear, and he sounds so desperate and forceful that you cling onto a pillar without hesitation. The building shakes so violently that Iida loses his balance and falls over.

 

Everything explodes into chaos. Windows shatter and the ground in front of you ruptures, creating a large gaping hole as chunks of rubble and debris from the floors below hurtle upward into the air. You don’t wait and leap forward, flying past the crater towards the weapon just as Iida realizes his mistake and tries to get up to reach you, but it’s already too late.

 

You nearly topple over the weapon at the speed you crash into it, but it thankfully steadies and you gently float back down.

 

“Congratulations, Hero Team A!” booms All Might in your ear and your knees nearly sag in relief. Iida yells in frustration, but all you can think about is how glad you are that’s it’s finally over.

 

When you meet up with the rest of the class soon afterwards, you notice Midoriya missing from the group. “The hell…?” you mutter quietly under your breath.

 

“Is Deku-kun going to be okay?” Uraraka asks All Might with a worried frown. “He looked pretty beat up...”

 

“Not to worry, young Uraraka!” he replies happily. “He’s in Recovery Girl’s quite capable hands. I’ll offer him my congratulations once he wakes up.” He notices you staring up at him and flashes you his signature grin, and it’s as though a jolt of electricity runs through you. “Well done, young (Surname)! I must commend you on your performance today. Good job!”

 

As everyone gathers outside, you only stop basking in the glow of All Might’s praise when you see just how much damage was done to the building. All the windows are blown out and there’s a huge gaping hole on the outside on the lower floor. “Jesus, Bakugou, were you trying to kill him?” you mutter under your breath. You don’t expect him to catch that, but he must have the ears of a bat because he instantly flares up in anger.

 

“What’d you say, bitch?!” he snarls, rounding on you. “You wanna start something?!”

 

You roll your eyes and ignore him, which only enrages him further. A good chunk of Class 1A is already moving on, including Todoroki. You find yourself gravitating to him, but quickly stop once you realize what you’re doing. You want him to think of you as an ally, not some super clingy tag-along. Torn by your indecision, you hang back, biting your lower lip and feeling perturbed. After a few steps, Todoroki stops and turns to look back at you with something of a puzzled look, so you suck in a breath and take the last couple of remaining steps and fall beside him. His expression clears and he wordlessly resumes walking to join the rest of the class, occasionally glancing at you to make sure you’re still there. He doesn’t seem to mind your presence, which is frankly a bit of a relief, so you exhale slowly and ignore Mineta, who’s throwing some kind of angry fit.

 

Todoroki is slated to go next, so before you head inside with everyone else, you wish him good luck without thinking. The words are out of your mouth before you can stop them and you feel positively mortified. You wish you could take them back, but aside from mild surprise, he doesn’t react. He nods once in acknowledgment and you hurry inside before you can embarrass yourself further.

 

The surveillance room has plenty of screens showcasing many interior shots of the building, so now you see how everyone was able to witness your own trial. On one of the monitors, you spot Hagakure removing her gloves and shoes, and while you do think she’s got the right mindset for an invisible person, you still feel uncomfortable with how nonchalant she is about it.

 

You’re so wrapped up in your thoughts that you don’t realize how close you’re standing next to All Might until he briefly places a large hand on your head in what strikes you as an oddly paternal gesture before bringing up a microphone and relaying some information to the two teams. You get caught up in your own stunned disbelief at your incredible luck to have not only received praise, but actual physical contact from your favorite hero, so much that you fail to notice Kirishima’s footsteps.

 

“Hey, you did great earlier today,” he says quietly so as not to disturb All Might. His smile looks a little strained for some reason, but you’re not sure why.

 

“I didn’t really...well...thanks, I guess,” you mumble. Really though, if Midoriya hadn’t given you that opening by punching a literal hole through the building, you highly doubt you could’ve won.

 

A timer on one of the screens begins counting down, which grabs your attention. Not much happens at first. Shouji appears to do a bit of recon using his Quirk and says something to a stoic-looking Todoroki, though you can’t hear what’s being said. Then he steps forward and touches the wall with his hand, and ice spreads from his palm and covers the entire floor and surrounding walls. The temperature in the room suddenly plummets and everyone gets caught up in a full body shiver. Your costume does absolutely nothing to keep you warm and you hug yourself in a futile attempt to ward off the cold. Even your hero All Might is affected.

 

You watch as Todoroki calmly locates the weapon and walks past Ojiro, who has his feet frozen to the ground, and presses his palm to it, effectively ending the simulation. You had a small inkling of how powerful he was beforehand, but this…

 

Maybe allying yourself with him was a good call on your part.

 

The rest of the battle trials go by quickly, though you rapidly lose interest in them and don’t bother watching too closely. Soon, it’s time to go back and change, and while you spot Uraraka glancing at you as everyone heads for the cafeteria, you ignore her and hurriedly get in line among the mass of students already there. Todoroki stands a few places in front of you and orders a serving of zaru soba, which actually looks pretty good, but when Lunch Rush asks you for your order, you go ahead and ask for your usual plate of omelette rice instead. You honestly don’t expect Todoroki to stick around, but once you’re done paying for your food, you’re surprised to find him standing only a few feet away, tray in his hands and looking at you expectantly.

 

You’re not sure what to make of this. You haven’t known him for that long, but he definitely gives off a ‘don’t-get-close-to-me’ loner kind of vibe, which you can empathize with. In some respects, he’s a lot like you, just much less hotheaded. You wonder if he finally sees you as an ally, which gives you something to think about.

 

You both find a table and he sits across from you, digging into his plate of zaru soba, seemingly unconcerned. You eye him warily without being too obvious about it as you tuck in. You did offer him a ride home yesterday, but you assumed it had just been a one-time thing. Does he see it as a favor that needs to be repaid? If so, he’s being awfully blasé about it. Still, it makes sense so you decide that it must be his primary motivator. Besides, if Aizawa were to see you now, it’ll look like you’re making some progress.

 

Truthfully, you actually are, but you quash down the thought before it has a chance to fully surface.

 

Midoriya doesn’t reappear until late afternoon. He walks into the classroom wearing a cast on his arm and sporting a band-aid on his cheek. You freeze in the middle of wiping down your desk as Uraraka hurriedly goes up to him in concern, and he’s soon bombarded by the majority of the class who introduce themselves and offer him congratulations. You resume cleaning your desk with renewed ferocity, feeling suddenly irritated. You don’t need their stupid praise anyway…

 

Throwing down the rag into a nearby bin, you quickly gather your things with a scowl, wanting to get out of the stifling room. You’re almost to the door when you glance back at Todoroki, who’s packing away his stuff and you hesitate, unsure if you should wait for him or not. A part of you wants to, but the larger, more dominant side snorts at your indecision. ‘What does a powerful guy like him want with a useless weakling like you?’ it whispers viciously in your ear. ‘You’ll only make a fool of yourself. Besides, haven’t you ruined enough lives already?’

 

You waver for another second before finally exiting the classroom, feeling your chest constrict the way it always does whenever you’re upset. Once out in the hallway, however, you stop and lean against the wall some distance away, at war with yourself. ‘Why are you still here?’ says the voice again. ‘You were all set to leave earlier. Just go home already.’

 

Even so, your feet refuse to move and you remain rooted to the spot, hands gripping the handle of your bag in front of you and listening to the rapid pounding of your heart. ‘One minute,’ you think to yourself even as the voice snarls angrily at your moment of weakness. ‘I’ll give him just one minute. If it doesn’t happen...then...I’ll go.’

 

A few more moments pass, but they feel like an eternity as you count down the seconds in your head. You swallow thickly just as the classroom door slides open and you hurriedly lower your eyes to the floor, your heart beating so fast it almost comes out of your chest. ‘What the hell is the matter with me?!’ you think wildly, close to panicking. ‘I shouldn’t care so much...I don’t!’

 

There’s a pause, then quiet footsteps slowly pad over to you until a pair of white shoes stop in front of you just at the edge of your vision. Your hands visibly shake as you gather enough courage to slowly raise your eyes to now familiar red and white hair. Even his eyes are different colors; one is gray and the other a deep turquoise offset by a large, burn-like scar covering his left side.

 

His pupils dilate suddenly, but it only lasts for a split second before they return to normal and he frowns. He opens his mouth to speak, but you cut him off in a move born out of desperation.

 

“Do you...want another ride home?” you ask weakly. Your voice is barely above a whisper, but in the empty silence of the hallway, you know he hears you.

 

He blinks in faint surprise, then closes his mouth and nods. “Okay.”

 

An enormous weight lifts from your shoulders as you slowly push yourself off the wall, feeling a little lightheaded with relief. You offer him a very tiny smile, and while he doesn’t smile back, his face softens slightly.

 

“Okay.”

Chapter Text

The ride to Todoroki’s house isn’t nearly as uncomfortable as yesterday. While he isn’t the best conversationalist, preferring short, often one-worded answers, the lulls fall more naturally than before, which seems to put him more at ease. Idly watching the busy sidewalk crowded with pedestrians during a traffic stop, it occurs to you that something has changed. Nothing drastic of course, but it settles over everything you do now, in the way that you sit a little closer together instead of stiffly apart, how you turn your head in his general direction when he speaks instead of staring straight ahead or at your lap, and how things don’t seem so closed off. You’re not sharing the deepest parts of your souls, but it doesn’t matter. The trivial and inconsequential subjects you discuss don’t seem like much on the outside, but they relieve some of the weight you’ve been holding onto for quite some time, and that means more to you that you’ll ever admit out loud.

 

You lean back against your seat, lost in thought. If you’re being honest with yourself, you’re still not quite sure what to do. This is the first time you’ve been so amicable with a guy, which isn’t surprising. The majority of your past interactions were...frustrating, to say the least. Some were stuttering messes, much like how Midoriya acts around you now, while others were more obvious in their intent, unable to keep their eyes away from your chest. Even when you spurned their half-hearted confessions with a contemptuous sneer and walked away, you could still feel their gazes on your body. Todoroki fits neither description and it’s actually starting to throw you off.

 

“Tired?” he asks, pulling you back to reality.

 

“Kind of,” you admit sheepishly, thinking back to your battle trial earlier in the day. “More of the emotional kind, though.” You feel a little embarrassed about your loss of control then, the fit of anger you had and taking it out on an unsuspecting Midoriya and something inside you shrivels up in shame. “I, uh...try not to be so hot-headed, but I had a lot on my mind already and I blew up at Midoriya today when we were supposed to be working together. We got there in the end, but still...” You trail off, thinking of your costume and your mood darkens.

 

He must notice your face regain some of the tension it had earlier because something in his expression shifts, but all he says is, “I see.” He doesn’t try to pry, which you’re grateful for. He’s clearly more experienced in this than you are, knowing which boundaries to keep as your new ally, and you find yourself wishing you were as adept at this as he is.

 

The silence that follows is longer than usual. You sneak a glance at Todoroki, who isn’t actually looking at you and is instead staring down at his knees, brow slightly furrowed and deep in thought. You want to ask what’s on his mind, but in the end, decide not to bother him despite your curiosity. If he can give you space, the least you can do is respect his.

 

A small movement on the seat between you gets your attention and you look down to see...a phone? It’s not yours and you don’t recognize it either. ‘What on earth…?’ After about another few seconds of peering down at it quizzically, you hear a tiny clearing of a throat and Todoroki’s hand comes into view. Instead of picking it up like you were expecting him to, he instead pushes it a few centimeters closer in your direction. This only confuses you further and you look up at him, unsure. He’s staring determinedly ahead, leaning against the window with a tiny crease on his forehead.

 

“Just in case,” he says at last. His expression doesn’t change, and when his eyes find yours, they quickly flit away, lips pressing together very slightly.

 

After a moment, you finally understand. “...Ah, I see,” you intone, maintaining a calm facade even though it feels as though a tiny explosion takes place in the pit of your stomach. ‘So he does want to be allies!’ you think with a small thrill of accomplishment. He seems to have momentarily exhausted his ability to speak, so you pick up his phone. Your hands are most definitely not shaking as you hurriedly fill in your contact information and your cheeks do not feel warm when you slide it back over. Not in the slightest. Your mind frantically tries to rationalize the whole thing as it processes this new development. ‘This is a necessary step to becoming better allies,’ you tell yourself. ‘He’s just looking into the future. In fact, I should’ve thought of it first.’ You absolutely, positively do not feel happy about this. Not. At. All.

 

Your phone vibrates in your pocket and you pull it out, perplexed. It’s a text message from a number you haven’t seen before, but everything inside you goes still as you open it. No words, just a single thumbs up emoji staring back at you. This tiny little picture was probably only sent as a way for you to add Todoroki to your contacts, but it nonetheless reaches to your very core in a way very few things have done. It’s strange how such an impersonal message can touch you so, but it does. A tiny part of you hopes that it means more to Todoroki than it appears.

 

A tiny huff of air escapes your nose and you text him back with the same message. His phone vibrates after a second, and when he looks down at it, there’s a ghost of a smile on his lips.

 

There’s something about his expression that’s almost soft, and when he looks back up, warmth begins to unfurl within you, starting from your chest and spreading all the way down to your toes, making your heart feel oddly light and free. It’s wonderful and you want to keep experiencing it, even though it’s not how you’re used to doing things. Your first instinct is to rebuff him with a snide remark, but a larger part of you doesn’t want to ruin the moment so you simply stay this way. It’s irrational and stupid, and yet you can’t help but file it away in the deepest recesses of your heart where you keep it safe and hide it well.

 

He’s not like what you expected and has shown you nothing but...well, not kindness—you wouldn’t go that far—but he’s treated you with something other than stupefied awe or wariness like so many others and it feels almost liberating.

 

In a surge of uncharacteristic sentimentality, you begin, “Hey, Todoroki, are we…?” but at that moment, the car slows to a halt in front of his house and you curse your hesitation. Then your eye catches sight of something flickering beyond Todoroki’s shoulder and words fail you.

 

There’s no mistaking that tall, imposing figure standing in front of the gate, flames surrounding him in a fiery aura of power that you can feel even from here. Endeavor stares down the car with an intimidating scowl, arms crossed and stance wide. Todoroki catches something in your expression and turns around, then visibly stiffens. He makes a tiny noise between his teeth and the temperature in the car seems to plummet, though it could just be your imagination.

 

“I should’ve known,” he growls very quietly in a voice you’ve never heard him use before.

 

“Todo—” You don’t have time to finish your sentence before he unbuckles his seat belt in quick, sharp movements, grabs his bag with great animosity, then opens the door almost violently and gets out. You flinch when he slams it shut. You feel torn between following him and staying put and you falter.

 

“What are you doing here?” says Todoroki, and even though his voice is muffled, the resentment that rolls off him in waves is palpable.

 

“I was informed you arrived home earlier than usual yesterday, Shouto,” says Endeavor without missing a beat. “In a black car.” He takes a moment to inspect the vehicle and snorts derisively. “I felt it would be impertinent to do some investigating of my own.” He allows the silence to spiral horribly before continuing. “Is this one of your rebellious tantrums again, Shouto?”

 

“Why do you care? It’s none of your damn business what I do,” Todoroki snarls.

 

“It very much is my business, no matter what you may think, as anything that can put you in jeopardy can potentially derail my plans for you. I created you for one purpose and one purpose only. You know this.”

 

“I can take care of myself,” says Todoroki dismissively, and your lower jaw slackens in disbelief. You’ve never seen anyone treat the number two hero with this amount of disrespect and it’s a little jarring. Endeavor wasn’t someone you looked up to since All Might has always seemed much more approachable and the embodiment of what a hero should be, but you acknowledged Endeavor’s power nonetheless. To see him this close and obviously displeased with Todoroki is nothing short of unpleasant.

 

Without stopping to second guess your decision, you unbuckle your seat belt and open the door, unable to stand the idea of Todoroki facing Endeavor by himself while you hid like a coward. Once outside, however, you start to regret your decision as both pairs of eyes zero in on you as you come around. The air feels oppressive and suffocating, and the weight of Endeavor’s gaze presses down on you so much that you’re a little surprised not to see cracks underneath your feet. You try not to fidget standing next to Todoroki and even though you don’t want to, you look back up at Endeavor defiantly.

 

“You’re a classmate of Shouto’s, aren’t you?” asks Endeavor at length, and you can practically feel his disapproval. Annoyance replaces some of your trepidation and your back straightens. If there’s something you can’t stand, it’s people looking down on you.

 

“I am,” you say.

 

A subtle change passes over Endeavor’s face, though you still can’t tell what he’s thinking. “I see,” he rumbles. He turns to Todoroki. “This is telling. Do you consider this girl your equal?”

 

You don’t miss the snub, how easily he dismisses you without even asking your name and you feel yourself start to bristle angrily.

 

Todoroki says nothing and instead glares up at him resentfully.

 

Endeavor shakes his head at his continued silence. “If these are the kind of people you choose to associate yourself with, then you’ve disappointed me. I can only assume you’re doing this out of spite or sheer ignorance, but either way, it reflects poorly on your judgment.” He looks back at you and his flames seem to grow brighter. “You would do well to stay away from Shouto. Temptresses like you have no place among the great, and the sooner you realize this, the better off you’ll be.”

 

Despite the overwhelming amount of indignation and fury you feel over his words, a cold trickle of fear cuts through your emotions and renders you speechless. ‘He knows...’ you think wildly. ‘He knows about my Quirk!’ Somehow, someway, he found out, and the possibility of him sharing this information with Todoroki is more than you can stand.

 

“That’s her decision to make, you bastard,” says Todoroki with so much hostility that you actually recoil a little. He turns to you, and while he’s still angry, none of it is directed at you. “Just go home. I’ll talk to you later.” You hesitate, not wanting to leave him here, but he looks so insistent that you have no choice but to comply.

 

You watch their receding figures for a moment longer before sitting back in your seat, breathing deeply through your nose. You still feel deeply unsettled from your encounter with the number two hero. You’ve read that he was a little difficult to work with, at least according to some anonymous heroes on forums, but he apparently did his job well, so most put up with his abrasive attitude. You don’t think any amount of money would ever force you to meet Endeavor again, though. ‘Arrogant old prick,’ you think vehemently.

 

There’s also something that Endeavor said that bothers you. “I created you for one purpose and one purpose only.”

 

The surname Todoroki isn’t very common, the most famous being Endeavor, but you had always given your ally the benefit of the doubt. It isn’t the fact that he has a well-known hero as a father that nettles you, it’s how Endeavor spoke to him that does. It sounded like he only brought Todoroki into this world for one thing, like...like…

 

“A tool,” you mutter out loud. The implications definitely feel sinister, but you have no idea of knowing for sure. Besides, you don’t know if this is just a one-off thing or something more commonplace and you can’t ask Todoroki himself since that’s not what allies do. Personal matters have no place in hero work. You know this. None of it is any of your business and you won’t gain anything from sticking your nose in his family life. In fact, you risk losing your tenuous alliance with Todoroki, so you ultimately decide to leave it alone.

 

You could still lose him anyway,’ whispers a quiet voice in your head. ‘Endeavor knows about your Quirk. It’s only a matter of time before he spills your secret.’

 

Worry settles over you and traps you like a vice, but there’s nothing you can do about it for now, so you push it to the back of your mind and focus on getting home.

 

The place is empty when you arrive and no perfume lingers in the air, so your mother must not be here either. You still have a bone to pick with her, but that’s obviously not happening today. You make your way to your room and collapse on your bed. You feel more mentally exhausted than you have in a long while and sleep beckons sweetly, but with a groan, you remember you still have homework to do. It’s not an appealing thought, so you decide to clear your head with a long bath to clear your head of today’s events.

 

By the time you get out, the sky has grown dark and the few stars you can see glimmer faintly among the expanse of black. Deciding to tackle your math homework first, you make out okay until you come up to the last problem on the worksheet, which seems designed specifically to irritate you. Mulling over it for what seems like an hour even though it’s probably only been a couple of minutes, you lean back in your chair and groan in exasperation. You really don’t want to put up with this crap.

 

Figuring you could use a small break (you’re totally not procrastinating), you grab your phone and browse the internet for a little while, but it seems to lack the usual appeal and you quickly become bored. You scowl down at it as though it’s at fault for your restlessness. You spin slowly in your chair, staring up at the ceiling until a thought strikes you.

 

You look back down at your phone, brooding. Then you open your text messages and stare down at your earlier exchange with Todoroki. You hesitate, finger hovering over the text box. You’re not sure what to say. What can you say after the debacle that happened earlier? ‘I’m sorry that happened to you?’ Even in your head, it sounds insincere.

 

Lips pressing together in an irritated line, you breathe out through your nose and close your eyes briefly. Back when you still had contacts in your phone, people always messaged you first and not the other way around. Now there’s no one.

 

Well...there actually is someone. Maybe.

 

Brow furrowing and trying to ignore the pounding of your heart, you type out a quick ‘Hey’ and send it before you can second guess yourself. After a moment, the gravity of the situation and what you just did sinks in and you drop your phone onto your desk in silent horror. You practically fly back onto your bed and into a mountain of pillows until you’re well-hidden. ‘Why did I do that?’ you think miserably. ‘He’s going think I’m an idiot.’ Even worse, the idea of Todoroki responding sends you into a mild panic and your thoughts race until there’s so many you can’t tell what anything is anymore.

 

Minutes pass and the possibility of getting an answer diminishes. You start to calm down and feel the beginnings of uncertainty invade your mind. You even begin to wonder if he’ll rethink his decision to be your ally or maybe he already did and deleted your number from his phone. The thought is...sobering.

 

Partially emerging from your pillows, you rest your chin on them with a contemplative frown. Perhaps...Endeavor’s words affected him more than you thought. The idea is downright depressing, but it’s a possibility. Perhaps, as his father, he has more influence over Todoroki than it seemed. After all, your alliance hasn’t been established for very long, so nothing you do can override whatever the great and mighty Endeavor has to say. It was a shaky alliance to begin with. It shouldn’t bother you this much.

 

But it still hurts. Even so, you tell yourself firmly that a few scant days weren’t enough for you to get attached to Todoroki and that you were not starting to become reliant on him in any way. You were doing just fine without him and you’ll be perfectly fine after he’s gone. Your eyes grow slightly warm and you wipe them away angrily. You don’t need him around to become a hero.

 

And yet he still gave you his number. Why would he bother doing that if he was just going to ditch you the minute Endeavor deemed you unworthy? You start to become angry just thinking about it. If that’s the way Todoroki operates, then he’s no better than Miki or anyone else who left once you were no longer useful.

 

The empty silence of your room starts to permeate your body, slowly seeping into your skin and sinking all the way down to your heart, filling the cracks and smoothing them over into more powerful armor, only it leaves you feeling a chill that hadn’t been there before. A small voice tells you that this is fine, it’s all part of the process. Warmth has no place here. You no longer feel angry and instead feel empty, while a tiny part of you begins to mourn what could have been as the cold creeps closer and closer, and it’s almost snuffed out of existence when your phone vibrates and breaks the spell.

 

You slowly look up, too stunned to move. Then you remove yourself from your head and hover close to your desk in a daze, staring down at your phone screen. Todoroki’s name shines brightly from the screen and your eyes widen. You slowly grip the device in your hands and open your messages with baited breath.

 

‘Hello,’ it reads. ‘How are you?’

 

You actually scoff at the generic greeting and feel a little embarrassed about getting so worked up over a message. After all that buildup, this feels a little anticlimactic. ‘Two can play at that game,’ you think spitefully.

 

‘Fine. You?’ you text back, making sure the message is equally dull and just as generic as his before sending it. Sure, it’s petty, but it’s the least he deserves for what he unknowingly put you through.

 

Only a few moments pass before you get a response. ‘Been better.’

 

You frown. You wonder if it has anything to do with his father, but you’re not stupid enough to pry. Instead, you send a question mark, hoping it doesn’t seem too intrusive.

 

‘My old man.’

 

You raise your eyebrows. Well, he’s certainly to the point. Honest too. You hang upside down and consider your choices carefully. He did bring up the subject first, but talking about it doesn’t seem like a good idea, no matter how tempting it is. Even if you did, what would you say? Endeavor was rude and condescending, but you can’t exactly talk trash about him either.

 

‘Oh. That sucks.’

 

A full minute passes. ‘Yeah.’

 

“Not giving me much to work with here, dude,” you mutter dryly, then right yourself since all the blood’s starting to rush to your head. You decide to change the subject. ‘You doin hw?’

 

‘Hw?’

 

You roll your eyes. ‘It means homework.’

 

‘Oh. I finished it already.’

 

Your lip twitches as you spot an opportunity. ‘Did you do the last math problem?’

 

‘Yes.’

 

‘Oh, ok. Can you tell me the answer? I’m stuck.’

 

A longer pause follows.

 

‘No.’ You abruptly fall from the air and land hard on your butt, and you’re about to send him a flurry of abuse when his next message comes through. ‘What part are you having trouble with?’

 

You pause in the middle of writing your expletive-filled wall of text. Oh. You delete your message and settle back on your chair, your heart feeling a little lighter. You text each other back and forth, and he responds promptly, sometimes taking longer whenever he has to explain something to you. Before long, you arrive at an answer, and you take a picture and send it to him. ‘Is this right?’ you caption.

 

‘Yes,’ he replies. You grin in accomplishment, feeling just a little bit proud of yourself for a job well done when another message arrives.

 

‘Good job.’ A thumbs up emoji follows suit.

 

Your smile softens and the warm feeling from before emerges, softening the hard edges of your heart and you can’t quite understand how such a simple exchange can make you feel this way. You don’t think it’s happiness. From what you remember, that emotion is much larger and almost explosive with the way it bursts forth with wild abandon, but this feels...less potent and slow-moving. It doesn’t mean it’s less significant, however, and it doesn’t fade even when you bid him goodnight. You finish the rest of your homework and finally settle into bed, dreaming of soft, comforting things and someone’s warm hand over yours.

 

The next morning, the feeling is gone, leaving only a vague sense of confusion, which is a shame because you were starting to really like having it there. You spend the morning lesson a little out of sorts and remain quiet, dutifully taking notes but only half-listening. Todoroki is equally silent, which makes you wonder if your progress last night had been a figment of your imagination. You try to catch his eye during your first break, but he seems more interested in a book he’s reading, so you decide to leave him alone. You hope the rest of the class extends this courtesy to you, but later you realize that that would be giving them way too much credit.

 

Sharp whispers catch your attention for a brief moment and you glance up from your phone to see a small commotion taking place near the front of the room between Midoriya and Uraraka, Iida looking thoughtful. You’re not sure what’s being said and frankly don’t give a crap, so you return to playing your game on your phone with a sniff, but not before catching Midoriya’s eye for a brief instant. The whispers become even more pronounced and it’s starting to get distracting.

 

A few seconds of silence from the group trickle by, and then you hear footsteps cross the room until they stop less than a foot away from your desk. You feel your muscles tense slightly, but other than that, give no indication that you’ve noticed their presence and pretend to be engrossed in your phone. You silently pray they’ll go away and hope they get the message that you really just want to be left alone.

 

“Um...may I speak to you, (Surname)-san?” comes Midoriya’s timid voice, and it’s so quiet that it’s almost lost in the din around you. Ordinarily, you would’ve ignored him until he got the hint, but after yesterday’s battle trial, you don’t have that luxury anymore, as much as you hate to admit it to yourself. Granted, things haven’t been cleared up entirely, that much is true, and you wonder if it will ever be resolved at this point. An apology this late would feel hollow and misplaced, but the fact remains that during the trial, you both worked together to achieve a goal. Not well, and only grudgingly, but there’s no denying that there was some semblance of understanding there. If none was present, you would have undoubtedly failed. At the very least, you owe him a modicum of decency.

 

For now anyway.

 

You don’t move, but your eyes slide up from his nervously wringing hands, up past his freckled cheeks, and rest somewhere between his eyebrows. “I’m listening,” you say.

 

He relaxes, though only very slightly. You wonder if he finds you intimidating, then quickly dismiss the thought. You don’t exude any kind of fearsome power—Endeavor made that pretty clear yesterday—and you swallow back the feeling of bitterness. “I just wanted to say thank you...” he says, which surprises you. “I tried to tell you yesterday, but you left before I had a chance to express my gratitude.” His gaze grows pensive and a little unsure. “I know...I was acting a little reckless and that probably frustrated you and we almost didn’t make our objective, but...I couldn’t have done it without you.” Midoriya hesitates and a million thoughts seem to race through his mind, but for whatever reason, he doesn’t voice them aloud. One in particular, however, colors his cheeks a bright pink and he shakes his head to clear it. “A-Anyway, I um...I was...well, Uraraka-san and Iida-kun too, I suppose...well...” He begins twiddling his thumbs in way you can’t help but find a little endearing, though you swiftly quash the feeling down before it can blossom any further. “Um...maybe not now if you don’t feel ready, but I was hoping...rather...we were hoping that...we could be friends?”

 

For a second, it’s as if all your emotions are sucked up in a vacuum, fleeing to a place you can’t reach and leaving a gaping chasm where they used to be. A forbidding winter begins to set in, freezing your heart and blinding you to everything except this one immediate threat. Midoriya doesn’t know he overstepped his boundaries, doesn’t know what he just set in motion. It’s not his fault, a fact you’re still lucid enough to realize. He doesn’t know your circumstances, the set of events that led you to apply to U.A. in the first place, and why you act the way you do in order to protect yourself. How could he? You’ve never talked to anyone about this barring Aizawa who practically forced it out of you, and opening up to Midoriya of all people is more than you can stand. You’d have to explain that you weren’t just flying and making a nuisance of yourself that day on the beach, that you had unintentionally subjected him to the awful effects of your damned Quirk. The trouble with Midoriya is that he was going to get into trouble with the wrong people, blundering forward without thinking of the consequences the way he does.

 

—“All you had to do was use that awful Quirk of yours because it isn’t enough to have everyone fawning over you!”“Maybe she likes to have fun with them. Bet you that’s how she spends her ‘lessons’ after school”“They don’t accept sluts at U.A., you know”“I’d be surprised if you don’t become a villain at this rate”

 

“I don’t think so,” you finally say, watching Midoriya’s features crumple. “I’m not here to make friends.” You spit out the last word as if it were poison.

 

He falls silent and you resume fiddling with your phone, ignoring how absolutely devastated he looks. Then he quietly goes back to his desk and sits down, not speaking to either Uraraka or Iida who converge on him immediately with concern.

 

A tiny flicker of emotion manages to make its way back to you, weighing you down unpleasantly and trying to get rid of it proves futile. It takes you a moment to realize that it’s guilt. You let your phone fall to your desk at the revelation and sigh, burying your head in your arms. Out of all the people you’ve ever spurned—and there had been many—this is the first time you’ve ever felt bad about it. It confuses you immensely and you hate it. You resurface and watch Iida place a bracing hand on Midoriya’s shoulder, who looks inconsolable, and that only makes you feel even worse.

 

To distract yourself, you glance over to your right to see if Todoroki wants to talk, but much to your surprise, he’s staring at you with an unease you’ve never seen before on his face. You open your mouth to say something when he turns back to his book, eyes slightly narrowed and hands gripping the cover more tightly than necessary.

 

Faltering, you look away with a frown. ‘What’s going on…?’

 

Your lunch break only leaves you with more questions. When you glance around to find a seat, tray in hand, Todoroki is mysteriously absent. Doing your best to pretend you’re not hurt by this, you head to your usual secluded corner and sit down, thoughts rumbling tumultuously. You only pick at your zaru soba, feeling that it would taste better if you had any appetite to begin with.

 

...And admittedly if Todoroki was here too.

 

The longer you sit, the more restless you become. Last night’s texts had settled your thoughts concerning Endeavor, at least a little bit, but for some reason, the little distance you had managed to close between you and Todoroki yesterday had widened. Otherwise, he’d be sitting here with you. All the insecurities plaguing the back of your mind resurface and you set down your chopsticks in disgust. Standing up and throwing away your barely-touched food with a grimace, you head outside to get some fresh air.

 

You watch a couple of students playing some kind of ball game for a few minutes until you grow bored and move on to a cluster of trees that form a more wooded area of the campus. The cacophony of outside mellows down to birdsong and the rustling of leaves, aiding in the feeling of seclusion. You find a grassy clearing dotted with small wildflowers a little ways inside. Being surrounded by nature calms you somewhat, but it’s hard to get out of your own head whenever you get like this. Everything is so confusing and no one’s around to explain anything to you. You kick at a nearby dandelion and watch its little seeds scatter in the wind. Inexplicably, your eyes start to burn with frustration and you wipe them away furiously. ‘If...if he wants to leave, he should confront me about it like a man instead of...whatever this is!’ you think, fuming silently.

 

A twig snaps nearby and you whip around, startled. A rather tall guy stands before you, dark bags under his eyes contrasting against a pale face framed by wild, purple hair that sticks out in all directions. He looks mildly surprised, as if he wasn’t expecting anyone to be here before he adopts a contemplative look. You can’t help but feel that it makes him look a little sinister and your eyes narrow slightly in suspicion.

 

“You’re not in the general education department,” he says in lieu of a greeting, which immediately rubs you the wrong way. “You stick out like a sore thumb.”

 

You bite back a retort and eye him warily. ‘What’s this guy’s problem?’

 

“That just leaves the support and business departments...of, and the hero course too.” He studies you carefully and you bristle under the scrutiny. “So. Which is it?”

 

You click your teeth and turn away, not in any mood to deal with his crap. ‘If he wants to be a creep, let him be a creep by himself,’ you think dismissively and begin to walk away.

 

“I guess someone already told you about my Quirk, huh?” he calls at your retreating back. “Word sure gets around fast.”

 

You falter and come to a stop. There’s something about his tone that sounds uncomfortably familiar and you slowly turn around to face him. You’re not sure what he’s talking about, but you’re still unsettled just the same. It wasn’t what he said but how he said it that hit a little close to home. He’s sporting a nonchalant expression at the moment, but you don’t miss the subdued bitterness twisting the corner of his mouth.

 

“You got a name?” he asks as the tension leaves his shoulders once it becomes clear you’re not going to take off right away. After a pause, he laughs humorlessly. “If you’re that worried about me using my Quirk on you, please don’t be.” There it is again, but it’s only there for an instant before it’s gone again. “Despite what you may have heard, I’m harmless.”

 

“I’m not afraid,” you finally say, which is the truth.

 

“So you can talk,” he says, and despite his deadpan tone, he looks somewhat relieved. “Most people are always on their guard whenever they talk to me because they’re scared I’ll brainwash them.” He snorts. “As if I even want to.”

 

You stare back at him, at a loss for words. ‘...Brainwash…?’ you think numbly.

 

He takes note of your stunned silence and sighs. “That applies to you too,” he adds dryly.

 

You scowl at him. “Well don’t feel too special,” you retort. “I’m on guard with everyone.”

 

He smiles faintly despite your harsh tone. “Duly noted,” he answers mockingly. “So you never did tell me your name. Or am I not allowed to ask?”

 

“It’s (Surname).” He looks slightly taken aback at your curt reply. You raise an eyebrow. “Am I allowed to ask yours?”

 

“Shinsou Hitoshi,” he replies with faint amusement. “Nice to make your acquaintance.”

 

You don’t extend the same courtesy and instead continue to scowl at him in silence. He doesn’t seem to mind your abrasive attitude and takes a seat on the grass, looking thoroughly unconcerned. You have to admire his tenacity, if only grudgingly. It’s been a while since you met someone who was unfazed by your animosity and hold his ground. If you’re being honest, you can’t help but be intrigued by the similarity of his Quirk to yours.

 

You sit down reluctantly, kept hostage by your curiosity, though you’re still a little distance away. He doesn’t even flinch when you eye his critically and remains unfazed, his posture at ease.

 

“You...said you’re in the general education department?” you ask, breaking the silence.

 

He nods. “It wasn’t my first choice, but given the opportunities, I didn’t have much room to complain. So I settled.”

 

“Why?” you ask in spite of yourself.

 

“Well, let’s just say I knew I was going to fail the entrance exam. My Quirk doesn’t work on robots, you know, so I chose the best option considering the circumstances.”

 

“I see,” you mutter, thinking about how close you came to failing the exam yourself. You had never given a thought to the other departments U.A. had to offer, or rather, your stubbornness didn’t allow you to at the time.

 

“It’s no secret that society favors more combat-focused Quirks and U.A. is no different. But I’ll get in the hero department one day, even if I have to usurp another student’s spot to do it.” He grows quiet at this, letting the silence settle heavily in the air. “So, what about you? What department are you in?”

 

You curl your shoulders forward defensively but hold your ground. “Hero course. In Class 1A.”

 

His expression changes subtly and a slow smile crosses his face. “Ah,” he says simply. “So you scored highly on the entrance exam. The best of the best, huh?”

 

You huff in annoyance. “What’s it to you?”

 

He raises an amused eyebrow. “You don’t seem too happy about it. Here, I’ll make you a deal. You trade your spot in the hero course for mine. Won’t even take a minute.”

 

“No thanks,” you deadpan.

 

He shrugs. “It was worth a try. If I’m being honest, though, I’d rather earn my place in the hero department on my own merit. Wouldn’t feel right otherwise.” He glances at his phone for a second before pocketing it. “Shame. I’d love to continue talking with you but I have to be somewhere else at the moment.” He stands up and surveys you with what you recognize as curiosity. “You know, you’re not what I expected from someone in Class 1A.” He makes a vague motion with his hand. “I thought you’d be a lot more...arrogant, but this was a pleasant surprise. I hope the rest of your class follows your example.

 

You think of Bakugou and inwardly snort. “This your way of saying goodbye?”

 

“I guess it is,” he answers with a note of finality, then walks off with a hand raised in farewell until he disappears among the foliage.

 

Alone at last, you ruminate your encounter with Shinsou and mull over this new information. ‘That Quirk of his...I wonder how it works,’ you ponder. Maybe it’s similar to yours? You stay there lost in thought until it’s time to go back to class.

 

During your afternoon lessons, you occasionally sneak glances at Todoroki, but he carries on as usual, taking notes and listening to the lecture with a dispassionate expression. He gives no indication that he notices the extra attention aside from the tiniest crease in his brow, so you eventually give up and follow his lead with a sinking feeling in your gut. You start to think that maybe that Shinsou guy was right—offensive Quirks are more valued. Perhaps you thought your new ally was above that sort of thinking, if you can even call him that now. He probably wants nothing to do with you anymore. No doubt Endeavor told him all about your secret Quirk by now…

 

Losing him as an ally is a serious blow, not just because he’s powerful, but because you might have actually started to...enjoy his company. He most likely thinks you lured him under false pretenses like so many have done before him. You want to hit yourself with how reliant you’ve become, which is ironic considering you vowed to undertake your hero journey alone.

 

The rest of the day drags, so it comes as a relief when the final bell chimes overhead, signaling the end of class. There’s a rush of activity as everyone begins to gather their things, chattering happily and making plans. Packing up with a morose air hanging over your every movement, you take one last look at Todoroki, who oddly enough, hasn’t even attempted to clear his desk and just sits there wordlessly.

 

You notice Aizawa watching you carefully from the front of the room and your stomach plummets. No doubt he’s been monitoring your behavior carefully after your little talk, and judging by the displeased look on his face, things don’t look good, at least not from his perspective. You don’t exactly find this fair since things were going well until Endeavor showed up and ruined what little chance you had. Even so, you remain sitting at your desk, torn between your indecision.

 

You can always go home,’ chimes a little defeated voice in your head. ‘He’s not worth this much aggravation anyway...’

 

But even so...you can’t just leave things like this. It feels wrong. The least you can do it try to make things right. You’re not going to force the issue if Todoroki doesn’t want to, but...you hope that he’ll hear you out. If it still falls through, then you’ll move on. You can’t even begin to think about approaching another potential ally just yet, but you figure you’ll cross that bridge when you get to it.

 

A faint tap on your shoulder pulls you from your thoughts. Todoroki has an unusually serious expression on his face and you feel a sense of trepidation. “Can we talk somewhere private?” he asks quietly and you nod your assent. As you both grab your bags, you catch Midoriya watching the two of you unhappily out of the corner of your eye, but you don’t have the energy to worry about him as you exit the classroom. Once outside in the hall, Todoroki leads you to a secluded area by the vending machines, away from prying eyes.

 

For a minute, Todoroki doesn’t say anything, which begs the question as to why he even brought you here in the first place, but you give him time to gather his thoughts. This proves to be the right thing to do because he eventually speaks up. “I have a question,” he says solemnly, “and I want you to answer me honestly.”

 

You stare at him for a moment before nodding.

 

“What am I to you?” The question floors you and the ensuing silence does nothing to get your head back on straight. You weren’t expecting anything like this at all, but the more you think about it, the harder it becomes to answer. You lower your eyes under his stern gaze, feeling small.

 

Your first instinct is to answer ‘ally’, but that doesn’t quite fit anymore. For one thing, it might have been a bit presumptuous of you to assume he even saw you in the same way, which stings all the more in his presence. You can tell there’s something hidden underneath his question, but you’re unable to see what it is. One thing is for certain; you have to choose your answer very carefully because the very real possibility of Todoroki walking out of your life hangs in the air.

 

“I...I don’t know,” you answer honestly. A shadow passes over his face and you hurriedly plunge forth to explain yourself. “All I know is that I’m so confused and lost and—” You swallow back your feelings before they have a chance to overwhelm you and continue. “I just like having you around,” you finish quietly. You feel vulnerable, laid bare in front of him with no way of knowing whether he’ll spurn you just as coldly as you have done to so many others or do the unthinkable and accept you.

 

His face softens into one of curiosity and he considers you for a moment. “I see. Then our feelings are mutual. I wasn’t completely sure.”

 

Your eyes widen and you look up, flabbergasted at this new revelation. “W...What?”

 

“I didn’t know if you wanted my company. When you told Midoriya that you weren’t here to make friends, it bothered me for some reason.” He lowers his eyes a little. “Normally, I would agree with that line of thinking, but I didn’t this time. So I took some time alone to think about why and I finally came to an answer.” He looks up again and gives you a look that you can’t quite decipher. “I didn’t have a word to describe you at first. None of them fit. I still don’t.” He pauses for a moment, and when he speaks, his voice has more conviction than before. “But I do know what word I’d like to give you now, if you’ll accept it.”

 

Your pulse quickens. “And that is…?” you ask, though you can wager a guess.

 

“A friend,” he replies, and the unspoken question lingers in the air.

 

“I...” For a moment, words fail you. Back when you had been stupidly naive and unaware of the world’s cruelty, you thought you knew what a friend was. It was someone you could trust, someone you could lean on during the good times and bad. But then the world took that trust and shattered it into a million pieces, and once on the outside looking in, you realized what a fool you had been, how utterly ridiculous the concept of friendship was. You watched people tear each other apart for the most trivial reasons or hang onto their failing companionship with a false bravado that took so much effort to maintain that they didn’t notice the foundation crumbling beneath their feet.

 

You’re not even sure you know the meaning of friendship anymore. It’s crazy to even consider becoming his friend, and yet...it sounds so reasonable coming from him. There’s no changing the fact that you feel a kinship with Todoroki and now you’re sure he feels the same way about you. Why deny yourself something that you both obviously want? Fear of the unknown holds you back, but even so…

 

When he extends his hand out to you, you think your heart actually stutters in your chest. You stare down at it until at last, the last vestiges of hesitation melt away.

 

“Ah, what the hell,” you say, meeting him halfway and clasping his hand with nervous grin. You try not to think about the way your heart leaps with joy at his reciprocating smile, but some of it manages to escape and you let out a small laugh, half relieved and half hysterical. “Jesus...I thought...all this time I was...” You shake your head and let go of his hand, running a hand through your hair. “No...wait, who cares what I thought…?” you mumble self-consciously.

 

“I care.”

 

You blink before regaining your senses. “No, really, it’s stupid. I mean, really stupid.”

 

“That doesn’t matter.”

 

You sigh, feeling sheepish. “Well...don’t laugh, but...I thought you didn’t want me around anymore...after what Endeavor said yesterday.”

 

He immediately scowls at the mention of his father’s name. “Let my old man think what he wants. He thinks he can use me to fit his own agenda, but I’ll be damned if I let him interfere in my life.” His face softens. “I’m not going to leave.”

 

“I...see.” A thought occurs to you and you feel a little ashamed of yourself. “I’m sorry I gave you the wrong impression, Todoroki. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.”

 

He shrugs a little. “It’s okay. I’m sorry too. For making you worry.”

 

A small awkward silence follows, but you don’t care. “So...do you want a ride home then?” you ask, wisely deciding to change the subject.

 

He nods. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to stop somewhere on the way.

 

Curious, you oblige him and he gives your driver an address written on a slip of paper. A couple of minutes later, you find yourself standing in front of a crepe shop of all places. “You in the mood for sweets?” you ask quizzically as he places an order to the friendly shopkeeper.

 

“I don’t particularly care for them, no,” he answers, which only confuses you even more. “But when I thought about wanting to be your friend, I thought we could mark the occasion with something special in case you accepted. I don’t really know what places girls like to go to, so I did some research on my phone and found this place.”

 

He’s so unabashed that it’s hard to articulate words for a moment. “That’s...awfully sentimental, but I don’t really mind,” you manage to say. He hands you a crepe, which feels warm in your hands and you look at it with a slight frown.

 

Todoroki seems to be watching you closely because he speaks up. “Did we go to the wrong place?” he asks quietly, sounding a tiny bit unsure. “We could’ve gone somewhere else. I didn’t know you didn’t like crepes.”

 

“It’s not that. I just...I’ve never had one before,” you admit.

 

“You’re joking,” he says bluntly.

 

You shake your head. “Never had a reason to until now.” That’s actually a lie, but you don’t want to ruin the occasion with your problems. For now, you just want to enjoy yourself. You take a small bite out of your treat and you blink in surprise. It’s sweet, but not disgustingly so and softer than it looks. You decide you like it. “It’s not bad,” you say. “Thank you.”

 

“You’re welcome.” After that, you both enjoy your crepes in amicable silence. The drive back to his house is still a little awkward, but it doesn’t bother you. There will be time to fix out the kinks in your friendship later. It had only just begun to bloom after all. Much to your relief, there’s no Endeavor in sight when you pull up in front of his house, but Todoroki doesn’t comment on it. He actually seems to be in a good mood and returns your wave as you leave with a small one of his own.

 

As you head home, your thoughts turn back to the events that had transpired and inexplicably land on Midoriya of all people. You still feel rotten about the way you treated him and after your newfound friendship with Todoroki, you realize you’re actually being a huge hypocrite, which doesn’t sit well with you at all. You sigh, your contentment dissipating. You’re going to have to apologize to him, even though you really don’t want to.

 

If things go sour, Todoroki will still have my back at least,’ you think, which brings you some comfort.

 

You arrive home at last, and you’re so preoccupied with your thoughts about how you’re going to make amends with Midoriya that you fail to notice the faint lingering scent of perfume in the air as you head downstairs to the dance studio.

Chapter Text

It’s not as though you particularly feel up to it today, but you’ve been slacking off in your dance practice lately, so you decide to blow off some steam to take your mind off Midoriya. You aren’t scheduled for a session with your dance instructor today, but that doesn’t stop you from heading down to the studio for some solitary practice. You change into some comfortable workout clothes and tie your hair up, and aside from a kind-faced maid who leaves some water nearby with a small encouraging smile, you’re completely alone. You go through some warm ups before starting a couple of routines, the steps so ingrained in your memory that you can practically do them in your sleep. Despite the intensity of the routines, you’re hardly out of breath thanks to the incredible stamina you’ve obtained through years of hard work.

 

You take a sip of water anyway and take up position in preparation of your next dance number, and as the heavy thrumming bass echoes throughout the studio, you begin, your movements sharp and complex. It’s not one of the songs you’ve done with your instructors, but one from a dance group you’ve always admired, not necessarily for their singing, but for their choreography. The song is meant to be performed with others, but you’ve adapted it for a solo performance since there is no feasible way to practice with another person. If your mother had known you were practicing another artist’s song, she’d have a fit.

 

Which is exactly why you’re doing it.

 

The song in question is intense and incredibly fast-paced, and you lose yourself in the rhythm as you always do, and you become so absorbed in your dancing that you fail to notice you have an audience. It’s only until the music ends that you hear a faint clapping from behind you and you whirl around, heart stopping at the sight of your mother smiling at you from behind the tinted window on the door.

 

Her face is a little flushed, a telltale sign she’s been drinking, but when she comes inside, you don’t smell any alcohol, so she probably isn’t drunk. Indeed, she looks steady on her six-inch heels and she raises her arms to embrace you in a tight hug. Several shopping bags dangle from her arms and you’re too stunned to push her away.

 

“Darling~!” she coos, releasing you with a radiant look on her face. “You should’ve told me you were practicing!” She sets down her many bags and places a small towel you didn’t know she’d been holding around your shoulders. The action makes you flinch and you shrug it off, but she doesn’t seem to notice anything. She never does. “I had no idea you were so good already, but honestly, I’m not surprised,” she titters. “You are my perfect little star, after all. I expect nothing less!” Her smile becomes a little fixed as a thought seems to occur to her. “Though...why were you dancing to other people’s music, honey? You know you have to develop your own style if you want to make it big someday.”

 

Your mood darkens almost immediately, but she’s distracted by something in one of the shopping bags and she pulls out a little box. “I went out and splurged a little after work, and when I saw this in the store, I just knew I had to get it for you!” It’s a fancy-looking hair clip covered in glittering stars, though the sight only turns your stomach. “I thought it would look really cute on you. How about you wear it to school tomorrow?”

 

The memory of your costume flashes through your mind and your jaw sets in anger, but you keep your voice even as you speak. “Did you know?” you ask loudly, cutting across her as she begins another one-sided conversation. “We got our hero costumes yesterday.”

 

Your mother doesn’t pick up on the sudden chill in the room and has the gall to look proud of herself. “Oh, you did? That’s wonderful, sweetie! Did you like yours?” She gets this shine in her eyes that makes you feel sick. “It outshone everyone else’s, didn’t it?”

 

Resisting the urge to throttle her, though only just, you take a deep breath. “Yeah, um...it...wasn’t the one I turned in.”

 

She tilts her head to one side a little, still smiling insufferably. “Well of course it wasn’t, darling. I really liked your design, but I thought that it could be even better, so I had my support team improve it before I mailed it in for you.”

 

You gape at her, struck dumb with disbelief before you trust yourself to speak. “You...you call that improvement?” you say just as white hot fury begins to churn in your stomach. “You completely changed everything about it!”

 

Her smile falters a little. “Yes, I did, but...I thought it would give you an edge, sweetheart.”

 

Your hands ball into fists and you draw yourself up to your full height, though she’s still taller than you by a couple of inches. You’ve never felt so angry in your entire life. “There was nothing wrong with my design! I spent two days without sleep making it and you...you…!” For a moment, you’re so incensed that you’re rendered incoherent, but when she continues to look at you in confusion, as if she’s done nothing wrong, you force yourself to continue. “You didn’t even ask me how I felt about it! You just went ahead behind my back—”

 

A shadow passes over her face and she crosses her arms. “Now don’t be difficult with me, young lady,” she snaps, smile fading and cold anger taking its place. “I’m not sure why you think I’m only out to hurt you when all I really do is help you. I wasn’t happy that you decided to go to U.A. instead of the academy, but I respected your decision anyway. I’m only doing what’s best and supporting you as much as I can. Doesn’t that count for something?”

 

“Oh yeah, that’s real supportive,” you snarl with biting sarcasm. “Nothing says ‘I’m the greatest mom ever’ like changing her daughter’s costume design without stopping to think about the consequences.” You shake your head in disbelief. “It’s like no matter what I do, you’re never satisfied with it! All you care about is having things done your way! I got into U.A. on my own without any help from you, but you still stick your nose into my business and no matter how hard I try, I just can’t get away from you!” Your voice starts to crack and your throat closes up, which only makes you angrier. “I was already happy with my costume,” you say, eyes burning. “I was so excited that I got into U.A.” Your press your lips together to stop them from trembling. “I lost sleep designing it, but it didn’t matter because it was mine.” You wipe your nose and sniff without looking at your mother, feeling overwhelmed. “None of that meant anything to you. You only care about me whenever I do something you want.”

 

Her anger fades and she frowns. “Honey, you know that’s not true. You’re the most important person in the world to me.” She reaches out to stroke your hair, but when you pull away sharply, her face grows unhappy. “I only did it to help you. Your hero costume is supposed to enhance your Quirk, not hide it.” She clasps her hands together and wrings them a little. “I hired a support team to figure out how to use your skills more effectively and your new costume is the result of their hard work. Your Quirk isn’t supposed to blend into the background, sweetie. The costume you designed made me think you didn’t want anyone looking at you, but you know as well as I do that that’s impossible. The very nature of your Quirk demands attention, so I worked with that angle instead.” When you don’t speak, she smiles faintly in encouragement. “I’m actually happy they figured out a way to use the speaker on your brooch to—”

 

“Just stop.” She quickly falls silent, looking hurt. “I’m tired of you acting like you didn’t do anything wrong, like I’m just supposed to smile and go along with every stupid decision you make for me because it’s convenient for you.” You ignore her stricken expression and keep going. “You say you do these things because you think they’re ‘what’s best for me’, but you never stop to wonder if I’m ever okay with it.”

 

“But...I didn’t mean...”

 

“No. That’s it.” You draw in a shuddering breath, your emotions threatening to choke you. “I’m tired of doing this same old song and dance with you. I don’t know why I bother calling you out on your shitty behavior if you’re just going to keep doing it.”

 

There’s a beat of silence and when she takes an uncertain step closer to you, her hand outstretched, you finally snap. “Don’t touch me!” you scream, slapping her hand away. The harsh tone of your voice echoes throughout the studio and you’re dimly aware of her eyes filling with tears. Your heart lurches painfully, but you squash it down. You spin on your heel and exit the room, leaving her behind in the ringing silence. You bring a hand to your mouth as you walk, your face crumpling and a quiet sob escapes your lips despite your best efforts to stifle it.

 

You finally make it back to your room, making sure to lock the door, though you’re not sure if it’ll keep your mother out since she’s more than capable of finding a way inside. Fortunately, she keeps her distance and doesn’t even attempt to make amends, not that you want her to.

 

Burying yourself under your covers, you lay there for a long time, sniffling quietly until the birds outside fall silent and the sky darkens overhead. When you emerge, you’re exhausted and numb, but you force yourself to finish your homework anyway, playing faint instrumental music over a little speaker to help you concentrate. It’s calming, and though you can’t bring yourself to forgive your mother, you think back about what she said. Changing your costume behind your back was an awful thing for her to do, but you can’t help but think that a part of her was right. No matter how inconspicuous your design was, there simply isn’t any feasible way for you to blend in. It’s a fact you’ve lived with for a majority of your life. Eyes are drawn to you wherever you go, whether it was in middle school or now at U.A. It doesn’t matter that you wear the same uniform as everyone else. It doesn’t matter that you don’t want the attention. It happens anyway.

 

It’s just like Shinsou said. “You stick out like a sore thumb.” Truth be told, you’re not sure if this is just an innate ability of your Quirk or you inherited more of your mother’s genes than you thought. Either way, it’s a problem.

 

You set down your pencil and grab your phone, still feeling awful. Opening up your messages, you browse your text history with Todoroki and sigh, wondering if he’s up for talking. You’re officially friends now, true, but still...you can’t help but be a little cautious. It’s been so long since you’ve had someone to talk to that it makes adjusting to the feeling difficult.

 

‘You up?’ you type before sending it off. It’s pretty late, but you don’t care anymore. You’re not really expecting him to answer either.

 

Your phone vibrates and your screen lights up. ‘Yes. Do you need help?’

 

Despite your lousy mood, a small weight lifts from your shoulders. ‘No, I already finished my hw. Thanks tho.’

 

‘Okay.’

 

You scoff a little. Conversation is clearly not his strong suit, that’s for sure. Then again, neither is yours, but that’s beside the point. You rack your brains for a topic and settle for this afternoon. A tiny flicker of warmth stirs your heart and you slowly type out another response. ‘Hey, um...thanks for earlier. You didn’t have to buy anything for me.’ You fall back onto your bed and clutch your phone in your hands, staring intently at your screen in anticipation.

 

‘I wanted to.’ There’s a long pause. ‘I’ve never had a friend before.’

 

You bite your lower lip with a tiny grimace. He can be brutally honest when he wants to be. Come to think of it, you’ve never been friends with a guy either. True, your previous “friendships” weren’t genuine, but you don’t know if the same rules apply. Were friendships different with guys or the same?

 

You type out a quick reply. ‘I know some things, so maybe I can help.’

 

‘Thank you.’

 

A tiny smile tugs at the corner of your lips. ‘No prob.’ A thumbs up emoji follows your message.

 

He sends one back not long afterward.

 

You glance at the time and sigh. ‘I’m gonna go to bed now. See you tomorrow.’

 

‘Okay. Goodnight.’

 

You fall asleep with your phone still clutched in your hand.

 

There’s no sign of your mother the next day, thankfully, and the ride to school is uneventful. When you arrive at the front gates, you’re greeted by your first surprise of the morning. A few students are giving him curious looks, but Todoroki either doesn’t notice or doesn’t care and only stops looking at his phone when you draw near.

 

“Good morning,” he says, and the sight of him, though unexpected, is welcome after last night’s argument with your mother. You offer him a nod, which is all you can manage at the moment. He puts his phone away and falls into step beside you as you head to class. You know you’re being much too quiet, especially after yesterday afternoon, but he doesn’t seem to mind the silence.

 

As you head inside the main U.A. building, you will yourself to speak. “You didn’t have to wait for me,” you say at length. You’re surprised how small your voice sounds and he picks up on it right away, though doesn’t comment.

 

“I wanted to,” he says simply. After a moment of deliberation, he lowers his eyes and looks away. “I think that’s what I’m supposed to do.”

 

Your lips part and you stare at him, at a loss for words. Then you lightly nudge him, making him look up. “Hey,” you begin gently. “You don’t have to feel obligated to do anything for me.” It costs you a great effort to smile, but you manage to pull it off, albeit faintly. “I know we just started, but we’ll figure it out, okay?”

 

He considers your words before nodding. “Sorry. I just don’t really know what to do,” he answers as you both near your classroom.

 

You slide open the door and snort. “That makes two of us.” It’s very noisy once you step inside, though you don’t miss the beat of relative quiet that follows you both as you head to your respective seats. When you look up, you notice several heads swivel back around and conversation resumes, which makes you scowl. Midoriya in particular catches your eye, talking loudly to Uraraka and Iida with a distracted look on his face, ears bright red. You have a feeling he was just talking about you, but you can’t be sure.

 

Shame surges within you and you remember how coldly you treated him the day before. Heaving a sigh, you wonder if you’re even up to this. You still feel lousy, but deep down, you know you’ll only feel worse if you don’t resolve this. “I’ll be right back,” you hear yourself saying, and you rise from your seat. You try not to think of your rapidly increasing heartbeat as you near Midoriya and dread fills you at the prospect of what you’re about to do. Still, it doesn’t feel right just leaving things like this.

 

Uraraka spots you coming first and blanches, but doesn’t get a chance to warn Midoriya before you tap his shoulder. He jumps a little at your touch, and you avert your eyes just as he turns around, still feeling ashamed about your behavior the day before. You can’t bring yourself to look at his face, and being scrutinized by Iida’s closed off expression and Uraraka’s troubled look is more than you can stand. “I need to talk to you,” is all you can manage to get out before you head outside the classroom.

 

You don’t check to see if he follows and you wait, leaning against a wall with your arms crossed. A couple of stragglers eye you curiously, but a frigid glare from you sends them scurrying back to their respective classrooms. You don’t want an audience for this.

 

After about a minute, the classroom door opens. You swear you hear Uraraka’s troubled voice calling Midoriya’s name a second before the door slides shut again, effectively silencing her. You don’t dare look up as halting footsteps draw closer, your eyebrows furrowing the closer he gets. When he stops, you hear him draw a breath as if to say something, but courage seems to fail him and he doesn’t speak.

 

A few awkward seconds pass, but he finally breaks the silence. “Um...what did you want to talk about?” he asks quietly. You finally look over and see him shifting his weight from one foot to another. His face is downcast, the corners of his lips pulled down in a small, worried frown and the hurt from yesterday radiates from his entire body. A wave of guilt crashes over you and you click your tongue, which causes him to tense slightly.

 

“About yesterday,” you begin, raising your eyes to rest on his brow. He looks up, slight trepidation on his face. “I acted like a total bitch. I shouldn’t have treated you the way I did.” Your exhale through your nose and close your eyes for a moment. “Look, what I’m trying to say is...I’m sorry.” Your apology doesn’t erase your feelings of guilt, but some of the weight dissipates. You rub the side of your neck and look away, already extremely uncomfortable. After a moment, you look back at him, then hold your hand out after a moment’s hesitation. “No hard feelings?”

 

A few seconds of stunned silence pass before his face breaks out into the first true smile you’ve seen from him since the start of the term. It’s looks like it’s more out of relief than anything, but he reaches forward and shakes your hand. You can’t help but notice how much larger it is than yours. It’s also really warm. And a little sweaty. “I should be the one apologizing, to tell you the truth,” he says sheepishly. “I got a little ahead of myself and didn’t think you might not be comfortable with what I said.”

 

You shake your head. “That may be so, but I still shouldn’t have snapped.” You fiddle with your tie, feeling awkward. “I guess I felt bad about it.”

 

The bell chimes overhead. “Oh, uh...guess that’s our cue,” he says a little self-consciously. “We don’t want to get into trouble with Aizawa-sensei.”

 

You nod and both of you head back inside. The air around you isn’t completely clear, and while Midoriya made it clear at the battle trial that he isn’t aware of your actual Quirk, it still bothers you somewhat. You’re not obligated to divulge this particular bit of information if you’re not comfortable with it, but Aizawa’s warning hangs over your head as you settle back into your seat. It’s not fair, that much is true, but you haven’t even told Todoroki yet. Giving him a sideways look, you’re not even sure you want to.

 

Homeroom passes, and the only eventful thing that happens is that Iida gets chosen as class representative. You don’t even bother participating and spend it doodling a picture of Endeavor with an arrow sticking out of his head.

 

It’s hard to concentrate on your first few lessons of the day. There’s too much on your mind and while your mood is a little better after apologizing to Midoriya, you slowly become more morose, only speaking when instructed to do so. It isn’t until the class is moved to a different room for home economics that you’re jerked back to the present and you’re none too happy, a stark contrast to the rest of your peers.

 

You’re not exactly great at cooking. The times you had attempted it had all been complete fiascoes, and while your busy schedule didn’t really allow for you to learn, that didn’t stop your middle school peers from making you an object of ridicule. At the time, you hadn’t really cared what they thought, but failure didn’t sit well with you at all. It still doesn’t.

 

The class is allowed to choose their own groups of five for the first lesson and there’s a mad dash to each station. It soon becomes very noisy as your peers call out to one another cheerfully, but you make no effort to move. You can hear Mineta calling your name, but you’d rather set yourself on fire than join him, so you completely ignore the little pipsqueak. Much to your pleasant surprise, Todoroki hasn’t left to become part of a group either. He’s standing some feet away near the ingredient table, looking as impassive as ever. You figure if you’re going to suffer being in a group of people you don’t trust, it would help to at least have one friendly face around to keep your sour mood in check. Otherwise, you’re sure you’ll end up biting someone’s head off by the end of the lesson, if that.

 

“(Surname)-san!” you hear Midoriya call, though he does look a little flustered when you turn around to look at him. Uraraka and Iida, who wait beside him, exchange worried looks. Midoriya doesn’t seem to notice and offers you a hesitant smile. “Do...do you want to be in our group? We’re still missing a few people.”

 

In the few seconds it takes for you to consider his words, he grows visibly more anxious. It’s not that you’re all that opposed to joining him, but his friends clearly would have preferred someone more cooperative, and it dawns on you that they probably haven’t quite forgiven you for hurting Midoriya yesterday. Even from here, you can see Uraraka whisper something to him, worry apparent on her round face, but he waves her off with a reassuring glance. You still haven’t forgotten what happened with Uraraka in particular, and try as you might, you can’t shake the image of Miki out of your head. Her troubled expression makes the similarities especially apparent and your jaw sets.

 

They’re still missing two people, and mostly because you don’t want to face this alone, you glance over your shoulder to Todoroki, who’s watching your entire exchange and stares back silently with an unreadable look on his face. “I’m going to go over there,” you clarify quietly. “Do you want to come with?” His gaze softens a little and he nods.

 

When you arrive to Midoriya’s group with your friend in tow, his small hopeful smile fades somewhat, but he recovers quickly. It’s not hard to see why. Todoroki exudes a quiet, cold intimidation that’s a little hard to get used to, and it’s on full display right now. Nothing about his body language invites friendly conversation and the rest of the group looks uneasy. They don’t seem to know what to do.

 

The awkward silence is broken by your teacher handing out recipes for each station, and from the sound of things, everyone is tasked with making a different dish. The other three in your group leave to go get ingredients with an air of relief, but you hang back apprehensively, not wanting to get swallowed up in the chaos surrounding the ingredient table. Sero manages to drop an entire carton of eggs in his haste and Mineta slips on the resulting slop. Iida’s attempts to maintain order fall on deaf ears, and you wonder, not for the first time, just how relevant this is for hero training.

 

You look down at the sheet in your hand and frown. Your group is supposed to be making sugar cookies. You sigh. Out of all the recipes you could’ve gotten…

 

The others return with their arms laden with ingredients. Midoriya flushes when he sees you looking at him, and while his nervous smile is friendly, the other two obviously don’t echo his opinion of you. In fact, Uraraka behaves very apprehensively, as though she’s expecting a bomb to go off while Iida adjusts his glasses uncomfortably. Even under the best of circumstances, you wouldn’t even try to pretend to make peace with people who obviously don’t want you there, and after last night, your patience is at an all-time low.

 

Perhaps sensing the hostility in the air, Midoriya quickly speaks up. “Um...(Surname)-san? Can you help me mix these ingredients together please?” he says timidly. The tension eases somewhat and he looks relieved when you oblige. It’s not that you particularly care about him, but starting a fight right under a teacher’s nose isn’t high on your to-do list and you’d rather not get suspended on your first week at U.A.

 

After a time, the air is filled with the aroma of food, though you do catch a faint burning smell in the middle of it. The cookies are currently baking in the oven, so there’s nothing to do except wash the dishes. When Todoroki hands you a wet sponge, you look down at it blankly. Midoriya immediately picks up on your hesitation and frowns. “What’s wrong?” he asks, and something inside you shrivels in embarrassment. Much to your horror, you feel your cheeks start to burn, which is only made worse by Iida and Uraraka stopping to look at you.

 

Your brow furrows and you lower your eyes, squeezing the sponge tightly in your hand as suds wash over your fingers. “I...” Even Todoroki stops what he’s doing. The concern on his face is more than you can bear. Your shoulders hunch forward defensively and your next words are barely above a whisper. “I...don’t know how to...um...”

 

Midoriya catches on quickly and you feel a sudden flash of anger because you’re sure you see pity on his face. “O-Oh, um…! Well...it’s...not that difficult, but...uh...” He looks unsure of what to say and completely out of his element, but it doesn’t matter because you’re slowly starting to see red.

 

You feel a hand on your shoulder and your fury breaks. You look over to see Todoroki, who wordlessly brings you closer to the sink. The others give you space after a frigid look from him, but when he looks back down at you, his face is soft. Quietly muttering instructions under his breath, he walks you through washing dishes for the first time in your life, and even though you still feel humiliated, you’re grateful to have him around. When you finish, there’s a lump forming in your throat from embarrassment, and you splash your face to hide your expression from everyone else. Todoroki hands you a small towel and you take more time to dry than necessary.

 

By the time you emerge, the cookies are cooling on the rack and the others are too excited to pay much attention to you. You look around the room and find your other classmates stuffing their faces with food and you sniff. You just want this class to be over. Midoriya hands you your share of cookies in a small clear bag and you accept it without a word. You doubt you’ll eat them anyway.

 

“Wow, you got to make cookies?!” shrieks Ashido, sliding in out of nowhere and catching the attention of the majority of the class. She reaches into Uraraka’s share without asking, which strikes you as rather rude, but she doesn’t seem to mind. She happily hands some out to anyone who asks while poor Midoriya gets his devoured in almost an instant by Kaminari, Sero, and Mineta.

 

“Those look good,” says Kirishima with a smile. “Better than ours anyway.” He laughs a little and rubs the back of his head. “My group got too into it and our food ended up charred.”

 

“Allow me to share some with you,” says Iida, holding out his bag with sharp movements. “As class representative, I cannot allow a fellow classmate to go hungry!”

 

“There’s still lunch after this,” Kirishima says, but he takes a couple anyway. “Thanks!”

 

You catch Midoriya giving you hopeful, sideways glances, though he quickly stops when he notices your deadpan look, ears burning a bright red. Exhaling heavily, you walk over and drop the small bag into his startled hands. “Take it,” you say quietly. “I didn’t really do much anyway.”

 

“But...but these are yours!” he protests. “I can’t possibly...”

 

“Oi, Midoriya!” pipes up Kaminari, slinging an arm around his shoulders. “You’re not seriously going to turn down cookies from a girl, are you?”

 

“W-What? No, that’s not—”

 

“Most guys would kill for something like that to happen to them, you know!” comments Sero, torn between envy and admiration.

 

The bell chiming overhead drowns out the rest of their conversation and you grab your things, glad for an excuse to leave. You can feel Todoroki’s presence close by as you exit and head for the cafeteria. Much to your dismay, the line is already pretty long once you get there. You grimace, then turn to look at your friend. “You always get zaru soba, right?” you ask. At his nod, you jerk your thumb towards the growing line of students behind you. “By the time we get out of there, there’s gonna be nowhere to sit. So go find us a seat and I’ll buy your lunch.”

 

He frowns. “Are you okay with that?”

 

You nod your affirmative. “Yeah, I mean...” You look away, shrinking a little. “It’s for...you know...earlier.”

 

Todoroki stares at you for a moment before shrugging. “I’ll send you a text,” is all he says before he disappears into the crowd.

 

You take your place behind another student in line and wait. There seems to be a holdup near the front because you don’t make any progress for at least five minutes. Several other students crane their necks and loudly voice their complaints, and while you do agree with them, you remain silent. Whining about it won’t make the line move faster.

 

“Didn’t think I’d see you again,” says a voice right behind you and you jump. You quickly turn around and come face to face with Shinsou, who looks amused despite your sullen glower. He squeezes himself in the space in front of you without so much as asking and seems impervious to your heated protests. After a while, it becomes clear that he’s not going to budge, so you grudgingly admit defeat. You wonder why you’re being lenient with him, but you chalk it up to being emotionally exhausted.

 

Your phone vibrates in your pocket, and you pull it out to send a quick reply to Todoroki, who’s found a seat near the back of the cafeteria. You’re about to send him another message before you remember whose company you’re in and you stow your phone back out of sight. “That from your boyfriend?” Shinsou asks with raised eyebrows. He lifts his hands up defensively when you glower at him. “Or girlfriend, I’m not judging.”

 

“None of your business,” you mutter, turning back to grab two trays. He remains infuriatingly unfazed, so it comes as a relief when it comes time to pay for your food. Shinsou has enough sense to leave you alone after this, and you spend lunchtime with Todoroki, who is quiet. The air inside the cafeteria feels stifling, so you decide to head outside to clear your head.

 

After a bit of walking, you find the cluster of trees you took refuge in yesterday and meander a little ways inside. You spot a tall, sturdy tree with thick, low-lying branches and you hover uncertainly a few inches off the ground before flying up a little further. The breeze up here is nice, and you take a seat on a nearby branch, your legs dangling several feet from the ground. Todoroki watches your progress curiously.

 

“Saved you a spot,” you say, smiling a little in an attempt to lighten the heaviness lingering in the air. You pat the space next to you. “What, can’t get up here on your own?”

 

He responds by shooting up to your level on a pillar of ice and sitting down, which effectively shuts you up. He places his left foot on it and it quickly melts into a puddle of water.

 

“Smart-ass,” you mutter with a snort, but you don’t really mean it and he doesn’t take offense.

 

You both sit there for a time, the wind picking up the scent of grass and nearby flowers, leaves rustling in your ears and your thoughts begin to wander. How different would your life be like if you hadn’t accepted Aizawa’s proposal? He would have undoubtedly expelled you on the spot, and you’d be left with nowhere to go, not even the academy. Doomed to spend your life in failure for a moment of pride, and for what?

 

And yet here you are, doing something you would never have even entertained the thought of before coming to U.A. It’s definitely strange, but not unwelcome.

 

“Are you okay?” Todoroki breaks the silence without looking at you, but even so, you can feel his concern in the quiet way he speaks.

 

The truth is that you don’t want to reveal the real reason for your surly disposition, even though you know his heart’s in the right place. Besides, you can’t risk the possibility, no matter how remote, of him agreeing with your mother about your hero costume. You’d not only be exposing your Quirk but your turbulent private life at home, and even though you can readily say you enjoy Todoroki’s company, you’re not sure you’re ready to reveal something so personal. You’re actually afraid you might scare him off with all your emotional baggage.

