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trading glances like we're lonely, tell me if you taste my motives

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Inko Midoriya dies on a Tuesday, her son's screams ringing in her ears.  

It's a villain because of fucking course it is and it only takes a second before she's gone.  

Midoriya watches with hooded eyes, green electricity cracking through his bones as he runs forward, trying to get to her in time, even though part of him knows he won't make it.  

He ignores the shouts behind him and dodges the tape that Aizawa throws in his direction because he can't just watch his mom die right in front of him without at least trying to save her.  

The villain watches him as he gets closer, his thin, white fingers wrapped around Inko's throat.  

Midoriya is almost there. He can almost reach her, his hand outstretched even as he feels the muscles in his legs stretch and tear.  

And the villain smiles and takes his other hand and then everything is red and Inko is on the ground, a hole in her chest and her face frozen, contorted in fear.  

Midoriya stops, his knees buckling as he stares at his mother's blank eyes. He looks up as circles of red land on his wrist, staining his pale skin.  

The villain holds out the mass of crimson he carries in his palm, tilting his head curiously at the green-haired boy in front of him. "Do you want it?"  

It takes Midoriya a few seconds to recognize the organ, now that it's still and in front of him instead of beating inside his mother's chest where it belongs.  

And then he's screaming and everything burns as if he's on fire and he can't breathe and oh god. None of this is right. Nothing makes sense anymore.  

Someone is grabbing his shoulders and pulling him back, but he rips himself free, falling forward, his hands reaching for his mother's still form. He clutches her arms, shakes her, begs her to wake up, but unseeing eyes stare back at him and now his lungs are screaming too and everything goes black after that.  


He wakes up to white walls and a familiar blue curtain.  

His arms ache when he pushes himself up into a sitting position and it makes him groan. He hears footsteps and then Recovery Girl is standing in front of him.  

"Don't move too fast, Midoriya. You aren't completely healed yet," she says, lightly pushing him back against the pillows.  

He frowns. "Healed?"  

She stares at him for a long moment, something unrecognizable flittering across her face before it fades away. "How much do you remember?"  


He opens his mouth, then closes it, then opens it again, even though there are no words in his head to speak. He feels empty, like someone reached inside his chest and ripped a part of him out—oh.  


"Mom," he whispers and just like that everything comes back, sinking over him like a tidal wave, and he's drowning in memories.  


It's like this. Summer is hot and overbearing and awkward, but he's surrounded by his friends, so that makes it okay. The entire class is attending a training camp instead of relaxing on the beach because they want to be heroes and heroes don't get vacations. This time, they stay on campus, spread across USJ as they practice sparring with and without quirks.  

He is paired with Todoroki and the next few minutes are filled with ice and fire and wind. He's thankful that he has better control over his quirk now because he no longer has to worry about losing fingers with every defensive maneuver he uses. Todoroki grins as he sends a stream of ice towards him and Midoriya rolls his eyes as he flicks it away from him.  

"Doesn’t this feel familiar?" Midoriya asks, dodging a fire attack.  

Todoroki sends him a glare. "I'm still mad at you for destroying yourself like that."  

"Well, it worked, didn't it?"  

Todoroki shoots more ice at him in response.  

Things are normal and good and fine until a familiar purple and black mist appears in the middle of the room.  

"Not again," he hears Uraraka breathe out and he's inclined to agree.  

Aizawa is in front of him then, shuffling nearby students behind him and yelling for someone to call the school. He's already in his fighting stance, ready to protect the class if it comes to that.  

Bakugou is somewhere behind him, muttering curse words and struggling to keep his explosions confined to his palms. Even Kirishima is having trouble calming the blond, something that usually comes easily.  

The warp portal sits silently near the back of the building, taunting them. No one walks out and somehow that's more terrifying than dozens of villains coming at them simultaneously. Last time, it had happened in a second and they were surrounded by criminals. This time, no one knows what to expect and the entire thing feels like some sort of sick, cruel waiting game.  

