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call the fire department (i'm burning up with love)

Chapter Text

It takes Todoroki Shouto exactly one minute and forty seconds to realize who, exactly, is rooming just below him.

Not coincidentally, it takes Bakugou Katsuki just less than this to eye his pile of liberally-taped-up moving boxes and decide that a few ‘small’ explosions would be preferable to asking someone for a scissor.

Shouto listens to the banging, looking down at the floor in faint disbelief, then returns to unpacking. It’s just something to live with, he supposes. Besides, maybe the mats will muffle it?

***

The ‘room tournament’ is… exhausting.

His classmates have something to say about every. Single. Room. Shouto isn’t really sure why, since their rooms all seem to reflect their personalities so well. Even Satou’s baking is unexpected, but hardly shocking. (Also, it explains the smell wafting through the whole fifth floor—not that Shouto minds.)

As he trails after the group through the girls’ rooms, though, he can’t help but mull over what they’d said about his room. I worked really hard, he’d explained, and they’d looked at him as if he was inhuman. Jirou has her instruments, Hagakure her stuffed animals, Ashido her bright patterns. All the rooms say something about their owners—what does Shouto’s say about him? That he’s absorbed his parents’ traditionalism? That he’s unusually hardworking? He tries to think of something that reflects his taste, that makes him like a normal teenager with interests beyond heroism.

Shouto’s exhausted mind turns the question over and over, and he’s no closer to an answer by the time Satou is declared ‘Room King’ or whatever. He isn’t really sure why he’d tagged along the whole time, except that everyone else had been doing it.

Then Uraraka brings them outside to talk to Asui (she’s asked a lot of people to call her Tsuyu, but Shouto’s never actually spoken to her, so he isn’t sure if he’s allowed or not), and the others agree to go back to the good old days. Shouto hangs back and wonders if that means he’ll go back to not speaking to any of them.

When he gets back to his room, he goes straight to bed, but sleep is a long time coming.

***

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Shouto rolls over, blinking muzzily.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

It’s dark enough that he can’t make out the shape of the ceiling, and the blinks turn to confusion—his alarm shouldn’t be set this early.

Beep. Beep. Be—Boom.

Ah. Not his alarm, then.

Beepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeep—

A much closer explosion cuts off the second source of noise, and Shouto bolts upright before he can help it. This is ridiculous. He contemplates banging on his floor or yelling or something, then winces at the thought of Bakugou’s probable response.

He’s just resolved to go back to sleep and talk to Aizawa in the morning when a siren starts to blare.

Lurching into motion immediately, Shouto starts toward the door, then notices an acrid smell and stops. If there’s an alarm going off, there must be villains on campus—what if they’ve released some sort of gas, like at the training camp? The building itself won’t be safe unless he has a gas mask; Yaoyorozu can make them, but she has enough sense to evacuate outside, so that’s where he’ll have to go.

Sighing sharply, Shouto strides over to the window. Pressing his hand to the side of the building, he forms his ice into a curling slide and steps on.

Halfway down, Shouto realizes that making the slide curve may have been a tactical error. This occurs to him about a millisecond before his momentum throws him over the side.

There’s a peaceful moment of absolute weightlessness before the panic and confusion of freefall sets in. Shouto flails, trying to think past the air rushing in his ears, when suddenly he’s moving sideways instead of down.

Shouto blinks, and then the motion stops, though somehow no part of him has made a crushing and painful impact with the ground.

He looks up and sees Midoriya. His normally curly hair is wilder from sleep and wind and possibly from the electricity that crackles around him like a halo, revealing in short flashes the deep forest green of his curls and the flint-hard emerald of his eyes. His teeth are bared in something fiercer than a smile. Shouto has seen nothing so wild or so beautiful.

And then Midoriya looks down at him, and for a moment, Shouto feels he will be eaten alive and smile the whole way. But Midoriya’s smile warms, his eyes soften, the electricity fades. Shouto becomes aware of the gentle, reassuring strength of the arms holding him and the warmth of Midoriya’s body against his side. He feels cherished, protected, safe; he wants nothing so much as to curl against Midoriya’s chest and fall asleep listening to his heartbeat.

Wait.

Midoriya’s chest.

Midoriya’s solid, muscular, bare chest.

(Shouto’s brain goes away to scream for a little bit.)

Midoriya’s mouth curls into a teasing grin. It’s far too dark for him to see Shouto blushing, right?

“You should really be more careful,” he says, and oh, he’s just amused by Shouto’s stupidity. Shouto can’t decide if that’s better.

Shouto wriggles flails makes his way out of Midoriya’s arms and smooths his hair with his right hand to disguise his desperate attempts to cool his burning face.

“Sorry,” he says awkwardly before turning back to the building. The building which is still blaring alarms and which is full of their classmates, and possibly dangerous villains. Right.

“Do you know what’s going on?” he asks Midoriya, not looking back at him. It’s the middle of summer. Plenty of guys who don’t automatically regulate their body temperature probably sleep shirtless, right?

“No,” says Midoriya, and it takes Shouto an embarrassing moment to remember what questions he’s answering. How is he so easily distracted?

It occurs to him suddenly that if villains have attacked, whatever defenses the school put up have failed already. Even if, miraculously, everyone makes it through unarmed again, they aren’t going to be staying on campus anymore. Yuuei’s reputation is going to plummet, and public confidence in heroes will follow. It hasn’t even been a week since Kamino Ward.

“I can’t believe this is happening already,” Midoriya says, echoing Shouto’s thoughts—except the tone is all wrong, almost lighthearted.

Shouto’s brain stutters, because he’s seen Midoriya in a serious fight or five, and lighthearted is not even close to how he’d describe him. Intense, worried, angry, sometimes even terrifying , sure but amused?

“Everyone who came down the regular way is probably waiting at the front,” Midoriya says, and that at least makes sense, so Shouto follows him around the building willingly enough.

In fact, the entirety of Class 1-A is milling around in front of the dorms, looking equally unconcerned. Uraraka, Ashido and the other girls burst out giggling when they see the two of them, and Shouto didn’t spend a lot of time with his sisters but even he knows to be concerned when girls reach that particular pitch.

That being said, all of his classmates are behaving incredibly nonchalantly. Shouto dismisses the Midoriya impersonator theory in favor of the possibility that this is all a dream. It actually makes sense—the impending feeling of doom, his general confusion and outlandishly stupid decisions, shirtless Midoriya—

…Shouto definitely doesn’t dream of his classmates in compromising states of undress. That would be weird.

The same cannot be said of Mineta, who is staring at the hem of Yaoyorozu’s (admittedly somewhat short) nightdress like it’s the holy grail. Shouto casually wanders into the other boy’s line of vision and wonders how none of the very scary girls in their class have maimed him yet.

Iida is, for some reason or other, scolding Bakugou (who mostly looks bored, although his eyebrows are twitching ominously), but he turns when he hears them approach.

“Todoroki!” he calls, looking relieved.

Shouto blinks. Was Iida worried about him specifically? Why? They were the last ones here, but shouldn’t Iida be more worried about Midoriya? They’re close, after all.

Iida gestures in the sudden, emphatic way that made Shouto tense three months ago when he still expected men taller than him to randomly blast fire (testing his reflexes, the story went. Shouto thinks this is ridiculous, since Bakugou undoubtedly has the fastest reflexes in the class, and Shouto can’t imagine anyone trying that on him more than once.)

“You look unsteady, Todoroki. Are you suffering from smoke inhalation? It is a very serious condition, and since your room is directly above Bakugou’s…”

From there, he transitions smoothly back to lecturing Bakugou, leaving Shouto with more questions than he started with. He looks over at Midoriya, hoping his confusion is obvious enough on his face.

“I should have known it was Kacchan,” Midoriya says, sounding almost fond. Shouto raises his eyebrow. “He set off the ones in his house within three hours of getting his quirk, and he wasn’t home for the first two and a half.”

Shouto is suddenly, overwhelmingly jealous of Bakugou. He’s not sure if it’s because he has such an innocent childhood memory or because he has it with Midoriya.

Also, he still doesn’t know what’s going on.

“Mr. Aizawa!”

Shouto starts sat Iida’s verbal salute (which is accompanied by an actual bow) and turns to look at their homeroom teacher, who has not removed his sleeping bag and looks even deader inside than usual. Iida must recognize this as Aizawa’s second most dangerous emotional state, because he hurries to explain. (Finally.)

“Our apologies for disturbing you so early, sir, but Bakugou used his quirk on his alarm clock and then his room’s smoke alarm, triggering the building wide fire alarm when the smoke reached the hall.”

Shouto mentally rewinds to the first few moments he’d been awake and assigns victims to the explosions he’d heard.

Aizawa blinks very slowly (or falls asleep very briefly—it’s difficult to tell) and says, “So nothing is actually on fire?”

“Fuck no,” barks Bakugou, either unaware or uncaring that he’s taking his life into his hands.

After another slow blink, Aizawa sighs and makes his way into the building. After a minute or two, the blaring alarm stops. Aizawa emerges, returns to where they are all gathered, and says in the kind of dangerous monotone Shouto has been attempting for years, “If any of you wake me up at 5 in the morning for no good reason again, you’ll be running laps until dawn.”

Then he shuffles off.

“Sometimes I feel like Aizawa-sensei is going to try to eat our brains,” Midoriya whispers.

While Shouto has what he believes is an entirely healthy level of fear of their homeroom teacher, he wouldn’t have expected such a graphic image out of Midoriya of all people.

“Like a zombie?” Uraraka giggles, which means this is just a cultural thing Shouto has missed out on and not a sign that Midoriya has an unusually disturbing imagination.

Speaking of Shouto’s cultural ignorance…

“Smoke alarm?” he asks Midoriya as they walk to the boys’ side elevator.

“To warn if there’s a fire,” Midoriya reminds him, looking lost. “You didn’t have them?”

Shouto frowns. “My whole family has quirks that either control or put out fires,” he points out.

“But when you were small children…”

“Endeavor probably cared more about the annoyance of it going off every time he set something on fire,” Shouto says, because he’s tired and Midoriya makes him forget that other people exist.

Thankfully, everyone’s too busy watching the pulsing vein in Bakugou’s neck bulge as Iida lectures him to notice that Shouto just called his own father by his hero name, or that he implied the number two hero valued his ability to set household objects on fire with impunity over his still-quirkless children’s safety. (In their defense, it is fairly amusing.)

Midoriya, though, eyes Shouto with worry and pain and a little bit of anger, but somehow no pity, and Shouto wants to tell Midoriya not to do that, that he shouldn’t care so much about everyone he meets, let alone about Endeavor’s son who was literally created to defeat him.

Instead he looks away.

***

Later that morning, Bakugou is given three hours of detention, and takes his anger about it out on the gym where they’re meant to be developing their special moves.

Endeavor thinks yelling move names in a fight is gauche and unwise. Shouto personally agrees, but thinks that his father’s opinion comes at least as much from his jealousy of the popularity of All Might’s smashes.

So Shouto takes pleasure in perfecting a flashy move where he forms a giant hand of ice to hold an opponent, and takes Kaminari’s name suggestion: The Long Arm of the Law.

As Mr. Aizawa’s dead-eyed stare bores into him, Shouto reminds himself that he doesn’t have to yell the name unless he feels like it and simply blinks blandly in response.

“Alright, not my problem,” Mr. Aizawa sighs, writing down the name. “That’s one. Do you have any ideas for your second?”

Shouto does not.

“Well,” Iida suggests at dinner that night, “you have one special move related to your ice. How about one that makes use of your fire?”

“Yeah!” Uraraka agrees. “Maybe you can use one of you dad’s as a base.”

“Thanks,” Shouto says, because they’re trying to help even if they’ve told him nothing new. “Those are good ideas.”

Next to him, Midoriya makes a contrary noise, then blushes when they all turn to look at him. “Sorry! It’s just, I don’t know if that’s the best choice!”

Shouto tilts his head in curiosity as Midoriya begins to ramble.

“I mean, I agree that you should use your fire, but you still don’t have as much control over it as your ice, right? And I’m sure you’re working on it, but you should play to your strengths, right?”

“So you think I should make another ice based move?” Shouto asks thoughtfully, but Midoriya shakes his head.

“That’s not your only strength, Todoroki! I mean, of course it isn’t, you’re really strong in all your abilities, I really doubt you’ll need a special move to pass the exam,” Midoriya says offhandedly. Shouto is used to his father’s effusive, self-satisfied encouragement, but somehow this casually sincere compliment makes his insides flip in an unusually pleasant way. “Anyway, I think the important part of the phrase “play to your strengths” is the your part. A special move is special because it’s something only you could come up with, right? Or something only you could pull off.”

“So… I can’t use my father’s moves?”

“No! Or well, not really, because your power sets are actually very different. Not to mention, you have very different fighting styles; you’re much more of a range fighter, while Endeavor prefers melee combat. But what I was actually thinking about, which is kind of related, is how you blew up the arena at the end of our sports festival match--”

Shouto blinks. “You think my special move should be a giant explosion?” Uraraka snickers, and Midoriya rolls his eyes.

“Well, that’s an option,” he points out, “but my point was that no one else can combine fire and ice the way you can, so wouldn’t that make a good move?”

Shouto blinks and wonders how he didn’t think of that.

***

Since they’ve each figured out one move, Shouto and Uraraka are paired to spar the next day.

“Your special move is really cool!” she tells him, sounding unconcerned by the cocoon of ice trapping her arms and legs.

“So is yours,” he says, trying to keep his voice even as he contemplates the ground far below. Maybe it’s different for someone who can control gravity, but Shouto finds hanging completely unsupported in space distinctly unsettling.

“I think they both need some fine-tuning,” she responds, and Shouto snorts. She’d used her special move to get close enough to touch him just before his ice-fist had caught her, and now they were both floating, stuck.

“Maybe I can melt your arms free,” Shouto says, but she’s drifted behind him, now, and he can’t just throw fire around blindly. They float in silence for another few moments.

“It’s funny, you know,” Uraraka says finally, and Shouto makes a questioning noise. “I always thought I’d be a rescue hero, going into collapsing buildings and stuff like that. It makes more sense with my quirk being what it is. But I guess everyone has to learn how to fight now.”

Shouto contemplates that. “I’ve always known I was going to fight villains,” he tells her.

“Really?” she asks, and Shouto blinks at the disbelief in her tone. “I mean, I guess you’re following in your dad’s footsteps, but your quirk could be really useful for rescue! You could help with fires, or make fresh water for wilderness rescues so you don’t have to carry it. And that’s just off the top of my head. Your quirk is really versatile.”