 

If anything, you just don’t want him to see you as a weakling.

 

“I was just thinking,” you answer vaguely, which isn’t a lie, but it’s not a response that satisfies him.

 

His face grows contemplative and he reaches into his pocket. You blink at the bag of sugar cookies he holds out to you. “You gave yours away,” he says. “Have some.”

 

You tentatively reach into the small pile of cookies and take one. “Thank you,” you say. You don’t eat it, though, and you let out a soft sigh, eyes unfocused. “Hey, Todoroki...did you know? I made cookies once before, back at my old school.” The confection dangles from your fingertips, but you don’t let it fall. “I was pretty unpopular then, so I was all alone. It was...a disaster.” A snort of humorless laughter escapes your lips as the memory still manages to sting. “I used the wrong kind of flour and the cookies formed into this huge, shapeless lump on the baking sheet. They were as hard as crackers and tasted like garbage. No one wanted to eat them...not that I wanted to share, of course.” You lower your head a little. “I know the class probably thinks I’m just a dumb rich girl and that I don’t know how to do a lot of things that everyone takes for granted, but...you really helped me out. You didn’t question it, you just...did it without thinking.”

 

Todoroki looks pensive. “I just did what felt right,” he finally says.

 

You smile a little and look down at the large puddle below. “So...” you begin, hurriedly changing the subject before the warm feeling in your chest expands any more, “I was thinking...is there anywhere you want to go after school? Or...will you get in trouble if you keep hanging around me?”

 

You mean it as a joke, but Todoroki doesn’t smile. Instead, he withdraws into himself and for a moment, you worry you’ve touched a nerve, but he doesn’t leave like you thought he would. “I already told you that I don’t care what my old man thinks,” he says, and you recoil a little at his harsh tone. His cold fury doesn’t seem to be aimed towards you, but the tension in the air increases tenfold, and you look away. The small distance between you grows a little more and you want to kick yourself for even opening your big fat mouth.

 

“I know it’s not my place to ask,” you say quietly after a moment. The cookie in your hand gives off a faintly sweet aroma, and you resist the temptation to crumble it up. “But why do you hate him so much?”

 

It’s so quiet that even the birds around you stop singing. You tense, waiting for the blow to fall, for him to get up and walk out of your life forever, and you wildly think you might even plead for him to stay even though you’ve never begged for anything, ever, and the thought of losing him when you’ve just let him in makes your chest squeeze until it’s almost painful and—

 

He opens his mouth to speak and his words come tumbling forth in a rush, as if he’s kept it bottled up inside for a long, and in hindsight, he probably has. As you listen to his story, your insides grow cold with disquiet, and you wonder how on earth he’s managed to keep it together. He continues weaving a tale of a disturbingly abusive childhood, of how he suffered under the hands of someone who was supposed to be a hero, and that he was only brought into this world to further a cruel agenda that almost erased his sense of individuality. It doesn’t surprise you that when he finishes, your hand is gripping the branch beneath you so forcefully that your knuckles are turning white and the cookie in your hand is nothing but crumbs now.

 

“I...Todoroki—”

 

He shakes his head. “It’s in the past now.”

 

Just as you’re about to speak, a voice interrupts. “So this is where you’ve been hiding.” You look down to see Shinsou staring up at you with a smile devoid of humor. You see his eyes slide over to Todoroki, who tenses considerably but doesn’t move. “Oh, sorry. Am I interrupting something?”

 

“No,” you respond flatly, then slide off the branch, descending slowly and landing lightly on your feet. You ignore Shinsou’s low whistle and march up to him angrily. “What do you want?” you ask, crossing your arms.

 

He shrugs, raising his arms. “Nothing, really. I always come here, but it looks like you and your...ah, boyfriend claimed it already.”

 

“He is not my boyfriend!” you snarl viciously. “He’s just my friend.”

 

You hear Todoroki land behind you and Shinsou looks beyond your shoulder, and you think you see faint recognition on his face. “Hang on...I think I know you. You’re Endeavor’s son, aren’t you? The one who got into U.A. without having to take the entrance exam. I heard you made it in with all sorts of recommendations.”

 

You can tell this immediately rubs Todoroki the wrong way and he fixes Shinsou with a look so frigid you’re almost surprised the ground beneath his feet doesn’t frost over. He remains silent, but after what he told you, you wonder how it hasn’t come to blows yet. Trust Todoroki to remain calm despite Shinsou’s obvious attempts to bait him.

 

“Lay off him,” you snap.

 

Shinsou turns back to you and sighs in a way that sounds as if he’s disappointed in you. “You know, I honestly thought you were different from everyone else in the hero department. Had me fooled for a minute.” He finally stops smiling. “My mistake.”

 

Your blood boils white hot and you grit your teeth, shaking with anger, but Todoroki steps in front of you. “She doesn’t owe you anything,” he mutters lowly, and you start to feel an actual chill coming from your friend.

 

To his credit, Shinsou doesn’t back away. “Is everyone in Class 1A so hotheaded? I was only making friendly conversation.” He then ignores Todoroki and you catch a flicker of hurt on his face, which catches you off guard. But then you think you know what’s bothering him. From his viewpoint, it must look like you value only people with powerful Quirks, much like Todoroki’s, and choose to associate with them rather than those who’ve been painted in a bad light simply because of their Quirk, and even though neither of them know it, how similar you are to Shinsou.

 

You catch a vapor of cold air coming from Todoroki’s right hand and you roughly shove him aside. The last thing you want is a fight breaking out. “Hey, let’s just go,” you say in an undertone. When Todoroki hesitates to leave with you for several long seconds, you click your tongue in frustration. “Come on!” you hiss, and when he still doesn’t move, you let out a sigh of exasperation. “Ugh, you know what? Fine! Do whatever you want!” Then you stomp past Shinsou, who’s eyeing you curiously, but you ignore him entirely and keep going.

 

Men!’ you think irritably. After you’ve put some distance, you hear faint footsteps behind you converge on your position. You hunch your shoulders, still angry and the footsteps falter slightly. Breathing in hard through your nose, you stop and for a moment, neither of you speak.

 

“Are you angry with me?” asks Todoroki almost inaudibly.

 

You exhale and when you turn around, your exasperation has mostly evaporated. You’re not used to feeling so many emotions at once and the whole experience leaves you worn out and drained. “No, I just—” You jump a little at how close he is, and before you realize your mistake, your eyes jump to his.

 

The effect is instantaneous. His concerned expression goes slack and his pupils dilate so much that you can barely discern the color of his irises. Ice cascades into your stomach and you take a horrified step backwards at the same time he takes one forward. Even now, you feel the faint thrumming in your body that you’ve come to despise and you turn away just as you viciously break the flow ensnaring your friend.

 

If you can even call him that anymore.

 

He blinks and brings a hand to his head as your Quirk wears off, obviously confused. You turn on your heel and run as fast as you can, but after a couple of strides, you almost fall over, feet unable to move. Quickly looking down, you realize they’re trapped in blocks of ice. The fear in your heart doubles and you shriek, frantically attempting to break free in a desperation that would have scared you had you been thinking clearly. You’re caught in a full-body tremor as you hear Todoroki coming closer and when you look up, he’s approaching you warily. It’s an expression you never wanted to see on him, the one you’ve seen on so many other faces that speak of mistrust, as if you’re something to be feared and you hate it. “Let...go!” you cry, struggling to free yourself.

 

“Not until you explain what’s going on,” he says, and his voice sounds so different from before that you want to scream. He watches your attempts to escape in silence.

 

You can’t stand it. You can’t even face him anymore. You give a sharp tug, but you don’t budge and your chest heaves with the exertion. ‘Why did I have to live with this Quirk?’ you think hopelessly. ‘Please, God...anything but this!’

 

A warm hand on your shoulder stills you, but only for a moment. You quickly shove it away and cover your head with your arms, shaking uncontrollably. “LEAVE!” you scream, and your shout echoes throughout the empty grounds. The only sounds you hear are your pounding heartbeat and your ragged breathing. After a moment, a faint hissing noise catches your attention and you look down to see the ice melting away. Instead of running, however, your legs crumple underneath you, unable to take your weight and you unsteadily prop yourself up on your hands. Dimly, you think you must be a sight, hair disheveled and the very image of the coward you’ve always known you were. You’re so afraid of what comes next, and echoes of Miki’s anguished shouts reach through the years, clouding your mind and blinding you to everything else.

 

Todoroki doesn’t leave. Instead, he helps you to your feet, and this time, you don’t pull away. You allow him to lead you to a nearby bench in a shaded area, far removed from everything else and he sits down, taking you with him. He doesn’t speak right away. He simply waits.

 

“I bet,” you begin hoarsely, then clear your throat before trying again, “I bet you’re real mad at me now, huh?” You keep your eyes to the ground in front of you, clutching your hands together in front of you in a closed fist that trembles sporadically. You swallow thickly and continue. “If...if you don’t want anything to do with me, you’re free to walk away. I won’t stop you.” You squeeze your eyes shut and let your hair fall forward, shielding your face from him. You don’t want to lose his friendship, not when you’ve just found it, but you don’t have the right to ask him to stay.

 

“I just want you to explain,” he says after a minute of silence.

 

You flinch, shame sealing your lips momentarily. “You won’t...you won’t like what I have to say,” you say at length.

 

“I don’t care.”

 

You shake your head fiercely. “I just...” A few drops stain the fabric of your skirt and you realize belatedly that you’re crying. You feel even more ashamed now and you sniffle, wiping your eyes on your sleeve. “I don’t want you to hate me.”

 

I hate you! I hate you and I never want to see you again!

 

Taking in a deep shuddering breath, you look to the blue sky in an attempt to calm yourself down, but a few stray tears manage to leak down onto your cheeks and into your hair. “My Quirk...” you begin, and for a moment, dread renders you unable to speak. You fight it down with great difficulty and try again. “I got my Quirk from my...mother.” You sniffle a little and avoid his searching gaze. “She...she’s really famous, but...hardly anyone knows about me because she never says she has a daughter in her interviews.” You pause, allowing him time to absorb your words. “Everyone says she’s the most beautiful woman in the world, and whenever she walks into a room, they can’t help but admire her.” You shrug a little. “Not their fault. They can’t help it because of her Quirk. It’s like a spell she puts them under. I’m not really affected by it because I’m her daughter, but whenever she sings or dances, it’s like the whole world falls at her feet. That’s why it’s called ‘siren’.”

 

You feel Todoroki’s eyes on you. “And that’s what you have?”

 

Lowering your head once more, you let out of a soft sigh. “Yeah. It’s not as powerful as hers, but I still have to be careful. I didn’t have trouble with it at first, but...after some stuff at my middle school happened, it’s become sporadic and out of control. Sometimes I look people in the eye by accident, you know, but they don’t always get affected. I can’t tell when it’ll happen anymore, but...”

 

“What happened at your old school?” he asks quietly and you close your eyes in anguish. This is the part you had been dreading.

 

“I...I lost my best friend because the boy she liked confessed to me.” Your chest grows tight at the memory. “We knew each other since we were four and did practically everything together, but that day...she said...she hated me. I never used my Quirk on him, but that didn’t stop her from accusing me and she left, along with all my other friends.” Taking another deep breath, you keep going. “After that, I found other people who didn’t care about my abilities. They thought I was amazing.”

 

Resentment wells up and you scowl darkly at the ground. “And like an idiot, I believed them. They didn’t give a shit about me. All they cared about was my mom, her fame, and her money.” Your hands ball into fists, tightly gripping the fabric of your skirt. “Rumors were spread. A lot of people called me a slut, while others said that I slept around with the teachers so I could get better grades. The teachers distanced themselves from me to avoid being shunned by their colleagues, but I didn’t care what they thought about me anymore. I wanted to be left alone.” You finally look up, your eyes resting on the edge of Todoroki’s scar. “I just...I wanted to come to U.A. to start over, to get away from it all.”

 

He seems to be digesting your words. “Does anyone else know about your Quirk?” he finally asks.

 

“Aizawa-sensei and the other teachers do, I guess,” you answer uncomfortably. “And now you.”

 

“I see.” A thought seems to occur to him. “You mentioned once that you trained.”

 

You blink, confused. “Yeah, at home. Why?”

 

His brow furrows thoughtfully. “Is there any way I can help you with your Quirk?”

 

Your brain short circuits for a second. “Wh...what?” you finally ask, flabbergasted.

 

Todoroki looks unusually serious and your head is spinning from how out of left field it is. “If you’re that worried about losing control, then you should have someone help you train. It’s only logical.” He shrugs as if to say it’s no big deal.

 

“Todoroki...were you even listening to anything I just said?” you ask weakly.

 

“Yes.”

 

You stare at him, dumbfounded before you slowly begin to realize that he hasn’t reacted in the way you thought he would. A small hopeful bubble rises in your chest. “But...but...how can you…?” You let out a laugh that’s a little hysterical and you run a nervous hand through your hair. “This is insane…!”

 

“I did say I wanted to be friends. I guess that means I’m crazy too.”

 

You groan and bury your face in your hands, then lower them with a deep inhale through your nose. “I don’t know...I can’t think. I mean...it’s really risky and if anyone found out, we could get into serious trouble.”

 

“Then we’ll do it at your house then,” he answers, as if it solves the matter.

 

The bell signaling the end of lunch makes you jump. You quickly get to your feet, wiping away the last of your tears and straightening your uniform. “I still think this is nuts,” you mutter. You look back at Todoroki, who only stares at you expectantly. “I haven’t decided what to do yet, okay? So...so...”

 

He nods. “I understand.”

 

As you both head to class together, you can’t help but allow a tiny smile to cross your lips.

Chapter Text

It’s incredibly difficult to concentrate during the afternoon, but while you do manage to get the gist of the lesson and take notes, you still can’t help but think how surreal everything is at the moment. Some of the shock has worn off and flickers of nervous anticipation take its place. Of course, you’re not so optimistic as to think all of your doubts have faded—far from it. Now that Todoroki knows the truth about your Quirk and your past, you’re not entirely sure how to feel about it. He hasn’t reacted at all like you expected and while he’s definitely taking a proactive approach, you’re still on the fence about having him over.

 

In all honesty, you thought he would be angry with you for hiding something like this. You two are not closeafter all, you’ve only known each other less than a weekbut there is a definite sense of camaraderie and understanding in your newfound friendship that you’re not letting go of anytime soon. You’re not obligated to divulge your secrets and neither is he, and yet when it came down to it, you had both shown each other a vulnerability that you never would have done with anyone else.

 

Had Todoroki responded with enthusiasm, you think you might have closed yourself off. A good reaction doesn’t necessarily last, as was the case with Risa, Ami, and Michiru, who only saw you as a way to benefit themselves, someone expendable and worth less than nothing once you had outlived your usefulness. That can only mean that Todoroki has a few misgivings of his own, and though the thought does sting a little, you can’t really blame him. If you had been in his shoes, you would too.

 

But to subject himself to the effects of your Quirk so willingly? You frown, worrying your lower lip between your teeth. You’ve never done anything remotely close to it and frankly, you’re a little scared of what might happen.

 

Maybe I should just back out of this one,’ you think glumly, glancing at the clock. ‘What is something goes wrong and he’s stuck as a mindless zombie forever?’ Pausing in the middle of your note taking, you sigh softly through your nose, feeling conflicted. You did say you were going to think about it and so far, Todoroki hasn’t pushed the subject, though you sometimes see him giving you curious glances between lessons.

 

You wonder what he’d do if you refused. Probably nothing since he seems so calm normally, but maybe….he might be hurt a little on the inside, though you doubt he’d let you see. Would he think you don’t trust him?

 

The bell jerks you from your thoughts. Despite your best efforts to remain calm, you feel the beginnings of panic start to settle over your rapidly pounding heart as everyone begins packing up for the day. You sneak a glance at Todoroki out of the corner of your eye and notice that he’s nearly done putting his things away.

 

Oh fuck, I can’t do this right now,’ you think wildly, abruptly getting up from your seat. “I’m gonna go grab something to drink,” you quickly mutter in a stilted voice before hurrying out of the classroom, unable to stand being there for another second.

 

Once out in the hallway, it becomes a little easier to breathe as several students from other classrooms walk by. You head in the opposite direction and wildly think about running off until you realize you forgot your bag in the classroom. Heaving a frustrated sigh, you walk to the vending machines with a small scowl, eyes to the floor. Once you’re there, you stare at the drinks without really looking at them, unable to shake off the feeling of trepidation.

 

What am I doing…?’ you think, pinching the bridge of your nose. ‘Am I that much of a coward?’ Really, you’re just delaying the inevitable by standing here.

 

“Oh, there you are,” says Midoriya from behind you on your right, which almost makes you jump. At your startled look, he smiles sheepishly, a small flush coloring his freckled cheeks. “I hope you don’t mind, but um...if you’re alright with it...may I speak with you?”

 

“You already are,” you say before you can stop yourself and you internally wince. You’re still on edge from earlier but that’s still no excuse to be an ass, especially right after apologizing to Midoriya today.

 

He lets out a shaky breath that comes out like a nervous laugh and scratches the back of his head. “Um...I guess I am. So...uh...I just wanted to talk to you about...um...” He falters a little and twiddles his thumbs together, which makes him look small despite being a few inches taller than you. “I think,” he begins uncertainly and he keeps his face down turned as though he’s afraid of looking at you directly, “I don’t know for sure, but...even so...I think I may have put you in an uncomfortable situation during class earlier.”

 

Your eyes narrow in confusion. “What are you talkingoh.” Right. The dishes. The ones you didn’t know how to wash. Funny, you had almost forgotten about it. Everything else that happened afterward had eclipsed that event so thoroughly.

 

“Y-Yeah...that was...I mean, I didn’t know...and I don’t claim to know what your circumstances are, but...I’m sorry if I made you angry or embarrassed you in any way,” he says quietly. “That was never my intention and...I apologize if I seemed tactless.”

 

For some inexplicable reason, you feel your face grow hot. Midoriya’s eyes widen very slightly at your reaction and you lower your head. “Hey, it’s…just...forget it, okay? You don’t have to say sorry,” you mumble. To give yourself something to do, you put some money in the vending machine so you don’t have to look at him. “I know I’m...well...me, but you don’t have to feel like you’re walking on eggshells all the time,” you say at length, picking a plain bottle of water. As the machine dispenses your drink, you reach down and grab it. “Of course,” you add, straightening up and looking at him with something of a wry smile, “that doesn’t mean you should run your mouth off whenever you feel like it.”

 

When he smiles back warmly, a small surge of warmth nestles somewhere in your chest, but before you can analyze it further, the feeling passes. “Okay, (Surname)-san.” After a beat of silence, he notices something over your shoulder and something in his expression clouds over slightly. “Oh...um...”

 

You blink, turning around to find Todoroki several feet away, looking expectantly at you with your bag at his feet. You sigh internally, knowing that it would have to come to this eventually. You’re not as nervous anymore, thankfully. “Well, that’s my cue,” you say, more to yourself than anything, and though you swear you hear a tiny intake of breath from Midoriya, you’re not entirely certain. When you look back to Midoriya to bid him farewell, his expression clears slightly but he can’t seem to hide his unease entirely. “See ya,” you say before heading back.

 

Todoroki wordlessly hands you your bag and you sling it over your shoulder with a soft ‘thanks’. You can tell he’s looking at you searchingly and you feel just a tad vulnerable under his scrutiny. He doesn’t ask you the obvious, but then again, he doesn’t really have to.

 

“Come on then,” you say quietly.

 

For some reason, you get the feeling Midoriya’s eyes never leave you, even as you climb into the backseat of your car stationed at the front gates, Todoroki following soon after, but after thinking about it, you shake your head a little in faint disbelief. Yeah, like that would ever happen. Maybe you’re just being paranoid...

 

When you arrive at the front gates of your home, you sneak a self-conscious glance at Todoroki, whose mouth parts slightly in surprise, and you don’t really blame him. He probably wasn’t expecting such an extravagant manor, which looks more like a castle now that you think about it. You feel yourself shrivel up a little in embarrassment, mentally cursing your mother’s insatiable desire for over-the-top grandeur.

 

When you lead him inside, you notice several maids do a double-take at Todoroki, their shock evident on their faces before they remember themselves and resume working. You frown a little at this, but don’t draw attention to it. “Hey, the studio’s this way,” you say, and he pauses in his examination of the enormous cascading chandelier decorating the foyer and follows you through a series of shortcuts.

 

You leave him waiting for you outside a changing room where you dress in more comfortable clothes and tie your long hair back so it doesn’t get in the way before you emerge and lead him down a long hallway.

 

Finally, you arrive in front of a heavy door with a large, tinted window. “I thought it would be better to use this space to have a little more privacy,” you say in an undertone.

 

“Is this where you train?” he asks curiously, and you nod.

 

“Yeah, I come here nearly everyday,” you explain, opening the door. “I have a two instructors, but they’re usually not in until—”

 

Wow, what a surprise!” exclaims a very familiar, rather feminine voice from inside, making you jump. “(Name), you brought a guest!” A deceptively young-looking woman with honey brown hair tied in a loose bun comes into view with a bright smile on her face and without warning, takes Todoroki’s hands in hers and peers closely at his face, which makes you bristle angrily. “He~eh...you look so capable and mature!” Nodding to herself, she ups the wattage in her smile. “I can see why you brought him along!” She suddenly lets go with a laugh. “Oh, to be ten years younger again~!”

 

“Yu...Yukimura?” you begin uncertainly, then flinch when she lightly hits you over the head with a rolled up magazine.

 

“Yukimura-sensei,” she corrects with a gently admonishing tone. She brightens almost immediately. “You came down to practice, didn’t you?”

 

“We weren’t expecting you for at least another hour,” says another voice behind her and you blanch at the sight of your dance instructor, Saitou. Compared to the last time you saw him, he looks considerably friendlier. He grins a little. “I was worried you’d start slacking off once you started high school, but I’m glad I was wrong.”

 

The sight of both of them makes your insides shrivel with embarrassment as realization dawns on you. “W...wait...” you say weakly. “We’re...doing dual exercises today?”

 

Yukimura laughs at the crestfallen look on your face. “Of course! Surprise!” She wags a finger at you playfully. “We wouldn’t want those vocal chords and muscles getting flabby!”

 

“But...Todoroki...”

 

“Oh, your friend can watch if he wants to,” Saitou says, gesturing to the closed off booth at the end of the studio. He ignores your faint protests and claps his hands together twice. “But first, warm ups!”

 

You’re given no room to argue. In next to no time, you’re lying on the floor doing some stretches while Todoroki stands close by, and it’s doubly embarrassing having him there. You hadn’t been planning on this, and you’re so out of it that Saitou repeatedly has to remind you to correct your form lest you hurt yourself, which only makes things worse. Perhaps sensing your discomfort, Yukimura leads both Todoroki and Saitou into the recording studio at the end of the room after you’re done, and from behind specially-tinted glass, she presses a button.

 

“Okay, hon, I’m just going to have you run through a couple of vocal exercises. You seem a little tense,” she says over a speaker.

 

You shoot her a look that clearly says ‘Ya think?!’ but she only smiles a little. Still, you comply, though grudgingly. You try to pretend Todoroki isn’t there, but it’s difficult to do when you can practically feel him watching you closely. Out of the corner of your eye, you see Saitou’s lips moving and you wonder just what exactly he’s telling him. ‘Hopefully nothing embarrassing...’ you think wearily, but it’s too much to hope for when Yukimura joins the conversation with almost indecent gusto.

 

After a few more minutes, Yukimura’s voice comes over the speaker again. “That sounds much better! I was originally going to have you run through Program B today, but that’s no fun, so let’s do Program J instead!”

 

You blanch a little. “Wha…?! Why that one?!” you protest moodily, feeling your cheeks darken considerably. Out of all the routines she could’ve chosen…!

 

She gives you a grin so smug you want to punch through the glass and strangle her. “First impressions matter, you know!” she answers vaguely in a singsong voice. “And don’t give me that look. I’m not changing my mind.” Yukimura puffs out her chest and places her hands on her hips defiantly and you deflate a little in resignation. You don’t mind her that much, but she’s even more headstrong than you are, which is a feat in and of itself, and once she sets her sights on something, there’s not a thing anyone can say that will dissuade her from it. “Just give me a the signal once you’re ready, hon!”

 

You exhale through your nose in irritation, but you know it’s no use fighting it. You can’t help but wonder what Todoroki makes of all this as you get into your starting position and your heartbeat picks up in anticipation. At the very least, you don’t want to make a fool of yourself. ‘Plus Ultra, huh?’ you think right before you raise your right hand and give a thumbs up. Right before your eyes close, you see Saitou press a button and you begin.

 

The beginning of the song is entirely silent, punctuated only by the beginning short, forceful harmonies and a few English words, which are accompanied by your recorded backing vocals, though the air is heady with suspense as you continue. Then you intake a short breath and belt out a much louder, drawn out note that slowly increases in pitch as the music finally picks up into a heavy electronic beat, the bass thrumming through your body. You can feel the song start to wrap itself around you as you slam your foot down, raising your arms in an arc over your head before your body moves automatically in a complicated series of steps, hips swaying in time to the melody. You begin to sing in earnest, and even though the lyrics are a little embarrassing to sing in front of your friend, you can’t help but notice the way he hasn’t taken his eyes away from you once, and your instructors’ identical impressed looks spur you forward. Your voice and movements carry you to a place no one can reach, and you’re ensnared in the lure your song brings.

 

Right before the chorus begins, Saitou wordlessly brings two fingers to his eyes, then points to Todoroki and you know what he means, and even though you would’ve died from mortification normally, you’re completely in your element and you obey without hesitation, keeping your eyes locked onto your friend’s. Todoroki actually straightens a little at this and you catch Yukimura’s indulgent grin, but you keep going. You can feel the power of your Quirk thrumming through your veins, which brings more power to your voice and movements. After a while, you do look away and continue dancing, uninhibited and free, letting the melody envelop you completely.

 

As you enter the verse right before the final chorus, you rise above the floor to imitate your rising vocals, revolving slowly in a way that imitates zero gravity to reflect its quieter nature, and as you move and sway this way and that, you think you see a glimmer of something faintly pink and glittering in the corner of your eye when you spin, but you don’t have time to examine it closely. Then you slam back down right as you transition back into the heavy beat, keeping your back loose and flexible as you continue. The last note of the song leaves your lips but the music continues for a few seconds longer, then ends abruptly as you strike a finishing pose, feeling beads of perspiration forming on your brow.

 

No one says anything for a moment as you relax, a little out of breath. Singing and dancing simultaneously isn’t exactly tough for you, but you feel considerably more drained than usual, which is strange because this isn’t the first time you’ve performed this song.

 

“Brilliant!” Saitou’s voice makes you jump and you scowl a little at him. He emerges from the booth with Yukimura and Todoroki in tow. You’ve never seen your instructors look so excited. You squawk indignantly as he actually lifts you up and spins you around with a booming laugh. He soon sets you down and you quickly back away a little, safely out of reach. “I can’t believe we got to see that in person!” Saitou says with more enthusiasm than you’ve ever seen from him. “You were absolutely golden!”

 

“Golden…?” you ask, raising an eyebrow. “Wha—”

 

“Oh, I think I’m actually going to cry,” says Yukimura and inhales deeply through her nose, dabbing the corner of her eye with a small handkerchief.

 

“The hell are you going on about…?” you mumble under your breath, completely lost, but your teachers are too emotional to compose themselves to respond.

 

“You grew wings,” Todoroki answers and you actually gape at him.

 

“...What?! But...I don’t have any,” you say, confused.

 

“But you did!” Yukimura actually squeals, grabbing your hands and jumping up and down with the biggest smile you’ve seen from her yet. “You totally had them!” She lets go and looks at you, practically brimming over with pride. “Oh, you looked sooo beautiful with them, (Name)-chan! They were glittery and shiny and super flashy! I can’t even begin to describe how breathtaking you looked!”

 

“You’re kidding, right?” you protest, feeling more bewildered by the minute. “I mean, I think I would’ve felt something bursting from my back, you know?”

 

“They weren’t like your mother’s,” Saitou elucidates. “They sort of just faded in and were more...translucent, I suppose. They only appeared for less than half a minute before they were gone.”

 

You cast a mystified look at Todoroki, who only nods once in agreement. “But...but...that’s never happened before,” you say weakly. “Ever.”

 

“Maybe not in front of us,” muses Yukimura, bringing a hand to her chin in thought. “Are you sure they haven’t manifested before this?”

 

You open your mouth to answer, but then a sudden memory hits you and you’re taken back to the sunset-covered beach after that fateful first day at U.A. where you had first met Midoriya and your voice dies in your throat. You had seen something glittering while you danced then too, but...there’s just no way…you thought that had just been the sunlight reflecting off the water...

 

“I think so,” you finally say in a quiet voice and sincerely hope no one ever finds out. You don’t think you could stand the embarrassment.

 

“Well, okay,” says Saitou thoughtfully, then brightens. “That just means we’ll have to try and make them happen again!” He pays no heed to your very vocal cries of indignation and smiles widely. “We still have to finish the program after all!” He leads Yukimura and Todoroki back into the booth, leaving you grumbling mutinously under your breath.

 

You’re still plenty mortified at having Todoroki witness your routines, but once the music begins, there’s no helping it. The wings apparently do end up appearing again during your next song, which thankfully isn’t nearly so physically demanding, but only for a scant few seconds near the end, and by then, you feel like you’re going to die. You hold your finishing position for only a second before you collapse onto your hands and knees, chest heaving with exertion as you struggle to draw breath. You must look really awful because both of your instructors come bursting out of the booth with looks of extreme concern on their faces.

 

“Hey, hey,” says Yukimura soothingly, patting your cheek gently with a frown. “You’re okay, hon. You’re okay.”

 

Saitou hands you a water bottle and you drink from it gratefully, even though you know you’re not supposed to chug it down. You feel very lightheaded and the room sways for a moment, but when Todoroki kneels down in front of you, faint worry creasing his brow, your vision clears, though you still feel exhausted. “I’m okay, guys,” you say tiredly, waving away their concern. “Just a little tired.”

 

No one speaks for a few moments.

 

“I think,” Saitou says quietly, “that’s enough for today.” He exchanges a look with Yukimura and frowns. “I don’t like the idea stopping your practice so soon, but I don’t want to overwork you either.” He sighs and runs a hand through his hair. “Get some rest, okay? We’ll be back next week.”

 

Yukimura turns to Todoroki beseechingly. “If her condition changes, please alert the staff, okay? They’ll know what to do.”

 

Saitou claps a hand on your shoulder, giving you a little shake before both your instructors exit the room, leaving you alone with Todoroki.

 

“I feel like shit,” you say hoarsely, releasing a breath. “Can you help me up?”

 

Todoroki pulls one of your arms around his shoulder and stands up. You’re too drained to care about how close he is, or even how sweaty you are. You can walk, though only just. The idea of going all the way to your room from here is daunting, even with all your shortcuts, so you weakly give him directions to take you to one of the courtyard gardens to rest for a bit, which is much closer.

 

When you arrive, the place is empty, though the large, trickling fountain in the center soothes you a little. Todoroki sets you down on a nearby recliner and pulls up a chair at your side. For several minutes, you spend it in silence, eyes closed and trying to regulate your breathing. When it feels like you’re not going to pass out anymore, you open them again to see Todoroki gazing off into space.

 

“Not exactly how I planned to show you my Quirk,” you say after a while, and when he looks down at you, you manage a weak smile. “It’s strange...I normally have a lot more stamina than this.”

 

Todoroki doesn’t speak at first. “You might have reached the upper limits of your Quirk,” he remarks pensively. “If that’s true, then it explains why you’re tired.”

 

“Maybe,” you say with a sigh, covering your eyes with your arm. “What a nightmare, though. I’d hate to think how things would’ve turned out if you had been in the same room with me.” Your mind flashes back to Midoriya and your lips twist in a small grimace.

 

He doesn’t have anything to say to this and he stares off toward the fountain without really seeing it, apparently deep in thought. You take your arm away from your face and rest it over your head with a soft sigh, already feeling a little better in the relative quiet, surrounded by carefully-tended flowers of all shapes and sizes. And of course, having Todoroki around is nice too. Already you’ve shown him more than you had ever planned, not intentionally, but you can’t help but wonder what he makes of it. He doesn’t seem to find you repugnant or someone to be fearful of now that it’s all out in the open. In fact, he’s remarkably well-adjusted.

 

When you sit up slowly, you think you see him lift up a hand to help, but upon second glance, it’s resting innocuously on his lap so you’re not really sure if you had just imagined it. And really, you don’t feel all that terrible anymore. Despite how it may seem right now, you’re not exactly fragile. “So...do you want me to start or…?”

 

He stares. “Are you sure you want to after what happened?”

 

You feel a sudden flash of irritation and you scowl. “You’re the one who wanted to do this,” you huff moodily under your breath, looking away. You had spent the entire afternoon agonizing over bringing him over, had practically embarrassed yourself stupid in the studio, and now he’s going to back out? Heat spreads from the back of your neck and across your cheeks in a way that makes you shrink with humiliation and you start to become slightly resentful at his callousness.

 

“I guess that’s true,” he says and your anger slowly dissipates.

 

“It is true,” you retort. Then you inhale slowly and swing your legs over the side, but don’t get up. “I don’t know what will happen to you exactly if you’re this close, so...back up a little.” He complies until he’s about six feet away. “Okay, that’s fine,” you say before swallowing thickly, feeling a sense of trepidation come over you, but you squash it down. Taking a deep breath to steady yourself, you wait for a few moments and wait for your heartbeat to slow down. “I’m...I’m gonna do it now, so...”

 

Your eyes flit up to find his and you almost look away out of reflex, but you remain firm. Much to your surprise, no changes come over him, and though he’s not close enough for you to see his pupils, you’re pretty sure there’s nothing out of the ordinary.

 

“I don’t feel any different,” he confirms after a beat of silence and you frown. Perhaps he’s out of range? If that’s the case, it’s concerning since he’s still very close.

 

You wonder if there’s something wrong with you. “Try taking another step forward?” you suggest hesitantly, and he does. Still, nothing happens. “Another?” No response. Even though he’s right in front of you, close enough for you to see his pupils, they remain their normal size. “Hm...I think... I might have overused my Quirk earlier or something,” you muse thoughtfully, finally looking away and feeling a little unnerved.

 

He takes a seat. “Is that possible?” he asks.

 

You frown, contemplating. “Well...I don’t really know. There are times when I can’t use my Quirk at all, not even to fly. It happens whenever I get a really bad cold and lose my voice. Then I’m basically Quirkless until I get better. It’s not all bad since I don’t have to worry about accidentally enthralling any of the staff while they give me medicine and stuff, but I mean...I’m still sick so I’m usually pretty miserable,” you explain.

 

“I see,” he murmurs. “But you still have your voice now.”

 

“I know, it’s weird,” you sigh. A thought hits you. “What if I can’t use my Quirk anymore?” you add quietly, and a very strange mixture of fear and happiness runs through you for an instant at the possibility.

 

“You won’t know for certain unless you try again,” says Todoroki. He straightens in his seat. “Whenever you’re ready.”

 

You nod and find you’re not nearly as nervous as before. Closing your eyes, you take a deep breath and slowly let it out before opening them again, briefly letting them rest over his scar before flicking upward.

 

At once, his pupils dilate rapidly and his face relaxes, eyelids falling halfway shut, and any tension in his posture leaves. You inhale sharply through your nose in surprise as he actually leans forward using his hand on the back of the recliner to prop himself up, but you don’t let him do anything else and swiftly cut off the flow. He comes to, blinking in mild confusion and then slowly sits back down.

 

Holy fuck, that almost gave me a heart attack…!’ you think, hand on your chest and trying to calm yourself down.

 

“You haven’t lost your Quirk,” he says in a matter of fact voice and you resist the urge to snort.

 

“Yeah, I noticed,” you say dryly. After a bit, you slump a little in your seat and look down at your upturned palms with a grimace. Now that the shock has worn off, you’re left with a bitter taste in your mouth and it won’t go away. If this is what it’s like to enthrall one person on purpose, how can your mother stand doing it to the whole world? Suddenly, you’re overcome with morbid curiosity and open your mouth to speak in spite of yourself.

 

“Hey...did that make you...feel weird?” you ask haltingly, looking up guiltily.

 

Todoroki seems to be considering his next words carefully. “It was kind of like….being drugged,” he finally answers, and at your horrified look, he continues in a more measured voice. “It’s hard to explain. It was as if something was pulling me to you and the thought of resisting never even crossed my mind.” He pauses, finally noticing your hands tightly gripping your knees. “When it stopped, everything was clear again.” Todoroki must see something in your expression because his face softens a little. “I’m fine, so don’t make that face anymore.”

 

“...Oh,” you say in a small voice, lowering your eyes. You still feel awful.

 

“That one isn’t better,” he says.

 

“Well what do you want me to do?!” you snap, then stop, ashamed of yourself. ‘He’s just trying to help and I’m still being a brat,’ you think miserably. “I...I don’t like this at all. It feels wrong...” you mumble, shifting in your seat.

 

He observes you quietly. “We can stop if you want,” he says at last.

 

You nod. “I think we should.” Wrapping your arms around yourself, you press your lips together, wishing the heaviness in the air would leave already. “Maybe we should get started on our homework,” you mutter, changing the subject. “Then you can tell me all the answers.”

 

“Not happening,” he answers without missing a beat. “You won’t learn that way.”

 

Your lips twitch as you fight back a smile. “Jerk,” you mumble under your breath, but you’re sure he hears you.

 

You’re able to make the trek to your room unaided this time despite still feeling a little off, but on the way there, one of the maids, with something of a nervous smile on her face, asks you both if you’d like anything to eat, which surprises you a little, but Todoroki nods his assent before you can answer. You frown at her retreating back for a moment before taking the lead again, lost in thought.

 

Sweetie, be reasonable,” comes your mother’s muffled pleas from behind your bedroom door, which remains steadfastly shut. “You can’t send them away. They do a good job taking care of you while I’m gone.” She sounds upset, but you can’t bring yourself to give a damn. “Please tell me what’s wrong...”

 

It’s none of your fucking business!” you bite back coldly, eyes frigid as the void swallows a little more of your heart, leaving your insides just a little bit emptier. You lie back on your bed, phone hanging loosely from your hand. Risa’s derisive laughter from the week before, along with the other’s scathing comments still echo tauntingly in your head and your face hardens.

 

Shut them out—

 

—shut them all out—

 

—...they can’t hurt me anymore—don’t give them a chance—

 

G   O    A  W  A  Y

 

Darling, please don’t be like that...” says your mother, sounding much more distraught this time. “Haruko told me how you screamed at the staff this afternoon...that you didn’t want them to talk to you ever again...that you didn’t want anyone near you again...” You hear her start to cry and you retreat further into void. “I thought you liked Haruko...” She sniffles. “Please, sweetie...please, just...talk to me...what happened?”

 

You don’t answer and resume staring at the blank screen of your phone, which is just as empty as you are now…

 

Opening the door to your room, you head inside and wait until Todoroki takes a seat in front of a large table before shutting it again. You sit down opposite him and silently begin doing your homework. After a time, you glance up to see him diligently doing the same, though you do occasionally find him gazing curiously up at the high ceilings, the tall, enormous glass doors that let the setting sun filter through which open to a large private balcony that overlooks one of the manor’s decorative gardens.

 

“You okay?” you ask, breaking the silence.

 

He looks back at you and nods. “Your house is pretty big,” is all he has to say, and when you duck your head to hide the snort that very nearly escapes, he actually smiles a little.

 

“Um...yeah, I guess it is,” you remark, struggling to keep a straight face. “Thanks.”

 

Just then, you hear a quiet knock on the door and a maid you think you recognize enters pushing a cart laden with two sets of cups, a large teapot, and a three-tiered tea tray stacked with an array of cookies, sandwiches, and fruit. You shift uncomfortably in your seat, suddenly remembering her as one of the people you had screamed at two summers ago. You don’t meet her eye and instead look the other way as she arranges everything on the table in front of you, but when you feel a gentle hand briefly touch your shoulder, you finally look up, startled. She smiles a little warmly, but doesn’t say anything and exits with a small, respectful bow, leaving you feeling a little lost.

 

If Todoroki finds your little exchange odd, he doesn’t show it and helps himself without comment. You follow his example and take a sandwich from the tray, suddenly ravenous. ‘This is...nice,’ you think, chewing carefully. ‘Maybe I should invite him over more often.’

 

After some time, you look down at the last set of math problems you need to finish and you tap the paper with your pencil. “Hey, I’m completely lost. Can you help me with these?”

 

He nods and you spend some time working on them. It’s much better having him teach you in person, and Todoroki’s quiet voice is patient even as you struggle to get the answers, but you eventually figure out what you’re doing wrong. You can feel yourself swell triumphantly as you finally put your pencil down.

 

“Done!” you announce, sitting back on your seat and stretching. “It’s still kind of early. What do you want to do now?” you ask. “Or...would you rather go home?” Todoroki makes a face and you hastily cover up your easy grin with a cough. “Okay, okay, I got it. We’ll find something else to pass the time then.”

 

The door to your room opens once more, and at first, you think it’s one of the maids again, but when you turn around, your insides suddenly grow cold with dread, then white hot with unbridled fury.

 

“So it is true!” burbles your mother, looking impeccable and impossibly beautiful as always, her eyes zeroing in on Todoroki, who looks faintly stunned. “I was wondering what all the fuss was about until I heard Haruko talking about it earlier and I had to see this special little friend for myself!” She glides into your room with something of a breathless look on her face and stops in front of him. “Oh my, you’re quite handsome, aren’t you?” she says with a giggle that makes you want to vomit. “I’m so happy...it’s been ages since my little star had a guest over!” Your mother tilts her head a little to one side. “Could you...perhaps be Enji’s son?”

 

“Todoroki Shouto,” he answers shortly, and your mother completely misses the way his voice becomes guarded and much lower than you’re used to hearing.

 

“Wonderful! I’d introduce myself, but you probably already know who I am,” she laughs.

 

“What are you doing here?” you interrupt brutally, not bothering to keep the anger from your face.

 

She blinks, her smile freezing in place as she finally looks at you. “Oh, sweetheart, there you are,” she says with distinctly less enthusiasm. “I had to drop by for some things I forgot to take with me this morning and I had some free time, so I thought

 

“I don’t give a flying fuck what your reasons are,” you snarl viciously, rising from your seat and balling your hands into fists. You’re so angry you start to see red. “I’m pretty sure I made myself clear that I didn’t want to see you again.”

 

There’s an ugly, deafening silence. “You mean...what happened yesterday?” she asks tentatively and you finally explode.

 

GET OUT!” you scream, pointing forcefully at the open door. Your insides crawl with disgust when she starts to tear up since you know she’s only putting on a show because Todoroki’s there. Her lower lip trembles for a moment before she finally leaves with a tiny, theatrical sniff. You run over and slam the door behind her, breathing hard through your nose.

 

“Good riddance,” you hiss, returning to your seat with a heavy scowl on your face. Todoroki hasn’t moved, but after a few seconds, you start to feel a little ashamed about losing control in front of him. “Hey, um...sorry about that,” you mumble self-consciously. “We...we don’t exactly get along very well and uh...um...”

 

“I understand,” he says quietly. Of course he does, he would know what having an awful parent is like better than anyone.

 

You fall silent, wondering if you should divulge what an awful person your mother actually is behind all the glitz and glamour before deciding against it. You’re not sure you’re ready to open up all at once like that, and from the looks of it, Todoroki doesn’t expect you to either. Exhaling softly through your nose, you stand up and plop down next to him, pulling your phone closer to you.

 

You spend the rest of the afternoon together watching cat videos in silence until Todoroki can no longer put off going home. You almost consider asking him to spend the night in one of the guest rooms before you stop yourself, feeling mortified. Whoa, dial it back a bit,’ you think to yourself, but he doesn’t seem to notice anything out of the ordinary.

 

You manage to get him home safely without seeing hide nor hair of your mother, which comes as a bit of a relief. Unfortunately, her sickly-sweet perfume still lingers in your room, so you open the doors for a bit to air out the place. Taking a bath doesn’t help you calm down at all and when you finally go to bed, sleep doesn’t come so easily.

 

You’re still in a very bad mood the next morning. Todoroki is waiting for you at the front gates again and while this does help you feel a little better, it’s still not enough. Fortunately, he has enough sense not to mention what happened with your mother and you walk to class together in silence.

 

When you open the door to the classroom, Hagakure bursts into a fit of giggling and Ashido tries shushing her, though rather unsuccessfully since she’s grinning too. Kirishima looks stunned and both Kaminari and Sero groan simultaneously, slumping forward on his desk with identical looks of defeat while Mineta makes a frankly ugly-looking face and screeches incoherently. You don’t know what to make of their strange behavior and head to your seat, passing Midoriya on the way, who has his head lowered and looks extremely upset for some reason. You really couldn’t give less of a damn about the others, but there’s something about his expression that gives you pause.

 

“...Midoriya?” you ask quietly.

 

He lifts his head and turns around in his seat, startled. “Ah, (Surname)-san...go-good morning!” he says, but he’s not very adept at hiding his feelings even as he smiles up at you.

 

You frown. He’s acting really off. “You okay?”

 

He blinks, then quickly recovers. “Y-Yeah, I’m fine. Um...just a little tired this morning, that’s all,” he says a little too brightly.

 

You press your lips together and exhale through your nose. He’s obviously lying, but...if he doesn’t want to tell you, then that’s his business. You walk the rest of the way to your desk and sit down with a scowl. ‘The fuck is everyone’s problem today?’ you muse grouchily.

 

At this point, Aizawa walks in and everyone not sitting scrambles back to their seats. “We’ll be doing some hero training later in the afternoon today,” he drones, and the attentiveness in the room seems to sharpen. “It’s off campus, so we’ll have to take a bus there.”

 

The room erupts into excited cheers, and it seems as though the morning seems to fly by before it’s time to go.

 

After changing into your costumes, you find yourself on your way to the hero training facility, arms crossed and sitting near the back of the bus next to Todoroki, who actually nods off. You silently wonder how he can sleep through all the racket they’re making until his head slumps sideways and rests on your shoulder, which effectively derails your train of thought. You tense under his warm weight and eye him uneasily, but he doesn’t wake up and continues sleeping, so you sigh wearily and leave him there. You don’t have to heart to push him off anyway.

 

“Get a room, you two~” teases Ashido playfully and most of the class turns their heads to have a look.

 

“What a lovey-dovey atmosphere...” sighs Hagakure, and you feel your ears burn with a mixture of resentment and indignation.

 

The fact that they think they can make assumptions about your friendship with Todoroki makes your blood boil. You can’t stand people who run their mouths off without thinking, who butt into your business as if they belonged there, and you feel yourself start to swell with anger. You don’t need social commentary on your life, even if it is false. It’s too reminiscent of last year and frankly, you’re getting pretty tired of this kind of crap. Whatever happens between you two is none of their business and you intend to keep it that way.

 

“You wanna run that by me again?” you growl menacingly, and the temperature on the bus drops by several degrees.

 

The sound of your voice makes Todoroki stir and he sits up with a mumbled ‘sorry’. This brings you back to your senses and you opt to glare out the window, fuming silently. Conversation slowly picks up again and soon, you arrive at your destination.

 

You momentarily forget your ire once you step outside to an absolutely massive domed building. In front of it stands the Space Hero, Thirteen, and they lead the class inside. You can hear both Midoriya and Uraraka babbling excitedly to each other behind you before Thirteen begins to explain that today’s lesson will focus on using Quirks for rescuing during disaster situations.

 

“That’s how I came to develop this area precisely for that purpose. Unforeseen Simulation Joint, or USJ for short,” they clarify. They proceed to explain a couple of things before the class heads for a rocky, mountainous area. “You’ll be simulating a rescue operation down this chasm in groups,” Thirteen informs everyone. “I’ve provided some materials for you to work with, but feel free to use your Quirks as you see fit, though be very careful. I wouldn’t want anyone getting hurt.”

 

Some of your classmates peer over the edge in amazement, and you don’t really blame them. You can barely see the bottom from here. Vaguely, you wonder how the groups are going to be divided until Thirteen effectively puts a stop to your train of thought by choosing Uraraka, Iida, and Midoriya as the civilians being rescued.

 

You don’t really mind being around the latter so much anymore, but you sincerely hope you don’t have to work with the other two. You still haven’t forgotten the looks they had given you yesterday.

 

“Then the rescuers will be Bakugou, Todoroki, (Surname), and Tokoyami,” Aizawa intones and when you open your mouth furiously to protest, he fixes you with a look that could honestly stop a train, so you remain silent, stewing in your own anger.

 

As preparations begin underway, Midoriya approaches you with a small, friendly smile that falters a little at the dark look on your face, though you make an effort to keep your irritation under control. “Um...I hope this training exercise goes well today, (Surname)-san. Let’s both do our best,” he says, and your expression softens a little at his voice, which is a little subdued and not at all like himself.

 

You make a noncommittal noise and nod once. Something’s definitely eating at him…

 

“I’m sure you won’t have many problems with Todoroki-kun around to help,” he says after a moment and his smile becomes even more tenuous. “You two seem to get along well. I’m glad.”

 

For some reason, you don’t want to see that look on his face anymore. It feels...wrong, somehow. Like he’s trying too hard to be happy even though he isn’t. The way his eyebrows furrow slightly even though he’s clearly trying so hard to be pleasant is painful to watch. You’re suddenly struck with an intense desire for him to look eager and optimistic again, to have the regular Midoriya back. Not this...person that seems to have replaced him.

 

“Why wouldn’t we? Todoroki and I are...friends, I suppose,” you mumble. The corner of his smile hitches a little and his shoulder slump the slightest bit and your chest constricts. You sniff and turn away, feeling conflicted and confused. Since when have I started worrying about this guy?’ you ruminate, then push the thought away. Yeah, right. You just want him to feel better, that’s all.

 

“O-Oh, that’s...great,” he mutters, twiddling his thumbs and lowering his gaze to the ground.

 

At this, you turn to him and fix him with a hard stare. “And...we’re friends too,” you declare, then feel your cheeks heat up with embarrassment when his head snaps back up in astonishment, jaw slackening and eyes impossibly wide.

 

“We...we are?” he squeaks, looking as though this is more than he had dared hope for.

 

Your entire face feels hot enough to fry an egg on now and you cross your arms, feeling incredibly awkward at the way he’s staring at you. “I guess,” you say under your breath, but Midoriya apparently hears you because his face splits into the happiest, most heartwarming smile you’ve ever seen. Even though you’re still incredibly embarrassed, you can’t help but feel relieved to see him back to his old self again.

 

He laughs a little nervously and rubs the back of his head. Just as he opens his mouth to say something, a furious yell full of expletives makes you both pause and turn toward the source of the noise.

 

Bakugou’s face is contorted with fury and he marches purposefully toward Todoroki before grabbing his collar roughly. Todoroki doesn’t seem fazed at all and only surveys him coldly while the rest of the class looks on in apprehension. Something inside you goes still and you quickly run over, your anger suddenly reemerging with a vengeance.

 

Your friend slaps Bakugou’s hand away with a scornful grimace and walks off, muttering to himself. Now that you’re this close, you see the way Bakugou begins to tense up, how his jaw seems to tighten, and he swivels around with a snarl only to find his way blocked.

 

Back. Off,” you mutter lowly, muscles locked in anticipation and feeling your pulse thrumming in your ears. Bakugou towers over you, but he doesn’t intimidate you in the slightest. All you know is that you can’t stand the sight of him, from his stupid spiky blond hair down to his rotten attitude, and just thinking that he had the gall to even lay a finger on Todoroki makes your blood boil.

 

Bakugou looks stunned, but it only lasts a second. “What, you tryin’ to start something with me, bitch?” he growls vehemently, and there’s something in that contemptuous smirk of his that has you seeing red. “That half-and-half bastard thinks he’s too good to fight me, so he’s got his little lapdog to defend him?”

 

“The fuck did you just call me?” you retort furiously, hands balling into tight fists. “You’ve got some nerve, asshole…!”

 

He actually snorts derisively and it’s all you can do to keep from pummeling him to the ground. “You must think you’re pretty hot shit for someone with a useless Quirk like yours,” he jeers. Miniature explosions go off in his upturned hands, clearly meant to intimidate you but you only get even angrier. “I don’t care if you are a girl, I’ll still wipe the floor with you.”

 

“Oh, kind of like how we wiped the floor with you during the battle simulation test?” you sneer and feel a vicious surge of satisfaction when a muscle twitches in his jaw. “Oops, did I just hit a nerve, Bakugou?”

 

Barely giving you any time to react, he lunges forward with a snarl and you barely manage to avoid the explosion the goes off in his outstretched hand and your temper rises to a fever-pitch. Everything that you had been holding back until that moment comes bursting forth and you tackle him to the ground, teeth clenched in a murderous expression as you raise your fist to bring it down on his stupid, infuriating face. You’re dimly aware of the cries of shock from your classmates as you land a heavy blow on his cheek at the same time another explosion goes off against your side, but you barely feel the burn as your blood pulses in your ears.

 

Suddenly, you feel someone pulling you away in a vice grip and you struggle to break free, kicking and screaming in anger while Kirishima restrains Bakugou, who sports a swollen cheek and returns your insults in earnest.

 

“That’s enough!” barks Aizawa, eyes gleaming red and hair standing on end. Nobody moves except you and Bakugou, who are both breathing hard. “(Surname). Come here. Now.” His voice leaves no room for argument. The tight grip underneath your arms loosens and you pull away roughly from Midoriya with a heavy scowl. “Bakugou. You stay there with Thirteen.”

 

Aizawa leads you some distance away from the class, but still within earshotyou have a sneaking suspicion this is done on purposeand fixes you with a glare so frigid your shoulders hunch forward defensively. For a moment, he doesn’t speak, but his cold disapproval is so apparent that you actually start to feel a little ashamed of yourself. “I’m sure I don’t need to explain what you both did wrong,” he says, irritation lining his exasperated face. “But I’d think,” he harshly interrupts as you open your mouth to speak, “that you of all people would show a bit more restraint after I what I told you the other day.”

 

You can’t think of an answer to this and grip the fabric of your dress in your hands. From behind him, you see the entire class watching your entire exchange with a variety of expressions ranging from worry to apprehension. Some distance away, Bakugou is getting heavily reprimanded by Thirteen with an extremely sour look on his face, and though it does momentarily bring you some savage pleasure at seeing him so uncomfortable, humiliation at being scolded like a child soon wins out and you lower your head, seething.

 

“I don’t have the time or energy to educate stupid people who can’t settle their differences without escalating it into a brawl,” he continues, fixing you with a hard glare. “Your behavior was completely unacceptable for U.A. students and if it ever happens again, I will not hesitate to expel you both. Do you understand me?” He doesn’t yell, but cold fury radiates from him in waves and you soon find it difficult to look at him.

 

“Yes, sir,” you mumble, your eyes lowering to the ground. You press your lips together tightly as a burning sensation crawls up your throat. Frankly, you’re pretty frustrated with yourself. It’s hard to admit, but Aizawa is right. You know you had no excuse to pick a fight, but you were just so angry. Had you been in a normal state of mind, you doubt you would have risen to the bait. You want to be a hero so much it hurts, just like All Might. What would he say if he had seen you acting so disgracefully? What would he think of you? Just the thought of your idol giving you the same look of disapproval that Aizawa has is almost too much and your shoulders begin to shake.

 

Aizawa lets out a sigh. “I’m not sure what’s going on, to tell you the truth,” he says much more quietly so that you doubt anyone else but you can hear him. “I’ve been observing you all week and it looked like you took my advice to heart at first. I rarely see you without Todoroki now and it appears as though you’ve started looking to form alliances with your other classmates, Midoriya in particular.” He slides his hands into his pockets and you look up in surprise to see that he doesn’t look angry anymore, just pensive. “It looked like you were making progress, however small, but then you got into a fight, so I don’t know what to think.” He frowns. “It doesn’t seem as though school is the problem, so that just leaves

 

A strange movement from behind Aizawa catches your eye and he tenses, turning around just in time to see a dark, swirling vortex appear in the empty space in front of the class. “Isn’t this surprising?” it says, and a chill sweeps through you. “We didn’t expect everyone to be all the way out here, but no matter. This can still be easily rectified. The League of Villains will proceed as planned.” A pair of bright yellow eyes materialize in the void that only grows larger and more menacing, and before anyone has time to move, it suddenly expands and engulfs everyone in darkness.

 

You try to yell, but no sound comes out and suddenly, you’re filled with the sensation of falling and when you open your eyes, all you see is black. It seems to last forever, but then all at once, light fills your vision and you actually are hurtling toward the ground headfirst with your hair whipping past your face and air stinging your eyes. You plummet several feet with a panicked yelp before you suddenly remember and right yourself, slowing your descent and lightly landing amid what looks like a city of ruined buildings.

 

“What...what just happened…?” you ask yourself weakly. You look around at the damaged structures on either side of you, but as far as you can tell, you’re all alone. “...Did...he just say...The League of Villains…?”

 

“That’s right, girl,” says a voice somewhere behind you, and you spin around in horror to see a much older man with dark, spiky protrusions on his head that make him look like a sea urchin come crawling out from behind a large piece of rubble. Even as he speaks, more and more strangers emerge, all with menacing grins on their faces and you back away slowly, ice cascading in your stomach. “We’re here to destroy the Symbol of Peace, but we don’t mind killing a couple of kids along the way.”

 

“How’d you like to be our first volunteer?” cackles a woman with wild shaggy hair, and before you can react, she throws a deadly-looking spear aimed right for your face.

 

You throw yourself to the side just as the tip grazes your cheek and you can hear them jeering, but before you can fly any higher, a sharp tug on your leg yanks you back down and you hit the ground so hard you can’t breathe. Derisive laughter fills your ears and as their footsteps draw closer, you struggle fruitlessly to remove the large plant root wrapped around your leg, which only tightens, making you cry out in pain.

 

“The pretty little bird wants to fly away to safety,” taunts another villain, his arms a tangle of roots. He doesn’t let you go and only watches with savage amusement on his face as you continue struggling to break free. “But it’s not going to do you any good. No one’s coming to rescue you!”

 

White hot anger quickly replaces some of your panic as the villains begin to close ranks. ‘I am NOT gonna die here!’ you think furiously. For an instant, Todoroki’s face flashes across your mind and it’s as though the world slows down until there’s no sound at all except for your pounding heartbeat in your ears. Then you slowly take a deep breath with a deep sense of foreboding. You don’t want to do it, but you’re out of options.

 

You begin softly at first, but your voice quickly grows in strength as you sing a simple harmony, one of the vocal exercises that you were practicing just yesterday, but it’s enough. The tight grip on your leg loosens and you slowly rise to your feet, feeling the power of your Quirk pulsing outward in waves. You don’t stop singing even though you can see their dazed expressions and it’s as if hundreds of delicate threads weave themselves tightly around their now docile forms.

 

Then you quickly turn around and take off, cutting off the flow just as you land on top of a nearby building, now hidden from view. You hear their initial confusion which quickly turns into anger, but you don’t stick around and keep jumping from atop of buildings until you’ve put some distance away. You soon notice an opening on one of them and duck inside, feeling your heart pounding a mile a minute.

 

Your breathing is just starting to slow down when you suddenly feel someone roughly pin you against the wall, hand clamped tightly over your mouth, rendering you immobile and effectively cutting off any hope you have left.

Chapter Text

Pain bursts from the back of your head as it hits the wall behind you roughly, and you cry out from how much it hurts right before a large gloved hand clamps over your mouth. Eyes watering, you try to get your bearings, but it’s difficult to see anything at the moment and you breathe hard through your nose, chest heaving. You make a weak attempt to break free, but whoever has you pinned only presses you further back against the wall. A low groan escapes your throat as you stir feebly and you’re about to try enthralling your attacker when you hear a horribly familiar voice very close to your face.

 

“Thought you could fucking get the jump on me again, huh?” snarls Bakugou in a low growl. Intense dislike courses through your veins and you open your eyes a fraction. There’s no trace of that condescending smirk you saw before and a large vein pulses on his cheek, which is still swollen, though not nearly as much as before. Your vision starts to swim and you close your eyes again. “You won’t be so lucky this time, you stupid bitch!”

 

His voice is way too loud. You’d tell him to put a sock in it if he didn’t have his hand over your mouth. You bite the thick material of his glove as hard as you can, but it doesn’t do you any good. He’s at least several inches taller than you, a fact that’s becoming increasingly hard to ignore that longer you’re in this vulnerable position, but at the moment, all you want is to get away.

 

Suddenly, he’s pulled away from you roughly and you stagger forward with a grunt of pain. For some reason, it’s very hard to keep your balance and your knees buckle underneath you, hitting the hard ground below and you only barely manage to throw your arms out to steady yourself. The ringing in your ears is slow to fade, and when it does, you hear the tail-end of a very loud, furious argument.

 

“...at her, man! I don’t care how angry you are, that’s no reason to pick a fight!” says Kirishima angrily.

 

“Like I give a shit! Fucking bitch deserved it!”

 

Kirishima sighs in exasperation and kneels down to your level, which only seems to enrage Bakugou further judging by the amount of curses he throws your way, but Kirishima ignores him and slowly sits you back on your knees. This simple action proves to be too much and the world lurches horribly. Falling forward again, you squeeze your eyes shut, expecting to hit the ground again only to land against Kirishima, who grabs you gently by the shoulders but doesn’t move you away.

 

“Whoa, you don’t look so good,” he mutters in concern. His voice rumbles in his chest and you inhale sharply through your nose, fighting back the wave of nausea that hits you out of nowhere. “Uh, can you stand?”

 

You start to shake your head, but this sends a painful lurch shooting white hot across your skull and you stop. “No….m’really dizzy,” you mumble. “Stomach hurts...head...awful...”

 

“O-Oh okay, um...lemme just...” He tilts you back slowly and tucks his arms underneath your knees, cradling you gently against his bare chest and lifting you up. His heartbeat is pretty loud against your ear and you turn away feebly with a whimper of complaint, but it’s all you can manage to do. “We need to get you to Recovery Girl...” he mumbles to himself.

 

You feel like you’re forgetting something really important...

 

“Bet you’re having the time of your life, huh, Shitty Hair?” mutters Bakugou spitefully, almost petulant.

 

“Dude, not the time,” is all Kirishima says in reply and you have to admire the guy for keeping his cool around someone as volatile as Bakugou. He adjusts you in his arms to get a better grip, but the slight jostle makes you whimper a little, your head pounding painfully, but less pronounced than before. “Aw, crap...sorry about that,” he mutters apologetically. There’s several seconds of silence where all you can hear is Kirishima’s breathing.

 

“You just gonna keep staring at her or what?” scoffs Bakugou contemptuously and Kirishima’s entire body grows warm amid his spluttering.

 

“Oh my God, just shut the fuck up already,” you grumble. You open your eyes a little and turn your head to look over at Bakugou who appears livid. Your thoughts remain strangely disconnected, but you suddenly remember how you ended up here and you fix him with a frigid scowl. “Listen, asshole, as much as I want to kick your face in, we’ve got bigger problems.” You look up at Kirishima, who seems to be fighting back both fear and worry from showing on his face, though he’s doing a very poor job of it. “I don’t know what’s going on exactly, but I ran into a whole bunch of villains who said they’re here to...kill All Might...I think. I only just got away.”

 

“Are you serious?” asks Kirishima in alarm. “Where are they now?”

 

You wince a little and briefly close your eyes against the dull, steady throb threatening to split your head open. “Probably surrounding this building right now thanks to the racket you two have been making. Nice going, by the way,” you add dryly.

 

Right on cue, several villains appear through crumbling windows and large gaps in the walls, all sporting bloodthirsty grins. “Look, the pretty bird found her little friends for us,” says the one who had almost trapped you earlier, the roots from his arms extending menacingly around him. “That makes things so much easier!”

 

“Look, she’s hurt,” cackles another, baring his fangs. “Can’t pull any more of your little tricks to get away from us anymore, can you?”

 

“Tricks…?” echoes Kirishima faintly, but the cold trickle of fear crawling down your spine spurs you to move. You wriggle free and land unsteadily on your feet, though this brings another round of nausea that takes all of your willpower not to expel the contents of your stomach right then and there. Noticing this, Kirishima steps in front of you protectively, fists raised defensively. “Hey, don’t move too much right now,” he instructs. “I won’t let anything happen to you while I’m here.”

 

A savage-looking woman with tightly coiled hair laughs derisively and the other villains join in. “Did you hear that?!” she screeches with almost indecent delight. “He thinks he actually has a chance! As if he can protect anyone! Face it, you little brats...you’re outnumbered twenty to one!”

 

“Bring it on, you ugly fucks!” snarls Bakugou, palms upturned and smoking ominously. “You don’t scare me!”

 

That’s all the provocation needed. Suddenly everyone leaps forward and chaos erupts in the enclosed space. There’s a tangled mess of flying limbs as punches are thrown and the smoke from Bakugou’s explosions further adds to the confusion so that it’s hard to see anything at first. You slowly sink back against the wall, throat tight with frustration and fear. As you witness Kirishima land several, well-placed blows against three villains at once, you curse your helplessness and clench your hands into fists. You want to help, but you can barely stand, let alone fight. It’s a huge blow to your pride. Had it been Todoroki or even Midoriya fending off these attacks from villains, you might have accepted it, but the thought of needing protection from absolutely anyone else is abhorrent considering how long you’ve been self-sufficient.

 

Nothing stopping you from using your Quirk…’ But how can you without enthralling both Bakugou and Kirishima? Just using it on the villains earlier made your skin crawl even though you had a very good reason to and you’re not exactly keen on doing it again. Besides…

 

Seeing your mother yesterday only made your hatred for your cursed power all the more apparent. Getting used to it is the first step in becoming just like her.

 

And you’d rather die than let that happen.

 

You watch as Bakugou lets off a series of explosions that spell several villains’ demise while Kirishima picks off another who is dumb enough to try to get close. It’s not at all like you see in movies where the bad guys simply wait their turn to throw a punch. It’s messy and brutal, and the longer you watch, the more you realize that these villains aren’t coordinated at all. At times, their Quirks actually hinder each other, and that split-second hesitation is more than enough time for Bakugou and Kirishima to make quick work of them. That’s not to say that those two are any more organized than the villains, but between Bakugou’s explosions and Kirishima’s hardening, they compliment each other very well and quickly gain the upper hand.

 

The fighting ends just as swiftly as it begins. Your ears aren’t ringing so much anymore, though you still feel a bit sick.

 

“Looks like that’s the last of them.” Kirishima turns to you with a worried crease between his eyebrows. “You feeling any better?” he asks softly and you nod your assent.

 

“I’m not so dizzy anymore, if that’s what you’re wondering. My head’s still pounding, though,” you mutter and Kirishima frowns.

 

“That’s not good. Just try not to move so much, okay?” he says, extending a helpful hand out to your shoulder.

 

“It’s fine!” you snap, brushing him away. His expression falls a little and you click your tongue and look away, ignoring the guilty stab in your chest and pointing to the ground at your feet, which are hovering a few inches off the floor. “Look...there’s no problem if I do this.” You sniff and fiddle with the brooch on your chest. “See?”

 

“Nice thinking!” says Kirishima, brightening up almost immediately and giving you a blinding smile that kind of hurts to look at.

 

“Who cares?” retorts Bakugou disparagingly. “That doesn’t change the fact that we had to protect her sorry ass.”

 

“No thanks to you, fuckmunch,” you say with a scowl. “You’re the one who gave me a concussion.”

 

“I’ll give you something a lot worse if you don’t shut the fuck up!” Bakugou snarls, explosions crackling in his upturned palms.

 

“Why don’t you shut up first?! Can’t you do anything without screaming like a lunatic?!” you retaliate furiously, hands balling into fists. “God, you’re so fucking annoying!”

 

“THE FUCK DID YOU JUST SAY?!”

 

“Can you guys please stop fighting for one second?!” Kirishima yells, which brings your arguing to a screeching halt. He heaves a large sigh and straightens. “Look, I know you’re both mad, but that’s not going to do us any good right now. What about our classmates?”

 

You’re strongly tempted to say, “Who cares?” but the thought of Todoroki and Midoriya getting attacked somewhere you can’t get to is sobering. The fact that you don’t see anyone else around you makes you wonder what happened, or even if they’re still alive. Swallowing, you straighten your back despite the dull ache in your head and take in a deep breath, exhaling slowly.

 

“Something’s been bothering me,” you murmur quietly, which gets both of their attention. “Those villains that attacked us said they wanted to kill All Might, but I can’t really see any of them standing a chance against him, even if they went all out. He’s way too powerful.”

 

“What’s your point?” scoffs Bakugou.

 

You ignore the jab. “Don’t you think that was awfully arrogant of them? Why would they brag about a battle they know they can’t win?” Your eyes narrow seriously at your next words. “Unless...the only reason they would do that...is that they definitely have something that can destroy the Symbol of Peace for good.”

 

The stunned silence that follows spirals horribly in the wake of this revelation. After a few seconds, Kirishima speaks up, his voice faint. “No way...you really think…?”

 

“It’s the only thing that makes sense,” you insist forcefully. “The villains we encountered weren’t all that strong if two high school students could take them out.”

 

“So we got stuck with the small fry?” interjects Bakugou, who looks insulted.

 

“What about everyone else?” asks Kirishima frantically, losing his cool completely. “Where did they go?”

 

You shake your head. “I don’t know. But it’s suspicious how the villains managed to infiltrate USJ without setting off any alarms. Look,” you say, pointing to the row of lights set high above you. “It would normally be brighter than this, wouldn’t it? But they’re all blown out.”

 

“That means the sensors to ward off intruders are most likely down as well,” mutters Bakugou, evidently thinking hard. “This isn’t just some random attack then. This was planned.”

 

“Whoa, I think this is the first time I’ve seen you acting so calm and rational,” says Kirishima in awe with something akin to respect on his face. “It’s so different from how you usually are!”

 

“I’M ALWAYS CALM AND RATIONAL, SHITHEAD!” Bakugou snaps furiously, setting off miniature explosions in his hands.

 

Putting that aside,” you interject through your teeth as a particularly nasty throb pounds inside your head, “what we need to do right now is assess the situation. See exactly what we’re up against and with any luck, maybe find some of our classmates. Let’s just hope they’re still alive...” you add morosely.

 

“Hey, don’t joke about that...” Kirishima says weakly.

 

You ignore him and make a decision. “I think I should scout ahead and let you guys know if it’s safe or not.”

 

“Who the fuck put you in charge?!” interrupts Bakugou viciously, a vein going off in his temple. “You’re just like that half-and-half bastard, always deciding things on your own!”

 

“Will you just drop it already?” you snap, holding a hand to your temple. “You’re driving me nuts...”

 

“Bakugou, you shouldn’t agitate her. She’s still hurt, remember?” says Kirishima tentatively.

 

Like I give a fuck!”

 

“It’s because you make too much noise, you idiot!” you interrupt brusquely, putting a halt to their bickering. “Look, your Quirk isn’t exactly suited for stealth, and if there are more villains around, you’ll just be painting a huge target on your back.” You cross your arms and wait for Bakugou’s rebuttal, but when one doesn’t come, you sigh through your nose satisfactorily. “I rest my case.”

 

“Hold on!” interjects Kirishima, who looks extremely alarmed now. “You’re going alone?”

 

You raise an eyebrow. “Well...yeah, that was the idea.”

 

Kirishima looks torn and struggles to speak for a moment. “This...doesn’t feel right, sending you all by yourself. What if something happens to you?” He looks pained at the very thought and his brow furrows with worry.

 

You hesitate for only a second. “I’ll be careful,” you answer calmly, rising several more inches off the floor.

 

“But

 

“It’s fine,” you say firmly. “I’ll only be gone a few minutes. In the meantime, stay hidden, okay? I’ll be back soon.”

 

With those parting words, you leave through one of the open windows and fly over to the roof of the next building over, listening hard for any signs there might be a villain nearby hiding in the shadows, but nothing comes. Despite your previous assurances to Kirishima, you still feel a little woozy, but you’re determined to hang on. Soaring higher than ever, you feel an overwhelming sense of relief that the entrance to USJ isn’t too far away, so if the worst comes, you’ll know where the exit is. You can see the various disaster zones at this height, and you pause for a moment, surveying the area.

 

A reflective, glittering light catches your eye and you turn to find the landslide zone nearby covered in a huge swath of ice.

 

Todoroki...’

 

Your breath catches in your throat at the sight and you completely forget what you came up here to do, blinded by concern for your friend. You start to fly over, but a large surge of electricity in the distance catches your attention and you stop yourself just in time. ‘Right...I’m supposed to do some recon,’ you remind yourself and you grit your teeth. It kills you not to jump into action, but you restrain yourself with great difficulty and remain in place.