Midoriya steps forward instinctively when the portal shudders and a figure steps through the mist. It's a man—tall and thin with pale white skin that practically glows translucent in the light. He wears a black cloak that flows around him effortlessly as if being blown by constant wind, the darkness a stark contrast to his skin. His eyes are hard and dark enough that they appear black and his mouth is stretched into a wide grin, stitches holding up the corners of his lips.  

"I'm so sorry to intrude on your training session, but it was really unavoidable," the man says, spreading his arms wide. "Oh, you can calm down, Eraserhead. It's just me today. I'm merely here to deliver a message, so your precious students are safe. At least for today."  

“Who are you?” Aizawa demands, his words steady in the shaking silence.  

The villain smiles, making the stitches stretch. “They call me the Reaper.” 

“What do you want?”  

The Reaper frowns, clicking his tongue and shaking his head. “You really should learn to pay attention, Eraserhead. I believe I already told you the answer to that. I’m here to deliver a message.”  

“Then get on with it, fucker,” Bakugou bites out through clenched teeth as Kirishima wraps himself around the blond’s arm to pull him back.  

“Bakugou,” Aizawa says and everyone hears the warning in his tone.  

The Reaper laughs and the sound is grating and sharp and covered in rough edges. “It’s perfectly fine, Eraserhead. I’ve heard all about your class firecracker. I’ve heard about all your students actually. This message is for one in particular. Where’s All Might’s pet?”  

And Midoriya feels a rush of ice in his veins because everyone is staring at him and he knows his eyes are widening enough to hurt.  

“Midoriya, stay back,” Aizawa orders, but the words are completely unnecessary because Midoriya feels like his legs are frozen solid, heavy and immovable.  

“Oh, Eraserhead. Let him come closer. He deserves a front row seat to the show today.” The Reaper watches him with his lips curled up in a predatory expression before a cold sigh passes through his cracked lips. “Oh, alright. There’s no point in dragging this on any longer. Kurogiri, please.”  

Another portal appears next to him and the Reaper reaches through, hands grabbing for something nobody can see. 

Midoriya frowns because there’s an aching feeling in his chest, warning him that something is very, very wrong. He takes a step forward, his knees knocking together. He hears Aizawa shout his name angrily, but he ignores it, staring at the purple mist beside the villain as someone is pulled out of the portal roughly. 

And then his breath catches in his throat because he recognizes that sweater and he feels like someone smashed their fist into his lungs because oh god, he knows that face.  

“Mom?” he whispers and her scared eyes lock onto his own and he can see her tears from here and the world stops turning.  

He’s moving forward before he realizes it and then there are strong arms wrapped around his waist and blond hair pressing against his head.  

“Stop, Deku. You can’t,” Bakugou says, holding onto him even as he tries to keep walking.  

“Let go. I have to, it’s my—” he says, struggling against the hold, but his body is so so weak and he can’t find the strength to pull away.  

Bakugou tightens his grip and when he talks, his voice hitches. “I know, Deku. I know. But you can’t.” 

He can feel the blond holding him back and somewhere in the back of his mind, he recognizes the horrified expression on Todoroki’s face and the hushed whispers coming from his classmates. He knows that Aizawa is trying to find a way to save everybody and he can hear Jirou furiously typing at her phone, but none of that matters because that’s his mom and he doesn’t care what happens because he has to save her.  

The Reaper laughs, fingers wrapped around the woman’s throat. “Last time the boss was here, you cheated. That made him a little bit angry. And then you cheated again. And that made him really angry. And cheaters deserve consequences. So, from all of us over at the League of Villains, enjoy your prize.” His fingers tighten around Inko’s neck as he raises his other arm, the skin on his hand shifting slightly.  

Midoriya can feel his heartbeat in his ears, can feel the pounding in his skull, can feel the tension throughout his muscles, but all he cares about is escaping Bakugou’s hold and saving his mom. He lets his body relax and Bakugou loosens his grip slightly, just enough for Midoriya to shoot forward, green light cracking through his limbs as he activates his quirk. 

I’m coming, Mom.  