“You sound like Midoriya,” he tells her, and she laughs.

“I’ll take that as a compliment, but honestly I’m nowhere near his level,” she says. “Did you know he keeps notebooks analyzing all the pro heroes, and he also has pages for us? He has notes on our strengths and weaknesses, all the little nuances and rules for how our quirks work and everything. It’s amazing.”

“I can believe that,” Shouto says fondly.

“You’re smiling, aren’t you?” Uraraka asks. “I can hear it! I can’t believe you’re doing your Deku smile and I’m missing it because you’re facing the wrong way.”

Shouto chokes, surprised. “My-- what?”

Before she can responds, a voice sounds from the ground. “Need a hand?”

Shouto cranes his neck to see Sero smirking up at them.

“An elbow would be nice!” Uraraka yells back.

Shooting a strip of tape up at Shouto, Sero laughs. “It’s like rescuing a cat from a tree.”

As he pulls himself down the line of tape toward the floor where Sero’s attached it, Shouto decides not to voice the fact that he feels like a balloon; they’re going to be teased enough without that mental image.

Though he’s still weightless, he can touch the ground enough to get leverage now, so he maneuvers to face Uraraka as Sero pulls her down.

He melts her free, and Sero moves away to keep his feet dry. When Uraraka releases her quirk, Shouto has a split second to realize that his feet weren’t placed quite right for standing before he’s landed on the ground next to her.

“What were you saying about my smile?” he asks as takes her offered hand.

She grins and pulls him up so forcefully that he almost loses his balance again; he forgets how strong she is. “You really like Deku, don’t you?”

Shouto opens his mouth, though he manages to keep from sputtering idiotically. Still, he feels his eyes widen, and judging by Uraraka’s growing grin, his normal poker face has not saved him.

“It’s okay,” she chirps teasingly. “He has a Todoroki smile, too.” Then she skips away. Shouto tries to chase after her and demand an explanation, and finds that his right leg has frozen itself to the floor.

***

There are people in the hallway outside of Shouto’s room.

He tries to ignore them, he really does. But the footsteps keep pounding back and forth, and the voices get more and more raucous until they drown out the music from Shouto’s earbuds.

When he pokes his head out into the hallway, he’s met by a grinning Kaminari and Kirishima, as well as Sero, who’s pinching his nose between his fingers.

“Todoroki!” he says, turning toward Shouto. “I’m sorry about all the noise, Kaminari’s being an idiot--”

“Hey!” their classmate protests, putting on a fake frown for a moment before his face turns conspiratorial. “It’s a good idea.”

“They’re going to kill you,” Sero argues before turning to Kirishima. “Come on, tell him this is a stupid idea.”

“I don’t know, it might be kind of funny,” he says contemplatively.

Sero makes a disbelieving face at him, then rolls his eyes and turns away. “Fine, but just remember: I told you so,” he warns before walking back into his room.

Curious, Shouto steps out of his room, following Kaminari and Kirishima as they walk to the opposite end of the hallway, by the elevators.

“What are you doing?” he asks.

Kaminari points at the interior wall. “Yaoyorozu’s room is over there, right?”

“Yes,” Shouto says, confused. “But the girls and boys’ sides are separated.”

“They are,” the blond boy confirms, “but the wiring isn’t,” he smirks, pointing at the light above his head.

“All the girls are in there,” Kirishima elaborates. “They’re having a sleepover or something.”

“And you’re going to… mess with their lights?” Shouto asks.

“Yup,” Kaminari responds, placing his hand on the wall. “What’s a sleepover if you don’t freak out about ghosts at least once?”

Shouto wouldn’t know, so he just settles back to watch. At first, nothing happens, and it occurs to Shouto to wonder since when Kaminari could even do detail work like this. Then it flickers quickly, just once, off-on.

“First, you gotta get their attention,” Kaminari explains. “Then, make them a little nervous…” The light blinks again, at first just in short, regular bursts of darkness and then faster and more erratically, the light staying off a little longer each time. It’s mostly just annoying, though Shouto supposes it might be creepy if you didn’t know what was causing it (and if you couldn’t hear Kirishima’s suppressed snickers).

The flickering stops, and Shouto tilts his head in question.

Kaminari smirks. “Just giving them a second to think ‘Maybe it was nothing,’ and then…”

A spark passes from his hand to the wall, and every light in the hallway goes out.

A chorus of muffled shrieks sound through the wall. Shouto blinks at the sudden darkness, and then Jirou’s outraged, “Kaminari!”, audible through three walls, makes the other two burst into giggles.

“I think you overdid it a little,” he informs their general direction.

“You think?” a new voice asks, and Shouto’s glad the darkness hides the way he jumps as Kirishima and Kaminari shriek.

Sero huffs, and Shouto can practically hear him rolling his eyes. Then there’s a creak from the direction of Satou’s door. “What happened to the lights? Is there a villain?”

“Not unless you count Kaminari,” Sero says dryly, and Kirishima snorts. They stand in silence for a few moments.

“Okay, this is kind of creepy,” Kirishima says. “Can we get the lights back now?”

“Oh,” Shouto says, and ignites the left side of his face.

“Holy shit,” screeches Kaminari, so loudly that Shouto lets his quirk go instinctively, plunging them back into darkness.

The hallway is filled with the sound of panting for a few seconds before Kaminari swallows and seems to pull himselfs. “Alright, now that I’m going to have nightmares about weirdly pretty demons for the rest of my life, can you do that again but like… with your hand?”

Shouto complies, raising an eyebrow, because with the scar and the fire he kind of gets the demon part, but... “Pretty?”

“Oh, don’t even pretend,” Kaminari says, the light gleaming across his eyes as he rolls them. “Mina’s been calling you the class pretty boy since the first day.”

As Shouto blinks, the others step into the circle of firelight. Sero must notice his face because he laughs.

“Wait, you didn’t know that?” he asks, incredulous. “There’s no way you cut your hair like that just because.”

“But,” Shouto protests, and then gestures at his face, drawing a line of light through the air as his hand waves.

“What, the scar?” Kirishima asks. “I mean, I think it looks pretty cool, and you’ve still got the pretty eyes and hair and, like… face.”

“Oh,” Shouto says, looking around at the other boys, none of whom look like they disagree. Apparently, he’s pretty. Who knew.

“Todoroki’s general perfection aside,” Kaminari says, “I should probably fix the lights before Aizawa comes to kill us all.”

He sets his hand back on the wall, closing his eyes in concentration. Sparks of electricity play up and down his arm, adding a flickering brightness to the warm, steady glow of Shouto’s fire. Then, in a rush, they flow into the wall.

A moment later, the hall lights buzz as they come back to life. The one above Kaminari lets out a high-pitched whine, then explodes in a shower of sparks and darkens once more.

Shouto’s still trying to adjust his eyes to the new brightness when the acrid smell of burning polyester stings his nose.

“Shit, the carpet,” says Sero at the same moment. Sure enough, a small tongue of flame is blackening the floor below the blown light and emitting a nearly invisible plume of gray smoke.

“I’ll go get a fire extinguisher,” Kaminari says sheepishly.

“No, it’s tiny, we can use baking soda,” Satou tells him before disappearing into his room.

Shouto steps forward, holding out his hands. “I can just pour some water on it.”

“No!” shout Kirishima, Sero, and Kaminari more or less in unison. Shouto freezes, confused, and backs away to let Satou pour white powder over the flame.

“You don’t put water on an electrical fire unless you want it to get a lot bigger very fast,” Kaminari explains, looking unusually grim. Shouto wonders if he’s had a bad experience, then realizes that if his classmate uses his quirk this casually, he almost certainly has.

“I didn’t realize you could create water, though,” Kirishima says. “That’s pretty awesome.”

“If I could do that, I’d be spraying people all the time,” Kaminari muses, the joking exterior apparently back now that nothing is on fire. “Aren’t you ever tempted to just give someone an ice bath?”

The answer is actually no; Shouto thinks of his quirk as a weapon, sometimes even a tool, but never an instrument for petty pranks. But perhaps, he thinks, Uraraka was right: his quirk has a lot of potential outside of fighting.

“Bakugou does seem like he needs help cooling down sometimes,” Shouto says. Only after Sero snickers does he realize that he’s just told an actual joke, or something close.

It’s kind of fun, he decides.

***

Shouto interlaces his fingers and activates both sides of his quirk, melting his ice as it forms to create a jet of water that puts out the fire in seconds. Then he sends a wave of cold through the resulting pool of water, freezing everyone where they stand.

“I can use it to put out fires in rescue situations,” he tells Midnight. “The ice will stabilize any structural damage the fire caused to the building until rescue crews can arrive.”

“It’s a little unusual to have a rescue-focused special move,” she tells him seriously before breaking into a grin. “It’s daring! I like it!”

“I’m calling it When Hell Freezes Over.

“A reference to your father’s Hellfire, huh?” she asks. “Cute!”

Shouto smiles and doesn’t correct her. Endeavor will recognize the phrase as the declaration of war it’s always been.

Chapter Text

The day after the provisional license exam, the unholy beeping sounds from next door. After a minute of trying to ignore it and another of pretending it’s censoring the furious Endeavor speech in Shouto’s head, he sighs and goes out to knock on Satou’s door.

His huge classmate answers, wearing an apron and holding a broom with the bristled end up. Shouto is fairly sure this is not the optimal configuration for sweeping.

“Come in,” he tells Shouto, and Satou is never anything less than kind, so Shouto obeys even though it means getting closer to the shrieking hell-machine.

Shouto learns that the broom is meant to appease the alarm by fanning the smoke away. He takes up this duty so that Satou can focus on rescuing his pastries.

Eventually, the smoke dissipates through the open window, and the alarm quiets, so Shouto comes over to look at the pastries. They don’t seem like they’re burnt, and Shouto frowns in confusion until Satou points out the blackened crust on the bottoms, and the hollowed out mess that a few have become.

“Sugar and filling burns more easily,” he explains. “I wanted to make something nice for you and Bakugou.”

Even though they failed? Shouto wonders, and then realizes: because they failed. He wants to protest that he doesn’t deserve a reward for failing, especially for failing because he’d made an enemy for no reason when even his shit father can stay professional in the field at least. But something tells him that rejecting Satou’s kindness would be a similar kind of failure, so instead he blurts, “Midoriya says Bakugou doesn’t like sweets,” and then feels like kicking himself.

When had Midoriya even said that? In Hosu, Shouto realizes—being the least injured, Shouto had gone and bought some small pies to distract Midoriya while Iida had his physical. Midoriya had enjoyed them, recalling such an adorable story about ‘Kacchan’ that Shouto hadn’t immediately realized he’d meant abrasive, hotheaded Bakugou. Then Midoriya had realized he was rambling and cut off, blushing. They’d sat in awkward silence for a few minutes before Midoriya had tentatively asked Shouto what his favorite what his favorite dessert was.

(Vanilla ice cream, he’d told Midoriya, recalling days out with his mother before his quirk had come in. His classmate had simultaneously amused and outraged when Shouto revealed he’d never had it with strawberries, which Midoriya claimed would be perfect for him.)

In any case, Satou had meant well, and so Shouto accepts one of the intact pastries without further protest. Then his eyes widen.

“These are really good,” he tells Satou once he’s swallowed.

His classmate reddens a little, rubbing the back of his neck.

“Thanks,” he says, and then hesitates. “I… could you come with me to give these to Bakugou?”

“Of course,” Shouto says, even though he doubts his presence will make the situation any less awkward, considering how much Bakugou seems to hate him.

Satou carefully transfers the unburned pastries to a plate. Shouto wonders if he should offer to carry it, but ends up just following the other boy out of the room and down the stairs, feeling useless.

“Could you knock?” Satou asks when they reach Bakugou’s door. Shouto obliges, and then they wait awkwardly for a response.

After an interminable period of time, Shouto reaches out and knocks again, but there’s no response.

“Maybe he’s asleep,” Satou says.

Shouto is about to point out that Bakugou is a light enough sleeper that they would have woken him up by now, and if that had happened he’d have already tried to blow their faces off. Of course, it’s at that point that the door to the stairwell slams open.

Bakugou’s staring at the floor as he strides down the hall, but it’s still obvious that he has far more cuts and bruises than he did when the exam was over. Shouto frowns, but it’s only once Bakugou shoulders past them without so much as a growled insult that he feels a hint of concern.

“Um… I made you some pastries!” Satou blurts as Bakugou starts to twist the doorknob. Shouto shoots him an incredulous look as he holds out the plate.

Bakugou turns, eyes narrowed. “I don’t want your pastries or your fucking pity.”

Though he didn’t make any threats, Bakugou’s tone makes Satou take a step back. It’s angry, but precise and calm in a way that’s completely uncharacteristic of Bakugou and which sets off alarm bells in Shouto’s head.

“Fuck off,” Bakugou adds before turning back to his room. Shouto decides that whatever has happened, he is definitely not the person to handle it, and complies, turning to walk away.

He and Satou are stepping into the stairwell when Bakugou’s voice rings out. “Half-and-half!”

Shouto turns, then regrets it-- if he acknowledges the stupid name, Bakugou’s going to keep using it.

“Come back here, I wanna talk to you.”

After exchanging a confused look with Satou, Shouto walks back down the hall, the staircase door slamming ominously behind him.

“What did you want--”

“What has Deku told you about his quirk?”

Shouto blinks, blindsided. “Nothing?” Nothing the rest of the class doesn’t know anyway.

“Don’t fucking lie to me, two-face,” Bakugou snarls. “I know you two are best friends or boyfriends or whatever, and you’re not that stupid.”

Shouto frowns, because what? “We’re not boyf--”

“I just told you not to lie,” Bakugou bites out. “I’m not blind, I can see that you’re all over each other.”

Shouto sputters. He’s not that obvious, right?

Wait. Each other?

He thinks back to Uraraka’s comment about Midoriya having a smile specifically for him, and thinks perhaps he’s been missing something important.

“Oh my god, seriously?” Bakugou says, and Shouto’s yanked back to the present. His classmate rolls his eyes. “I guess you’re more of an idiot than I thought.”

And then he steps into his room and slams the door before Shouto can muster a response.

***

The next day, Midoriya isn’t allowed to come to class. Shouto abandons his carefree approach and takes copious notes even though he’s sure Iida is doing the same; he’s suitably outraged when Aizawa orders them not to catch the two grounded students up—this is hero training, not English or something. Midoriya might need what they learn to survive one day, and anyway, was Midoriya just meant to roll over when Bakugou came after him?