 

The central plaza is littered with fast-moving figures clearly in the middle of a skirmish, though you can’t tell who it is from this distance, let alone who’s winning. A little distance further away, you suddenly see a giant explosion of water rise up in a plume, though it settles quickly enough and you frown. It appears as though there’s fighting all around you, which confirms your suspicions. There are many more villains than you accounted for, which doesn’t bode well for anyone in Class 1A.

 

With a pensive frown, you head over back to Kirishima and Bakugou, who grow alert at your reappearance. “We’re too far away from any of the action for me to see clearly,” you say immediately, holding up a hand when Bakugou opens his mouth furiously to reply. “But what I do know is that we’re completely surrounded. There’s villains everywhere and that guy who warped us earlier managed to separate the entire class from the looks of it.”

 

“No way...” breathes Kirishima, stunned. “What about Aizawa-sensei and Thirteen? Did you see them?”

 

You shake your head. “I don’t know where anyone is except Todoroki, who’s probably in the landslide area next to us. There’s a huge number of people fighting in the central plaza, so I think one of the teachers might be there.”

 

“Then that’s where we go,” growls Bakugou with a wicked grin, explosions bursting from his palms. He’s clearly eager for a fight. “I can take out all those losers!”

 

“This isn’t a game, Bakugou!” says Kirishima with a scowl. “Everyone is in danger right now!”

 

“He’s right,” you sigh, running a hand across the back of your neck, which aches a little. “We really need to get everyone out of here as soon as possible, especially if the villains have something to kill All Might himself at their disposal. Even you don’t stand a chance against that, Bakugou,” you intone severely.

 

“Tch!” You frankly don’t like the ugly look on his face, but for once, he doesn’t reply and turns away, fuming silently.

 

“If it’s all the same to you,” you begin after a moment of silence, “I’m going to head over to the landslide area. See if anyone else besides Todoroki is there.” You ignore Kirishima’s faint protests and turn away. “If you run into any of our classmates, tell them to head for the exit. From what I gathered, it wasn’t blocked or anything, but be careful. And be ready for anything.” With that said, you take off, flying through the air towards the ice you saw earlier.

 

It’s still there the closer you get to it, and you’re actually struck dumb by what you see. In the distance, you didn’t even notice the number of villains frozen to the ground, but there they are, shivering from the ice encasing their bodies. Their eyes follow you as you soar overhead, but they can’t do much more than grimace and you land some distance away, brushing away some of the dirt on your dress.

 

“(Surname)!” you hear a voice call out from behind you and you actually sag a little with relief at the sound of your friend’s voice. You turn around to see Todoroki headed your way.

 

“You...you’re okay!” you say breathlessly to yourself, but he must have heard you because when he stops a few feet away, he frowns a bit.

 

“Were you worried?” he asks, confused.

 

You hesitate a little, feeling a little embarrassed because of course Todoroki can take care of himself, he’s probably the strongest one in your class. Still, there’s no denying the relief at seeing your friend alive and well and you let out a small huff, lowering your head. “Yeah...a little,” you mumble, scuffing the ground with your foot.

 

He can’t seem to find anything to say to this and instead steps closer, eyes narrowing a little as they take in your appearance. You feel rather than see his gaze traveling from the scorch mark ruining the side of your obi from where Bakugou had hit you earlier, the dark bruise forming around your ankle, the half-healed cut still smarting on your cheek, and the way you still sway slightly in place because the ground underneath your feet still isn’t as steady as you remember.

 

“You’re hurt,” he says at length, and there’s something in his voice you’ve never heard before.

 

“I’ll be okay,” you say, attempting to smile faintly but only manage a grimace as your head throbs painfully and you bring a hand to it. “I was just...caught unawares by a horde of villains, that’s all.” You hold up a reassuring hand as he steps even closer, and from this distance, you can see anger starting to appear on his face. “They all got knocked out by Kirishima and Bakugou, though,” you add, and his expression clears somewhat. “Todoroki, I’m fine. Really.”

 

“I see,” he mutters.

 

“Anyway, that’s not really important right now. The League of Villains came here to destroy All Might and everyone got split up. We didn’t really run into anyone super powerful, though,” you say, crossing your arms. “I think that idiot Bakugou’s headed for the plaza, though, even though I told him not to.”

 

“What makes you say that?”

 

“Because that’s where a majority of the fighting’s taking place, and I can already tell he’s out for blood. That hotheaded moron doesn’t ever listen to anyone,” you growl. The furrow in your brow clears and you look up at your friend with concern. “Still...the fact that there’s a battle going on there means that there’s a teacher there, doesn’t it?”

 

“What are you suggesting?” says Todoroki, eyes narrowing.

 

“I think...well...I’m not sure what can be done, but...they obviously planned to overwhelm us with sheer numbers. And...you’re good at subduing lots of villains at once. So maybe we can help them until help arrives,” you suggest.

 

“What about you?” he asks.

 

“I’ll be backing you up, of course!” you say, straightening. “And if something goes wrong, I can use my Quirk. It worked on the villains who tried to get me.”

 

“I see. Let’s go then.”

 

You nod and take off, your long hair whipping behind you. Not too far behind, Todoroki follows, using his ice to keep pace as you both head for the central plaza. Your heartbeat is pounding at the thought of meeting up with more villains, and though you are afraid of what you’ll find, you’re not as worried as you can be with Todoroki at your side.

 

Despite that...no matter how confident you sounded earlier, you still find it hard to use your Quirk. ‘But if it makes a difference in saving someone’s life, then there shouldn’t be a problem,’ you think, trying to reassure yourself.

 

The sight in front of you makes you stop dead, however. Unconscious villains litter the ground here and there but you’re not paying attention to any of them. Your blood runs cold at Aizawa’s broken, bloody body held tight by a truly monstrous...you’re not even sure what to call it. The…thing has the body of a massive human, powerfully-built and muscled, but any resemblances stop there. Its brain peeks out of its head with two, beady eyeballs situated in it, all merging into a blunt, beak-like face. As you watch in horror, its large hand smashes your teacher’s face into the ground while two figures look on, the warp villain and another skinny, pale-looking guy with disembodied hands all over his arms, neck, and face.

 

“Aizawa-sensei…!” you whisper, hands flying to your mouth as you fight down the urge to be violently sick. It’s too much, it all too much and the scent of blood fills the air and threatens to choke you until you can barely breathe. Your teacher’s cries of agony cut through you and you can’t bring yourself to see him suffer anymore.

 

Despite your fear, rage quickly builds up in your heart and you grit your teeth. Leave him alone!” you scream, flying forward as fast as you can, faintly hearing Todoroki’s cry of surprise, but all you can think of is getting Aizawa away from that monster as soon as you can.

 

“A fairy?” murmurs the villain with the hands, tilting his head quizzically in your direction. “No...just another UA brat...” He raises an arm, pointing at you. “Nomu...hold her back.”

 

Before you can even have time to react, the creature turns with a speed you didn’t think was possible and covers you in its shadow, blocking everything else from view. Your breath dies in your throat at the sense of overwhelming danger before you, but before you can even think to get away, its massive hand grabs both of your arms in a vice-like grip, stopping you painfully mid-flight. A hoarse cry escapes your throat before you immediately start struggling, but it jerks your arms up over your head and holds them there. The movement jostles you so much and for a second, you can barely think as the dull throb in your head suddenly becomes a sharp, white-hot pain that feels as though your brain’s been cleaved in two.

 

You think you briefly pass out from the agony because the next thing you know, you’re being held up to the hand villain. “...not much to her,” he’s saying, but the words take an eternity to process, bouncing around your head and refusing to settle. “...like that wretched woman...”

 

“(Surname)-san!” comes Midoriya’s voice, and the amount of fear and worry in it clears the fog in your head, though only slightly.

 

Distantly, you hear two more pairs of rapid footsteps converging on your location, but you can’t see who it is from this angle.

 

“This is what happens when you underestimate the League of Villains,” the blue-haired guy says, amusement clearly evident in his voice, and it’s apparent that he finds your pain laughable, enjoyable, even. “Maybe if I kill her, we’ll wipe that smile off All Might’s face. Imagine how powerless he’d feel, knowing one of his precious UA students died because he wasn’t there to save her…!” A high-pitched, almost childish laughter comes from behind the hand covering his face.

 

The grip covering your arms tightens suddenly, and you tense up, clenching your teeth against the dull ache beginning to spread from it. You won’t give them the satisfaction, and even though you know your death is imminent, you won’t let them see you die a coward. You’ll fight until the very end. You open your mouth to sing, uncaring of who hears you now, but then the Nomu clenches so tightly that the only the thing that comes out is a scream of agony, the sound wrenched from your throat seemingly without end. The blinding pain doesn’t stop, and in that instant, a sharp crack splits the air and you know that your arms are broken. Tears stream down your cheeks as you desperately try to flee, but it’s no use.

 

Somewhere from far away, you can hear someone screaming your name, but it’s lost amid your agonized cries and the Nomu lifts you up higher as you dangle helplessly in its grasp.

 

For an instant, your eyes meet the Nomu’s beady ones and even though you feel the power of your Quirk echoing through your veins, the faint threads that bind you to anyone you enthrall seem to dissolve before they can wrap themselves around its massive form. Somehow, even though it should be impossible…!

 

There’s no way…! How can it—?!’

 

A frigid chill sweeps through the air and for only a split second, the grip on your arms loosens, but it’s all you need. You tear yourself away even though the pain almost makes you pass out a second time, but you desperately hang on. You arms, already swelling up, dangle uselessly at your sides and you collapse on the floor some distance away, which is frozen solid. You take large gulps of air as you raise your eyes to see the creature almost completely frozen in ice.

 

An arm encircles your shoulder protectively, and though you would ordinarily have skinned anyone alive if they even so much as thought about touching you, you can’t bring yourself to care at this moment in time. Your arms feel as though they’ve been stabbed with millions of hot needles and the sight of them twisted and bent at wrong angles makes you want to throw up.

 

“It’s okay, I got you,” says Kirishima, voice straining with a mixture of anger and worry. He curses softly as he takes in your injuries and his arm around you tightens very slightly.

 

“These UA brats just keep coming,” mumbles the blue-haired villain. He irritably scratches at his neck. “Always trying to play the hero...” His breathing becomes ragged with anger. “I’m so sick of it…!”

 

Before you can do anything else, the entrance to USJ blows wide open and everyone turns to a sight that would, had you not already been sitting, have made you collapse with relief. The Symbol of Peace, your hero, strides into the area and his booming voice echoes throughout.

 

“It’s fine now!” he declares, and there’s something a lot more forceful in his normally jovial voice that you’re not accustomed to hearing. “Why? Because I am here!”

 

“All...Might...” breathes Midoriya in awe. “He’s...not smiling...”

 

In an instant, you feel a sudden, unnatural gust of wind. Aizawa vanishes from his place on the floor, now lying unconscious and cradled in the arms of your hero. He turns to look at Midoriya, who looks stunned, though relieved. “Young Midoriya, please take care of him to the entrance. More help is on the way.” He glances over at you next with an apologetic nod. “I’m sorry I did not get here sooner. I would have been able to protect you from danger. Young Kirishima, can you please take her back?”

 

“Roger that,” he responds, and without any warning, scoops you up gingerly, as though he’s afraid of hurting you. At this point, you’re fighting to stay conscious and All Might’s next words sound muffled, as though you’re hearing them from far away. The edges of your vision grow darker despite your attempts to fight it and slowly, you succumb to the pain and black out.

 

You don’t know how long you spend floating in limbo, and to not be in any pain is a wonderful relief. You can move and yet you don’t really feel like doing anything, but the thought doesn’t bother you as much as you think it would and so you spend what feels like an eternity slowly drifting. At some point, you think you hear the faint thrumming of a guitar and a few soft notes from someone’s half-forgotten voice, which sounds very familiar, as if you’ve known them your whole life, but lost touch somehow, but when you try to listen closely, the music fades and you almost want to cry because it’s so beautiful and you don’t want it to stop.

 

A weight settles over your chest and you stop drifting aimlessly, and the haze around your mind is slowly lifted. You rise slowly in the air, and a soft orange light dances overhead. You reach out a hand to grasp it but find you can’t lift your arms. You continue to ascend and suddenly, the sharp smell of antiseptic reaches your nostrils. Shifting your head slowly, you feel as though all of your senses are being assaulted and you whimper slightly.

 

“Oh, you’re finally awake,” says Recovery Girl’s voice, and she emerges from behind a curtain you didn’t notice before. “You suffered quite an ordeal, poor thing...”

 

You try to speak, but your voice is hoarse from disuse and you clear your throat a little to try again. “Where…?”

 

“You’re in my office, dear. You were severely injured, but I managed to heal you up just fine.”

 

The bed you’re lying on isn’t exactly comfortable, but you still fight back the urge to fall asleep. You feel so tired…

 

“It’s fortunate you have so much stamina to spare,” she says quietly, fussing with the thin blanket covering you. “That was quite a bit of healing I had to do, but you’ll be okay with a bit of rest.”

 

“Wha…but...what about…?” A knife-sharp memory hits you and despite your body feeling like it weighs a ton, you bolt upright, suddenly wide awake. “Wait! USJ, the League of Villains…!”

 

“It’s alright, my dear, no need to fret!” cries Recovery Girl, slowly easing you back down. “All Might and the other teachers managed to make quick work of them. No one except you and another boy were seriously injured, but everyone is okay, don’t worry.”

 

“So...everyone is safe…?” you mumble uncertainly.

 

She nods. “Quite so. Would you like to rest some more or would you like to go home? Classes are already over.”

 

You’re sorely tempted to just sleep, but you don’t want to spend any more time here if you can help it. “No...I think I’ll go home,” you answer, then sit up, swinging your legs over even though it costs an enormous effort to do so. You can feel bandages wrapped tight around your arms, serving as a reminder of what happened, which you figure is the point since other than your exhaustion, everything else feels fine. You clench your hands before getting up. “Um...thanks again for...patching me up,” you add quietly.

 

“It was no problem, dear,” says Recovery Girl at your retreating back. “Be careful on your way home!”

 

You slide the door shut behind you and jump a little when you see Kirishima leaning against the wall opposite you. He brightens considerably and smiles. “Hey, you’re okay!” he says. “I wanted to go inside and see you, but I guess I made too much noise because Recovery Girl kicked me out.” He grins sheepishly and rubs the back of his head. “But I’m glad you’re all better!”

 

“Uh...right,” you say, a little overwhelmed by his enthusiasm. You start walking towards your classroom to retrieve your bag and Kirishima falls into place beside you. “Um...what happened while I was out…?” you ask. “Recovery Girl didn’t really go into detail.”

 

“Oh, you should’ve seen it!” he begins excitedly and launches into a lengthy discussion about All Might’s fight with the Nomu, and according to Kirishima, nothing he says could do it justice of how awesome it was. You find yourself inwardly kicking yourself for missing it, especially as he starts going into the finer details of the battle, which involved the other teachers at one point in what sounded like an epic showdown.

 

“But to be honest,” he mumbles quietly after a bit, lowering his eyes to the ground, “I was mostly worried about how you were doing. It was really scary seeing you getting tortured by that monster...”

 

You feel a cold, sinking feeling in your chest as you remember how scared you were, how you failed to save yourself, all because your Quirk didn’t work even though you were so sure it would. It had never done that before...ever. Shivering slightly, you open the door to the classroom and find another surprise waiting for you.

 

Todoroki jumps to his feet and practically knocks over several desks in his haste to get to you. His face is very white and while his expression doesn’t change much, you can practically feel his unease as he tries to peer into your eyes. His hands grip your shoulders tightly, and it’s the first time he’s ever initiated contact, an action not lost on you, but it’s just...so wrong. You don’t want to see your own failure reflected in his eyes. Feeling shame well up and close your throat, you look away, shrug him off and wordlessly walk to your desk, slowly picking up your bag from your seat. You can hear Kirishima shifting uncomfortably in the doorway.

 

“(Surname).” Todoroki’s tone is soft and has an almost imperceptible waver in it, which only makes you feel worse. You clench your teeth together, jaw setting and you swing your bag over your shoulder, gripping the strap so tightly your knuckles begin losing color. You can’t look at him. You try to stop your shoulders from shaking, but it’s a futile effort.

 

“Uh…I’ll just…yeah,” mutters Kirishima awkwardly, perhaps sensing the tense atmosphere before he leaves, leaving the door open and flooding the room with orange light.

 

Neither of you speak for a while. When you hear your friend intake a breath to say something, you quickly cut across him. “I thought I could help,” you say, your voice flat and devoid of emotion. You breathe in through your nose and feel the back of your neck start to burn and suddenly, all you want is to be left alone. “I thought…I thought I could make a difference, but I just ended up making things worse.” You blink a few times, hating the feeling of your own powerlessness. “I tried using my Quirk, but...it didn’t work. I just…I thought I was going to die.”

 

“I wasn’t going to let that happen,” he says at last, and something in you snaps.

 

“And that’s the only reason I’m still here!” you scream, kicking over your chair and it clatters loudly to the ground, the noise magnified in the silence. “Everyone else got to be a hero in their own right and I just…I couldn’t…!” You feel so angry and frustrated, and your throat tightens so much that you have to choke out your next words. “I tried helping Aizawa-sensei from getting killed, but I didn’t! I was just some stupid damsel-in-distress and I don’t want that!" You take several deep breaths to calm yourself down and you bring a trembling hand to your face. “I don’t want that...”

 

It hadn’t bothered you so much before, but in the aftermath of USJ, you’re forced to acknowledge the difference in power between you two and you wonder what Todoroki even sees in you. Visualizing him rising to the top doesn’t take much effort, but you unfortunately can’t see yourself fitting anywhere in that equation. ‘Endeavor was right...’ you think dejectedly.

 

“I just want to be a hero who helps people,” you say quietly, then let out a soft, self-deprecating laugh. “Some hero I’d be...if I’m the one who needs saving all the time.”

 

“I didn’t save you to be a hero,” says Todoroki quietly and you slowly turn around to face him. He looks so sad… “I did it because I was afraid I was going to watch you die.”

 

Your lower lip trembles and you duck your head to hide your face as you feel your vision blur slightly. “You...you did?”

 

“Yes. You’re my very first friend and I don’t like seeing you in danger.”

 

Your eyes widen slightly and the knot in your chest loosens. “You idiot...we’re going to be heroes someday. Of course there’s going to be danger.” You sniffle a bit and offer him a tentative smile and he returns it with a soft one of his own. Then you wipe away your eyes roughly on your sleeve and sigh softly. “Man, I’m such a mess.”

 

“You said it, not me,” he says, and you punch him lightly on the shoulder.

 

“Don’t push it, smart ass,” you retort before you both head home.

 

Not much happens on your day off and you spend most of that time in bed, sleeping long after the sun has risen. You browse the news on your phone and find that the incident at USJ did not slip by unnoticed, and everywhere you look, people are talking about it. You figure that’s why the maids fuss over you more than usual, and it escalates to the point where you start getting annoyed and you end up locking everyone out, just about fed up with being treated like a delicate piece of glass. You talk to Todoroki for a while over your video chat on your phone, and at some point, you think you see a slightly older woman with snow white hair and bits of red in it peek over his shoulder curiously, but aside from the small tightening on the corner of his lip, he doesn’t comment on it.

 

You get a lot of stares and whispers as you head up to class with Todoroki, even more so than usual and you do your best to ignore them, but it does become grating after a while. Once you step inside the classroom, you hear a loud scraping of a chair and Midoriya immediately converges on you, face taut with worry. After being besieged by your maids all of yesterday, this doesn’t exactly do a thing to improve your mood.

 

“(Surname)-san! I didn’t get a chance to see you afterward, so I wasn’t sure if you were okay,” he says, words tumbling out in a breathless rush.

 

Looking into his bright, earnest face, you feel some of your irritation fade and you sigh, smiling faintly. You can’t stay mad at him, even if you tried. “Well, I’m alright now,” you say, opening your arms and gesturing to yourself in a show of presentation. Behind you, Todoroki wordlessly heads to his seat as Midoriya continues to fret.

 

“Are you sure? I mean, if you’re still not feeling well, we can go see Recovery Girl before class starts,” he mumbles, his cheeks coloring slightly.

 

“Midoriya, I’m fine,” you stress, then flick his forehead, making him yelp in surprise. “Stop worrying so much. I don’t want you getting a heart attack.”

 

“O-oh...okay,” he says, looking embarrassed. After a moment, he smiles a little, lowering his head. “I’m glad...” There’s something about the soft way he says it that makes you stupidly happy, though you’re not sure why.

 

“Oi, class is starting, you two,” says Aizawa irritably behind you, making you both jump. “Get to your seats.” As you quickly head to your seat, you think you feel your teacher’s gaze on you, but when you sit down, he’s standing by the desk and covered in bandages, with both of his arms in slings. Ignoring the class’s general outcry at his condition, he straightens and everyone soon falls silent.

 

“For those who aren’t aware, the UA Sports Festival is coming up in two weeks,” he announces. “It’s your first opportunity to put your mark on the world. You only get one chance a year, for a total of three. It’s not something an aspiring hero wants to miss.” The atmosphere in the room tenses considerably, and everyone straightens in their seat. “That being said, I hope you use your time effectively to prepare for it.”

 

It’s hard to concentrate on lessons the entire day, but by the time class is over, you open the door and find your way blocked by a horde of students. Mineta protests loudly behind you, but you completely ignore him and fix the students closest you with a frigid glare, which makes them recoil slightly. You hear faint whispers among them and you catch the words “USJ” and “villain attack”, which only makes you angry.

 

Adjusting your bag, you exhale through your nose and fly up over the heads of the students, landing some distance away, feeling irritated. You decide to stop by the vending machines and get something to drink while you wait for Todoroki to get past that horde, but just as you’re about to press a button to get a juice, someone else’s hand darts forward and presses the button for matcha-flavored tea.

 

You turn, opening your mouth furiously but stop when you see Shinsou grinning down at you and you exhale through your nose in annoyance, reaching down to get your drink. “I don’t like this flavor. It sucks,” you mutter, throwing it at him. He catches it, looking amused.

 

“Good seeing you again too,” he answers with just a hint of sarcasm in his voice. He uncaps the bottle and takes a sip.

 

“Whatever,” you mumble, reaching into your bag for more change. As you place several coins into the slot, you think back to your previous interaction and narrow your eyes slightly, peering closely at your choices and purposefully not looking at him. “Thought you didn’t want to hang around me anymore,” you mutter resentfully. “You know...because I was just like ‘everyone else’ in 1A.”

 

“I did think that,” he answers honestly. You fix him with a half-hearted scowl and he raises his hands defensively. “But...I heard you went through a lot last week. What with the whole villain attack and all.” He takes another sip of his drink. “Felt kinda bad.”

 

“Oh, so you’re just feeling sorry for me, is that it?” you growl, feeling your temper start to rise.

 

“No, not really.” He looks much more serious now. “I mean...I heard you almost died. I don’t know about you, but I’d be pretty freaked out if it were me.”

 

You try to envision Shinsou losing his cool, but you can’t do it. “Somehow, I find that a little hard to believe,” you say, your anger slowly dissipating. “It’s doesn’t matter anyway. I got out all right.”

 

“Yeah, I’m...glad to hear that.” You look up, meeting his eyes for once to find any trace of a lie. Finding none, you sigh and look away, pressing the button for your favorite juice.

 

“Well don’t expect us to be all buddy-buddy or anything,” you mumble, poking a straw through the carton and taking a sip.

 

He smiles a little. “So...is being your friend off the table then?”

 

You choke on your drink and Shinsou has to clap a hand several times on your back until you can breathe properly again. You massage your chest and throw him a half-hearted glare but he only tilts his head with that insufferable smile on his face. “If I say yes, will you leave me alone?” you say lowly.

 

“Probably not,” he answers without missing a beat and you try to hit him, feeling your face burn with anger, but miss.

 

“You don’t want to be friends with me,” you snap, scowling a little. “I’m not...well...you won’t stick around.”

 

“Who says I won’t?” he says. “Annoying you is my calling in life. Well...besides wanting to be a hero, that is.”

 

“Urgh, just do whatever you want,” you grumble, rolling your eyes and adjusting your bag on your shoulder. You turn to leave, having had just about enough of his antics.

 

“So we’re friends then?” he calls behind you and actually snorts when you flip him off over your shoulder.

 

“I didn’t actually agree, you know!” you say and decide to head to the front of the school and wait for Todoroki there instead.

 

Idiot...’

Chapter Text

The sun has yet to rise and everything is still save for the early morning fog sweeping the vast grounds of the manor, and though it’s much too dark to be waking up, you stir from your bed and open your eyes. For a moment, you lie there, trying to recall a dream you had, but it slips from your memory the longer you think about it. Shame. It had been a good one.

 

At first, you wonder why you woke up so early, but then your phone vibrates again, close to your pillow and you silence the alarm with a sleepy sigh. ‘Oh...right,’ you think, stretching and rising from your head. You ascend until your soft blanket slips off your shoulders and falls silently on your bed and you hover over to your private bathroom. You doubt anyone else is awake right now, which is what you’ve been counting on.

 

As you wash your face in a large basin, you think back to your staff, all probably well-meaning, but you don’t think you can stand another day like the one before. After dropping off Todoroki at his house, you had come home to practice for a little while, only to be surrounded by hordes of worried maids and caretakers, all led by Haruka, your head of staff. You only just managed to get away, but their attention was positively stifling, and they only left you alone after you announced you were going to get an early night’s sleep. However, despite your (increasingly angry) protests, you doubt they’ll listen to your repeated attempts to dismiss them, so you decided to set an early alarm in order for you to leave undetected. You’ve done some research on how to take the train to school, but you hope it doesn’t come to that. Right now, all you want is some breathing room or you swear you’ll go insane.

 

After donning your school uniform and getting everything else ready, you silently open the large, double doors in your room and take off until even the vast expanse of the manor is left far behind. It’s rather cold this high up and there really isn’t much of a view considering how dense the fog is, but a quick look at your phone tells you where you need to go.

 

You finally land after some time and even though you’re shivering a little, you find that you don’t really care. Your body aches somewhat after flying for so long, so you decide to walk the rest of the way to your destination, which isn’t far. The familiar gentle rush from the sea beckons quietly and you finally stop in front of Dagobah Municipal Beach Park.

 

The salty sweet breeze flows softly through your long hair, trailing a few strands behind you as you breathe a quiet sigh of relief. The sun is just breaking the horizon, casting its warm light over the glittering expanse of the ocean. The fog slowly fades and you quickly head down, the soft sand crunching beneath your feet.

 

Now that you’re here, you can’t help but feel it was the right decision to make. You’ll deal with the fallout from your actions later, but right now, all you want is some peace. Feeling the sun’s rays warming your body, it’s easy to forget your problems, your worries, and your feelings of turmoil because no matter what you said to Todoroki the other week, the USJ incident is still bothering you.

 

But you don’t want to think about that right now. You want to forget everything, at least for the moment. You close your eyes, listening to the waves, letting the soothing noise calm you slowly.

 

“Oh...(Surname)-san,” says a familiar voice behind you, and you turn to see Midoriya coming down the stairs clad in a green tracksuit. As he gets closer, his face grows soft and he smiles gently at you, the light of the sun reflecting in his green eyes. You glance away and face the horizon again, chest tightening inexplicably before the feeling passes.

 

Oh, that’s right...he’s my friend now,’ you think as he stands beside you. “Hey,” you say quietly.

 

“Good morning,” he responds politely, and out of the corner of your eye, you see his freckled cheeks sporting the usual flush. “I didn’t think anyone would be out here this early,” he adds.

 

It takes you a while to answer. “I had a lot on my mind and wanted to get away,” you finally say. For some reason, you don’t begrudge him for intruding on your moment. In fact, the lingering sense of unease fades and there’s a soothing sense of tranquility that you find yourself wanting more of. It’s strange. You’ve never felt this way around anyone before...

 

“I see. I know what’s that like,” he replies with a soft chuckle. For a moment, neither of you speak, simply basking in the morning light. “It’s nice, isn’t it?”

 

You hum in acknowledgment. The salty breeze picks up and you close your eyes against it, inhaling deeply before exhaling slowly. You think about the last time you were here. Back then, you had foolishly hoped you would be able to dance your troubles away in perceived solitude, but had only made things complicated between you and Midoriya. Now you’re not even sure you’ll ever have the courage to explain what really happened that day, and for a part of you wonders if you even want to. This friendship between the two of you is unlike the companionship between you and Todoroki, true, but...that’s the curious thing about it. To you, friendship had always seemed like a one-dimensional thing people shared, and yet now you realize that no experience is ever the same.

 

When you open your eyes again, you glance over to see Midoriya staring at you, full of an emotion you can’t identify, but somehow it makes him appear intense and a little sad, which is strange because why would he be feeling that way around you? You look up at him quizzically, but he smiles softly and looks back at the horizon without explanation. You can’t help but feel curious and wonder what he’s thinking about.

 

“You know...it’s kind of funny,” you murmur after a bit, keeping your gaze to the glittering sea in front of you without really seeing it. “I always thought I knew where I was going in life.”

 

“What do you mean?” he asks.

 

“I mean...everyone goes to U.A. to be a hero. I want that too, but lately...well...I thought I had what it took, but after last week, I’m not so sure anymore.” You exhale softly through your nose and smile softly, and that sense of peace slowly withers away to sadness. “I realized that I still have a very long way to go and...well, I feel almost discouraged. It’s kind of pathetic, actually.” Your smile fades and you finger the hem of your jacket absentmindedly. “I get one near-death experience and I feel like I’m unraveling. Heroes face all sorts of danger all the time, and I didn’t see any of our classmates fall apart like I did. It makes me wonder if I even deserve to go to U.A. at all. I’m pretty sure I only got in on a fluke.”

 

“That...” For a second, he seems at a loss for words and you find yourself regretting dumping all of this on him. He doesn’t need to hear your insecurities and you feel ashamed for even thinking you could burden him with something this heavy first thing in the morning.

 

“You know what? Forget it,” you say, waving a hand dismissively. “It’s not really important anyway and you don’t need to hear any of this.” You try to keep your expression passive, as if none of what you said really meant anything, but it’s hard to keep up the facade and you look away, walking closer to the surf. A heavy weight settles on your shoulders, pulling you down and you raise your head up high to offset it, but it does little to help.

 

“Of course it’s important,” he says, and you turn to look back at him, a little surprised. The look on his face is full of conviction and you find yourself envying his resolve. “There’s nothing wrong with feeling the way you do, (Surname)-san. It’s only natural to be afraid.” He steps closer to you, but you don’t move away, clinging onto his words so desperately it’s almost embarrassing, but you want to believe him so much it aches. “It just proves that you’re human, and...well, I understand what it’s like to feel discouraged. But...I think you’re a very strong person after going through something scary like that. Just the fact that you’re telling me proves that you want to move forward, and I feel like you have the power to do great things.” The warmth from his smile makes the sun shining on him seem dim in comparison and your heart lightens a little. “I mean...well...I couldn’t have imagined you speaking to me like this before, but now...”

 

You reflect on this for a moment. “I guess you have a point,” you muse thoughtfully. You tuck a loose strand of hair behind your ear and think about how much you’ve changed since entering U.A. It seems almost impossible and yet here you are. You’re still not sure if this is a good thing or not, but...

 

Turning away to face the ocean, you clasp your hands behind your back. “I should talk to you more often,” you say with a faint smile, and this time, it feels genuine. “Even if you are a bit nosy.”

 

“W-What…?! Oh, I-I’m sorry!” he splutters. “I didn’t mean to be, though...”

 

“It’s okay.” He falls silent at this. “I don’t...well...it’s not that much of a problem if it’s you.” You feel your face grow warm at your admission and you start shifting your weight slightly, feeling a tad awkward now. “If I’m being honest...I think if you had been anyone else, I would’ve have kicked your ass by now. Well...except maybe Todoroki.”

 

“I see.” You can tell he’s smiling again. “I’m still glad you told me, though.”

 

“Yeah, yeah,” you mutter, ducking your head a little. A thought occurs to you. “Oh...that reminds me. How come you’re here so early?” you ask curiously, looking back.

 

He sheepishly rubs the back of his head. “O-oh, um...I normally go for a morning jog along the beach before school starts.”

 

“Well, don’t let me keep you then,” you say, gesturing to the sand around you.

 

He shuffles a little, looking unsure. “Um...(Surname)-san? Will you be alright all by yourself?”

 

You nod once. “Yeah, I’ll be okay.”

 

Midoriya hesitates, opening his mouth a little before closing it. “Um...can...can I ask you something? It’s kind of a selfish request, so...please don’t get mad, okay?” he mumbles, shoulders hunching a little as he twiddles his fingers.

 

You tilt your head a little to one side, curious. He seems to be working up the courage to say something, but for his sake, you don’t interrupt. Then he takes a deep breath, exhaling slowly and steels himself.

 

“Um...would it be okay...if you stayed here...until I get back?” He’s so quiet that you almost miss it among the waves ebbing on the shore.

 

You blink, eyebrows raising in faint surprise. “Uh...sure, I guess. I wasn’t really planning on going anywhere anyway,” you answer.

 

His expression grows bright with relief and much of the tension leaves his shoulders. “R-Really? You’ll stay?” he asks breathlessly.

 

A small huff leaves your lips. “I already said I would.”

 

Midoriya grows visibly happier and actually giggles a bit, which makes your chest squeeze again for a split second from how endearing it sounds. “Thank you,” he says, and his smile is so kind that you wonder, just for a moment, how on earth he managed to be so good-natured without trying. It’s easy to imagine him becoming a great hero someday. Despite your initial misgivings, you think you might actually admire that about him.

 

You wait against the wall while Midoriya does his run along the beach, fiddling with your phone occasionally. The staff should be up by now and you wonder just how chaotic everything is back at the manor since you’re not there anymore. Haruka is most likely on a warpath, probably even searching room to room with the help of her army of maids, which would probably take her the majority of the day to accomplish. Good. You had been counting on that.

 

Glancing up, you can just make out Midoriya’s tiny figure far in the distance, though you can’t tell if he’s coming back or not. Squinting a little, you can see him getting gradually closer. You yawn, covering your mouth as your eyes tear up a little. It’s Tuesday, which means hero lessons are on the agenda today, but you hope there’s nothing too strenuous planned. Coming here was a good idea, but you’re starting to get a little sleepy.

 

At last, Midoriya comes to a halt in front of you, panting heavily and wiping sweat from his brow. “I’m sorry...did you...wait long?” he asks, out of breath.

 

“Not really,” you shrug. You glance down at your phone again to check the time. “We’ve got about an hour before school starts.”

 

He blanches, then waves his arms around, which looks comical. “Oh no, I’d better hurry home and get ready! I didn’t think it was this late!”

 

“Dork,” you mumble under your breath, then pick up your bag. As he starts to jog home with a parting wave, you feel a sliver of mischief run through you and you hover a few inches off the ground to hide your footsteps, following him for a bit until he stops to catch his breath. “Keep running or you’ll never make it,” you say a little mockingly, which makes him yelp and jump almost a foot in the air.

 

“(Surname)-san!” he squeaks, massaging his heart and his face bright red. “I didn’t know you were still here!”

 

“Just go already!” you insist, crossing your arms. “You’re going to be late, you know.”

 

With that said, you follow him for some time until he stops in front of a series of apartment blocks that reminds you a little of the time you went to Miki’s place several years ago. Midoriya sounds like he’s truly in danger of dying at this point, but he seems to remember something and looks back at you with something of a worried frown.

 

“Um...(Surname)-san...have you eaten breakfast yet…?” he asks, still slightly out of breath.

 

You blink, realizing your mistake from earlier. “Oh crap, that’s what I was forgetting...” you mumble to yourself, but he must hear you because his frown deepens.

 

“That’s not good. Do you want to come up? I think we might have something for you to eat...”

 

For a moment, you don’t say anything. Then a soft snort escapes your lips and you place your hands on your hips, shaking your head at just how ridiculous he’s acting. “Midoriya, you need to stop worrying about me so much. It’s not like I’m your girlfriend or anything.” Ignoring how his face practically boils over with a deep red blush, you raise your head thoughtfully. “But if you insist...I don’t know, maybe if you have any toast to spare, I’d be happy with it.”

 

“O-okay! I’ll bring you something when I get back!” he says before bolting up to his apartment. He must have been getting ready at the speed of light because he returns in less than fifteen minutes with two pieces of toast wrapped up in a napkin for you. His uniform is a little disheveled and you notice his tie looks really bad, even more so than usual.

 

“Hang on,” you say, brow furrowing and inexplicably feeling a little annoyed by it. “Your tie’s all messed up.” He lets out a very undignified squeak as you step closer and tug the fabric around his neck, fixing it just so until it looks right. “There.”

 

“Th-Th-Th-Th-Thank you v-very m-much...” he stammers, his entire face beet red. He timidly hands you your toast and you accept it. It’s still a little warm.

 

“Thanks,” you mumble, biting into it and blinking in surprise at the taste of strawberry jam. You briefly consider calling your driver to take you to school, but at this rate, you probably won’t make it in time. ‘Guess I am taking the train today after all,’ you think with some trepidation. You tell yourself it can’t be that terrible since Midoriya probably takes it everyday and he looks fine.

 

“We’d better hurry,” he says and you nod in agreement, following his lead as he books it for the train station with you following closely behind. He has to buy you a ticket once you’re there, which makes you feel guilty, but you manage not to embarrass yourself at the turnstiles at the very least. As you wait at the station with Midoriya, who looks a bit flustered and nervous for whatever reason, you watch in fascination as various trains go by. You wonder how all these people know where to go and which trains to take without getting lost, but you’re too self-conscious to ask your traveling companion how it all works. It’s all a bit noisy and chaotic, but you don’t mind much.

 

“This is our train, (Surname)-san,” he mumbles as one squeals to a halt in front of you. You don’t know what you had been expecting, honestly. Perhaps something a little different than all the other trains, with perhaps U.A.’s insignia painted on the side or something. You frown with displeasure when the doors open, revealing a tightly packed car, but when you turn around to ask Midoriya if you can wait for another train, the crowd behind you surges forward, which makes you yelp in alarm. You end up getting pressed against the opposite door on the other side of the car, and you feel your irritation spike to dangerous levels as bodies press against you on all sides.

 

What...the...fuck?!’ you think, trembling with barely suppressed rage. ‘Don’t...fucking...touch me…!’ As you round on the passenger closest to you with great difficulty, ready to unleash hell, Midoriya suddenly squeezes through a tiny gap with mumbled apologies.

 

“There you are, (Surname)-san,” he says quietly with relief. He ducks his head slightly in apology before standing between you and other passengers, forming a sort of barrier. You blink in confusion at his actions, but don’t have time to think about it when the train suddenly lurches forward, earning a gasp of surprise from you. He smiles apologetically at your obvious discomfort. He’s very close...much too close. “Sorry...I don’t know if you’ve ever ridden the train this way...it can get, um...pretty packed,” he explains in a low whisper. From this proximity, you catch a whiff of mint on his breath.

 

You don’t find anything to say to this and remain silent, watching a train roll by on the opposite tracks. Turning back, you let out a soft sigh, anger slowly ebbing away and turning into sleepiness. You wonder if you’ll even be awake enough to take notes today. You’re standing, true, and there’s way too many people around for your liking, but...riding the train isn’t as terrible as you thought it would be. At least you’re accompanied by a friend...and...he feels warm...very warm...and while he’s not very soft underneath his uniform like you thought he would be...he’s still comfortable to some extent.

 

Suppressing a yawn, you close your eyes, feeling very tired. The train gently rocking back and forth isn’t doing you any favors and if you had any room to move, you’d probably be swaying in place. Before long, your head slumps forward onto the front of Midoriya’s shoulder. You feel him immediately tense and he gets even warmer, which suits you just fine. He doesn’t push you away, so you wonder if this is okay. You’re just so sleepy...hopefully he doesn’t mind too much.

 

After a short while, he relaxes and in this tiny, enclosed space, you can hear his heartbeat, which is pounding rapidly, and his quiet rhythmic breathing. For some reason, you can’t help but feel...safe. You’ve never done this with anyone before and you wonder just how much you’ve been missing out. This feels very, very nice, and a strong familiar warmth begins to bloom in your chest. It takes you a moment to realize that it’s affection...or maybe fondness, you’re not too sure. In your sleep-addled daze, you wonder how long it’s been since you’ve felt this way. Not since Miki, that’s for certain.

 

You allow yourself another soft, quiet sigh, this time in contentment. Midoriya shifts very slightly at this, but you’re too far gone at this point to notice. You’re not sure how long this continues, but you must have dozed off a little because the next thing you know, you feel Midoriya’s hand timidly shaking your shoulder.

 

“(Surname)-san...our next stop is coming up,” he whispers, almost as though he’s afraid of waking you up.

 

You inhale sleepily and straighten up, rubbing your eyes. “Oh...already?” you mumble. You look around and notice the train isn’t nearly as packed as before. You even have room to stretch, so you do so, backing off slightly. “Hey, um...sorry. I was just…really sleepy,” you apologize through a yawn as you cover your mouth, tiny little beads of moisture gathering beneath your eyelids.

 

“It...it’s okay,” he mumbles quietly, looking away. He seems preoccupied.

 

Not much is said as the train slows to a halt and you exit, breathing a soft sigh of relief. Trailing behind Midoriya as you exit the station, you wonder how far it is to the campus. It turns out it isn’t that much farther, and before long, you see other students walking by, some walking in pairs or groups while others travel alone.

 

Before long, the familiar building of U.A. looms into view and you adjust your bag, perking up as you spot the telltale red and white hair of Todoroki waiting by the front entrance. You pick up your pace, bypassing Midoriya and missing his startled look that quickly turns into a faint frown.

 

“Todoroki!” you call, raising your hand in greeting. He looks up from his phone, confused, before his gaze lands on you just as you arrive.

 

“You took the train?” he asks, a tiny note of incredulity in his quiet voice.

 

“Yeah. Bet you weren’t expecting that, huh?” you say with an easy grin, feeling a bit pleased with yourself. You tilt your head a little, your smile softening as you look up at him expectantly. “Did I surprise you?”

 

Todoroki doesn’t immediately answer, his eyes fixed on a point behind you and narrowing slightly. There’s a coldness there that you don’t like and you frown. “Todoroki?” you ask uncertainly and he finally looks back down at you.

 

“Oh. You did a little,” he admits, but the distracted tone in his voice doesn’t satisfy you and you scowl a little, feeling a tad put out.

 

“Well...Midoriya helped me get here,” you add, turning around to look for him, but he isn’t there. You scan your surroundings, a little confused before you spot him up ahead, walking alone. “Oh...I guess he’s going to class,” you mumble, a little hurt by this for some reason. You shrug, deciding not to worry about it for now and you tug on your friend’s sleeve. “Come on, we don’t want to be late.”

 

The day’s lesson goes about as well as you’d expect, though it’s hard to stay awake at times. You’re not sure if you’re just imagining things, but you think you feel Aizawa’s gaze on you during homeroom. You try to ignore it by watching videos on your phone while Todoroki looks on over your shoulder in his usual, detached sort of way, but it’s difficult. It comes as a relief when Aizawa finally leaves the room, though you’re pretty sure you won’t see the last of him today.

 

Sure enough, when the bell overhead chimes for lunch, you’ve only just taken your wallet out of your bag to grab lunch with Todoroki when Aizawa’s bandaged face peeks into the classroom. “(Surname). A word in the staff room.”

 

Stomach clenching almost painfully, you flinch. You hardly dare move from your spot, but at Aizawa’s insistent “Now!” you realize that you can’t shirk away from this. Only pausing to shoot Todoroki an unhappy glance, you heave a sigh and follow your homeroom teacher. You don’t miss how several of your classmates exchange glances and muttered conversations behind your back, which only makes you fume, but silently. You have a feeling Aizawa’s ire would be no less if you were to have another angry outburst.

 

Stepping inside to a surprisingly empty staff room, Aizawa takes a seat at what is presumably his desk. While the desks bordering his are decorated with personal knickknacks and photos, including a pair of headphones lying on one and what look like handcuffs on another, your homeroom teacher’s remains sparse save for what looks like a report that he quickly shoves into a nearby drawer. He doesn’t pull up a chair, which only increases your sense of foreboding.

 

The heavy gauze covering his face does little to tell you what he’s thinking, but you still find it hard to look at him even though he keeps his eyes trained on you. Finally, he takes a deep breath, which sounds a little muffled, then slowly exhales.

 

“You know why I brought you here, don’t you?” he says at last. At your reluctant nod, he leans back in his chair. “Good. That makes things simple then.” He waits for a moment, then resumes. “During the attack on USJ, I was...incapacitated.” The words hang heavily in the air, but you don’t dare interrupt. “I wasn’t conscious to see this, but apparently you rushed in to try to stop the Nomu according to eyewitnesses.” He closes his eyes for a moment and you can practically feel his anger from where you’re standing. “I know you had good intentions, but at the same time...I don’t want you to think for a minute that you were doing the right thing.”

 

You start to protest, but one withering look is enough to stop the words in your throat.

 

“What you did was an incredibly reckless thing to do, not to mention stupid.” Every word is a stone hurled and you visibly wince because you know, you know this better than anyone. Hadn’t your injuries proved that? You had purposefully left the bandages on your arms over the weekend to remind you of your mistake and remind you they did, over and over until you felt like you were going to die from the shame. “You could have easily perished in the attack, and if my sources are correct, the only reason you’re still alive is because Todoroki happened to be there, and your safety was virtually guaranteed once All Might arrived.”

 

“I’m sorry, sir,” you say, struggling to keep your voice from wavering and failing miserably. The tiled floor beneath your feet blurs slightly and your eyes burn, but you blink rapidly until the sensation quickly fades. “I thought my Quirk would work on the Nomu. I wasn’t thinking...”

 

“You had no way of knowing that it wouldn’t respond to outside stimuli. That’s what the police reported when it was finally captured.” Aizawa sighs heavily and he sounds more tired than ever. “So I’m not going to fault you for that.”

 

“Oh.” At a loss for words, you shift slightly in place, feeling worse than you could have imagined. You had expected a fair amount of dressing down, yes, but not to have your confidence completely obliterated. He’s right, of course, but that doesn’t make you any happier about it.

 

“(Surname). Look at me.” Ignoring the vague sense of deja vu at his words, you slowly oblige. “The world of pro heroes is fraught with danger like the one you witnessed last week and mark my words, it won’t be the last time you face danger like that in the future if you continue your current path. You need to be careful. Rushing headlong into things is a surefire way to get killed and a dead hero helps no one.”

 

“I know, but...it was painful seeing you that way. My body moved before I could think. I couldn’t help it at the time,” you mumble, and to your surprise, he lets out a soft snort.

 

“You’ve got good hero instincts, but it’s your teacher’s job to help you use them effectively. Don’t forget that we’re here too.” Your heart lightens at this and you’re not sure, but you think he might be smiling a little underneath the bandages. “I hope you took something away from this talk.”

 

“...Yes, sir.”

 

“Good grief,” he sighs, and you know that if he could run a hand through his hair in exasperation, he would, but both of his arms are in slings. You vaguely wonder how he’s able to eat anything. “I can’t tell who’s more problematic, you or Bakugou.”

 

A muscle jumps in your temple, and you feel frankly rather offended by the comparison, then resolve to behave better from now on.

 

“You’re free to go,” he says and with a bow, you exit the room, silently marveling at the fact that you weren’t punished after all.

 

When you finally arrive in the cafeteria, it’s absolutely packed and you look on in dismay at the long line to get food, giving it up as a bad job and scanning the area for Todoroki. You can’t really spot him among the crowd, which only makes you annoyed, and you’re pulling out your phone to text him when a familiar voice calls out to you in the din, though it isn’t one you expect.

 

Your eyes find Shinsou, who’s smiling at you in a slow, easy kind of way and sitting with a few other people you don’t know, though judging by their uniforms, they’re from the General Education department, just like him. They look really stupid, you have to admit, staring at you as though you’ve grown a second head or something. You hesitate, unsure of what to do before Shinsou raises his hand and beckons you closer a second time, which takes his friends’ attention away from you for a second. Determined to keep your face as blank as possible, you head over and watch as the other general education students’ faces grow from stunned to flat-out disbelieving as they quickly glance between you and Shinsou until you finally take a seat across from him and next to a rather nondescript fellow who looks as though he’s having an aneurysm.

 

“Hey, glad you could make it,” says Shinsou, who seems to be finding your mild discomfort faintly amusing. You shoot him a heavy scowl, your passive illusion shattering thanks to how easily he manages to get under your skin. “Guys, this is (Surname),” he addresses the party at large. “She’s my friend from another class.” At this, he surreptitiously shoots you a glance that clearly pleads not to give him away, and when you don’t refute his claim and remain silent, he gives you a tiny, but grateful smile that seems more genuine than the ones he’s given you thus far.

 

He~eh...is that so?” says a girl sitting on his right. “You didn’t brainwash her or anything, right?”

 

“Yeah, she’s way too pretty for you, Shinsou,” says another guy with a teasing grin.

 

“Harsh,” says the guy next to you, stifling a snicker.

 

Shinsou pretends to be hurt by this, but it only lasts a moment before he’s back to his usual deadpan self. “Okay, you’ve had your fun, now knock it off.”

 

“So, (Surname), what class are you in?” asks a guy sitting on Shinsou’s other side. He’s clearly trying to play it cool, but he’s gazing at you too intently and it ruins the otherwise nonchalant effect.

 

“1A.” You don’t like how their attention seems to sharpen, if that was even possible, and you know exactly what’s on their minds. The USJ incident. Your eyes narrow slightly at Shinsou, and honestly, you feel a little betrayed. Had Shinsou only invited you over to show you off to his friends like some kind of freak show attraction?

 

He notices your steadily rising irritation and opens his mouth to speak with a faint hint of alarm on his face, but the girl cuts across him before he has a chance to salvage the situation. “Wow, so you were in the middle of the whole villain attack, weren’t you? Wasn’t it scary?” You don’t like how she’s sizing you up, and her facade of concern fools no one.

 

“Must have been. Going up against real life villains, just like the actual pro heroes,” says the guy next to you, but he’s smiling, which only irritates you and you press your lips together to bite back the retort struggling to surface. These idiots have no clue, they have no fucking idea how awful it actually is. Watching villain attacks from behind the safety of a screen is nothing compared to the all-encompassing fear you felt just being in close proximity to people who made it clear they wanted to wipe you from existence, and last week, they almost succeeded. That’s not even counting the horrific sight of seeing your own teacher brutally mutilated by a monster, the smell of blood cloying the air and suffocating you, and his anguished screaming that you won’t be able to forget anytime soon.

 

“Oh, but All Might showed up in the end,” pipes up another guy when the silence stretches on for too long and everyone pounces on the topic. They settle into easy conversation with Shinsou occasionally adding a comment here and there and soon, the tension slowly begins to dissolve. It’s so bizarre seeing him interact around other people. The others are somewhat of a loud bunch, but they carry the same air that hangs around Shinsou sometimes, the kind that aches to prove themselves despite only being in the General Education course. Despite your strong initial misgivings, you can sympathize with that sort of thinking.

 

“Hey, (Surname), did you eat already?” asks the girl during a lull in the conversation and you suddenly remember how hungry you are. You only had that bit of toast Midoriya gave you that morning. When you quietly shake your head, she surprises you by giving you an apple. “Here you go. You’re a little quiet, huh?” The smile she gives you is genuinely friendly and you frown, a little taken aback.

 

Shinsou snorts into his food that he tries to cover up with a cough, but when he sees you glaring daggers at him, he grins and everyone around you bursts out laughing. It takes you a moment to realize that they’re not actually making fun of you and you relax, but don’t join in and instead take a bite of your apple to avoid talking.

 

After some time, the first bell chimes overhead and you get up, smoothing out your uniform. The others bemoan the end of lunchtime, but you’ve stopped listening at this point. Shinsou’s heavy hand falling on your opposite shoulder makes you start and you look up at him, but he only steers you away in the general direction of your classroom. Glancing over your shoulder, you notice how his classmates don’t follow and instead wave at your retreating backs. Students mill around you as you head to your classroom and he leans in close to be heard above the din.

 

“Sorry about earlier,” he says, and you shrug, feeling uncomfortable. You think you feel someone staring at you, but you can’t be sure with his arm in the way. “I know they might seem callous, but they’re okay. They didn’t mean any harm.”

 

“Yeah, yeah…” you mumble. You brush his hand off your shoulder and avoid his eye. “Your friends are just as annoying as you.”

 

Out of the corner of your eye, you see him smile. “I’ll take that as a compliment, but they’re not my friends. They just like to hang around and I don’t have the energy to scare them off. Something you’re actually pretty good at, now that I think about it.”

 

“Was I supposed to laugh? Because that wasn’t funny,” you say, rolling your eyes, then stop in front of a door marked “1C”. “Hey, this is your stop, right?”

 

“That’s right.” He puts a hand on your head and you push his hand away, feeling annoyed, but he doesn’t seem to take offense to your less-than warm attitude. “See you around then.”

 

“Yeah, whatever,” you grumble, turning your back on him and heading to your own classroom. When you open the door, several people are already inside, including Todoroki who is looking at his phone and doesn’t see you come in. Feeling a mixture of relief and annoyance, you march right over and plop yourself down on the edge of his desk. “Hey, how come I didn’t see you in the cafeteria?” you ask a little sullenly.

 

He blinks up at you. “I finished early and went to go train,” he answers simply and your initial displeasure fades somewhat. “I didn’t know how long you were going to be.”

 

You cross your arms and hunch your back, bending forward a little. “Well...you could’ve at least texted me about it,” you mumble, but very quietly so he doesn’t hear.

 

Midoriya walks in at that point with a pensive look on his face, flanked by Iida and Uraraka who are talking excitedly about the upcoming Sports Festival and your stomach lurches unpleasantly. Oh...that’s right. You had almost forgotten. Come to think of it, maybe you should start training too…

 

Midoriya takes that moment to notice your staring and he predictably flushes with embarrassment, but he offers you a tiny wave that neither of his friends notice. You lift your chin up in greeting and that tiny gesture makes his face grow even redder, and when he smiles at you, you can’t stop the small tug on the corner of your lip before you slide off Todoroki’s desk and sit in your own seat.

 

Hero lessons for the day are devoted to preparing for the Sports Festival, but it’s mostly just information briefing. You’re really sleepy at this point, and before long, you feel hungry again. You start to nod off until the last lesson of the day, which is P.E. This earns a soft groan of complaint from you, but only Todoroki seems to hear because you see him glance at you out of the corner of his eye.

 

Once you’re in the locker room changing into your P.E. uniform, however, you figure a bit of exercise is what you need to wake up a little, though you know by the end of today, you’ll be positively famished, but you decide to worry about that later. You decide to tie your hair back into a high ponytail instead of your usual hairstyle for practical reasons, which earns you a double-take from the other girls.

 

“Hey, (Surname)?” asks Ashido just as you finish zipping up. She smiles, though it’s a lot dimmer than how it usually is and you can’t blame her much. You haven’t exactly been all that friendly to her recently. “Um...I know it’s none of my business, but I was thinking...before we went to USJ, I feel like I upset you somehow. You know, when I teased you about Todoroki?”

 

You stare at her, wondering what she’s even getting at. You can feel the others watching you intently.

 

“Um...I just wanted to say I’m really sorry about that. I don’t mean to be nosy, but my stupid mouth acts before my brain does sometimes.” She deflates a little and you can’t help but feel a tad sorry for her.

 

“It’s...whatever,” you say with a tired exhale, leaning down to tighten your shoelaces. You think you hear quiet sighs of relief, but you can’t be sure. You straighten, feeling you should clear up any misunderstandings for good. “For the record, Todoroki and I aren’t going out or anything.”

 

Ashido’s face goes slack with disbelief and her curiously black eyes widen. “What? Really? But you two look so close!”

 

Brow furrowing, you shake your head. “Nope. Just friends. Nothing else to it.” A thought hits you all of a sudden and you make a face. “We’ve only been in U.A. for less than two weeks. How the hell do you expect me to get a boyfriend that quickly?”

 

Ashido stares at you for a few seconds before she grins, snickering in a way that makes you wonder if she’s making fun of you. “I can’t tell if you’re messing with me or not,” she says. Hagakure starts giggling quietly and you blink, confused before deciding it doesn’t matter. When you head outside, you notice the other girls don’t give you as wide a berth as before.

 

It isn’t until you feel a soft hand on your arm that you look over to see Uraraka’s smiling, hopeful face. “Um...let’s do our best today!” she says, and your stomach plummets. Up close, you can’t help but find her round, pink cheeks a bit cute, but of course you would. Miki’s were the same way. The only difference you can see is the tiny dimple that forms when she smiles. She smells different too, like some kind of fruity body spray instead of the natural scent of flowers. Your heart begins to pound in a very unpleasant way and your body tenses considerably, but you force your eyes forward and manage a very stiff nod. You can see the rest of the class assembled ahead and the sun overhead bears down on the back of your neck, but it’s tepid compared to the burning sensation Uraraka’s touch leaves behind, even though she’s already running forward, raising a hand to Midoriya in greeting.

 

You intake a shaky breath and shiver as a layer of frost slowly encroaches your insides. You feel sick, and you don’t think it has anything to do with your hunger either. Your teacher has the class do some warm ups, followed by a run, where it’s easy to hide your irregular breathing among so many others, but you stay as far away as you can from Uraraka, a feat which proves simple as you charge ahead of the others.

 

Bakugou, infuriatingly enough, seems to take this as a personal challenge and catches up to you, his breathing hard, but regular. He shoots you a dirty, sidelong glance, as if daring you to go faster, but all you want is for him to leave you alone. You know you’re not supposed to sprint, but your calf muscles burn as you quickly pick up the pace, determined to leave everyone behind. From somewhere behind you, Bakugou’s choked noise of angered disbelief hits your ears. Then his quick, heavy footfalls accelerate until he appears at your side again, his face contorted in a mixture of fury and concentration.

 

In the end, his height and longer strides ensure his victory. He slows to a stop, panting heavily and wiping sweat from his brow as you brace your hands on your knees, trying to catch your breath. Bakugou shoots you a triumphant sneer, as if to rub it in your face, but you get up, striding off to the side so you won’t have to be near him anymore.

 

The rest of the class soon finishes up and you stay away from them too.

 

You’re quiet on the way to pick up your bag, now back in your school uniform and quite alone, having practically sprinted back to the locker room the minute class was over and changed at the speed of light. The hallways are empty but it’s very close to the end of school, and you open the door to your vacant classroom just as the bell chimes. You slide the door shut, blocking out the sudden upswing in noise from outside and walk to your desk, pulling books out and shoving them into your bag.

 

It isn’t until now that you realize you’re shaking. Cursing under your breath, you close your eyes, inhaling deeply through your nose and letting it out in one wavering breath.

 

At that moment, your classmates arrive, bringing the noise with them and you want to cover your ears, block them out, but you can’t do that without looking like a lunatic, so you settle for putting the rest of your stuff away. Your hair hangs loosely around your shoulders, freed from the ponytail you wore earlier and shielding your face from view.

 

You flinch away from the light brush on your sleeve and raise apprehensive eyes to land on Todoroki, who looks a little stunned at your sudden reaction and pulls his hand away slowly. You briefly squeeze your eyes shut, turning your head away, ashamed of your own powerlessness in the face of your own feelings. Then you adopt a passive expression, the one you once used to hide behind in middle school to deflect all the taunts, the derisive whispering, and to clean the mess from your shoe locker that always seemed to come back no matter how thorough you were. That happened more often than you care to remember.

 

You think you hate yourself for how naturally it comes.

 

“I’m fucking starving,” you say honestly and hoist your bag behind your shoulder. “I’m gonna grab some food on the way home, so lemme know if you want anything.”

 

The weight of Todoroki’s quiet stare stays with you long after he’s gone.

 

You feel a little better the next day, barring the staff’s incessant worrying when they finally descended upon you the minute you arrived home the previous afternoon. You sneak out even earlier in the morning and find Midoriya sitting on the beach, though he quickly denies waiting for you, cheeks flushing darkly as you fight back the tug on your lips. You remember that the Sports Festival is drawing near and you’re silently grateful you didn’t arrive wearing your school uniform.

 

“Can I run with you?” you ask. It’s a little windy and you tuck your hair behind your ear to keep it from flying in front of your face. “I got bored waiting for you last time.” That’s a flat out lie, but if Midoriya picks up on this, he doesn’t say.

 

“If...if you want to, (Surname)-san,” he says after getting over his initial embarrassment. He’s awfully shy around you. “I don’t really mind.”

 

You both warm up for a bit before starting your jog. Sometime during the middle of it, the sun breaks the horizon in a dazzling display of color and the tightness constricting your chest loosens until you feel like you can finally breathe freely. The sand beneath your feet offers a greater challenge and you tire more quickly than usual, but it’s nothing you can’t handle. Still, you find yourself liking it, the familiar burn in your legs, the roar of the ocean, the shimmering light reflecting off its choppy waters and you wonder if this is why Midoriya chooses to do his morning runs here. It’s peaceful.

 

At the end of your jog, as you’re rummaging through your bag for your phone, Midoriya speaks up. “Um...(Surname)-san?” he asks from behind you.

 

“Yeah?” you answer without looking up. You can’t find the damn thing. Where is it?

 

“Is it...um...w-well...you don’t have to, but I thought I...um...could ask.” He’s starting to stutter more. “If...if it’s not too much trouble, u-um...do you...I mean...would you...like to d-do this with m-me more often?”

 

Your movements cease. Truth be told, you did enjoy your time here. And you do need to prepare for the Sports Festival after all. Just running along the beach isn’t actually adequate training, but it’s a start at least. You feel around for your phone again, more slowly this time until you finally find it inside of of the hidden inside pockets. You straighten and turn around to face Midoriya, who’s twiddling his fingers, but he quickly stops when you wordlessly hold out your phone. It’s open to your contacts page, blank and waiting to be filled.

 

“Take it,” you insist, giving it a small shake. You pretend not to notice his trembling hands as he timidly grasps your phone and shoots you a nervous, but otherwise hopeful glance through his lashes. He’s muttering rapidly under his breath and making an odd face as he types in his information, but you can’t make out what he’s saying over the crashing waves. Okay, it’s a little weird, but it’s not exactly annoying or anything.

 

He wordlessly hands you back your phone, keeping his eyes to the sand beneath his feet. You glance at the time staring back at you on the screen and you send your location to your driver to pick you up. It unfortunately means losing any semblance of secrecy, but you figure you’d be found out eventually. After giving your staff the slip a second time, you doubt Haruka would let you off so easy again.

 

Midoriya is doing some stretches when your familiar black car pulls up and he openly gapes at it. You pick up your bag and jerk your head towards your car. “Want a ride home?” you ask, not stopping to think how easily the words fall from your lips.

 

“W-Wait...th-that….is that yours?!” he stammers, eyes as wide as saucers and his voice growing steadily more high-pitched.

 

You click your tongue in mild annoyance. Geez, he’s slow… “Do you want a lift or not?” you say impatiently.

 

A very undignified squeak comes from him as you turn around and head back without waiting for his answer and you soon hear his uncertain footsteps behind you. If your driver has any misgivings about your new traveling companion, he doesn’t let it show on his face. You settle into your seat with a comfortable sigh, but Midoriya slowly eases into his, his eyes darting everywhere nervously. As you pull away from the beach, you reach over and hand him a water bottle, which he quietly accepts with a mumbled word of thanks.

 

“S-So...um...(Surname)-san?” he asks after a beat of silence.

 

You hum low in the back of your throat to show you’re listening, gaze fixated on the streets passing by. It’s eerie seeing everything so empty.

 

“You’re...um...pretty...uh, very...well off, right?” he asks, and at this, you tear your eyes away from the window and raise an eyebrow. He’s staring hard at his knees and trying to make himself as small as possible.

 

“Um...that’s a bit of an understatement,” you say after a moment. Sighing softly, you absently rub a hand above your knee to give yourself something to do. “It’s not really like that, though. My...family is the one with the money, not me.” You don’t tell him that you actually have no clue about any other relatives you have barring your mother.

 

“I see.” You can hear his clothes rustling slightly and feel his eyes on you. For some reason, you feel a little self-conscious, but you don’t know why.

 

“You look like the type to have a nice mom,” you say quietly during the lull and he laughs a little nervously, rubbing the back of his head.

 

“Yeah, she is. How, um...how did you know?” he asks, though he looks pleased.

 

“It’s ‘cuz you’re not a shithead,” you mumble, thinking of yourself. Your tone is light but you look away before he can get a good look at your expression.

 

“Shit...head…?” he repeats and you sigh, wondering if he’s just clueless or dense. The car stops in front of the apartment blocks you saw yesterday and Midoriya turns to you with a grateful smile. “Um...thank you, (Surname)-san. I really appreciate you doing this for me,” he says politely.

 

“Don’t mention it,” you mutter as he gets out. The door closes behind him but when he turns around, he looks almost wistful. You don’t dwell on it too much as you pull away and head home to get ready for school.

 

Classes pass by uneventfully that day, though you catch Uraraka shooting you tiny smiles during homeroom, and you almost want to scream from how oblivious she is, so you take great care to avoid her. It’s not exactly hard to do since she’s always hanging around Iida and Midoriya and you stick closely to Todoroki, whom most of the class seems to find intimidating, so they give you a wide berth.

 

You can tell something is weighing on his mind, but whatever it is, Todoroki doesn’t tell you about it. On occasion, you see his eyebrows knit together, obviously thinking hard.

 

You sigh quietly and concentrate on your work. It’s frustrating, but there’s nothing you can do. As the week drags on, you find yourself going to the beach before school and jogging with Midoriya, which is a nice change of pace from the cold, sometimes stifling silence that hangs around Todoroki now. During lunchtime, you stop seeing the familiar dual-toned hair of your friend, which only depresses you. Instead, you spend it with Shinsou, who isn’t always sitting with those General Education people, but it isn’t the same and your encounters with him leave you feeling more or less drained.

 

As the school week winds down, your classmates talk about preparing extensively for the Sports Festival over Golden Week and how nice it is that U.A. is allowing them access to their training grounds. You consider it briefly until you see several female members of the class making plans to train together, including Uraraka, and the idea quickly loses its appeal.

 

“(Surname)-san!”

 

You look up from your phone to find Midoriya smiling at you brightly. From behind him, you think you see Todoroki momentarily pause in his efforts to erase the chalkboard clean but he doesn’t turn around. “What is it?” you ask, putting your phone away.

 

“Are you going to stay home during Golden Week?” he asks curiously. He’s fidgeting more than usual, which is distracting. “Or are you going to get ready for the Sports Festival?”

 

“I might work out a bit, maybe…?” you say uncertainly. “Why?”

 

For some reason, Midoriya’s face blooms with color and he averts his eyes, confusing you thoroughly. “O-Oh...um...no reason...just curious, that’s all,” he mumbles and you strongly feel as though you’re missing something. But what?

 

“If you say so,” you say, eyeing him suspiciously. After a few seconds of awkward silence, something finally clicks. “Hey, is it okay if I still run with you in the mornings? You could give me your workout routine and I’ll show you mine,” you say, feeling a little competitive for some reason. You know your usual fitness regimen would leave all but the hardiest winded and you kind of want to put Midoriya through his paces.

 

There’s no mistaking it this time. Todoroki definitely tenses and he starts to turn around, but Midoriya shifts and blocks him from view. “R-R-Really?! You want to?” he asks, voice a little too loud, which catches the attention of people nearby and he slaps a hand over his mouth, embarrassed. “I, um...I mean...”

 

You don’t know why, but this makes you laugh, a full-bodied one straight from your belly. He’s such a dork. You don’t notice the sudden lull that falls over your classmates or their stares of pure astonishment, but when you finally recover, wiping a tear from your eye, Midoriya’s expression is full to bursting with quiet amazement and another emotion you can’t discern.

 

“You need to learn how to lighten up,” you say, which is rich coming from you, but you shove aside your feelings of hypocrisy. “I’ll send you a text about it later, okay?”

 

The corners of his eyes crinkle endearingly as he smiles and you have no trouble answering it with a small one of your own.

 

Your phone suddenly vibrates, pulling you from the moment and you take it out, staring at the notification reminding you that you have dance practice. You sigh softly through your nose and get up. “I gotta get home.” Automatically, you glance around the room to look for Todoroki, but something in you grows cold when you see him head out of the classroom without so much as a backward glance. ‘What the fuck…?’ you think dimly as your good mood slowly seeps away. He just left…

 

Hand tightening on the strap of your bag, you walk past Midoriya, now angry, but determined. “I’ll see you later, okay?” you mutter quietly to him before you exit the room and spot Todoroki down the hall, turning to climb down the stairs. You quickly race after him and find him on the landing below.

 

“Todoroki!” you call and he stops, but doesn’t look up. Chest tightening and blood racing in your ears, you wonder what’s gotten him so on edge. He’s been like this all week and you don’t know what to do. Why is he being so difficult with you? You’re his friend and you thought that counted for something. You might be bad at feelings, but that doesn’t mean he should shut you out without an explanation. ‘You’re such an idiot...’ you think, but instead, you say, “Do...do you want a ride home?”

 

He doesn’t move for a while and you wait, feeling more distressed the longer the silence grows. Then he finally, finally looks up and nods slowly. You let go of the breath you didn’t know you had been holding and walk down the rest of the way. He hasn’t lost the clouded expression he’s been sporting all week, but at the very least, he’s looking at you now. It’s something.

 

...So why do you feel so disappointed?

 

You don’t see Todoroki at all during Golden Week, which is disheartening, but you still check up on him by sending him a text every now and then. He never responds until late in the evening, so you figure he’s training or something. His answers are short and seemingly agitated, though it’s kind of hard to tell with him, but you don’t have enough patience to deal it and soon stop texting him altogether, fuming.

 

As for you, your free mornings are spent with Midoriya, who walks with a spring in his step when he sees you, but after you introduce him to the horrors of your usual fitness routine, he’s not nearly as energetic. Still, he fares much better than you expected and you find yourself impressed against your will. He marvels at your crazy stamina and you resist the urge to preen, though only just. All in all, you find yourself having fun.

 

The week draws to a close and the U.A. Sports Festival descends upon you at last. You stand in a corner of the designated waiting room for Class 1A, keeping a calm facade, but your nerves are in a bit of a sad state. It’s so bad that you almost miss Todoroki’s declaration of war to a hapless Midoriya, but it draws every eye in the room. You stare at him, wondering what brought this on, but much to your surprise, Midoriya doesn’t back down and matches his intensity with a determined glint in his eyes that you’ve slowly started to come to admire.

 

Well, he’s got guts, I’ll give him that,’ you think before it’s time to head out onto the first year stage.

 

The crowd that roars in your ears is staggering in size, and as Present Mic introduces you to the audience at large, you try your best to shake off your nervousness. Soon, the other first year classes join you, including 1C. You think you spot Shinsou’s distinctive flyaway hair among his peers, but you don’t have time to think about it as Midnight takes the stage as the official umpire.

 

When Bakugou botches the class pledge by declaring he’ll be number one, he’s met with immediate backlash from the other students and even you have to work to keep the scowl off your face. ‘Trust Bakugou of all people to drag 1A under the bus with him like that,’ you think darkly. When he roughly pushes past Midoriya on his way down from the platform, you throw him the dirtiest look you can muster, but he doesn’t rise to the bait and ignores you completely.

 

A flickering somewhere in the stands grabs your attention at you look toward the source, feeling your blood run cold at the sight of Endeavor, imposing and terrifying even from this distance. ‘What the hell is he doing here?’ you think wildly, snapping back to attention. Then you look over at Todoroki, whose jaw is set and you start to get an idea of what caused his strange behavior a week ago. But if that was the case, why didn’t he say anything? You don’t think you would have been able to do anything, true, but you would’ve been willing to bend an ear at least.

 

Midnight announces the first part of the Sports Festival, an obstacle course race, which brings you back to the present. You can’t help the small smirk that crosses over your face. This...this is what you were made for. Your stamina is sure to give you an edge here. Still, this is U.A. after all. You wonder what sort of barriers the number one hero school has set up. It would be foolish to let your guard down here.

 

You take your place among the crowd of students waiting at the start line and your heart jumps to your throat as the lights on the arch overhead count down, one by one. Hands clenching into fists at your side, you ready yourself into a running position and you see others around you doing the same.

 

“START!” cries Midnight and everyone bursts into action as one.

 

It’s an absolute frenzy as the competition around you hurtles toward the opening, and somewhere through the rush of adrenaline, you realize there’s no way you’ll be able to get out without meeting some form of resistance. You can hear Present Mic commentating loudly in the background, but you don’t bother to listen, focusing instead of the first hurdle of the obstacle race. Bodies press tightly against you on all sides and make it hard to breathe, let alone move, and it’s like being back in the train, but somehow worse because people are shoving and yelling angrily in their efforts to get through. Someone elbows you hard in the stomach and you grunt in pain, but you can’t see who did it and after a few seconds of this, your anger quickly reaches its boiling point.

 

Having had just about enough, you forcefully push away the person in front of you with a furious yell to give you just enough space before you take to the air over everyone’s heads, breathing hard. You don’t waste any time congratulating yourself and you shoot through the gap, landing just on the other side and running hard as soon as your feet touch the ground.