He’s almost there, close enough to touch her if he just reaches out, but then there’s a cruel, calculating smile and a ripping sound and a familiar scream and he’s watching his mom fall, red staining her sweater.  

And he drops, crashing into the ground because nothing makes sense and he’s staring at blank, unseeing eyes that hold no familiarity or warmth.  

He hears the villain’s words, but doesn’t understand them.  

“Do you want it?”  

He doesn’t notice the organ at first, laying at his feet, still and quiet.  

And then he’s retching, bile spilling past his lips onto the concrete, staining it yellow. It burns his throat, sending fire into his mouth that tears him apart piece by piece, but he can’t control it.  

Another portal appears, swallowing the villain whole, leaving behind puddles of blood and a boy with a broken heart.  

His arms move before he realizes it and he’s slamming his fists into the floor, his quirk lighting up his body. He barely feels the pain on his knuckles and doesn’t hear the shattering of his bones or the straining of his muscles. He doesn’t notice the blood dripping from his fingers or the screams ripping from his throat or Aizawa’s eyes staring into his, cancelling his quirk. He doesn’t register anything except the hole in his mom’s chest and the burning coursing through his veins and the world fading away into darkness.  

Midoriya Izuku watches his mother die on a Tuesday, her screams ringing in his ears.  


“He killed my mom.”  

Recovery Girl flinches and doesn’t meet his eyes. “I’m sorry.”  

He knows she’s being sincere, but the words feel empty nonetheless. They’re just words and they can’t bring his mom back.  

“Midoriya, you broke both your arms. Well, you shattered them is a more accurate description. I’ve done all I can. You’ll have some scars, but there’s no permanent damage. Just try to take it easy for the next few weeks,” she says and he nods, even though he can barely hear her anymore.  

“Thank you.”  

She looks at him like she wants to say something, but ultimately decides against it and turns away. “You’re free to go. I’m sure your friends are worried.”  

He nods, even though he has no intention of looking for them. At least not yet. He stands up and it’s only then that he notices the aches in his body, the pain in his elbows, and the tension in his knees. He ignores it and leaves the infirmary, though he knows Recovery Girl is staring after him.  

He makes his way off campus quietly, successfully dodging anyone he knows. He has a close call with Present Mic, but manages to hide in the bathroom until the vibrant teacher is gone.  

The train ride is short, but not short enough because he’s left alone with his thoughts and images of his mother’s empty eyes. He digs his nails into his palm and stares out the window.  

By the time he gets to his house, the skin on his palm is raw and bleeding, but he can barely feel it. He unlocks the door and walks inside, the empty feeling in his chest growing with each step. He’s been living at the dorms for a few months now, but this has always been his home.  

Until now.  

Now, there is no soft humming floating through the house. There is no laughter coming from the kitchen. The house is silent and it’s wrong, so fucking wrong, and he just wants to scream.  

He walks into his mom’s bedroom and crawls onto the bed, hugging a pillow to his chest as he curls in on himself. It smells like love and warmth and laundry detergent and it’s almost like his mom is right beside him, stroking his hair and whispering soft words into his ear.  

“You can be a hero, Izuku. I know you can.”  

I believe in you.”  

“I’m so proud of you.” 

And then his cries are turning into loud sobs, sprouting from his chest like vines and tangling over his skin. He can barely breathe and he just wants things to go back to normal.  

He’s not a hero, he thinks. Maybe Stain should have killed him when he had the chance.  

He squeezes the pillow tighter to his chest, the familiar scent crowding his senses, but it’s not enough because there’s a pit settling in his stomach, burning his lungs, and everything feels wrong and this isn’t home anymore. 

He thinks that maybe the house had nothing to do with it. That it was only a home because his mom was there.  


He’s not surprised when he hears the door open and close a few hours later.  

He’s not surprised when he hears heavy footsteps coming towards him.  

He’s not surprised when he hears a muted “Deku” as firm arms curl around him protectively.  

“I’m okay,” he whispers.  

Bakugou’s hand tightens around his own. “No, you’re not.”  

A beat.  

“I know.”  