(Shouto has no sympathy for Bakugou. He deserves whatever he gets, especially for stomping about at odd hours of night and making both Shouto and Iida twice as exhausted.)

When he comments on this injustice to Yaoyorozu, she snorts.

“I didn’t believe Uraraka when she told me, but you really do have a crush on Midoriya, don’t you?”

Shouto feels himself redden and doesn’t reply.

***

When they come back from class, all the girls immediately disappear up the stairs to their wing.

“Where do you think they’re going?” Kirishima wonders aloud, flopped on the couch.

“You’re looking at it all wrong,” Mineta says, and everyone within earshot stiffens at the familiar tone. “It’s not about where they’re going, it’s about how we get there.”

“That wing is off-limits for us,” Iida says warningly. “Trespassing would be a serious breach of the rules, as well as of their privacy!”

Shouto really doesn’t know why he bothers. If Mineta wasn’t discouraged by being knocked off a fifteen foot wall and almost killing an eight-year-old, he’s not going to give up because of a lecture from one of his classmates.

(Why Aizawa doesn’t seem to bother is another question entirely.)

“It is kinda weird, though,” Kaminari says, “all of them going off at the same time. Last time this happened it was a sleepover, but it’s the middle of the afternoon now.”

“Was that what they were doing?” Shoji asks. “I was wondering about the screaming.”

Iida turns around. “Screaming?”

“Yeah,” Shoji confirms. “I guess you couldn’t hear it from two floors down, but they all screamed at the same time, and then Jirou yelled something about Kaminari.”

Kaminari chuckles awkwardly as everyone turns around to face him. “I may have given their sleepover a little… ambiance.”

Sero shakes his head. “Maybe they’re plotting revenge,” he jokes, and then all the lights go out.

“Funny you should say that,” says an oddly distorted voice.

“Who’s there?” Kaminari yells. “Jirou? This is a really dumb prank.”

“We are no joke, Kaminari Denki,” says the strange voice, seeming to echo from several spots around the room. Shouto considers using his quirk, then figures he doesn’t really want to get on the girls’ bad side. “You have made mockery of the other side.”

“Um... sorry?” Kaminari actually sounds nervous, and someone snickers.

“There are consequences,” hiss the voices. A moment later, there’s a tearing sound, and then a crash as Kaminari shrieks.

The lights come back on, and everyone stares.

Kaminari is gasping and white-- literally. He looks down at himself and yells again, falling off his chair.

“Oh my god,” he squeaks. “Oh my god, shit, I’m a ghost!”

Next to him, Kirishima bursts out laughing. Kaminari whips around to glare at him, and Shouto feels a cold spot on his cheek.

“You asshole, I just died!” Kaminari yells, and the rest of the room bursts into hysterics as Shouto reaches up to wipe his face. His finger comes away white, and after a moment’s hesitation, he licks the substance off and tastes... flour.

“What’s going on--”

“What the hell did you do, Pikachu?” Bakugou yells over Midoriya as they walk into the room, but he doesn’t wait for Kaminari’s response before announcing, “Deku, you’re cleaning that up,” and stalking back out.

Midoriya sighs as he makes his way over to Shouto. “What did he do to make the girls so mad?”

Shouto hurriedly tears his eyes away from where Jirou is giving him a suspicious look. “No idea.”

***

On the first day of class, Shouto had chosen a seat at the back of the classroom, correctly anticipating the announcement that they’d be stuck with those seats for the rest of the year.

(“If you don’t want your seat, you can give it up,” Aizawa had said flatly. Even after the quirk apprehension test ruse, no one had protested.)

Shouto’s spot was a good one. He was tall enough that seeing over his classmates wasn’t a problem, so being at the back meant he could pay exactly as much attention as he wanted without the uncomfortable prickles of other’s eyes on the back of his neck, and without the teacher feeling the need to call on him all the time.

Today is the fourth day of the second term, and the first time Shouto has ever had any trouble paying attention. Present Mic is lecturing in his typically… excitable style. Even Kaminari, who falls asleep in class on a regular basis, is paying attention. But Shouto can’t focus, and it’s all because Midoriya Izuku apparently doesn’t own a hairbrush.

His curls are even more glorious than usual. With every slight bob and twitch of Midoriya’s head, they rearrange themselves just slightly, just enough to drive Shouto wild. HIs attention was originally caught by a pair of curls sticking up what looked like a tiny homage to All Might’s distinctive style. At some point, though, they’d combined into a single defiant spike, like a unicorn’s horn.

This is fitting, Shouto thinks, because Midoriya has a great deal in common with the mythical horses. He’s incredibly beautiful, of course, completely wild but somehow impossible gentle at the same time. He’s pure, striving not to fulfill a legacy, earn wealth, or satisfy his pride, but only to help people. And he’s magical, somehow passing through the smooth, emotionless surface to touch the parts of Shouto that had hurt for longer than he could remember, and to make them begin to heal.

Midoriya raises his hand to answer a question, and Shouto almost falls out of his seat at the sudden movement. His eyes resettle on a lock of hair dangling down, brushing the back of Midoriya’s neck, and he feels suddenly, absurdly jealous. He imagines brushing his hand along the same spot, the way Midoriya would shiver if Shouto pressed a kiss to the soft skin. He’d follow Midoriya’s lucky, beautiful hair up to nip at his ear, then around to gently kiss the corner of his eye-- or maybe Midoriya would get impatient, would turn and lean up to let his lips meet Shouto’s--

Midoriya twists in his chair to look back at Shouto, and Shouto abruptly realizes he’s been caught staring at a classmate while thinking about kissing him. He swallows heavily as Midoriya gives him a sunny smile, not looking at all fazed by Shouto’s creepiness. Then he’s getting up-- oh God, is he going to confront Shouto in the middle of class? What is happening?

“So you want to be together, right?” Midoriya asks.

The part of Shouto’s brain that handles panic overloads and shuts down at that point. Thankfully, that gives the sane part of him the chance to look around, notice that everyone else is pairing up, and realize Midoriya means together for speaking practice. His system reboots, and Midoriya frowns as he’s left hanging.

“Yes,” Shouto says as soon as his tongue comes back online, then regrets it when his voice cracks. Midoriya laughs delightedly and Shouto blushes.

“Sorry!” Midoriya stutters, though he looks more amused than apologetic. “It’s just, you’re so cool that sometimes I forget you’re a teenager too.”

He called Shouto cool, and it wasn’t even for the sake of the pun.

Shouto wonders what terrible thing he did in a past incarnation, that the best moments of his life are marked by abject humiliation.

***

The remedial training for the provisional license test is brutal. Since all of them passed the combat test but failed the cooperative/rescue round, the examiners send them into the exercises in groups of two.

Shouto has resolved to just push through the training—he can usually work with others, after all—and then he’s informed of his partner.

Bakugou eyes him, and Shouto recalls the minor tantrum he threw before the test of courage. But apparently he’s matured a little, because he just growls and says, “Try and keep up, half-and-half bastard,” before running into the training area.

“I don’t think you understand the point of this exercise,” Shouto tells his disappearing back. Then something explodes, and he decides to focus on keeping the idiot from getting himself killed.

(He mostly succeeds—or at least, he protects Bakugou better than Bakugou protects him. Of course, this is less than comforting when the girls start implying he’s no longer pretty.)

***

Shouto wakes to the sound of the building-wide alarm, his body feeling like one gigantic bruise.

Fuck this, he thinks. (Maybe Bakugou is rubbing off on him.)

He gropes for the wall with his right hand, sending his power out in a wave that washes over the whole building. Then he rolls over and goes back to sleep.

Of course, because the universe hates him, he doesn’t actually get to sleep through the night at all. Aizawa wakes him up to sublimate all the ice into vapor and to give him detention fixing any water damage he caused—but not before Mineta is found desperately trying to get away from the pulled fire alarm on the first floor. Apparently, this is the last straw in Mineta’s apparently long-running case in front of the school’s review committee, and he’s expelled the next day for sexual harassment.

The second set of consequences is this: the evening following Mineta’s expulsion, Shouto opens his balcony door to a faceful of pink gas.

As the world goes dark, a voice says, “I knew the samples of Midnight’s gas would come in handy.”

***

Shouto wakes up blindfolded and handcuffed to something hard and flat. There’s a loud, pervasive hum that Shouto eventually recognizes as the sound of many fans running, and the air carries a strong chemical scent that makes him feel vaguely lightheaded.

He’s about to burst the cuffs with his ice when a familiar voice croaks, “Don’t struggle.”

“Asui?” he asks uncertainly.

“Call me Tsuyu,” she says, which seems oddly off-topic when they’ve been kidnapped from their dorm. (Do these villains really think Endeavor’s son is going to turn evil? He’s almost flattered that they see him as separate from his father, except… really?)

“What’s going on?” he whispers to Tsuyu.

“Silence!” barks Uraraka.

What.

“The Council will now convene,” she continues ominously, and Shouto is so very, very confused. “The first item: Tsuyu, Yaomomo, explain why you have brought an outsider to our gathering.”

Wait, Shouto thinks. I was kidnapped by Yaoyorozu?

“Todoroki has done this council a great service,” Yaoyorozu says. “Mineta was a menace.”

What.

“True,” Uraraka says, contemplative.

“That doesn’t explain why you brought a boy to a council meeting!” Ashido contests.

“We move that the Council should grant him a reward,” Yaoyorozu says, which, what?

“What kind of reward?” asks Jirou, bored.

All Shouto wants in life is a good night’s sleep.

...And maybe for Endeavor to fall down a well.

“I—”

“Silence!” Uraraka cuts him off. “ You are not a member of this council.”

Why am I here if I can’t talk, Shouto wonders but doesn’t say, because the girls in his class honestly scare him even more now that he knows they’re actually holding secret councils.

“Yaomomo, answer Jirou’s question,” Uraraka continues.

“I thought we could help him with Midoriya,” Yaoyorozu responds.

Oh no.

“Motion seconded,” Ashido says immediately.

“They are adorable,” Hagakure says. “Thirded.”

“Seriously, guys?” Shouto can practically feel Jirou rolling her eyes.

“They obviously need the help,” Tsuyu says, and Shouto winces.

“Okay, true,” Jirou admits. “If you all really want to do this, fine.”

“I’m also in favor,” Uraraka says, then shifts to a more formal tone. “The motion is passed. In gratitude for vanquishing the Grape Menace, Todoroki Shouto will receive aid in the winning of the heart of Midoriya Izuku.”

After extracting a solemn vow of silence, the girls have Tsuyu return Shouto to his balcony, promising to contact him when a plan has been devised.

Shouto stares blankly at the sky for a moment. Then he goes inside to hide under his blankets for a while.

***

Eventually, Shouto makes his way down to the common room. To his surprise, many of the other boys in the class are lounging around. Iida and a few others seem to be having an English study session; the rest are scattered around the room, reading or on their phones or, in Bakugou’s case, apparently taking a nap. Shouto wonders why he’s doing that here, but he doesn’t feel like a fight right now so he says nothing.

“Todoroki!” calls Kaminari from the couch. “Sit down!” He pats the cushion to his left.

Shouto makes his way over, a little nervous. Kaminari had been closer to Mineta than most of the class, after all. If the girls held Shouto responsible for Mineta’s expulsion, would Kaminari as well?

Apparently, Shouto had overestimated the pair’s friendship, because Kaminari seems to have no problem with him. The other boy smiles as Shouto squeezes between him and Ojiro and says, “Your ice powers are really cool, you know that?”

“Well, I would hope so,” Shouto says before processing that Kaminari was making a pun. Thankfully, the other boy assumes he was being flippant and laughs. Shouto finds that having a good deadpan is ridiculously useful.

Kaminari goes back to his phone, which raises the question of why he asked Shouto to sit next to him at all. After mulling it over for a few moments, Shouto comes to a thrilling conclusion: Kaminari’s being friendly. The thought makes him feel warm, and he relaxes into the couch with a smile. All of a sudden, he feels almost giddy. He’s escaped from his father’s house, is well on his way to becoming a hero, but best of all, he has friends now, friends who bake him pastries and scheme for him and just want him around—

On Shouto’s left, Ojiro abruptly stands and moves to an armchair, looking disgruntled.

Shouto’s chest feels like a popped balloon. Ojiro seems to notice and smiles awkwardly. “Sorry, I just thought it seemed a bit cramped with my tail and all.”

“Oh,” Shouto says. “Thank you.”

In fact, he and Kaminari are awkwardly close together. Shouto shuffles toward the left arm of the couch. The quiet camaraderie of the room’s atmosphere feels good, and Shouto retrieves his own phone from his pocket. He’s picked up an unfortunate addiction to Candy Crush from his classmates; watching the levels slowly clear is oddly satisfying. At the table, the study group converses in stilted English; Bakugou corrects Kirishima’s pronunciation before Iida can, though every time Shouto glances at the other couch, Bakugou’s eyes are shut.

Suddenly, Shouto feels pressure on his right thigh. Blinking, he looks down and sees Kaminari’s bare feet in his lap.

He shoots a shocked look at Kaminari, but he’s still absorbed by his phone. Is Shouto supposed to do something about this? The feet are heavy, and he can already feel his leg starting to fall asleep. But Kaminari looks comfortable, and maybe this is just something friends do and Shouto’s weird for wanting him to move.

“Hi everyone,” Midoriya from the doorway. “Wow, it’s almost as hot out here as it is outsi—”

He breaks off, staring at Shouto. A dark look passes across his face, too fast for Shouto to identify, but then the smile returns.

“What’s everyone doing down here?” he asks, and Shouto isn’t sure if the cheer is actually so obviously forced, or if he’s just been watching Midoriya too often.

“Half-and-half’s stupid stunt broke the air conditioning,” Bakugou growls, eyes still shut. “It’s like a fucking oven upstairs.”

“What?” asks Shouto, thrown.

“I don’t think it was actually your fault,” Kirishima assures him.

“No, I meant—” Todoroki breaks off. No need to sound weirder than he already does.

Ojiro snorts. “You didn’t even notice, did you?”

“I mean, he is like a walking air conditioner,” Kaminari says.

Kirishima laughs. “Is that why you’re all over him?” Shouto blushes.

“Yeah, so what?” Kaminari shoots back. “Me and Todoroki are bros, he doesn’t care.”

Shouto opens his mouth, then closes it. He does mind—his right leg is completely numb—but if this is part of being a “bro”…

“Uh…” Midoriya trails off, looking vaguely concerned. Kaminari frowns and follows his gaze back to Shouto.