 

“What an AMAZING turn of events! Class 1A’s (Surname) (Name) is the first to get through!” comes Present Mic’s excited voice and you keep going, knowing full well there’s probably a camera trained on you right now. Something seems to grab his attention because he suddenly starts getting even more animated, but you don’t dare turn around. “And Todoroki Shouto literally freezes the competition and is in hot pursuit, but what’s this?! Other students escaped the onslaught?!”

 

It’s true, you realize with a sinking heart, since you can hear Todoroki’s very familiar footsteps gaining on you fast. You briefly consider flying since you’re much faster that way, but you don’t want to overuse your Quirk until you truly need to and you need to be in peak shape for anything that arises.

 

Todoroki passes you without even so much as a glance and you falter, staring at his retreating back. Then your irritation with him spikes to dangerous levels and you grit your teeth before forcing your body to move faster until you keep pace with him. His longer strides keep him several feet away, but you still manage to maintain a fair distance.

 

Suddenly, you stagger to a halt at the sight that looms over you. “And the first barrier makes an appearance, listeners! ROBO INFERNO!!!” screeches Present Mic. It’s like you’re back at the entrance exam, but cranked to a hundred. Several zero point robots block the way, as tall as buildings and rumbling ominously as their beady red eyes gleam menacingly at you.

 

Don’t hesitate! MOVE!’ you tell yourself forcefully, but you’ve barely taken two steps before a sudden gust of subzero wind stops you from progressing further. You watch as Todoroki throws his arm up just as a zero point robot reaches for him, but it doesn’t manage to get close before the force of the wind stops its giant, mechanical hand from moving any further and it rapidly becomes encased in ice. Gaping at the now giant ice sculpture in front of Todoroki, he quickly runs under it, and you’re about to follow until you see the robot tipping over.

 

It falls to the ground in a deafening heap, but you shake your head to clear it and surge forward. You hear several telltale explosions behind you and know that Bakugou is gaining fast. Without missing a beat, you soar to the sky, quickly dodging another massive mechanical arm as it lunges for you as you sail overhead. Unfortunately, Bakugou overtakes you from the sheer force of his explosions and you scowl when he shoots you a withering glare, but you don’t have time to dwell on it.

 

You keep running as fast as you can and silently thank all those years of grueling training for giving you a body that is light, fit, and most importantly, blessed with staying power. ‘Don’t think about anyone else! Just keep going!’ you scream in your head, and before long, you stop when you reach a giant chasm dotted with small islands connected by ropes. Todoroki and Bakugou are somewhere ahead. You can hear other people behind you, but you don’t spare them a thought and leave them all behind, soaring past the dark abyss below and landing on a nearby island. ‘Don’t overuse it...there’s still more up ahead!’

 

You jump gracefully through the air, only flying to give you a boost and slow your landing as you leap from island to island until finally, you’re on the other side. You climb the stairs and keep running, frowning when you see yourself catching up to both Todoroki and Bakugou. Then you notice the ground littered with small markings up ahead.

 

“The last obstacle in the race, ladies and gentlemen! IT’S A MINEFIELD!” shouts Present Mic, who you’ve been steadily ignoring up until now, but you’re silently relieved you stopped tuning him out for a second because you probably would have walked right into that damn thing. Now you understand why the other two are treading carefully, but even from here, you can hear Bakugou yelling his head off, hurling explosions at Todoroki as your friend dodges the blasts and retaliates with his ice.

 

Damn! I have to fly, don’t I?’ you think wearily. You hover only a few inches off the floor so you don’t strain yourself and soar over the faint potholes. There’s so many there and you shudder to think what it would be like navigating through that mess on foot. From behind you, you hear several explosions going off and you turn to see a couple of people getting thrown off their feet in flashes of light and pink smoke. Iida tries charging through, but he’s not paying enough attention to his footing and sets off many at once. Others, like the frog girl and a few people from other classes are walking slowly to avoid triggering the mines.

 

You face forward again and put on another burst of speed. Up ahead, Todoroki and Bakugou are too wrapped up in fighting each other to notice you steadily closing the distance, but then the shock wave from a positively gargantuan explosion from behind blows you off course and you stagger to the ground. You yelp as your landing sets off several mines, but as you hurtle backward through the air, you look up to see a figure streaking forward through the sky like a bullet.

 

Midoriya...’ You’d recognize that messy green hair from a mile off. He’s soaring ahead of you with some kind of metal plate that looks like he nabbed from one of the robots. You grit your teeth and right yourself in midair before you crash to the ground and dart forward, your long hair trailing behind you. Above you, Midoriya is losing both height and speed and the other two gain on him quickly. You’re only about ten feet away when it happens.

 

For a moment, it looks like Todoroki and Bakugou overtake him, but in a sudden movement, Midoriya flips himself mid flight and slams the metal plate onto the ground with a yell. The ensuing explosion propels him forward and out of the minefield and sends you flying back several yards with a strangled cry of frustration. You manage not to land this time and you shake your head, ears ringing from the noise. Without pausing to take a breath, you face forward and fly, but you realize with a sinking heart that the explosion set you back further than you thought. The other three are already charging ahead and you finally clear the area and land, propelling your legs as fast as they can. Your breathing, which had been steady up until now, becomes irregular as you run.

 

You can see the stadium up ahead, but the three are still faster, and though you badly want to win, you know it would be foolish to give your all in the first round. ‘Fourth...I can settle for fourth for now!’ you think as you sprint the last leg of the race. You’re not far behind as you enter the narrow stadium’s entrance, so you hear the noise of the crowd swell and you know whoever was in first finished already.

 

You keep going nonetheless and arrive to a shower of confetti as you cross the finish line, panting hard. Slowing to a stop, you brace yourself on your knees as a few drops of sweat land on the floor below. Your legs are burning from the exertion, but don’t feel as bad as you thought.

 

Ignoring the other contenders who are starting to arrive, you hear Present Mic announcing the winner of the race, who turns out to be Midoriya. Despite your feelings of disappointment at your loss, you can’t help but smile faintly. “Well color me impressed,” you mutter to yourself, still out of breath. You see him now, standing several yards away and staring at someone in the crowd, but you can’t tell who it is from here.

 

Straightening and wiping your chin with the back of your hand, you tell yourself that you have no time to get complacent. The second part of the Sports Festival is just beginning and you want to be ready for it when it comes.

Chapter Text

“The first forty-two participants in the obstacle course race will advance to the second round!” announces Midnight to the crowd at hand, and as she speaks, the large screen behind her displays the rankings. You frown slightly at the large “4th place” next to your name and tell yourself you’ll do better in the next round. “That being said, we still have something prepared for after the second event for those who didn’t quite make the cut!” She brandishes a whip and the screen behind her changes to some spinning roulette wheel, which is a bit of a joke considering she’s the official umpire and knows exactly what’s coming, and she even says as much as soon as you finish the thought. Then you figure it’s probably done more for the audience’s entertainment.

 

“A cavalry battle!” Midnight declares with a grin, then goes on to explain the rules.

 

Your initial reaction is surprise, but your face quickly settles into a scowl and you cross your arms. A cavalry battle means you have to work together with other people, cooperate with them, even. That is something you are decidedly not good at, and it’s such a drastic change from the free-for-all from earlier that you wonder if this is done on purpose. You’re so lost in thought that you almost miss Midnight’s next words.

 

“Midoriya Izuku, the winner of the obstacle race, is worth ten million points!” she says with a grin, and it’s as if everyone’s focus becomes razor sharp, training it on poor Midoriya, and it’s plainly obvious that their intent is to overthrow the top. You feel kinda bad for him, if you’re being honest with yourself.

 

You quickly look away just as a timer appears behind Midnight. “You have fifteen minutes to form a team! Start!”

 

You blink, caught off guard at how quickly you’re left to make a decision. Then you shake yourself off and look around at the crowd of people. Your first initial thought is to go find Todoroki, but after you take your first step, you falter, thinking back to his earlier disposition towards you. Your eyes scan the crowd until you finally find him. He’s nowhere near you and only just visible through a gap in the throng, but he moves purposefully towards Yaoyorozu and Kaminari, who both look surprised. Gritting your teeth and turning away with a disappointed pang, you don’t notice the faint tug on your sleeve until it comes again, more insistently this time.

 

“Hey, do you want to be on my team?” asks Mineta hopefully, and you’re actually struck dumb by his audacity. He’s either incredibly delusional or a complete moron, and judging by the look on his face, you’d bet your entire inheritance that he’s both. As if you would ever want to be on the same team as that little runt. It’s bad enough sitting behind him in class. You start to turn around, feeling incredibly foul-tempered before his voice becomes slightly more panicky. “I can improve our chances for success! My Quirk would actually work to our advantage! You want to win, right?”

 

You pause, then slowly turn around. “Explain,” you say lowly, crossing your arms.

 

His face takes on a relieved look and he gives you a quick rundown of his Quirk. Due to his size, he would have no choice but to be the rider, but he explains that it could work in your favor since his small stature would grant you more mobility than the others. His Quirk would slow down the competition quite easily, and you silently muse that you could activate yours the instant they let their guard down, which would leave Mineta free to steal the headbands. You remind yourself that you don’t actually need to sing for this to work either.

 

He clasps his hands together beseechingly in front of his face, looking desperate. You frown a little, thinking that his strategy might just work. He’s annoying, true, but that 4th place next to your name still smarts a little and no matter how much you want to deny it, he’s correct about how badly you want to win. Mineta brightens a little when you bring a contemplative hand to your mouth as you weigh your options.

 

You’re about to open your mouth to acquiesce when you notice a trickle of drool sliding down the side of his mouth, which he quickly tries to wipe away but you’ve already seen. Furious, you wordlessly spin on your heel and leave him there, and from the sounds of his wailing, he sounds extremely upset to the point of tears, but you don’t give a flying fuck what he thinks.

 

The insufferable little runt cost you valuable time and you almost want to go back and kick him, but that would waste even more precious minutes, so you push your anger down and scour the area. Somewhere off to your right, you witness Iida stepping away from Midoriya to join Todoroki’s team. You swallow hard, tasting bitterness, but Todoroki either doesn’t notice you or won’t. Heaving a sigh, you notice some strange girl with goggles and a weird grin on her face heading purposefully towards Midoriya and your stomach clenches.

 

Rudely pushing past her, you shoot her a disdainful glare as a silent warning to stay away that makes her odd smile falter before you toss your hair over your shoulder and walk the remaining distance to place a hand on Midoriya’s shoulder, only realizing too late that Uraraka is there and giving you a curious look.

 

Predictably, he jumps a little at your touch, and you pull your hand away just as he turns around. His face, at first anxious and worried, softens almost immediately upon seeing you, but his smile is tinged with polite confusion. “Oh, hello, (Surname)-san. Are you, um...looking for Todoroki-kun?” he asks tentatively.

 

You make a face, but otherwise ignore that sudden pang that comes with the mention of your friend. Had you really been that obvious? “No, actually,” you clarify, trying not to look at Uraraka, who shimmies closer out of the corner of your eye. You raise your hand and clench it into a determined fist. “Lemme join your team.”

 

Whatever Midoriya had been expecting, it isn’t that. “You...you want to?” he squeaks, jaw slackening into the very picture of flabbergasted disbelief. “But...but…!”

 

You falter, then cross your arms, frowning. “Do you want me on your team or not?” you mutter sullenly. You can feel your lower lip poking just a tiny bit, but it’s definitely not a pout.

 

“Of course I do!” he says a little too quickly and loudly and you both freeze, you with faint surprise and Midoriya in mortification. There’s a short, embarrassed silence before Uraraka speaks up.

 

“Welcome to the team, (Surname)-chan!” she says with a happy grin, and there’s a very tiny strain in her voice that you catch. Aside from narrowing your eyes slightly, you don’t comment on it. You idly wonder if she likes him or something, but it doesn’t seem likely. “Let’s work hard, yeah?”

 

You bite back a couple of choice words for the change in honorific and instead make a noncommittal grunt of acknowledgment. You still don’t fancy hanging around her, but when Midoriya begins to express his unbridled, though still slightly embarrassed happiness, it becomes easy to ignore her presence entirely. In spite of the competitive setting, you find yourself enjoying his company immensely, not that you’d ever admit that out loud and you relax for the moment, shifting your weight from one foot to another.

 

“(Surname)-san, you’re going to be our mobility,” says Midoriya, and at your raised eyebrows, he blushes and hastily explains himself. “Well, you can fly and on top of that, you’re really fast, so I just thought that maybe...”

 

You sigh softly, feeling a little inadequate. “I know where you’re going with this and I appreciate you having faith in me, but it’s not that simple.” Your lips press into a thin line before you continue. “I pushed myself during the obstacle course race earlier, so I won’t be able to fly as long as I want to, at least not without resting.”

 

His hopeful smile fades and now he looks worried. “Um...that’s alright. We can use it sparingly then.” He tries to make it sound as though it isn’t a blow to your morale, but you close your eyes and deliver the rest of the bad news, as much as you don’t want to.

 

“Midoriya...you don’t understand. I can’t carry anyone when I’m flying, let alone both of you. I don’t have the strength to do that, so I wouldn’t make a good rider either way.” Admitting this makes you feel small, but he needs to hear it if you want to do well. “If you want to add someone else to our team, that’s going to be an even bigger problem.” You hate seeing the disappointed look on his face, but you don’t want to lie to him either.

 

“Oh, I can help with that!” Uraraka pipes up with a smile. She’s standing way too close and you draw yourself up, shuffling closer to Midoriya, who doesn’t notice. “My Quirk can make us weightless! Would that work or…?” She presses her fingers together and tilts her head expectantly and you respond with a half-hearted shrug, feeling uncomfortable and not meeting her eye.

 

“That’s a great idea, Uraraka-san!” Midoriya says brightly and she beams at him. Something squirms unpleasantly in your stomach and you scowl. You try to dismiss the feeling as quickly as it comes, but it’s hard to shake off. He begins muttering under his breath and you tune him out, eyes wandering the field. Most people have made groups already save for a few stragglers and for a split second, you catch Todoroki staring at you from across the way. Your scowl deepens, but you’re distracted when Midoriya suddenly steps away from the group towards someone in your class whom you’ve never talked to.

 

“Tokoyami-kun?” wonders Uraraka, mumbling to herself. You don’t think she knows what Midoriya is planning, but she seems content to go along with it.

 

The boy in question looks surprised at Midoriya’s decision, but to your immense relief, he quickly accepts your friend’s offer to join. He’s a bit of a stern, quiet sort, but he doesn’t clam up the way Todoroki does, and if you had the choice to talk to anyone at the beginning of the year, you think you might have chosen him. His Quirk, Dark Shadow, is powerful, though not without its limitations, but it’s still a viable strategy to use him for defensive capabilities. When you step closer, he offers you a passing nod, which you return.

 

“So Tokoyami will be in the front, I’m on the right, and Uraraka’s on the left,” you summarize after Midoriya explains the plan to everyone. “And that leaves you as the rider. Am I missing anything?”

 

“No, that’s right,” he replies, smiling warmly, and despite being used to them already, you feel a faint swooping sensation in your belly that you don’t think has anything to do with nerves, which only confuses you. “If Uraraka-san makes the rest of us weightless, we’ll be more mobile in the air and on the ground.”

 

“Sounds like a solid plan to me!” chirps Uraraka, thrusting her fist in the air with an excited hop.

 

“Time’s up!” announces Midnight from the platform just as the timer behind her runs out. “You should have already formed your teams by now!”

 

You watch as Uraraka places a hand on Tokoyami, Midoriya, and finally herself before they clamber into position and you find yourself quietly shuddering, relieved that you don’t have to make physical contact with her. You haven’t quite forgotten the last time it happened. Grasping Tokoyami’s hand tightly in yours and gripping onto his right shoulder with the other, you set your face into a determined scowl as you face the opposition. Midoriya settles more comfortably above you, and while he doesn’t weigh anything thanks to Uraraka’s Quirk, he’s still very warm, which briefly makes you recall the cramped train ride with him not that long ago.

 

“Now, raise those battle cries!” screams Present Mic from the commentator’s box, riling up the crowd and getting fired up himself. “It’s time for U.A.’s bloody battle! LIGHT THE SIGNAL FIRE!”

 

From here, the weight of the competition’s collective gaze causes your pulse to race with anticipation. “Tokoyami-kun, Uraraka-san,” Midoriya addresses the group, voice tight with either nerves or determination, it’s hard to tell, “...(Surname)-san…I’m counting on all of you!”

 

“You got it,” you mutter quietly, but confidently, unable to suppress the faint smirk as you glance up at him. He returns your smile with a nod of his own before you both face the eleven other teams who will no doubt target you the second the battle begins, all for the headband Midoriya secures tightly around his head.

 

“Three...two...ONE…!”

 

“Start!” cries Midnight with a flourish of her whip.

 

Just as you predicted, several teams surge forward towards your group. Midoriya flounders for a bit, uncertain of what to do even under Tokoyami’s steadfast urging to make a decision before he quickly regains his nerve. “We run, of course!” he declares, which isn’t a wise move on his part, announcing it for the whole world to hear like that, but before any of you can take a step, some guy you think is from 1B slams his foot to the ground. Uraraka squeals as you begin sinking into the once-solid floor and even you’re taken aback for a second.

 

“It must be his Quirk…!” Midoriya realizes with a gasp, then he quickly turns to you. “(Surname)-san!”

 

“On it!” you answer back, your long hair beginning to swirl around you in a nonexistent breeze. “Hang on!” Tightening your grip, you struggle to lift off, the ground holding onto you fast and you clench your teeth, feeling the quiet hum of your Quirk pulsing through your veins as you put on a surge of power, finally breaking free and rocketing up into the air. Your teammates don’t weigh anything, true, but managing them is awkward, and you’ve only just breathed a private sigh of relief that you didn’t break formation when a pair of earphone jacks streak towards you. Dark Shadow immediately retaliates with a defensive swipe and you can’t help but throw a triumphant look over your shoulder at an enraged Jirou.

 

You can hear Midoriya and Tokoyami exchanging words, but you don’t bother listening, too focused on keeping the group aloft and upright. This is nothing like how when you soar through the air, your movements carefully controlled and graceful, moving with a precision honed from years of practice. The extra baggage makes you fumble and the limited visibility doesn’t help either. Your grip on the fabric of Tokoyami’s shirt is ironclad, and with a quick glance to check if the area is relatively clear, you ready yourself. “Landing,” you grit out through your teeth and fall back to the ground, trying not to think about your teammates stumbling from the messy descent.

 

Lurching forward, you keep running, pushing Tokoyami forward and uncaring when Uraraka almost trips. “We’re sitting ducks if we sit still,” you say, and even though you don’t look up, you can tell Midoriya is staring at you questioningly. “We need to keep moving.”

 

You can suddenly hear that little runt’s voice screeching behind you, and you only manage to catch the a few words that make your skin crawl because you are most decidedly not his to claim and you are NOT a prize to be coveted before you dart away from the volley of those weird protrusions coming from a gap in Shouji’s many arms. Something long and pink joins the chaos, desperately trying to grab the headband, and you know the frog girl has entered the fray.

 

“Damn it!” you snarl, wishing they’d all suffer simultaneous heart attacks and leave you alone. Giving Tokoyami’s shoulder a brief squeeze as the only warning, you propel yourself in the air once again, dimly registering Uraraka’s shriek of surprise. In your haste to get away, you forget how it’s harder to control yourself up here when the group lists dangerously to the right. Midoriya somehow manages to stay on despite his flailing and when you orient yourself once more, it’s to collective sighs of relief.

 

“You’re amazing, (Surname)-san!” he says after a beat, and when you look up, he’s beaming down at you. You blink, dumbfounded at the compliment and you almost want to kick him for saying something so irrationally embarrassing. “You got us away just in time. Thank you!”

 

It suddenly feels like a million degrees and you click your tongue against your teeth, looking away. “Don’t mention it,” you say gruffly, and you think you hear Uraraka muttering quietly under her breath, but it’s impossible to hear what she’s saying over the wind.

 

A deafening explosion goes off somewhere beyond your field of vision and you curse under your breath as you turn just in time to face Bakugou head on. “I knew you’d be with that damn nerd!” he growls, looking directly at you with a savage grin on his face, and if you hadn’t already disliked him so much, you might have found his tenacity admirable. “That ten million is mine!” He hurls his right arm forward in a wide arc, and you can sense the inevitable oncoming explosion with a heavy feeling of foreboding. You try to dodge, but the telltale ache surrounding your body returns and you know you won’t make it in time.

 

“Tokoyami-kun!” cries out Midoriya in warning and not even an instant later, Dark Shadow appears, taking the brunt of the blast with a cry of agony. The recoil is enough to send you veering dangerously off course and you struggle desperately to keep yourself airborne. As you jerk to a halt in midair, a second pulse of pain radiates from your back and spreads down all the way to your toes in a very unpleasant ache, followed by a hot prickling sensation that leaves you breathing hard through your nose. You clamp your lips together tightly, but it doesn’t stop the strangled cry of pain from rising up and escaping. You quickly find a spot to land and almost sprawl to the ground, taking down the rest of the group.

 

“….(Surname)-san!” Midoriya has to say your name several times before you register it, glancing up even though it costs an enormous effort to do so. He looks extremely worried as he takes in your condition. “Are you okay?!”

 

Several beads of sweat drip from your brow as you struggle to catch your breath. Your body still aches, though not nearly as much as before. “I’m...fine...” you gasp, willing yourself to stop trembling, but it’s a fruitless endeavor. “Just...gimme a minute…!” You force your knees to lock in order to keep yourself upright, but you can tell things aren’t looking good for your team right now. ‘Damn...I really messed up our chances...’

 

“You’ve hit your limit, haven’t you?” Tokoyami asks over his shoulder, and you’re loathe to admit it, but he’s right. When you don’t answer, he takes your silence for confirmation. “What do you propose we do now, Midoriya?”

 

There’s a moment of silence as he deliberates. You look over to see Bakugou’s team confronting another some distance away, but you don’t really care enough to listen in now that their attention is drawn away from you at last. “I say we keep going, but without flying. We’re still nimble on the ground, so we’ll be alright,” Midoriya announces at last. “I don’t think many teams are that focused on us anymore, so I think it’ll be easier to avoid—”

 

You spot the danger more quickly than they do and your feet push off from the floor. You only manage to stay airborne a few inches off the floor before you land several feet away from where you started, your body protesting with a shudder. ‘Damn, I’ve really gotten weak,’ you think before you look up, feeling your heart skip a beat at the sight of Todoroki staring you down.

 

His expression is cold and calculating, a stark contrast to the one you’ve grown used to seeing, and you actually have to fight down a snarl of frustration. This isn’t the time or place to be worrying about him or his weird mood swings. Some of the anger must show on your face because when his eyes briefly slide over to yours, his face hardens even more, and damn it, it hurts seeing him look at you that way.

 

“I’ll be taking that now,” Todoroki says, voice as frigid as his Quirk. Without delay, he rapidly closes the distance thanks to Iida’s speed, and your hair starts to stand on end as electricity begins to charge in the air.

 

“Dark Shadow!” yells Tokoyami just as Kaminari discharges a deadly current, and from your position, you can see the other teams screaming in pain. Their convulsions seem almost comical, but you’re suddenly glad for Dark Shadow, who takes the brunt of the attack because you honestly don’t want any part of that. Before the electricity has a chance to die down, your feet hover a few inches off the ground, taking your team several feet backwards even though it kills, but aside from several more beads of sweat dripping onto the floor, you don’t let the pain show. You don’t bother turning around to know that Todoroki has frozen the other teams, easily ridding himself of the competition and leaving the path to the ten million open for his team alone.

 

Like hell I’m going to hand it over that easily!’ you think furiously, surging forward, but you can feel your legs, normally so light and nimble, start to shake from the effort, and it’s like they’ve got weights attached because you’ve never moved so slowly before. The others, perhaps sensing this, pick up the slack, but this only makes you feel worse because they’re the ones who have to drag your sorry ass around just because you miscalculated just how useful you were going to be this match. Tears of frustration burn and impair your vision, but you still force one leg in front of the other, and when the others don’t comment on your ragged breathing, you consider it a small mercy.

 

Suddenly, a wall of ice erupts in front of you, and even though you turn, you only end up facing another. A quick glance behind you reveals how close you are to being out-of-bounds. There’s nowhere to run.

 

Todoroki doesn’t gloat even though he has your team cornered like other people in his position might have done. Instead, he eyes your group warily, as if deciding what to do next, and it’s so like him, weighing his options and deciding whether or not the risks were worth it in order to win. For a moment, your eyes meet and a sudden surge of overwhelming emotion threatens to choke you. It’s one you’re all-too familiar with, an emotion you can’t help but despise because it laughs in the face of your staunch determination to remain independent and self-serving. It’s yearning, plain and simple, and no matter how much you try to deny that you miss him, it stubbornly latches on and refuses to let go.

 

“Keep moving to the left,” Midoriya murmurs quietly, which breaks the spell and pulls you back to reality. “We need to avoid them for as long as we can. There’s only five minutes left before it’s all over…!”

 

Oh God, what have I been doing…? Getting distracted in the middle of a competition, of all things…!’

 

Iida is quick, but you follow Midoriya’s instructions so anytime he moves, the group sidesteps as one, and by some miracle, you’re able to keep this up for a good couple of minutes. The longer this goes on, the more frustrated Todoroki becomes. Present Mic is keeping the focus right on your teams, and the noise of the crowd swells as the cavalry battle enters the last minute. For a moment, you can almost envision yourself emerging victorious.

 

The sound of a jet engine cuts across your thoughts and Iida rockets past so quickly that his team is a blur, and it’s frankly a miracle they even managed to hang on at the speed they’re going. They skid to a stop some distance away, and with a sinking feeling in your stomach, you see the telltale white headband clasped in Todoroki’s hand.

 

“Shit!” you hiss under your breath, stifling a swell of anger and disappointment. There’s less than a minute left and you know the easier option would be to try to look for other points from the other teams than trying to wrest the ten million away from Todoroki, but when Uraraka surges forward, taking everyone else with her, the decision is already made. You remain silent even as she shouts encouragement to Midoriya, who visibly grows determined at her words. The odds for victory are extremely slim, but everyone pushes forward anyway.

 

So where does that leave you?

 

From above, you see a strange sort of glow coming from Midoriya’s right arm the closer you get to Todoroki’s team. You don’t know what he’s planning, but as you converge on the other team, Todoroki raises his left arm, flames erupting from the appendage, and your breath catches in your throat at the sight. It lasts for only a single instant, but Midoriya doesn’t try to hit him. Instead, he sweeps the air, and the wind pressure he creates hurls Todoroki’s arm backwards, extinguishing the fire. You see the moment his face contorts with a mixture of shock and anger, but your team already rushes past, a white headband clutched in Midoriya’s hand.

 

The crowd roars its approval and Present Mic practically wets himself from the excitement, but you’re not focused on them. Your lungs freeze at the number on the headband, even though the rest of your team looks relieved.

 

“Midoriya!” Your yell sounds strangled over the noise as panic sets in just as the timer begins to count down the final ten seconds. He looks down, follows your eyes toward the strip of fabric in his hands, and sucks in a quiet breath. You should have seen this coming, should have known Todoroki would switch the positions of the headbands just in case something like this happened, but in the heat of the moment, you had forgotten to warn Midoriya.

 

Clenching your teeth, you don’t wait to hear Yaoyorozu’s admonishment even as Dark Shadow attempts to take back the headband, only to be repelled away by Kaminari’s discharge of electricity. “Come on, MOVE!” you shout as loudly as you can, which breaks the spell of disbelief hanging over the party, and you ignore everything else, including the familiar sound of explosions converging somewhere above you as you push forward towards Todoroki’s team.

 

Your footsteps echo alongside the others, and in the back of your mind, you wonder how desperate you have to be to take Todoroki head on even though you know you can’t win. And yet he seems distracted, clutching at his left arm with a look of panicked incredulity, and that’s leaving him wide open even as Iida tries snapping him out of it.

 

“TIME’S UP!” yells Present Mic, and you hear an inexplicable thud on your right, and a single glance shows Bakugou on the floor, his screams of rage muffled against the ground since he doesn’t even bother lifting his head. From your vantage point, however, you can see something white clutched in Dark Shadow’s beak, and you almost want to cry from relief. You don’t, obviously, and Midoriya dismounts, his sigh heavy with disappointment.

 

“In first place, Team Todoroki!” shouts Present Mic, the crowd cheering its approval.

 

You turn away, not wanting to look at him even as you feel his eyes on your back. At the moment, you have more pressing matters to attend to. Present Mic continues announcing the winners, but you’re not paying attention to him anymore.

 

Even several feet away, you can see the slump to his shoulders, the way he ducks his head as your footsteps draw near, and you feel your heart go out to him. Seized by an irrational desire to wrap your arms around him, you settle for placing a gentle hand on his shoulder, trying not to feel hurt when he flinches. Midoriya doesn’t pull away, but when he slowly turns to look at you, his features are drawn, eyebrows upturned and an unhappy downward slope to his mouth. “I’m...I’m sorry,” he says quietly. “I let you all down...and...especially you, (Surname)-san...you pushed yourself so much and you fought so hard for our sake...I don’t have any excuse—”

 

You give his shoulder a squeeze, which effectively cuts him off. “You’re not giving up already, are you?” you say, raising an eyebrow as the corner of your lips tugs upwards. At his confused look, you let out of a huff through your nose and nod your head back to Tokoyami and Uraraka, who are approaching, the former quietly pleased and the latter trying and failing to hold back a happy grin.

 

“What are you…?” Midoriya’s voice grows hushed when he sees what Dark Shadow is holding, his eyes growing impossibly wide. You can tell he’s barely listening to Tokoyami’s explanation as he sucks in a breath, then another, his eyes glistening with unshed tears and mouth falling open.

 

“In fourth place, TEAM MIDORIYA!” announces Present Mic, and that’s all it takes to push him over the edge as he begins bawling in earnest, actually sinking a few inches into the ground from the force of his crying. You can’t help but laugh, but you’re not exactly making fun of him, even though the sight is pretty amusing. You’re actually more happy for him than anything, considering how hard he fought to be here, first with the obstacle course and then with the cavalry battle. He’s so earnest and open that it’s a wonder no one’s taken advantage of him before, but you figure it takes a certain amount of guts to live your life with your heart on your sleeve.

 

“With that said, let’s take an hour’s break for lunch!” yells Present Mic. As you watch the crowd begin to disperse, you notice Todoroki glaring at you from afar. Hating your conflicting feelings, you turn away so you don’t have to face them, smile slowly fading as you squint hard at the ground and worry your lower lip between your teeth before you walk toward the exit.

 

Someone’s arm slings around your shoulder. You tense and look up to see Shinsou’s face inches from yours and you jerk away with a heavy scowl. “Easy, I’m not going to hurt you,” he says, voice low so only you can hear. “You look tired. Want to get some lunch with me?”

 

You blink before looking over your shoulder, but Midoriya is already leaving and you sigh, nodding in a resigned sort of way. “Why not…?” you mutter, wrinkling your nose a little when the weight of his arm settles over your shoulders once again, but you don’t shake him off this time. The walk to the cafeteria isn’t that long, but by the time you get there, you’re exhausted, slumping forward in your seat and resting your head on the table, letting your cheek press against the cool surface.

 

Shinsou takes pity on you and doesn’t speak for a few minutes, apparently content on eating his fill, though you feel his eyes on you from time to time. Finally, you raise your head with a soft groan and pull your tray towards you, slowly digging into your food. It helps because after the first couple of bites, you feel a little more energized than before and you sigh softly through your nose, lips still pressed around your spoon. The taste of artificial strawberry from the jello is startling on your tongue, and you see other students babbling excitedly around you, all discussing the results of the cavalry battle.

 

“You really surprised me, you know,” Shinsou says at last, drawing your attention back to him. He leans forward on his elbows and scrutinizes you carefully. “I saw you flying around earlier. Didn’t know you could move that fast.”

 

You aren’t expecting the compliment and your cheeks burn. “Uh...it’s...not a big deal,” you shrug, looking back down at your tray. To give yourself something to do, you start peeling your orange, its sharp citrus-y scent filling the air. “I just did what I had to do.”

 

“So it seems,” he murmurs, and when you glance up, he’s smiling a little. He’s being awfully bold today, you note, daring to look you in the eye and getting in your space. “Of course, I don’t plan on losing anytime soon either.”

 

“I wouldn’t expect you to,” you answer without thinking, but this pleases him because his smile grows even more.

 

“So if we have to face each other later on, you won’t hold back, right?” he says after a moment of silence and your hands still. Suddenly, the pleasant atmosphere around you begins to sour and you purse your lower lip slightly, frowning. You had been so focused on winning…you had almost forgotten…

 

“Shinsou…” you begin, unsure of where to start. His eyes narrow slightly, but his smile is still in place. “I know...you told me what your Quirk was when we first met.” Your heart begins to pound and your hands grow clammy, but if he notices the slight tremor in your fingers as you split your orange in half, he doesn’t say. You’re not sure why you feel compelled to reveal your secret, but something tells you it’s not right to hide it from him any longer, considering he’s so similar to you. Deep down, you know he would understand, perhaps not completely, but would most likely have a clearer picture than anyone else.

 

“So I did,” he says quietly, resting his chin on one hand and twirling his spoon with another. “I don’t recall telling you how it works, though.”

 

“Well...no, but—”

 

“Do you want to find out?” he interrupts, and you stop. The cafeteria swells with noise, but you might as well be on another planet for all the attention you give it.

 

With a small frown, you bite your lower lip before continuing. “That’s not exactly what I—”

 

You freeze as a dense fog surrounds your brain, your lips parting slightly and there’s something mechanical about your breathing, but you’re horrified when you realize you can’t actually move. You can still see everything around you, eyes focused on Shinsou who’s watching you with something of an amused look. “Give me your orange,” he says, and his quiet voice reverberates in your head. With a fresh surge of disbelief, you watch your fingers curl over the orange in your hand and place it on his tray. He takes it, peeling a wedge free and popping it into his mouth before the fog suddenly clears.

 

“What the fuck…?” you hiss, breathing hard. Feeling a wave of indignation and anger, you rise from your chair, face livid and chest heaving. “You...you…!”

 

“Sorry about that,” he says, though he doesn’t sound apologetic in the slightest. “I really wanted your orange, though. It looked good.”

 

“Then ask next time, dipshit!” you growl through your teeth as your hands ball into fists. You’re sorely tempted to sock him one.

 

He has the nerve to eat another wedge, looking thoroughly unconcerned with your behavior. “Okay, next time I’ll ask. Happy now?”

 

No.” You whirl around and leave, fuming silently even as you exit the cafeteria. After you put some distance, you slow your pace and take a deep breath, remembering you forgot to tell him about your Quirk. It’s not like it matters anymore, but…

 

You finally stop once you’re outside in the small clearing, and you finally begin to calm down. You’re still a little on edge from the cavalry battle earlier, but this place still brings about a relative sense of calm. The wildflowers are more numerous since the last time you were here and you settle down on the patch, the soft grass tickling your cheeks as you curl up on your side. Even from here, you can hear the sounds from the stadium, though you know it’s not nearly time to go back yet. It’s so peaceful here, and despite your earlier feelings of anger, you relax and close your eyes. You can feel yourself start to doze and you welcome slumber’s warm embrace. Just for a few minutes...

 

“I really am sorry, you know,” says Shinsou quietly, and you slowly open your eyes. Some time must have passed because your arm has fallen asleep. He’s lying down a few feet away, facing you with a guarded look on his face and you sigh, rolling onto your back. Spreading your arms wide, your knuckles brush against something warm. His stomach, it turns out. Still, you don’t move away.

 

“You’re an ass,” you mumble after a moment, though there’s no heat behind your words. He doesn’t refute your statement and you close your eyes, feeling awful. Of course, he has no idea, but you dimly wonder if being under the influence of his Quirk is what people feel like whenever they’re enthralled. There’s really no way of finding out for sure, unfortunately.

 

There’s movement from Shinsou as he shuffles closer, and you move your hand back over your stomach so you don’t have to keep touching him and exhale slowly. The smell of flowers clings to your hair and you try to ignore him in favor of dozing off again when something tickles your cheek. Scrunching up your nose, you open your eyes again to see Shinsou moving his hand away, a blade of grass between his fingers. You throw him a dirty look but remain silent.

 

“You still mad at me?” he says and you scoff.

 

“Of course I am,” you answer irritably.

 

“Should I go?”

 

“...No.”

 

“Okay.”

 

You lie there in relative quiet until it’s time to go back to the stadium, and when Shinsou hesitantly wraps an arm around your shoulders on the way there, you let him. You’re not sure why you do. He’s annoying, almost infuriatingly so sometimes, but...you don’t want him to leave either. In fact...you think this is just his way of apologizing in his own way, even if it is a little unconventional and roundabout. As you enter the stadium and onto the arena, you notice several of your classmates doing double-takes, their faces ranging from shock to confusion. One face in particular, however, stands out from the rest.

 

At first, you think the glare is directed at you, but it soon becomes clear that Ojiro doesn’t have eyes for anyone but Shinsou. Looking away and feeling a bit unsettled, you find a spot among the other students where no one seems to know you and lean your weight against one foot, shoving your hands in your pockets.

 

“Wonder what they’re gonna make us do,” you mutter quietly and Shinsou shrugs.

 

“Who knows? It’s different every year,” he answers. He still hasn’t taken his arm away, but you’ve already grown used to it.

 

You find out soon enough, and there’s a murmur of excitement around you when an empty tournament bracket appears on the large screen overhead as Present Mic loudly dictates the coming events, which includes recreational sporting games that are blessedly voluntary, which is good because you have no desire to participate. Midnight is just about to draw lots to determine the opening bracket when Ojiro raises a commotion, and as he withdraws himself from the tournament along with another no-name from 1B, you find yourself snorting softly to yourself.

 

“Idiots...” you mutter with a scowl, crossing your arms and Shinsou grins.

 

“My thoughts exactly,” he agrees.

 

Soon afterward, the screen overhead changes, revealing who will be facing off in the opening matches. “Kaminari Denki?” you say, raising an eyebrow. “Oh, right...he was the one who gave Tokoyami so much trouble.” You straighten your back and take a breath before exhaling. “Guess I’ll pay him back for the cavalry battle then.”

 

“You sound confident,” remarks Shinsou with a chuckle.

 

You shrug. “I’m not, but I do know how to hold a grudge, believe it or not.”

 

“Oh, I believe you all right...”

 

You finally shove him away, suppressing an eye roll with difficulty. “Whatever, just go bug someone else,” you retort, walking off. As you pass by the screen, your eyes find Midoriya’s name next to Shinsou’s and a powerful weight settles over your chest. You frankly don’t want to take sides, firmly believing that whatever happens, happens. Still…you can’t help but feel uneasy.

 

You spend your free time trying to settle your nerves in a quiet room, taking deep calming breaths. You don’t know what will happen during this tournament and the idea that you might actually have to use your Quirk in order to have a chance is sobering, but you’re still torn. Hands clenching together, you lower your head onto them and close your eyes, trying to stifle your tremors.

 

Just how badly do you want to win? Is it worth exposing your secret?

 

Or…

 

Some time later, you make your way back just as the opening match is underway, taking a seat in an area designated for your class, though taking care to sit as far away from everyone as humanly possible. Kaminari grins when he spots you from his place next to Bakugou, who only ignores you, thankfully.

 

“Looks like we’re going up against each other later. No hard feelings, yeah?” Kaminari says, flashing you a thumbs up. You click your tongue against your teeth but don’t say anything and cross your arms over your chest. He doesn’t take offense to this and leans back in an effort to get chummy, which really rubs you the wrong way. “Hey, Midoriya’s going up against that guy from the general studies course, you know. I saw you two getting cozy earlier. You guys going out?”

 

You seriously want to deck him. “No,” you mutter lowly, face set in a hard glare and you pointedly ignore him as your eyes settle on the arena below. At some point, Bakugou gets fed up with Kaminari’s constant pestering and snaps, screaming at him to shut up just as Present Mic introduces the first combatants. Midoriya and Shinsou head up to the stage, the former with somewhat of a weird smile fixed on his face and the latter looking almost bored.

 

Right before the match begins, you can hear Shinsou goading Midoriya by insulting Ojiro’s earlier decision to rescind from the tournament, and while you do agree with the sentiment, you still feel like he could have chosen his words better.

 

“Start!”

 

Predictably, Midoriya reacts angrily and strides forward with his fists raised and you sigh heavily, placing a hand over your eyes, knowing what’s coming next. “I knew it,” you mutter, shaking your head. His footsteps falter until he stops completely, a blank look coming over his face.

 

“Turn around and walk out of bounds,” commands Shinsou, and sure enough, Midoriya slowly turns around, taking halting, unnatural-looking steps that seem almost robotic. You feel pretty bad for your friend, after everything he’s done to make it this far, but even so, you can hardly fault Shinsou for tricking him. You know he wants to win too.

 

The crowd is almost uncharacteristically silent as they watch the events folding in front of them, a stark contrast to the rest of your classmates, who look on in distress. Just as Midoriya reaches the outer border of the area, your eyes catch a telling glow in his fingers right before a sudden burst of wind erupts around him, and you blink in surprise. Just like that, any control Shinsou has is broken.

 

“What...what did you do?!” Shinsou yells, visibly shaken. Midoriya doesn’t answer and cradles his arm close to his chest, and you notice his fingers are both swollen. After a moment, Shinsou grows visibly calmer, but you know it’s just a facade. “Say something.” When Midoriya still refuses to talk and instead charges forward with a pained grimace, Shinsou grows increasingly more agitated, and soon, he’s baring more of himself than he’s ever let on to anyone, even you.

 

Midoriya shoves Shinsou back towards the edge, but this only enrages him further. They struggle for a few seconds, but in the end, Midoriya gains the upper hand. Tossing Shinsou over his shoulder, he slams him to the ground with a wild, but determined look in his eyes. Your mouth hangs open slightly at the spectacle you just witnessed, a sentiment shared by everyone else. The crowd roars its approval, and while you are happy that Midoriya won, your heart still can’t help but squeeze painfully at the sight of Shinsou, who looks downcast even as he walks off.

 

You don’t have the words to comfort him, even as his fellow general education classmates cheer him on, calling him heroic. Yet you remain here, silent and still. And you know he won’t accept any sympathy from someone like you, someone who’s already one step closer than he is in becoming a hero, so as much as it pains you to stay, you don’t go to him. Pressing your lips together in a thin line, you shut your eyes, hands tightening on the fabric of your uniform. You want to see him, but he doesn’t need you right now. All you can do is wait and hope he watches your match just as intently as you’ve watched his.

 

The next match makes your stomach turn. When Todoroki steps onto the stage, you immediately notice something is off. His shoulders are tense and his hair casts a shadow over his eyes, but you see the clenched jaw and grimace twisting his mouth. Something is clearly agitating him, though you have no way of figuring out what it is. The only thing you know for certain is that Sero is a dead man.

 

Anyone with less than half a brain cell would think, as Sero quickly flies into action the moment the match begins and binds both Todoroki’s arms and legs before swinging him out to the outer edge of the arena, that he stands a chance against his fearsome opponent, but you know better. It still doesn’t prepare you for the literal explosion of ice that erupts from Todoroki’s body, engulfing his adversary and half the stadium with it, and you almost jump out of your seat. You can practically reach out and touch the giant glacier he’s produced, and you barely swallow back a tremor before quietly getting up from your seat and heading down for the next match. No one notices you leave.

 

You haven’t been paying attention to Present Mic, but as you stand in the doorway leading to the arena some time later, you suddenly become hyper aware of his loud voice echoing throughout the stadium. You suck in a deep breath, shaking off any nerves before stepping forward to the roar of the crowd.

 

“She’s as bewitching as they come, folks, but what’s with that scowl she can’t seem to get rid of?! In-tro-ducing the belle from the hero course, (Surname) (Name)!” screeches Present Mic and your insides crawl with embarrassment as you step up onto the stage. You see a noticeable increase in camera flashes from the other side of the stadium and it takes everything in you not to bolt in the opposite direction.

 

“Well, guess I’m not showing my face ever again,” you mutter under your breath with a faint grimace.

 

“VERSUS...Sparking Killing Boy! From the hero course—Kaminari Denki!”

 

The noise of the crowd has never been louder, but you don’t pay them any mind, instead focusing on your opponent, eyeing him shrewdly. Kaminari smiles at you, though any charm he might have had is ruined by the corny wink he sends your way. “I never got to ask…after the match is over, do you wanna go out sometime? I’ll take you somewhere nice if you’ll have me,” he asks, and you almost balk at his brazen attitude. That’s gotta be one of the worst pick-up lines you’ve ever heard, and you’ve come across plenty in your life.

 

“START!”

 

If you know anything about this moron, it’s that he’ll try to impress you right from the get go, and he acts exactly the way you expect. Discharging as much electricity as he can, he sends it flying towards you, but you’re no fool. You bolt upwards into the sky, safely away from harm and simply wait until he burns himself out. You can’t help but grin mockingly at him from your position, and he blinks in confusion, the deadly current slowly dying down until he’s nothing but a babbling, incoherent idiot. Then without further ado, you streak forward, kicking him right in the chest and with enough force to send him flying off the arena, barely registering the swell of the crowd around you. He lands with a heavy thud and doesn’t get up, though he’s still got that stupid face from earlier.

 

“Kaminari Denki is out-of-bounds!” yells Midnight, raising a hand just as you gently float back down. “(Surname) (Name) moves onto the second round!”

 

“That was easy,” you mumble, running a hand through your hair as you watch a pair of medical robots take Kaminari away on a stretcher. Still, you can’t help but leave the area with a small satisfied smirk, thinking that you might actually like the taste of victory. It’s pretty addictive, you have to admit.

 

Once inside, you realize how weak your limbs feel and you sigh heavily. Your body still hasn’t recovered completely, and you think about how this will affect your chances for your next match. You know that your next opponent will either be that vine girl from 1B or Iida Tenya, and neither of them seem like the type to go down without a fight. ‘Guess I’ll just have to do what I can,’ you tell yourself, letting your hands settle in your pockets.

 

The thought of going back to sit among your classmates again isn’t an appealing one, so you wander the halls for a bit, and you’re just thinking about leaving to go get a juice or something when you round a corner and bump into someone a little roughly, causing you to stumble backwards a few steps.

 

“Ouch—watch it, you…!” you start, then falter, sucking in a sharp breath and eyes widening as you take in Todoroki’s form. You know it’s only been a week, but it feels like forever since you’ve last spoken face to face. Several conflicting emotions fight for your attention, all powerful enough to consume you entirely, but you brutally force them down even as your throat begins to burn. Ducking your head so your bangs cover your eyes—he can’t see how weak you really are—you roughly push past him, hands and teeth clenched tight. You hate this, you hate how he’s been acting around you, but you’re not going to give him the satisfaction of knowing he got to you. You continue down the hallway, praying he doesn’t see your shoulders shaking or hear the quiet sniffle that manages to escape.

 

The only warning you get is several large strides before his hand gently encompasses your wrist and you freeze. The warmth from his fingers is both equal parts welcome and terrifying, and when he actually squeezes you gently, his touch scorches. You wrench your arm away at the same time your face crumples and it’s with a bitter taste that you realize which emotion won.

 

“(Surname)...” His voice effortlessly breaks you and you finally snap.

 

“What, you tired of being an asshole yet?” you snarl thickly, and when you turn to angrily look back at him, you’re not entirely surprised to see the shock on his face.

 

He doesn’t respond immediately, slowly taking in your expression with a look of dawning realization that slowly fades into what you presume is guilt. Good!’ you think viciously. ‘I hope he feels like shit!’

 

“Can we talk?” Todoroki says at last.

 

You bark out a brief, humorless laugh. “Oh, now you wanna talk, huh? Now you want to explain why you thought it was a good idea to make me feel like you didn’t want me around anymore? Is that it?” you say, spreading your arms wide with an incredulous look. You let out a disbelieving huff and drop them back down, shaking your head. “You’ve got some real fucking nerve, Todoroki!”

 

“No…please…listen to what I have to say,” he whispers in the face of your pained fury. When you don’t say anything, he sighs. “I was wrong. About a lot of things. But I should have known better than to shut you out because of that bastard.” His voice lowers on the last word and you know exactly who he’s talking about. “When he said he was going to watch me during the Sports Festival, I got so angry. I wasn’t being rational. I took my anger out on him, and when that didn’t work, I took it out on you.” He draws in a breath and takes a step closer. The corners of his lips tug downwards when you recoil slightly. “I’m sorry...”

 

You ball your hands into tight fists. “I tried talking to you,” you say, and you hate yourself when your voice catches and breaks. “I wanted to help you, but you didn’t let me, and before I knew it, you were actively avoiding me. I thought…I thought I might have done something to make you mad at me, but I didn’t know what it was and I just kept thinking about it, but nothing made any sense anymore. Why are you so fucking confusing? I hate it…”

 

“I don’t mean to be,” he answers quietly. “I thought I was strong enough to handle him on my own. I didn’t want my problems to become yours.”

 

You sniffle and wipe away your eyes, unable to look at him anymore. “Little too late for that.”

 

“I know.” For several long moments, he’s quiet. Then…

 

“There is…also another reason.”

 

You scowl. “You gonna tell me what it is or…?”

 

His mouth opens a few times, but he seems to have a lot of trouble getting the words out, brow furrowing in a very unfamiliar expression. It’s so strange that you momentarily forget your anger and narrow your eyes suspiciously.

 

Well?” you prompt, starting to get fed up.

 

He exhales roughly, but his ire doesn’t seem to be directed at you, oddly enough. “I was…jealous.”

 

You blink several times before his words actually start to sink in, and even then, they don’t make any logistical sense. “‘Jealous,’” you repeat numbly. “You were—” You run a hand through your hair, letting it bunch up near the top before swiftly letting go. “Jesus, what the fuck…

 

“I’m not proud of it,” he says, as if that’s in any way helpful. “There was an instance a while back where you were distressed. I’m not sure what was wrong, and yet…I thought I could be useful in some way.” It takes you a moment to place the memory, but then you remember how shaken you were after Uraraka had touched you. “When you withdrew, I assumed you didn’t want my help. So I left you alone.” His eyes become distant, almost guarded. “But then I saw you in the company of Midoriya and you seemed fine then. I don’t know what he did to make you feel better, but it became clear to me that my efforts were inadequate compared to his.”

 

Your eyes widen, floored by this new revelation. “Todoroki…that’s not…” Letting out a breath, you shake your head a little, this time for much different reasons than before. “God, you’re an idiot…”

 

“I was wary, perhaps a bit too much after what you told me what happened to you at your old school. I thought you would get hurt again, but my emotions got in the way, so I never reached out even though now I know I should have.” You tense considerably when he places both of his hands on your shoulders. You didn’t realize he had gotten that close. “I want to apologize properly. I want to be friends again. So...” He trails off uncertainly.

 

You close your eyes, silently wondering who’s the bigger idiot in this whole mess. In lieu of answering, you lean forward until your forehead rests lightly against his chest. He’s so bad at this, but then again, the same could be said for you. You’re both terrible at expressing your feelings, but you think that maybe…this is all you need for now.

 

His answering sigh makes his chest rumble and after a few more seconds, you start feeling uncomfortable at his close proximity, but you let him stay. You can feel the tips of his fingers twitch slightly around your shoulders and he’s just so awkward and fumbling, but you can’t really blame him for that. It’s...kind of endearing in a way.

 

“Come on,” you mutter, suddenly embarrassed. He steps back to give you room to breathe and you try not to let your relief show too much. “Let’s go see if we can catch the tail end of the last match.”

 

“Okay,” he says, nodding.

 

He doesn’t lead you back to your classmates, thank God, and instead finds another entryway all the way on the other side of the stadium. There’s no where to sit, but no one notices you two as you watch the match unfold below, leaning back against the wall. You hiss through your teeth, and even though you don’t care about either combatant, you can’t help but notice how one-sided the fight is between Bakugou and Uraraka. She’s covered in burns and cuts, but is somehow hanging on, though judging from the sounds of her ragged breathing, she’s not going to last much longer.

 

Todoroki notices it before you do. “It’s over,” he intones just before Uraraka collapses to the floor.

 

You shake your head. “There was no way she’d ever win against him. There’s just too much of a difference in their abilities.”

 

“Uraraka Ochako is out of commission!” announces Midnight. “Bakugou Katsuki moves onto the second round!”

 

Present Mic sounds uncharacteristically subdued as Uraraka is taken away on a stretcher. Suddenly remembering, you turn to look back at Todoroki. “Hang on…you have a match coming up, don’t you?”

 

He nods. “There’s going to be a tie-breaker after this between Kirishima and someone else from Class 1B since it ended in a draw,” he explains. “Then I’ll face off against…”

 

“Midoriya...” you finish, eyes widening slightly. You feel guilty for holding him up like this. “Hey…maybe you should go prepare. You shouldn’t even be up here with me.”

 

When he looks back at you, his eyes are soft. “No, I wanted this. I had forgotten how much I liked your company.”

 

You feel your face redden at his honesty and you cover your eyes with your hand. “Ugh…give me a warning next time,” you mutter grumpily under your breath.

 

“You do have a point, though. I really should be getting ready,” he adds, which effectively ruins the moment and you roll your eyes.

 

“That’s what I’ve been telling you,” you sigh. “I guess I’ll go back to sitting with everyone else. Not that I’m particularly thrilled about it, but this view kinda sucks.”

 

You both head back, and halfway to your destination, you part ways, but not before wishing him good luck. He doesn’t smile, and there’s a tightness around his eyes that hasn’t always been there and you know that he’s already thinking ahead to his impending fight with Midoriya. Things aren’t completely back to normal, but that’s okay, you muse to yourself as you head back. You have all the time in the world to make your friendship stronger.

 

“Where have you been?” chirps Ashido merrily as you take an empty seat in the front row. “Did you get lost or something?”

 

“Needed to clear my head,” you answer vaguely.

 

She bounces a little in her seat. “Then...did you see my match against Aoyama?”

 

“Uh...well, no...” you mumble, feeling uneasy. “I didn’t really see much of anything except maybe the last bit between Uraraka and Bakugou.”

 

She pouts, clearly disappointed. “Dang…” She bounces back almost immediately. “That’s a shame. I was pretty cool, if I do say so myself!”

 

You make a noncommittal noise, already tuning her out just as Uraraka arrives, her eyes swollen. She’d obviously just finished crying and you turn away, feeling embarrassed. To your silent horror, she takes a seat a mere two spaces away, which makes you tense, your hands gripping the fabric of your uniform until your knuckles turn pale. You keep your eyes determinedly to the front but then your breath catches as you watch both Midoriya and Todoroki approaching the arena.

 

You’re on your feet before you know it, uncaring that your classmates are giving you weird looks, and you stumble forward until your hands grab the railing. At this point, Todoroki looks up and his eyes search the crowd until they find you. You can’t see his expression from here, but when he lifts his hand and gives you a slow thumbs up, you let out a breath you didn’t know you’d been holding and smile weakly, returning the gesture without hesitation.

 

You resume your seat a little after Present Mic finishes his introductions and the match quickly gets underway. Todoroki immediately launches a near instantaneous ice attack, and it’s so quick that you almost miss the flick Midoriya creates with his finger. The wind pressure is ferociously intense, powerful enough to blast away the ice and should have blown Todoroki out-of-bounds if it wasn’t for the blocks of ice he creates behind him that impede his progress.

 

This continues for a time, with Midoriya growing more and more injured the longer he fights with his destructive Quirk and it soon becomes almost unbearable to watch. Even Cementoss looks uneasy, but he doesn’t stop the match for whatever reason, and so it goes on. When Midoriya resorts to breaking his fingers not once, but twice, you honestly think you’re going to be sick. His cries of torment dig deep and you shake your head, your breathing unsteady as you watch your friend literally destroy himself on the arena. ‘What are you doing?!’ you think desperately, biting your lip hard enough to draw blood. ‘Stop…no more!’

 

“Everyone...is fighting with everything they’ve got...to try to get closer to their dream…!” grits out Midoriya, his arm quivering from the pain as he raises it before clenching it into a fist, even though it must be excruciating.

 

Your stomach twists and you lower your eyes for a moment, breathing shallowly. ‘Not everyone...’ you think guiltily. ‘Not...me...’

 

“You want to win with half your strength? You haven’t put a single scratch on me yet, you know!” He sucks in a breath. “Come at me with everything you’ve got!” he screams, breaking you out of your reverie. The fierce determination that surfaces on occasion is on full display and despite his injuries, no matter how awful he looks right now, his heroic spirit still manages to shine through, an enduring flame in the face of adversity.

 

Todoroki grows enraged and he charges forward, but you notice how slow his movements have gotten and the frost covering his body. On and on they fight, becoming more brutal the longer it continues. Midoriya manages to land several solid hits, but it still causes him immense pain, crying out in what looks like unbearable agony. You’re not surprised when your vision blurs and your eyes sting, but you still look on, unable to tear your gaze away.

 

After a certain point, Todoroki remains in a daze, though he still gets back up after every punch. “I will reject...my old man’s power...” he rasps, bracing a hand on his knee.

 

Something in Midoriya snaps and his scream takes on a desperate note.

 

It’s your power, isn’t it?!”

 

Todoroki isn’t the only one shaken. Your hands fly to your mouth as you suck in a breath, eyes widening just as your vision clears, a single warm droplet cascading over your fingers before falling down onto your lap. At this moment, you know Midoriya doesn’t intend to win anymore, that he can’t possibly know how much impact this single statement has on not only Todoroki, but you as well. ‘Midoriya...you…!’

 

All of a sudden, Todoroki becomes engulfed in flames and you cry out in surprise. “His left side…!” you whisper in a hush. “He’s…he’s finally using it!” Even from here, you can feel the immense heat, and it’s hot enough to dry your cheeks, but you don’t care. All you can do is stare in awe at what lengths Midoriya will go to save someone. He’s so recklessly self-sacrificing, but you hardly knew it was to this extent. From the other side of the arena, Endeavor is screaming something, but he’s just background noise at this point because you don’t give a fuck about what he has to say anymore.

 

It’s only now that you see them powering up to a dangerous degree, and both Cementoss and Midnight have the same idea because they’re already leaping into action. Giant cascades of ice hurtle forward, but Midoriya speeds towards Todoroki like greased lightning, arm already glowing. Glaciers quickly give way to hellfire, and just before the two destructive forces collide, several cement walls burst from the ground.

 

The resulting explosion is deafening and the force pins you to your seat. Grimacing, you raise a hand to try seeing past the gust of wind, but a giant plume of steam blocks the view, and until it clears, you have no way of knowing who won. Everyone waits with baited breath, and slowly, the area finally begins to appear.

 

He looks fragile and somehow diminished against the opposite wall, a stark contrast to before, and he crashes to the floor in a heap. Your chest squeezes painfully, but the winner is clear.

 

“Midoriya is unable to continue! Todoroki advances to the third round!” says Midnight with a crack of her whip.

 

The audience screams, but your class is strangely subdued as Midoriya is taken away on a stretcher, battered and unconscious. You almost make to get up, but Iida, Uraraka, Mineta, and Asui all leave their seats with cries of worry and you slowly relax in your seat. You want to go see him…you want to know if he’s alright, but…you can’t bring yourself to move.

 

Later,’ you think, though part of you wonders if you’re just trying to make yourself feel better. ‘I’ll see him later.’

 

The arena is an absolute mess, so it’s going to take some time to fix, but even so, you wait a couple of minutes before heading out, not to the nurse’s office where you know Midoriya is being treated, but to the waiting room. When you arrive, the place is empty and you grimace softly, taking a seat. In the silence, you can hear every beat your heart makes, but instead of calming you like it normally does, it only increases your anxiety. You grip the edge of the table so hard it hurts, but you don’t stop.

 

You saw the bracket before you left. Your next opponent is going to be Iida and deep down, you know your speed can’t match his. If you were well-rested, then maybe you’d have a chance at winning, but right now, your odds are slim. You don’t want to lose…you want to show the world that you have what it takes to be a hero. Isn’t it time to start getting serious? Midoriya was right. Everyone is giving it their all, and if you don’t, then what’s the point in fighting for your dreams? Without effort, wouldn’t that pursuit be rendered meaningless?

 

Even so...

 

Alright, listeners! It’s time for the second match of the second round!” screams Present Mic and you jerk away from your thoughts with a strangled gasp, your dread reaching its peak. You slowly get up from your seat, unable to stop yourself from shaking as you make your way back towards the arena. You wish you had someone to wish you luck, like Shinsou or Todoroki…

 

Or even Midoriya…

 

Why…why am I so scared of facing this alone?’

 

“She won the last round in an indisputable victory, but can she keep up the momentum?! From the hero course, it’s (Surname) (Name)!!” yells Present Mic as you step out into the harsh sunlight. The crowd cheers you on, but it only makes you feel sick to your stomach.

 

“Dashing through the competition with tremendous speed, it’s Iida Tenya from the hero course!” Your opponent’s face is set as he steps forward onto the stage. Even though you know he probably still has some misgivings about you, he still takes the time to respectfully bow, which surprises you and you hastily return it with a puzzled frown.

 

“Ready...START!

 

You’re fully expecting him to rocket forward, and in the half second it takes for him to converge on your position, you propel yourself up, just barely managing to dodge the attack. Heart leaping to your chest, you float some distance away as he skids to a stop.

 

He glares up at you, clenching his fist. “There’s no honor in running away! Fight me!” he shouts.

 

You bristle like an angry cat, suddenly incensed, but you don’t take the bait. You know that as soon as your feet touch the ground, he’ll have you. Even so, you feel the beginnings of pain slowly creep across your back and you curse under your breath, but you’re determined not to let it show. If you can just get him to overload the engines on his calves, he won’t be able to move, which will ensure your victory. But how…?

 

C’mon, think! What would Midoriya do in this situation?’ you tell yourself. After a few seconds of intense deliberation, it finally hits you. ‘...Oh...that’s right.’

 

You ignore anything and everything that isn’t Iida as you soar over to the opposite end of the area, not failing to notice he’s tracking your movements carefully. His body language screams that he wants this over with quickly, but you’re not giving him that advantage. Instead, you hover near the ground, ready to fly up at a moment’s notice and he darts forward. You feint to the left and he tracks your momentum, but you switch it up at the last minute and shoot to the right, twisting in midair and swinging your leg forward as hard as you can. It connects solidly against his ribs and the impact leaves him winded. The audience screams its approval, and from here, you think you hear some of your classmates too.

 

Before he can grab you, however, you zoom safely out of harm’s way, landing in the middle of the arena to give your Quirk a break. The ache is growing stronger, but you mask the pain for physical exertion so Iida is none the wiser. He coughs, massaging his ribs a little, but as far as you can see, no permanent damage has been done.

 

That’s right, take the bait, asshole!’ you think, panting slightly. ‘Come get me!’

 

“I underestimated you, (Surname)-kun,” he says at last with a hard glint in his eye. “But no more! This time we fight for real!”

 

“Bring it on!” you retaliate hoarsely, widening your stance. “I’m right here!”

 

He leans forward in a sprinter’s crouch as the telltale sounds of his engine revving up fills the air. “Torque Overload—RECIPRO BURST!” Faster than your eye can follow, he’s suddenly on you before you can even take a breath, grabbing onto your shoulders and pushing you back towards the outer boundary. You try flying up, but he’s got you in a vice grip and won’t let go. In your panic, you look directly into his eyes and his grip slackens for a single moment, but it’s more than enough time to get away and you take full advantage of it.

 

In a sudden unexpected move, his leg comes up to meet your shoulder just as you’re flying away, colliding into you so hard that your breath punches out of your lungs as you’re launched into a distant corner of the platform, crashing painfully onto the ground. By some miracle, you manage to stay within the boundary and you struggle to get up, but Iida doesn’t give you any respite. This time, you don’t think and instead move on instinct alone, shooting out of the way even as waves of hurt rack your body. He doesn’t go for a kick this time and instead manages to batter a heavy fist right over your retreating back.

 

The pain is downright blinding and a shrill scream escapes your lips, but you still get away, though only just. You cough violently on all fours a scant few yards away, and it’s only small comfort that his engines have finally stalled because at this point, you’re not sure you can move. Ripples of agony continue crashing over your back, spreading down to your whole body, and the pain actually wrenches another pitiful cry from your throat. Dimly, you can hear the crowd groaning in sympathy, but you refuse to let yourself go down without a fight.

 

Unsteadily getting back on your feet, you dash forward as fast as you can, ignoring the pain as you fly forward feet first and clock him right on the head before he has a chance to react. You land right behind him and pivot on your toes as he reels, then swiftly strike him on the side of his face, sending him sprawling to the ground. You’re almost positive your left hand is broken, but you don’t care. You raise your other fist to hit him again when his hand reaches out and yanks you by the leg, sending you tumbling to the floor just as he gets up.

 

Your lungs freeze in your chest. If he manages to pin you down, you’ll never get away. It’s practically killing you to do so, but you take to the air, hovering high above and shaking with the effort. You see him get up, and his face is contorted, either from agony or anger, you can’t tell.

 

“Come down and face me like a proper adversary!” he shouts, glaring daggers up at you. “You can’t stay up there forever!”

 

Yes I can!’ you think stubbornly, but even as the thought crosses your mind, a familiar, white-hot prickling throb washes over your entire form. Your body shudders violently, but as to how long you stay up there, you can’t say. Time is on his side, not yours. Once his engines cool down, he’ll be able to overload them again, and you know as well as he does that you can’t fend off another one of those attacks. Not again.

 

“Are you afraid of me?” he asks suddenly, and the sound of Iida actually taunting you pulls you up short. “The hero course isn’t known for cowardice, (Surname)-kun.”

 

Your eyes grow impossibly wide, then slowly narrow into slits as you take in the meaning of his words, now engulfed in unbridled rage. “Bastard…!” you snarl, visibly shaking with anger. “What did you just call me?!”

 

Without waiting for his answer, you descend quickly and land on the floor below, and Iida swiftly seizes his opportunity. He charges forward with determination lining his every feature, but you don’t move from your spot. Instead, you raise your unbroken hand out as though beckoning to him, eyes firmly locked onto his, and for a moment, it’s as if time slows down. The only sound that fills the air is your rapidly pounding heartbeat and the dull noise of the crowd around you, but it’s the feeling of despair that threatens to overwhelm you.

 

I’m so sorry…I tried.’

 

Then your lips part as you take in a short breath…

 

And sing.

Chapter Text

A hush falls over the crowd and for several long seconds, the stadium is subdued into stillness, either from shock or your Quirk, you can’t really tell, but you try not to let yourself care, try not to think about what kind of consequences this will bring, for you and for the people who had believed in you, but it’s impossible. Midoriya...Shinsou...you can’t even begin to imagine what Todoroki is thinking. Is he even watching? Are any of them watching? Your hand, outstretched and palm up, is trembling from the severity of your decision, but even so, you don’t stop singing, your voice strong and steady, not forming any words in particular. The tune feels familiar, but it’s a distant comfort, barely discernible among the other emotions currently fighting for control in your heart.

 

Iida has long since stuttered to a halt, his arms hanging limply at his sides and his face—oh god, it’s so much worse seeing him up close—isn’t quite blank like how Midoriya’s had appeared during his fight with Shinsou. His eyes, dark and unfocused with an intensity that makes your body shudder with foreboding, don’t leave yours for a single moment, but it’s his expression, one of befuddled longing that really makes your skin crawl. The bright golden threads of entrapment, invisible to all except you, wrap tightly around him in a way seems almost indecent and the sight makes you want to puke. This is the power of a siren, the power you had spent so much time running from, and seeing it manifesting so glaringly is a shock to your system.

 

“What a stunning turn of events! Iida Tenya is completely spellbound!” screeches Present Mic, and it’s as if the sound rushes back in, the deafening cheers of the crowd roaring around you on all sides, and for a frightening second, your control almost shatters, but you reflexively hold on fast, raising your voice a little louder. More golden threads appear, so numerous that they’re impossible to count and disperse toward the spectators, but you reach out on instinct, extending your hand in a graceful arc, and to your amazement, the strings grow taut, then become frayed at the ends, as though the ends have been severed. You can’t feel them, but they bend and sway at your touch, swirling around you in a strange, gently-moving glittering vortex.

 

“Who knew (Surname) had such a terrifying power at her disposal?! She can bring even the mightiest foes to their knees with her voice alone! Iida is completely at her mercy!!! Are you seeing this, Eraserhead?!” You wish Present Mic would shut up already, even though you know it’s his job to commentate. If anything, he’s making you feel even worse, something that you didn’t think was possible.

 

You take a step backward, then another as you continue singing, and watch as Iida slouches forward, his footsteps dragging slightly on the ground. Stopping just before you cross the boundary, you raise your hand once again, and feeling absolutely sickened with yourself, crook your index finger, egging him closer. He obeys without hesitation, his mouth hanging open slightly, and when he’s just a few feet away, you grab him by the front of his uniform and roughly shove him over the line.

 

Just like that, the spell shatters and you turn away just as your voice dies. On your right, Midnight raises a hand. “Iida Tenya has been pushed out of bounds! (Surname) (Name) wins!”

 

From behind you, Iida gasps as though he’s been holding his breath for a long time, but you don’t wait until he’s lucid enough to confront you. The cheers around you sound distorted and strangely muffled as you rapidly walk down the stairs, chest rapidly rising and falling as you struggle to take a breath. You feel so cold, and it’s only until you get inside that you begin to pick up your pace, finally stopping at the hallway where you met Todoroki a million years ago.

 

You lean back against the wall, clutching your stomach and fighting down the urge to be sick, but all you manage to do is slowly sink down onto the floor. Your hand is slightly swollen now and throbs painfully with your every pulse, and you’re dimly aware you should probably go see Recovery Girl, but you can’t bring yourself to move.

 

What did I just do?’ you think hopelessly. ‘What the fuck did I just do…?!’ Squeezing your eyes shut, you slam the back of your head against the wall behind you repeatedly, and while you can’t begin to understand your roiling emotions, it’s obvious none of them are good.

 

Everyone knows now—all of Japan knows—and you want to scream with frustration because if you had a choice, this is not how you would have divulged your secret. It was supposed to be a private moment between you and whoever else you chose to tell, a moment that laid you vulnerable and bare, but it would have been okay because you’d give them time to understand, to accept you, like Todoroki had done. Now it’s all ruined and you have no one to blame but yourself. You continue sitting there, seized in a full-body tremor as you pull your knees up to your chest and curl up into a ball, fighting back the cries of despair fighting to escape, so all that come out are choked-off whimpers that cause your shoulders to shake involuntarily. You knew this was going to be the inevitable end result, Aizawa had warned you this would happen, but…but…

 

I didn’t want it like this,’ you think despondently.

 

You stay in that hunched position for what feels like forever, even though it can’t be more than a few minutes. No tears fall from your cheeks even though you’re terrified, but if you go back to face your classmates with a splotchy face and swollen eyes, it’ll just make things even weirder. You’re not even sure what you want to happen anymore. They’ll look at you differently, there’s no doubt about it, but while you don’t personally care about their opinions, you think it’s high time you should start thinking about them. You don’t know why it took you this long to realize that a hero kept a certain image, an image largely dictated by their actions and by the people they saved. What would happen if, at some point in the future after you became a pro, people didn’t want to be saved by a siren?

 

It’s kind of a cruel name, a fact you’ve long accepted, but there’s no other way to really describe your powers in such a succinct way. Still, the negative connotations remain. Sirens lure poor, hapless men into their waiting arms using their beguiling voices, where they blindly follow them to lie in pretty fields of flowers littered with the bones of other unfortunate souls who had also fallen under the siren’s call. You had researched the term when you were younger out of morbid curiosity and some of the questions that popped up were ‘how do you kill a siren?’ and ‘how do sirens kill?’. On and on it went until you finally snapped and threw your phone across the room where it smashed against a wall and you had to get a new one.

 

You squeeze your eyes shut to the point of aching. And you had been so excited as a child. So young, so stupidly naive.

 

“Knew I’d find you eventually,” says a low, rumbling voice that simultaneously makes your chest swell and freeze your insides. You stiffen considerably, but otherwise don’t move a muscle, chest rising and falling as you take small, slow breaths. There’s a rustling of clothes followed by a sigh as a weight settles less than two inches away from you. You’re not whimpering anymore, but the tremors begin to return in earnest and you curl up into an even tighter ball.

 

You can hear him take a breath as though he wants to say something, but something stops him. Instead, he lets out another exhale, heavier this time with what you think is resignation or disappointment, you can’t say.

 

A heavy arm settles over your shoulders and you finally jerk your head up to see Shinsou staring at you. He doesn’t have that infuriating smile on his face that he usually reserves for you, the kind that doesn’t flinch in the wake of your insults and widens in amusement at your angry outbursts. Instead, his face is perfectly blank. It’s his default expression, the one he employs when he’s thinking hard about something. It makes you feel like you’re being x-rayed and you look away toward the blank stretch of wall opposite you. Your lower lip quivers involuntarily and you move your uninjured hand to cover it.