He sinks into warm arms, the familiarity surrounding him. He can feel Bakugou’s breath on the back of his neck, hot against his skin.  

That must be nice, he thinks. Breathing.  

Because ever since he woke up, he’s been forcing air through his lungs and out his mouth, desperately clutching at oxygen that tries so hard to get away from him.  

There are rough, calloused fingers trailing over his cheek and he closes his eyes. “Don’t go.” 

“Wasn’t planning on it.”  

He hears the hitch in the other’s voice and he is reminded of his childhood, when things were simple and carefree and didn’t hurt.  

“Catch me if you can, Kacchan!” he shouts, running down the street.  

Bakugou growls at him, but chases after him anyway. “Stupid Deku. I’m telling Auntie you’re running in the road again.”  

That’s mean, Kacchan.” But he slows down, reaching for his friend’s hand.  

“So is getting hit by a car. You’ll make Auntie cry.” The words are sharp, but Bakugou tangles their fingers together anyway and drags the other boy along with him as he continues forward.  

When they’re safe in the apartment, Midoriya runs towards his mom, wrapping his arms around his legs and throwing her a toothy grin. “Hi, Mom! Can Kacchan stay over tonight?”  

Bakugou sneers at him. “Like I’d wanna hang out with you anyway, nerd.”  

But Inko just chuckles and gives the blond a knowing look. “You’re always welcome here, Katsuki. You know that.” She pats his head a few times, then walks into the kitchen with a fond smile.  

"Thanks, Auntie,” Bakugou replies as his cheeks redden. 

Midoriya giggles and tosses his arms around his friend. “Let’s go watch All Might, Kacchan!”  

“Yeah, okay, nerd.”  

When Inko hands the pair a plate of chocolate chip cookies and two glasses of milk, both boys grin at her and shout their thanks. She rolls her eyes, ruffles their hair, and leaves with a shake of her head.  

Bakugou laughs around a mouthful of cookie and elbows his friend in the side. “Your mom is the best.”  

Midoriya smiles back happily. “I know!”  

The memory hurts and soothes at the same time and everything is jumbled and it makes his head hurt. It’s kind of funny, Midoriya thinks, that time is like that. Contradictory and twisted and messed up.  

“What are you thinking about?” Bakugou asks, his voice wary and curious.  

Midoriya turns in the other’s arms until they’re practically nose to nose. “Chocolate chip cookies.”    

“Your mom makes the best cookies.”  

“Made, Kacchan. Made.”  

And then he’s tearing up and Bakugou is sighing and the world is blurry and everything burns. He cries quietly, but each sob rips out of lungs as if he’s running out of breath with each inhale. He knows that he’s soaking his friend’s shirt, but he can’t make himself stop. He feels like his body is completely out of his control, like he’s just a puppet and someone else is pulling at his strings, telling him what to do.  

“I know, Deku. Fuck, I know.” The blond hugs the other boy to his chest, his own cheeks wet with tears because if there’s one thing he knows about Midoriya Izuku, it’s that he loves his mom with everything he has. “What can I do?”  

Midoriya stares at him for a second as the burning in his lungs gets stronger. And then he’s clutching Bakugou’s shirt between his fingers and kissing him and it’s rough and messy and desperate. He feels the blond tense and Midoriya grabs his hand, shoving it up his shirt until it’s pressed against his stomach.  

And then he’s being pushed away, firm hands holding his shoulders as crimson eyes stare at him, unblinking.  

“Deku, you don’t want this.” Bakugou is staring at him, concern carved into his features and it sends furious emotions through him.  

“Don’t tell me what I want,” he growls, knocking the blond away and standing up. 

But he knows he’s right. He didn’t want this. At least, not like this. 

Bakugou follows after him, reaches for him, and Midoriya shakes his head.  

“No.” His green eyes are sharp and piercing. “No.”  

“Deku, please. That’s not going to help you. You know that.” Bakugou’s voice breaks and Midoriya thinks back to chocolate chip cookies and All Might and a part of him breaks too.  