“Dude, if you want me to fuck off, just say so, it’s cool.”

“Oh,” says Shouto. He contemplates his tingling thigh. Then, in the driest he can manage, he adds, “Fuck off.”

Kaminari promptly pulls his legs away, flipping off the laughing Kirishima.

“Language,” Iida scolds, but apparently he’s mostly accustomed to the swearing because the longer lecture everyone braces for never comes.

Midoriya flops onto the space vacated by Kaminari’s legs and looks around. “I see the girls are missing again.”

Shouto tenses.

“Yaomomo made a bunch of fans, so they’re all in her room painting each other’s nails and gossiping or something.” Shouto suppresses a snort. Or something indeed. (Though nail polish would explain the smell from before.)

Bakugou opens his eyes enough to squint. “How do you know that, sparkface?”

“Jirou told me,” Kaminari says haughtily.

“She also told him it was girls-only, which is the only reason he’s not getting a pedicure right now,” Sero chimes in.

“You know,” Kaminari says, pretending to ignore this, “if the girls are going to do stuff on their own, we should too.”

“A men-only party!” Kirishima says, excited.

“Smash tournament?” Sero asks.

“Heck yeah,” Kaminari responds.

Bakugou sits up, already smirking. “I’m going to destroy all you fucking losers.”

“Uh,” Shouto says, because usually when Bakugou threatens violence, he means it.

“Video game,” Midoriya mutters. Shouto relaxes.

“I’ll set up,” Kaminari says, heading for the TV.

“This will be a good bonding experience,” Iida decides. “I’ll go get the others.”

Everyone congregates around the couch, and Shouto’s thankful he was already seated—at least until Kirishima drops a controller into his lap.

Midoriya catches his worried look. “I’ll teach you how to play,” he says, and whatever had been bothering him must have been resolved or forgotten, because he gives Shouto a dazzlingly sincere smile that knocks his breath right out of his chest.

(It turns out Shouto is very bad at video games, though that might be because he jumps every time Midoriya whispers advice in his ear. It’s worth it, especially since Bakugou is somehow worse.

“Finally, something we can beat the top two at,” Kirishima comments from where he’s leaning against Bakugou’s legs.)

Chapter Text

Midoriya’s shaking in his seat. It’s very distracting.

(Fortunately, English is one of the subjects Shouto’s father had him tutored in. Otherwise, he’d probably be failing.)

Why is Midoriya shivering? Is he cold? It’s August and by all accounts irritatingly hot, but maybe he’s sick? Hagakure had a cold last week, maybe it’s mutated into something that causes fever. But then again, Midoriya’s uniform blazer is draped over the back of his chair-- surely if he was feeling cold he’d wear it? Besides, he seemed to be taking notes diligently as usual, so he’s probably fine, and just… vibrating. For some unimportant, innocent reason. Yeah.

Shouto frowns, and when Present Mic calls for partner activities, he gets up quickly. Usually, Midoriya comes to him, but Shouto waves him down, because what if something is wrong?

“Todoroki?” Midoriya asks. “You’re frowning… kind of, I mean it isn’t a huge expression but from you it’s kind of worrying--”

“You’re shaking,” Shouto points out. “ I was worried that you were sick.”

“What?” Midoriya looks down at himself, oddly surprised, then back up at Shouto sheepishly. “Oh, no, sorry, I’m fine, I’ve just been doing the air chair exercise.”

“The air -- all of class? Why?”

“Well,” says Midoriya. “With my arms the way they are, I’ve had to focus my fighting style around kicks more.”

Shouto tries to hide the flash of guilt, because Midoriya and Iida had both laughed when he’d mentioned his theory regarding hands, and besides he hadn’t been there for most of the fight where Midoriya finally messed them up permanently, though if he’d done more when he could have, maybe Bakugou wouldn’t have…

Anyway, Midoriya would probably feel bad if he knew Shouto was feeling guilty, so he goes back to listening.

“...my training regimen was all-around, but I focused a bit more on upper body strength--”

“I know,” Shouto blurts and then wants to die, why is he bringing up that he’s seen Midoriya shirtless, that he’d been noticing Midoriya’s shirtlessness--

“English, please!” yells Present Mic, and as Midoriya scrambles to turn to the activity, for once Shouto finds himself thankful for the teacher’s enthusiastic enforcement of the English-only rule.

***

That afternoon, while he’s working on the English assignment they didn’t finish because of their distraction, Tsuyu knocks at the window of Shouto’s room.

“Go to the gym,” she says as soon as it’s open, then crawls away up the wall of the building.

“Couldn’t you have just texted me?” he asks the empty space she leaves behind. “Or just… come to the door?”

There’s no response, obviously. Shouto doesn’t know why he bothers.

In any case, he’s been given instructions, so he puts down his pencil, changes into exercise clothes and jogs to the campus gym facilities that they’d been granted access to. He doesn’t see how this is going to help the Midoriya situation, but girls are supposed to have an instinctual understanding of romance, right? He should probably just trust them.

When he reaches the gym, Midoriya’s over by the punching bags; Shouto pauses to watch him work.

As he’d mentioned, he’s focusing on kicks, the chain rattling with each impact of his feet. Even without the telltale green electricity of his quirk, his strength is impressive, sending the heavy bag swinging. But the most intimidating thing is that with each repetition, Shouto can see Midoriya’s form improving. He recalls how fresh and inexperienced Midoriya had seemed at the beginning of the year, how he’d been twice as good fighting Stain and ten times as good at the license exam, and swallows. If that’s how much Midoriya grew in just six months, what will he be like by graduation? Or after a decade in the field?

“Well? What are you waiting for?”

Shouto twists around and sees no one-- eventually, he recognizes the voice as Hagakure’s. She must be in her hero costume. (Shouto refuses to think of her as naked.)

“He needs a sparring partner,” she explains from somewhere in front of him. “Now go on.”

Shouto still doesn’t understand where this is going, but he nods, then gives her a moment to get out of the way before he starts to move.

“Maybe lose the shirt,” she whispers in her ear on her way past, giggling, and Shouto flushes. Midoriya’s in a baggy sweatshirt, so Shouto’s sleeveless shirt is probably perfectly appropriate. (And it does show off his biceps, which he’s proud of even if they aren’t as overdeveloped as Midoriya’s or Bakugou’s.)

“Midoriya!” he calls, and then realizes he has no idea what to say-- the girls have some plot to get us together that involves us sparring and I promise I didn’t ask for it but I’m going along with it anyway because of my gigantic crush on you?

“Oh, hi, Todoroki!” Midoriya says, turning and putting a hand out to stop the swinging bag. “Here to train too?”

“Yes,” Shouto lies, and then to distract him, adds, “You know, I think it’s called a punching bag for a reason.”

Midoriya smiles. “Probably. I needed to practice some new moves I had Aizawa show me, though, so…”

Inspiration strikes. “Do you think you could show them to me?”

Midoriya rubs the back of his head and stutters, “I don’t know, I mean, I just learned them, I wouldn’t be a very good teacher…”

“I meant more like… try them on me,” Shouto clarifies. At Midoriya’s still stunned look, he says, “This way we can both practice.”

“...ok,” Midoriya says.

So they make their way over to the mats. For a moment, they stand across from each other, and Shouto is vaguely reminded of the sports festival, if only because it’s almost the complete opposite situation. The gym is silent except for the sound of them breathing, Midoriya is ever-so-slightly smiling, and Shouto feels more himself than he ever has before.

“I guess we just start whenever,” Midoriya ventures, “and go for a pin?”

Shouto nods but doesn’t move; his reach is longer than Midoriya’s, so keeping his distance makes sense.

Eventually, Midoriya comes in with a right-handed jab at his stomach; Shouto dances away easily and says, “I thought you were going to focus on footwork,” he teases, and then barely blocks the kick that follows.

“I thought you were meant to be fast ,” Midoriya barks back, and Shouto can’t respond because he’s too busy throwing a punch of his own. This is probably good because what he would have said is you’re supposed to be plain, because smiling fiercely like that Midoriya is anything but.

They trade blows, Midoriya switching between the boxing-style punches he’d favored before and a more leaping, light-footed strategy. He ducks under a punch and sweeps a leg out at Shouto’s feet, and Shouto goes tumbling backward. Not giving himself a chance to breathe, Shouto rolls and launches himself back up, throwing a punch that glances across Midoriya’s ribs. He barely registers the impact before Midoriya’s hand is closing around his own, the other reaching toward his shoulder, and he realizes he’s gotten too close, and then he’s being pulled off balance and off the ground.

But Shouto’s seen this move enough times before to have devised a plan to counter it. When he feels his weight start to shift over Midoriya’s shoulder, he throws his legs into the motion, arching his back desperately and hoping and suddenly, crushingly, landing on his feet and yanking his arm free, spinning to face Midoriya and grinning even though everything from his knees down feels like it’s on fire.

“You need to learn some new tricks,” he gasps, triumphant.

Then Midoriya hooks a foot around his leg and launches himself forward, bearing them both to the ground.

And then there they are, Midoriya kneeling on one of his shins and leaning on his forearms, and Shouto suddenly understands why the girls thought this was a good idea because Midoriya’s eyes are so very close and full of the mix of fondness and excitement and desire that Shouto knows intimately, and the fight is over but Shouto’s heart just beats faster as Midoriya leans ever closer--

“Todoroki? Midoriya? Are you in here?”

Midoriya’s weight suddenly disappears.

“All-Might!”

Shouto blinks, then sits up, watching as Midoriya, now at least a yard away from him, rambles an ‘explanation.’

“... was practicing my kicks and Todoroki offered to help so we were sparring.”

All-Might nods, smiling, and the fact that he accepts so casually must mean he didn’t see anything. Right?

“Mr. Aizawa is making an announcement to the class; he would like everyone in the dorm lounge in ten minutes.”

“Yes, sir!”

Midoriya practically runs out of the room, and after a nod to All Might, Shouto follows. Thankfully, the gym is close to their dorm, though not close enough that they have time to change before Aizawa comes in. So he sits on the lounge floor, acutely aware of the way Midoriya’s sweat-soaked shirt clings to his back.

“Administration has seen fit to promote a student from general studies to fill the empty seat in our class,” Aizawa says. Whispers break out immediately.

“I wonder who it is?”

“It’s gotta be that mind kid from the sports festival, right?”

“I don’t know-- we don’t know what his grades were like, they probably don’t choose just from the festival.”

“Quiet!”

After a moment of stillness, Aizawa blinks and his hair remembers the existence of gravity. “The new student will be joining you after three weeks of remedial training with me. As such, All Might will be assuming some of my responsibilities for that period. I expect you to behave yourselves, and greet the new student appropriately.”

“Appropriately?” Sero asks, but Aizawa is already halfway to the door. Sero turns to the rest of the room. “What does that mean?”

Iida stands. “I am sure our teacher simply meant we should welcome him openly and with proper decorum, as it must be difficult to make such a transition.”

“Yeah, especially in the middle of the year!” Mina chirps.

Kaminari winces. “Especially in the middle of this year, into our class.”

“What are you saying about our class?” Kirishima challenges.

“I think he just means we’ve gone through a lot together,” Yaoyorozu reasons. “It’s made us unusually… tight-knit.”

Shouto contemplates the last few weeks, how he’s felt more at home here than he ever has, how they all spend so much time together; or how they’d ventured out to rescue Bakugou, and how many of their classmates had asked why they didn’t ask for more help; even how when Iida had turned his phone back on after Hosu, after Stain, it had exploded with worried messages from their entire class.

He imagines trying to insert himself into that camaraderie, instead of having everyone else pull him in with them, and wants to cringe.

“Shoot,” Sero says. His eyes are a little wide, his voice strained. “That… yeah, that would suck.”

“We should do something,” Kirishima says. “So whoever it is can meet all of us.”

A chorus of agreement rises, and then Jirou clears her throat. “We can’t just all jump him at the door, guys.”

“That’s a good point,” Tsuyu agrees. “Some of us seem kind of crazy at first.” She pauses then adds, “Some of us still do.”

Snickers fill the room. Shouto is gratified that, as far as he notices, no one looks at him. Bakugou, on the other hand, is elbowed by Kirishima and Mina on either side.

“Look at yourselves before you fucking elbow me, you giggling maniacs,” he growls back. “Or I’ll blow them off.”

“Case in point,” Uraraka says quietly, though not quietly enough.

“Huh?” says Bakugou, turning. “You wanna go?”

She tilts her head and smiles. “Do you ?”

“Hell yeah,” Bakugou says, and is that excitement?

“Don’t expect this to go like the tournament,” Uraraka warns. “You’re not gonna get off with just a wrist sprain.”

Shouto feels like he’s been catapulted to a parallel universe.

Bakugou outright grins. “Bring it, Uraraka.”

“Hey, that’s a good idea!” Kirishima says. Everyone turns to look at him. “For the new guy.”

“I thought we were trying not to scare him,” Sero says. “Watching Bakugou and Uraraka fight is going to be terrifying.”

“No,” Kirishima says, flapping a hand. “Though that would also be awesome. I was just thinking about the room tournament.”

“That was also kind of crazy,” Midoriya points out.

“Well, whoever it is is going to be joining our class,” Kaminari points out. “We have to let him know what he’s getting into.”

Kirishima nods. “So I was thinking Iida’s probably going to give him a tour anyway, right? So we can all introduce ourselves when he comes by our rooms, and that way we’re not all doing it at once, and he can see what we’re interested in and stuff.”

“That’s… actually a good idea,” Jirou says, sounding surprised.

“Also that way we can get a more unbiased answer,” Kaminari mutters. Everyone else seems to agree, and the conversation dissolves into individual tangents on everything from who the new kid is going to be to what they’re having for dinner later. Shouto looks around cautiously, then decides to get back to his homework.

“You almost had it earlier,” Hagakure whispers as he leaves the room. “Don’t worry, next time we’ll make sure you don’t get interrupted.”

***

Next time , apparently, is three days later at the USJ, where All Might is running another rescue simulation.

The skeletal true form of their teacher is creepier than his muscular form, but usually it’s less intimidating. Today especially, he seems to be up to something.

“Today, all of you will be playing heroes,” All Might announces. Kaminari sighs in relief, and All Might shoots him a graveyard of a grin.

“However! Often, during a villain attack, unexpected circumstances might mean that the danger persists even once the villains have been defeated. Injuries and collateral damage to structures might mean that even non-rescue heroes need to know how to rescue themselves. As such, you will be playing heroes that are wounded, trapped, or both-- your mission is to get everyone out alive!”