 

“Semifinals, huh?” he says, breaking the oppressive silence at last.

 

Your eyebrows knit together and you fight the urge to pull away.

 

“I was watching you earlier,” he continues, and when you reluctantly sneak a sideways glance, he’s staring at the wall too, his eyes unfocused in recollection. “I’ve never seen you so fired up before. It was kind of scary, to be honest.” He huffs, not quite a laugh. “But you did it. You won.”

 

Your stomach clenches painfully and you bite your thoroughly-chewed lower lip. It still doesn’t feel like a win. In fact, it’s as if it’s completely undeserved, tainted even. You draw in a shuddering breath and slowly exhale, waiting for the shoe to drop.

 

He considers his words for a moment, which doesn’t bode well for you. He’s never cared about mincing his words around you before. You can tell he’s looking at you now. His gaze feels like it’s burning.

 

“Why didn’t you tell me?” His voice is soft, but not gentle. There’s hurt laced in his words and your insides shrivel with guilt.

 

“I...” you begin hoarsely, then clear your throat, “I was going to. During lunch.” You lean your head back against the wall and there’s a dull ache forming there from when you bashed it earlier. “It’s nothing against you. No one in my class knew either. Except Todoroki, but he only found out by accident.”

 

He takes time to process this and you consider it a very bad sign when he slowly removes his arm from your shoulders, which leaves you feeling desolate and afraid. His brow is furrowed and his lips are pressed together, but you don’t know what to make of it so you look down at your shoes, shifting uncomfortably. After a time, he inhales deeply through his nose and runs a hand against the side of his neck.

 

“You know, I...” he starts before trailing off. He glances at you without turning his head before focusing his attention on his free hand, his index finger running slowly over his the edge of his thumb. “I’m kind of curious now. What’s your Quirk registered as? Present Mic didn’t really specify…”

 

Something tells you this isn’t what he had been planning to say, but you go along with it for now. “Siren,” you mumble after a pause, grimacing.

 

His breathing is slow and calm in the silence that follows. There’s so many things you want to say, but you’ve always been terrible at this. You know why he’s upset with you...it’s understandable he’d feel at least a little betrayed. Ultimately, the choice to tell him had been up to you, but as with all things that made you frightened or angry, you had chosen to run instead. It’s not healthy or mature, but it still doesn’t change the fact that Iida was right—you are a coward.

 

“I was always told I’d make a great villain because of my Quirk,” Shinsou says. Distantly, you can hear the crowd screaming with excitement, but it’s far off, temporarily disconnected from your life. “I didn’t blame them much. If I had been in their shoes, I would’ve thought the same way. But you know,” he muses, leaning his head back and drawing his knees up, resting his arms on them so that his fingertips dangle in the air between his legs, “I still want to be a hero.”

 

Your lips twist into a faint frown. Your situations are so similar, so familiar and now you understand why you had recognized the bitterness in his voice that day you met. It’s the same one in yours.

 

“You want to be a hero too, right?” he asks.

 

You nod.

 

He shuffles closer until your shoulders touch and this time, you don’t flinch away. “That’s what you should focus on then, becoming strong so you can make it happen. I don’t know your circumstances or why you chose to hide your power, but…to be honest…now that the shock has worn off, I’m actually a little relieved.” You turn, surprised, and that familiar smile is back on his face. “We’re not as different as I thought. Our Quirks are kind of similar too.” He nudges you slightly. “There’s no way you’re going to get rid of me now.”

 

Your tiny smile is slow to form and quivers at the ends, but you still manage it somehow. “You’re so annoying...” you mumble.

 

Shinsou snorts softly before getting up. “Come on, let’s go get that hand checked out,” he says, helping you to your feet.

 

After leaving Recovery Girl’s office, you hesitate in the hallway, absently running a hand over your recently healed, bandaged one. “I think...I should probably go prepare,” you mumble. “I think my next match is coming up soon.”

 

Shinsou’s eyebrows raise. “Oh, hang on…you’re going up against Todoroki, aren’t you?” At your nod, his expression grows pensive. “Aren’t you guys friends or something?”

 

Sighing, you begin walking to the waiting room, not surprised when he follows. “Yeah.” Some part of you is wishing you hadn’t run off to hide. Maybe you could have been able to talk to Todoroki before facing off. ‘About what?’ you think to yourself, your footsteps echoing a little too loudly in your ears. ‘It’s not like I was hiding anything from him.’

 

But he might have wanted to talk to you,’ says another voice in your head, which only serves to make you feel guilty. ‘Maybe he wanted to see how you were holding up.’

 

Shinsou helps himself to the refreshments laid out on a table in the waiting room while you sit, taking a large sip from a bottle of green tea before wordlessly offering you some. You make a face, not really in the mood for anything and he shrugs. The beginnings of nervousness are setting in, and you clasp your hands together, listening to the crowd outside. After a particularly deafening cheer from the crowd, Present Mic announces the winner of the bout—Bakugou—and you take in a shuddering breath. Not long now…

 

“You’ll be alright,” says Shinsou, his voice slightly distorted against the bottle he presses to his lips.

 

Your throat works around an affirmation, but all that comes out is a soft grunt. Soon, you’ll have to face the world again and you’re not sure what kind of reception you’ll find. You’re shivering so hard the chair you’re sitting on is starting to rattle, and it’s so stupid you’re feeling this nervous, but you don’t think your fears are unfounded. Todoroki may be your friend, but you’d be an idiot to assume he would hold back.

 

You raise your head slowly, lips parting in realization. That’s right…Todoroki would fight with everything he’s got. It would be downright insulting if you didn’t extend the same courtesy. And really, the cat’s out of the bag now, so why should you hold back? There’s no reason to anymore.

 

The thought is liberating and your nerves slowly give way to…not excitement, exactly, but something closer to anticipation. So when Present Mic announces the start of the semifinals, you stand firm, back straight with a fierce determination burning in your heart. The energy that’s coursing through your body is still present, your senses both dulled and heightened at the same time.

 

At the entryway to the arena, you glance back at Shinsou and grab the bottle in his hand and take a large swig to take some of the edge off, even if the flavor tastes absolutely disgusting on your tongue. He doesn’t question your antics as you give it back with a faint grimace, just shakes his head a little.

 

“Ladies and gentlemen! The first match of the semifinals is about to begin!” declares Present Mic and the crowd is absolutely deafening. “Are you ready?!” The approving roar practically shakes the entire stadium. You’re not sure if you’re having an out-of-body experience but everything feels almost detached and strange. The faint pressure of Shinsou’s hand squeezing your shoulder barely registers in your mind before you step forward into the dazzling sunlight and wave of sound.

 

“She’s back for an encore performance, but will it be just as jaw-dropping as before?! From the hero course, (Surname) (Name)!!!” announces Present Mic and the audience cheers the loudest you’ve heard yet, which you didn’t think was possible. The positive reception gives you a little boost of confidence as you step onto the platform, locking eyes with Todoroki across the way.

 

“VERSUS…! The unstoppable powerhouse of Class 1A! TODOROKI SHOUTO!!!” You have to admit that Mic’s pretty good at pumping up a crowd because they’re just eating this up. Those noise levels are so intense that you actually wince a little.

 

Todoroki dips into a low, respectful bow, which you aren’t expecting, but you can’t help the faint smile that pulls on your lips before you return it. From somewhere on your right, Midnight is squealing and gushing at the display, though she thankfully recovers quickly.

 

“Todoroki,” you begin, your voice wavering slightly, “I’m not going to hold back. I did some thinking and…I’m going to give it my all, so…you do the same. Okay?”

 

He blinks in faint surprise. “Are you sure?” His eyebrows furrow, not in anger, but concern, and you know that his question runs far deeper than he’s letting on.

 

You nod slowly, then get into a fighting stance just as Midnight starts to raise her whip. “I’m ready.”

 

“Begin!”

 

You’re fully expecting the pillars of ice, but years of training have given you excellent reflexes and you manage to just barely dodge. Considering how quickly they erupt all around you, it’s an achievement in itself, and the crowd is going absolutely nuts as you dodge wave after wave of ice, and it feels like you’re doing gymnastics at times, forced to flip in the air and sometimes cartwheel all over the place. You know his relentless assault is to prevent you from enthralling him and damn it, it’s working better than you had expected. You have to be very careful not to touch the ice, but it’s easier said than done.

 

When Todoroki unexpectedly switches things up using fire, you’re so caught off guard that he manages to catch your sleeve and you spend a few useless seconds dodging while trying to put it out. By the end of it, your palms are an angry, splotched pink and they throb, oversensitive to touch. It’s only been a few minutes into the match and you’re running on fumes, your body pulsing with pain and after a particularly painful lurch, you know you’ve come dangerously close to your limit.

 

The crowd seems restless, but it doesn’t match up at all with your fight, so it sounds strange, almost as if they’re caught up in something entirely different. Present Mic is screaming something, but you ignore it when Todoroki takes a half second to melt the frost off his body. ‘He’s open!’ you think, and that instant is all you need.

 

Your lips part and a slow, slightly mournful harmony comes out, slightly out of breath, but it’s enough. All at once, you see the golden threads wrap loosely around his body and he stops, thoroughly caught up in your spell. They go out to the audience as well, but you reach out like you did with your match with Iida and brush them until they fall away and swirl around you. Then—

 

Something’s wrong.

 

The threads binding Todoroki flicker and with a shake of his head, burst into millions of glittering particles that make you think of stardust. You inhale sharply and suddenly, you’re back at USJ, standing helpless in the face of the Nomu and your voice dies in your throat.

 

His pupils are normal when he looks at you now. “I was expecting you to do that,” he says lowly, loud enough for you to hear. “My theory was right…concentrate hard enough and you can break free.” His voice sounds oddly strained, like he’s running on too much energy, but he doesn’t know what to do with it. You can feel yourself start to panic when he slams his foot on the ground and a massive glacier rapidly starts to barrel towards you, so you do the only thing that comes to mind.

 

Instead of a wordless melody, your lips form words, and even though there’s no music, your voice takes on an ethereal quality you can’t explain while your hair fans out and sways gently like it’s underwater, and several things happen at once. The ice stops only inches away from your face and the crowd goes disturbingly quiet, and while you can’t see Todoroki anymore, you know you’ve done it. The song itself is familiar, the lyrics complex and sad as you sing a song of painful longing. You can feel your emotions channeling into your voice and the threads become ribbons, undulating and unfolding in the air before wrapping at a point beyond the ice. The pain is almost overwhelming as you take to the sky, but you continue singing as though your life depends on it, your toes just skimming the ice underneath until you land and the pain finally recedes.

 

As you begin the chorus, your voice pitches, growing stronger and the ribbons, which had been glowing gently before, pulse with newfound brightness in time to the slow rhythm, and Todoroki stands helplessly only feet away, his pupils blown so wide it’s almost impossible to see the color of his irises. The sight doesn’t do a thing to help your feelings of uneasiness. You can make him do anything when he’s like this, the most powerful student in your class, and everything about it seems wrong, but…you had both promised not to hold anything back. And yet even now, you still wonder if you made the right choice. When your hand rises to push against his chest, you’re not surprised to find it shaking and your stomach turns. The fabric of his uniform stings against your fingertips and you apply the faintest pressure, grimacing slightly when his breath catches almost imperceptibly at your touch.

 

No, stop…I hate this…’

 

Please!

 

STOP IT RIGHT NOW

 

“That’s it! Keep going! You’re almost there!”

 

The lone voice in the sea of quiet shatters your concentration and you flinch, the ribbons fracturing as though they’re made of glass before splintering in a cascade of broken sunlight. How is it that your heartbeat pounds so forcefully when everything else in you has gone so still? You barely register your face turning slowly to look at the stands, eyes searching until they finally find what they’re looking for, and suddenly everything comes crashing down.

 

How did…? What…?

 

Eyes lit with a burning fire that can only be pride is your mother, leaning over the railings with her bright, golden wings spread wide behind her, her face split in a wide, encouraging smile. She’s gripping the rails so hard her hands tremble, but she only has eyes for you.

 

A strangled, choking noise gets caught in your throat, and it’s only then that you’re aware that you’ve long stopped singing. You look back at Todoroki, who’s just breaking out of his daze, hand clutched to his head as he clears it, and your breathing comes in short, quick bursts. You take a step backward, then another, and another until finally, your back hits the wall of ice and you shudder violently.

 

You’re just like me…my little star...I’m not you, okay?!I never want to be like you

 

You can’t breathe, can’t breathe, oh God, why is it so hard to b r e a t h e

 

There’s a second that stretches for an eternity as Todoroki stares at you, eyes lucid and stunned, as though seeing you plainly for the first time and you struggle to form words, but your throat is sealed tight and your eyes burn until he becomes a wash of color.

 

Then the moment vanishes and something hits you with the force of a truck, hurling you sideways, and as you careen through the air, you think you hear someone screaming your name in the distance, but all you see is the stadium rushing by in a blur before you crash to the ground below. The impact hurts, and your waist feels frigid to the touch, but when you shakily raise a hand to touch it, there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with it. Then you slowly raise your eyes to the platform above and your eyes widen slowly at the realization.

 

You lost.

 

You…lost

 

“(Surname) has been knocked out of the arena! Todoroki Shouto wins!” shouts Midnight, and the stadium cheers. You slowly get to your feet, feeling sore all over and your eyes find Todoroki’s, who’s staring down at you from the platform. Then he turns and walks down the stairs, and you’re left staring at his retreating back, filled with frustration and regret.

 

You wanted to win, but…that’s clearly over now.

 

You’re quiet when you emerge from Recovery Girl’s office. You’re not sure if you can face your classmates anymore. Not after…

 

Shame fills your insides and you bite your lower lip. Back at the arena, you could almost taste the sweetness of victory, had almost held it in your hands, but…

 

Your feet take you there anyway and some part of you is screaming to turn back, but you can’t bring yourself to do it. You simply keep moving, slowly putting one foot in front of the other, so out of it that you almost fail to notice him leaning against the wall in the corridor.

 

You blink, eyes focusing until you zero in on Todoroki. Something small and warm settles in your chest at the sight of him. You feel a little ashamed of yourself as you look at your friend. It’s not fair to be wallowing in self-pity just because he beat you, as if something so petty as a tournament could ever stand in the way of your friendship. You take a few steps closer just as he looks up and the smile that’s slowly starting to form on your lips fades at the cold glare he sends your way.

 

“Hey,” you say quietly. He doesn’t immediately answer. You don’t know what’s going on. He’s never looked at you that way. Ever.

 

“(Surname).” He says your name so callously, so harshly that you feel your eyebrows hitch in confusion. He steps closer and this time, you can see the way his brow is furrowed, the slight wrinkle between his eyes, how hard his jaw is set and the fire blazing in his mismatched eyes. You swallow thickly. Something is very, very wrong here. “Do you remember what you told me at the beginning of the match?” His voice is edged with so much frost that it cracks the air, splintering and cutting you deep.

 

“Todoroki, wha—?”

 

“‘I’m going to give it my all,’” he quotes scathingly and you feel the beginnings of dread begin to freeze your insides. “That’s what you said.” His fists clench tightly at his sides and you feel yourself getting smaller and smaller in the face of his anger. “That’s what I thought you were going to do.”

 

“Todo—”

 

“Why did you do it?” His voice raises slightly and you flinch. “Why did you throw the match?”

 

“I…I didn’t,” you choke out, and oh God, you can feel your heart screaming in pain because he’s getting it all wrong and you should really say something before this spirals out of control, but you can’t, you can’t—you can barely get the words out. You grow desperate. “I—I used my Quirk and everything, so…it’s not like I’m hiding it anymore. I can’t. Everyone knows now!” You cling to your words like a woman drowning at sea, but the temporary relief they provide is shattered when Todoroki grows visibly angrier.

 

“You stopped. You had me in the palm of your hand, but you stopped.” His voice makes Antarctica seem warm and balmy by comparison.

 

Your mouth works silently for a second before you shake your head, not in denial, but in horror. “I…I just…I didn’t…” You take a deep breath before continuing, but you’re shaking so much that you can’t get the words right. “I know how bad this looks, but I can explain.”

 

His eyes narrow slightly. “You didn’t have a problem using your Quirk to win against your match with Iida.”

 

You physically recoil as though he had just slapped you. He has you there. Still, you struggle to explain yourself, but you choke and nothing comes out the way you want. “I…I know…but it’s just…I heard…I mean, she just started…it was out of nowhere and I wasn’t expecting it. My mother…I didn’t know she was going to come see the match.” Your breathing is starting to become erratic, but he either doesn’t notice or doesn’t care, and the thought destroys you.

 

Todoroki crosses his arms, but you can see the tight way he grips the fabric of his sleeve. “There was a second after you stopped singing, where I was vulnerable. You could have won then, but you just stared.” His jaw clenches and he bites out his next words. “You didn’t do anything.”

 

You don’t know what to tell him. He doesn’t know about your mother, what your relationship is like…and you can’t possibly explain how turbulent it is without reliving years of anger and neglect, and even then, you could never fully explain the scope of its entirety. You want to tell him, but you’re so afraid, because your lonely years spent cooped up in your manor seem tame in comparison to the abuse he’s endured throughout his life. Your suffering is negligible next to his.

 

What can you possibly say?

 

“I didn’t hold back in my fight with you,” he says, cutting through your thoughts. “I wanted to see what more you were capable of, but…” He closes his eyes, then slowly opens them again. “I suppose you made it clear I don’t deserve the same respect from you.”

 

The choked off whimper can’t possibly be coming from you, but then he turns around and it’s as if the world shatters beneath your feet. “Todoroki…?” you hear yourself say, dimly, but all you’re aware of is the low agonized screaming inside your head as you reach out to his retreating back. He doesn’t turn around and keeps walking and a pitiful, anguished cry escapes your lips. “Todoroki! Please…!

 

His footsteps soon fade away to nothing. He’s gone.

 

—“I hate you! I hate you and I never want to see you again!”

 

“Todoroki…” There’s no use calling for him anymore. He can’t hear you, and even if he did, he wouldn’t come back. You stumble backwards until your back hits the wall. This can’t be happening. Not again. ‘Oh God, anything but this...please…’ Your breath comes in sharp, quick bursts as you raise your hands to your parted lips and slowly sink back against the wall on your knees. Something in your brain seems to have jammed and absolutely nothing makes sense anymore. You’re spiraling out of control and you can’t seem to make it stop.

 

Then the tears come, fast and hot on your cheeks and onto your lap and you suck in a breath, then another, until your face finally crumples and you fall apart. The pressure on your chest constricts painfully and you struggle to breathe through your quiet sobs. Your heart lies in pieces all around you, but you can’t manage to bring yourself to pick them up lest you destroy yourself completely.

 

How could have it all gone so wrong? You had just mended your friendship with Todoroki, had shared a heartfelt moment with him in these very halls, and now you don’t know if you’ll ever get it back. The thought makes you cry even harder, and your anguished whimpers and hiccups echo in the silence. Everything in your life is in shambles and you have no idea how to fix it. You don’t know where to even begin. ‘Would I even be able to anymore?’

 

You don’t know how long you stay there, but you don’t think you could move even if you wanted to. Everything in you in screaming in misery and you can’t seem to stop crying. The world shrinks, the sounds of the crowd outside dimming to nothing until it’s only you, alone and heartbroken. You just want this feeling to stop. It hurts, it hurts, it hurts…

 

You don’t hear the quiet intake of breath or the hurrying footsteps but you can’t ignore the soft voice that calls your name. One last stray hiccup escapes before you slowly lower your hands from your eyes to see Midoriya kneeling down in front of you. His bright green eyes shimmer with worry and once he gets a look at your face, they squint a little with sympathy. You can’t hold his gaze and instead let it wander, taking in his bandages, the bandages wrapped around both of his arms, one in a sling and the other at his side and the tears fall anew.

 

“(Surname)-san…” he murmurs softly, but you shake your head and cover your eyes.

 

No…why did it have to be you?’ you think as you press your quivering lips together, but it can’t stop the tiny, pitiful noises escaping your throat. ‘Why don’t you just stay away?’

 

“What happened?” Midoriya asks softly, and you feel rather than see him shuffle closer. “Why are you crying?”

 

This only makes you cry harder and all you want is to sink into the ground and disappear forever. You don’t want to him to see you like this. You must be a mess, but you can’t seem to stop no matter what you do. It’s so shameful.

 

“I...I lost—” You can’t bring yourself to say Todoroki’s name. “Midoriya…I…I’m a coward…” You’re barely comprehensible at this point, but something must register because you hear him shift a little.

 

“No…no…you’re not. You’re one of the bravest people I know,” he says gently, but you finally tear your hands away from your eyes, shoulders shaking with suppressed sobs.

 

No, you can’t just—I...you’re wrong about me,” you whimper, your voice small and weak-sounding even to your ears. Midoriya’s eyebrows hitch up as they take in your expression. “I’m so damn weak and I—I lied to you…I lied to everyone…” You squeeze your eyes shut and lower your head as several more tears drip onto your lap. “I thought I could be stronger, but I’m not and I just...I ran because I was scared.” You think back to the beach and know that he understands now, knows the reason why you stayed away. You don’t deserve to look at him.

 

He’s quiet, but then you hear him sigh. “I won’t lie…I was really shocked when you used your Quirk against Iida-kun for the first time,” he says and you curl in on yourself a little. “But…I don’t think you’re weak. In fact…I think you’re incredible.” Your tears seem to freeze on your cheeks and you slowly look up to find him smiling gently, almost tenderly at you. “I always thought you were an amazing person and now I…” He pauses, and a light dusting of pink appears on his cheeks. “I admire you even more than I did before, (Surname)-san. I know you’re frustrated about…the match, but…I know you can get stronger. I believe in you. I really...really do.”

 

Midoriya hesitates for a few moments before he slowly reaches over and places a hand behind your head and gently tucks you against his shoulder. “It’s okay to cry, (Surname)-san,” he says against your ear, and you can hear his pounding heartbeat from here. “It’s only natural to feel this way.” The hug is awkward as the sling doesn’t let you get very close and his uniform shirt hangs unzipped and loosely on his shoulders.

 

You bring your arms up, intending to push him away but find yourself pulling him closer, your fingers clutching almost desperately at his back. Your emotions spill over and you let go, crying into his shoulder in earnest, your anguished wails filling the empty hallway as Midoriya makes gentle shushing noises, his hand slowly running down your hair. He doesn’t really understand, he doesn’t know about your falling out with Todoroki, but even so, he’s still trying to help. You can’t remember the last time anyone ever embraced you and something other than sadness fills your heart. You think...it might be relief.

 

Eventually, your sniffles die down, but you don’t move to pull away. Instead, you rub your face into his shoulder a little and his hand stills. He shuffles back, wincing a little in pain and a wave of guilt washes over you. He looks worse than you thought. Bandages wrap around his torso and his foot is in a cast, and he’s sporting a large medical patch on his cheek.

 

You let out a final, shuddering sigh and wipe the mess off your face. Your head aches now and you know you must look awful. “Midoriya, I…” you begin, about to apologize for unloading this on him, but something tells you this isn’t what he wants to hear, so instead you say, “...thank you.”

 

He smiles faintly. “Don’t worry about it,” he answers.

 

Midoriya waits for you while you splash your face in the women’s restroom a few minutes later (which is blessedly empty) and when you emerge, the weight in your heart has lessened slightly. “I feel like shit,” you mutter into your hand as you rub it over yourself, then let it drop. “My head hurts.”

 

“Yeah, um…that’s to be expected,” he says sheepishly. When he steps closer, you notice he has a slight limp. “Do you feel any better?”

 

You shrug. “Don’t know,” you reply, sighing heavily. There’s a slightly awkward silence, but something in the friendship between you has shifted. You’re not sure what it is and yet you can’t deny the change that’s now present.

 

The silence is broken by the deafening screams from the crowd outside and Midoriya looks up. “Oh…the final match must be starting,” he muses, then brings his attention back to you. “Do you want to watch?”

 

You tense, thinking of Todoroki, but Midoriya seems to misinterpret this because he raises his less damaged hand in a placating way. “We don’t have to if you don’t want to. I just thought that maybe…”

 

Shaking your head, you step forward, setting a steady pace and Midoriya falls silent, walking beside you. You still don’t think you can face everyone alone, but…

 

Shooting a glance at him, he smiles reassuringly at you and the resolve in your heart strengthens. If he’s by your side, supporting you, just being there for you…then perhaps it won’t be so difficult facing your fears. Maybe you can watch Todoroki’s match without feeling like your heart’s being ripped in two.

 

Just before you step out into the stands, you hesitate, steps faltering slightly, but the small weight of Midoriya’s hand that briefly squeezes your shoulder is more comforting than you’ll ever admit out loud and you take a quiet, deep breath before letting it out and moving forward. Eyes not fixated on the combatants below swivel to face you and you steel your back and find a seat that’s a little distance away. To your great relief, Midoriya takes a seat next to you in a display of solidarity and you’ve never felt more grateful to have him around.

 

The lure of the match is too great and your classmates finally tear their gazes away from you to the arena below. You follow their attention and let out a soft sigh of resignation. Todoroki stands on one end and Bakugou on the other. The crowd around you is loud and excitable, but you can’t bring yourself to muster even a modicum of energy.

 

Soon, the match begins and Todoroki begins with a wall of ice, though not to the scale he used against his fight with Sero. Dimly, you think there’s something off about Todoroki. No doubt a part of his mind is still clouded, probably thinking about earlier, and his movements don’t seem to be as precise or coordinated as before. Midoriya notices this too and mumbles under his breath, but you don’t listen. As far as you’re concerned, you don’t really care who wins the tournament at this point.

 

You hate to admit it, but Bakugou has excellent combat intuition, judging when and where to place his attacks thanks to his complete mastery of his Quirk, though the thought does make you scowl a little. Todoroki’s moving well, but he’s still not himself and despite your complicated feelings, you can’t help but feel frustrated. You know he’s more than capable of taking Bakugou down, but when he has an opportunity to use his flames, he doesn’t. You don’t know if he can feel your glower from here, but you hope he does because the sadness from earlier is slowly, but surely giving way to anger.

 

When Midoriya shouts encouragement, it seems to snap Todoroki out of whatever daze he’s in, and brilliant fire erupts out of his left side. Bakugou takes heart from this and launches himself into the air, setting off a series of explosions that sent him rocketing forward like a human missile. Todoroki extends his left hand, preparing to attack with a determined grimace on his face.

 

Then you see his expression fall into quiet resignation and the flames on his arm quickly flicker and die out right before a massive explosion obliterates everything. You sit up in your seat, shock jolting through your system and when the smoke clears to reveal Todoroki lying unconscious on a bed of ice outside the arena, molten, white hot fury courses through you. Gritting your teeth, you bow your head and clench your hands tightly into fists, ignoring the roar of the crowd as Bakugou is subdued into a deep slumber thanks to Midnight’s Quirk.

 

That hypocrite!’ you think furiously, and you’re so incensed you barely register Midoriya’s concerned look. ‘That filthy fucking little hypocrite! You said all that shit about holding back and you...you…!’ You slowly sink back into your seat, stewing in anger, and it’s only when Midoriya reminds you that you have to go down to the award ceremony that you snap out of it.

 

A stranger, presumably one of the coordinators judging by the badge she’s wearing, picks you out from the crowd and pulls you aside, away from the rest of your classmates. You barely hear her excited chattering as she leads you down some stairs and into a peculiar room. A large podium rests on a mechanical platform and your eyes land on Tokoyami, who’s the closest.

 

“I expected you’d be here,” he says once he sees you. “I saw some of your match earlier. You fought well.”

 

You breathe out through your nose as a surge of bitterness rises in your throat, but Tokoyami doesn’t seem to be treating you any differently, so that’s one small relief. You mutter out a quiet ‘thanks’ and look around, eyes landing on the commotion going on in front of the podium.

 

There’s a bit of a crowd there and when they pull away, your jaw actually drops slightly at the sight of Bakugou locked into heavy restraints. At first, you think they’re being way too excessive, but then he continues struggling, his screams of rage muffled by something you can only describe as a muzzle and you think that maybe the coordinators could stand to tighten those restraints a bit more. As they move away, apparently satisfied with their work, you soon realize why Bakugou’s thrashing around so much.

 

Todoroki stands on Bakugou’s right on the podium, looking detached and unfocused, so he doesn’t really see you standing some distance away. You glare at Todoroki with quiet resentment and part of you understands Bakugou’s ire as you move to stand on his left next to Tokoyami, who remains silent.

 

You can hear Midnight somewhere on the floor above you and you faintly realize you’re underground, but you don’t have much time to dwell on it as the platform you’re on begins to rise. A panel overhead opens up and the roar of the crowd is deafening in your ears, and bursts of confetti and smoke greet you on the way up until it stops, facing a crowd of first years. You can hear your classmates muttering among themselves, no doubt shocked at Bakugou’s treatment, but you hardly care.

 

You’re still in a foul mood so you don’t bother making nice and instead scowl at the many cameras flashing in your direction. You don’t know how long you spend fuming, but it comes as a shock when All Might himself stands before you, holding two bronze medals. You barely register his encouraging words even as he wraps both you and Tokoyami in a firm embrace, then drapes the medals over your shoulders.

 

Holding it up to to get a better look at it, you sigh softly as All Might moves on. The bronze glitters in the bright sunlight before you let it drop. You just want this day to be over.

 

The rest of the day passes by in a blur and before you know it, you’re sitting at your desk with the entire class as Aizawa briefly explains about internships. The only other thing you catch is that there won’t be any classes tomorrow or the day after, and when he dismisses everyone, you close your eyes briefly. You’re hyper-aware of Todoroki’s movements in the next seat over, but when the class rises to leave, you quickly grab your bag and head for the door so you don’t have to look at anyone.

 

The halls are empty when you step outside and you head purposefully down the corridor to take the stairs, but then you hear someone else’s uneven footsteps behind you and you stop with a heavy sigh. “Midoriya…you don’t have to keep following me,” you say without turning around.

 

“Oh…I’m sorry,” he says after a pause. When you look back at him, he’s staring at you with a worried frown. “I didn’t mean to bother you.”

 

Your eyebrows furrow, not in anger, but in commiseration. None of what you’re feeling is his fault. You shouldn’t take it out on him. There’s a heavy sort of emptiness in the pit of your chest where Todoroki used to be, but when you walk back and reach out to Midoriya, the void seems less all-encompassing, a little less frightening, and you want to embrace him again just to feel comforted all over again.

 

Instead, you quietly fix his tie until it settles neatly against his chest. He watches you in silence, and when you look up at him, you notice how brilliantly vivid his eyes look against the warm orange sunset coming in through the glass window and you can’t remember if they looked the same way that fateful day on Dagobah Beach. You wonder if he’s thinking about it too. The thought makes you frown and lower your eyes back to his tie, which now hangs neatly from his neck.

 

“I really need to stop pushing people away,” you mutter, and all of a sudden, you’re aware of how close you’re standing. A very strange and unfamiliar swooping sensation settles in your midriff, as though you missed a step going down the stairs and you blink, confused. Midoriya giggles a little sheepishly and you look back up to find him smiling at you.

 

“Um…well, that’s a bit…” he mumbles, trailing off, and then you both jump when the door to your classroom slides open with a sharp crack.

 

“Deku-kun, I saw you leaving and—oh.” Uraraka’s voice falters behind Midoriya and you tense, and any pleasant feelings you had are sucked away in an instant.

 

“I have to get home,” you say flatly, stepping away. You turn back and you’re about to reach the stairs when Midoriya’s voice stops you.

 

“(Surname)-san…you know you can always talk if you need something, right?” he says, tone imploring and you close your eyes. When he’s met with silence, he continues. “You don’t have to shoulder everything alone.”

 

You finally look back and offer him a faint smile that’s threatening to fade. You don’t know if you’re doing it for his sake or yours. “I know,” you reply quietly. “Thanks, Midoriya.”

 

The car ride home leaves you gutted and your eyes can’t help but drift over to the empty seat next to you. Your driver doesn’t say anything, but you can see the worried lines on his brow. Sighing, you recline back in your seat and close your eyes until you arrive at the manor. You’re almost immediately bombarded with attention from the staff, but you wordlessly push past them and hide in your room, where you immediately fall asleep still in your school uniform.

 

When you wake up, it’s early morning and your stomach is rumbling with hunger. You sit up, rubbing the sleep out of your eyes until you notice the little notification light on your phone and you scramble for it like a madwoman, all dignity forgotten. Opening the messaging app with trembling fingers, you blink.

 

It’s from Midoriya. He’s sent a photo of the sunrise, framed by the ocean and soft sand. You immediately know where this is, and the message underneath it reads, ‘Can we talk? I want to meet up, if that’s okay with you.’ It was sent around forty minutes ago, judging by the time stamp.

 

For a moment, you waver, torn between staying and going to see him. You look down at your phone before quickly typing out a response. Then you shower at the speed of light, throwing on the first thing you find in your closet, which turns out to be some kind of spring dress that bares your shoulders and vaguely reminds you of your hero costume, but a lot simpler. You wince a little before slipping your feet into some sandals and head out.

 

As you walk down the steps, the ocean breeze making the dress brush gently against your knees and fan out behind you, you spot Midoriya sitting cross-legged on the sand, his back to you and facing the sea. You stare at him for a moment before you walk the last remaining steps toward him. He looks around just as you sit down next to him on your knees.

 

“You made it,” he says with a soft smile. The sand feels soft beneath you, but you only nod, staring out toward the waves ebbing and flowing on the surf. For a long while, neither of you say anything, content to watch the sea in silence, and the pain from yesterday has dulled to an uncomfortable ache.

 

“I remember coming here after my first day at U.A.” he says quietly and the relative peace surrounding you fades, leaving a cold feeling in its wake. Your brows furrow slightly as he continues. “I was so happy…” You know what’s coming and close your eyes, but it doesn’t block out his next words. “And then…I saw you.”

 

Your hands tremble slightly as they rest on your lap. You had a feeling it would come to this eventually. You’re not sure your heart can take much more at this point. “I remember,” you murmur quietly. “I didn’t think anyone was watching.” And it’s the truth. That sight hadn’t been for anyone’s eyes. The memory still brings you shame and you lower your head.

 

“I thought that, afterward,” he answers. “But back then, even though I didn’t know about your Quirk…I couldn’t help but think you looked so sad.”

 

You don’t say anything to this. You can hardly remember what you had been feeling at the time, but it hadn’t been anything good. You let out a soft sigh and open your eyes again. You look over to find him staring at you with an unreadable look in his eyes and you can’t help it when your heartstrings tug painfully. You know he’s just trying to understand, that he isn’t angry with you, but you can’t help but feel horrible.

 

“I’m sorry I never told you,” you say, eyebrows furrowing and feeling miserable. “I just…I wasn’t in a good place emotionally and…I couldn’t bring myself to come clean about it. I just did what I was good at.” You snort bitterly and direct your attention to the ocean again. The breeze is a little cold this early, but the early morning sun still feels warm. “I avoided you, I avoided everyone. I was a coward then and I’m still a coward now. I know you don’t agree, but…it’s the truth.”

 

“(Surname)-san…I would have understood. Your power is nothing to be ashamed of.”

 

A humorless laugh escapes you and you shake your head. “Midoriya, everyone that ever knew about it ended up hating my guts. First it was my childhood friend, then it was the entire student body in middle school, and now Todo—” Your voice hitches before stuttering to a halt, and an overwhelming wave of crushing despair and resentment surges through you, and you’re horrified to find angry tears spilling onto your cheeks. You furiously try wiping them away but they just keep falling. “Damn it, goddammit…!”

 

“Wait, why Todoroki-kun?” he asks, sounding positively alarmed. When you don’t answer, he sighs and shifts closer. “It’s okay,” he whispers, and something in you shatters at his words, breaking through any reservations you have left. So it doesn’t come as a surprise when the next thing you know, you’re pressed against his side, forehead pushing against his chest as you shudder with quiet sobs. You don’t know what it is, but it almost feels like you’ve been deprived of something that you never knew you wanted and are just now taking your first steps into unknown territory. “It’s okay,” he keeps murmuring into your hair and you can’t help but want to be closer even though the only way to do that would be to sit on his lap. He’s so warm and despite how distraught you feel, there’s something comforting and peaceful about this and you grasp at him like a woman dying of thirst.

 

You don’t cry as much as before, but by the end of it, you still feel drained. You sniffle a few times and Midoriya finally pulls away, strangely reluctant.

 

“Yesterday…you were upset,” he starts, and when you don’t answer, he keeps going. “I thought you were upset about the match.” A thought occurs to him and his eyes grow tight with worry. “What happened with Todoroki-kun?”

 

You sniffle once again. “We got in a fight,” you mumble, not looking at him. “He thought I didn’t respect him enough to fight using my full power and he got mad.” You rub your eyes to wipe away any lingering moisture. “Fucking jerk…telling me all that shit only to go out like a punk to Bakugou.” You draw in a shuddering breath, but you don’t seem to be in any danger of tears this time. There’s a dull ache in your temple that mirrors the one in your chest.

 

“I’m sorry…I didn’t know.”

 

You shrug. “It’s…” You’re about to say ‘fine’ but you can’t bring yourself to do it. Instead, you heave a large sigh and flop onto your back. “I don’t know what to do anymore,” you say, more to yourself but he hears you and frowns unhappily.

 

“I would say it might be a good idea to…try talking to him, but…if you feel like you aren’t ready, then maybe it’s best not to do it right away,” he says, and it’s clear he’s choosing his words carefully. “There’s nothing wrong with taking a little time to calm down.”

 

You stare up at the sky and press your lips together. “I guess,” you mumble, though your heart’s not really in it. “I don’t know if he’ll hear me out, though.”

 

He hums thoughtfully. “He will. Just give it time.”

 

You’re content to just lie there for eternity, but then your stomach growls loudly enough to be heard over the crashing waves and you bolt upright, face flaring brighter than the sun.

 

Midoriya doesn’t laugh, but he does smile a little and help you to your feet. “There’s a cafe nearby that I like to go to sometimes,” he offers, and then he seems to realize what he just said because his face turns bright red too. “U-Um…! I mean, I didn’t mean it like that, I—I just thought you might want to…uh, you don’t have to, but I think it would be nice and…” He buries his face into his hands and groans softly into them.

 

You blink several times in confusion before sighing. “No, it’s fine. I don’t really mind.”

 

When you enter the little establishment a couple minutes later, you’re almost buffeted by the smell of coffee and something sweet. There are a few patrons already in here who look up at you, though a few sleepy-looking high school students do a double-take and you immediately stick closely behind Midoriya by gripping the hem of his jacket. He smiles reassuringly back at you, though his cheeks are still red.

 

Then you notice the display case full of pastries and head over curiously, peering down at them with a thoughtful frown. “Would you like one?” asks Midoriya leaning down, and the smile on his face is almost as sweet as the pastries look. “They’re really good.”

 

You frown and look back at the display. Some of them are ones you recognize, but a majority of them are a mystery. Still, you nod shyly and quietly point to one that you rarely enjoy but are quite fond of, and Midoriya flags down the barista to order some things. Soon, both of you sit in a secluded table with two large mugs of hot chocolate.

 

“Hey, isn’t that (Surname) and Midoriya from the Sports Festival? Do you think they’re going out?” hisses one of the students in a carrying whisper and you pause mid-sip. Midoriya hears them too because he blinks, then raises his eyes to meet yours. His face slowly begins to turn an interesting shade of red.

 

“Nah, can’t be. Way out of his league, even if he did make the top eight,” whispers her companion.

 

You set your mug down, your lips pressed in an irritated line. Then you blink down at Midoriya’s hand, which is resting on the table and you reach forward, pulling it closer. “These scars…you didn’t have them before,” you murmur, completely forgetting your surroundings.

 

Midoriya lets out a squeak and gently pulls his hand away a little self-consciously. “Oh, that’s…um…because of my fight with…” He trails off, boring holes into his mug and mumbling under his breath.

 

“Oh.” Right.

 

An awkward silence follows. Blessedly, the two high school students take their leave and when you pull out your phone to check the time, Midoriya happily notices the All Might strap dangling from it and engages you in a conversation about your shared admiration for the number one hero. He’s surprisingly knowledgeable, impressing you with the most obscure facts about him and you listen with interest, even if he does sometimes get carried away with his muttering.

 

When you both get up to leave, you feel a faint longing, like you don’t want this to end. You scoff a little to yourself. It’s been a while since you felt that way. Feels like a lifetime ago. When you look over at Midoriya, you think you see the same longing in his eyes, but you dismiss the idea.

 

Yeah, right.

 

The rest of your days off are uneventful, though you do find yourself texting Midoriya quite often. Sometimes, he’ll send you a picture of a cat or a dog he meets while he goes about his daily routine and you can’t help but smile fondly. ‘He’s still a dork…’

 

Your mother never makes an appearance, a fact that hasn’t gone unnoticed, but you have enough resentment stored there for a lifetime, so you don’t go looking for her at all. You’re tired of feeling angry.

 

However, all good things must come to an end, and it’s with a certain amount of dread that you arrive to school two days later. The sky reflects your mood perfectly, mottled gray and drizzling, but you head to your classroom without much delay. Taking a deep breath, you slowly slide open the door and step inside, finding the majority of your peers already inside. They immediately turn to look at you, but you’re only searching for one person in particular. Your eyes search the room until they find Midoriya, who turns around and smiles. There’s something soft about the way he’s looking at you and you find the temperature of the room warming slightly.

 

“(Surname)-san!” He walks over to you and you notice his arm isn’t in a sling anymore. “Good morning!”

 

“Hey,” you manage weakly. “Looks like Recovery Girl did a good job on you.”

 

“Huh? Oh, yeah,” he mumbles sheepishly. “I still need to do a few more sessions before I’m completely healed, though.”

 

You don’t manage to continue the conversation before Aizawa walks in and you dive into your seats. You notice his bandages are gone. Without so much as a preamble, he announces to the class that everyone will be deciding hero names, and after a bit of cheering, goes a little more in-depth about the internships he mentioned the other day, and it comes as a surprise to you when he says some people in the class were extended offers by various pro hero agencies around the country. He presses a button and you’re floored by the amount you see on the screen.

 

You blink, staring at the amount of offers next to your name. The only people who have more are Bakugou and Todoroki. The weight on your chest lessons very slightly. If that many heroes were impressed by your performance during the Sports Festival, then maybe…

 

“Midoriya…you didn’t get any!” says Mineta, leaning forward and shaking Midoriya by the shoulder. “They’re scared of you ‘cause of the crazy way you were fighting!”

 

“You didn’t get any either, pipsqueak,” you retort brutally, and that shuts him up. You can see Todoroki glance at you out of the corner of your eye, but you only lean back in your chair and cross your arms over your chest, ignoring him completely.

 

Aizawa goes on to explain a little more about internships before Midnight steps in to help the class decide on their hero names. Soon, boards and markers are passed around and you stare down at the empty white surface with a grimace. It’s going to be difficult coming up with a name all of a sudden since it’s not really something you let yourself think about much over the years. Sure, you had entertained the idea of becoming of hero, but now that you’re in U.A., the reality seems that much more possible and it’s frankly a little unnerving.

 

Some of the names your classmates choose for themselves are downright silly and you can barely muster the energy to listen to the majority of them. A few of them sound a little cool, like Red Riot and Chargebolt, but the rest sail right over your head.

 

When it’s time for Todoroki’s turn to present, you actually turn your body away from the front so your legs dangle over the left side of your seat and you spend it glowering at the wall until he goes back to his desk. You’re still tapping the marker against your lips when Bakugou manages to make a fool of himself with his own ridiculously over-the-top hero name. When Uraraka stands up to present, you ignore her completely.

 

“Choosing hero names is going more smoothly than I thought!” declares Midnight with a smile. “The only ones left are Bakugou, who needs to rethink his, Iida, Midoriya, and (Surname), right?”

 

You wince and sink a little lower in your seat. When Iida steps up to present his hero name to the class, you let out a soft sigh and uncap your marker, scribbling down something you’ve been mulling over. You hold your board up to your face and stare at it, feeling a strange mixture of emotions.

 

Then, only a few moments after Iida takes his seat, you get up. Almost immediately, many pairs of eyes zero in on you as you head to the front, but you hold your head held high and keep walking. You’re not sure what’s going to change about your dynamic with them anymore or if they’ll even trust you. As you step in front of the podium, you look over and catch Midoriya’s eye, who sends you a faint, encouraging smile. The gesture strengthens your resolve and you exhale softly before holding up your board for the class to see.

 

You’re still uncertain of what your future holds, but you think that maybe this name will help you face it head on. Maybe it’ll help dispel your fears. You don’t really know. But you can only hope. The hero name is written in tidy characters that disguise the fact that you had been nervous when writing it down.

 

You hope it’s enough.

 

Aria.

Chapter Text

“It’s a fitting name,” says Midnight approvingly, but you keep your eyes lowered to the board in your faintly trembling hands. You know she’s just trying to be kind, that she must sense the unease radiating from your every pore, and yet all you want is for everyone to stop staring at you. You thought you’d be used to the attention by now, but the truth is reflected in their eyes and you’re not quite sure what to do with it. It’s a little overwhelming.

 

You head back to your desk and sit down, though you do feel a little better when Midoriya presents his own hero name. He’s the type of person to inspire, to push past boundaries and doubts, and for a few glorious moments during the Sports Festival, you had taken his message to heart. Your Quirk belonged to you, it was your power.

 

But then your mother had arrived and shattered that illusion with minimal effort. She reminded you just how much influence she still has over your life, no matter what you told yourself to the contrary.

 

You smile a little ruefully to yourself. His words may have instilled something in people like Todoroki, but life isn’t quite that simple, at least not the way you saw it. A few motivational words, no matter how heartfelt, aren’t going to change you overnight.

 

Truth be told...it’s frustrating.

 

Sometime later, after everyone has decided their own hero names, Aizawa instructs the class that they have until the weekend to decide where to take their internships. You ruminate quietly over the small stack of papers in your hands during lunch, undecided on where to go. A couple of your classmates mill around Midoriya’s desk, discussing their options loudly, but you’re so focused on your own choices that it’s fairly easy to tune them out. You don’t know if Todoroki’s absence is a blessing or not.

 

Your resulting sigh is loud when you stand up, figuring you could probably go for a walk to clear your head. You’re actually sliding the door open when you jump, almost colliding into Kirishima. Being in such close proximity to another classmate, especially after what happened during the Sports Festival immediately sends your senses into overdrive and you back up several steps, mumbling out an apology with a bowed head.

 

Kirishima, as it turns out, is not the kind of person to leave well enough alone. “Oh, hey! Feels like we haven’t talked in a while.” When you glance back up, you’re not surprised to find him smiling heartily. “You doing alright?”

 

You can’t tell if he’s being genuine or not. So you lie. “Yeah,” you intone, but he doesn’t seem any less enthused by your somewhat deadpan reply.

 

“Man, the Sports Festival was crazy!” he continues and you draw your arms together with a steadily growing frown, thumb running idly against your wrist. “I did my best, but I still couldn’t beat Bakugou. Maybe I just didn’t have enough manliness or something.” He rubs the back of his hair sheepishly and it’s just the right amount of self-deprecation without crossing the line into depressing that you find yourself relaxing. Just a little. “I’ll win eventually, though!” he adds, slamming his fists together, and you have to admit, he looks pretty manly when he does it. Not that you’ll ever say it out loud.

 

“Not in this fucking lifetime,” Bakugou says from his seat, and wow, you almost forgot how rude he can be. Eavesdropping on your conversation like that…does he have no tact?

 

To be fair, Kirishima isn’t exactly being quiet. He just laughs in that good-natured way of his and grins over your shoulder. “Don’t worry, man! I’ll catch up!”

 

When you look back, Bakugou is sitting at his desk with his hands clutching his paper and wearing his signature scowl, but when his eyes meet yours, it turns from an angry one to…something else. If you didn’t know any better, you’d say it was almost calculating, like he’s assessing just how much of a threat you really are. You’re not sure if you prefer the way he looked at you before or now, so you turn back around. Even then, you still feel his eyes on you and you roll your shoulders uncomfortably.

 

“Everyone was so fired up and giving it their all!” continues Kirishima like you haven’t just been rudely interrupted. He pauses and his smile isn’t as large as before, but something about it becomes warmer. “I mean…during your fight with Iida…to say I was shocked is the understatement of the century!” He doesn’t notice the crinkling of papers in your hands or the way your shoulders begin drawing up toward your ears. “You’ve got some crazy power behind those pipes of yours!”

 

You blink. “Huh?”

 

“Yeah, I mean…I’m not sure what Yaoyorozu was saying when she explained it to everyone, but I got the gist. It’s like…kinda scary, but also really cool!” He’s grinning like a loon again, but his cheeks flush under your dumbfounded attention. Now he’s being self-conscious, but it’s the honesty in his words that makes you pause.

 

Before you can say anything, Ashido startles you by briefly placing her hands on your shoulders from behind. “You guys talking about the Sports Festival?” she chirps happily and you weakly shrug her off.

 

“Yeah, it was nuts, right?” Kirishima laughs and Ashido pounces on the topic with a cheery grin.

 

“Oh, no question. I swear, when I heard you sing for the first time, my jaw actually hit the floor,” she comments, then raises her arms in front of her, gesturing to them with her fingers spread wide. “But that fight with Todoroki? Actual chills.” She shudders, but she’s smiling when she does it, so it’s not an insult.

 

“You have a really pretty singing voice,” supplies Hagakure, popping up at Ashido’s side. “Is that part of your Quirk?”

 

You’re a little overwhelmed, but they’re all looking at you expectantly and you know there’s no easy way to get out of this one. “Um…no. I’ve had a voice coach since I was little,” you mumble.

 

“That’s so cool,” breathes Kirishima with wonder. “So you’ve been training since you were a kid?”

 

When you nod, the group looks deeply impressed. At this point, you’re just thinking about excusing yourself to get away when Midoriya appears at your side with a warm smile.

 

“You have an amazing Quirk, (Surname)-san,” he says kindly and you finally relax, feeling a small, hopeful bubble swell in your chest. “Um…if it’s not too much trouble, can I…?” He lets his question hang in the air and you frown, confused, until you see a slightly charred notebook in his hands. You’ve seen it a few times before. “Hero Analysis for the Future” is written on the cover in slightly messy characters.

 

“Uh, sure,” you say uncertainly, totally lost but you know an out when you see one and you spend the rest of lunch at your desk with Midoriya, who sits across from you, bombarding you with questions about your Quirk. Had he been anyone else, this would have made for an extremely uncomfortable experience, but he’s so genuinely curious and enthused about it, muttering incoherently under his breath while his pencil practically skates across the pages of his notebook that you only feel a vague sense of resignation.

 

At one point, he looks up and stares at you in a way that makes the weird feeling in your stomach act up again, but it quickly fades. “You know, I noticed that people in class are starting to approach you a bit more,” he says, keeping his voice down. You don’t know what he means by it—there’s no one else in the room. “I’m glad…”

 

You stare down at your hands resting on your desk and frown thoughtfully. The rejection and mistrust you had been fully expecting from the rest of your peers had been practically nonexistent and instead, you found only curiosity, even awe. Of course, that wasn’t a guarantee things wouldn’t go sour later down the line, but it’s still much more than you dared hope for.

 

“It’s not so much that I care or anything,” you finally say, “I just didn’t want things to get weird, that’s all.” You look up and smile a little, even though it feels strange and not quite there, and his cheeks color slightly. “You’re not going to treat me any differently, are you?”

 

He laughs a little nervously. “No, not unless you want me to.” Midoriya rolls his mechanical pencil between his thumb and forefinger, apparently lost in thought, so you decide not to bother him while he thinks about his next Quirk-related question. “(Surname)-san…um…you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to, but…” He chews his lower lip and you start to feel a little alarmed by how clearly distressed he looks. “You can tell me if I’m being too nosy…I wouldn’t blame you much, actually…”

 

“Just ask,” you interrupt, bringing his mumbling to a halt.

 

Midoriya jumps a little and somehow looks even more flustered. “W-Well, I…I was wondering…um…during your match with Todoroki-kun…that lady who called out to you…”

 

Your insides freeze almost violently, and your expression likely reflects this because Midoriya quickly shuts up. Then, with a heavy sigh, you release all the tension from your body so all that’s left is a faint sense of anger and acquiescence. “Don’t try to be coy with me, Midoriya,” you say flatly. “You know who she is.”

 

He lowers his eyes to his notebook. “I’m sorry,” he mumbles, and suddenly the silence becomes stifling. The pain of his expression makes your insides lurch with guilt and outweighs your reluctance to talk.

 

“…She’s my mother,” you finally say at length and he brings his eyes back up to meet yours in surprise.

 

“She is…? But she’s never said…in her interviews—”

 

“Yeah, I know. Supposedly, it’s to keep the mass media from digging into every aspect of my life, but between the attack on USJ and the Sports Festival, that’s kind of pointless now, isn’t it?” You shake your head in disgust. At his worried look, you smile humorlessly and he grows visibly unhappier. “Let’s just say we don’t exactly see eye-to-eye.”

 

He doesn’t know what to say to this and a tense silence follows. Then he picks up his pencil again and gives you a curious look. “Is it okay if I ask more about your Quirk?” he asks quietly, and while it’s not the best topic to switch to, it’s still infinitely better than talking about your mother, so you nod.

 

He’s chewing his lower lip again, and it’s so distracting that you almost miss his next words. “Um…I’ve been wondering…are there other ways to activate your Quirk besides singing?”

 

You blink, then lean back in your chair so it reclines all the way, keeping your eyes to the ceiling. It’s easier to avoid his inquisitive gaze now. “You’re looking for weaknesses, huh?” you say after a pause. At his spluttering, you sigh out through your nose. “It’s not a bad thing. I’ve got drawbacks just like everyone else.” Bringing your hands up so your fingers press tightly against each other, you blow a strand of hair out of your eyes. “You saw it during the festival, didn’t you?”

 

Your eyes lose focus and your heart tugs painfully, but you ignore it and gesture vaguely in the air, visualizing threads becoming ribbons. “There’s power in words, Midoriya,” you say quietly. “Dance gives them a deeper meaning, but that’s not the only way I can make it work.”

 

He’s quiet, no doubt digesting your words before he clears his throat as softly as he can. “O-Oh...and what else would that be?”

 

“Eye contact,” you mumble with a slight shrug. “I try not to do it if I can help it, though. It’s so easy to just—” you snap your fingers, “slip.” Looking up slowly, you blink at Midoriya’s stunned expression and feel the beginnings of embarrassment settle over your cheeks. “It’s not that great of a power, though. It’s supposedly easy to break free from, but I’ve never seen anyone attempt it before.”

 

“Then...can I try it?”

 

The resulting quiet is so tense that neither of you move for a second. Then you slowly sit up, resting your palms over your desk with a calm you don’t feel. “Midoriya...” you begin uncertainly, and you don’t miss the way he swallows a little under your intense gaze, “do you even know what you’re asking?”

 

He hastily flaps his hands around, dropping his pencil in the process, but neither of you pay much attention to it. “W-Well, it’s just…I’ve always been interested in Quirks and how they work, so…I just thought, given the opportunity…” He trails off, deep in thought as he worries his lower lip. You silently wish he’d stop doing that. It’s making it hard to concentrate. “You don’t have to if you’re not comfortable, but…I’m not sure I see the problem. Will I suffer any adverse effects?” Midoriya looks genuinely curious and not at all apprehensive. You’re not sure if you’re happy about this or not.

 

“Erm…no, you won’t. But you’d be putting yourself completely at my mercy,” you intone firmly. “Are you sure you’re okay with that?”

 

Much to your complete befuddlement, he smiles. “I’m not worried about that, (Surname)-san,” he says, eyes growing soft around the edges and color painting his freckled cheeks a light pink. You’re not prepared for what he says next.

 

“I trust you.”

 

Shock reverberates through your body and a small, strangled noise gets caught in your throat, eyes growing impossibly wide as you stare, absolutely floored by his declaration. Not once has anyone ever said that to you in your entire life, and you didn’t know how much you needed to hear it until this moment. It’s so freeing that for a second, you forget how heavy your heart is.

 

The strange squirming in your stomach intensifies so suddenly and hits you so hard that you actually double over a little in your seat with a small exhale. Instead of leaving like all the previous times, however, the feeling outstays its welcome so thoroughly that you actually find yourself in a bit of a bind. You’re not sure if this is the work of someone’s Quirk since the sensation is entirely foreign in a tingling, unpleasant sort of way, but there’s no one else in the room except the two of you.

 

Midoriya doesn’t seem to notice and only tilts his head expectantly, and you let out a shaky breath. Your heart is running a mile a minute, though you’re not sure if it’s from the strange feeling in your stomach or anticipation of what you’re about to do next. “Okay,” you say at last, voice wavering slightly at the end.

 

You lower your eyes to his hands which are resting over his charred notebook and suppress the urge to trace your fingers over the scars. Thoughts flit by in your head all too swiftly, so you push them to the very back and focus on the task at hand. It’s almost as if there are weights attached to your eyeballs, but you push through and raise them, feeling a familiar, tingling warmth running through your veins as you lock eyes with Midoriya’s vividly green ones.

 

You’re expecting the dilated pupils, the parting of lips, and the vacantly blissful expression that falls over his face, and it does happen, so you’re not surprised by the brightly glimmering thread that winds itself around his neck.

 

What you’re not expecting, however, is for Midoriya to rise from his chair and close the distance so quickly that you end up reclining all the way back in your chair, eyes wide with shock as he leans in wordlessly, his breath fanning across your upper lip. Your heart leaps to your throat and you flinch, closing your eyes instinctively, vaguely aware of him mirroring your movements as the scent of some kind of body soap fills your nostrils, the same one you got a whiff of on the train.

 

A sharp crack fills the air and the moment shatters. Your eyes fly open at the same time as Midoriya’s and you both turn to the door, where Uraraka stands with a dumbstruck look on her round face. A can of juice slips from her fingers and clatters to the floor, and she quickly picks it up with an embarrassed squeak.

 

Midoriya finds his bearings and his face bypasses red altogether and goes straight to purple. “Uraraka-san! I was just—(Surname)-san was showing me her Quirk and—!” He continues floundering for a few seconds, waving his arms around comically while you place a hand over your pounding heart, chest heaving slightly.

 

What the fuck was that?!’ you think wildly. Slowly, you come down from the sudden spike in anxiety until your forehead rests against the hard surface of your desk, letting out a soft groan. You had warned Midoriya about your Quirk and yet you can hardly pin the blame on him for losing control, so it’s hard to say if you’re more angry or disappointed with yourself. You’re still not sure how it happened or what compelled Midoriya to get that close.

 

It’s supposed to be easy to break free,’ you think in confusion. ‘Even Todoroki managed to escape from actual harmonies, so what gives?’

 

“I probably should have waited until training, huh?” he tells her sheepishly as you listen in on their conversation. His back is facing you, so you can’t really see his expression. What you can see of Uraraka’s face is open and curious, but there’s tension on the corners of her lips, like she’s overcompensating for whatever she’s feeling on the inside. At first you think it’s embarrassment, and there’s definitely some awkward tension in the air, but when her eyes drift over to you, they quickly flit away as though she’s terrified of being burned.

 

Your eyes narrow slightly at this, and while you’re somewhat relieved she’s not paying attention to you anymore, there’s no mistaking the signs. Annoyance crawls up your back and you rest your head on your arm with a faint scowl. ‘What’s there to be jealous of?’ you think grouchily, lower lip jutting out slightly. ‘If you want to hang out with him more, just say so instead of keeping it inside, idiot...’

 

When lunch blessedly ends, you spend the rest of the afternoon feeling distracted, jotting down notes occasionally but otherwise lost in thought. You catch yourself glancing over at Midoriya several times during the lesson, and even though you force yourself to pay attention to the lecture, your eyes are drawn back to him like magnets. It’s frustrating as all hell and by the time you have to go home, you’re in a very bad mood.

 

Considering the fiasco that happened and the weird feelings that refuse to settle, you decide to avoid Midoriya for the time being, at least until you figure out what’s going on, so as soon as the bell rings, you pack your things in record time and head out the door.

 

After stopping by the staff room to drop off your internship form, you meander through the halls in a sort of daze. You’re so out of it that you carelessly bump into random people, but they’re all just nameless faces you can’t care less about. It isn’t until someone actually holds you by the shoulders that you finally come back down to earth.

 

“You’re gonna break your neck if you keep walking like that,” rumbles Shinsou’s deep voice and you freeze mid-step, foot poised over the stairs. You step back and he lets go with a soft exhale through his nose. “Headed home?”

 

“Uh…yeah,” you mumble distractedly, quickly dispelling any stray thoughts of Midoriya from your head. “Don’t really feel like it, though.” You know you have lessons waiting for you, but with all that’s happened, your performances will undoubtedly be less than ideal and the last thing you want is Saitou and Yukimura reprimanding your ear off.

 

“One of those days, huh?” he says with an easy smile, which turns into a full-blown grin at the long-suffering expression on your face. “Don’t worry, though. I get it.” He looks around you curiously. “So where’s your friend? You guys usually stick together like glue.”

 

“What are you, a stalker?” you mutter, feeling grumpy, but quiet footsteps down the hall get your attention. When your eyes meet Todoroki’s, your face hardens and you turn away, heading down the stairs with your lips pressed together tightly. After a moment’s delay, Shinsou’s footsteps fall beside yours.

 

He doesn’t say anything until you’re both outside. “You, um...are you two…?” he begins uncertainly and you shrug your shoulders dismissively, feigning nonchalance even though your insides pulse with anger.

 

“Forget it. He’s just being a dick,” you say without bothering to keep your voice down. Much to your relief, he doesn’t comment beyond a thoughtful hum, and you feel a sort of vindictive pleasure when Todoroki’s gaze on you intensifies as you purposefully bump into Shinsou, who only gives you an inquisitive glance before slinging an arm around your shoulders. You know you’re being spiteful, but you’re so incensed that you don’t care.

 

“How do you even get home?” asks Shinsou and you know he’s trying to make conversation to dispel the awkward atmosphere. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you on the train.”

 

“I’ve got a ride,” you gesture vaguely to the familiar black car waiting for you beyond the gates. “Want a lift?”

 

At this, he smiles. “So generous today. Something good happen?”

 

The memory of Midoriya’s breath ghosting along your lips makes your stomach lurch violently and you trip over nothing. The only reason you don’t face plant is thanks to your Quirk kicking in at the last second and you right yourself in midair with your face blazing.

 

Of course Shinsou loses it because something in his DNA practically demands him to be a massive douche and you roughly shove him away, sending him stumbling, but he doesn’t lose his balance. His laughter dies down to chuckling and you can’t tell which is more infuriating.

 

“Yeah, yuck it up, asshole,” you grumble, rolling your eyes as he reappears at your side with that stupid smile on his equally dumb face. “I’m starting to regret even offering you a ride home.”

 

“Can’t take it back,” he answers cheekily just as you both arrive to your car. Your threat is empty and he seems to know this because he immediately opens the passenger door and makes himself comfortable inside, shooting you a shit-eating grin before you slam it shut in his face.

 

When you make your way to the other side, you catch a glimpse of Todoroki watching you from the sidewalk with a faint frown. Your eyes meet for a second before you scowl, huffing out an irritated breath through your nose and sliding in next to Shinsou, who blessedly hasn’t noticed anything. You definitely don’t feel anything squirming unpleasantly in your stomach as you pull away from the sidewalk and leave Todoroki behind.

 

Shinsou lets out a low whistle and unabashedly stares at the almost obscenely luxurious interior of the car. “You do pretty well for yourself, huh?” he remarks. “I could get used to this kind of lifestyle.”

 

You know he’s just joking but you still scoff. “Whatever, buttface. The sooner you give me your address, the sooner I can get rid of you.”

 

He snorts. “Admit it. You like having me around.” Shinsou follows this up with a quick ruffle of your hair, which you jerk away from with an annoyed snarl. He does let up, though and rattles off his home address. It’s not as far as you were expecting, just a mere fifteen minutes away.

 

He spends the rest of the trip deep in conversation with you, and while you don’t feel much like talking after everything that’s happened today, you soon find yourself relaxing, even smiling once or twice at his teasing. He’s still a tad annoying sometimes, but your ire is more of a fond exasperation now than what it used to be.

 

You try to ignore the little voice in your head that tells you it’s not the same.

 

You almost succeed.

 

Before you know it, the morning of your internship arrives with almost indecent gusto and you find yourself standing with the rest of Class 1A at the train station, clutching your suitcase that holds your repaired hero costume and sporting a look of complete disinterest that clashes horribly with the nervous jitters currently wrecking havoc in your stomach. You’re barely paying attention to Aizawa’s instructions to the class, your thoughts much more focused on the little folded piece of paper stashed in your pocket.

 

You had triple-checked the directions to the agency you were going to and wrote down exactly how to get there, and maybe you had gone a little overboard with the details, but you didn’t want to make yourself look like a complete dumbass on the first day of your internship by arriving late, or worse, getting hopelessly lost.

 

A quick sideways glance rewards you with Midoriya’s profile, ever attentive and hanging onto Aizawa’s every word. He’s standing some distance away with Uraraka and Iida, the latter looking uncharacteristically morose. You wish your homeroom teacher would hurry up. You want to bid Midoriya goodbye since you likely won’t be seeing each other for a week, and while texting is always on the table, you doubt you’d get much leisure time while you’re interning.

 

Finally, the class disperses and you pull the note from your pocket, going over your carefully handwritten instructions for the umpteenth time. Unable to glean any more meaning from them, your eyes drift back to Midoriya again, who is heading in the complete opposite direction of where you’re supposed to go, finally alone.

 

Hastily stifling your panic, you shove the paper back into your pocket and quickly catch up, dragging your small suitcase with you. Your stomach swoops unpleasantly just as you reach out and squeeze his shoulder, which predictably makes him jump and turn around. He blinks down at you in surprise, and when his features melt into a soft, shy smile, it feels as though your breath has been punched out of your lungs.

 

You hope you’re not coming down with something and make a mental note to get that checked out.

 

“Leaving without saying goodbye? I thought we were friends, Midoriya,” you tease and he laughs nervously, running a scarred hand over his messy hair.

 

“Oh...sorry about that,” he mumbles sheepishly. There’s something in his expression that wasn’t there before and it’s making your hands clammy and an unfamiliar tingle race up your spine. “Good luck on your internship, (Surname)-san. I hope it goes well.”

 

“It had better,” you say with a soft snort. “You be careful out there, okay?”

 

He nods. “You too. Should I text you when I get there?” he offers tentatively.

 

You roll your eyes and fight to contain your smile. “I’m not your mom, Midoriya.” Still, you shrug and look away briefly before your eyes flit back to his, absently fidgeting with the handle of your suitcase. “But…there’s nothing stopping you, so you can if you want to.”

 

He brightens and you allow yourself a small grin. “I do!” he says with a giggle, his cheeks flushing and your heart actually squeezes. Midoriya fidgets a little and you glance up at the clock behind him, noting the time.

 

“I guess I’ll see you in a week then,” you say with a note of finality. Your train leaves in ten minutes and the last thing you need is to miss it. All of a sudden, a wave of yearning crashes over you and you realize you don’t really want him to go. It’s hard to shake off the feeling that something bad might happen. You know you’re being stupid, that it’s just an irrational feeling born from worry, but you can’t help it.

 

You duck your head so he can’t see your face, but unfortunately, his helpful streak decides to kick in then and he leans in, his face full of concern.

 

“(Surname)-san?” His voice is so close and your heart leaps to your throat.

 

Impulsively, you drop your case and you surge forward, wrapping your arms around him tightly, trying to convey all the things you want to say without speaking. It’s gratitude for supporting you in your worst times, for putting up with all of your bullshit and most importantly, for being a good friend. He’s super tense and warm, and as much as you want to keep this up, you have a train to catch.

 

Pulling away, you breathe deeply before exhaling and trying to ignore your heartbeat pounding in your ears. “Take care, okay?” you mumble quickly, then grab your things and head in the opposite direction without waiting for his response.

 

Soon, you arrive in front of the train you’re supposed to take, and after double-checking to make sure it’s the correct one, you slowly board, the little wheels on your luggage rattling over the gap between the platform. An odd plastic smell mixes with the scent of some kind of sharp antiseptic and you glance around at your surroundings. There aren’t a lot of people around you, but a helpful attendant puts your things away for you and after a bit of floundering, you find a secluded window seat that’s close to the exit.

 

You start a little when the doors close and try to get your nerves under control as the train slowly pulls away from the station. It quickly picks up speed and you slowly relax, thumb running idly over the paper in your pocket. Soon you leave the city of Musutafu behind and buildings give way to a green landscape. You watch the scenery for a bit, only pausing to check to make sure you get off at the right stop.

 

After some time passes, the train slows to a stop in front of a platform and you get off, case in one hand and luggage in the other. The instructions are practically engraved in your head at this point, but you can never be too careful. You’re just about to take the piece of paper out of your pocket again when a movement catches your eye and you glance up briefly, freeze, and then slowly look up again in silent horror.

 

There’s no mistaking that short, bobbed hair heading toward the escalators, and for a second, you forget to breathe. Then you exhale slowly, heart slowly dislodging itself from your throat. ‘It’s not Miki, you idiot,’ you tell yourself, annoyed. ‘Why the fuck would she be all the way out here?’

 

Your eyes roam over the uniform she’s wearing and your stomach sinks horribly. What are the odds? As you follow behind her some distance away, you tell yourself that there’s more than one hero agency in this city, that the chances of her interning at the same one are slim to none, but you can’t stop the nagging feeling that things aren’t going to go your way. You’re still some distance away, so Uraraka doesn’t notice you, walking in a slightly bouncy way that practically screams to the whole world how excited she is.

 

It’s only when she finally stops at Gunhead’s hero agency and heads inside that you finally let out a long-suffering groan, slapping a hand over your forehead and slowly dragging it down. Eyeing the building with a well-placed glare, you draw in a short breath and close the remaining distance, stomping angrily the whole way and ignoring curious passersby. You grit your teeth and let your features melt into a faint scowl in front of the large doors before slowly stepping inside.

 

“…another intern, but she’s not here ye—oh!” A heavily muscled man in costume halts mid-sentence and though it’s hard to tell because of the mask he’s wearing, you think he might be smiling at you. Uraraka stands beside him, surprise evident on her round face.

 

You’ve seen pictures of him before, but you’re not prepared for how tall Gunhead actually is in person. He practically towers over you. Somehow, you manage to keep your cool and bow deeply as a show of respect, then straighten.

 

“Hello there!” cries Gunhead, spreading his arms in a gesture of welcome. “We were just wondering about you, but it looks like you arrived safely. Since you’re interning as heroes, I’ll call you by your hero name so you can get the real experience of working alongside pros. Is that alright?” He tilts his head and raises his index finger in that cutesy way pop idols do and you blink. His mannerisms are kind of feminine…

 

“Yes, sir,” you say, heading over and ignoring Uraraka altogether.

 

“Great! I’ll show you to your room. You don’t mind sharing with Uravity-chan, right?” he says and you immediately blanch.

 

This week is going to be the fucking worst...’

 

The room in question is sparsely decorated, with a lone window near the ceiling that doesn’t let in much light, a mirror hanging on the wall, and two beds that are frankly quite small compared to the gigantic one you have at home. They don’t look nearly as comfy either. A door to the right leads to a tiny bathroom with standing shower only and you scowl a little. At the very least, the place is spotless, but the fact that you have to spend an entire week with Uraraka overshadows everything else.

 

“It’s kind of exciting, isn’t it?” she pipes up when you make no attempt at small talk. “I thought I would be alone when I applied here, but it’s always nice to work with a classmate, you know?”

 

You say nothing and throw your case onto the bed, unlatching the clasps and opening it. Staring down at your costume with a hard scowl, you briefly envision burning it before taking it out and laying it flat. It’s still as extravagant as ever, but Gunhead had insisted on taking you both patrolling in an hour, so you have to wear it.

 

“I know you probably get this a lot, but I really like your costume,” Uraraka says from behind you. You freeze, eyes widening slightly as she steps beside you. “I think the hero name you chose was really pretty too. It suits you.” You slowly look over and see her smiling brightly at you, face wide and accepting and your heart lurches painfully.

 

You want to be a hero, don’t you?” Miki says, head lolling over the edge of your bed. Her cheeks are flushed from hanging upside down for so long and a few petals fall onto the floor below. “Like All Might?”

 

You glance up from your desk, surprised, then smile lightly. “Yeah, but…it’s just something you sorta fantasize about sometimes, isn’t it?” you mumble, feeling a little embarrassed. “I don’t know if I’ll be as great as him, but it’s fun to dream.”

 

She finally rights herself, propping her chin up on her hands. “What about singing, like your mom? You can still be famous for that too, you know.”

 

Your smile falters and slowly slides off your face. “I guess…” Turning back to your phone, you swipe to another picture featuring the both of you. In it, Miki sports a healthy tan as she grins wildly at the camera, an arm curled around your shoulders, your expression caught in one of surprise. In the background, you can make out a distant cabana and a sandy white beach.