He’s not the only one that lost someone.  

“I’m sorry, Kacchan.” And then he’s running, slamming the door behind him and using his quirk to dart across the street.  

He ignores Bakugou’s shouts behind him, even as guilt settles along his spine. He knows he’s fast enough to outrun his friend, but it still leaves an uncomfortable ache in his mouth that tastes like loneliness and regret.  


He doesn’t know where he is, but it doesn’t really matter. The thought is bitter as he sits on the edge of the roof, his legs dangling under him.  

He remembers running and using his quirk to propel him higher and higher, but he doesn’t recognize anything anymore, just streetlights and stars and nondescript buildings.  

“Are you gonna jump?”  

He recognizes the voice and shakes his head. “I just needed to get away. How did you find me?”  

“Coincidence. You happen to be on my patrol route.”  

When he feels the teacher settle next to him, he stiffens, but it fades away quickly. “Hey, Eraserhead.”  

“Hey, problem child.”  

“I’m not okay.”  

Aizawa sighs, his arm wrapping around his student’s shoulders and tugging him into his side. “No one expects you to be, Midoriya. You are allowed to be not okay right now.”  

He sinks into his teacher, the tension leaving his body in waves. “I miss her. And I want to be angry. I want to find that man and make him pay, but right now everything hurts and this was never supposed to happen. She’s my mom. What am I supposed to do without her? She’s the only family I have.”  

Had, his brain helpfully supplies and he can’t stop the flinch.  

“That’s not true and you know it. You’ve got Uraraka and Iida and Todoroki and Bakugou and, hell, you know what, kid? You’ve got the entire class wrapped around your finger. Not to mention All Might thinks of you as a son and has since he met you. And you’ve got me,” Aizawa says, offering the boy a rare smile. “Even if you are a problem child.” 

Midoriya can hear the honesty in the words and presses his cheek against his teacher’s shoulder. “What do I do now?”  

“You live for her. You become a hero because that’s what she would have wanted. You fight.”  

“Yeah,” he says, even though fighting seems impossible and he just wants to stay on this roof until everything goes away.  

Aizawa ruffles his hair. “Come on, problem child. You worried a lot of people when you left. I’ll walk back with you.”   

So he stands up and if his legs are shaking, his teacher is kind enough to ignore it. They walk in silence, shoulders knocking together occasionally and it’s comforting in a strange kind of way. By the time they get to the entrance of the dorms, he can feel exhaustion seeping into his skin, even as he’s trying to fend off the tiredness eating at him.  

Aizawa notices and pushes him forward, towards the doors. “Go to sleep, Midoriya. It’s okay. If you need anything, you know where to find me.”  

Midoriya nods and it makes his head hurt.  

“Oh, and problem child? I know it’s not the same, but you always have a home with me if you need it.”  

The words sooth the ache in his chest slightly and he tries to send his teacher a grateful smile, but he’s sure it comes out as more of a grimace. Luckily, Aizawa has always been able to read him and he ruffles his hair one final time before turning around to leave.  

“Goodnight, Midoriya.”  


His dreams consist of screams and blood and empty eyes.  

He’s frozen, staring at his mom, at the hole in her chest, at a villain with pale skin and crimson hands.  

He wakes up with aching palms and blood under his fingernails and tearstains on his cheeks.  

After the third dream, he stops trying to sleep.  


The first person he sees when he leaves his room the next morning is Tokoyami.  

He avoids eye contact as he slips past him into the kitchen, opening the fridge to grab a bottle of water to hopefully sooth the burning in his throat.  

A firm hand clasps his shoulder and he looks up to find the boy staring at him. “You’re stronger than they are.”  

And then he’s alone in the kitchen again, but he feels a little bit lighter.  

Tokoyami has always been quiet, choosing to only say what he deems necessary. But Midoriya is thankful for his show of support and even more thankful for how short it is. He doesn’t think he can handle the pitiful glances and condolences right now.  

Besides, he knows Tokoyami well enough to hear the subtext.  

You can talk to me. I’m here for you. I’m your friend.  