One by one, they’re led to locations and given “injuries” and time limits after which those injuries will “kill” them if they remain untended. Shouto receives a “broken” left arm, which is fine compared with playing the damsel in distress last time.

Midoriya, on the other hand, has his legs trapped under a slab of cement.

“You’ll both be trapped under this building,” All Might says cheerfully, and then winks at Shouto before setting the rubble on top of them. Shouto hears Uraraka, who’s been made “safety assistant” for the exercise, whisper “Release!” and then, more quietly, “Thanks so much, All Might!”

“What do you think that was about?” Midoriya asks, and Shouto shrugs, trying to hide his panic, because Uraraka told All Might . Why did he ever trust her with anything? Though admittedly, he thinks hysterically, there are worse people who could have found out. Like… All for One. Or Endeavor.

Actually, Shouto realizes, that’s a possibility. From the outside, Endeavour’s parenting style seems enthusiastically supportive, and the only classmate who knows enough about his father to know that would be a bad idea is the one person Uraraka (probably) has the sense not to consult--  Midoriya. Which means it’s entirely conceivable that she’ll attempt to involve the old bastard in her schemes.

Trying to shake that nightmare out of his mind, Shouto glances back at Midoriya, then does a double take. The other boy is sitting on the ground, curled into himself with his chin resting on his knees. He’s more still than Shouto has ever seen him, his usual surface-level nervousness stripped away, and the faint grey light from above combined with the flickering of Shouto’s flames makes him look corpse-like, pale with dark shadows under his eyes that don’t fade even when the light flickers across them.

“Are… is something wrong?” Shouto asks, though the answer is blindingly obvious.

Midoriya looks up at him, and there’s a black humor in his eyes that reflects his tone when he responds. “Oh, just everything.”

Shouto frowns and takes a step forward, but before he can do anything more, Midoriya is going on, words gushing from his mouth like blood from a severed artery. “A year ago, even a few months ago, All Might could have lifted something like that without a thought. He was so strong, so dependable. Everyone counted on him to be perfect, the Symbol of Peace.

Midoriya’s arms come down from where they’d been gesturing wildly, coming to wrap around his legs and pick at the seams of his costume pants.

“So what--”

“Now he’s gone ,” Midoriya says. “All Might’s completely finished as a hero, and I-- we’re supposed to be next. He came to teach here because he wanted to make sure that the next generation of heroes could pick up where he left off.” Though he’d started off almost yelling, he sounds haunted now, or maybe just exhausted.

“He’s done so much for all of us-- and for me ,” Midoriya continues. “If it weren’t for him, I would never have gotten anywhere near Yuuei.” Shouto sits next to him, not sure what to say.

“He was the first person to ever believe in me,” Midoriya chokes out. “He looked at reckless, puny, qu- useless me, and he said I could become a hero.”

Reckless Shouto can see, but puny and useless? Midoriya’s so smart Shouto sometimes forgets how stupid he can be.

“All Might gave me everything ,” Midoriya says, “and I don’t, I can’t--”

“Can’t what?” Shouto asks softly, incredulous at the idea that there’s anything Midoriya can’t do.

“Replace him.”

It falls between them like a brick. Shouto remembers their first real conversation, when he’d asked Midoriya if he was All Might’s illegitimate child, and Midoriya’s flailing, illuminating response; how just weeks ago, All Might had pointed out through the screen and said “You’re next!” and while everyone had stood up a little straighter, Midoriya had curled in on himself like the weight of the world had fallen on his shoulders.

“Maybe not,” Shouto says finally. Midoriya sucks in a breath, looking up at him with wide, teary eyes.

Shouto smiles. “But with the two of us, I think we can get pretty close.” Midoriya sniffles. “And with Uraraka, and Iida, and Yaoyorozu and Kirishima, and Tsuyu, and…” he trails off, watching Midoriya’s mouth twitch into the beginnings of a smile before adding, “and that one guy from Class B who hates us for some reason…”

“Kacchan,” Midoriya snickers.

“Yeah, he might be helpful occasionally,” Shouto says pensively. “If we need a building demolished or something.”

That makes Midoriya giggle, and the nervous, helpless clump in Shouto’s chest loosens a little.

“You don’t have to save the world alone.”

Midoriya smiles and leans over to rest his head on Shouto’s shoulder.

“I’m glad.”

Maybe Shouto will only kill Uraraka a little.

Chapter Text

At night, Shouto burns.

Callused fingers caress his face, gently brushing his lips, his nose, his scar. Further down, another scarred hand drags across his chest, leaving trails of fire even on his right side. Maybe that side of him is broken, because he’s never felt so hot before, never so consumed by the flames inside, so out of control. The hand skims lower, and he gasps.

“Shouto,” says a too-familiar voice, and he gasps again, this time in fear. The hands pull away as Endeavor continues, voice low and grumbling like a volcano before the magma bubbles over. “You cannot give yourself away like this. It isn’t yours to give.”

The fire is real now. It licks at him, at Midoriya, at his room and all his things. The books Iida lent him go up in a flash— Midoriya cries out in pain, a sound that is all too familiar— the flames lick at his picture of the whole class together, and Endeavor growls, “This is not yours to keep—”

Shouto shouts, sweeping out with his right hand in a wide circle. The flames sputter and die, and he falls to his knees, panting. Everything is silent but the panicked sound of his breathing, a wet crackle like ice forming.

Slowly, he looks up. His whole room is coated in a layer of clear, sparkling ice, and the ground is covered in thick, glittering frost. The sun slants oddly through the sheet covering the window, and from every angle the light seems to be thrown back in his face.

Shouto breathes out a sigh of relief; everything is safe, preserved in ice and out of reach of anyone who might try to tamper with it.

He turns to the right and bites back a yelp; there, hands outstretched, is Midoriya, frozen still. Shouto staggers over and raises his left arm, shaking, to melt the other boy free. Water pools around his feet, some steaming away and some freezing once more. The dancing flames reflect over Midoriya’s face, now covered in just a thin layer of ice…

Shouto catches movement in the glassy ice and whirls, flames spreading reflexively down his side. There— on his left, a scowling man on fire from head to toe— Endeavor. Shouto sinks back defensively; the figure does the same, and he realizes it’s not his father as he’d thought but his own reflection, though twisted, older than he remembers. The scar and the snarl turn him into something even more monstrous than his father, and Shouto chokes, trying to put out his flames. But he’s lost control, and they only burn higher as he stumbles back— and hits a solid chest.

He yelps, blinks, and Midoriya is in front of him, lips still blue and frost melting out of his hair. He reaches up, and Shouto draws back; he’s still covered in flames. But Midoriya follows, reaching out again to cradle his face, not flinching even when the acrid smell of burning flesh fills the air.

“Stop,” Shouto says, “I’ll hurt you.”

Midoriya smiles as the flames catch in his hair.

“I’ll be fine,” he says, and as he leans in Shouto can see that the fire’s inside him now, his eyes turned a bright, dancing red—

Shouto wakes, panting.

***

Today’s English vocabulary lesson is about describing appearance, and Present Mic has decided to kill two birds with one stone and have them review words for relationships by describing their families to each other.

So here Shouto is, watching Midoriya pull up a chair so they’re facing each other at his desk.

“You go first,” he prompts, because maybe Midoriya has a huge family and Shouto won’t have to talk about his own at all.

“Okay.” Midoriya picks up his whiteboard and Shouto shoves down disappointment because there are only three dots, and one is labelled Me . “Well,” Midoriya starts in English. “I’m Midoriya Izuku. I don’t have brothers or sisters, and my grand-parents have been dead since I was very small. My parents didn’t have siblings either, so I don’t have cousins.”

“What’s your mother like?” Shouto asks, and it’s an assigned question and a way to fill time, but he also does want to know, because someone has to have made Midoriya into the human ray of sunshine he is today.

Midoriya smiles. “Her name is Midoriya Inko, and she has green eyes and black hair like mine.”

Your hair isn’t just black, Shouto wants to argue. In the sunlight, it’s as green as your eyes. But that would probably be weird so he stays quiet.

“She’s short, even more than me,” Midoriya continues, ignorant of Shouto’s creepiness. “She’s very nice and… emotional? ” He says the last word in Japanese, frowning in confusion before shrugging and moving on. “She cries a lot, like me, and um… Oh, her quirk! She can, um, drag I guess? She can drag small objects toward herself, it’s really cool.”

It is cool, but while Midoriya’s mother sounds awfully like him in many ways, her quirk seems entirely unrelated. Shouto had assumed Midoriya’s wildly powerful quirk was the result of some unpredictable fusion of two less remarkable ones, but now it seems like it all came from one parent, and Shouto wonders how he hasn’t heard of the man before.

“And your father?” he asks.

Midoriya’s face falls a little, and Shouto feels like he’s accidentally kicked a kitten but it’s too late to take his words back.

“Um, he… he lives in the United States. He left when I was very young, so I don’t remember him very well.” Midoriya pauses briefly and Shouto grasps for something to say, but can’t find anything before his classmate is going on. “I look like my mom, so I don’t really know what he would look like, but I guess he has to have light eyes since I do. Um, his job must be a good one because he sends money…”

Midoriya looks small and morose, and Shouto flails for something to say to lighten the mood; and miraculously, he finds it. “So what I’m hearing is that for all you know, you are All-Might’s child.”

Eyes widening in recognition, Midoriya snorts. “I wouldn’t be his secret love child in that case, though,” he points out. “Besides, my father’s quirk is to breathe fire.”

“I guess you wouldn’t,” Shouto admits. “In retrospect, it was a bit of a silly theory.” He waits until Midoriya nods and seems to calm before adding, “I mean, I doubt All-Might could have kept any affairs a secret with the way he announces every time he comes…” (hold on, wait for horror to spread over Midoriya’s face) “in.”

“T-t-” Midoriya sputters, looking vaguely ill, before bursting into guffaws. “That’s disgusting,” he gasps into his hands, but he’s still laughing helplessly.

By now everyone is staring at them. Shouto steadfastly holds on to his poker face even though Midoriya’s laughter is infectious.

“What did you say to him?” asks Kaminari, sounding awed, which is funny because Shouto learned the art of dirty jokes pretty much entirely from him.

Still, he carefully assembles his most neutral expression and his evenest voice. “I was just commenting that All-Might really knows how to make an entrance.”

At that moment, the door slams open.

"I am here!" All Might announces, bombastic as usual even as his hero form fades with a pop and a cloud of smoke. "As a stellar substitute, to excite your hearts and encourage your passion!"

Midoriya head shoots up and he makes a noise like a velociraptor blowing a tin whistle.

At the front of the room, All Might and Present Mic exchange mystified looks. There's a moment of silence before the entire class bursts into laughter, though no one is as hysterical as Midoriya. 

Shouto finally lets himself smile. Mission accomplished.

***

Jirou knocks on his door that evening after dinner. When he opens it, she yanks him out by the wrist and looks him up and down.

Shouto hasn’t gotten around to changing yet, but he had removed his jacket and tie as well as the top two buttons of his shirt. His father would say he looks scruffy, but Jirou just rolls her eyes and says, “You’ll do.”

“What—”

“Go up to the roof,” she says, handing him a smallish box before sauntering away. “Give that to Midoriya!”

Shouto runs after her, catching the elevator door before it can close. “Wait!”

“What now?” she asks, pressing the button for the ground floor as he darts in.

“You guys really don’t need to do all this,” Shouto says. “I’m grateful that you want to help, but… I think we’re good.”

Jirou narrows her eyes at him. “You know, I almost believe that.” Before Shouto can so much as sputter defensively, she sighs. “I can probably convince everyone to stop after tonight. You know, finish on a high note?”

“Thank you so much.”

She tilts her head. “You really don’t like it, do you?”

Shouto shrugs. “Like I said, I’m grateful, but… this much attention, it’s… stifling, I guess?”

“Yeah, they can go a little nuts.” Jirou pauses, mouth curling thoughtfully. “Maybe I should apologize in advance for tonight.”

“Oh,” Shouto says, suddenly. “Maybe I should just—”

“Nope.” Jirou jabs a finger at his chest. “You’re going up there and you’re going to enjoy it. We spent way too much effort on this for you to waste it by sitting in your room alone all night.”

The elevator doors open. Jirou jabs the button for the roof before stepping out, giving Shouto one last glare over her shoulder as the doors close.

Shouto swallows, unsure if the twisting in his stomach is from nervousness or the elevator lurching into motion.

Searching for a distraction, he recalls the box in his hand. Upon closer inspection, it’s a pastry box, and there’s no seal, so he feels confident lifting the lid to take a peek.

There’s a long moment of incomprehension before the elevator doors open with a ding! Shouto quickly shuts the box, feeling his ears turn red. What were they thinking? He can’t give that to Midoriya…

He’s so caught up in embarrassment that he almost lets the doors close without stepping out. Quickly, he waves his hand between them, and only then does he process what exactly the girls have done to the roof.

There are candles everywhere — the ground is a sea of twinkling light, and a line of candelabra mark the edge of the roof. A small column of empty space leads Shouto along a curved path to a little clearing, where one last candle sits, unlit, at the center of a small, square table covered by a white tablecloth, two forks placed within arms reach of a red-cushioned bench seat.

Shouto places the box on the table, then reaches out to light the candle. As soon as he moves his hand away, the flame starts to shudder in a wind too faint for Shouto to even feel it.

Taking a deep breath and tearing his eyes away from how the flame sputters in response, Shouto opens the box. As one would expect, the pastry box holds a pastry— specifically, a cake. A very specifically designed cake.

Hey Midoriya, have a present, Shouto imagines saying.

Thanks! What is it?

Just my heart, imaginary-Shouto responds hysterically as he stares down at the cake: red on the left and white on the right, and perfectly shaped into a heart.

Well, it would probably be hard to misinterpret...

“Todoroki?”

Interrupted from musing on the symbolism of giving someone your heart to eat, Shouto whirls, throwing an arm out and falling into a defensive stance. Then he flails as his leg catches on something, barely regaining his balance.

In front of him, Midoriya winces as things thump to the floor behind Shouto.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.” Then his eyes widen and he darts forward. Shouto looks down to where Midoriya is stamping frantically at the tablecloth, which is smoking lightly. The candle sits nearby, covered in red and white smears. Next to it are the remains of the cake, covered in yellow candle wax and smashed completely out of shape.

Shouto sighs, and honestly can’t tell if it’s in relief or disappointment.