 

A sudden cascade of flowers rains down over your head and you jump, turning only to find Miki running away, giggling wildly and you grin, tossing down your phone and grabbing a handful of pillows to serve as ammunition, gearing yourself up for the biggest pillow fight of your life.

 

You blink, then tentatively pick up your costume in your hands, brows knitting together at it. “I’m gonna get ready,” you say a little hoarsely before spinning on your heel and shutting yourself up in the bathroom. Once inside, you close your eyes and lean your forehead against the wall, taking steadying breaths. It hasn’t even been an hour and you’re already starting to crack.

 

Christ, what a mess.’

 

After mentally preparing yourself, you emerge some time later to find Uraraka already wearing her hero costume, sitting on the edge of her bed and idling the time away on her phone. You stride forward to put on the rest of your costume, slipping on your sleeves and flats. Fingers hovering over your headband, you hesitate, then slowly slip it on, letting the short veil fall over your hair.

 

You don’t remove the microphone this time.

 

“It’s about time to head out,” Uraraka comments as she gets up. “I’m so nervous! Do you think we’ll see anything exciting?” she asks as you both exit the room towards the lobby.

 

“Who knows?” you mutter and it’s all you can manage to say without feeling sick to your stomach. Thankfully, you’re spared from keeping up a conversation when Gunhead comes into view, but Uraraka seems satisfied with your answer nonetheless. Apparently, it doesn’t take much to keep her happy. Miki was like that too.

 

You try not to think about it during your patrol. Once you head outside, it’s easy to lose yourself in your work as your mentor for the week rattles off general information about what he does, though you know he’s really only with you because of the internship. Patrolling is mostly reserved for sidekicks, you know this, but it’s still good experience. You tell yourself that someday, this will be your job.

 

While Gunhead is famous in his own right, the costume you wear is designed to catch the eye, and several people stop and stare, mouths agape. Flickers of recognition dawn on those closer to your age once they get a good look at your face, some even pointing at Uraraka with excited whispers. It’s not exactly surprising once you stop to think about it. You and Uraraka made the top 16 during the Sports Festival, with you actually placing on the podium. She quivers with barely suppressed excitement from the attention, but you only grow silent and foul-tempered.

 

Of course, Gunhead has his share of fans too. Occasionally, the pro hero stops to sign some autographs but other than that, he keeps moving, pointing out things to watch out for and the like. You’re not expecting any crime to happen under his watch and your prediction rings true when your patrol winds down by late afternoon without anything noteworthy happening other than helping a kid get his balloon down from a tree. Gunhead suggests you change out of your costumes and into something more comfortable so he can treat you to dinner before he leaves for the day.

 

Once back in your room, you sit back on the bed and kick your flats off, wincing slightly. Your shoes aren’t exactly made for walking long distances and you make a mental note to have them changed to something more durable when you have the chance. You’re still tired from the journey here since you’re not used to traveling by train and you shrug off your dress, letting it pool at your feet in a heap. You rummage around your luggage, pulling out an outfit at random and throwing it on.

 

“As expected of you, (Surname)-chan!” declares Uraraka all of a sudden, making you jump. “You can make anything look stylish and super trendy!”

 

You frown down at your clothes. It’s just a blouse and shorts, so you’re not sure if she’s being genuine or not. Uraraka herself is dressed rather plainly, so that might be why. “It’s…whatever,” you mutter, turning away and grabbing a hairbrush, pulling back your hair to tie it up.

 

“Ah, I forgot…Deku-kun told me you were a little uncomfortable with compliments,” she says thoughtfully.

 

At the mention of Midoriya, you pull too hard on the hair tie and it snaps, leaving a light sting on your wrist. Cursing slightly under your breath, you grab another one and struggle with it for a few seconds before giving it up as a bad job. Screw it. Loose it is.

 

“Let’s just go,” you grumble, slipping on your shoes and trying to ignore the sudden swooping feeling in your stomach as you leave the room. Grabbing your phone, you check it quickly to find a message from Midoriya, which makes you feel stupidly giddy. Other than a small huff through your nostrils, you try not to let it show, but you must do a bad job because Uraraka immediately notices.

 

“Oh, did you get good news?” she says with a happy smile, her large brown eyes sparkling as she walks beside you. You half-expect her to try peeking down at your phone screen, but apparently, she’s not the prying sort because she only looks at you expectantly.

 

You’re too distracted by Midoriya’s text, but you manage a halfhearted shrug before sending a quick reply.

 

Dinner with Gunhead doesn’t turn out as bad as you thought. He mostly spends his time talking to Uraraka, who’s a natural conversationalist. This arrangement suits you just fine and you spend the majority of that time only half-listening, piping up when a question is directed at you, which doesn’t happen very often.

 

It’s still mentally draining and by the time it’s over, you’re ready to hit the hay despite the fact that it’s not really late at night. The Battle Hero drops you off at the agency with a little wave before he heads home. As you slide into bed with a sigh, you roll over on your side to find Uraraka looking at you from her side of the room. There’s no chance of enthralling her from this distance, but you still tense and glance away.

 

“Wonder what we’re gonna learn tomorrow,” she mumbles sleepily. “I hope we get some more com...combat training.” She unsuccessfully tries to stifle a yawn in the middle of her sentence and you feel your own eyelids growing heavy. Just before you fall asleep, you hear a soft “goodnight” but you’re too far gone to answer back even if you wanted to.

 

Would you still want me around even if you weren’t rich and talented?” comes a soft whisper, and if it wasn’t so quiet in your room, you would’ve missed it entirely.

 

Teetering at the edge of consciousness, your brain doesn’t register the question at first. You roll over to blearily look at your best friend and the moonlight illuminating her face as she lies facing you on the bed, her eyes shining brightly. She’s not really looking at you but at something far off in the distance, and it takes you a moment to realize that she’s crying.

 

Now a little more awake and concerned, you scoot closer and her eyes slowly refocus. “What…where did that come from?” you mumble, eyebrows drawn together in a faint frown.

 

She sniffles and shrugs, but her face has always been an open book and another tear slides across the bridge of her nose and down into her hair. “I don’t know.”

 

You reach forward blindly under the covers and find her wrist. “Did somebody say something?” you ask, and the thought makes you frown.

 

If you weren’t looking for it, you would have failed to notice the fraction of a second she hesitates before answering. “No.”

 

Your brows furrow together to form a hard scowl. “Well you can tell whoever said that crap to go suck on a lemon because I’m not going anywhere.” Your hand tightens a little on her wrist and you scoot closer. “I’m staying right here.”

 

She manages a watery smile and wipes her eyes. “Okay.”

 

You slowly come to in the morning to the sounds of Uraraka’s soft snoring, your heart weighing heavily in your chest. A quick glance at your phone says it’s a little past five in the morning. Closing your eyes, you try your best not to think about the dream, but it’s hard. Sleep beckons silently, but you’re afraid of going back to Miki, back to when things weren’t so fucked up and everything felt right. Your time at U.A. lessened the pain of losing her and while her flower-marked visage doesn’t come to you as often, it still happens sometimes.

 

Even now, as you lie on a hard bed under an entirely too starchy blanket that’s more of a sheet than anything, you wonder what she’s doing. Sleeping? No, from what you remember, she’s an early riser, but…that could have changed. Just like how she prefers milk over tea in the morning. Maybe she drinks coffee now. Or maybe she forgoes it altogether and grabs a juice box at school. You sigh heavily, wondering why you still care so much.

 

She certainly doesn’t care about you. Maybe she did, once, but not anymore.

 

The noise makes Uraraka stir and you silently will her to go back to sleep, but no such thing happens. She props herself up on her elbow, her free hand rubbing at her eyes as she blinks over at you blearily. “Mm…what...time is it?” she murmurs with a sleepy inhale.

 

Looking away to stare back up at the ceiling, you try not to think about how her eyes feel on you. “Early,” you respond curtly. “Not time to get up yet.”

 

“M’kay…” is the only response she gives before flopping back over. Within five minutes, she’s snoring softly again.

 

You try to go back to sleep, but it’s impossible now. After spending what feels like an eternity tossing and turning, you sit up and swing your legs over the bed, frustrated. Your feet hover soundlessly over the hard wood floor as you head over to the bathroom to freshen up. It takes a bit of figuring out, but you finally manage to make the water not feel like it came straight from Antarctica and you shower as quickly as possible, determined not to spend any more time in Uraraka’s company than you have to. Thanks to her, you’re drowning in memories you have no business remembering and it’s making you emotionally exhausted even though the day hasn’t even started yet.

 

There’s so much pent up energy that you can’t stand it. You shut off the water and wrap a towel around yourself, feeling restless with a tangled mess of emotions fighting for dominance. You just showered, true, but if you don’t do something about this soon, you’re going to explode, so you figure a short run will clear your head at least somewhat. There’s probably other ways to cool off, but it’s the only idea that sounds even remotely appealing right now.

 

She’s still sleeping when you step out of the bathroom fully dressed in workout attire. The air feels a little cold for the month of May, so you pull on a hoodie, pulling the drawstrings tight so your hair isn’t in the way. Stopping only to look for a route on your phone, you step outside the building to a nearly empty sidewalk. A few early morning commuters walk by here and there, but they don’t give you a second glance, which is just how you like it.

 

You set a slow pace at first to get your body warmed up, gradually getting used to the burn in your calves before progressing to a brisk jog, your breathing steady and even.

 

It’s not hard to figure out who Miki’s new crush is. She has a different one every other month, it seems. You eye him critically from your seat across the room, remembering how her eyes light up and a plethora of blossoms erupt from her hair whenever she sees him walking down the halls. He’s kind of lanky, but he’s the quiet, bookish type and sits right at the front so you have the perfect vantage point.

 

You’re also pretty sure he’s not interested in girls. Or guys. Or anyone, really.

 

The friends you remember from elementary school all promised themselves they’d start dating once they started middle school, but out of all of them, only Miki followed you here, so you’re not sure if they made good on their word or not.

 

You sniff and bend low over your desk, discreetly scratching a spot near your bra strap. It’s a little uncomfortable and you hate how fast your body’s been changing, not to mention you’ve already gotten several crude comments from a couple of idiots. They only stopped when Miki glowered at them and threatened to tell your homeroom teacher, who was rather strict and handed out punishments with extreme prejudice.

 

After classes are over, you wait for Miki by the shoe lockers, who said she had something to do but that she’d be back soon and you fiddle with your bag, shifting your weight from one foot to another. You think you know what she’s up to, and sure enough, when you hear slow, heavy footsteps coming down the stairs, you’re not surprised to see her with her head hung low, not a single flower in sight. She looks up and you frown at the tears already streaking down her soft, round cheeks. Her breath hitches once, twice, then she runs forward, collapsing in your arms with several high-pitched hiccups.

 

You confessed, didn’t you?” you say softly and she nods a few times into your shoulder. Already you can feel a wetness staining the jacket of your uniform and you sigh. It’s not the first time you’ve seen her cry, but it’s the first she’s taken a chance for a guy she liked. “Fuck him,” you growl, your grip on her tightening slightly. “He wasn’t good enough for you anyway.”

 

After some time, she finally pulls away, her eyes puffy and her nose red, but even still, you think she looks cute and you want to go find the bastard who broke her heart and beat the crap out of him for not appreciating her. She sniffles a little and pulls open her locker, pulling off her school shoes and slipping on her regular ones.

 

Hey, do you want to stop somewhere on the way home? I’ll buy,” you offer, and she finally smiles, even though it’s faint and still a little watery. You walk over to your own locker and set your bag down.

 

Alright,” she says from behind you, starting to cheer up already.

 

Sweet. Where do you wannaaw, shit…” Several envelopes and a few packages rain down and land by your feet as soon as you open your shoe locker. You stoop down to pick them up, grumbling, and stuff them unceremoniously into your bag to throw away for later before turning around to look at your best friend.

 

She’s staring hard at your bag with a strange look on her face. It’s a little unsettling and you frown.

 

Miki?”

 

She blinks and her expression clears somewhat. “Anywhere’s fine,” she says quietly. Her voice rings a little hollow to your ears, but you attribute it to her recent heartbreak.

 

Looking back, you think the warning signs have always been there, but you hadn’t recognized them for what they were.

 

You wonder if you could have made a difference even if you had known.

 

It takes you a moment to realize that you’re sprinting hard and you slow to a halt, breathing hard. Your lungs burn as you slowly make your way back to the agency, leg muscles tense and unsteady. Sweat runs down your forehead and into your eyes, making them sting and you wipe your face with your sleeve.

 

It’s like you’re leaking flammable memories and heading straight into the fire. As you step into Gunhead’s hero agency building, you think of Uraraka and snort softly. You might not be so far off the mark, if you’re being honest with yourself.

 

The rest of the day, much to your relief, is uneventful, with Gunhead having you practice fighting moves in the training room. It’s a good workout even though you’re not exactly exerting yourself all that much, but by the end of it, Uraraka looks shaky on her feet and she’s less talkative than before, no doubt born from her exhaustion. She spends so long in the shower afterwards that you wonder if she’s trying to drown herself in there, but she finally emerges wearing pajamas and claiming she actually fell asleep for a few minutes.

 

She makes good on her word less than an hour later and she’s out like a light on her bed, and you figure you should also get some shuteye.

 

The next morning, you wake to a faint tickling sensation on your nose and your brow wrinkles in annoyance, but you don’t open your eyes. Stifled giggles follow and the feeling returns, a little more insistent this time.

 

Your eyes finally snap open to find Uraraka dangling a lock of your hair over the bridge of your nose and smiling in a teasing way.

 

“Good morning, (Surname)-chan!” she declares happily, but that’s all she manages to say before you jerk away from her, heart threatening to beat itself out of your chest as you nearly fall off the bed in your haste to put as much distance between you as possible. Her smile quickly melts into confusion. “Oh? Did I startle you?” She frowns at your increasingly obvious distress. “I’m sorry, (Surname)-chan. I didn’t mean to—”

 

Don’t. Touch me.” Your words come out harsh and gravelly from sleep, but there’s enough force behind them to make her falter. Running a hand through your bangs, you hover off the bed and land some distance away near your luggage, where you arbitrarily start to yank out your clothes for the day. Your hands don’t stop shaking even as you stand and head to the bathroom, but you do glance over to see her staring at you, hurt evident on her soft features.

 

You make sure to slam the bathroom door as hard as you can to get the message across.

 

Uraraka is quiet and subdued all morning and it doesn’t take a genius to know why. Still, you prefer her like this because she’s easy to ignore as Gunhead takes you through another lesson, this time on defensive holds. He introduces a grappling technique to use against someone wielding a knife and hands her this little plastic thing that’s meant to look real.

 

You stand on the sidelines, waiting your turn as he demonstrates. His body moves fluidly despite being so massive, no doubt born from years of experience on the field and you can’t help but feel slightly envious at that until you tell yourself that you’ll get your chance to develop your skills. That’s partly why you’re here in the first place. Gunhead ends up pinning Uraraka to the floor effortlessly before he lets her go, offering plenty of helpful tips on how to improve. He takes her through a few more times until she gets it down pat.

 

“Aria-chan! It’s your turn with the knife!” he says, waving you over and you push off the wall, uncrossing your arms and trying not to look at Uraraka. He hands it to you, but when he steps away, you blink at him in confusion.

 

“Aren’t…you going to teach me too, sir?” you ask tentatively, feeling a pit of dread beginning to sink into your stomach.

 

“In due time. You’ve been watching us the whole time, haven’t you? I can tell you’re a smart girl, so you’ll know what to expect. I think this will be a good opportunity for Uravity-chan to put her newfound skills to the test. After you’ve had some practice, you can switch. Sound fair?” He tilts his head a little to the side and you let out a soft sigh, then nod, albeit grudgingly. There’s no way you can refuse, but you have a very bad feeling about this.

 

You get into position several feet away. Even from here, you can see the fierce determination on her face, which is a stark contrast to how bright and cheerful she normally is that it actually throws you off for a second. “Okay, whenever you’re ready!” calls Gunhead from the sidelines, and you dart forward as fast as you can without so much as a warning.

 

It catches her off guard, but she quickly recovers, bobbing and weaving around your swings. You’re much faster than Gunhead himself, so you can see her struggling a little, but you’re so focused on trying to keep her away from you that you accidentally leave yourself wide open. She seizes the opportunity and grips your wrist, pivoting on her heel and grabbing the back of your collar while pulling as hard as she can. She pushes you onto the hard wooden ground, her legs pressing down onto yours and preventing you from moving. The plastic knife skitters away from your grasp, but you can’t care less about that right now.

 

She’s not particularly heavy, but she’s warm. Too warm.

 

It’s too hot. Way too hot.

 

It’s burning!

 

It hurts .

 

Miki’s weight flops over your back, knocking most of the air from your lungs, but you’re laughing, and she’s giggling too, and the hot summer sun bakes into the grass below you and carries the scent of roses from the expansive garden all around. You’re happy and carefree and there’s

 

s o m e t h I N G   W  R  O  N  G

 

GET OFF ME!” you scream hysterically, struggling violently until she finally scrambles away. You unsteadily get on your hands and knees, coughing and drawing in deep, ragged breaths. “I thought I told you earlier that I didn’t want you touching me!” you snarl, getting to your feet and swaying dangerously. It dimly registers that your cheeks are soaking wet and there’s moisture dripping down onto your collarbone.

 

Uraraka’s eyes are wide and frightened, her hands hovering near her mouth. The look on your face must be terrifying because nobody moves. Her lips move soundlessly over words she wants to say, but she holds them back.

 

“You stay away,” you growl, pointing an accusatory finger at her and she recoils slightly, her eyebrows tilting upwards. “Don’t come near me again, you hear?!”

 

You can’t stand being in this room anymore so you take a few faltering steps backwards before bolting from the place. You know you’re in huge trouble now but you can’t bring yourself to care. Slamming the door shut behind you, you head over to your bed and curl up on your side, trying to stifle the tremors from ravaging your body, but it’s no use.

 

It’s hard to tell how much time passes, but a knock on the door snaps you back to your senses. Still, you don’t get up and lie there stubbornly. The door opens, then shuts quietly and you immediately roll over, facing the wall, curling up in an even tighter ball.

 

A soft sigh lets you know exactly who’s standing in the room with you and white hot anger licks up your spine. “Don’t you ever fucking listen?” you snap. “I don’t want to talk to you.”

 

“(Surname)-chan…I just came to say that I’m really sorry. If I ever made you uncomfortable and didn’t realize it, I truly…sincerely apologize…from the bottom of my heart.” Her voice catches, sounding soft and unsure and you finally turn to face her with a glower. She’s staring down at her shoes with an absolutely miserable look on her round face.

 

“Did Gunhead tell you to come here and make nice?” you sneer, throwing her apology back in her face.

 

At this, she lifts her head just as outrage crosses her features, but when she speaks, her voice is carefully measured and even. “Does it matter?” she asks.

 

“Changes how I feel about it,” you say carelessly, turning your head away with a click of your tongue.

 

She’s rendered speechless, but it only lasts for a moment. “You don’t have to be so mean about it!” she cries, and finally, finally her anger bursts into full bloom, raw and raging, but it still doesn’t hold a candle to yours. “I’m just trying to be nice to you, but you’re not making it easy, you know!”

 

This incenses you so much that you actually rise to your feet. “I didn’t ask for your fucking misplaced kindness and I don’t need it. You can’t just act like my friend and think that I’m going to be okay with it because you wanna know something? I don’t care about you.” You’re breathing hard again and your pulse thrums in your ears. “You can take that fake friendship bullshit and shove it.”

 

She stamps her foot on the floor, at the end of her rope. “Why are you like this?!” she snaps, and there’s hurt interlaced with her anger and her eyes start to water. “What did I ever do to you?!” Uraraka’s voice cracks on the last word and a few tears escape onto her rapidly reddening cheeks.

 

Her face looks so much like Miki’s did that awful afternoon that it fractures something inside you and you finally break. “You didn’t do anything! Don’t you get it?!” you scream, hand grasping the front of your costume in a desperate attempt to keep yourself grounded to something, anything. Your vision blurs and your eyes burn fiercely and a strangled, furious sob wrenches itself from your throat. You set your jaw to keep any more from escaping, but you’ve already lost the battle. “You didn’t do anything and that’s why it’s so fucking frustrating being around you…I don’t…I can’t handle it…”

 

You sink back down onto your bed and hunch over, gripping your hair in your hands, pulling it hard enough to make it sting. Your throat burns something awful, shoulders shaking as you whimper quietly, tears falling fast and hot onto your lap. You hate this. Why were you even forced to face your regrets, here of all places? You know it’s not fair on Uraraka, that she can’t help it, but it doesn’t make your pain any less real, your resentment and bitterness all culminating into something she doesn’t understand and it just makes it all the more aggravating for you.

 

It’s hard to say how much time you spend sitting there on the bed, but when a soft weight settles down beside you, you flinch and pull away. You don’t look at her. You don’t think you can.

 

“Why…” you begin, sniffling and voice rough from crying, “why do you have to look so much like her?”

 

The bed shifts slightly and you know she’s looking at you. “(Surname)-chan…? What are you talking about? Look like who?” The anger that was so prevalent in her tone before is completely gone now, replaced with tired confusion.

 

You shake your head and she falls silent. It takes several more minutes for you to calm down, and when you do, the air is thick with tension.

 

“I know…you don’t want my help,” she starts, “but there’s something about me that’s bothering you so much that it’s getting in the way of your internship.” She pauses for a moment with a soft exhale. “I don’t want to get in the way of your dream to be a hero, so…maybe…if you want to talk…well…you don’t have to, really, but—”

 

“Miki,” you interrupt quietly and she immediately shuts up. “Her name. It’s Miki.”

 

“Um…I’m afraid I don’t know who that is, (Surname)-chan…”

 

You draw in a shaky breath and exhale slowly. Deep down, you had a feeling this talk was inevitable, but you still don’t have to like it. “You look just like her. She was my best friend.”

 

“O-Oh…what happened?”

 

You let out a humorless, disbelieving laugh, shaking your head. “What do you think?” you answer lowly, smarting.

 

From beside you, Uraraka sighs. “I don’t know, (Surname)-chan. I’m tired of making assumptions because every single one I’ve ever had about you so far is wrong.”

 

“That so?” you mutter, wiping your eyes against your sleeve. The material isn’t that absorbent and you scowl. “Well, we knew each other since we kids. Did everything together. She was there when my Quirk manifested for the first time. She was so…cheerful.” Your eyes lose focus as you reminisce. “She had these…flowers that popped up in her hair whenever she was happy and it killed me when I didn’t see any because it meant some fucker made her sad. Had the same brown hair, same rosy cheeks, same everything as you. It’s like I’m looking at her doppelganger.” You finally look over at her and look into her searching eyes. “Hell, you could be twins.” You frown a little. “No, wait…her eyes weren’t as dark or as…big. But I guess that’s not important right now.

 

“I would have spent my childhood all alone if it wasn’t for her. But…people change when they get older. She had taken a shine to this one dude in our class, and I thought it would play out like all the other crushes she’d had in the past, except that I wanted her to stay happy, even if…even if it wasn’t always with me.” Your eyes narrow slightly as you turn back to face the floor. “And so I stupidly tried to see how he felt about her, but it didn’t turn out like I wanted. Turned out, he had a stupid crush on me and not her and the fucking idiot confessed to me on the spot.

 

“She was going to give him a letter…I tried to tell her that it was a bad idea. I thought I was doing the right thing, but…she found out what happened and…she didn’t take it that well. Took it pretty hard, actually.”

 

“(Surname)-chan…”

 

You run a hand over your face before letting it drop. “She got angry. Got real pissed off and said some really awful stuff. At first I thought it was because she was heartbroken, that she didn’t mean the things she said, but then she started bringing up stuff she’d been holding back for years, how I always had everything she ever wanted.” You snort and a small tear escapes before you blink it away. “She screamed at me, right in the middle of the goddamn cafeteria that she hated me and she never wanted to see me again.”

 

“That’s awful…I’m sorry that happened to you,” she mumbles, and she really does sound sorrowful when she says it.

 

“Don’t apologize,” you intone. “It happened a while ago. I’m mostly over it now, y’know?”

 

Uraraka sighs and tentatively places a gentle hand on your shoulder. You tense, but don’t pull away. “Actually…I don’t really think you are, (Surname)-chan. From the look of things, it still sounds like you’re hurting and…it’s not good carrying something so heavy on your own. I’m not saying that what she did was right or justified in any way because she wasn’t, but…I think that, for your own sake, you have to accept that you can’t change what happened anymore.”

 

You’re quiet at this. You know she’s right, but it’s a lot easier said than done. If you wanted to move on, you would have done so a long time ago already.

 

“What happened wasn’t your fault, so please don’t punish yourself for what you did or didn’t do. I know it’s going to be hard to get past this since she was really important to you, but you also have to think about yourself sometimes.” She squeezes your shoulder reassuringly and the gesture feels less uncomfortable than it did before. “You have every right to feel sad about it, but you can’t let it fester. It’s just not healthy.” You look over and she offers you a very small smile. “But you also have to remember that I’m not Miki, you know? Just because I look like her doesn’t mean I’ll make the same decisions or treat you the same way.”

 

She giggles a little and rests her forehead against your shoulder and this time, you let her. “So…if it’s all the same to you…I want you to get to know me, not as Miki’s lookalike, but as Uraraka Ochako.” She turns her head and peers up at you. “Is it okay if we start there?”

 

You look away, feeling tired and drained, but not nearly as heavy as before. “I’ll…see what I can do.”

 

Uraraka brightens a little and she sits up straight. “That’s fine. We can go at your own pace if you like!” She scoots over and leans back against the wall. “Oh, and if you were wondering, you’re not in trouble. Gunhead-sensei gave us the rest of the day to ‘reflect on our actions and make peace’ because he said he wasn’t going to train us until we cleared the air…or something like that.”

 

You shoot her a deadpan look. “So you did really come here because Gunhead made you do it.”

 

She grins. “I’m glad he did, though!” She wiggles a little in place. “You know, Deku-kun was right. If you persevere long enough, anyone can be your friend. You just have to work at it a little to get to it!”

 

You scoff. “And speaking of, this is the second time in as many days that you’ve brought him up out of nowhere. It’s freaky.”

 

Uraraka blinks. “Huh? What do you mean?”

 

Rolling your eyes to the ceiling, you shake your head. “You should really hear yourself. It’s always ‘Deku-kun said this’ or ‘Deku-kun said that’. Do you like him or some shit?”

 

She stares at you for a solid minute, and you’re starting to think her brain short-circuited before she quickly comes back to life, her face a bright, cherry red. “H-Huh?! L-L-Like him? It’s not like that! It’s not like that at all!” she squeals, waving her arms around frantically.

 

You’re actually a little alarmed by how much she’s freaking out. “Alright, jeez! You don’t have to yell. It was just a question…” you say, eyeing her suspiciously.

 

The rest of the afternoon is spent talking about other things that are decidedly not about Midoriya, and while it’s not perfect, you seriously start to consider her words from earlier. It’s not going to be an easy journey, but at the same time, you feel like you’ve taken the first small step in your long recovery. And maybe that’s going to make all the difference in the world, or it might not. It’s still too early to tell. But your starting line is here, and maybe Uraraka can help you along the way. You’re sure to stumble sometimes, but that’s why she’s there, isn’t she?

 

As night falls, you start to relax, even exchange a funny story or two that leaves her in stitches and you smiling indulgently. It’s faint, but it’s there, and when Uraraka sees it, she grows that much more cheerful and she hurries to tell you a memory of her own.

 

You’re so engrossed in your conversation that both of you fail to notice the simultaneous notification from Midoriya that pops up on your phones.

Chapter Text

The first thing that registers when you wake up the next morning is the faint headache that pulses dimly, one that’s sure to grow stronger over the course of the day. What little you can see of the sky outside is a deep purple, so it must not even be close to sunrise yet. Your mouth feels fuzzy and you roll your tongue against your teeth to get rid of it, but it lingers and it dawns on you that you’re kind of thirsty.

 

Sleep still hangs heavily over your eyelids, but you’re not so out of it to realize how warm you are despite not being under your thin blanket. It’s only then that you notice the mop of short brown hair only inches away from your face and you suck in a sharp breath. You don’t remember falling asleep last night and you definitely don’t recall Uraraka curling up beside you, but there she is, slumbering peacefully and dead to the world.

 

It’s so reminiscent of your sleepovers with Miki, but you forcibly nip that thought in the bud before it has a chance to grow so only vestiges surface and your body slowly, but surely begins to lose some of the tension it acquired. She’s facing away from you and is closer to the wall, which is a small relief because that drink of water is starting to sound really good right now and it’s way too warm. Only a few inches separate you and you think it’s a miracle you didn’t just roll off the side in the middle of the night because your leg is aching something fierce from being dangled over the edge for hours.

 

The mattress squeaks faintly and is the only noise that fills the nearly empty room as you rise from the bed, breath held in your lungs, but Uraraka doesn’t move. You exhale slowly in relief. ‘Damn, she sleeps like a fucking rock,’ you think, thanking the heavens for small mercies. After getting a much-needed drink of water, you glide noiselessly over the floor until landing at the edge of the bed, staring hard at her sleeping form with your eyes narrowed thoughtfully.

 

You had both done a lot of talking the night before, had divulged more than with others, and though what you bared didn’t have any more significance than what you’ve told Midoriya or even Todoroki, it still holds a quiet feeling that settles in your chest. It’s not necessarily bad, but Uraraka said it herself. She’s not Miki, no matter how much she looks like her.

 

It’s going to get better. Not all at once. Both of you know this. Are you friends? Is this the start of something that will grow or will it wither on the vine before it even blooms? Your shoulders hitch just as she rolls over in her sleep, mumbling softly before settling. One of her hands lies face up and curled while the other bunches up near her pillow and you edge closer. There’s little pads on her fingertips, kind of like the ones on cats, but wider and don’t protrude as much, but it still makes you run the edge of your index across one curiously. It’s soft and gives easily under your touch.

 

You’re not sure if you want to go back to sleep, but there’s not much to do and you’re not in the mood to go for a run when it’s dark out, so you decide to go to bed. Briefly considering crawling back to lie at Uraraka’s side, you quickly dismiss the thought and cross the room to the other unoccupied bed, sliding under the blanket and closing your eyes.

 

In what seems like next to no time at all, you’re being shaken awake rather urgently and you groan, feeling a steady throb pounding at your temples. “Fuckin’…what?” you mutter, far too tired to care about how grumpy you sound.

 

“(Surname)-chan! Something terrible happened!” comes Uraraka’s worried cries and you blearily open one eye. “It’s Deku-kun!”

 

Now fully awake, you sit up so quickly you almost conk your foreheads together. “Shit, what happened?” you demand.

 

In response, she holds out her phone to you and you grab it quickly, eyes scanning the screen. It’s open to a news article briefly describing the destruction caused in the city of Hosu by a trio of Nomu, and while that does send a shiver down your spine, what really freezes the blood in your veins is the part about the Hero Killer Stain, which takes up the majority of the page. Three U.A. students and several pro heroes were involved in the attack, though all were reported to be in stable condition thanks to Endeavor’s timely rescue, which eases the iron grip over your heart somewhat. The names of the students aren’t reported, so you’re unsure how any of this has to do with Midoriya.

 

“What the fuck…” you breathe and you let your hand fall to your lap, phone held loosely. “How did you…?”

 

“I got a message from Deku-kun last night,” she says gently, plucking the phone from you and settling down beside you. Her eyebrows are knitted tightly with worry. “It didn’t say anything, just a location.”

 

It’s then that you notice the blinking light on your phone and you grab it, unlocking it and feeling your breath catch in your throat. There it is, just like she said…and in the city of Hosu to boot, where it all went down.

 

“Whoa, you have Deku-kun’s number too?!” exclaims Uraraka right in your ear and you jump.

 

“Midoriya almost fucking died and that’s what you choose to focus on?!” you balk angrily, feeling heat erupt in your cheeks. She has the grace to look sheepish and you turn away with a scowl. You know your friend is fine, but the knot of unease in your chest doesn’t go away even as you both get ready for the day.

 

As you’re slipping on the sleeve of your costume, a thought occurs to you and guilt makes your stomach sink horribly. “Wait…Uraraka, was it because we spent all night talking that we completely missed…?” you trail off, hand rising to cover your mouth.

 

She looks up, eyes growing just as wide as yours. For once, she doesn’t answer, just steps into her shoes, but the way she hunches her shoulders and presses her lips together says enough. You sit back down onto the bed, staring uselessly at your hands, feeling horrified. A few moments of silence pass until she speaks up quietly, cutting across your dark thoughts.

 

“Even if we had seen his message, there’s nothing we could’ve done,” she says, and you snap your head up to look at her. “Hosu is too far away and…I think we might have driven ourselves crazy with worry if we knew what was going on.” This doesn’t make you feel any better and you’re about to say so when she smiles a little. “How about this then? We can call him and see how he’s doing now. That way we can breathe a little easier.”

 

Now that the shock has worn off, you’re surprised to find that you’re actually a little irritated at yourself, but you’re not sure why. “Yeah, okay,” you mumble, crossing your arms.

 

You arrive at the training room when Uraraka makes the call and you stuff the prickle of exasperation to the back of your mind because it’s only going to seem incredibly childish that you wanted to be the one to call him first. Gunhead hasn’t arrived yet so you stand around feeling kind of stupid, trying to pretend you aren’t waiting with baited breath when Uraraka perks up.

 

“Deku-kun?” she cries out, undoubtedly still worried, and though you can’t hear what’s being said, you can make out his voice, small and tired-sounding, so at the very least, you know he’s okay. You do some stretches so you can pretend you’re not listening to the ongoing conversation, but you know it’s not fooling her. Now you’re feeling kind of annoyed that he made you worry and you scoff, which gets Uraraka’s attention.

 

“Oh, right…do you want to talk to him?” she asks, holding the receiver away from her ear and holding her phone out to you. Now that it’s this close, you hear the small noise of confusion he makes on the other end and you narrow your eyes at it.

 

“Uraraka-san, is there someone there with you?” comes his voice, sounding utterly bemused.

 

“Gimme that,” you mutter moodily, taking her phone and holding it up to your ear. For a second, you hesitate, your heartbeat picking up in anticipation, then you inhale sharply to get your nerves under control. “Midoriya,” you say flatly.

 

“U-Um…hello,” he answers and you roll your eyes at the lack of recognition in his voice.

 

“Nice to see you back among the living,” you snark and you swear you hear a faint intake of breath on his end. Looks like he finally figured it out. For such a smart guy, he can be kind of dense sometimes.

 

“(Surname)-san?!” he squeaks and you hold back a snort. Barely. “H-How? What?! You...You’re…” He continues making strange, choked off noises and you can only imagine the kind of faces he’s pulling right now, which makes your eyebrows climb higher toward your hairline. It’s the first time you’ve spoken to each other on the phone after all.

 

“What the hell was that message last night anyway?” you interrupt, shifting your weight to one foot just as Gunhead walks in. He doesn’t seem to mind and begins chatting with Uraraka, who keeps turning her head a little to listen in on your conversation. “I didn’t even see it until this morning and then I find out you were involved in some crazy messed up shit. What gives, Midoriya?” You don’t mean to snap, but your words come out more forcefully than you intended, though you don’t take them back.

 

“Ah…you heard about that, huh?” he mumbles. “I’m sorry…I didn’t mean to worry you.”

 

Heat floods both your cheeks and ears and you straighten with an indignant scowl. “I wasn’t worried!” you retort with a slight scoff. “I’m just mad. Do you like being in the center of things, is that it?”

 

“Oh…no, not really,” he says with a nervous chuckle. “Um…I didn’t know you were interning with Uraraka-san. Are you guys getting along?”

 

“Don’t change the subject,” you say flatly and he’s too late to stifle a yelp. Caught red-handed. You run a hand down your face and sigh. “Look…you really need to be careful. This whole running into dangerous serial killers and getting hurt…I don’t like it. What if…what if Endeavor hadn’t shown up, huh? What if the last time we ever saw each other was at the train station?”

 

He’s quiet for a while and you hope he’s at least ruminating your words. “I…I really am sorry, (Surname)-san,” he says at last, sounding small and remorseful.

 

“You’d better be,” you retort, then lower your head, shoulders slumping in resignation. “I know it’s too much to ask not to put your life in danger since it’s probably going to happen anyway, knowing you, but maybe give shit a second thought before you go leaping into action.” Your hand grips the phone a little tightly. “I expect a proper apology in person when I see you in class. Got it?”

 

“Y-Yes!” he squeaks. Someone else’s voice comes through and you gather he’s holding his phone away from his ear because when he speaks, his words are quiet and indistinct. “Hey, (Surname)-san?” he says and you pause at the shift in tone. He sounds tentative. “Um…someone here wants to talk to you. Is it okay?”

 

“Depends who it is,” you answer, though your curiosity is piqued. “But...yeah, put them through.”

 

“Okay,” he says and you catch a faint ‘here you go’ as the phone is passed to this new person.

 

You scrunch your eyebrows together in confusion, fully expecting to hear the pro hero Midoriya was interning with, but all you hear is silence. You briefly hold the phone away from your ear to make sure the call hasn’t dropped. “Hello?”

 

“…(Surname).” Even on the phone, you’d recognize that voice anywhere and it’s as if someone just punched you in the gut.

 

A mix of feelings quickly rise to the surface, a combination of longing, regret, and most prominently, cold fury. Your face hardens and your grip tightens. “Put me through to Midoriya,” you say at last, every syllable edged with resentment. “Now.”

 

There’s a pause. “I wish to speak with you.”

 

You draw yourself up to your full height, so enraged that you fail to notice both Uraraka and Gunhead turning around to stare apprehensively. “Well I don’t. So put Midoriya back on the line or I swear I’m hanging up.”

 

A sigh, followed by a heavy silence that goes on for a few seconds. “…Okay.”

 

Midoriya’s voice comes back on. “(Surname)-san…that wasn’t very nice. Todoroki-kun just

 

“I don’t want to hear it,” you snap, feeling angry and a little hurt. Suddenly, you don’t want to talk to him either, which is a stark contrast from earlier. “I gotta go. See you at school.”

 

“Okay. Bye,” he replies a little sadly before the line disconnects. You hand over the phone to a very confused Uraraka.

 

“Everything okay?” she asks quietly and you shrug.

 

“Don’t worry about it. Midoriya’s fine,” you answer dismissively, avoiding the topic. At this, Gunhead pipes up with a couple of training exercises and you both fall back into the routine you’ve been doing for the past few days, trying to put it out of your mind, but when you glance over at Uraraka, the worried crease in her brow lets you know that the matter still weighs heavily on her chest.

 

Things continue like this and nothing too eventful really happens after that. Despite the similarities in appearance, Uraraka behaves quite a bit differently from Miki. She’s bright and cheerful, true, but she can be spunky at times, a fact proven during one of your sparring sessions and when her competitive spirit kicks into high gear, she manages to put you on your toes with a face that is decidedly not cute or friendly at all. It’s a little scary, actually. It’s worth knocking her on her ass to see her cheeks puff up indignantly, but other than that, she accepts her defeat with grace.

 

When things wind down at the end of the day, she’s kind and warm in a different way than Midoriya, though the way she gesticulates wildly during the middle of a good story is the same. During some of your nightly conversations, you find out she’s fond of mochi, likes the color pink, and is thrifty to the extreme. The last part doesn’t make much sense until she tells you about her parents’ money troubles and her dreams to become a hero to make their lives easier.

 

You don’t know what it’s like to have good parents, so you can’t relate, but you don’t have the heart to tell her that, so you just nod with what you hope is an understanding look on your face.

 

As the days pass, you get the feeling she’s starting to test the boundaries of your budding friendship and this makes you a little uneasy at first, but she doesn’t pressure you. She starts by sitting on your bed instead of across the room on hers, and when you don’t vocalize your protests, she scoots closer, her smile tentative and sweet. At the first sign of tension, however, she immediately backs off with an apology, then changes the subject to keep your mind off it.

 

You don’t want to admit how well it’s working but by the end of your internship, you’re almost blindsided when Uraraka actually progresses to looping an arm around yours, careful to keep her thumb tucked against her palm after the last memorable time she had accidentally made you float. You had panicked at the sensation of being completely weightless and had accidentally rammed yourself against the ceiling, so neither of you are in a hurry to repeat the experience quite so soon.

 

You’re not really used to someone touching you so much, but this doesn’t bother you like it did before. In fact, there are a few times when you find yourself actually seeking out physical contact, though nothing major, just a leg pressed against hers while you browse on your phones in bed during your quieter moments. She’s only too happy to oblige, but even so, you briefly wonder if that says something about you.

 

All too soon, your internship with Gunhead comes to a close. You end up falling asleep during the train ride home, head slumped over Uraraka’s shoulder, and you actually have to stop yourself from sulking when she wakes you up. Still, you don’t want to seem needy, so you grab your suitcases and step out onto the platform where you dial your driver to come pick you up.

 

“I can’t wait to see everyone tomorrow!” she says cheerfully, stretching her arms over her head. She turns to face you with a bright, happy smile and you can’t help but return it with a small one of your own. “It’ll be so nice to hear what everyone else did during their internships, don’t you think?”

 

You shrug. “Yeah, maybe. Still going to give Midoriya a piece of my mind, though.”

 

She grimaces weakly. “Um…yeah, I kind of heard you on the phone. But…don’t you think you’re being a little hard on him, (Surname)-chan? He’s already been through a lot.”

 

Scoffing, you cross your arms over your chest. “That’s exactly why I need to. Reckless idiot…”

 

Uraraka tilts her head. “Hm…well, I don’t know about that, but…what about Todoroki-kun? I thought you’d be worried about him since…well…he’s your friend too, but I haven’t heard you mention him at all.”

 

Your heart seizes in your throat and you take in a sharp breath. While it’s true you have been thinking about him on and off all week, more so closer to the end of your internship because you positively dread the thought of running into him at school, you try to tell yourself that you are not concerned for his well-being since he was involved in the attack as well, a fact that Uraraka mentioned the other day. Besides, you’re still angry with him. He didn’t care about your feelings when he left you in that lone hallway, so why should you suddenly be the one to accommodate his?

 

“I’ve got a ride coming in like five minutes,” you say, checking your phone and intentionally avoiding her inquisitive look. “Where do you live?”

 

She blinks. “Huh?”

 

You roll your eyes a little. “Do you want a lift or not?”

 

Uraraka stares at you for a second longer before nodding shyly. “That would be nice, thank you,” she mumbles and you both exit the station to wait for your driver.

 

When a familiar black car pulls up a few minutes later, Uraraka nearly has an aneurysm. “Alright, hop in,” you say, gesturing to the passenger door closest to her.

 

“Th-This is your car?!” she shrieks with her eyes the size of dinner plates, which draws the attention of walking passersby.


Heat crawls up the back of your neck in embarrassment. “You don’t have to be so loud!” you snap, scowling intensely. “Just get in already.”

 
She finally does and you settle in beside her, avoiding her eyes as she nervously gives her address to your driver. In the rear view mirror, you catch the faint crinkle around his eyes when he glances over at you before you shoot him a deadpan look and press the button in the middle panel, closing the partition shut so he won’t see. He’s far too used to your antics to take offense and soon pulls away from the station and onto the busy street.

 

“So…you really are a rich girl, (Surname)-chan,” she says once the shock has worn off. “It explains a lot.”

 

“Is that so?” you say, raising an eyebrow.

 

She waves her hands a little. “You know…like…all the fancy clothes and stuff. It must be nice.” There’s no trace of envy in her voice, but she does seem a little sad. “I bet you get to eat whatever you want, huh?”

 

You shake your head. “Not really? There’s a strict diet and exercise regimen I have to follow. I cheat sometimes in school, but the staff keeps tabs on me to make sure I’m not straying too far from it. Mom’s orders,” you finish bitterly. “There’s lots of things I never got a chance to try because my mom was worried about me losing my figure.”

 

“She sounds…kind of strict,” Uraraka says, looking sympathetic.

 

“She’s a fucking bitch is what she is,” you mutter under your breath, but she hears you anyway and sighs.

 

“You don’t get along?” she says quietly, folding her hands on her lap.

 

You shake your head. “Hell no. She’s used to doing whatever she wants and getting away with it, so she’s pulled a lot of stupid stunts, like changing my costume before she mailed it in.” You snort, crossing your arms and leaning back in your seat with a glower. “And then at the Sports Festival…” You trail off into silence because that brings painful memories you don’t want to unpack right now.

 

“I’m sorry that happened to you,” she mumbles sadly. “I’m not sure if there’s anything I can do to help, but if you need anyone to talk to, I’m here.”

 

Sighing heavily, you close your eyes and nod. You don’t see her soft smile, but you know it’s there.

 

The next morning, you find it hard to shake off the jitters in your stomach as you head to class. As you slide open the door, you find most of your class already inside, all loudly discussing their internships. From the little you’re able to gather, some had more interesting experiences than others, but you don’t really care that much.

 

“There you are!” calls out Uraraka, raising a hand in greeting. She turns back to Ashido, Yaoyorozu, and Jirou, who hang around a desk and eye you curiously. “Good morning, (Surname)-chan!”

 

“Hey,” you mumble quietly, heading over. You don’t miss how the other three exchange probing looks and you can practically hear the gears turning in their heads.

 

“Have…you two always been so friendly?” says Jirou, the first to break to silence.

 

“Eh? Oh…well…no, but…we interned at the same agency so we had a chance to get to know each other better,” replies Uraraka with an uncertain smile and you’re so grateful she doesn’t go into detail about what really happened because you really don’t want to go into it with these three. Or anyone, really. Best to keep it between you and Uraraka, you think.

 

They look at you for confirmation and you nod before glancing away. It feels odd, confirming your friendship like this, but you suppose it’s not all bad.

 

There’s a commotion at the very back of the classroom and you frown at the suddenly tense silence that falls. At the very center of it is Kaminari and Iida, the latter speaking so seriously about the Hero Killer that it gives you pause at how quiet he’s being, such a departure from his usual bossy self. Then Iida regains his lost steam and soon enough, is back to his usual shtick, which annoys Jirou, who snaps at Kaminari for even bringing up Stain in the first place.

 

Later, when it’s finally time for lunch, you stretch your arms over your head with a soft groan, then rummage through your bag to get your wallet. You’re eager to stretch your legs to go for a walk, but you want to get a drink first. Getting up, you push your chair in, pointedly keeping your gaze averted away from your right, but you can feel Todoroki’s eyes on your retreating back as you exit the classroom.

 

You half-expect to hear footsteps as you browse through the selections displayed on the vending machine and you aren’t disappointed when you hear them converging on your position. Dryly wondering why you can’t ever get a drink in peace, you brace yourself for any possible confrontation. With any luck, it’s just some random student looking to get something, but you know that’s too much to ask for.

 

“Hey. Feels like we didn’t get a chance to talk this morning,” comes Midoriya’s warm voice and you inwardly sigh in relief at the same time you tell yourself your hands definitely aren’t sweaty right now nor does it feel like your breath just got punched out of your lungs.

 

You glance over to find him staring at you with a soft look in his eyes. “You wanted to get chewed out that badly, huh?” you remark sardonically. “Or did you think I’d forget?”

 

He blinks in surprise. Looks like he did. “Eh? Um…I didn’t know that was still on the table,” he admits sheepishly.

 

Scowling, you shove a hand against his shoulder and he stumbles backward a little. “Well it fucking is. I’m still mad at you. You’re going to get killed one of these days and then what? You become another statistic added to the list of fallen heroes over the last decade. You think anyone wants to see that? Your parents? Your friends? You think I want to see that?” You’re not sure why you’re getting so worked up over this, but it’s not like you can help yourself. It’s as though any control you have over your emotions slips easily through your fingers whenever Midoriya’s involved.

 

He bows his head and you melt slightly under his kicked, puppy dog look. “No,” he mumbles quietly, shuffling uncomfortably in place.

 

Slowly, your anger ebbs away. “Midoriya…for such a smart guy, you’re kind of an idiot,” you mutter and he frowns, but doesn’t answer. Your eyes stray down to his tie and you resist the urge to roll your eyes a little. “Man, your thing’s all messed up. There’s tutorials online, you know.”

 

His cheeks color in embarrassment as you undo it and begin fixing his tie. “Um…I tried watching some videos, but they’re a little hard to follow, so I just kind of wing it usually.”

 

Finally, you pull it so the knot rests snugly against his collar, hyper aware of how little space there is between the two of you. “That too tight?” you ask quietly and he shakes his head. As an afterthought, you pull his blazer away from his body and tuck the end underneath before letting go with a satisfied look. “There, all done.”

 

Surprisingly, Midoriya doesn’t step away and remains standing where he is. You glance up to lock eyes with his, your heartbeat loud in your ears as a faint heat rises to the back of your neck and ears. You think there might be fondness shimmering softly in his brilliantly green eyes and you sigh softly through your nose, wondering how one person can attract so much trouble. Still, you’re glad he’s here. And really, that’s all you can ask for right now.

 

You step forward and wrap your arms around him tightly, feeling how warm and alive he is. It’s nothing short of a miracle that he lived to see another day after running into someone so dangerous and the thought scares you. What went down in Hosu remains a mystery, but the very idea of Midoriya actually dying makes your chest feel tight because you can’t imagine a world without him. Who’d go on your morning runs with you? Send you cat pictures in the evening? Make you feel so incredibly soft and comfortable in a way no one else does?

 

He’s as tense as a statue at first, but after a moment or two, his arms slowly come around your shoulders and oh, that feels so good, like stepping into a hot bath right after a grueling training session, and warmth suffuses into your very bones, starting from your chest and going all the way down to the tips of your toes. It’s not like you haven’t embraced each other before, but those times you had been too distraught to focus properly or pressed for time, but now you feel everything quite vividly. He’s solid, his arms holding a steadiness that you never really appreciated until now and you close your eyes, resting your head against his shoulder. You think you hear a shaky inhale, but you’re not sure.

 

“For the record…I was worried,” you mumble, a little embarrassed by the admission, voice barely above a whisper and he turns his head slightly. “Thought you’d like to know.” With a brief squeeze, you finally pull away and very determinedly don’t look at him, so you can’t see his expression, but you can feel his eyes on you still.

 

For a moment, neither of you speak. You sneak a glance and see him biting his lower lip, evidently thinking hard. Then he breaks the silence. “Um…do you want to sit with us for lunch?” he asks timidly and you hesitate before nodding a little. He perks up with a smile. “Okay, let’s go then!”

 

You follow him down to the cafeteria even though you’re not that hungry, too busy trying to figure out the source of your strange heart palpitations and clammy hands. You’re definitely going to see Recovery Girl before the day is over because this isn’t normal.

 

You decide to wait in line with him even though you don’t grab a tray, jumping slightly whenever your elbows accidentally brush together. Finally, he pays for his food and you let him take the lead as he heads over to a table partially obscured by a planted divider, so you hesitate when you see the back of Iida’s head. You don’t really know him that well, but from what you’ve seen, he can be a little…pushy, often barreling past social cues that will almost definitely make you extremely uncomfortable. As you step closer, you notice Uraraka and your shoulders slowly lose their tension, especially when her eyes meet yours and she smiles brightly.

 

…A little too brightly. You’re unsure why this puts you on your guard until the table completely comes into view and you stop. Midoriya keeps going and sits down, glancing up at you with a look that’s almost guilty, but you’ve long ceased paying attention to him.

 

On Iida’s right, sitting there with a tray of zaru soba in front of him, is Todoroki, watching you with what you think is apprehension in his dual-colored eyes. His hands, which are resting on the table, are clenched into loose fists.

 

Nobody moves. Then

 

“Oh, fuck no,” you growl, rounding on Midoriya with a glare so heated he actually recoils a little. “Is this some kind of joke?”

 

“(Surname)-chan, please,” says Uraraka, standing up and palms out in a placating manner, as if that’s going to do anything about the rising fury surging rapidly in your chest. “We just want—”

 

“You set me up,” you bite back angrily and she falls silent, looking torn, but the truth is evident in her eyes, and when Midoriya says nothing to refute this, your outrage reaches a breaking point. “Fuck this shit. I’m outta here,” you snap, turning on your heel and storming off in the opposite direction.

 

As you walk away, you hear Midoriya’s heavy, resigned sigh. “Sorry, Todoroki-kun…”

 

“It’s okay,” he says quietly. “I expected something like this to happen.”

 

Uraraka begins to say something else, but by this point, you’re out of earshot and you exit the cafeteria in a storm of anger, cursing furiously under your breath. You keep going until you’re outside, but even the sun’s warm rays don’t do anything to calm you down, so you head to your favorite wooded area on the campus, stomping all the way there until you come to the bed of wildflowers.

 

You kick a dandelion and watch its little seeds scatter in the light breeze. Chest heaving, you sit down, tucking your legs underneath and tearing a nearby blossom to shreds. After a few minutes of this, you finally stop and stare down at the little petals in your hands before clenching your fists and hurling the whole lot away from you.

 

“Whoa, what did the poor flowers ever do to you?” comes Shinsou’s voice from behind and you stiffen.

 

Under ordinary circumstances, you might have welcomed his company, but right now, all you want is to be left alone. “Fuck off,” you snap without turning around, yanking up blades of grass between your fingers.

 

“We don’t see each other for more than a week and you start with that? Harsh,” he says. His voice doesn’t change much, but you think you hear a trace of hurt somewhere and you exhale moodily through your nose. You try to pretend he isn’t there, but Shinsou is a hard man to ignore, especially when he takes a seat next to you, sitting a little closer than strictly necessary. “Come on, why are you cranky?” He nudges you a little and you scoot further away with a furious snarl.

 

“Stop.” You resume brutally separating blossoms from their stems, ripping away the petals from their centers with a viciousness that would scare you had you been in the right mindset, but all you can think about how Todoroki’s face had looked when you walked away. You hate that you miss him, and while you’ve long since known that your heart is a traitorous thing, it still doesn’t stop you from wanting to rip it out sometimes.

 

Shinsou lets out a sigh and your hands still at the note of anger in it. “Look, I get that you’re mad and you don’t have to tell me why because it’s really none of my business but—”

 

“You’re right, it isn’t,” you interrupt and you want to shove your fist in your mouth because you didn’t mean to say it like that and you hate it when you get like this.

 

“Can I finish?” he says witheringly and you finally look up at him with a glare, yet you bite back any retort hovering behind your closed lips. “I’m not your enemy, I’m your friend, but that doesn’t mean I’m gonna let you treat me however you want because that’s not how this works. You can’t hurt me just because you’re angry. I have feelings too.”

 

He holds your gaze until you finally look away with a scowl. “Sorry,” you mutter at last.

 

“You’re forgiven,” he answers tersely.

 

Mutilating flowers has lost its appeal and you sit there, at a loss. After a few moments, he shuffles closer with a sigh and presses his side against yours, just a little at first, and you let him instead of moving away. This proves to be a mistake because he suddenly leans his whole weight and you fall onto your side with a surprised yelp. You squirm underneath but he makes no move to get up, so you elbow him in the ribs. “Dude, get off,” you whine. He’s kind of heavy.

 

“Not until you learn your lesson,” he says, and while you can’t see his expression from this position, you can tell he’s grinning.

 

Fuck, I said I was sorry already,” you protest, struggling even more but when you feel his fingers dig into your waist and start wiggling around, you can’t stop the shriek of laughter from escaping. You clamp a hand over your mouth because that was really embarrassing, but much to your horror, he doesn’t let up, only redoubling his efforts as you convulse under his incessant tickling. You muffle your peals of laughter as your limbs grow weak and you hear a few stifled snorts that aren’t yours before he finally lets go.

 

“Asshole,” you say almost fondly, clearing your throat as you shuffle away and sit up.

 

He smiles up at you from his place on the grass. “Feeling better?”

 

You don’t want to admit it, but a lot of the anger you’d been feeling has mostly dissipated. “A little,” you mumble, shrugging one shoulder before letting it fall. “If you ever do that again, I’ll break your hands.”

 

“Worth it,” he answers cheekily, then squeezes his eyes shut at the handful of flowers that fall onto his face. He sits up, brushing himself off. “So, now that you stopped being such a grouch, what happened during the week you were gone? It was a little too quiet around here.”

 

“Hardy har,” you sneer, rolling your eyes. “I was doing an internship with a hero agency. That’s why I wasn’t at school.”

 

You spend the rest of lunch like this, just talking to Shinsou who blessedly doesn’t ask what was wrong with you earlier. He still teases you sometimes, which only earns him a hard shove to his shoulder and he falls over easily, pretending you mortally wounded him with fake gasps of pain, even lets out a death rattle once or twice.

 

It’s pleasant, in a mildly irritating kind of way.

 

By the time lessons are over for the day, you’re actually not in a bad mood for once. The bell chimes throughout the halls and you pack your things away. Your afternoon is free today, so you’re not sure what you want to do. Maybe you could invite Shinsou over. That doesn’t sound like such a terrible way to spend the evening. The trouble would be to find him before he leaves because you don’t have his number. Maybe you should head him off in front of the school…

 

“(Surname)-chan?” Looking up, you find Uraraka standing near the classroom door with an anxious look on her round face and you sigh. So much for that idea. “Can I talk to you for a bit?”

 

You still haven’t forgotten earlier, but you get up anyway, grumbling slightly under your breath, good mood suddenly gone. She leads you outside to an empty corridor and you cross your arms, scowling at her. You have every right to be angry with her and Midoriya, but Shinsou’s words from earlier resonate in your head. At the very least, you’re going to hear her out.

 

Still doesn’t mean you have to like it, though.

 

“I just wanted to say I’m sorry for…misleading you.” She winces at the word but continues. “I didn’t really know what was going on until Deku-kun told me the gist of what happened.” Uraraka takes a deep breath before steeling herself and your shoulders tense in anticipation. “I know you’re mad at Todoroki-kun and yeah, I understand why you’re angry, but…he really does want to talk to you. I never knew how close you two were until I saw his face during lunch. He just…seemed really sad, you know?”

 

“So what you’re saying is,” you say, voice rising and she quails a little under the fierce look you give her, “I should go make nice and pretend like nothing happened because you feel sorry for him. That about right?”

 

Her eyebrows scrunch together in a mixture of confusion and defiance. “What? No, that’s not what I said.” She sighs, and you can tell she’s starting to lose her patience. “I’m not trying to make you feel like you’re the one in the wrong because you aren’t. What I want to know is why you insist on punishing yourself by staying away.”

 

Your mouth opens and closes for a few seconds, rendered temporarily speechless. “Punishing myself? Is that what you think this is?!” you hiss, anger rising with a vengeance. “I’m perfectly happy without him, thanks. I do have other friends, believe it or not.”

 

“(Surname)-chan, you miss him! I know you do!” she cries, finally at her wit’s end. “You’re miserable without him!”

 

“Like hell I am!” you retort furiously but a flash of pain cuts you deep and you know she’s right, but you’d rather die than admit it to her. “That asshole made it pretty damn clear he didn’t want anything to do with me anymore, so why the fuck should I go crawling back to him? So he can do the same shit all over again?!”

 

“You know that’s not what I’m saying. Please stop putting words in my mouth,” she says coldly, crossing her arms. Her expression softens into what you recognize as sympathy. “(Surname)-chan…I know…you have bad memories about Miki…and this situation might feel similar and I understand. You’re hurting and it’s okay to feel this way.”

 

“The fuck do you know…” you mutter under your breath, turning your body away from her so she doesn’t see your face crumple in something that isn’t anger.

 

She lets out a sigh full of resignation. “Okay, then…answer me this. Did Miki try to talk to you after she said all those horrible things?”

 

Your shoulders draw up towards your ears. “…No,” you finally say at length, sullen. Your lips twist around the bitter taste in your throat.

 

“Did she try to come find you or try to apologize for making you feel so bad?”

 

“…No…she didn’t.”

 

“Then why,” she stresses, “why are you pushing Todoroki-kun away? You have someone who actually wants to try and fix his mistakes, but you’re not letting him. That’s the big difference between him and Miki, (Surname)-chan. She left you to suffer all on your own without trying to work things out and you never got a second chance to mend your friendship.” You stay silent and she continues, a little more softly. “This time, you do. Things don’t have to stay like this. If you don’t want to be his friend anymore, that’s your decision, but at least give him a chance to say he’s sorry.”

 

Your arms wrap around yourself in an effort to stay grounded, but you shut your eyes and draw in a shaky breath. You know it’s cowardly, but you don’t think you can bring yourself to face him right now. It still feels like you’re getting your heart ripped open, which is why you’ve avoided looking directly at him so far, but…

 

Uraraka lets out of bizarre squeak of surprise, and it’s so strange-sounding that you lift your head and turn around in confusion, but the words that come to your lips crumple and die in your throat.

 

Todoroki stands behind her, framed by the setting sun behind him, so it’s hard to make out his expression at first. “Um…”

 

“Todoroki-kun!” she cries, flailing her hands around. “W-What are you doing here?”

 

“You guys are pretty loud,” he answers simply.

 

As she continues to flounder, you try taking a step backward, but your feet are frozen to the floor. You can’t do this. Not right now. It hurts too much and you don’t think you can handle what he has to say.

 

‘Will you ever be ready, though?’  whispers a small voice in your head.

 

“Can you give us some space?” he says at last, voice quiet and somehow vulnerable, something you’ve never heard from him before. Uraraka must pick up on it too because she quickly shuts up and makes a hasty departure, leaving you and Todoroki alone.

 

It’s so quiet you can hear a pin drop.

 

“The fuck do you want?” you mutter lowly, putting every ounce of animosity you have into your voice. You want to make it hurt, remind him just how much he made you suffer all by yourself in that lonely hallway, and force him to have a taste of his own medicine for once. It’s spiteful and vindictive, but you never pretended to be otherwise.

 

“I just want to talk,” he says quietly after a pause. He steps closer and you finally see his face. It’s more emotion than you’re prepared for and it almost breaks you. His eyes, normally so detached and cold, are practically drawing you in with how lonely they look. The corners of his lips pull down slightly and his eyebrows pinch upwards towards the middle, and his slumped shoulders, the slight duck of his head, and most tellingly, his faintly trembling hands that rest at his sides all paint a picture of deep remorse.

 

“Why the hell would I want to talk to you?” you snap, and you hate that your voice wavers at the end. You replayed this scene so many times in your head and you had pictured shooting him down with a wave of frigid, unforgiving anger. Not...whatever this is. To compensate, you hold your head up high and straighten your back. You made your choice. You will not run from this.

 

“(Surname)…”

 

“No. Fuck you, Todoroki. You think I don’t know what you’re up to?” you say, hurling your words as if they were stones and watch them strike him down. “Did you think that just because you got involved in some life-threatening villain encounter that I was just gonna forget all that shit you said to me and come running back to you? How fucking pathetic do you think I am?” White hot anger spurs you forward and you shove him roughly, teeth clenched as you fight to control your emotions.

 

He just takes it, stumbling backward a little but keeping his footing. “I don’t think you’re pathetic,” he mumbles softly, lowering his eyes. “I never thought that about you.”

 

Your control slips and everything comes crashing down.

 

“You’re such a fucking bastard!” you scream, your voice echoing throughout the halls.

 

Your chest heaves and you bring your hand up and slap him hard in the face, glaring up at him with every ounce of fury you have. Every negative emotion, every single time you cried over him because you hated admitting to yourself that you missed having him around, and the overwhelming betrayal at his cold dismissal comes rushing forth in one giant torrent and you don’t attempt to hold it back. You don’t think you could even if you tried.

 

“You were the first person I trusted when I came to this school and I thought you were different from all the assholes who dared call themselves my friend, but after our match at the Sports Festival, you took all that and fucking smashed it to pieces! You didn’t let me explain, you—you just left!   And now I’m supposed to be the better person and hear you out?!” you yell, pulling away and throwing your hands up in disgust.

 

“I’m sorry…” he whispers, and you shake your head. He doesn’t even know what he’s apologizing for.

 

“Like hell you are!” you retort brutally and instead of feeling vicious satisfaction at the small wince in his features, all you feel is a deep, pervading frustration. “Do you have any idea how scared I was after my match with Iida? Everyone fucking knew about me now and I couldn’t face the truth because I wasn’t ready for what I was gonna see. But thanks to Shinsou, I got my shit together in time to face off against you. I thought I was fine.”

 

You don’t notice when your voice grows quiet, but it’s full of misery and you close your eyes, turning your head away slightly so he doesn’t see your vision blur. “But then she came. She reminded me that no, I wasn’t actually as okay with my Quirk as I thought I was. I hate that she has so much control over my life even though she’s hardly ever in it. I just wanted to be better than her, wanted to prove to myself that just because I can enthrall people, I won’t use it the way she does. That I’m more than just an easy fuck that only cares about people if I can get something out of them, that the only thing that matters is how fast I can get to a bottle so I can forget that I have a daughter at home who just wanted her mom to be there for her.” You sniffle and wipe your nose, keeping your eyes fixed on the floor below. “She loves enthralling people. I don’t. I fucking hate it. It reminds me how she just wants to live through me because of whatever regrets she had in life that I frankly don’t give a flying fuck about because she doesn’t give a shit about me unless I’m doing something she wants.”

 

You can feel his gaze on you, but you don’t look up. “And God…for a minute, I thought I was free. And how could I even begin to explain just how fucked up our relationship is, to you of all people? Compared to the shit that asshole Endeavor did to you, how could I ever hope to make you understand? I don’t…compared to you…I just…” Your throat begins to close up and you press your lips tightly together before bringing a hand up to cover it.

 

Out of the corner of your eye, you see him extend a hand before he seems to think better of it and he slowly retracts it.

 

You inhale shakily through your nose and sniffle again, letting your arm fall back down to your side. “That’s why I faltered during the match. It wasn’t because I thought Iida was better than you or I respected him more. I just became so unsure that I didn’t know how to react. I froze…” you whisper just as the first few tears roll down your cheeks.

 

“I didn’t know,” he breathes and you finally raise your eyes to look at him. His eyes are teeming with an emotion you can’t identify and the corners of his lips tremble slightly, but considering the mess of feelings currently ravaging your heart, you don’t think you’re in any position to make any accurate judgments right now. “I’m so sorry…for the things I said to you that day. I was wrong.”

 

A soft noise escapes your throat and you finally break. “I called you, Todoroki, but you just walked away and left me all alone.” You’re starting to become incoherent as the painful memory of that lonely hallway comes rushing back and you’re helpless in the face of your anguish. “I cried for you…I thought…I thought you hated me…that you didn’t want me around anymore. I thought things were going…to play out the same way they did in middle school and I just…I couldn’t handle it…” Your shoulders hitch and shake as you try to force the words out around your quiet sobs, but it’s difficult and you can only make out blurred shapes as tears flow freely onto your cheeks. “I still can’t…I haven’t changed…I’m still the same…”

 

You get no warning before you’re engulfed in warmth and it takes you so much by surprise that you momentarily stop crying. Todoroki’s arms, which curl around your middle and pull you close, tremble slightly and it’s so different from that time he put his hands on your shoulders that you become overwhelmed. You struggle weakly, but he doesn’t let go and your crying begins anew, your hands coming up to beat weakly at his chest.

 

“You’re such a fucking jerk…!” you cry softly into his blazer. “You’re the worst…”

 

“I know…I know…I’m sorry…” he whispers back, pulling you against him so tightly that you’re unable to move.

 

A stray rational thought manages to filter through the jumbled mess because it occurs to you that this is just as new to him as it is for you. Throughout all the sadness, through the hurt and anger and frustration, a flicker of relief filters through, dim at first but growing brighter and more intense the longer you embrace and you finally stop hitting him and grip the back of his jacket just as tightly as he’s gripping yours.

 

You don’t know how long you stay that way, but it feels like an eternity and you finally start to calm down. When his hand comes up to awkwardly stroke the back of your head, you almost want to cry again from how hard he’s trying. Even as your soft sniffles slowly fade, he still doesn’t let go and frankly, you don’t want him to. Neither of you are ready to part so soon.

 

You know things aren’t back to normal. They probably won’t be for a little while, but…some part of you is glad this happened. You never had this opportunity with Miki or the others. You never had anyone who cared enough to try to make things work solely because they wanted to do it for the sake of your friendship, because they wanted you around enough to try to fix the mess even if it meant swallowing their pride to do the right thing.

 

It’s because to Todoroki…you mattered.

 

“I want to be friends again,” he murmurs after a while and you slowly open your eyes, pulling away slowly to look up at him. He still looks vulnerable, but his eyes retain a softness that you haven’t seen for some time. “Is that okay? Do…do you want to?”

 

He’s giving you an out, but no way in hell are you running away from this. Not anymore. Still, you don’t trust yourself to speak yet and nod a little, lowering your eyes. Your head hurts from crying so much.

 

Wordlessly, you head back to the classroom and he falls into step beside you, and the sound is so familiar and comforting that you bask in it for a while, at least until you slide open the door to get your bag. By this time, it’s blessedly empty and you get your things. You look up and find him still standing by the door. An unspoken question lingers in the air but you don’t say a word. It doesn’t matter, though.

 

You think he already knows because his eyes soften even more and he nods once.

 

The drive home is spent in silence, but it’s not a tense one. You’re too tired to talk and you think even Todoroki has used up the last of his emotional reserves. Still, this is nice. It’s not perfectly okay, but it’s still good to have it back.

 

When you get home, you only have enough energy to do your homework for the night before you allow yourself to fall asleep, and when you wake the next day, it’s still dark, so you spend the morning soaking for a good hour in your bathtub, simply letting your mind settle into non thought.

 

The ride to school is when you truly start to emerge from your dreamy state and begin to wake up for real. As your car pulls up in front of the gate, you catch a telltale flash of red and white, which makes the corner of your lip lift a little. You don’t say anything when you step outside and head over, and the only greeting he gets is a little nudge to his elbow. Todoroki looks up from his phone and pockets it, offering a quiet ‘good morning’ before you head to class.

 

When you slide open the door, a few people look up, but the rest are happily engaged in conversation. Everyone’s in little groups and you never really noticed the friendships that formed because you had been so wrapped up in yourself and your problems. You think about the meaning of the word as you sit down at your desk, and when you look up, you catch Uraraka’s questioning eyes staring at you from across the room. She’s sitting at her own desk with Iida and Midoriya hovering around, the other two discussing something you can’t hear from this distance.

 

In response, you reach over and briefly place a hand on Todoroki’s head. He looks at you for a moment before returning to his book without comment. His hair’s soft.

 

Uraraka looks relieved and she smiles at you before Aizawa’s untimely arrival has everyone scrambling back to their seats.

 

At lunch, you forgo sitting with the others and instead eat your food outside with Todoroki. You’re not exactly avoiding Uraraka and Midoriya, but right now, all you want is to spend some time with your friend before you have to share his company with other people. The air brings wafts of summer and the flowers beneath you carry their scent to tickle your nostrils. It’s very picturesque and for the first time in a while, you feel content. Your heart is light and full to bursting with what you figure is affection, but you don’t give voice to it and instead eat your vegetables in silence.

 

Beside you, Todoroki eats his food quietly, occasionally glancing up at you between bites, but he seems satisfied just spending time in your company. After going for some time without the other, it’s almost kind of mind-boggling to realize just how much you missed him. Judging by the rare soft sighs that periodically escape his lips, the feeling is mutual.

 

When you’re done eating, you make room and shift backwards until you lean against the thick trunk of a tree. He finishes not long after and you’re touched when he shuffles to follow you until your shoulders touch.

 

You hold back from raising your eyebrows, though only just. This is new. Maybe that hug yesterday made him feel more comfortable with physical affection? Still, you have to admit, it’s a little embarrassing and you’re about to move away a little when you remember that he probably didn’t get much compassion after his mother was admitted to a psychiatric ward and the thought sobers you enough to stay.

 

He’s not even paying attention to you, just browsing his phone, so you decide to do the same. You scroll through your contact list, which is still very short and look at your newest addition. Uraraka had put hers in a few days ago with almost indecent gusto, saying something about staying connected with friends, so you let her do it at the time. The memory brings a soft smile to your lips.

 

“Who’s ‘buttface’?” asks Todoroki, finally breaking the silence as he looks down at your phone screen and you jump.

 

“Nobody,” you mutter furtively, turning your body away at the same time blood rushes to your cheeks and holding your phone close to your body. He shrugs and loses interest quickly, and you take the chance to swiftly change the name ‘buttface’ back to ‘Todoroki’ when he’s not looking.

 

A few days pass, and you slowly gravitate back to Midoriya’s group, now joined by an additional member. Neither you nor Todoroki say much, and while you feel you don’t add much to the rapport they already have with each other, it’s still nice to be part of something. A year ago, you never imagined you would be sitting here among people who genuinely liked you. It kind of feels like your friend group back in middle school, just much less noisy, at least until Uraraka gets too excited whenever the topic reverts to something she’s really interested in.

 

It quickly becomes apparent to you that Midoriya is acting a little strangely. Not enough for the rest of his friends to notice, and while you won’t claim to be as perceptive as Uraraka, she doesn’t sit still long enough to catch the signs that something is amiss. Otherwise, you think she would have said something long before you.