A week passes and it feels too short and too long all at the same time.  

There isn’t a funeral and he isn’t sure how he feels about it. Part of him is relieved and part of him feels like a horrible son. But All Might buys a plot at the cemetery closest to the school and creates an open tab at a nearby florist for Midoriya to use whenever he wants. It helps a bit, even though he hasn’t been able to visit her grave yet. Instead, he gives Tsuyu the address and asks her if she wouldn’t mind making sure there are always fresh flowers on the tombstone. The wide-eyed girl agrees without hesitation and texts him every morning with a picture of the newest bouquet pressed against the granite stone.  

He has successfully kept up his mask of “I’m fine, thank you for your condolences,” even though he can feel his classmates waiting for him to break, watching for the inevitable moment where he falls apart.  

He thinks he’s doing pretty well, too, except for the nightmares that still plague him whenever he tries to sleep. He finds himself in the common room most nights, surrounded by silence and loneliness. Sometimes, he curls up on the couch and lets his eyes drift shut when they start to feel heavy because everything in his room reminds him of his mom and it’s taunting him and the common room is a neutral space.  

This is one of those times.  

The nightmare starts out the same way it always does. With his mom’s screams.  

He’s surrounded by white walls and crimson smears and he can hear the screams, but he can’t find her. He wanders up and down hallways, trying to follow the sound, but it’s no use.  

Hands grip his shoulders and his fist is flying before he notices. It’s not until his fist connects with something hard that he opens his eyes and finds himself back in the common room.  

“Fuck,” he whispers, flinching at the sight in front of him.  

“I’m really glad it was me to find you,” Kirishima replies from his place on the floor where he rubs at his chest. “I’m sure that would have been much more painful if I didn’t think to harden first.”  

“I’m so sorry, Kirishima.” He feels the familiar guilt sink into his bones and it makes him wince as if it’s a physical pain.  

The redhead shakes his head and sits next to him on the couch. “You’re fine, bro. It’s my fault anyway. You just looked like you were having a nightmare. I shouldn’t have snuck up on you.”  

Midoriya sighs and drags a hand down his face. He’s tired and depressed and he hates everything. “No, you didn’t do anything wrong. Thank you for trying to help me. I really appreciate it. What time is it anyway?” 

“A little after three.” 

He groans, raising an eyebrow and looking at his friend curiously. “What are you doing up this late anyway?”  

Kirishima offers a sheepish smile. “I just came to get some water. But then I noticed you shaking and I wanted to help.”  

Midoriya nods and rubs at his temples as his headache gets stronger.  

“I know you won’t tell me the truth, so I’m not going to ask if you’re okay. But I want you to know that I’m here for you. You’ve helped me countless times and the least I can do is be there for you. You’re my friend, Midoriya,” Kirishima says, eyes wide with sincerity.  

The kindness in his friend’s tone is familiar and safe and Midoriya finds himself talking before he realizes it. “I keep having nightmares of that day. I just keep hearing her scream. And sometimes, the setting changes and I can’t find her. And I need sleep because this headache won’t go away, but my room is filled with things that remind me of her and I just can’t deal with that right now.”  

Kirishima nods thoughtfully and leans back against the couch. “How about I stay with you? Maybe if I’m here, the nightmares won’t be as bad.”  

“You don’t have to do that. I’ve already bothered you enough.”  

“Midoriya, I love you, but shut up,” Kirishima says. “Come here.”  

Noticing the determined look in his friend’s eyes, he knows that it’s pointless to argue, so he slides closer and curls up on the redhead’s lap, his head resting against his thigh.  

“Let me know if this bothers you, okay?” Kirishima’s voice is soft and his fingers are gentle as he massages the other’s forehead.  

Midoriya feels exhaustion seeping in and closes his eyes, soothed by the hand carding through his curls. He falls asleep to murmured words of comfort and warm touches and he’s still burning, but it’s a little bit lighter.  


When he wakes up, it is not from a nightmare, but from a hand shaking his shoulder.  