Midoriya looks up at the noise, fire apparently contained. Unlike Shouto, he’s actually gotten around to changing into jeans and a t-shirt. Shouto feels like cringing at how silly he must look. It all feels unbearably cheesy, grandiose in a way that seems somehow inauthentic, though maybe that’s just because he didn’t come up with any of it.

“Did you do all this?” Midoriya asks, even though ‘all this’ is a bunch of candles, a smashed cake, a tablecloth on fire.

Of course, that’s when the wind picks up, and every candle on the roof goes out.

Midoriya yelps; Shouto can vaguely make out the shape of him flailing to his feet.

“Wait a second,” Shouto tells him. Bending down, he lights the tips of his fingertip, searching until he finds the candle from the table. Lighting it once again, he turns to Midoriya and holds it out.

“Thanks,” Midoriya says, candlelight flickering off his eyes as he peers  at Shouto through his bangs.

Shouto sighs. “I can’t take the credit for this. Uraraka and... her friends set it up for us.”

Midoriya’s mouth curves up in the corner. “I’ll have to thank them.”

“I messed it all up, though.”

“Well,” Midoriya says, “maybe not all of it?” He takes Shouto’s hand, tugging him to the bench. “There’s still a nice seat,” he says, placing the candle on the table, “and the stars,” he adds, shooting Shouto a nervous glance, “and you.”

And he hesitates for a moment longer before sitting down sideways, throwing his legs over the end of the bench, and resting his head on Shouto’s lap.

Every muscle in Shouto’s body tenses, his arms coming up to hover awkwardly above Midoriya’s body.

“I— sorry,” Midoriya says, starting to shift. “This is too much, I’ll move—”

“No.” Shouto carefully places one hand on Midoriya’s chest, hesitantly letting the other fall into his lap to toy with Midoriya’s hair. “That sounds good.”

Bit by bit, Shouto relaxes back into the seat and lets Midoriya show him the stars.

***

The next morning, class 1-A is brought on a surprise field trip into the city— at least, most of them are.

As usual, Shouto and Bakugou go to remedial training. They’re both sleep-deprived, and by the end of Saturday, Shouto is twice as bruised as he usually ends up after the whole weekend. For once, though, Bakugou’s worse, probably because Shouto’s given up on covering his dumb ass in favor of protecting his own (probably dumber) one.

In their shoddy camp, Bakugou rages. Shouto hasn’t been paying attention and is wondering how to broach the subject of night watches, but when he hears Bakugou start threatening the mosquitoes with death by explosion, he can’t help but snort.

“What are you laughing about, half-and-half? You look like you got into a fight with a blender!”

“Well, you look like you lost,” Shouto replies.

“Fucking fight me!” Bakugou roars, leaping to his feet.

“No.” Shouto doesn’t even take the time to contemplate whether Bakugou’s serious. He always is.

“The hell do you mean, no? Afraid you’ll lose, even with your flames?”

“No.” Shouto stares at Bakugou with a straight face, wondering what his mouth is trying to get him into.

“Why the hell not, scarface?” Bakugou takes a step toward him, fingers curling into claws. “Fight me, right here, right now.”

“Seriously?” Shouto sighs. “I thought you wanted to fight me at full power.”

“Yeah, and you’ve given up that stupid thing about not using your fire, so—”

“Do you really think I’m at my full strength right now?” Shouto spits, suddenly on his feet. “We’ve been fighting all day. I’m tired, I’m hungry, I’m beaten to hell and back—”

“So you are afraid you’ll lose!” Bakugou crows.

Shouto snorts. “Even in this state, I could take you right now with just my ice.”

“The fuck are you talking about?” Bakugou growls, raising his hand.

“You’re not sweating,” Shouto says.

Bakugou chokes and looks at his fist, where sparks flare weakly but no explosion catches.

“Your quirk is dependent on your sweat, and you’re dehydrated.” Shouto steps closer, raising his right hand as Bakugou twitches in shock. “My quirk, on the other hand, works just fine.”

He curls his fingers, letting frost crystallize across his knuckles, then sighs and presses a piece of ice the size of his fist into Bakugou’s hands, feeling tired. “Eat that.”

Sitting back down, he meets Bakugou’s wide eyes. His classmate opens and closes his mouth a few time, then blurts, “Why—”

“You want to be the best hero, right?” Shouto asks. “Well, so do I. So I’m going to take this training seriously, protect my idiot partner, and get my goddamn license. If you ever want to be a challenge to me at full strength, I suggest you do the same.”

Bakugou is silent for a long moment. Finally, he says, “There’s no way you’re getting your license before me. And once we’re done with this, you better believe I’m going to kick your multicolored ass.”

Shouto blinks. Was that— has he actually gotten through to Bakugou?

Honestly, he’s too tired to really savor the moment. But maybe…

“Since you’re in such bad shape, I’ll take first watch,” Shouto offers.

“Fuck you,” Bakugou growls. “I can watch.”

Shouto doesn’t grin as he gets ready to sleep, but it’s a near thing.

***

When they return to the dorms, Midoriya is waiting outside on the stoop. He looks up from his notebook at the two of them and winces.

“Are you okay?” he demands.

“Fine,” Shouto answers. At Midoriya’s skeptical look, he adds, “Well, I’m exhausted and in pain, but I think we finally made a breakthrough.”

“Oh!” Midoriya’s face brightens somewhat, though the worry lines don’t quite disappear. “That’s good.”

“It’s fucking incredible,” Bakugou barks, “and I’d like to go to sleep now, so can you get out of the way?”

Midoriya quickly moves aside to let him storm past, but latches on to Shouto’s arm when he tries to follow.

“Maybe you should go see Recovery Girl,” he says worriedly, and Shouto must look worse than he’d thought if Midoriya’s so concerned. It’s probably the day-old bruises turning exotic colors, he realizes.

“It’s Sunday evening,” Shouto points out. “She might not even be here.”

“We can check—”

“Midoriya,” he interrupts, and his classmate looks up almost guiltily. “I’ll be fine. I’ve had worse,” he adds, and then wants to kick himself, so he hurries on. “I’d really like to just… go to bed.”

“O-oh,” Midoriya stutters, drooping, and Shouto feels a pang of guilt as he opens the door even though he’s not quite sure what he could have done wrong. Then again, he doesn’t think it’s beyond him to have said something hurtful completely by accident.

“Todoroki!”

Shouto is assaulted with noise the moment he steps into the room. He knows he looks terrible, but he hadn’t expected this much attention. Especially coming from Kirishima, and especially considering that he looks less concerned and more… excited.

“Todoroki, you have to introduce me to your dad,” Kirishima continues, and Shouto goes cold. Literally; he can feel frost creeping up his right leg.

From further in, Bakugou growls impatiently. “The fuck do you want to meet that second-rate piece of shit for?”

“We saw him fighting this weekend,” explains Kaminari from where he’s draped over the couch. “Some League of Villains fanboys attacked the train we were on, because of All Might I guess. We probably could have taken them—”

Jirou snorts. “Yeah, Kaminari, I bet you could totally have taken that little glowing guy.”

But, ” continues Kaminari, “Endeavor showed up and beat them all in like, twenty seconds flat.”

“I don’t think anyone could replace All Might, but Endeavor’s taking to the number one spot quite well,” says Yaoyorozu. Next to Shouto, Midoriya makes an aborted, quiet noise of protest, looking helpless.

“It was so manly,” Kirishima agrees, a familiar look of awe on his face, and Shouto’s stomach turns.

“Endeavor is a stellar role model,” Iida agrees. “His courage in stepping up to fill the void that All Might left is exemplary of the character of a true hero.”

Shouto feels lightheaded. Hoping this is another nightmare, he pinches himself, but it hurts as much as pinching a new bruise should.

“In fact,” muses Iida, “do you think we could arrange for him to speak to the class?”

Shouto opens his mouth, not knowing whether he’s going to scream or sob or vomit or, worse, say something— but he never finds out, because Bakugou chooses that moment to explode.

“We’re being taught by fucking All Might!” he roars, hands sparking. “Endeavor couldn’t even come close to beating him, much less ‘fill his shoes,’ why the hell would we want advice from such a loser—”

“Bakugou!” Iida’s looking at Shouto’s slackjawed expression, and Shouto dimly realizes that it’s likely the most emotion he’s ever shown in front of the majority of his classmates. “I don’t think that’s appropriate—”

“Fucking Endeavor’s not appropriate!” Bakugou screams back, and Shouto wonders abruptly when they’d even have met. “He’s got nothing to teach us except maybe a cautionary tale against being an arrogant asshole—”

“Sounds like a lesson you could use,” snarks Jirou, and Shouto realizes that all of their attention has shifted to Bakugou, so he slowly edges toward the door.

“The fuck are you talking about, Jack-ass?” he hears Bakugou spit as he leaves. “I’ve got the skills to back up every word I say. Endipshit’s just got some flames shooting out of his ass.”

When he’s out of the room, Shouto leans back against the hallway wall and breathes slowly in and out, trying to settle his emotions, but he can't focus. Whenever he tries to grab one, pin it down, and squash it away, it slips away to join the pounding in his head.

A weight falls on his shoulder, and he opens his eyes to see Midoriya pulling back a hand and looking even guiltier than before.

“I’m… are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” Shouto says, and there’s no reason to snap at Midoriya, but Shouto hates this so much, hates that even from so far away Endeavor has this much power over how Shouto feels. He should be fine, he’s put up all these barriers and learned to keep a straight face no matter how he feels, and he. Is. Fine.

“You were trying to keep me from going in there,” he says, and Midoriya winces at the accusation in his tone but nods.

“You didn’t need to do that,” Shouto says, and from anyone else it might sound appreciative, but from this cold place it just sounds dismissive. “Endeavor is nothing to me.”

Midoriya bites his lip in the way Shouto has learned means he has something to say, and the part of him trying to build a wall of ice begs Midoriya to keep it to himself, because Shouto only has so much self control.

But this is Midoriya, and expecting him to hold back when he sees someone hurting is foolish at best.

“It can’t be pleasant, for people to talk like that about him,” Midoriya says. There’s warm concern in his eyes, and Shouto desperately shores up the ice that’s trying to melt. “You just didn’t seem like you’d want to deal with that tonight.”

“I can deal with our classmates,” Shouto snaps. “And I can do it without your useless meddling.”

Midoriya finally pulls away, eyes wide, and Shouto moves, striding down the hallway and sprinting up the stairs, not stopping until he reaches his room.

Safely alone, the adrenaline of panic drains away and Shouto crashes hard, the fog of his exhaustion thickening until everything is obscured. He doesn’t remember brushing his teeth, changing his bandages, or even removing his shoes; the next thing he knows, he’s waking up at six with his mind perfectly clear, one thought blaring in his mind: What have I done?

Chapter Text

“Todoroki!”

Shouto stops, turning back into the classroom. Midoriya’s leaning against his desk, though everyone else has left for lunch.

“Can… can we talk?”

“Of course,” Shouto says, and Midoriya smiles back at him. That’s when he really, viscerally realizes that something is wrong, because whether Midoriya’s laughing or crying, he always emotes with his entire being, but today there’s something guarded in his smile, something afraid.

“Midoriya,” Shouto begins, shutting the classroom door. There’s a twisting, sick feeling in his gut. Somehow, he has to fix this. The alternative is unacceptable.

“I’m sorry,” Midoriya blurts, looking down at his shoes, and Shouto blinks. “Last night, I should have just told you what was happening instead of trying to hide it, and I shouldn’t have bothered you afterward either.”

Shouto takes a moment to process this, and by the time he’s almost done Midoriya is speaking again.

“I just… I know you’re really strong,” Midoriya says, and there’s enough sincere admiration there to make a small, off-task portion of Shouto’s brain dance in glee. “But I… I really care about you, and I thought after how exhausting your training is, you wouldn’t want everyone harassing you like that, and I guess I overstepped, I know it’s none of my business.” He bites his lip, still not looking up, then says in a quiet, miserable voice,  “Please forgive me.”

Shouto didn’t know it was possible to feel this guilty.

“No,” he says, and as Midoriya’s shoulders seem to crumple he rushes to continue. “You don’t need to apologize— you were trying to help. I should be the one apologizing,” he continues. “I was tired and stressed so I overreacted and said things I didn’t mean, but that’s no excuse.”

“But… I was trying to hide something from you,” Midoriya protests. He’s looking up now, and there are tears in his eyes, and Shouto feels like curling up in shame. “There were other things I could have done— even Kacchan was more helpful than me.”

Shouto snorts. Bakugou’s reaction had helped, but he sincerely doubted it was intentional.

Still, he supposes Midoriya has a point. “Fine, I’ll accept your apology,” he says, “but only if you accept mine.” When Midoriya looks like he’s going to argue, Shouto shakes his head. “Maybe you made the wrong decision by accident, but I lashed out at you on purpose, and that’s not the kind of person— the kind of friend— I want to be. So I’m sorry.”

Midoriya chews his lip, then nods. After a moment, he says, “We’re not very good at this whole thing, are we?”

Shouto snorts again, and Midoriya grins back, and for a moment Shouto doesn’t think about any of the things that haunt him.

“This whole thing,” Midoriya repeats, contemplative, and Shouto’s stomach twists.

“Yeah.”

“I- I don’t think we should ignore it anymore,” he says. Shouto swallows.

“No,” he says, and then gets stuck. They stand in awkward silence for a moment longer, and then Midoriya huffs a rueful chuckle and meets Shouto’s eyes squarely.

“You know how I feel, right?”

“Yes.”

“And… you feel the same?” Midoriya asks, and his tone sounds like he’s just confirming, but his eyes are wide like he can’t quite believe it.

“I- I feel something,” Shouto stutters, and since when is he the kind of person who stutters ? Midoriya blinks, and Shouto rushes to clarify. “I’ve never felt like this before. It’s so different— everything is so different here, and it’s…”

“Scary?” Midoriya asks, and Shouto can’t bear to look at him when he responds.

“Terrifying.” He breathes in deeply. “What happened last night, with everyone talking about the old man— I’ve run into that before and it never felt so horrible. Afterward… even I didn’t know what I was going to say.”

There’s another silence; Shouto contemplates his hands.

“I’m sorry,” Midoriya says, and then, achingly, terribly sincere, asks, “What do you need from me?”

And this isn’t fair, because that determined selflessness, that stubborn refusal to let anyone suffer if he can help— that’s why this problem even exists.

“Space,” Shouto says when the wave of fondness has passed. He remembers, suddenly, his conversation with his father after their match, the last time he’d felt so much confusion, so many warring thoughts and emotions. The comparison is absurd, but he finds himself echoing his words from that day. “I need to think.”