 

Midoriya joins the conversation readily enough with a faint smile that isn’t any different from his regular ones, so it’s not hard to see why it had gone unnoticed. He doesn’t articulate his thoughts any less and whenever the topic somehow turns to Quirk talk, he falls back into his habit of muttering incoherently to himself until you nudge him lightly under the table with your foot. However, when the focus isn’t on him, he gets this far off look in his eyes that you would have missed had you not been keeping such close tabs on him.

 

The strangest thing about it is that he only gets like this after talking to you, and since you don’t speak up unless someone directly tries to engage you in the conversation, this doesn’t happen very often. You almost feel proud of yourself for figuring out this correlation, but the reason as to why remains a mystery, so any happy emotions are quashed under a thick layer of uncertainty.

 

You don’t bring it up even though there are plenty of opportunities, unsure of how to even broach the topic without sounding like you’re accusing him. It gets to the point where it starts to bother you, which is frustrating because you can’t talk about it.

 

Much to your great surprise, Midoriya discreetly pulls you aside one late afternoon, leading you to a secluded outside area of the school. He walks ahead of you so you don’t get a chance to scrutinize his expression but he fidgets constantly, adjusting the straps of his backpack, fingering the hem of his blazer between his fingertips, and looking up toward the sky and inhaling deeply once or twice. It’s actually kind of bizarre.

 

“What’s this about?” you finally ask and he stops dead in his tracks.

 

After a few seconds, he slowly turns around. He’s visibly shaking and your brows immediately draw together in concern.

 

“Whoa, are you okay?” you ask, stepping closer, but he only yelps and backs away quickly, which kind of hurts a little. Some of that must show on your face because he looks a little upset, but you honestly don’t know what’s come over him. Not that long ago, you were hugging and now he doesn’t want to get near you? What gives? “Did…did I do something?” you ask slowly.

 

“No, it—it’s nothing like that, (Surname)-san!” he hastens to reply, bringing his hands up before tangling them both in his hair and letting them drop with a pained sigh. “Oh…this is going all so wrong,” he groans softly.

 

You remain silent, confused, and he briefly looks up at you through his lashes before staring down at a spot on the ground. He starts fiddling with his fingers and chewing his lower lip for a minute before he continues.

 

“I…I’ve been thinking a lot about some things. Nothing bad, I promise!” he says hastily. “Just…things. Um…I wasn’t sure if I should even bring it up because I didn’t know how to without sounding stupid, but…I just wanted to let you know that what you said on the day we got back really stuck out to me.”

 

“Okay…?” you say, frowning. Something’s still not adding up.

 

“I realized that I didn’t want to be a statistic because I still have lots of things I want to work for, goals to achieve, and I can’t do that if…if I’m not here anymore.” He sighs softly through his nose, looking pensive. “My mom would be really sad…I’m sure I’d make a lot of people upset if that happened…”

 

“Well…yeah, that’s obvious, isn’t it?” you comment, bracing your hands on your hips. “Dead heroes help no one, Midoriya.”

 

He nods. “I know that, but I guess I still needed someone to knock some sense into me,” he says mildly with a small sheepish chuckle. You smile a little at that. “I guess…what I’m trying to say is that…I’m thankful for what you said that day. I’m grateful for a lot of things, actually. You…you’ve done so much for me that I can’t…I can’t ever thank you enough.”

 

You blink, smile fading. “Midoriya…I’m touched, but…I haven’t exactly always been the nicest person to you.” You sigh heavily and scuff the ground a little with your foot, feeling guilty. “I even…I hurt you, all because I was so wrapped up in my own head. I don’t deserve this kind of praise.”

 

“But you do!” he says, stepping forward and your breath catches a little in your throat at the impassioned look in his eyes. It’s the same determined look you’ve come to admire and seeing it displayed so prominently makes you wish you saw it more. “I…I know you may not see it that way, but…I can’t help but think you’re amazing.

 

“At first, I thought you were unapproachable and intimidating, I won’t lie about that.” His face grows soft and it draws you in. You don’t think you could stop looking even if you tried. “But the more I came to know you, the more I realized that you were much more than you let on. I…” Here, he stops, suddenly anxious, and he swallows. “I guess…what I really came here to say…is that…well…”

 

He closes his eyes briefly before opening them again, and as a heavy flush spreads across his freckled cheeks, you feel your own eyes starting to widen as realization begins to sink in. “I like you, (Surname)-san. As…more than a friend. Will…will you go out with me?”

 

And there it is.

 

You simply stare as he stands there, waiting for your answer with hope shining on his face, and you honestly don’t know how to respond. You’ve received countless confessions over the years, in the form of notes and presents hastily stuffed into your shoe locker, through messages on your social media page before you had deleted it, and face to face like Midoriya was doing now, but none of them had rendered you incapable of speech, none had so thoroughly thrown you for a loop that the message doesn’t quite sink in and instead bounces around your head without settling down.

 

You only wonder why you didn’t see this coming.

 

And yes, while you do feel great affection for Midoriya and all of his mannerisms, and you are thankful he was there for you during your times of need and everything in between, the simple truth is that…you don’t return his feelings. You don’t know what having a crush is like despite having seen it in so many people, the way they got all stupid and obvious and disgustingly over-the-top with their so-called love, and you’ve never felt any of those things.

 

Sure, you’ve gotten embarrassed around him, but that’s only because you made a fool out of yourself. You’ve never dated anyone, let alone out of pity. Midoriya made you feel safe and warm and comforted, but none of those things equated to the kind of love he was looking for. It was enough for friendship, yes, and you were only too happy to partake in that kind of affection.

 

But this…?

 

You don't have enough, don’t feel enough to ever picture yourself going out with him. There’s too many deep-seated issues you still have to work out, and the energy it would take to even start would never allow you to give him the happiness he so clearly deserves.

 

So why does it feel like your heart is getting ripped in half?

 

You finally find your voice. “How…how long?” you whisper hoarsely and he blinks, not expecting the question.

 

He quickly recovers, however, and the blush spreads to his whole face. “O-Oh! Um…I’m not sure, actually,” he mumbles, looking down at his twiddling fingers. “I know I became aware of it…sometime before USJ…I guess.” He reddens even more and he shuffles a little in place.

 

You breathe out a sigh and something in the way you do it makes him look up, and you harden your resolve. It’s now or never. “Midoriya, I…I’m sorry. I don’t feel the same way.”

 

It takes a second for the message to sink in. “O-Oh…” he whispers, so quiet that you barely hear it over the faint breeze. “I…I see…”

 

Your chest constricts at how small and broken it sounds and you hate yourself because you did that. You’re making him feel this way and you wish you could take it back, but you can’t because it’s already said and done. He doesn’t say anything for a few moments and instead looks at his hands, which have gone still. His lips are pressed together and tremble the slightest bit and the knot in your chest tightens an impossible amount until it feels like you’re choking.

 

He slowly grips the straps of his backpack and turns away from you, but you don’t miss the shiny reflection of his eyes against the afternoon sun or his faintly trembling shoulders. “That…that’s okay,” he says. His voice wobbles and you swallow past the lump in your throat because no, things are not okay. “I…I…” His shoulders jerk and a tiny hiccup escapes. “I understand…I’ll just…”

 

Apparently overwhelmed with emotion or simply because he doesn’t want you to see the tears that are surely running down his soft, freckled cheeks, he bolts, but even as he runs away, you hear the small, sharp gasping sobs that tell you he’s finally succumbed to his heartbreak.

 

When you get home that night, you walk through the halls in a daze, but it’s nothing like the dreamlike wonder the morning after you reconciled with Todoroki. Instead, your footsteps drag, your movements feel slow and heavy, and even though they don’t say anything, you can feel the alarm ripple through the staff as they watch your listless journey to your room. You finally arrive and only stop to lock the door, then trudge over to your enormous bed where you flop onto it and simply lie there. You don’t get up to do your homework, ignore the faint knocks on your door and the grumbling in your stomach that reminds you that you haven’t eaten since lunch, and simply allow a deadened, hollow sort of sadness to permeate your body.

 

Time slows to a crawl, but it marches on nonetheless, the brilliant red of the setting sun gradually giving way to night. And still, you lie there, trying not to think about Midoriya and thinking of no one else. You can’t get his words out of your head no matter how hard you fight to let your mind rest so you can finally sleep and escape these feelings of guilt.

 

But this is your punishment, at least that’s how you see it. No matter how awful you feel right now, it’s nothing compared to the anguish Midoriya must be feeling right now. You don’t know what’s more selfish—wallowing in your own guilt or pretending your heart isn’t screaming in agony. How can you bring yourself to face him tomorrow? How can you still call yourself his friend after damaging him so badly?

 

You’re dimly aware of the burning sting in your eyes and you fruitlessly wipe away the tears because if there’s anyone who doesn’t deserve to cry right now, it’s you. And yet they keep falling because you’ve always been a horrible person who hurts those that care about you, intentionally or not. You hug a pillow to your chest and weep softly into it, curling your body around it to try to stave off the emotions that drown you, but it’s a battle you’ve already lost.

 

This continues for a long time, so long that you lose track of the passing minutes and when you finally jerk awake with a start, you’re confused. You slept badly, that much is clear, and when you sit up, the room spins and you flop back over with a tired groan. Your phone lies at your side and you grab it, hoping to check the time, only to realize it’s dead. You forgot to charge it last night.

 

You jump at the loud, hurried knocking on your door and your head throbs painfully. That must’ve been what woke you up so suddenly in the first place. “Yeah?” you call, voice cracking from disuse.

 

“(Name)-chan!” comes Haruka’s muffled voice from beyond the door and this gives you pause. It’s been a while since you heard from her. “Oh thank goodness you’re awake. Please tell me you’re ready for school, please!

 

“Shit, am I late?” you hiss under your breath before you force yourself to get up and head to the door, unlocking it and nearly getting bowled over by Haruka.

 

She takes one look at your appearance and gives a soft moan of grief. “Oh my stars, you slept in your uniform…” she mutters, bringing a hand to her forehead. “Your hair’s a mess too and…” She stops herself and fusses with your hair, which undoubtedly resembles a haystack right now. “Goodness gracious, you don’t look well…but there’s nothing for it. You’ll just have to make do.”

 

With that said, she begins to attack your hair with a brush and that hurts, but she ignores your pained protests with sharp yanks, and every knot that snags makes your eyes water. “Just brush your teeth as fast as you can, my dear. I’ll send the girls to prepare something quick for you to eat in the car, but oh, you’re going to be very late,” she murmurs, more to herself than anything, but it still makes your blood run cold.

 

“WHAT?”  you cry out in horror, which makes her jump at the sudden volume.

 

“I’ve been trying to tell you, but—”

 

You don’t let her finish before you literally fly toward your bathroom as fast as you can, brushing your teeth at lightning speed and splashing your face with water, but it doesn’t get rid of the faint bags under your eyes. Before you know it, you’re rushed outside and practically shoved into the car with a fruit and sandwich in hand.

 

You glance at the clock and feel panic start to set in. Class started twenty minutes ago.

 

Trying not to think of how angry Aizawa is going to be with you for interrupting homeroom, not to mention the fallout from Midoriya’s disastrous confession, you finally arrive. Hastily telling your driver to drop you off at the corner since flying will probably be faster, you hurry out of the vehicle and grab your bag before the familiar black car fades out of sight, swiftly checking around to make sure no police officers are around to pin you for illegal Quirk use. You never cared much before, but you can’t afford any more delays.

 

Seeing no one, you hurry to the entrance only meters away when you hear a faint clatter behind you and a voice call out, “Miss! You dropped something!”

 

You stumble on the landing and whirl around, almost in tears from desperation, but all you catch is a glimpse of silver before everything suddenly goes black.

Chapter Text

Consciousness is hesitant in arriving, and when it tries, it stutters, appearing in fits and starts. Time is disjointed, fractured, and travels like syrup across your veins, in your blood, all melting into a slow, uneasy stream. You surface momentarily, then fall back down the depths to a dreamless sleep, only to bob up against the waves in what seems like seconds, though the faint ache in your joints say otherwise. Your mind and body feel disjointed, separate and unresponsive, but this doesn’t raise any warning bells, just a fleeting curiosity that quickly fizzles away into nothingness.

 

You remain floating on a cloud of nothing…it’s not peaceful, it’s not relaxing…it’s simply a state of being that has no place here and yet it pervades everything. It’s unnatural, the way you don’t try to fight it.

 

Maybe you ought to.

 

Something is missing. Something is…

 

Wrong.

 

Slowly, oh so slowly, you become aware of the steady pulse of your heartbeat thrumming in your ears, the small folds underneath you, the soft whirring of a fan nearby. It costs a monumental effort to open your eyes since they sting something fierce as sleep threatens to overtake you once again. What had you been doing? Why are you so tired?

 

Your eyelids feel like they weigh a ton and it takes a monumental effort to try to open them. There’s a strange sensation on your arm that definitely doesn’t belong, but your thoughts are slow to form and you’re unable to figure out why that is. Your throat prickles and feels dry.

 

“I wouldn’t try to move if I were you, miss. You sustained a severe head injury and shouldn’t be agitating yourself,” comes a soft, though very unfamiliar voice, followed by the creaking of a chair. For some reason, it soothes your initial panic, but it does compel your eyes to finally open, though the effort drains what little energy you have. You doubt you’d be able to move even if you wanted to.

 

The ceiling above is bare, and the fluorescent light that should have been searing on your sensitive eyes is turned off, which comes as a relief. A cursory glance around the room shows that you’re on a bed of some sort, and though it isn’t particularly comfortable, you’re tempted to go back to sleep again. The strange sensation on your arm is thanks to a very tiny tube that is pumping some kind of liquid into your veins. Fluids, you assume.

 

“It doesn’t seem as though there’s any lasting damage,” says the voice again and you slowly look up to see a doctor dressed up in scrubs, complete with surgical mask and all. “That was a nasty fall you had.”

 

You open your mouth to speak, but nothing comes out and your eyebrows twitch in confusion. The hell…? A fall? What are they talking about? You don’t remember falling…but if a medical professional says you had a head injury, then maybe that’s why you can’t recall.

 

“You’re probably wondering where you are,” the doctor says again and you nod slightly, then close your eyes briefly. You’re starting to feel a little nauseated. “I’m Dr. Kazunari Kazuki. You’re in an emergency clinic. Do you feel any pain? Just blink once for yes or twice for no.”

 

You still have so many questions, but they get jumbled up and fail to relay properly, so all that happens is that your lips move a little without parting. Aside from the nausea and mild headache, you feel fine, so you slowly blink twice.

 

The doctor takes note of your response in a clipboard, muttering quietly before setting it down on a nearby table. You watch their profile, drowsiness moving like molasses through your veins, but it’s fine, it’s starting to wear off, making you more lucid, more there, and it’s not like you have to worry all that much. Doctors help people, they save lives, perhaps not in the way heroes do, but they’re there to catch the broken bodies of the helpless masses and do their utmost to fix them however they can. You can imagine getting a medical degree has only grown more difficult with the onset of Quirks, particularly with those that have mutation Quirks.

 

“You don’t have to lie, you know.” The voice is still soft, still calm, but it’s no longer gentle. Your eyes slowly turn to look at the doctor again, and oh…you don’t know why it took you this long to realize that he’s male. Maybe it’s because he’s only just pulling off his surgical mask and cap, revealing a striking, pale face that’s framed by locks that hang down slightly past his shoulders, glittering prettily in the dim light.

 

In another place, you might have thought him handsome. In another world, you might have thought him trustworthy.

 

But there’s nothing, absolutely nothing inviting about those dark amber eyes that have never once left your face and you start to feel a trickle of dread pierce your heart and settle somewhere in your gut.

 

“I’m impressed. They usually don’t catch on this quickly,” he says, and it’s impossible how he’s able to read your face because you’re so careful about how you present yourself to the world, never giving an inch because they could use that against you. And he took you apart so easily. It’s unnerving.

 

You try to speak, but your throat burns and you can’t make a sound, not even to clear it. His smile doesn’t reach his eyes. You make an attempt to activate your Quirk, but the familiar warmth doesn’t arrive like it used to, and with dawning horror, you realize that you can’t. Still, you try and try until it feels like your throat is on fire, but it’s futile, and the whole time he watches you silently, taking in your struggling form, and then you realize you can’t move. Panic begins to set in and your heart beats erratically in your chest, tremors going down your body that only intensify when he steps closer to you.

 

Slowly peeling off his surgical gloves with apparent relish, he doesn’t take his eyes off you once and the weight of his heady gaze makes your skin crawl. Then he lets out a soft breath between his lips and places a finger on your forehead, the touch feather-light and somehow cold, and slowly traces it down your nose, past your lips, and ending at your chin. Your blood roils in your veins in a mixture of fear and disgust and he pauses, then pulls his hand away.

 

“You know, it’s funny how life works out sometimes,” he says quietly, and you wonder if he’s always this soft-spoken. “I thought I’d spend my entire life pining over you. Well…maybe pining isn’t the right word,” he adds with a chuckle. “The moment I saw you in the Sports Festival, you made…such a deep impression on me. All that fire and spirit and drive contained in one single person…I loved watching all your expressions and lamented whenever the camera focused on another who wasn’t worthy. Not like you...”

 

He’s still staring, but with a far off look. “I thought to myself, ‘that’s who I want in my life’ and made the decision to find you. And so I did. I hid in the trees across the gates of U.A., just…watching. I fooled myself into thinking that I was content with that. All those glimpses…how the light reflected differently against your hair whether it was sunny or cloudy…how your movements changed whenever you were tired or well-rested…it fascinated me like you can’t imagine.

 

“I thought…I was happy with only that.” Something in his voice changes, grows heavy with promise and you don’t like it. “But then one day…I noticed you weren’t there at your usual time. I wondered what happened. You...you’re always on time…

 

“And that Todoroki brat was waiting for you.” His face stopped looking pleasant ages ago, but it becomes something cruel now, even demonic. “He doesn’t deserve you. Not like I do. I wouldn’t have left before it was time to go to class. I would have waited patiently…forever, if it was for you.” His lips curl over the syllables almost lovingly, evidently savoring his fantasies that you want no part of.

 

“I thought you weren’t going to show up, but when you finally did, you looked so distressed and upset…I didn’t know how to make that look on your face go away, but…I wanted to try. You dropped your phone…it was like fate was telling me this was meant to be.” His eyes are alight with a manic glint. “So…I called to you…and now you’re here…with me. All mine…!”

 

His fingers brush lower, ghosting over your neck, past your collarbone, between your breasts, and ribs, down, down, down and you want to nothing more than to leave, to get as far away from this obsessive maniac as possible, but your body won’t move. He smiles as though he understands your struggle, and delights in watching your futile attempts to escape.

 

Then you realize you’re not wearing anything under the thin sheet and your breathing grows ragged, the knowledge bringing a wave of cold fear crashing over you. ‘Oh God, somebody please…help me…!’

 

“It’s no use trying to call for help,” he says and your breath freezes in your lungs. “I know that’s what you want, but it’s not going to happen. All you need now is me. That should be more than enough, right?”

 

You throw him the dirtiest glare you can muster, which is frankly all you can do at this point, but he only laughs.

 

“Feisty…but I didn’t expect anything less. Let’s spend the rest of our days getting…acquainted with each other, shall we?” And when he steps closer, the insane glint in his eyes spreads to his whole face and he no longer looks remotely handsome now.

 

Time is not on your side. It marches steadfastly on, but in a way that makes you wonder if it’s dragging its metaphorical feet because every second, every moment is stretched out the longer you stay here and your mind is no longer the safe haven you thought it was. You learn this fact very quickly when he responds to the jumbled mess of your thoughts without you having to say a thing.

 

His fingers are like spiders, crawling up and down your skin as he talks, but his words have long since lost any meaning. At some point, he gets up, which makes your breath hitch in trepidation, thinking he might finally be satisfied with all that he’s taken from you, but no, he only reaches down underneath you and turns you on your side. Cold sweat trickles down your back and your fear tastes like bile in your throat, but you’re not even granted the luxury of screaming as you feel something hot and slimy trace a path down your spine.

 

Your eyes burn hotly and you squeeze them shut, ashamed of how quickly you had broken, how easily you had given into fear, but you can’t even turn your head away. He’s murmuring something against your skin, which erupts into goosebumps from the sheer disgust you feel, but when he tilts your head to look at him, he smiles almost tenderly, which only makes you want to vomit even more.

 

“We’re bound by fate, you and I,” he whispers in your ear and your lips twist in revulsion. “That’s my Quirk, see? I used to test it out on others, but none came close to you…I see that now. You’re the jewel of my collection! You’re the only one I need…”

 

Amid your fear upon realizing that this man has done this before to who knows how many unfortunate women, you wonder what became of them if he was so willing to part with them.

 

He pulls his lips away from your bare shoulder and stands up. “I threw them away. They were less than worthy. But you…you’re perfect. Just for me…”

 

It’s hard to tell how long you’re there because there aren’t any windows, the only light coming from a solitary light on a nearby desk. You try counting in your head, but it’s impossible to count the minutes when you feel so lost and helpless. Does anyone miss you? Does anyone even know you’re gone? Todoroki…did he ever go looking for you? Maybe Uraraka…or Shinsou?

 

Midoriya…

 

Oh…heartache. You think that’s what you’re feeling.

 

Is it yours? Or something fabricated by that monster? He said his name, but you can’t remember what it was. You don’t want to think about it.

 

You don’t want to think about anything.

 

You just want to go home.

 

Please…

 

When he’s not there, things feel fuzzy and fade imperceptibly in the background, so even your hopelessness recedes to a faint hum in the back of your head. He’s got you so drugged up, so sedated that you can’t feel, let alone plan an escape and instead, you spend that time sleeping in short bursts. Your dreams don’t bring you any respite, often devolving into shapeless horrors that leave you even more drained than you already are.

 

You almost wish you were kept like this when he came to see you, so you wouldn’t have to see or feel him.

 

Whenever he arrives, he’s dressed differently each time. He’s wearing a black turtleneck and jeans when you wake up today. Or rather, when he wakes you up. The glow of his amber eyes is the first thing you see and it’s like being plunged into icy water all over again.

 

“Hello, my love,” he murmurs against your cheek. An unnatural warm rush of happiness runs through you and your eyes flutter shut, but the feeling is fleeting and doesn’t last. It’s not meant to. You stopped trying to speak some time ago, but even if you could, you doubt you’d be able to voice the despair that crashes through you. As it stands, only a few stray tears run down your cheeks, tracking down a familiar path down your face and landing wetly into your hair.

 

“What shall we do today?” he asks even though you can’t answer. Your eyes open in a dull haze, but the drugs have already worn off, leaving you vulnerable and lucid. “If you’re good for me, I’ll give you a special present. How does that sound?”

 

Why don’t you fuck off and die?’ you think, dull anger filtering through your hopelessness, your only faint light of resistance.

 

His expression clouds over and he slowly pulls away until he’s standing over you. “That’s not how you speak to the love of your life,” he says, and there’s danger in the softness of his voice. It promises pain, it promises suffering.

 

All you manage to see is his eyes pulsing a bright golden yellow, eerie in the darkness, and molten fire assaults your veins, scorching everything in its path and your form seizes almost violently, trapped in involuntary body spasms, teeth clenched tight and unable to even scream. The burn in your throat lances through you like a knife as you fight to let out a sound, but it doesn’t come. It never does.

 

It seems to go on forever even though it’s only been a few seconds and when it’s over, you collapse back onto the bed, chest heaving and your cheeks soaked with a mixture of tears and sweat that slowly add to the dampness of your hair. Gradually, the pain recedes and you’re left with a deadened sort of numbness that soothes over any residual pain.

 

“There…you didn’t like that, did you?” he mutters softly, brushing a stray lock of hair away from your face. “I don’t like punishing you if I can help it, but sometimes you need a…ah, what’s the word? Oh yes, reminder. I am the light of your life, remember that.” His face brightens into something more pleasant, as if he didn’t just spend his time torturing you. “Shall we get started then?”

 

You don’t know what he has in store for you today, but he only tucks some kind of basin under your head. It’s kind of uncomfortable, but he only washes your hair, and you close your eyes, hating yourself for thinking how nice it feels.

 

The monster picks this up because of course he does and a trickle of happiness that isn’t yours dances through your heart. He hums a pleased sort of noise as his fingers card through your dripping wet locks and you quickly retreat into the empty part of your mind that you carved out some time ago as a defense mechanism, even though you know you’re not safe anywhere. There’s no point in hiding, but it’s comforting to pretend that just for a little while you’re somewhere he can’t reach. You ignore the smell of shampoo, the warm, sudsy droplets that land on your forehead occasionally, and his breath, which is so close to your skin and smells a bit like medicine. It turns your stomach and you fight back a shudder in fear of being hurt again.

 

“You have a lovely voice, my dear,” he murmurs quietly, sitting you up and letting the loose robe slide off your shoulders. “I heard it when I saw you in the Sports Festival. It’s a shame I can’t let you use it, though. Wouldn’t want to fall under your spell.”

 

A faint crease appears on your brow when you feel his eyes roam over your bare form. It’s far from the first time he’s seen you, but it still doesn’t stop the ripple of a dark, heady feeling that slithers slowly like taffy across your veins, its presence invasive and toxic and you hate it. You don’t want anything to do with his emotions, but he always insists on “giving you a taste” because that’s what people with soulmate bonds do.

 

It’s like he enjoys feeding you poisoned candy and pretending it’s not slowly killing you.

 

That’s what he calls his Quirk anyway, but you’ve never heard of anything that can put you so utterly under someone’s control, not even yours. But your memories of the earliest “sessions” are growing hazy and you’re pretty sure he has a hand in this.

 

You’re so tired. You want this to end.

 

Somehow.

 

You shut down, closing your eyes and falling deeper into the void you created, its depths darker and more frigid than the one you thought had been filled with the warmth of your friends. It’s something that you’ve come to rely on many a time when the sensations became too much because he never deprived you of those even though he said he could. All you hear is the rushing of your pulse in your ears that slowly fades into silence as you leave it all behind, including the low level thrum of dread that clings to you like a second skin.

 

When you come back to yourself, you’re sitting on a chair, a full-length mirror propped up on the wall opposite you, clad in a silk dress that hugs your chest and fans out around your bare legs, the fabric cool underneath your limp fingertips. Delicate shoes adorn your feet and your face looks different, made soft with light touches of makeup here and there, but your eyes belong to a corpse. A soft noise gets your attention, and you feel the bristles of a hairbrush run down your scalp, sending faint tingles down your arms. Light goosebumps erupt on your skin and you shiver slightly.

 

You try not to think about how many others before you wore this dress.

 

Something rattles in your chest.

 

“Look at you…” he breathes, and you refuse to look into his eyes, terrified of what you’ll see. You know he’s watching you in the mirror though, his gaze like a faint pressure on your cheek. “You’re so radiant…and you’re all mine. I found you and now you’re here. It’s like a dream, isn’t it?”

 

His hands, always so cold and clammy, flutter around your bare shoulders as he pulls your hair away and drapes the length of it down one side. That dark feeling begins its slow descent down your veins and you can’t stop the shudder that runs through you, but for once, he isn’t in a punishing mood. This time, he lets you feel all of it and you think that if he hadn’t kept such strong control over your body, you would’ve thrown up whatever bile was left in your stomach long ago.

 

When was the last time you had eaten?

 

You can’t remember.

 

It’s hard to keep track of anything here.

 

“I want to kiss you,” he murmurs in your ear and you suck in a small breath through your nose.

 

No.

 

Not that.

 

He’s taken so much already…

 

Please…no…’

 

“No?” he repeats gently, tilting your chin up to face him and your eyes drag to the floor, avoiding his intense stare. “But…we’re in love, aren’t we? Isn’t that what lovers are supposed to do?”

 

Stop it.

 

I don’t…

 

What…

 

is that?

 

 

 

“My dearest, I had no idea you were so…pure. How can you not know the joys of unfettered love? It’s what I felt when I first saw you and grew stronger when I caught my first glimpses in person. You never knew me then…but…” He pauses, and when he speaks again, his voice is hushed, fingers crawling lower and lower…

 

“Oh…my darling…but it’s…!”

 

A loud buzzing cuts him off and he steps away with a scowl, digging into his pocket and pulling out a phone. Your chin falls back down against your chest, several tears running slowly down your cheeks, ruining the makeup on your face, but you don’t care.

 

“I’ll be right back, my love,” he whispers, then exits the room. You try moving your limbs, but he must be right outside the door because they still won’t budge. You feel so weak…

 

At first, you don’t hear anything other than the low murmur of his voice, indistinct and muffled, but it quickly grows louder. White hot rage that isn’t your own lances through the shared link and you almost suffocate with the intensity, then retreat further into your head to escape it, but it does little good from preventing his words from filtering through.

 

“I was the one who found her! She’s mine!” he bellows from beyond the closed door, apoplectic with unbridled fury. “What right do those wretched vermin have to take her away from me?!”

 

A few seconds of silence pass, broken only by his heavy breathing. Then…

 

“Is there no other way?” he says, much quieter this time and his anger breaks, just like that. Another beat of silence. “I…I’ll…see what I can do. Goodbye.”

 

For a long time, he doesn’t come back in. The effort to keep your eyes open is draining you of what precious little energy you have left. It would be so easy to fall asleep, but…you want to know what’s going on.

 

What’s…

 

h a p p e n i n g ?

 

The world slips away and you don’t even feel yourself slumping in your seat as you succumb at last to unconsciousness.

 

I wanted to you to stay with me, but…

 

We must part ways. I’ll be thinking of you always.

 

Farewell for now.

 

My dearest…

 

The first thing that registers when you come to is how cold it is. Violent shivers relentlessly run through your body and you curl in on yourself in a desperate attempt to stay warm. A cacophony of noise reaches your ears as the wind whips through your hair and you slowly open your eyes to the velvet blackness of the sky above. Grit sticks to your cheek as you try lifting your head up, only to dimly realize you’re on top of a building. It can’t be very high up because you can clearly hear the people walking in the street below, their chatter mingling with the engines of cars and the low hum of lights that surround you.

 

It’s so hard to move. Even the smallest action leave you winded, but you’re too weak to draw in deeper breaths, which only makes you feel like you’re suffocating. You cough, the sound too small to carry and easily drowned out in the sea of noise below.

 

How did you get here?

 

The thin robe you wear does little to protect you from the cold. You don’t know where you are. Everything looks so unfamiliar.

 

Where…?

 

“Some…one…” you cry weakly, dragging an arm over the edge of the roof, hoping somebody looks up and sees you. Your voice cracks, as though you hadn’t used it in days, and you pause for a fraction of a second to think of how strange that is before you pull yourself closer to the edge, waving your arm around a little. It’s almost more than you can manage.

 

It’s hard to tell how long you do this, but after a while, the noise of the passersby below changes subtly, becoming dissonant and crashing together into an incoherent mess, but there’s no mistaking the sounds of alarm. Your vision swims as you drag yourself over even more, the edge of the roof digging painfully into your midriff.

 

You vaguely think this is dangerous before the light from below burns your eyesight, stinging painfully and you raise an arm instinctively when you realize you’re tipping over the side. Distantly, you hear screaming from a multitude of people, but you barely register it. You don’t even have the strength to use your Quirk to break your fall and for a fraction of a second, it’s like you’re suspended in midair before you begin to plummet in earnest.

 

Instead of hitting the ground, however, you’re jostled rather roughly and the sharp movement disorients you for a second, startling your eyes open. Someone caught you. It seems impossible and yet there’s no mistaking it for anything other than a pair of arms, one tucked behind your knees and the other against the middle of your back.

 

It’s a man, you think faintly, eyebrows scrunching in faint recognition even though you know you’ve never met. His admittedly handsome features are drawn open in surprise, eyes blinking behind a light blue visor framed by flyaway ash blond hair that ripples in the turbulent wind. Then his expression clears and he smiles down at you and what little breath you have hitches in your throat.

 

The number three hero…

 

Hawks.

 

“Easy now, I gotcha,” he says quietly, soothingly, and your eyelids slide shut, head lolling to lie against his chest. “Hoo boy, looks like you’ve seen better days. Gonna take you to the hospital, okay? Get you all nice and rested up.” He continues talking like this for some time and instead of getting annoyed, you find his presence calming, so much that your consciousness starts to fade in and out.

 

Something tickles your cheek. “Hey, stay with me now. You gotta stay awake. Can you do that for me? I know it’s hard, but you look like a tough cookie. Come on,” he says encouragingly and you slowly open your eyes again. He grins down at you, so reassuring and confident that you hardly notice the slight tension around his eyes. “There we go, that’s better. We’re almost there, okay? I’d fly faster but I don’t wanna make you sick, you know?”

 

It takes you a second to realize you’re actually moving, but you only groan softly and scrunch your eyes shut briefly. He’s warm, true, but it’s not enough to stave off the cold and you weakly huddle closer. “What…happened?” you manage to ask.

 

“Hmm?” There’s no mistaking it this time. He’s definitely tensing up. “I’ll let the proper authorities help you with that one. For now, you focus on getting better, okay?” He slowly comes to a stop and lands in front of a brightly lit hospital. “I’d let you walk, but I’m scared you’ll pass out on me, so you’re just gonna have to put up with me a little longer, okay?”

 

He carries you as if you weigh nothing across the threshold and you briefly think you must make quite a sight because your appearance causes a bit of a commotion. There’s a persistent, nagging feeling in the back of your mind, but it’s swallowed up by sheer exhaustion and you belatedly come to the conclusion that you can’t hang on anymore.

 

So you let go and succumb to a dreamless sleep.

 

You wake up later to early morning sunlight streaming through a window, still feeling weak, but not nearly as disoriented or groggy. There’s a sharp smell of antiseptic and some kind of cleaner, which makes your nose wrinkle slightly. A curtain blocks most of the room from view, but there’s a small button nearby, so you press it curiously.

 

Not more than a few minutes later, you hear a series of quick footsteps before the curtain is drawn open sharply, revealing a kind-looking nurse dressed in scrubs. “Oh, you’re awake,” she says pleasantly, darting forward and looking over your charts, presumably. “How do you feel, sweetie? Any pain? Nausea?”

 

You clear your throat a little. “M’thirsty,” you mumble, voice hoarse and quiet.

 

She nods sympathetically. “Of course, I’ll get you something right away.”

 

“Where…?”

 

She blinks before her expression clears. “Oh, you’re in a hospital, dear. The pro hero Hawks brought you in last night.”

 

Pulling a water bottle from a nearby fridge, she unscrews the cap and hands it to you, where you bring it to your lips and drink gratefully, the liquid soothing on your sore throat. You notice she’s watching you a little too carefully and you frown. “Did…something happen?”

 

She smiles faintly. “I’m afraid I’m not really at liberty to say at the moment since the situation is a little delicate, but…” she trails off vaguely, which only makes your eyebrows furrow together even more.

 

After a few beats of awkward silence, she turns around after excusing herself, leaving you feeling even more confused.

 

The hell?

 

A few minutes later, another nurse brings you a tray of food, which distracts you momentarily from the thoughts in your head and you dig in, suddenly ravenous. The portions are kind of small, which is initially disappointing, but you’re halfway through eating when you realize you’re quickly getting full and after a few more bites, you set it aside.

 

Not less than fifteen minutes later, you hear a knock against the open door and you look up, startled. An unassuming, though somewhat tall man in a trench coat stands there, though his face is pleasant and inviting which offsets the hard line of his shoulders.

 

“Hey there,” he says lightly, walking forward and drawing up a chair, sitting down at your bedside. “I’m sure you’re a little shaken up, but don’t worry. Things are okay now. You’re safe.”

 

“Safe?” you repeat hollowly. “What…? Who are you?”

 

He blinks, then apologetically inclines his head a little. “Oh, sorry about that! My name’s Tsukauchi Naomasa. I’m a detective with the police force. You gave your family quite a turn, you know.” He smiles faintly, and the delicate air he takes when dealing with you, as though you’ll shatter at the slightest touch, immediately raises the hairs on the back of your neck.

 

“Am I sick?” you ask and his smile grows sympathetic.

 

“As far as I’m aware, no. Just a little malnourished, at least according to the staff,” he answers politely.

 

At that moment, another knock comes at the door and you look up, heart failing at the sight of your homeroom teacher standing just beyond the threshold. If there was the slightest chance you weren’t in trouble before, you’re definitely in for it now.

 

He watches you with an odd look on his face, a cross between pensive and bracing as his eyes catalog your every movement, which makes you uncomfortable, but he quickly stops before crossing the room in a few strides.

 

“Has she been briefed yet?” he asks Tsukauchi, who shakes his head almost imperceptibly. At this, Aizawa breathes deeply and takes a seat next to the detective. He considers you for a moment, then speaks again. “(Surname), do you know why you’re here?”

 

Eyebrows furrowing, you divert your attention down to your hands, which are resting on your lap. “No…I’ve been wondering that, actually,” you say quietly. “Am…I in trouble?” You slowly look up to see your homeroom teacher and Tsukauchi exchange a look.

 

Then the shoe drops.

 

“You’ve been missing for four days,” Aizawa responds gravely.

 

His words echo in your head long after they’re spoken. Your mouth hangs open slightly, throat working for several moments as the other two let the silence spiral horribly before you let out a small noise of disbelief. “Four…days?” you repeat hollowly.

 

“Yes, I’m afraid so,” says Tsukauchi. “Your caretaker filed a missing persons report a few nights ago and your phone was found in a trash can by the U.A. campus.”

 

Your eyes grow even wider than they already are.

 

That’s…

 

Impossible.

 

“I know it can be difficult to accept, but…if you can tell us anything that happened…” Tsukauchi has that look on his face again, carefully probing with the air of having done this many, many times before, but all that registers is blank shock.

 

And then a stray thought that’s been lurking in the back of your mind since you woke up rises to the surface and your heart plummets down to your stomach.

 

“I…I don’t remember…” you whisper, horrified. You pick apart your memories over and over, but all that comes up is an empty stretch that threatens to swallow you completely in the scope of its uncertainty. The last thing you recall is rushing to school because you were late, and you tell them as such. Your tongue feels awkward in your mouth and talking is a struggle, but the gist of it gets through because the air suddenly fills with tension.

 

Aizawa’s eyes immediately narrow. Tsukauchi frowns and runs the edge of his fingers along his chin, looking troubled. “I don’t understand. Is she in shock?” the detective murmurs quietly to your homeroom teacher and the fact that he’s talking like you’re not there makes your anxiety spike.

 

“It’s possible. You don’t remember anything at all?” drones Aizawa, his eyebrows drawn together in a hard line. When you slowly shake your head, he sits back, pinching the bridge of his nose between his fingers. “Damn it...” he growls quietly.

 

“We contacted your mother after your guardianshe said her name was Harukagave us her number, and…well…” Tsukauchi runs a hand through his short hair, looking uncomfortable. “The short answer is that your mother said you had a history of shutting yourself away whenever something happened and assumed you had gone to stay with a friend.”

 

“That’s when I contacted those you affiliated with since the start of the semester,” says Aizawa before you can speak. “Namely Todoroki, Uraraka, Midoriya, and Shinsou. None of them could tell me your whereabouts, so we had to get the police involved.”

 

It’s all too much to take in at once. “I don’t…understand,” you whisper, the blood roaring in your ears, hands starting to shake minutely in your lap, and underneath it all, a vague sense of oncoming panic.

 

“You were found by the pro hero Hawks and brought here. He’s on his way to give a statement to law enforcement and to check up on your condition. According to the staff, you should be released later this afternoon, so there’s a silver lining to all of this,” adds Naomasa with a sigh. He looks somewhat disappointed. “For now, all we can do is try to get to the bottom of this, but since you can’t remember, we kind of have our hands tied. It’s unfortunate, but…”

 

“At the very least, you’re safe,” finishes Aizawa. You get the feeling there’s something neither of them are telling you, but without any proof, it’s hard to pinpoint what it is. “You’ll have a lot of catching up to do, but your grades shouldn’t take too much of a hit with the right help. Use your time wisely.”

 

With that out of the way, you spend a good chunk of the morning talking to the detective while he writes down your answers with a stern look on his face. There’s a grim air cloying the place and it’s making you uncomfortable, but you bear with it for now. The sense of unease won’t leave no matter what you do, however.

 

Fortunately, since nothing abnormal was found with your phone, you get it back within a few hours, by which time Hawks arrives, causing a bit of a stir among the hospital staff. You can tell because their professionalism starts to crack and you hear a few of the younger staff actually ask for his autograph outside your door and he obliges all-too happily. You frown at this. Surely they get pro heroes in here all the time. One would think they’d be used to it by now.

 

“Knock knock,” announces Hawks at the doorway with a grin. He’s off-duty judging by the casual, yet rather fashionable clothes he’s wearing, a few tasteful rings adorning his fingers and you perk up a little. “Just came to check up on ya. How’re you feeling?” he says, pulling up a chair and settling into it. His wings, bright red and eye-catching, flutter behind him and you immediately think of your mother’s own golden pair, which are even gaudier.

 

“Okay, all things considered,” you answer quietly, finding him a little too intimidating to look at head on as you stare down at your lap. The fact that he would take some time out of his busy schedule to visit you is still comforting in its own way, so taking heart from this, you smile a little. “The doctors are going to do some tests on me as a safety precaution in a bit, but they said if everything goes well, I’ll be released this afternoon.”

 

“Hey, that’s good to hear. I’m glad,” he says, smiling jovially.

 

You wonder if you could become a hero that amazing someday, just be someone who inspires reassurance from their presence alone, that everything was going to be okay once they arrived. Still, charisma isn’t something that’s taught, a fact you know all too well, so you figure you might have to work on your people skills a bit before making your own hero debut. Still, it can’t help to at least learn a little from one of the best.

 

“So, you got any plans for this afternoon?” says Hawks, and you’re grateful he doesn’t bring up what happened last night. “If I were in your shoes, I’d spend it goofing off, just taking it easy, you know? Maybe hole up and watch movies in my apartment all day. Or go out. Either sounds good.”

 

You look up at him again and find him grinning down at you. It’s been well-documented that Hawks was a bit of a chatterbox, but you didn’t think he’d be this talkative. “I guess. I mostly just want to go home and sleep. I still feel a little tired,” you mumble.

 

“Good choice. Wish I could have a nice long nap,” he says with a chuckle. “But heroes gotta do what heroes gotta do. Maybe one day, it’ll get so good that we can take a breather every now and again. Until then, I’ll just keep working, I guess.” He tilts his head a little at you. “Speaking of which, a little birdie told me you’re in the hero course at U.A.! That’s pretty cool. I never went there myself, but it’s nice to see the next generation of budding heroes do their best.”

 

“Hawks, you’re not that old,” you say with a huff, smiling faintly.

 

“Ugh, but I feel old, you know?” he replies, scrunching his face up comically.

 

Despite his lofty ranking, you find it surprisingly easy to talk to him. You keep up the conversation for several more minutes until the doctor comes in, who smiles indulgently when he sees the pro hero make you burst out laughing over a stupid joke. Hawks looks up and grins apologetically.

 

“Guess I should start wrapping up here,” he says, standing up.

 

You worry your lower lip, wanting him to stay but you know that would be unreasonable of you to ask, so you settle for something else. “Hey, um…is it okay if…?”

 

His smile turns somewhat catlike, as if he’s been waiting for you to ask. “Ah, I wondered when that was gonna come up. Want a picture? I’ve blessed many phone screens with my stunning good looks,” he says, waggling his eyebrows and you snort before grabbing your phone. Looks like someone charged it while you were out.

 

He angles your phone just right, flashing a peace sign with an arm around your shoulders and you smile shyly at the camera before he takes a picture. “There you go. Send that to your friends and watch them fall over themselves with envy,” he says, pulling away and pressing the device into your hands. His smile becomes softer, more genuine. “That being said, I’m really glad you’re doing okay. Be careful out there, alright?”

 

You nod and after one last reassuring look, Hawks takes his leave. The rest of the day is spent doing all sorts of tests that mainly involve a lot of waiting in-between while the doctors wait for your results. Thankfully by the end of it, you find Haruka waiting for you with a fresh pair of clothes and as you sink into her warm, though slightly trembling arms, you close your eyes. After changing out of the hospital gown, you’re finally cleared to leave.

 

When you finally arrive home some time later, you half-expect your mom to be there, but she isn’t, and you stamp down the wave of disappointment that comes over you. Instead, the staff fusses over you even worse than after the USJ incident, which quickly becomes overwhelming and you hastily retreat to your room after Haruka sternly orders them to let you rest. Settling down onto your decidedly much more comfortable bed that’s leagues ahead of the one at the hospital, you glance down at your phone, feeling worn out.

 

After unlocking it, your eyes nearly pop out of their sockets at the amount of notifications, missed calls, and voicemail that floods your phone. A good chunk of them are from a number you recognize as Haruka’s, while the rest are from Uraraka and Todoroki. You frown, noting Midoriya’s radio silence and you sigh, draping an arm over your eyes and letting your phone slip from your fingers.

 

You had almost forgotten…

 

Quickly shooting a quick text to both Uraraka and Todoroki that you were just released from the hospital and are now at home resting, you quickly shut off your phone, feeling decidedly less relaxed than when you arrived. You know that being missing for four days should be your biggest concern since you honestly can’t remember what the hell happened, but because of this, Midoriya’s poorly-timed confession feels as though it had only happened yesterday, leaving you vulnerable and guilty.

 

Trying not to think about it and failing miserably, you try to distract yourself with imagining the pile of homework that’s sure to be waiting for you when you show up to school tomorrow and wonder if you’ll be excused, but this only depresses you even further, so you bury yourself under the covers and quickly fall asleep.

 

In what seems like no time at all, you wake up with a jolt, a thin layer of cold sweat clinging to your body. The sky outside is dark and a glance at your phone reveals it’s just past midnight, but you’re wide awake. You run a hand over your damp face, and it’s only then that you realize you’re trembling a little. It’s strange since it’s not exactly cold tonight, but you feel gross, so you peel off your clothes and pad over to your bathroom.

 

A long hot soak in the tub makes the shivering stop at least, and yet there’s something struggling to surface in the back of your mind, but for whatever reason, it can’t break free. It leaves a cold, empty feeling in the pit of your chest that you haven’t felt for some time. It’s familiar, but unsettling how it quickly it resurfaced since you haven’t relied on it since becoming friends with Todoroki and you wonder why it chose to appear now.

 

Then you think of Midoriya and you stop wondering.

 

When you crawl into bed, however, you find that far from relaxing, your body grows restless and tense as you toss and turn for a long while afterwards. You do manage to doze for a little while just as the sun peeks over the horizon, but by then it does little good and soon, it’s time for you to get up.

 

Everyone around you seems to be treating you like glass, the same way the detective Tsukauchi had done and it’s starting to irritate you. There’s nothing wrong with you, so why are they all acting like this? Even your driver seems to be glancing at you in the rear view mirror more often than usual, as if checking to see you’re still there, so by the time you arrive at school, you’re wearing your usual scowl on your face.

 

It immediately morphs into surprise the second you step outside and you’re caught off guard by the sudden weight that collides into you, followed by a small warmth on your shoulder.

 

“You’re okay! Oh, thank goodness!” comes Uraraka’s muffled quivering voice, face thoroughly buried against you as her arms wrap themselves tightly around your form. She sways a little back and forth and you blink down at her. She sniffles and pulls away, her eyes wet and nose pink. “I got your text but you didn’t answer back, so I wasn’t sure. I was worried…” She wipes away a corner of her eye and smiles weakly up at you. “But…you’re here now. That’s what matters.”

 

“Yeah,” you mumble, feeling a faint heat rise to your cheeks before you look behind her and find another surprise. Todoroki’s gaze is rather intense, as though he’s fighting back a wave of emotion that you can’t discern from this distance, though he quickly comes closer and looks you over, as though checking for injuries. You feel a burst of affection at the sight of your friends worrying over you like mother hens and smile faintly.

 

“Welcome back,” says Shinsou, appearing at your side and startling you out of your thoughts. He gives you a brief, one-armed hug that disarms you for a moment before you awkwardly pat his back. From behind him, Todoroki scowls faintly. “Wasn’t the same here without you.”

 

“Oh, uh…thanks, I guess?” you answer distractedly just as he steps back with an easy smile on his face. Then you glance over to the side and your heart lodges itself in your throat.

 

Midoriya stands there, half-hidden behind Todoroki and tenses a little when your eyes meet, but his small smile is genuine. “Good to see you again, (Surname)-san,” he says. His voice sounds normal to the untrained ear, but you catch the faintest hitch and you nod, looking away and unable to hide the frown on your face.

 

You don’t know what you were expecting to happen. Did you think he’d avoid you? Shun you for rejecting his feelings? If anything, you should be glad he’s taking the mature route, but something about it still sits wrongly on your shoulders. It isn’t until you’re done mulling it over in class later that you realize why.

 

Over the past four days you were gone, he had time to heal.

 

You didn’t.

 

The lessons are somewhat unfamiliar, further hammering home just how far behind you are and you chew the end of your pencil, frustrated but still doing your best to understand the material. Todoroki seems to discern the source of your troubles because he offers to help you catch up with a study session after school at your house and you accept it gratefully.

 

During hero training later that day, you’re tasked with rescuing civilians, played by other members of your class. Fortunately, you’re one of the few chosen to fill the role of the heroes, the others including Kirishima, Uraraka, Sero, Kaminari, and Todoroki. The rest, much to Bakugou’s ire, are ordered to hide in various states of distress, though some have to feign unconsciousness to bring your search and rescue skills up to scratch. The hero group is given a set of communicators to coordinate and provide assistance if needed.

 

You eye the crumbling buildings around you with a sniff, tugging your costume this way and that. You’ve been meaning to get it changed for ages, but with everything that’s happened, it kept slipping your mind. ‘First thing I’m getting rid of are these stupid flats,’ you think grouchily. You can practically feel every stray pebble under your feet and it’s starting to get uncomfortable.

 

“Is this something that was covered in class before? Because I don’t know what to do,” you say to the group while the rest of the class goes to hide. “Like…I get the basic first aid and stuff, but everything else…”

 

“Oh, it was, actually,” pipes up Uraraka. “Don’t worry, I came up with a little acronym to help me remember…”

 

“You sure you’re going to be okay?” asks Kirishima after she’s done with her explanation. He looks concerned. “Not that I don’t have any confidence in you, but it’s a lot of material to go over. I barely understood it myself.”

 

“Why don’t you ask Bakugou for help?” suggests Kaminari with a snicker as Sero joins in, obviously teasing, but Kirishima doesn’t take it as a joke and blinks.

 

“Hm…maybe? I never thought of it before. He’s always getting good grades on quizzes and stuff, so…I probably should.”

 

“Dude, I was kidding…”

 

“I’ve helped you with homework before,” says Todoroki quietly, stepping closer to you. “This will just be more of the same.” You smile, grateful, and feel a burst of affection when he returns it with a tiny one of his own.

 

Then Kaminari ruins the moment by making kissy noises as Sero swoons into his arms and you vent your feelings by hurling a well-aimed kick in their direction.

 

It’s at this point that Aizawa intervenes, ordering the group to start the search and rescue and everyone complies. Since you have the highest mobility, Todoroki suggests you search near the very end of the area while the rest split up closer to base, which seems a good a plan as any. Soaring high over the crumbling structures, you finally land near the area where things start to taper off. You highly doubt anyone managed to get all the way out here, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

 

You listen for anyone calling for help, but don’t hear anything, so you sigh, peeking into buildings one by one. It’s tedious work that yields no results, and after a good while, you start getting bored and somewhat frustrated. Flying into another sector doesn’t fare any better, which proves your theory right. Deciding to retreat a little closer to base, you poke around another building and freeze when you see a familiar red shoe peeking out behind a pile of rubble.

 

For a second, you falter, tempted to pretend you haven’t noticed anything, but that would be a cowardly thing to do, so you grit your teeth and march forward. Now what was the first step in rescuing a victim?

 

Reassure the civilian and ascertain their physical condition,’ you think, but the rest of the steps become muddled the closer you get. But no matter what you try, you can’t get the words to come out and your throat closes up. It’s so hard to breathe and when you come around, you half hope Midoriya’s at least awake so you can skip the preamble and just move onto the next person.

 

No such luck. He’s sprawled face up on the ground, eyes closed and breathing evenly. You curse silently in your head and kneel down, heart pounding furiously in your heart as you perform the required assessment. You shiver slightly when you have to press your fingers against his bare skin, feeling for a pulse you already know is there. Then you touch your earpiece, swallowing hard before speaking.

 

“I’ve got an unconscious civilian in Sector D, no visible wounds, possible head injury. Requesting assistance to evacuate safely, please respond.” The words sound robotic and hollow, and at your voice, Midoriya shifts very slightly. His chest rises and falls a little faster.

 

“I’m close by, Aria. Headed your way now,” says Kirishima in your ear, breaking the tension.

 

“Roger that, Red Riot,” you answer dully, then let your hand fall with a sigh. More to give yourself something to do, you stand up and head over to a nearby window, its glass panes long gone. The air surrounding you is so suffocating. Neither of you had spoken one word to each other since this morning and you don’t know what you’d even say to each other. You’re aware of his feelings for you now, and he knows that you know, which makes the whole thing even more messed up. You run a hand down your face and glance back to look at him. He still hasn’t moved.

 

Suddenly spotting Kirishima heading over, you call out and wave him over, more relieved than you’ll ever admit out loud.

 

Nothing much happens after that, and you complete the assignment without a hitch before it’s time for lunch. You’re not sure if you’re ready for this, if you’re being honest with yourself. What will you say? How will you act? Should you go on treating him like nothing happened or would that be an insult to his feelings?

 

God, what a fucking mess...’ you think for what’s probably the hundredth time today as you grab a tray. You want nothing more than to just lie in bed forever, but school doesn’t let out for another three hours and you still have that study session with Todoroki afterwards.

 

Speaking of, he’s waiting for you to finish paying, a soft look on his face that’s slightly marred by worry lines in his brow. “Dude, I’m not going anywhere,” you say offhandedly, but it does nothing to ease the tension. In fact, the air actually thickens considerably.

 

“I used to think that…before.” His sentence is like a sucker punch to the gut and you wince.

 

Sighing heavily, you stare down at your tray. “Hey…um…can we not talk about this anymore? It’s making me uneasy.”

 

“Aizawa-sensei told me you have no memories of the time you were gone.”

 

Your shoulders tense and you look up at him pleadingly. “No, I don’t. Look, can we just drop it?”

 

He stares at you before nodding slowly. “Sorry.”

 

Lunch progresses normally for the others, but it’s downright torture sitting across from Midoriya and you spend the majority of it avoiding his occasional glances that make your heart leap, then clench painfully. You barely pay attention to what you’re eating even though you normally enjoy Lunch Rush’s cooking. It feels like sand in your mouth.

 

“(Surname)-chan?” says Uraraka and you jolt back to earth. “Are you listening?”

 

“Shit, sorry…” you mumble into your hand, then bring it up to press your fingers against the corners of your eyes. “What was that?”

 

“Oh, it wasn’t anything that important,” she says with a tentative smile. “You look tired.”

 

“I am a little,” you admit. “I didn’t get that much sleep last night.” You can feel Midoriya staring at you and you silently will him to look away.

 

“Be that as it may, it is imperative that you get at least eight hours of sleep in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle,” interjects Iida, waving a hand up and down. “We must always strive to be at peak performance if we want to be heroes, not just for our sake, but for the people we must save in the future!”

 

“I sleep for ten,” Uraraka mumbles sheepishly and thankfully that distracts the group into talking about their sleep patterns long enough for you to get a breather.

 

“I’m gonna go get some water,” you say after a lull in the conversation. You don’t think you can take much more of Midoriya’s pining. You stand up and pick up your tray, huffing a little when Todoroki also follows. You know he’s being protective, but…this is a bit much. Still, you let him follow you to a nearby vending machine that’s a little tucked away.

 

You dawdle a little, pretending to mull over your choices when really, all you’re doing is delaying going back to the others.

 

“You know…you don’t have to follow me around everywhere. I’m perfectly fine,” you say quietly, breaking the silence.

 

“I know.”

 

You smile, though it’s more of a grimace. “What, you trying to protect me in case something happens? You’re not the only one training to be a hero, you know. I’m kind of supposed to be doing the whole saving people thing too.”

 

As you press a few coins into the machine and press a button to get your water, his voice comes out soft and vulnerable. “I was…worried. I still am.”

 

You’re touched by his concern, though it’s starting to get a little too close to the behavior of your staff and you really don’t want him to start with that line of thinking because you swear you’ll fly off the handle if he does. Turning around to admonish him, your eyes widen when you’re engulfed by warmth, sucking in a small breath as his arms come around your shoulders.

 

“I’m sorry if this makes you uncomfortable, but…I didn’t want to do this in front of the others. Is it…okay?” he asks hesitantly. Distantly, you hear your water bottle dispense into the tray below but neither of you move to retrieve it.

 

Overwhelmed, you can only nod against his shoulder before tentatively hugging him back. ‘He must’ve been scared,’ you think. ‘Anyone would be in his situation…’

 

You’re about to close your eyes and enjoy the warmth that’s begun to spread across your body when you hear a small gasp of surprise and you both fly apart. Your heart sinks to the pit of your stomach.

 

Midoriya stands there, looking embarrassed but there’s no mistaking the flicker of hurt in his eyes and your insides lurch uncomfortably. “O-Oh, um…! I…was checking where you two were since you had been gone for a while and I wasn’t…that is, um…well, I’m sorry if I’m, uh, interrupting something…” His face grows redder and redder the longer he talks and you want the ground to swallow you whole.

 

You reach down and grab your water bottle and avoid his eyes. “Hey, um…I gotta…I forgot something in the classroom,” you mumble to Todoroki, then inwardly wince at how lame that sounds. “I’ll see you later.” With that, you quickly take your leave, ducking your head as you go.

 

You’re just making excuses to avoid Midoriya and you honestly hate yourself for doing this, but you don’t know how to handle the situation. More than anything, you want things to go back the way they were, to the easy friendship you had before he confessed. You’re not blaming him for having feelings because as far as you’re aware, it’s not something people can help. You just wish he hadn’t told you.

 

You hate this.

 

Later that day once lessons are done, you’re going over your notes in an attempt to distract yourself from your turbulent thoughts. A few students have already left, but the majority stay behind to talk among themselves before the weekend tomorrow, adding to the din and making your head hurt a little. It’s hard to concentrate and your temple throbs angrily.

 

“Hey, Shouto, lemme see your notes,” you say without thinking, raising your voice to be heard above the noise.

 

Abruptly, the classroom falls silent and the change is so jarring that you look up, confused. Ashido is slack-jawed and bug-eyed, while Uraraka gapes like a fish near the front of the classroom. The others are in similar states of shock and you scowl.

 

“What?” you say scathingly. “Why is everyone staring at me?”

 

A beat of silence. Then—

 

An explosion of squealing breaks the tension, making you jump. The source comes from Hagakure and Ashido, who bounce up and down in a frenzy and frankly look really stupid doing so, which only annoys you immensely. Uraraka looks highly embarrassed, her round face flooding with color and she tilts her head, her lips pressed in a tight smile. You glance at Midoriya, which makes your chest tighten when he looks away but not before catching a glimpse of his expression. It’s carefully arranged, but his chin quivers slightly and his lips look pale.

 

Then it finally hits you and the heat rises to your cheeks so fast you almost pass out. You look over to Todoroki, who’s staring at you with a look that quite plainly says you caught him off guard. “Shit, um…look, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for that to come out, but—” you babble, but stop when he slowly looks down at his desk.

 

“It’s fine,” he says. “I don’t mind.”

 

Somehow, Ashido and Hagakure manage to shriek even louder, which makes you wince. You really wish you didn’t have an audience for this…

 

“O-Oh…uh…good to know,” you mumble, burning a hole through your shoes with your eyes.

 

“Is it okay if I call you by your given name too?” he asks and you jump.

 

“Sure, go nuts,” you say, faking nonchalance so the other two will stop screaming, but it does little good. Your entire face feels like it’s on fire.

 

“Okay,” he says and when you look over, he’s smiling a little.

 

Aw, what the hell.

 

You smile too.

Chapter Text

It’s dark when you open your eyes, the air balmy and stifling in your room, made worse by the sheets sticking to your sweaty skin. You lie there for a moment, adjusting to your surroundings before slowly getting up, stretching with a faint grimace.

 

Now hovering freely in the air near your bed, you sleepily glance over to the remnants of your study session with Shouto earlier, a few stray pencils and loose leaf paper scattered here and there on the table. The memory brings a faint smile to your lips, but it quickly fades and is replaced with a dull feeling of dread as the last vestiges of sleep fall away. No matter how much you try shaking it off, it stubbornly hangs on.

 

It’s been here ever since Midoriya confessed and you heave a large sigh, running a hand over your face. He’s been on your mind a lot lately and you’re starting to think that it’s going to become a problem if it’s making you act like this. You’re tired of walking on eggshells, constantly wondering if any of your actions will hurt him in some way.

 

The problem is that you have no idea how to fix this. You’ve never been faced with a problem of this caliber and you’re so out of your element that you honestly don’t know what to do. Logically, the real solution would be for his feelings to fade so he’d start treating you normally, but that’s so unsatisfying and you don’t have an exact time frame on when it’ll all blow over. Asking him about it would seem insensitive and you can’t bring yourself to do it anyway.

 

You grab a drink of water but don’t feel like going back to bed just yet. Instead, you open the double doors leading to your balcony and breathe in deeply. The air is earthy and carries the scent of roses and you can see them fanning out below you, beautiful and in full bloom in the moonlight. They had been a gift from your mother for a birthday you were too young to remember, at least that’s what the staff told you, but you’ve long stopped associating them with any underlying bittersweet memories of any frequently absent parental figure.

 

They had always been special to you in some way and earlier, you had shown them to Shouto, who probably didn’t quite understand the appeal, but sensed how important they were and admired the view. It had been a quiet moment between the two of you and one you hope to share again. Maybe with your other friends too.

 

But with the way things are now…

 

It still hurts, you can’t deny that anymore. Just thinking about Midoriya sets your stomach into painful knots and dread makes your heart beat so fast it’s almost painful. You slump over the edge, feeling the smooth cold stone dig into your navel.

 

More than anything, you just want him to be himself again. Is that selfish?

 

It probably is. No, it definitely is.

 

All just so you can assuage your feelings of guilt.

 

I’m the worst…’ you think miserably before slowly shuffling back to bed.

 

Needless to say, you don’t get any sleep for the rest of the night.

 

You feel like shit the next day and spend your day off not really doing much, sending an occasional text to Shouto and Uraraka, but you can only spend so much time talking and they have other things going on, besides, so it doesn’t last very long.

 

Sleep eludes you that night as well, which is par the course nowadays. You hope you don’t have to do anything too physically strenuous later today because truth be told, you’re not doing too hot. It takes a monumental effort to get ready for school when you get up that morning, and had it not been for your flying abilities, you doubt you’d have been able to do anything, but as it stands, you manage somehow.

 

Thankfully, Shouto is waiting for you at the gates, as always, though when you step out of the car, you find yourself glancing warily at the line of trees across the street. There’s something about them that’s making the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, but you don’t know why.

 

“Are you waiting for someone else?” asks Shouto when you make no move to head to class.

 

You blink, then shake your head to clear it. “No, I…had a weird feeling, that’s all.”

 

His brows furrow in concern, but he chooses not to give voice to it. “Okay.”

 

When you slide open the door to your classroom, you’re almost immediately greeted by Uraraka, who wastes no time in giving you a brief hug that engulfs your nose in a fruity, but pleasant scent. It’s familiar and comforting, which takes some of the tension off your shoulders. From behind her, you can see Iida and Midoriya arriving, the latter sending your stomach plummeting unpleasantly.

 

“Good morning, (Surname)-kun. I take it you are well?” barks Iida rather loudly, hand to his chest while he holds the other out. You don’t think you’ll ever get used to his strange gestures, but his enthusiasm comes from the right place. At least you hope it does. It’s still a little awkward talking to him after his pivotal role in revealing your Quirk to the entirety of Japan, but you’re trying not to let it get to you.

 

“Um…yeah,” you mumble, lowering your eyes. You can feel Midoriya staring at you and it’s making you feel really, really weird. “I guess…”

 

Unfortunately, this endures all throughout your lessons and you find yourself incorrectly answering questions you should’ve known the answer to. It’s frustrating because you had just reviewed the topic two days ago with Shouto so the fact that you’re having any trouble at all is baffling. You find yourself making excuses to leave during break times so you won’t be around Midoriya, especially after the debacle that happened at lunch yesterday. It’s stupid and cowardly and you’re probably making things worse, but you’re getting rather sick of feeling like your heart’s going to jump out of your chest whenever he so much as glances in your direction. It doesn’t happen very often as far as you can tell, and yet it still manages to make your stomach churn guiltily long after the fact.

 

The feeling persists all throughout your lessons no matter how much you try shaking it off. If you had known how torturous it would be to sit a mere two desks behind Midoriya, you might have chosen a different seat in another life. As it stands, however, it’s impossible not to look at him through your peripheral vision and by the time lunch rolls around, you’re starting to crack from the strain.

 

As soon as the bell chimes overhead, you quickly get up from your desk and power walk your way out of the classroom, staring stiffly ahead. You must look so over-the-top and ridiculous that it undoubtedly doesn’t go unnoticed, but it’s still a relief when you hear Shouto’s familiar footsteps fall into place beside you. He doesn’t call you out on your strange behavior, but you can still feel his eyes on you, silently curious.

 

Still, you don’t indulge him and merge into the mass of students heading to the cafeteria. Along the way, you’re accidentally jostled into someone’s back and you look up to apologize only to see Shinsou blinking down at you.

 

“Feels like we keep bumping into each other,” he says, smiling faintly. “I’m starting to think you’re doing it on purpose.”

 

“Don’t flatter yourself,” you reply automatically.

 

He snorts softly before his eyes slide over to Shouto, who stares back without expression, and any bystander would think nothing of their small interaction, but the subtle shift in the way he walks tells you everything you need. This does absolutely nothing for your already fried nerves and you subtly nudge him with your elbow.

 

Unfortunately, Shinsou decides that it’s the perfect time to be a dick and slings a heavy arm around your shoulder, and you don’t miss the faintly challenging look he throws over your head. Shouto’s eyes narrow slightly.

 

The atmosphere gets ugly very quickly.

 

In retaliation, a sudden warmth presses into your other side, and while you don’t mind being this close to your friends, it’s gotten a lot harder to walk while the two glare daggers at each other over your head and it’s frankly starting to get a little ridiculous while also getting on your nerves.

 

With an angry noise, you shove them both off and fly down the stairs, leaving them behind. You get to the cafeteria so quickly that you’re actually one of the first ones in line, so you grab your food and settle down at a distant table. From this distance, you have a great vantage point, so you spot Shouto and Shinsou walking in almost immediately. They’re not making conversation, but it doesn’t look like they’re trying to murder each other with their eyes anymore, so it’s a start at least.

 

Huffing out a small breath through your nose, you nibble on your food while Shouto pulls out his phone and messes with it, and not a second later, your phone vibrates in your pocket.

 

‘Where are you?’ reads the message and you roll your eyes, strongly tempted to ignore it.

 

You can’t see his expression from here since he’s facing away from you, but leaving him on read makes his shoulders slump a little and your heart lurches guiltily. Heaving a sigh, you quickly type out a message and send it. You hate yourself for giving in so easily. Maybe you’re getting soft…

 

You moodily stab your chopsticks into your food as footsteps near your table a few minutes later, and you slowly look up. Shouto looks unsure as he holds his tray, hovering near the table before you sigh, making a vague motion with your hand and he finally sits down.

 

He’s just about to open his mouth to speak when Shinsou comes right on his heels and takes a seat directly next to you, which isn’t unusual since he always does it and you’re used to his antics by now, but Shouto most decidedly isn’t and his shoulders tense almost imperceptibly. The air is starting to grow thick with tension all over again and you’re just about done with their shit.

 

You jab Shinsou sharply in his ribs, which makes him drop his food back onto his tray. “What?” he has the gall to say, as if he doesn’t know perfectly well what he’s doing.

 

“Knock it off,” you grumble under your breath and he sighs.

 

After a few moments, Shinsou reaches out and grabs your wrist. “Why are you doing that? You itchy?” he asks, which is so bizarre that you forget your irritation for a moment.

 

“What?”

 

He scrunches his face a little and lets go. “You keep…you know…rubbing your arm against the table.” He demonstrates by running the underside of his against the edge, slow and methodical, but it just looks like a nervous habit to you.

 

You blink. You had, in fact, been doing just that without even realizing it. “Oh, uh. No, I’m not itchy,” you say, and you make a conscious effort to stop, but after a few moments of this, your fingers begin to drum over the tabletop.

 

It’s a little awkward in the ensuing silence, but Shouto finally breaks it with a soft clearing of his throat. “I was about to say…” he begins, eyes darting briefly to Shinsou who doesn’t look up from his tray and is instead doing something on his phone now, “is there a particular reason why we’re not sitting with the others?”

 

Oh crap. You hoped he wouldn’t notice. “No,” you reply a little too quickly.

 

“Others?” repeats Shinsou, finally tearing his eyes away from his phone and looking interested. “Oh, right…you mean Midoriya Izuku and his friends, right?” He pokes your shoulder and you impatiently bat his hands away.

 

You try not to think of the unpleasant lurch in your stomach at the mention of his name.

 

“They’re our friends too,” interjects Shouto when it’s clear you’re not going to answer his question. He’s fixing you with a probing look and it’s making you really uncomfortable. “I noticed something was off last week. Is everything okay?”

 

While you’re touched he’s so concerned about your well-being, you also really don’t want to talk about this, especially in front of Shinsou. “Peachy,” you mumble, then hurriedly stuff some vegetables in your mouth so you have an excuse to stop talking and chew them very slowly.

 

Your arm begins to unconsciously rub against the table again.

 

“Trouble in paradise?” probes Shinsou, nudging you softly and you make an irritated noise in the back of your throat, so he wisely backs off.

 

Shouto, unfortunately, doesn’t. “Are you upset? If you are, you should talk to them,” he says.

 

You swallow your food and stare hard down at your tray, feeling a stab of guilt and the beginnings of anger. “There’s nothing to talk about. I just didn’t feel like sitting with them today,” you grumble.

 

“Are you sure it’s only that?” he adds after a beat of silence, and you’re so tired from the lack of sleep you’ve been suffering from over the last couple of days and your nerves are spread so thinly as it is that your irritation finally erupts into a roiling ball of anger.

 

Fucking hell, it’s none of your goddamn business, alright?! Just lay off already!” you snap, slamming down your chopsticks and glaring daggers at Shouto, who stares at you, wide-eyed.

 

Nobody moves at first.

 

Then Shinsou heaves the biggest sigh you’ve heard yet and you slowly lower your eyes, already drowning in guilt at the beginnings of hurt lining Shouto’s expression. “Hey, we talked about this before, remember?” Shinsou says sternly and you press your lips together tightly. “I don’t know if I mentioned it then, but that lesson applies to everyone else too.”

 

Your throat closes up and you duck your head even further. You can’t bring yourself to look up at either of them.

 

“I’m sorry,” you manage to choke out before you quickly stand up. “I…I don’t know what’s gotten into me lately. I need some space.” Before they can say anything, you take your leave, hands clenched stiffly at your sides.

 

You didn’t mean to snap at your best friend. It had just come out of nowhere. Even now, his slightly upturned brows and soft eyes are burned into your mind and your heart squeezes painfully. You thought you were getting better at this, but it seems like no matter what progress you make, you always manage to fuck it up somehow and you’re not okay with that. You don’t know why you keep doing this, why you constantly lash out, even when things are supposed to be okay between you and Shouto.

 

As you exit the cafeteria, you round the corner and come to a sight that stops you in your tracks. You can only see the back of Midoriya’s head since he’s facing away from you, but it still sends your heart into a frenzy. This is the last thing you need right now, so you quickly scramble back out of view with a curse under your breath.

 

“Deku-kun? What’s wrong?” you hear Uraraka say.

 

“Oh…I thought I heard something, but I must’ve imagined it,” he replies with a nervous chuckle. You imagine him turning back around.

 

You wait for Iida’s reply, but it doesn’t come. Despite every fiber of your body screaming at you to just walk away, you still find yourself peeking curiously around the corner. It’s just Midoriya and Uraraka standing closely together and blessedly not looking in your direction, but it’s the only reprieve you get because Iida is nowhere to be found. That’s really strange. He’s always hanging around those two.

 

For some reason…this does something to you.

 

And it’s not good.

 

It starts off small, but the longer you stare, the more it grows, a dark, ugly, festering sort of irritation that tastes like poison in your throat and a quickening pulse that spreads the feeling even more until it ensnares your heart in a vice-like grip. You finally tear your gaze away, but it does nothing to alleviate its hold over you.

 

You tangle your fingers in your hair and squeeze your eyes shut, trying to shut out their quiet conversation. You’re just so tired of getting pulled in so many directions that it feels like you’re about to lose your mind.