“Oh,” Midoriya says, tiny and slow, and then his voice firms so that Shouto knows without looking up that his jaw is set and his fists are clenched in determination. “Okay.”

***

It takes less than twelve hours for Uraraka to confront him.

Shouto knew it was coming as soon as dinner began; he’d walked straight past the table the four of them usually shared and instead sank down next to Yaoyorozu, who’d given him a strange look but respected his desire to eat in silence. Just like old times, except for the brunette staring at him over Iida’s shoulder.

So he’s not surprised when, an hour or so later, he responds to a knock at his door only for Uraraka to shove her way inside.

“What happened?” she asks. Before Shouto can regain his balance— mental or physical— she’s barreling on. “Jirou said you were doing fine and we should stop, and Deku seemed so happy after Friday that I thought we’d done it! But now you’re avoiding each other and all Deku will say is that you talked .” She throws her hands into the air. “What did you say?

Shouto frowns and opens his mouth, but Uraraka sighs, face softening bubbly frustration ebbing into concern.

“Don’t worry, though, we’ll totally help you fix thi—”

“I didn’t ask for your help,” Shouto bursts out, making Uraraka rear back. “I didn’t ask for you guys to take over every moment we spent together, to manufacture your idea of a perfect romance and push us together like we were dolls—”

He stops, taking in Uraraka’s wide eyes and raised palms, the way he’s looming angrily over her. Here I am again, he thinks bitterly.

“Sorry,” he says, stepping back. “I told Midoriya this too, but I just need some space.” It sounds lame, he knows it does, but he can’t quite verbalize how fake the girls ‘dates’ made him feel, or how he feels like he’s losing control of his life.

But Uraraka nods, moving toward the door.

“I’m sorry too,” she says, looking thoughtful, and then she’s gone.

***

The problem is that even with Midoriya giving him space, nobody else is. If anything, they seem to push closer in an effort to fill some kind of gap.

He spends an awkward few English classes making a group of three with the oddly understanding Yaoyorozu and Jirou, while Midoriya does the same with Uraraka and Iida, and every time he walks into the common room it goes silent before everyone frantically tries to go on as if they aren’t all throwing him concerned glances. Iida reminds him that, as class representative, he’s willing to act as an impartial mediator in any interpersonal problems before adding that, as both of their friend, he hopes that they find a solution that makes them both happy.

After he walks into the group study session and the class splits awkwardly between trying to make them talk to each other and those who jump in and deflect, Shouto goes back to working on his homework alone. It’s the most uncomfortable he’s been since moving out of Endeavor’s house.

By the time All Might pulls Shouto aside to assure him that in Aizawa’s absence, he should feel free to come to him with anything— really, anything at all, my boy, All Might emphasizes— Shouto is exhausted. So when there’s a knock on his door, he feels entirely justified in yanking it open with an irritated, “What now?”

Kaminari blinks, taken aback, and Shouto wants to growl at the wave of instant guilt that washes over him.

“I just wanted to let you know that we were hanging out in Sero's room, and Satou made lemon tarts which sound like an old person thing but are actually really good, but if you’re not feeling that I totally understand.”

And now the guilt is back, but it’s fought by a familiar warm feeling in his stomach.

“No, I shouldn’t have snapped at you,” Shouto says, looking down. “Actually, that might be nice.”

It turns out ‘we’ consists of Kaminari, Kirishima, Satou, Sero, and Bakugou. Shouto hesitates for a moment when he sees Bakugou, who’s gripping a large stack of cards in a way that makes Shouto wonder if Sero has extra in case these go up in smoke, but the blond just growls at him to get over here so I can crush you, so Shouto obliges. (Well, the first part, at least.)

“So this game is called ‘Bullshit’,” Kirishima explains. “I have a feeling you’ll be good at it. The goal is to get rid of all your cards, and you’re only supposed to put down certain cards each turn…”

“But you can lie about your cards,” Kaminari adds, placing three card on the center stack. “Fives.”

“Then if you think someone’s lying, you say—”

“Bullshit!” Bakugou barks.

Kaminari flips over the card, revealing three fives. “Read it and weep.

Bakugou takes the stack with a hiss, seeming oddly calm compared to his usual attitude toward losing at anything.

“If you get away with lying, you call ‘popcorn’ after the next person plays,” Kaminari finishes. “Speaking of which, have some refreshments!”

“Kaminari’s crushing us,” Satou admits, passing Shouto a plate filled with yellow pastries. “Especially Bakugou.”

Sero shakes his head over Kaminari’s maniacal cackling and Bakugou’s growled not for long, Dunce Face. “There’s something I never thought I’d hear.”

The lemon tarts are delicious. Shouto leans back at first and lets the others joke back and forth and tease each other good-naturedly, just soaking in the camaraderie of the moment. Once he’s picked up the game enough to realize how bad Bakugou is at bluffing, however, the trash talk comes out almost instinctively, and soon enough he’s drawn into the whole thing.

When Bakugou slaps down his last two cards with a snarl of fours, Shouto makes a show of not even looking at his own hand, instead eyeing Bakugou’s combative posture daring anyone to comment. “Bullshit.”

“Yeah, well you can eat it,” Bakugou growls, snatching up the huge pile of cards that’s accumulated.

“Tempting,” Shouto responds with a tone that makes Sero snort, “but no. Unfortunately you’ll have to find some other way to get rid of those. Threes,”  he adds, placing his cards on the ground between them. He tilts his head and adds with a helpful tone, “I can explain the rules if you need.”

Kirishima chokes.

“Someone open a window, I think I can smell the smoke off that burn,” Kaminari jokes, placing two cards on the stack. “Twos.”

(Bakugou actually is smoking slightly. The window’s been open for an hour, and he’s placed as far as possible from the smoke detector, but Sero still glances up at it in worry.)

“Maybe it’s the popcorn,” Shouto says, inspecting his empty hands.

This time, it’s Kaminari who chokes, and then the entire room dissolves into snickers.

It feels like a breath of fresh air, listening to them laugh at a joke he made, and a part of Shouto relaxes, just a little bit, at the thought that no matter what happens with Midoriya, at least he has this.

***

His face itches.

This is just something that happens, especially in hot, dry weather. For the first few months after the incident, he’d seen a doctor often to make sure the burn healed as well as it could. The man had explained that the oil glands keeping his skin from drying out had been badly damaged and prescribed a moisturizer that he could apply regularly— and then another one when Endeavor had read the ingredients list and realized it was flammable.

Of course, though he couldn’t be burned by his own flames, they did dry the air around him, and so Shouto finds himself bending close to the mirror in the locker room after All-Might’s class, trying to get as close to his eye as possible without getting it in his eyelashes.

“Did you ever hate her?”

Shouto starts; thankfully, his first instinct as he whirls is to throw his hands up in a guard position, so he doesn’t poke himself in the eye.

Leaning back against the locker, Bakugou snorts.

“What are you talking about?” Shouto asks, letting his hands fall to grip the edge of the counter.

“Your mom,” Bakugou says, head tilted challengingly. “Did you ever hate her for what she did?”

Shouto goes cold. “How do you know about that?”

Bakugou rolls his eyes. “That hallway at the stadium wasn’t exactly private, half-and-half. You’re lucky it was me and not a journalist or something.”

That’s actually true, and Shouto wonders if perhaps there’s some part of him that wants everything to come out. Then he feels like laughing at himself, because of course there is: half of Shouto would be delighted to watch the media tear Endeavor to pieces. Meanwhile, the other half would be frantically trying to keep them from doing the same to the rest of his family.

Which brings him back to Bakugou’s question.

“Well?” his classmate challenges.

“No,” Shouto responds, and it’s true. Some days, he’s even felt— well, not grateful, precisely, but it’s the closest word he can think of for the times when he managed to look himself in the eye only by clinging to the thought that she’d burned every trace of Endeavor out of him along with his face.

“If you don’t blame her,” Bakugou says, jarring Shouto from his thoughts, “then why the fuck would you blame Deku?”

“What?” Shouto asks. “Midoriya hasn’t done anything to me.”

Bakugou snorts and pushes off the locker, heading for the door. “If you believe that, you’re a bigger idiot than he is.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Shouto asks, chasing after him, because Uraraka is allowed to be cryptic and disappear but Bakugou is not. “Midoriya’s not an idiot,” he adds because discussing Midoriya usually sets Bakugou off, and also because it’s true and Bakugou won’t get away with saying that kind of thing if Shouto can stop it.

Sure enough, it makes Bakugou turn around, but instead of irritated, he looks vindicated.

“I thought you weren’t here to make friends?”

***

Shouto gets up late on Saturday.

He wakes up at six thirty, just like usual. But then he considers the day ahead of him and makes the unprecedented choice to just stay in bed.

Remedial training is canceled for the day because Gang Orca’s out of town, so refusing to get moving isn’t actually an act of rebellion. Still, Shouto can’t help but feel an illicit thrill when the sun creeps in through the blinds and falls across his still-blanketed feet.

He would have liked to go back to sleep, but his body’s still far too well trained for that. Instead, he pulls his blankets close and stares at the wall.

This last week has been less than pleasant. Shouto’s been lonely before, of course, but it had felt distant, just another hurdle to climb over. Now, even though he still has the rest of his classmates, the lack of Midoriya feels viscerally disturbing, like he’s forgotten how to breathe. Every time their eyes meet, a part of Shouto insists that he should go to Midoriya and tell him that he’s had his space and done his thinking and he’s realized that what he really needs Midoriya to do is give him a hug.

The problem is that that would be a lie. Shouto’s more conflicted than he was to begin with, because if this past week has shown him anything, it’s that he almost needs Midoriya— not to survive, but to be happy. And the part of him that kept him going for years under the thumb of a father who sees him as a tool, the chip of ice at Shouto’s core that proved too rigid for even Endeavour to mold and the spark that drove him to be a hero anyway, that part of him insists that needing someone, defining himself by them, is dangerous.

Shouto can’t let go, but he can’t hold on either, so he buries his face in the pillow and stays in bed.

***

Eventually, of course, he has to get up. This is the only weekend he’s getting for a long time, which means it’s his only chance to visit his mother.

Of course, today’s also the day the newest member of Class 1-A is going to move in, so pretty much the entirety of the class is sitting around the lounge, lying in wait.

“Hi Todoroki!” Uraraka greets as soon as he comes out of the stairwell. She’s perched precariously on the back of a couch, and when she sees him she leans forward enough to make Shouto nervous. “Where are you going?”

“Into the city,” he responds quietly, scanning the room. Sure enough, Midoriya is sitting on the couch opposite Uraraka, a notebook on his lap and pen in hand. He’s staring down at it by the time Shouto’s looking, but judging by the redness of his ears and the fact that the page in front of him is blank, he’d been looking up a moment ago.

“Alone?” Iida asks from next to Uraraka. (Apparently he’s finally given up the fight to get them to use furniture normally.)

Shouto tilts his head. “Yes?”

“Considering the fact that we were moved to campus for our own safety, and that you are easily recognizable, it seems unwise to venture out unsupervised.”

“But it’s not against the rules, right?” Shouto’s kicking himself internally for not thinking of this, because Iida’s right, but it’s far too late to ask a teacher to go with him.

“Yeah, and it’s not like Todoroki can’t handle himself,” Sero says absently from the floor, not looking up from his phone.

“He doesn’t have a license, though,” Kirishima points out, and now everyone’s starting to look their way. Shouto blinks, wishing he’d just gotten up at his normal time and left before any of them were awake.

“One of us could go with him!” Mina suggests.

“No, that’s fine,” Shouto protests, but Iida’s nodding as if this is an acceptable solution.

Shouto feels his worry rising, because if someone comes with him then he’ll have to tell them that his mother’s in a mental hospital, and he’s not ashamed, exactly, but they’re going to ask questions

“I wouldn’t want to bother any of you,” he tries, because why would they even want to follow him around, anyway?

“Todoroki, this is an issue of safety,” Iida scolds. “None of us would begrudge you that.”

“Yeah!” Uraraka agrees.

“I think a day out in the city sounds kind of fun,” Mina says, and people are nodding along now. Thank goodness for the new student or they’d all want to come.

“Depends where exactly we’d be going,” Kirishima responds. Does the we mean he’s thinking of volunteering?

“I wanted to visit my mom,” Shouto says, hoping that will be boring enough to discourage them.

Iida opens his mouth, and Shouto can tell that he’s going to volunteer, and he loves Iida, loves his dedication to their well-being and his earnest care for his friends but it’s extraordinarily inconvenient at this moment.

“I’ll go.” Shouto whips around to look. Midoriya’s eyes are understanding, and Shouto feels a rush of fond gratitude.

“Thanks,” he says, and the entire room lets out a sigh of relief.

As Midoriya runs up to get his bag, Shouto pretends not to overhear Kaminari whisper, “Thank god, it’s been like watching my parents fight.”

***

Of course, they haven’t actually fixed anything— or rather, Shouto hasn’t actually made up his mind. Midoriya is still as carefully civil as he’s been all week, which makes for a rather awkward train ride. They don’t speak except for when Midoriya asks where they’re going to get off, and they get several judgemental looks for staring at their phones the whole time.

It’s even worse when they get off the train, since they have no method of ignoring each other. Several times, Midoriya appears ready to break the silence, but he never actually does. Instead, Shouto stares straight ahead and gives monosyllabic directions until they’ve arrived.

The first time Shouto had come to the hospital, a couple months ago, the staff had been shocked, and it had taken an arduous explanation and his Yuuei identification card to convince them to let him in. Since then, he’s made an effort to drop by when possible, but between class, the training camp, and then the ever-present villain threat and remedial training, his visits aren’t as regular as he’d like. Still, the nurses nod in recognition when he walks through the doors.

“I’ll wait out here,” Midoriya says, gesturing at the chairs. Shouto nods in confirmation, feeling guilty for dragging him all the way out here just to sit alone for hours.

“You’re back!” the receptionist says as he walks up to the desk, smiling. “We were all worried when we heard the news about your camp, and so happy when we heard all the kids were safe.”

“Thank you,” Shouto responds tentatively.

The woman— he should probably learn her name at some point— quirks a self-deprecating smile. “Well, you didn’t come here to hang out with me, did you?” She hands him a visitor’s badge and waves a hand. “Your mom’s still in the same room, go on!”