 

So you do the only thing you know how to do.

 

You run.

 

Finding yourself back in your thankfully empty classroom some time later, you slump over your desk with a muffled groan. You feel exhausted and sleepy, but the last thing you want is for one of your classmates to walk in and find you snoring or something equally embarrassing like that, so you stay awake for now.

 

Your phone vibrates in your pocket and you numbly reach for it before pulling it up, not even bothering to lift your head. It’s a text from an unknown number.

 

‘Hey,’ it reads.

 

You’re strongly tempted to block them, having had more than your fair share of unsolicited calls and text messages back in middle school before you had changed numbers, but something tells you to answer back. You’re not sure why, but your gut instincts haven’t been wrong yet.

 

‘Who the fk is this and how did you get this number?’ you reply, not in the mood to be courteous in the slightest. Whoever it is will just have to take what they can get.

 

You get a reply only a few seconds later. ‘Rude.’

 

Then…

 

‘It’s Shinsou.’

 

Your eyes immediately narrow and you furiously type out your answer. ‘What the fuck.’

 

‘Not the answer I was looking for, but I’ll take it. You done being a jerk face?’

 

Sniffing in distaste, you sit up a little in your seat, marginally more awake now. ‘Who wants to know?’ you type before sending it off.

 

‘Your friend Todoroki. You know, the guy whose head you bit off earlier.’

 

You leave him on read and jam your phone into your pocket, but it vibrates angrily once more after a few minutes, insistent and annoying, and with a frustrated snarl, you pull it back out again.

 

‘Don’t ignore me.’

 

You scoff. ‘Quit being a fkin stalker or I’ll block you.’

 

‘Then stop being a brat and apologize properly.’

 

Rolling your eyes to the ceiling, you type a reply and send it. ‘Okay, FINE.’

 

‘Good because I’m getting tired of your boyfriend sulking all over the place. Kiss and make up or whatever it is you guys do.’

 

‘Fuck off. And he’s not my boyfriend,’ you answer with a glower even though he can’t see it, suddenly embarrassed.

 

A few moments pass. ‘Where are you anyway?’

 

You heave a tired sigh. ‘In the classroom.’

 

The fucker has the audacity to leave you on read and your scowl deepens before you stuff your phone unceremoniously into your bag. Whatever, it’s not like you wanted to keep talking to him anyway. You put your head down and stew in your thoughts for what feels like an hour even though it’s probably only been a few minutes when the door slides open.

 

You’re definitely not in the mood to socialize so you pretend to be asleep as quiet footsteps pad softly into the room, getting closer and closer until the quiet squeak of a chair on your right makes your head shoot up and turn in surprise.

 

Shouto settles with a soft sigh, but he’s not looking at you at all and isn’t sitting the way he usually does. He’s not leaning back or sitting up straight. Already, these are very telling signs and none of them bode well.

 

Instead, he’s hunched over on his desk, his right arm tucked closely against his chest and the other lying haphazardly across the surface, hand curled into a loose fist. His body language isn’t normally this expressive and your chest sinks with the weight of remorse over your previous actions. You know he can see you out of the corner of his eye, but he makes no move to turn his head or even acknowledge your presence.

 

You frown unhappily, lower lip jutting out just a tad before you slowly get out of your chair. You briefly consider standing, but you don’t want to tower over him and demand him to accept your apology. Ignoring the faint pangs of humiliation, you lower yourself onto your knees and shuffle slowly until your arms fold on top of his desk. It hurts a little when he pulls away very slightly.

 

Burying your face, you swallow back the lump in your throat and your next words come out muffled, but in the silence of the classroom, there’s no way to hide them. “I’m sorry,” you mumble quietly. “I was being a jerk and I shouldn’t have snapped at you.”

 

You consider it a very bad sign when he doesn’t say anything and you slowly raise your head again, but you can’t bring yourself to look at him. The floor is starting to hurt your knees but you make no move to get up. “I’m so used to pushing people away and I know that’s not an excuse because you were just worried and…I just threw it back in your face, so…I don’t blame you for being mad at me. And you don’t have to forgive me, but…I’m going to try harder…okay? I’ll be better.” Oh God, your throat’s starting to get tight and you hide your face again so he doesn’t see your face scrunch up. “I’m really, really sorry, Shouto.”

 

After giving yourself a minute to calm down, you lift your head again and slowly inch your hand closer to his. He doesn’t move it away this time, but you don’t want to mess things up by lunging forward, so you continue at a snail’s pace. Your heart thuds rapidly in your chest and you swallow hard. Just before you can close the distance, you freeze, the atmosphere expectant and thick with tension. If you look up, you’ll die.

 

You bite your lower lip hard as you gingerly stretch your index finger towards him, ignoring the way it trembles slightly and hope he doesn’t notice before lightly touching his pinky. He visibly tenses and you resist the immediate urge to pull away. Instead, your face twists unhappily and you apply just the faintest hint of pressure against his finger once more.

 

Just as he had given you a chance to leave when he had asked for forgiveness before, you feel it’s only fair to give him the same opportunity as well.

 

For the longest moment of your life, he doesn’t move a muscle.

 

Your stomach sinks to the floor. Dejectedly, you’re just beginning to pull away when he shifts very slightly and you watch in amazement as his little finger very slowly, but surely curls around your index and tucks it closely against his hand. Your heart leaps hopefully and you finally look up at him, a wave of warmth filling your insides at his small smile. His eyes are the softest you’ve ever seen and you almost choke from the amount of happiness and relief that explodes somewhere near your navel, but you manage to return it with a shaky one of your own.

 

“Can…can we…?” you begin, but find that it’s impossible to continue and your face reddens with a mixture of embarrassment and timidity.

 

He stares at you blankly for a second before his expression clears and he nods. He stands up, pulling your arms up with him and you ignore your knees screaming in protest, but all discomfort flies out the window when he hesitantly puts his arms around your back. You sigh softly through your nose, a slow, warm rushing sensation spreading all the way to your toes and you gently place your hands around his middle.

 

This feels nice. He smells a bit like herbal tea and some kind of natural soap. It’s an odd combination, but it works somehow.

 

“I forgive you,” he murmurs quietly, as if the hug didn’t already convey it, but you figure he’s just saying it to be thorough.

 

Even so, you have to ask. “Um…do you know how Shinsou got my number, by any chance?”

 

A pause. “I gave it to him.”

 

“…I see.”

 

He shifts slightly. “He’s your friend too.”

 

You smile resignedly against his shoulder even though he can’t see it. He has you there. What really makes you happy is all the things that go unspoken because even though you know neither of them will ever admit it, they had both set their differences aside to come together. You wish it hadn’t taken an argument to make it happen, but you don’t have much room to complain.

 

Then the door slides open, which effectively ruins the moment and you angrily turn your head to find Ashido frozen mid-step over the threshold, only to be jostled inside by Sero, Kaminari, and Kirishima who accidentally collide into her from behind.

 

“Do you mind?” you snarl irritably. You step away from Shouto and cross your arms tightly over your chest, glowering in an attempt to hide your embarrassment.

 

Their faces range from downright shocked to embarrassed to mischievous, the last one pertaining to Ashido in particular. A slow smile spreads across her face as her eyes dart between you and your best friend before she holds her hands up in surrender. “Oops, didn’t mean to interrupt your, ah…” she drawls, purposefully trailing off with a significant look, “you know, thing so we’ll just…yeah.” Ashido then begins pushing Kaminari and Sero out before you get a chance to clear up the misunderstanding. Kirishima stares a moment longer before he takes his leave, quietly sliding the door shut behind him.

 

“This is just great,” you sigh, pinching your brow. If this somehow doesn’t get to the entire class before lunch is over, you’ll eat your shoe. “Feels like I can’t do anything anymore without someone taking it out of context.”

 

“I’m sorry,” says Shouto and your scowl slowly fades.

 

“It’s not your fault. This wouldn’t have happened if I had just…well, I guess it doesn’t matter anymore,” you mumble, resigned.

 

You ignore any looks thrown your way during your afternoon lessons, made easier by the fact that most of your energy is devoted to staying awake. There are times when you find yourself nodding off. You become so out of it that it takes the sudden chiming of the last bell to make you realize that classes are over for the day. You rub your aching eyes, wanting nothing more than to get home and sleep.

 

“(Surname)-chan, are you okay? You don’t look so good…” asks Uraraka worriedly as you groggily start to put your things away. You have a sudden flashback to her and Midoriya standing alone together in the hallway and you fight to keep the scowl off your face.

 

“I’m just tired,” you mutter, avoiding her eyes and getting up. You glance at Midoriya a little ways behind her. You could’ve sworn he was looking at you just now, but at the moment, he’s erasing the board. “Haven’t been sleeping that great for a couple days now, but I’ll just turn in early today.”

 

“Is Todoroki going to take care of you?” teases Kaminari, ignoring Sero who rolls his eyes at his friend’s antics. “I heard lying with your head on someone’s lap is a great way to take a nap.”

 

“Like you’d know anything about that,” you retort viciously, watching his face fall with a surge of satisfaction.

 

“You kinda had that coming, man,” says Sero, clapping a hand to his back and fighting back a smile.

 

“Putting that aside,” beams Ashido, and you really don’t like the look in her eyes. “I remember what you told us girls, but it really seems like you and Todoroki have gotten super close. Care to elaborate on that?” She waggles her eyebrows comically and you’re too tired at this point to even muster a modicum of anger.

 

“What’s there to talk about?” you grouse, putting away the rest of your things haphazardly into your bag. You really wish she wouldn’t do this within earshot of Midoriya, whose movements are now mechanical on account of how tense his shoulders are.

 

“Oh, don’t be coy. Is it a secret or something? Because if it is, you might want to pick where you have your passionate trysts more wisely. I know what I saw.”

 

Out of the corner of your eye, Midoriya finally whips around, unnoticed by all except you. You can’t imagine the look on his face and your ears burn with a mixture of indignation and embarrassment. “Stop making it seem like more happened than actually did, Ashido,” you say warningly.

 

At this point, Shouto finishes putting his things away. As with many things pertaining to his classmates, he doesn’t react much to the disaster currently unfolding before you. “Do you have lessons today?” he asks.

 

Ignoring Ashido’s near-silent gushing, you shake your head. “I was supposed to, but I pushed it back for tomorrow. Got all your stuff?”

 

In response, he slings his bag over his shoulder and you quickly exit the room, feeling Midoriya’s eyes on your retreating back.

 

When you get home, you’re in such a bad mood that the entire staff gives you a wide berth, already used to your rather volatile temper to recognize the warning signs. It feels like no matter what you do, things always have a habit of backfiring in your face. You want to fix things with Midoriya, but you don’t have the faintest idea how, at least not without looking like you’re throwing his feelings back in his face.

 

First and foremost, you realize that this can’t keep happening. If you continue stepping on landmines, you either risk distancing yourself from Shouto (which is something you don’t want to do, especially after today) or losing Midoriya completely. It’s not your fault his crush is unrequited, but you obviously don’t have the finesse to navigate these uncharted waters carefully without hurting him somehow.

 

You’re not experienced in these matters, but the only other friends you have to turn to for help are Shouto, Uraraka, and Shinsou. As you lie on your bed, staring down at your phone screen, your eyes grow unfocused as you contemplate your choices. Something tells you matters of romantic love might be a little too out of Shouto’s depth whereas Shinsou would probably just make fun of you and you’re don’t have the energy to deal with his teasing right now.

 

That just leaves Uraraka, but this, unfortunately, also comes with its own set of problems. For one thing, she’s way too close to Midoriya and you haven’t been friends with her long enough to know if she can keep a secret. Plus, you have a sneaking suspicion she’d be able to sniff out your admirer if you tried being vague about it, not to mention that you’re a terrible liar. And the pool of suspects is also depressingly short.

 

You think that perhaps a good night’s sleep will clear your head a little, but while you are quite exhausted, your mind won’t shut down no matter how hard you try. All you can think of is Midoriya and how your insides clench with guilt when you think of his increasingly somber expressions.

 

“Fuck!” you groan into your hands, thrashing around and kicking the covers off. You lie there in a huff, completely at a loss. It’s hard to say how long you spend turning it over in your head until at last, you come to a decision. It’s not pleasant, but life hardly is.

 

Just as Todoroki had given you a choice when he hurt you and you had returned the favor when you had done the same…that’s what you’re going to do. It hurts…it hurts so much, just picturing Midoriya walking out of your life for good, but if that’s what he wants, then you’ll let him have that. You’re going to give him an out.

 

You grab a pillow and bury your face in it. God, you really don’t want to do this. You want to be friends, but it’s obvious he’s still hurting and every action you make only makes things worse, and as nice as he is, you’re also aware he probably won’t subject himself to repeated heartbreak, at least not forever. It must feel like you’re torturing him. No one should make someone as kind as him go through something like that. You don’t want him to become cynical because of you.

 

You don’t know when you actually fall asleep. When you come to, it’s abrupt and you’re shaking all over, practically drenched in sweat despite the fact that the blankets are pooled by your feet. Sitting up sharply, now wide awake, you wait for your breathing to slow down before running a hand down your face. The dampness of your cheeks startles you for a moment and you stare down at your wet fingertips, confused.

 

The hell just happened?’ you think, numbly swinging your legs over the bed. The air in the room feels stale and not enough for your aching lungs, so you stumble over to your balcony doors and throw them open, the night air cool against your overheated skin. Then you stumble over, lean over the edge and promptly empty what little contents are left in your stomach. It’s mostly bile and your throat burns by the time you’re done.

 

You slowly straighten, wiping the back of your hand to your mouth and breathing a little haggardly through your nose. Your stomach isn’t roiling anymore, but the longer you think about it, the less sense it makes. Maybe you ate something funny today, but something tells you this isn’t the case. You don’t feel sick at all, just…

 

Terrified.

 

But of what, exactly? You close your eyes, brows scrunching together as you wrack your brains for the cause, but you come up empty-handed. Slowly, the feeling of barely-suppressed panic begins to fade and you slowly hover back into your room, the tips of your toes barely skimming the surface of the floor, but you don’t go back to bed. Instead, you head into your bathroom and turn on the faucet, making the water as hot as you can stand it and soak in your tub for hours until the white noise in your head fades to nothing.

 

You’re rehearsing your practiced speech for Midoriya later under your breath when Haruka opens the door to find you still in the tub. “Honestly, child, how long have you been in there? You’re practically a prune now.”

 

Saying nothing, you stand up with a tired sigh, your hair hanging heavy and wet against your back as she wraps you up in a large, fluffy white towel. The material feels nice and you bury your nose in it, tempted to just fall asleep, but any hopes of a quick power nap are dashed when you see the clock. You’re not late, but you’ll have to hurry if you want to make it to school on time.

 

You’re shrugging your bag over your shoulder when Haruka steps closer, holding a brush at the ready and your eyes widen. If you let her anywhere near your hair, you’ll never make it to class. “Don’t even think about it,” you growl, eyes narrowing.

 

“Really, you can be so difficult sometimes,” she says wearily with a heavy sigh. “It’ll just take a few minutes.”

 

“We both know that’s a lie,” you snap, already turning away and ignoring her indignant squawk. You wonder if you should cut it really short to save yourself a lot of hassle, like your mom. You entertain the thought for a second before your lip curls in distaste.

 

Yeah, right…

 

When you arrive to school, it’s a little later than you would like, with only a few minutes left before the first bell, so you’re not surprised to find a distinct lack of red and white hair. Instead, you find a mop of purple.

 

“Look who finally decided to show up,” drawls Shinsou, ignoring your scowl with practiced ease. “Better hurry, princess, or you’ll be late.”

 

“Call me that ever again and I’ll rip your mouth off,” you snarl, but you keep pace with him despite the fact that he’s got a longer stride.

 

“Sure you will,” he says with a grin. He tugs a flyaway strand of your hair and you smack his hand away. “Yikes, who styled your hair this morning? It looks like a rat’s nest.”

 

“Fuck you,” you grumble, then run a self-conscious hand against it. It’s not that bad, really, but trust this moron to make it a lot worse than it actually is. “Like yours is any better.”

 

“Touché,” he snickers, then stops in front of his classroom. “Looks like this is my stop. See you at lunch, yeah?” He places a surprisingly gentle hand on your head, nothing like the dead weight he usually employs, and it startles you for a second before he ruins the moment by ruffling your hair.

 

“Asshole!” you snap, though it lacks any actual bite, but you still make sure to flip him off over your shoulder as you hurry to your classroom two doors down.

 

You’re still trying to fix your hair with muttered curses under your breath as you slide the classroom door open, but it won’t lie flat no matter what you do. Giving it up as a bad job, you look up just in time to see Shouto put his book down and perk up slightly, a gesture that isn’t lost on Ashido, who whips her head around so fast it’s a wonder she doesn’t get whiplash.

 

However, whatever teasing remark she was about to say doesn’t make it past her lips and her mouth falls open at the sight of you. At your raised eyebrow, she quickly snaps out of it. “Wow, okay, NO. I will not stand for this!” she says, hands on her hips and cheeks puffing out comically. “I declare a hair emergency!”

 

Unfortunately, this gets the attention of nearly everyone in the room and your reflexes aren’t what they used to be because the next thing you know, Ashido manages to wrestle you onto a chair, ignoring your weak protests. “You normally have such beautiful, flawless hair. How could you neglect it like this?” she bemoans, picking up a tangled clump and wincing pathetically.

 

You sigh through your nose, too exhausted to put up much of a fight. Plus, there’s probably only about a minute until the bell rings so you doubt she’ll even get very far anyway.

 

“Yaomomo! I need a hairbrush, stat!” Ashido cries, holding out her hand, and Yaoyorozu hands her one with a faintly amused smile. “Gonna fix this if it’s the last thing I do.”

 

The first couple of strokes are quite painful, but you manage to bite back any angry retorts and sit stiffly in your chair with gritted teeth. Ashido does manage to get most of the tangles out after a few moments, and her movements slow to a much less brutal pace, which eases most of the tension out of your jaw.

 

As soon as you begin to relax, however, a strange feeling settles in the pit of your stomach. It burrows deep within you before slowly spreading, thick like tar and just as cloying. Your heart rate begins to pick up and your body slowly tenses, like a coil being wound tighter and tighter. An iron band constricts around your chest, making it harder to breathe and your pulse is so loud in your ears, and you’re wondering what’s getting you so on edge before you blink, a knife-sharp memory lodging itself so deeply and violently in your head that you’re too powerless to stop it.

 

Suddenly, you’re not in the classroom anymore, but in a dark, lonely room, propped up on a chair, helpless and immobile as a stranger’s deathly cold fingers alternate between running through your long hair and brushing it slowly with a comb, crooning softly in your ear about how beautiful, how lovely you are, his breath smelling like medicine and turning your stomach.

 

Oh…

 

God…

 

What is—

 

What just…

 

Oh shit, oh shit…!

 

You recoil so violently that you actually sprawl out of your seat, scrambling backward until your back hits the wall with a small grunt, but you barely feel the pain. Your breathing comes hard and fast, chest heaving rapidly as you’re caught in a full-body tremor, your insides frozen with fear. Tears fall hot and fast down your cheeks and your stomach rolls sharply, but you hardly care. There’s a series of sharp whimpering in your ears that you distantly recognize as your own.

 

“Oh my God!”

 

“What’s happening?”

 

“Somebody go get Aizawa-sensei!”

 

“(Surname)-san!”

 

You’re barely aware of your surroundings as memory after memory assaults your senses, each one worse than the last and your whimpers turn to frenzied screaming, nails dragging roughly over your blazer so hard that had it not been for the two layers of clothes, they would have left angry red welts.

 

Do you want me to stop? You don’t like it when I punish you so why do you continue to resist?” says the monster in a soft, dangerous voice. You lie on the bed, his corpse-like fingertips ghosting over your chest, your lips turning blue before he releases his hold over your lungs and you gasp, taking in great gulps of air and leaving you light-headed and dizzy.

 

Or would you rather…something else?” A smile unfurls, dark and menacing, and his eyes shine an eerie amber in the darkness, like a cat. His fingers creep lower and lower until—

 

“(Name)!” Someone’s hands—warm this time—grip your wrists, presumably to stop you from hurting yourself and you look up sharply into Shouto’s heterochromatic eyes. You can’t stop shaking, can’t stop crying, and every word you try to speak gets lodged against the giant lump in your throat. Your foot shoots out and catches him in the thigh and he grunts in pain, but doesn’t let go.

 

The door slides open with a crash, but you hear it from far away, trapped in the panic encasing your body in a frigid cocoon. Distantly, you see your best friend turn his head sharply to the left, then quickly gets up before a second pair of arms scoop you up effortlessly, pulling you against a broad chest. You begin thrashing and shrieking, but they hold fast and haul you out of the room, leaving your muttering classmates behind.

 

The next you know, you’re being gently deposited onto a lumpy couch, where you rock yourself back and forth, still hyperventilating until someone’s large hands curl around the sides of your head, tilting your head up.

 

It’s Aizawa, his face thick with tension, but when he speaks, his voice is calm. “(Surname). I need you to take a deep breath for four seconds, then exhale for another four. Can you do that?”

 

You’re still shivering, but you manage a shaky nod and do your best to follow his instructions. It doesn’t go so well at first and another river of tears washes over your cheeks at the helplessness and terror you feel. Your hands quickly come up to latch onto his arms in a vice-like grip, but if it’s hurting him, he doesn’t let it show.

 

“You’re going to be okay,” he says, voice softer this time and you cling onto his words like a lifeline. “This won’t last forever. It’ll pass. And when it does, I’ll still be right here. Alright?”

 

You continue breathing deeply and slowly, oh so slowly, the tight band constricting your chest eases up and he continues talking to you with the air of having done this before. After what seems like several lifetimes, your heart stops feeling like it’s going to beat itself out of your chest and your lungs are no longer on fire. Your hands slowly let go of his arms and slump to your lap, but the tears don’t stop, falling hot and fast.

 

He exhales slowly, then takes a seat next to you. “What happened?” he asks slowly. At this point, Recovery Girl slides open the door and walks into the room, but you barely notice her.

 

It takes you a long time before you can even muster the courage to speak. You begin sentences, but your words sound like nonsensical babbling, crumpling under his gently probing gaze and dying out before they can reach completion. He shows no sign of impatience, however, and simply waits for you to calm down, but it’s hard. You don’t even know where to begin.

 

“Sensei…” you say after several minutes, breath catching on your throat. You swallow hard. “I…I remember…”

 

His eyes immediately narrow, but he refrains from speaking.

 

“I know…what happened…while I was g-gone,” you say, a little more loudly, but it’s still barely above a whisper. “I…I…” And just like that, words tumble from your lips, and once you start, you find it impossible to stop. There are still large gaps in your memory, but you tell him everything you know and the longer you speak, the thinner Aizawa’s lips get until his entire face is hard with anger. He’d be absolutely terrifying if you didn’t know his rage isn’t aimed at you.

 

When you finish, your face finally crumples and you begin to sob in earnest, burying it into your hands. You don’t see Recovery Girl exchange a silent look with your homeroom teacher, but you do feel his arm come around your shoulder. He doesn’t rub your arm or pull you close against his chest like Midoriya would have done. Possibly that sort of comfort is beyond him, but you still feel Recovery Girl’s gentle hand on your head and it’s enough.

 

“There’s nothing you can do for this, is there?” murmurs Aizawa.

 

A heavy sigh. “No, I’m afraid not…my Quirk won’t heal injuries of this nature.”

 

Then—

 

“Get Detective Tsukauchi on the phone. I need her to update her statement so we can finally be closer to catching this depraved bastard,” he growls lowly.

 

She starts to protest, then sighs. “I don’t much like the idea of having the poor dear relive that horrible experience…but it must be done.” She leaves soon after that and Aizawa lets you finish crying. He leaves momentarily, but only to dampen a clean handkerchief for you to wipe your face, which you do. It’s partly for comfort and partly to make yourself presentable, and in less than an hour, Detective Tsukauchi Naomasa arrives with a grim expression on his face.

 

It’s easier recounting your memories this time, but not by much. You do your best to answer his questions, but they’re so intensive that by the end of it, you’re exhausted. The detective stands up and gives Aizawa a significant look, and they both exit the room, leaving you with Recovery Girl.

 

“I don’t think you’re in any state to go back to your classes, dear,” she says, running a gentle hand over your knee. “Would you like to sleep in my office? Or do you want to go home for the day?”

 

“Office,” you mumble, feeling drained and wrung out.

 

She nods in understanding and leads you out of the room. Soon, you find yourself on a bed and you allow her to tuck the covers under your chin. She smiles reassuringly at you, but it’s tinged with a mixture of sympathy and sadness. “I’ll ask that you not be disturbed. Get some rest, okay?” At your silent nod, she draws the curtains closed, shielding you from view and you lie there, your limbs a dead weight and a rattling in your chest.

 

You’re surprised how quickly you drift off to sleep, but it’s not a restful one. Memories come to you in fits and starts and Recovery Girl has to come in on more than one occasion to your screaming and thrashing. You hate putting her through this, but you can’t help it.

 

You just want it to stop.

 

It’s hard to say which is worse—trapped in nightmares that you know to be your memories causing havoc on your unconsciousness or lying awake, swallowing back fear as warm droplets streak into your hair. Recovery Girl does her best and pats your hand whenever she hears your quiet sniffles, but it doesn’t dispel your turbulent feelings inside.

 

The last bell for the day is what wakes you up sometime later, though you don’t feel rested at all. In fact, you feel even worse than before, but you put on a brave face for Recovery Girl. She doesn’t seem convinced, but she lets you take your time in getting ready to go home. Someone brought your bag in while you slept, possibly one of your friends, but you’re too tired to ask which one and silently sling it over your shoulders.

 

You head to the front gate, dazed and lightheaded from sheer exhaustion and find Haruka waiting for you. She takes one look at your sorry state and wraps you in a tight hug, but you barely feel it. You don’t know how much she was told, but you don’t want to see your experience reflected on her face, so you keep your eyes low to the ground all the way home, not speaking a word. When you arrive, she offers to make you something to eat, but you slowly shake your head. You don’t think you have the appetite to smell food, let alone eat it.

 

So you leave her standing in the foyer with a worried look on her face as you lethargically make your way to your room. You don’t sink into your soft bed, however and instead sit on the balcony, your legs hanging over the edge as you stare distantly at the setting sun for a few moments before closing your eyes.

 

You wish you were anywhere else, had been born anyone else, if only to take away the ever-present fear gripping your heart. The rose-scented air is a little warm, but you shiver anyway, your breath rattling in your chest. Now you know the truth. The gaps in your memory are shrinking and every time they do, a new horror awaits you. You don’t react much anymore when they arrive aside from a few stray tears dropping onto your lap.

 

It’s evening by the time you finally shift in your seat, drawing up a knee and holding it close to your chest, propping your chin up on it. The fact of the matter is, no matter how determined the police are in finding your captor, it could be years before he’s finally caught. The very real possibility of him evading capture forever is horrifying, and the thought is more than you can bear.

 

If he’s out there, he can find you again, use you again. He can make you experience horrors you can’t even imagine, make you go through what all those other poor girls suffered at his deranged hands before meeting their grisly end.

 

And you may not be so lucky to escape with your life next time. Or if he does allow you to live, there’s no way he’ll ever let you go.

 

Not again.

 

You slowly stand up, a numbness settling over your body as you make a decision. You don’t look back at your home as you fly away, and in the dark of the night, it’s easy to evade your security as you soar over the gates and beyond. The lights of Musutafu below are beautiful, but you’re not up here for them. Instead, you head for the distant shore until you finally come upon Dagobah Beach, its shores blessedly empty at this hour.

 

Good. It’s better not to have any witnesses.

 

You idly think you’ve gotten stronger since the last time you’ve been here because you’re not actually that tired, which is a small comfort. The sea sprays salty air in your face and you breathe in slowly, drowning in memories. This is where you met Midoriya, where you bared your heart out about Todoroki, where you exercised together in preparation for the Sports Festival until you had both collapsed from exhaustion, tired, but accomplished.

 

It feels like it happened a lifetime ago.

 

You think of your staff and your mother as you slowly walk along the surf, edging closer and closer to the crashing waves. Right before you reach the edge, however, you stop, then slowly reach down and tug your feet out of your shoes, your socks following right after. You arrange them neatly together before straightening, a low tremor thrumming constantly through your body, but you barely feel it anymore.

 

You think of your friends as you mechanically walk into the water, the temperature freezing, but you persevere until the waves reach halfway along your shins.

 

For a single moment, you hesitate.

 

Then you rise up, up, and up until the lights of Musutafu look like the stars shining brightly overhead. The wind is much rougher up here, battering your clothes and hair and jostling you slightly.

 

You think of the monster plaguing your dreams and tormenting you during your waking moments and you suppress a shudder. You don’t want him to find you. You never want to see him ever again, but as long as he’s out there, there’s always a chance, and the thought of spending your life in constant fear chokes you.

 

So you’ll put yourself in a place forever out of his reach, where he can never hurt you again.

 

But fear of the unknown keeps you anchored in place and you look down at the distant ocean below. You’ve never been afraid of heights, too used to flying around to really give it much thought, but right now, it’s all you can think of.

 

You try rationalizing that it’ll be quicker and easier than falling asleep, but this does little to comfort you as the full gravity of what you’re about to do grips your heart and makes you curl in on yourself.

 

Then an idea comes to you, slow and unbidden, but not entirely unwelcome, and the longer you think about it, the more appealing it becomes. You slowly straighten up before parting your lips, drawing in a shuddering breath.

 

A slow, mournful song comes forth, its melody haunting yet beautiful. You’re not afraid of anyone hearing you up here, so you sing to your heart’s content, grasping your hands together over your chest, eyes burning as fresh tears spill over your cheeks.

 

You cry for your mother, whom you never reconciled with and regret that your last memory of her will be a negative one.

 

You weep for your Haruka and your staff, who tried to fill the void your mother left behind.

 

You wail for Aizawa, who will never understand your reasons, but you hold onto the wish that he doesn’t blame himself for this.

 

You sing your swan song tearfully for Uraraka, who broke through despite your repeated attempts to push her away.

 

You shed bitter lament for Shinsou, who teased you but cared about you in spite of your abrasive attitude.

 

You think of Shouto, who was the very first to break past the frigid exterior of your heart and make a place for himself as your best friend.

 

And finally, you sing your last refrain for Midoriya, whom you still consider one of the most important people in your life.

 

You just hope…they’ll forgive you.

 

Opening your eyes, you find yourself surrounded by a brilliant, but somehow soft pink light and you can sense rather than feel a pair of bright, glowing wings spreading magnificently behind you. Dazzling, crystal clear feathers begin to break off and surround you, bringing more comfort than you thought possible, and just for a moment, relief settles over your chest, light and freeing. It gives you the courage to continue singing even as the last of your energy ebbs away.

 

Finally, the last note passes your lips, but the wings don’t fade as you start your long descent, plummeting towards the sea below. Several feathers fly past your half-lidded eyes, sparkling and making you think of shooting stars. Then your eyelids slide shut, hearing nothing but the roaring of the wind in your ears.

 

It only lasts a few seconds. Distantly, you hear another noise, one that doesn’t belong in your last dive towards the end of your life. It grows steadily louder and louder until you suddenly realize it’s someone screaming.

 

You don’t get a chance to open your eyes before something collides into you hard, knocking the wind out of your lungs. When you finally fall into the sea below, it hurts something awful, but it’s not the crushing, agonizing experience you thought it would be. Water fills your lungs and you choke, wondering if this will be your last moment on earth, but the idea is quickly shattered when you’re jerked up to the surface.

 

You cough, soaked to the bone and freezing and you can’t see anything from the salt stinging your eyes more fiercely than your tears ever did, but you do feel something pulling you rather roughly. You have no energy to fight off your assailant, so you let them swim you to shore, silently mourning your opportunity lost.

 

When you’re finally dropped onto the sand, it takes you a full five minutes to become aware of your surroundings, tired as you are. Your vision is slightly blurry but when a familiar silhouette fills your line of sight, you blink slowly, staring up at Midoriya, who looks at you with a mixture of barely-stifled panic and relief. He’s saying something, but you can’t make any sense of it, his voice muffled against your waterlogged ears.

 

It’s only until he lightly taps your cheek with his fingers that you finally come back to earth with a faint start. Sitting up takes more effort than you can give, but perhaps sensing this, he presses a warm hand to the small of your back and helps you up. Your ears clear and you can hear the nearby sea with startling intensity. Your body feels so heavy and it aches something awful, no doubt from the weight of your soaked uniform and the impact upon landing.

 

“(Surname)-san, what were you doing so high up there? Don’t you know that’s dangerous?” cries Midoriya, a pained look on his face. He gives you a quick once over and apparently deems nothing to be out of the ordinary because a small smile finally breaks through, which makes his eyes warm and softens his expression considerably. “I’m glad I was here to save you, though. That could’ve been really bad.”

 

You stare at him, numb and disbelieving, which predictably causes a flush to appear on his cheeks. “Midoriya…?” you whisper hollowly and he tilts his head a little in bemusement.

 

“You know we’re not allowed to use our Quirks outside of school,” he gently admonishes, but there’s a faint tension in his brow, as though he’s fighting back from voicing his thoughts out loud. “Still…I’m glad to see you’re okay, especially after…well, it doesn’t matter. You’re safe and that’s what counts.”

 

“Midoriya.” He abruptly shuts up, but when you don’t speak for a long time, he leans closer, his small smile slowly fading. You draw in a shuddering breath, and at this point, it’s hard to say if the fresh tears or salt water dripping from your hair and into your eyes is making your vision blurry again. “You…weren’t supposed to see.”

 

He hesitates. “What…what are you talking about, (Surname)-san?” He smiles, though it looks horribly fake, even on him. “You…you just had an accident right? Right?” His voice takes on a faintly desperate edge and when you don’t immediately answer, his face goes rigid. “Hey…please answer me.”

 

When at last, you slowly shake your head, his expression slowly turns to horrified as the truth finally sinks in and he grips your shoulders tightly, shaking you a little. “You’re joking, right? You can’t have been up there to…to…” He apparently can’t finish the sentence, his voice starting to break and you dimly notice his eyes starting to well up.

 

When he speaks once more, his voice is so small and broken. “(Surname)-san…why?   Why would you…oh God…” He lowers his head a little and brings a hand to his mouth to stifle a small noise that rises unbidden from his throat. You’ve never seen him look so distressed before and your heart breaks.

 

“I’m…” you begin, and his eyes snap up to meet yours, “so...so tired, Midoriya. I didn’t…I don’t want to be afraid anymore.”

 

“But I still don’t understand!” he yells, tears spilling onto his freckled cheeks. “You wanted to be a hero, do great things, and…and…!” He briefly chokes on a sob and frantically rubs his eyes, but it does little good. “You were the one who told me it was stupid to die needlessly, that dead heroes help no one and you—damn it, you have so many people who love and care about you, (Surname)-san! We never would’ve known what happened and…and…I never would’ve…never…” He dissolves for a few moments, sniffling and hiccuping, ducking his head as though it’s too shameful for you to see.

 

“I’m no hero,” you whisper and he shakes his head in disagreement, but you keep going. “I’m…still a coward, Midoriya. That hasn’t changed. That will never change…not anymore.” You bring your hands up, drowning in your despair and grief. “I don’t have any hope left…I…I don’t know what to do.” Your voice catches on a sob and you shatter into a million pieces.

 

You thought you had run out of tears to give. You thought you were done crying about this, but apparently, you were wrong.

 

You hear a shuffling in the sand and you look up at the faint tug on your sleeve. Midoriya’s hand shakes, but you don’t hesitate in gripping it tightly and he wastes no time in pulling you tightly against his chest. You don’t care that you’re both sopping wet and itchy from the sand underneath. It’s so familiar and you never thought you’d ever feel this again that your sobs become hysterical, and he slowly rocks you back and forth, shushing you quietly even as soft hitches in his breath betray his true feelings. You both must look a mess, but you hold on fast and refuse to let go, hands balled up in the fabric of his shirt as you wail to the heavens above.

 

Over time, you begin to speak quietly, in fits and starts because it’s so difficult telling him about the circumstances that led you here that you dissolve into tears again and again, but he’s so patient and kind about it, rubbing a soothing hand between your shoulder blades until you come back to yourself to continue telling him the rest. When you’re finally done, he squeezes you tighter, his face pressed against your wet hair.

 

“I’m so sorry…” he whispers, and it sounds like he’s crying again. “I can’t imagine how scared you must have been. No one should have to go through something like that.” He’s trembling, but he pulls back enough to look at your face. “But I also want you to know that…you’re not alone. You don’t have to carry this burden on your own, (Surname)-san.” He sniffles, slowly taking your hand in his and resting it on his lap. “I think…you should see a professional. I…I want to be the one to help, but there’s only so much I can do.”

 

You slowly look up into his eyes to find him staring at you steadily. Then, with a soft, shaky sigh, you nod.

 

You don’t have your phone on you, so there’s no chance of getting a ride home, so Midoriya takes you to his apartment. You eye the building warily, but he squeezes your hand reassuringly and gently pulls you forward, so you follow. There’s a faint tugging on your heart, but you’re so exhausted that you can’t muster up the strength to figure out the source.

 

“I’m home!” he calls out and a friendly voice responds with a “Welcome back!”

 

A plump woman with the kindest face you’ve ever seen steps into view and jumps. “Goodness, Izuku, what happened?” she says, rushing forward worriedly. “Why are you so cold? And, gracious, is this your friend?” Her green eyes, which look so much like Midoriya’s, widen as they take in your condition.

 

“Hello,” you mutter weakly with a small incline of your head. It’s almost more than you can manage.

 

“Oh, u-um…! Yes, this is (Surname)-san from school,” Midoriya says hastily, kicking off his shoes with a grimace as you echo his movements. “Um…can I talk to you for a second, Mom?” he adds, voice hushed as he ushers her backwards into a nearby room. Then, as if suddenly remembering you’re still there, he pokes his head out of the open doorway and smiles apologetically. “(Surname)-san, you can come in. I’ll be with you in a sec!” Then he closes the door shut, but you can still hear their muffled voices coming through.

 

You step forward onto the narrow hallway and your mind is lucid enough to note how small everything is. Still, it’s spotlessly clean and shows definite home comforts. It’s actually really nice, though you do feel a bit guilty about imposing, especially when you see a dinner table carefully laid out with food. You don’t want to get the couch wet, so you stand there awkwardly for a bit until you hear the door open down the hall and footsteps converge on your position.

 

“Sorry about that,” says Midoriya awkwardly before his mother practically barrels past him and immediately begins fussing over you.

 

“(Surname)-chan, you’re soaked to the bone! You’ll catch a cold if you continue like this. Would you like me to draw you up a bath?” she asks, looking you over. You nod a little and she sets to work, disappearing down the hall once more.

 

“Um…my mom can be kind of pushy,” mumbles Midoriya, breaking the silence.

 

“She’s nice,” you say quietly. “I like her.”

 

His eyes grow wide and hopeful. “You do?”

 

You nod and at that moment, his mother reappears, guiding you to their bathroom and telling you she’ll clean your uniform while you soak. You hear their halting conversation as you lie in a small tub, but none of their words come through, which is a little disappointing, but you also don’t want to be an eavesdropper either.

 

You’re in very real danger of falling asleep in the tub, so you get out after some time and wash the salt out of your hair with some shampoo you find lying around, which smells familiar, but it’s nice, so you don’t think much of it.

 

Finding some towels, you dry yourself and eye some neatly folded clothes that seem to have been set aside specifically for you. Without much hesitation, you quickly shrug them on. The shirt’s a little baggy, but everything else seems to fit okay. You keep a towel around your shoulders, however, letting the fabric soak up the remaining moisture in your hair.

 

Emerging from the bathroom in a cloud of steam, you find the Midoriyas talking quietly on the couch, though they quickly stop and look up at your quiet footsteps. His mom gets to her feet first, her face warm and inviting. “I’m so silly, dear. I forgot to introduce myself. I’m Midoriya Inko, Izuku’s mother.”

 

“It’s nice to meet you,” you say quietly. “My name is (Surname) (Name). I’m…his friend from school.”

 

“I see,” she says, and for some reason, she shoots Midoriya a very significant look. He turns beet red and stiffens, but the moment quickly passes and she turns back to you with a smile. “It’s good to finally get acquainted. Would you like something to eat maybe?”

 

“Um…” You look to Midoriya, who recognizes the uncomfortable look on your face because he quickly interjects.

 

“I think we still have some tea left over,” he says, then smiles in relief at your slow nod.

 

Mrs. Midoriya doesn’t say much while you sip your tea, just asks a few inconsequential things about your studies and other light topics, though you have a sneaking suspicion this is done on purpose, but you’re grateful she’s not nosy.

 

It’s only when you start to nod off that she stops. “Oh, you look exhausted, (Surname)-chan. You don’t have to if you don’t want to, but if it’s okay, would you like to stay the night?”

 

You blink, feeling the beginnings of alarm. “Oh…um…I don’t want to be a burden,” you mumble self-consciously, fidgeting.

 

“It’s no trouble at all, dear. I think we have an extra futon lying around, or you can have Izuku’s bed if you’re more comfortable with that.”

 

Your cheeks burn hotly and you can hear Midoriya having an aneurysm from somewhere behind you. “Either one is fine,” you say quietly, which increases his spluttering.

 

Which is how you find yourself buried under the covers on Midoriya’s bed. He’s as red as a tomato as you sleepily glance at his extensive All Might collection decorating nearly every spare surface of his desk and walls. It’s actually quite impressive and you snuggle into the blankets. They smell nice. Kind of like the shampoo you found earlier, but warmer.

 

“Are…you going to be okay?” he asks in a hushed voice.

 

“Don’t know. M’tired,” you mumble, closing your eyes.

 

“Okay,” he whispers. “I’ll be close by in case you need anything. Goodnight, (Surname)-san.” He leaves the door ajar, which you’re somewhat grateful for.

 

You finally drift off to sleep, but it’s short-lived when you suddenly come to with Midoriya’s hands gripping your wrists, face a few inches away and at first, you’re confused, but then you quickly realize he looks terrified and worried. You let go of the breath you’ve been holding and he lets go reluctantly, then sits on the edge of the bed.

 

Wiping away the dampness from your face, you sniffle a few times to clear your nose, then sit up. “Did I wake you?” you say after a minute of uncomfortable silence.

 

He sighs softly through his nose. “You were muttering in your sleep…and crying,” he answers, though he doesn’t elaborate what exactly was said. You don’t think you want to know anyway.

 

“Sorry,” you mumble, fingers tracing patterns over the blankets.

 

“No, it’s…it’s not your fault,” he reassures you quickly. “It just scared me a little.” He twiddles his thumbs a bit. “How long has this been happening?”

 

You run a hand over your face before letting it drop onto your lap. “Don’t know. Probably a little after I got back from…” You don’t finish your sentence.

 

After a moment, he speaks up. “Do you need anything? Some water, maybe?”

 

“That’d be great,” you say, and he quickly leaves, returning with a glass of water, which you drink from gratefully. The liquid feels soothing on your sore throat and he sets the cup on the nightstand. “What time is it?” you ask.

 

“Almost four,” he answers and you curse softly under your breath.

 

“Gotta be up in less than three hours. Fun,” you grumble, rubbing your eyes. “Fuck, I’m tired.”

 

“Try to get some sleep, (Surname)-san,” he says gently, starting to get up, but he stops when you grab his wrist.

 

“Sorry,” you mutter, looking away and quickly letting go. “I…I know it’s a pain in the ass, but…I don’t want to be alone. I’m…”

 

Scared, is what you don’t say, but Midoriya seems to understand perfectly because without another word, he pulls back the covers and settles in the space next to you. This is much more than you had been expecting and you hope to God he can’t hear the sudden pounding of your heart because it feels like it’s about to beat itself out of your chest. He doesn’t do anything, just turns around so his back is facing you and there’s enough space between you to fit a small pillow, so you’re not completely overwhelmed.

 

After some time, his breathing regulates, then slows as he falls asleep, and you feel your own eyelids grow heavy. It’s nice and warm and his presence is more comforting than you’ll ever say out loud, so you close your eyes and follow suit.

 

When you wake up a few hours later, you realize you moved in your sleep. Midoriya’s still facing away from you, but his back is now pressed right up against your cheek and—oh God, you’re spooning.

 

You’re spooning.

 

Screaming internally, you slowly back away so as not to wake him and silently thank the heavens for giving you the power of flight. You don’t want to run the risk of getting caught trying to crawl over him like in some cheesy romance drama.

 

You head for the bathroom and find a spare toothbrush laid out for you. You know it’s yours because of the little note left behind from Mrs. Midoriya and your face burns a little. You sincerely hope she didn’t see you pressed up against her son. Not only would she get the wrong idea, but you don’t think you could face her if she knew.

 

You’re just finishing up when you hear a knock on the door. “Um…my mom left your uniform out here so…” mumbles Midoriya. He sounds a little flustered.

 

“Tell her I said thanks,” you call back before washing your face and patting it dry with a nearby towel.

 

Breakfast is a normal affair, and while you don’t much like the thought of riding the train to school, you decide to bear with it. You’re at the station when Midoriya’s phone goes off and he answers it, but whatever he says is lost by the arrival of the train.

 

When you finally arrive at U.A., Aizawa is not happy. His hair stands on end and his eyes glow crimson, and you follow him without a word to the teacher’s lounge. You keep your head lowered the whole time, so you’re mildly surprised when a second weight settles down next to you on the couch and you glance up to find Midoriya still there. For some reason, Aizawa doesn’t immediately kick him out.

 

“Explain,” growls your homeroom teacher. “I was informed that you were no longer in your home this morning by your caretaker, and considering the circumstances, I assumed the worst.” He sighs at your downcast expression and kneels down in front of you. “You scared a lot of people, (Surname). I just want to know what happened.”

 

With great reluctance, you reveal your actions from last night in a detached, hollow sort of voice so it feels like you’re not all there, which helps you get through some of the rougher parts. You fully expect to get yelled at when you finally finish, but it doesn’t happen. Instead, Aizawa sighs heavily and rubs his temple.

 

“You do know this requires mandatory counseling, right?” he says after a beat. “Possibly medication too, but I’ll leave that for the doctors to decide.”

 

“I understand,” you say and when Midoriya squeezes your hand, you squeeze back.

 

You begin going to therapy sessions about twice a week after school, and while you do initially approach them with some level of apprehension, your therapist does her best to ease you into it. You expect someone stuffy who looks right at home in a clinical setting, with stark white walls bereft of anything except maybe an abstract motivational poster or two, maybe with a clipboard and a fondness for asking you useless questions that don’t go anywhere, but Ren is none of those things. Her office looks more like a cross between a tea shop and a meditation room, and she has some nice candle warmers on the low shelves nearby, which fill the air with relaxing scents that calm the constant nervous energy buzzing under your skin.

 

It’s during one of these sessions that she starts giving you techniques to manage your anxiety, including mental and breathing exercises. They help a bit, but she assures you they won’t work miracles right away. “It just takes practice,” she reminds you. “But you’ll get there in the end.”

 

Later, when the conversation inevitably turns to the source of your anxiety, you make an offhand comment that gives her pause. “I’m sorry, hon, could you repeat that?” she asks, tilting her head.

 

“I just said I still feel weird around one of my friends,” you mumble, fiddling with a strand of your hair, then absently scratch your forearm before you stop yourself. “I don’t get it. Things were kind of rocky between us for a bit, but now everything’s fine because well…he was the one who…you know.”

 

She hums sympathetically. “And this bothers you?”

 

You shake your head. “No, it’s not that. He acts normal when we’re all together in a group, and it’s usually fine, but…”

 

“Does he treat you any differently when it’s just you two?”

 

You shift uncomfortably. “No…and that’s what’s strange. Sometimes I wonder if I caught a bug or developed some kind of heart condition…I guess. It kind of feels like when I get anxiety only…more, you know?” You gesture uselessly in the air, trying to get your message across. “Like it gets hard to breathe and my hands get really clammy and my heart won’t calm the fuck down. It’s awful and whenever it happens, I have to leave.” You sigh, letting your hands drop and missing the sudden flash of understanding in Ren’s eyes. “He’s not being an ass or anything. He’s actually really nice, but sometimes…it’s too much.”

 

She rests her chin on her hands and gives you an appraising look. “I see. And…how long has this been going on?”

 

You open your mouth, then falter, thinking hard. “Um…I don’t know. Hard to say. A while?”

 

“Hm…and do you experience any other abnormal symptoms? Does he do anything to make you uncomfortable?”

 

“No, he’s not like that,” you mumble, eyes unfocused. “Feels a bit like I missed a step going down the stairs and my brain gets fuzzy. Makes it hard to string two words together.” You fiddle with one of the decorative statuettes on the table. “I just feel bad because…I just want things to be normal. He’s trying his best, but I get the impression I’m hurting his feelings when I just up and leave.” You exhale softly, remorse eating away at your heart. “He’s…always been there. Even when I was being a total bitch, he still kept coming back and when I was sad…” You trail off, setting down the figure. “I just want to do the same for him, you know? It can’t be all about me.”

 

“That’s perfectly understandable. You want to repay him for the kindness he’s given you, but can’t because you get anxious around him.”

 

“Yeah, something like that.”

 

“Is that all?”

 

You frown, looking up at her, but she only gives you a mysterious look. “What do you mean?”

 

“I mean,” she says, sitting up in her chair, “is there something you’re not telling yourself? So far, you’ve been giving me the symptoms, but not the cause, and I get the feeling you already know what it is.” She gives you a smile that you don’t know what to make of at first and you scowl.

 

“If I knew, I wouldn’t be here, now would I?” you retort, rolling your eyes.

 

“Oh, honey, I don’t think you believe that for one second.”

 

You’re about to open your mouth to hurl abuse at her even though you know you really shouldn’t, but when her smile widens just the slightest bit, it’s as though she can see right through your thoughts and you freeze. A flood of memories flit by, giving you flashes of Midoriya’s happy smile, his embarrassed spluttering, the way his eyebrows would turn up whenever he was worried, the warmth of his hand encompassing yours, and the warm, tender look in his eyes against the sunset and—

 

Your world comes to a screeching halt and you intake a sudden breath, then another, your chest so full and tight that it becomes impossible to breathe for a long moment. Sudden heat floods your cheeks and you slowly bring your hands to your mouth in an unsuccessful attempt to stop the aborted choking noises escaping your lips. Every part of your body seems to have jammed.

 

You can’t believe how stupid you’ve been.

 

Holy.

 

SHIT.

 

You’re in love with Midoriya Izuku…

Chapter Text

It’s only been an hour and you’ve vetoed every single suggestion Yukimura and Saitou have brought up, but if they’re starting to grow impatient with you, they’ve yet to show it. Part of you wants them to get angry, if only because you want to tear your hair out and let off some much needed steam, but the cause of your frustration is yours to blame. You were the one who dragged them to one of many banquet rooms after your mandatory therapy session and asked them to help you make changes to your hero costume.

 

It’s totally not a way to distract yourself from a certain newfound realization. Not in the slightest.

 

While your two instructors were initially confused, they were still flattered you came to them for help and leaped at the opportunity with almost indecent gusto. Now they sit across from you, papers with half-sketched designs scattered everywhere. Saitou busies himself with another costume design while Yukimura gestures wildly, full of energy.

 

If there are people in the world who seem incapable of losing steam, it’s these two.

 

“So wings are definitely off the table?” whines Yukimura with a pout, making her look a lot younger than she really is.

 

“It’ll look weird when mine show up!” you protest loudly, making a face.

 

“It’s a hero costume, Yukimura-san, not a stage outfit,” Saitou reminds her, and she wilts. “Plus, what purpose would wings serve? The point is to enhance, not hinder her abilities.”

 

“But it’s the aesthetic of the whole thing!” she protests, but when neither you nor Saitou budge, she throws her hands up in defeat. “Okay, fine. No wings then.”

 

You kind of feel bad for her, so when you finally settle on a design for your headband, you choose the one with the small wing dramatically flaring off on the side.

 

The rest of your outfit is further modified so while it does retain some elements from the previous costume, it still looks drastically different. Gone are the cumbersome long sleeves, now transformed into faintly shimmering, nearly transparent fabric, held in place by some strategically placed thin golden bands. You ditch the obi, which wasn’t actually that great for singing since it put too much pressure on your diaphragm and replace it with a much sleeker-looking belt, good for storing earplugs and other small support items.

 

The main part of your costume doesn’t have your sleeves attached, allowing for more freedom of movement. It’s also much more form-fitting, creating a more streamlined, sophisticated look, with the bottom of the skirt stopping just above mid-thigh. Saitou adds a long stream of layered, very light fabric to the back of your costume that reaches all the way to the floor, which adds a dramatic, elegant flair to the whole thing. An elaborate brooch rests over the fabric covering your chest, a bit smaller than the previous one and long black thigh-high socks end in much sturdier shoes than the flats you had before.

 

All in all, you’re pretty satisfied with the costume you have now. Unfortunately, because the technology in your brooch is so specialized, it’ll take a bit longer for it to be ready, so for now, you have to continue wearing your old one.

 

“So this is the design we’re going with, right?” Saitou declares at last and looks satisfied at your nod. “Good. I’ll see if I can get your mother to pull some strings with the company to get it through faster.” He frowns at the face you make. “Hey, I understand how you feel, but she’s got connections, so it’s better to utilize them than going through the old-fashioned way.”

 

A heavy silence falls over the table before you speak up. “…Has she…?” you begin before stopping, staring down at your lap.

 

Saitou sighs. “I haven’t heard from her in a while. Last I heard, she was overseas working on a movie, but according to Haruka, she doesn’t know about…what happened.” He reaches over and places a large hand over yours. “I know it’s tough, kiddo, but—”

 

“So she hasn’t even tried to—?”

 

Almost as if on cue, the doors at the end of the room burst open and your mother waltzes into the room in a cloud of perfume, looking a little tired and travel-worn, but still as radiant as always. The sight makes a lump form in your throat because even though you’ve taken steps to manage your anger, it all comes undone at the sight of her blissfully ignorant expression.

 

“Darling!” she coos, heading straight over and beaming. “There you are! I was wondering why you weren’t down at the studio, but it looks like I worried over nothing.” She doesn’t notice the sudden change in atmosphere settling over the room and turns to your dance instructor, who stares back with a carefully blank expression on his face. “Saitou-san, you look great! It’s been a while since I last saw you. And Yukimura-san too, how lovely!”

 

You slowly stand up and perhaps sensing danger, Yukimura gets up as well, coming up behind you and placing gentle, soothing hands on your shoulders. “Good afternoon, ma’am,” she says with a tight smile, and you look up at her, surprised. Yukimura never addresses your mother like that, ever. Underneath her pleasant face, you sense an undercurrent of anger and a surge of affection rises in your chest for your voice coach.

 

“Oh, please, none of that ma’am business,” burbles your mother, waving her away. “It makes me feel so old!” She looks at you and it’s like being hit with a bolt of lightning as several emotions battle for dominance in your heart. “Oh, sweetie, it’s so good to see you again.” Something tender and loving shines in your mother’s eyes and when she caresses your cheek with an impossibly soft hand, you hate yourself for leaning into it a little.

 

Anger quickly gives way to a mix of quiet sadness and resentment. Your lower lip trembles and you slowly pull away from her, stepping closer to Yukimura, who squeezes your shoulders before letting go. You don’t know what to say. You want to scream at your mother, but you know now that it won’t do any good.

 

If Ren were to see you now, would she be proud of you?

 

“Hello, mother,” you say softly. Your eyes are downcast and for once, she actually shuts up to take in your change in disposition.

 

“(Name)-chan has…well…” Saitou shoots you an uncomfortable look, silently asking if it’s okay to continue, but at the nearly imperceptible shake of your head, he stops.

 

“A lot of things happened while you were gone,” you say dully and from behind you, Yukimura sucks in a quiet breath between her teeth. “I’m surprised the school didn’t let you know.”

 

A strange look crosses your mother’s face. “Let me know what, sweetie?” she asks quietly. There’s something heavy in the air, tense. Like a bomb waiting to go off.

 

A moment passes while you make a decision before answering. “We can go to the garden right now. The one with the wisteria?”

 

Your mother frowns, but for once, she doesn’t object to your request and follows you wordlessly until you arrive. She does call for some tea to a waiting maid, who quickly bows and hurries off and you wait a few minutes in relative silence, staring wistfully at the lovely low-hanging flowers that bloom overhead. The tea arrives shortly thereafter along with tiered tray of snacks, much like the one you had with Shouto the other day.

 

You don’t miss the disapproving gaze your mother gives you when you pluck a cookie off a tray and bite into it.

 

“So what did you want to tell me, darling?” she says. You can imagine how much it’s killing her to wait and you can’t help the surge of vicious satisfaction at her squirming. So maybe you’re being a little petty. Ren isn’t here to chide you for it.

 

“I have to ask,” you begin and her frustration visibly grows. “Why did you come see me during the Sports Festival?”

 

She blinks. “Well…isn’t that obvious? I came to support you. It’s a shame you lost, though. You were up against Endeavor’s son, weren’t you? The handsome one with the scar?”

 

You take a slow sip of your tea, but still scalds your tongue a little. The cup trembles slightly against the saucer and you set it down. “His name is Shouto. Todoroki Shouto,” you emphasize, surveying her coldly.

 

Her eyebrows rise. “You’re on a first-name basis? That’s…interesting.”

 

You suppress the urge to roll your eyes with difficulty. She’s shrewd, but not about the right things. “Not important.”

 

“Oh, but it is,” she says, pouncing on the topic. “He’s obviously special to you, isn’t he?”

 

You think of Midoriya and your stomach squirms. “Yes, but not in the way you’re thinking.” This is getting out of hand. “You cost me the match.”

 

She stares, caught off guard. “I…what? But why me?”

 

You press your lips together briefly in irritation. “You weren’t supposed to show up.”

 

At this, she leans back on the recliner and sighs tiredly. “Oh…I honestly can’t understand you sometimes,” she says and you feel a lick of fury in your chest. “You’re such a confusing girl. Sometimes I feel like you want me around more, and you know I’m busy, but when I show up, you just...push me away. I don’t know what you want from me, darling. I try and I try, and nothing I do ever seems to satisfy you.”

 

“This isn’t about you,” you say sharply. There’s a modicum of truth in her words, but the way she says it is so warped that it feels wrong. “I’m…learning to accept my power now. And it’s not because of you,” you add. Then you take a deep breath, remembering the mental exercises Ren taught you to keep your anger under control. It helps, though only a little.

 

“Okay, let’s move on then,” she says with a bite of impatience in her voice. “What’s this big thing your school’s keeping from me?”

 

Your resolve to keep things civil shatters and you stand up so fast your teacup falls off the table and smashes to the floor. “It’s not that hard to figure out,” you growl lowly, fists shaking at your sides. “When U.A. contacted you, all you said was that I was having a temper tantrum. You didn’t think something was wrong, that I was in danger, you didn’t stop to wonder if something had happened to me.”

 

“…What?” she breathes, eyes wide, but you don’t give her a chance to continue.

 

This isn’t what Ren would want, but fuck it, Ren isn’t here. You don’t know why you ever thought you could make your mother understand.

 

“Every time you come back into my life, it’s one mess right after another!” you snarl, chest heaving. “You don’t care, you never care unless it’s about you! Why do you keep coming back?”

 

Your mother gets to her feet as well, her eyes glossy with tears. You can’t tell if they’re genuine or not. “I’m your mother, why wouldn’t I care?” she says, much more softly than you and you hate this. You want her to scream and rage, but not this. Never this. It’s old love that tears you apart and leaves you vulnerable and weak to her, and the sole reason why you’ll never, ever break free. “Sweetheart, I…every time I see you, you become more and more of a stranger to me. Nothing I do makes you happy anymore. But in the end, that’s all I really want.” She sniffles a little and blots her eyes with a cloth napkin.

 

You’re shaking your head before she finishes. “No…that’s not how it works. You can’t just wrap happiness in a box and think everything’s going to work out just like that. I’m not that little kid who used to think you hung the moon anymore. Things are different, I have feelings, Mom! I have things I need to work through and…it’s too much for me to handle by myself. No pretty trinket is going to fix that.” You run a hand through your hair and take a deep breath. “I’m…so fucking messed up, more than I ever realized. I didn’t even know how bad it was until—”

 

The distant lights of Musutafu set against the backdrop of a darkened beach flash through your head like quicksilver and you close your eyes against the painful lump that suddenly forms in your throat. No…you’re not going to think about it. It already happened and everything is better now.

 

Everything…

 

is better.

 

Fuck, why did you think you could do this?

 

“Until what, darling?” Her voice has gone strangely flat. It’s not something you’re used to hearing and your anger slowly fades.

 

You take in a deep breath before your hands go slack at your sides. It’s as if all the fight in you suddenly goes out and a dark heaviness settles in your chest. It reminds you of that horrible night and you close your eyes against the memory. You think of how devastated Midoriya had looked at you then on that quiet sandy beach, how quickly the tears had fallen down his cheeks. It contrasted so greatly to the warm look in his eyes, his reassuring smile, and the steadiness of his embrace that irrevocably carved himself a place in your memory and (unbeknownst to you at the time) your heart. More than anything, you don’t think you have the strength to bare your feelings to this person who calls herself your mother.

 

You want to see him. And maybe it’s selfish to want his company right now, when your spirits are so low, but it’s probably better than whatever the hell this is supposed to be.

 

You two haven’t talked about it since that day. No one else knows except Aizawa and Ren, who was required to know because of her job.

 

It’s not like you’re obligated to tell the others. You don’t think you want to and if Midoriya had said anything, they aren’t treating you any differently.

 

How fucked up do things have to be when you can’t even tell your own mother you tried to…?

 

What a mess.

 

A softness startles you out of your thoughts and your eyes fly open. You don’t know when your mother got so close, but there she is, thumbing away the moisture that falls onto your cheeks.

 

For once, you don’t pull away. You want to run, but you know it won’t solve anything. You came here to call her out on her negligence, to prove just how bad a mother she really is by telling her every sordid detail about what happened to you since she’s been gone.

 

But you can’t do it. You can’t just throw your trauma in her face.

 

Not for something like this.

 

“Darling…what’s wrong?” she asks delicately, but you shake your head. Shame seals your lips and instead, you let her pull you closer into her arms. Nothing about this is right, but you’re so tired of being angry and afraid all the time.

 

“I don’t know what to do anymore,” you whimper as a few more tears leak onto her blouse, but she doesn’t seem to care. Her hand comes up to stroke your hair, which causes a slight shudder to run through your body and you sniffle.

 

She doesn’t seem to have anything to say and for a long time afterwards, she simply holds you.

 

In the end, no one tells your mother what really happened. Not Yukimura, not Saitou, and definitely not Haruka or the staff. In a strange way, you’re glad. If there’s anything you know about your mother is that she’d probably try to sue the school or do something stupid like that if she knew, which is what you decidedly don’t want.

 

When you arrive to school the next morning, you find Shouto waiting for you, as always. Seeing your best friend still makes your chest warm with affection, which grows when you see those feelings reflected in the soft look he sends your way.

 

Even in the relatively safe company of your best friend, your eyes can’t help but be drawn to the line of trees across campus, scanning for something that blessedly isn’t there, but you can’t help the small shiver that runs through you before you both head to class. You step a little closer to Shouto to calm yourself down, which helps a little.

 

The closer you get to your classroom, however, the harder it is to keep your cool, so by the time you finally arrive, you’re a nervous wreck. Your heartbeat pounds so loudly in your ears that you’re surprised Shouto doesn’t hear you. It’s so hard not to think about what you’ll see (or rather whom) that you almost run into the door.

 

Shouto frowns. “Do you need a moment? There’s still time before the first bell,” he says.

 

You want to kick yourself. Had you really been that obvious? “Uh…yeah, that’s probably a good idea,” you answer. While a part of you is glad he’s being really understanding, another part feels guilty that you’re just using his kindness to stall for time. As it stands, however, you’re getting major shakes and you step aside, away from the door.

 

“It’s okay,” reassures Shouto quietly as you take deep, calming breaths, using one of the techniques Ren taught you not that long ago in an attempt to bring your heart rate back to a reasonable tempo. He continues talking softly to keep your anxious thoughts at bay and not for the first time, you feel grateful to have him in your life. Ever since your panic attack, he’s been incredibly supportive and rarely lets you out of his sight, and while having someone stick to you like glue would ordinarily irritate you under normal circumstances, the increased security around your manor only further drives it home that you’re still in danger, no matter how normal things seem at the moment.

 

After a few minutes, you manage to reign in your emotions and give him a tight smile in what you hope is reassuring look.

 

It’s okay,’ you think to yourself, repeating Shouto’s words from earlier as he slides open the door. ‘Nothing bad is going to happen. Everything will be alright.’

 

Then you step inside, take one glance at Midoriya, and your resolve shatters in an instant.

 

“Good morning, (Surname)-chan! Good morning, Todoroki-kun!” chirps Uraraka happily, blessedly offering a welcome distraction as she heads over, smiling in a way that tells you she wants a hug. After your small nod of consent, she shuffles closer and wraps you up in her arms, giving you a brief squeeze before letting you go. “How are you? Sleeping okay?” she asks.

 

You shrug one shoulder. “More or less.” You don’t tell her that it’s now impossible for you to sleep in the dark, that you keep a spinning night light on your bedside table now. But that’s between you and Ren and you plan to keep it that way. “A little better than before, at least.”

 

“That’s good. I’m glad to hear that,” she says happily. At this point, Midoriya appears at her side and your heart launches itself into the stratosphere.

 

“Hello, (Surname)-san. Good morning, Todoroki-kun.” His greeting is no different than usual, but it does something to your insides, twisting and rearranging them so forcefully that it’s a wonder you don’t buckle under the strain. Having a name to these feelings doesn’t lesson their impact any less. In fact, it makes you even more hyper-aware of them, which doesn’t bode well when you’re trying to keep your cool.

 

“Good morning, (Surname)-kun!” yells Iida, barging in and you’ve never been more grateful for an interruption until now. “And you as well, Todoroki-kun! Homeroom is about to start. I suggest we take our seats to begin preparing for the lesson ahead!”

 

For once, you don’t argue. Consciously aware of Midoriya’s eyes as they follow you back to your desk, you try not to let your discomfort show and sit down. Then Aizawa appears for roll call and you inwardly breathe a sigh of relief when the whole class scrambles to their designated seats.

 

As the day wears on, however, you’re not granted any sort of reprieve from your emotions regarding Midoriya. Before, you were able to squash them down with somewhat limited success since you were under the impression you were merely feeling guilty about not reciprocating his affections, ignorant to the ones already stirring within your own heart. Perhaps it had been a mixture of both.

 

Then after your incident at Dagobah Beach, things had seemingly returned to normal. Midoriya smiled at you the same way he always had, talked to you as if he had never confessed, and had unwittingly given you what you had wanted from the beginning—a friendship unfettered by guilt.

 

But now, it’s as if you’re constantly assaulted on all sides with no break in between. Anytime your eyes stray to him, sitting a mere two desks away with only Mineta in between, your heart jumps and trying to get your breathing under control is much harder to do when the cause of your nervousness is sitting so close by.

 

Your pencil hovers listlessly over a blank page, and it’s only when Ectoplasm wipes all the mathematical formulas off the board to segue onto the next section that you finally snap out of your daze.

 

Feeling a mild sense of panic as he begins writing practice problems on the board, you desperately chance a look at your neighbor Shouto, who doesn’t seem to notice your dilemma and studiously continues taking notes in his notebook.

 

Making sure Ectoplasm is turned away, you lean over and tap his shoulder. Shouto looks up immediately. “Hey, can you lend me your notebook later?” you whisper, pointing down at the formulas covering his paper. “I’m lost.”

 

He nods. “We could go over it during our next break if you want,” he says before immediately turning his attention to the board.

 

Not wanting to be left behind, you follow his example even though you only have the vaguest idea of what Ectoplasm is talking about. Math never was your best subject…

 

Then your eyes automatically slide a little to the left and you jump slightly when Midoriya’s eyes meet yours. His soft look sends your insides into a flurry of activity and the back of your neck begins to warm all the way up to your ears. Have his eyes always been so green? He smiles encouragingly at you before turning back to his notes and you’re left tending to your rapidly pounding heart.

 

Despite having hero training later, Aizawa instructs the class to put on their P.E. uniforms instead of your hero costumes, which brings a chorus of whining but you can’t help but feel a little relieved. A good round of exercise sounds like a good way to burn off all your nervous energy, which is a lot harder to do in such a cumbersome, frilly dress.

 

“There will be times you may happen upon on crime in progress while off duty,” explains Aizawa a couple of minutes later in front of the class. The sun shines brightly overhead, and while it isn’t really hot, per se, you’ll undoubtedly be sweating by the time class is over. “Villainy doesn’t operate on your schedule and you may be caught off guard. I want you to get better at thinking on your feet, but I don’t need you to recklessly charge in either. There are multiple factors you need to take into consideration, such as the layout of the surrounding area, the number of civilians that need to be evacuated in case a fight breaks out, the potential for destruction of property, among others of course. Pro heroes are used to making snap judgments on the fly, but they’re still thought out with all these variables in mind.”

 

“In this scenario, we’re going to assume that the villain has a temporary erasing Quirk like mine, but you still have to subdue them somehow. Heroes with only one trick up their sleeve can hardly call themselves one.” He fixes the class with a stern look and everyone waits with baited breath. “Over reliance on your Quirks will only leave you vulnerable to a villain who knows what they’re doing. Remember, you’ll all aiming to be pro heroes, so your Quirk will be common knowledge, as well as your fighting styles. You need to be vigilant and not give them that opportunity to take advantage of your weaknesses because believe me, if they get a chance to exploit them, they’ll take it without hesitation.”

 

He holds up some capture tape. “Most pro heroes carry one of these at all times, even when not in costume. Your objective is simple. One of you will play the hero, the other will play the villain. The hero has to capture the villain within ten minutes. If the hero fails to do so, the villain gets away.” He rubs his eye with his free hand. “I expect some of you will end up with some bruising, but no broken bones and no concussions. I am not sending every single one of you to the old lady today, so don’t go overboard. Got it?” He eyes Bakugou in particular at this, who only grumbles and looks away.

 

Shortly after that, Aizawa divides the class in pairs to spar without their Quirks. You and Shouto edge closer together as he moves down the line, but your homeroom teacher clearly has other plans.

 

“Todoroki, with Kaminari,” he says, earning a hard scowl from you as your best friend shuffles away with a slightly disappointed air. You watch him go with a resigned sigh. “(Surname), go with Midoriya.”

 

You turn around in horror, your stomach lurching unpleasantly, but he hands Midoriya some capture tape and is already moving onto the next group. ‘Oh fuck, oh fuck!’

 

“Looks like it’s me and you, (Surname)-san,” pipes up Midoriya at your side with a soft smile, which only sends your heart into a tailspin. You swallow thickly and nod since it’s all you can do without making a fool out of yourself. Even so, you feel obvious in your duplicity, but Midoriya doesn’t seem to notice anything out of the ordinary, finding a free area on the training grounds for you to spar in.

 

You do some stretches to limber up, but it does little to distract you from the current source of your problems and you’re just using it as an excuse to delay the inevitable anyway. “Ready?” asks Midoriya, ignoring the other students who have already begun to fight.

 

Exhaling slowly, you nod. Without warning, he darts forward, capture tape at the ready, and your reflexes kick in immediately. He’s a lot faster than you expected him to be, so you only just get away, but he’s on you before you have a chance to think. You both go sprawling to the floor in a heap, and your brain short-circuits at the feel of his warm weight on top of yours and the smell of evergreen soap. You’re no trained martial artist, but you do remember what Gunhead taught you and you manage to get a leg under and kick him off you, sending him flying overhead before you scramble back to your feet. You hope he mistakes your red face for exertion.

 

“Guess it won’t be that easy to subdue you after all,” says Midoriya, rubbing at his stomach with a small grimace.

 

“As if I’d go down like a punk,” you find yourself saying. You put up a defensive stance again, but Midoriya doesn’t rush forward like last time. Instead, he eyes you carefully, most likely searching for openings, but his scrutiny is bringing your feelings to the forefront again. You lower your arms, opening your mouth to tell him to get a move on, but he surges forward again, taking advantage of your lowered guard and you can’t stop the yelp of surprise that escapes your lips. Suddenly he’s all punches and kicks, and you find it difficult to keep up, only just barely able to block his blows. He’s keeping you on the defensive with no opportunity to retaliate.

 

You soon realize he’s trying to wear you out, but feelings or no feelings, you’re not going to give him that advantage. “You’re fighting a losing battle, Midoriya,” you say, ducking away from another swift punch. “We both know you can’t outlast me. In terms of stamina, I’ve got it in spades.”

 

“I know,” he says, then swiftly aims another kick, much wider than the ones before it and when you swerve to avoid it, you overbalance and fall to the ground with a gasp of surprise. Midoriya wastes no time in pinning you down, and try as you