Relieved, Shouto pins the badge to his shirt as he ducks into the hallway. The hospital isn’t extraordinarily luxurious, but it is very private and thus, by necessity, very small, which means the staff have time to dedicate to every patient. After a childhood half-believing his father had put his mother in some insane asylum out of the horror movies he’d once snuck in on his older brother watching, seeing the perfectly normal and friendly nurses and the way small plants brightened the corridors had been a relief.

Of course, none of it compares to his mother’s voice responding to his knock on the door, and that is nothing to her smile as he walks in.

“Shouto!” She stands, holding out her arms, and he steps in and lets her pull him close. Resting his cheek on her shoulder, he sighs as his frustration falls away, leaving only the feeling of her fingers smoothing over his hair. “I missed you.”

Eventually, she gives him a final squeeze and lets go, and he steps away, straightening his spine. Mom sits on her bed, patting the pale blue quilt beside her in invitation, and Shouto quickly complies.

“How have you been?” she asks. “Did your move to the dorms go well?”

Shouto smiles. “Well, the first night when we moved in, Mina decided we’d all have a competition to show off our rooms…”

***

They talk for a few hours, trading stories about their respective living situations. Apparently, living in the same hospital for nearly a decade means that his mother knows almost everyone here, and her stories are filled with a fond familiarity that Shouto finds echoes his own feelings toward his classmates.

“What about that boy you have a crush on?” she asks eventually. “Ma- Midoriya, right? Do you have any stories about him?”

Even if Shouto couldn’t feel his smile slipping away, he’d know it had by the way Mom’s whole face softens.

“Oh, Shouto, what happened?” He winces, and her frown deepens. “Did he hurt you? If he did--”

“No, Mom,” Shouto cuts her off. “If anything, I’ve probably hurt him.” She raises an eyebrow, and he turns away. “He’s… he told me that he liked me, and that he knew I liked him. But I… panicked, I guess.”

“Oh Shouto,” she says, and this time there’s a hint of exasperation mixed in with the concern. “What did you say.”

“I just told him I needed space to think,” he says. “But I still don’t know what to do.”

She sighs. “What are you confused about?”

He looks down at his hands, trying to figure out how to put it into words. “Did… did you ever feel like you and my father were in love?”

She stiffens next to him, and he closes his eyes in regret. But the words are out now, so he waits for a response.

“I don’t think this boy is going to turn out like Endeavor,” she says flatly, and Shouto snorts.

“That’s not what I meant.”

“Neither are you,” she points out after a moment, and he looks up at her, startled. She sighs, and the shadows around her eyes seem to deepen. “You are so good, Shouto. You could never hurt anyone the way he does. Or,” she continues, reaching up to touch his face, “the way I did.”

“It’s not your fault,” he tells her, as he’s been telling her ever since the first time he visited. “It’s his.”

She shakes her head. “I should have found a way out. For both of us.”

“It’s alright,” he lies, because even though none of it is right, she’s not the one who needs to answer for it.

She takes a long, steady breath. “I didn’t love your father. I was… fascinated by him, at first; he’s very intelligent and charming when he wants to be. My parents thought it would be a good match, and we all thought he loved me, so we married. And at first, I wondered if he’d changed, but eventually I realized that I had never really known him at all, and I was the one who changed.”

Shouto nods, frowning. “He changed you.”

“Yes,” she says, but there’s something uncertain in her tone.

“It wasn’t you,” Shouto says, because it’s true, it has to be true. “You wouldn’t--”

“I would never want to hurt you,” she confirms, and the knot in Shouto’s chest loosens. “That’s what I meant. I changed because of Endeavor, but I also changed when I became a mother, however bad at it I may have been.”

Shouto opens his mouth to protest, but she puts a hand on his shoulder, cutting him off.

“I could have killed you, Shouto. I stayed there for so long, thinking as long as I was there, I could keep you safe, and instead I hurt you because of what I thought he might turn you into. But I was wrong,” she continues, squeezing his shoulder. “Because even after I left you with him, look at what you became.”

Shouto wants to ask what, but his throat is stuck closed. Thankfully, she seems to read the question out of the wideness in his eyes and the limpness of his jaw, and her eyes and her grip soften at the same time.

“You’re a hero.”

He doesn’t know what to say, so he just leans over, wrapping his arms around her and burying his face in her shoulder, trying to match his uneven breaths to her own steadier ones.

“Shouto.”

Pulling away slightly, he meets her eyes, where a hint of steel shines through the warm dove-grey.

“Everyone you know is going to change you,” she says. “If you’re lucky, sometimes you can choose what you let them change you into.”

***

When they come down to the waiting room, Midoriya’s at the desk chatting with the receptionist. He sees Shouto out of the corner of his eye and says something to her before walking over to them, smiling. “Todoroki! My phone died, I was asking Miss Yuuko if she had a charger, and I ended up showing her my notebook and it turns out that she knows–”

He seems to register Shouto’s mother and cuts off, eyes flicking nervously between them. Shouto isn’t quite sure what to say– should he introduce them even though they both know who the other is? It would feel silly, but they are meeting for the first time, so he should try to smooth the transition somehow, right?

“You must be Midoriya,” Mom says, apparently taking pity on the both of them. “I’ve heard a lot about you,” she continues, and suddenly Shouto has a whole new reason to be nervous.

“O-oh,” Midoriya stutters.

“All good things, I promise,” Mom assures him, and Shouto can feel a blush crawling up his throat, like frost but hot. “Actually, I wanted to thank you.”

“Um, you’re welcome,” Midoriya says awkwardly, shooting Shouto a look that says as clearly as words, what is happening? When Shouto widens his eyes in a silent I don’t know either, he adds, “But… what for?”

“For helping bring Shouto’s smile back to me.”

Shouto whips his head to the side, jaw dropping. The deep, sincere gratitude in her face makes his insides squirm with guilt, and he looks away, letting his gaze be drawn back to the wide-eyed Midoriya. Eventually, his classmate swallows, and then smiles.

“It was my pleasure.”

***

Midoriya spends almost the entire walk to the train station stealing glances at Shouto out of the corner of his eye. Of course, Shouto only knows this because he’s doing the same thing. He can’t help it, really; when the object of one’s internal struggle is right there, looking is pretty much instinctual.

Shouto doesn’t like to make snap decisions, but to be fair he’s been turning this issue over for weeks now, it’s about time he did something. Still, he can’t quite bring himself to speak, so they get on the train in silence, taking hold of one of the center poles. He’s just decided to give up and try this once he’s planned out what he’s going to say when Midoriya speaks up.

“Your mom seems like she’s doing well.” He doesn’t look at Shouto when he says it, and his tone is casual enough that Shouto could simply agree and go back to ignoring him. All the same, it’s clearly an invitation, Midoriya’s way of reminding him that he’s still there.

“Yes,” Shouto responds, and then, “she’s apparently been mostly better for years, now, but because of my father, she’s stuck there.”

“Ah,” Midoriya says, and then tentatively adds. “Well, at least they were able to help her…”

The train arrives at their stop, then, and the two of them get off quickly. It’s a fair walk to the dorms— the UA entrance is only about five minutes from the train station, but the campus is incredibly large and their dorms are close to the center for security reasons. Shouto finds himself grateful for the distance, since it gives him time to consider what he wants to say.

“She does this thing, though,” he begins carefully as they walk through the gate. Glancing at Midoriya’s curious expression, he elaborates, “My mother, if something surprises her, she startles really badly. Apparently before I started visiting, she would just flinch or raise her arms defensively, but now if I’m there, she’ll move in front of me.”

Midoriya makes a noise then, but Shouto doesn’t turn his head or try to figure out what it means, just continues.

“It’s called hypervigilance,” he explains. “It can be a symptom of a few things, including anxiety, and schizophrenia, which is what my mother has.”

He hadn’t actually known that, before this year; he’d thought that Endeavor was simply paying exorbitant amounts of money to keep everyone quiet. Not that that was wrong, of course, but it had still been a surprise to realize that at least right after the incident, the hospital may have actually been the best place she could have gone.

“It’s also a symptom of post-traumatic stress, though,” Shouto continues. “Which is common for victims of abuse.”

This time, he can’t help but turn around when Midoriya makes a noise and stops walking.  They’ve ended up in a little courtyard area that Shouto recognizes as being just far enough from most of the school buildings that only the first years really frequent it. His classmate’s face is filled with concern, with threads of horror and confusion seeping through.

“You must have written in your book that I have fast reflexes, and good situational awareness,” Shouto says, feeling oddly detached as Midoriya sucks in a shocked breath of realization. “I’m quiet, except for when I’m suddenly rude, and I tend to overreact,” he barrels on, remembering the Hosu chief of police. “I work hard, to the point where others call me inhuman.”

“Todoroki, you’re not—”

“I’m not anything,” Shouto bites, cutting Midoriya off. “I want to be a good friend, but I don’t know how. I want to be a great hero, but I couldn’t tell you why, and every time I think I’m starting to get there, something else he did to me comes back to bite me,” he continues, and his voice is deepening to a growl but he can’t stop it, “and it just makes me angrier because I can’t stand being the thing he made.”

He’s panting, he realizes, still feeling far, far away from his body. It’s only with an incredible effort that he can pull in a deeper breath, unclenching his fists on a shaky exhale.

“But,” he chokes out, “that’s how it is.”

Midoriya’s eyebrows draw down. “No,” he says thoughtfully. “No, I don’t think it is.”

Shouto feels his face go slack with surprise.

“Some of that might be technically true,” Midoriya allows, sounding dubious. “The reflexes, the awareness… maybe even the rudeness,” he elaborates, mouth ticking up… affectionately? Almost against his will, Shouto can feel himself calming down in the face of Midoriya’s amicable certainty.

“And the rest?” he challenges.

“Well,” Midoriya starts. “You’re definitely human, and you’re definitely something. You like cold soba and vanilla ice-cream, and you’re terrible at video games.”

Shouto huffs, too baffled at the non-sequitur to defend himself.

“You’re a complete dork,” Midoriya says, “and whether you know it or not, you’re one of the best friends I’ve ever had. I mean it,” he repeats when Shouto’s eyes widen. “You listen to me ramble and then give me thoughtful advice at the end of it, you make me laugh even when I feel like crying— and you don’t laugh at me when I do end up crying,” he adds, sounding so disbelievingly grateful that it makes Shouto’s stomach clench.

“Who would even— Bakugou,” he growls in realization. “I—”

“And that!” Midoriya goes on. “You respect me, you think I’m strong, but you also care so much about protecting me that you came running when I just texted you a location. And it’s not just me, it’s all your friends— you helped get Tokoyami and Bakugou back, you almost got in a fistfight with the chief of police over—”

“It wasn’t right,” Shouto argues, cringing at the awkward memory. “He made it sound like he was going to punish the two of you for being heroic.”

Midoriya grins, victorious. “Not just me and Iida, Todoroki. You were a hero too,” he insists, “and that’s exactly why. You can’t stand bullies, and you have the strongest sense of justice I’ve ever seen. You really believe that the world should be fair, even though you know it’s not.”

Shouto gapes, feeling like Midoriya’s punched him in the gut. With his quirk.

“You’re more than what your childhood made you,” Midoriya finishes, and his smile is— gentle, now, but somehow even more staggering for it. “You’re what you made out of your childhood.”

There are tears in his eyes, and Shouto blinks to clear away the ones in his own so that he can memorize with perfect clarity the expression on Midoriya’s face when he says, “And if it matters at all? I think what you made is absolutely beautiful.”

Oh, Shouto thinks, that’s his Todoroki smile.

“Well,” he says, voice cracking. “You did help. A lot.”

Midoriya’s smile goes wobbly, and the two of them practically fall into a hug. It’s warm and tight and safe, everything Shouto’s been missing this week, and when the familiar voice rumbles You’re better than this, Shouto responds with giddy carelessness, there’s nothing better than this.

Still, it isn’t the best position for talking, so eventually he has to pull away. Drawing a deep breath, Shouto meets Midoriya’s tentative gaze. “That was… quite a speech.”

Midoriya giggles, breathy and quiet and adorable. “Yeah, I actually…. This last week, All Might noticed I was… down, and when I asked him for advice on how to fix this, he told to write down what I would say to you if we were talking. I ended up writing like a million drafts, I don’t even think that was the best one, so…”

“I thought it was great,” Shouto says, and then, “All Might’s been giving very good advice, lately.”

“I know,” Midoriya responds, sounding proud. Shouto finds it amusing how their class has developed almost familial affection for the former number one, especially Midoriya. “The best part was when he found me throwing the papers away. He took one look at them, looked up at me, and said ‘If you have that much to say, it must be love.’”

When he’s quoting All Might, Midoriya deepens his voice and contorts his face into a remarkably good imitation of his mentor’s hero form.

Shouto blinks, chokes on an exhale, and then he’s laughing, every breath heaving out of his chest as forcefully as a sob and twice as cathartic. He laughs until his air runs out and then for a while longer, his shoulders curling and shuddering wildly. When he finally pulls himself together, there are tears in his eyes again, and he wipes them away with a smile.

Midoriya is staring at him, gaping really, eyes bright with wonder as if he’d watched Shouto hang the moon and then light the sun and stars on his way down for good measure. When he speaks, it’s practically unnecessary.

“It is, you know,” he says.

“Yeah,” Shouto agrees, and then for clarity adds, “Me too. I don’t really know how to, but…”

“I don’t either,” Midoriya says slowly. “I just— I’m better, when I’m with you. Happier, but also...”

“Like you can be yourself?” Shouto asks. “That’s how it is for me.”

Midoriya smiles softly. “So, do you think you want to try?” he asks, offering a hand, and there’s something so vulnerable there, and Shouto feels protective affection well up in his chest and thinks okay, maybe I can do this. Maybe it's terrifying, maybe it's risky, but maybe seeing that smile and knowing he's the person who put it there is worth it.

Shouto nods, and as he links their hands together Midoriya’s smile brightens until it almost hurts to look at.

Shouto can’t bring himself to even blink.

“In that case,” Midoriya says, starting off down the path to the dorms again, “I’ll start by trying to think of ways to make you laugh like that more often.”

“With the antics our class gets up to, that might not be too much of a challenge,” Shouto warns, making Midoriya squeeze their joined hands with a chuckle.

“Yeah,” he agrees, “our new classmate is really in.. for… it…”

He trails off. As they round the final bend, the dorm building comes into view, at the same time that a strident alarm becomes distinctly audible.

“I don’t know,” Shouto says, watching his classmates mill around while Aizawa is somehow managing to loom threateningly over a purple-haired figure without losing his characteristic slouch. “I get the feeling he’ll fit in perfectly.”