“Midoriya, hey, wake up. We’ve gotta get you to your room. It’s been a few hours and I don’t think you want to deal with everyone when they come down for breakfast.”  

Even though he knows it’s an accurate assessment, he still whines, low in his throat, when he is pushed into a sitting position. “But you’re comfy.”  

Kirishima laughs. “Don’t worry, bro. I’m not going anywhere. I’ve got you.”  

“Kay,” he replies. 

And it’s probably because he’s sleep-deprived, but he hooks his arms around Kirishima’s neck and buries his face in his collarbone and closes his eyes again.  

“Aw, Midoriya, you’re so cute and manly. Alright, new plan,” the redhead says and slides his arms under Midoriya’s knees and behind his back, lifting him easily and hugging him to his chest.  

The walk is silent and Midoriya can hear his friend’s heartbeat against his ear. It’s a comforting sound. 

It’s not until he’s deposited carefully onto dark sheets that he realizes he’s not in his room. He opens his eyes and looks around, confused.  

“It’s my room. I remembered what you said about your room bringing up memories, so I thought you would prefer here.” Kirishima’s words are kind as he grabs a blanket from the closet and tucks it around Midoriya.  

“Are you leaving?” he asks and he can’t hide the panic in his voice.  

The redhead tilts his head at him with a thoughtful expression before smiling a familiar smile. “Of course not. I said I wasn’t going anywhere and I meant it. Scoot over.”  

Midoriya shuffles closer to the wall and waits for Kirishima to lay down beside him. His friend wraps around him, warm and safe and good and he buries his face in the redhead’s shirt and closes his eyes. It’s not until there are slow fingers tracing over his cheek that he lets himself fall asleep again.  


It becomes kind of a thing.  

Kirishima finds him in the common room in the middle of the night, curls around him while he shakes, and holds onto him until he gives in to his exhaustion. Sometimes, he still has nightmares, but he can’t feel the burning when he’s sleeping and he thinks that’s a fair trade.  

Eventually, people start to notice and the concerned glances deepen.  

He loves Uraraka and Iida, but every time he sees them, he wants to rip his hair out and scream until his lungs stop working.  

He knows they care. He knows logically that they are only trying to help, but they’re driving him crazy and he just wants them to back off.  

He’s sitting on the couch in the common room, trying to focus on the movie that Sero and Kaminari had started on the tv, when the pair stops in front of him with stern looks and determined features. Everyone in the class is scattered across the room and all of the sudden, everybody’s eyes are on him as he gets lectured.  

“Deku, you need to be sleeping more. I know you’re sad, but it’s going to be okay. You’re strong and you can do this,” the girl says with a bright smile and a thumbs up in his direction.  

Iida nods sagely, his exaggerated hand motions already present. “Uraraka is right, Midoriya. You need to take care of yourself. I haven’t seen you in the cafeteria much, so I know you haven’t been getting the proper nutrients that your body needs.” 

Todoroki tries to signal at them to stop, but they ignore him and continue talking over each other. Bakugou glares at them and tells them to shut up, but Uraraka brushes him off with a “Bakugou, this doesn’t concern you.”  

And Midoriya tries to remember to breathe through the rapidly increasing burning in his chest, his fists clenched in his lap.  

“I know that this is hard. Something horrible happened, but you need to move on. You need to get better,” Uraraka continues, oblivious to the growing anger in the green-haired boy in front of her.  

Iida’s voice is loud and grating when he speaks. “Precisely. You can’t always rely on Kirishima to be there to help you sleep. Your mother would want you to take care of yourself.”  

And then the hot anger that had been building in his chest rushes up through his throat and he’s standing, his lips pressed together in a thin line and his eyes narrowed. “My mother would want to be alive.”  

He can see Kirishima and Tokoyami staring at him in concern out of the corner of his vision and he can feel Todoroki’s firm presence behind him and he knows Bakugou is watching with careful, attentive eyes and it helps settle the burn in his chest enough to breathe.  

“Don’t follow me,” he says and walks away.  


This time, no one comes to find him.  

He’s thankful for that.  

He walks until he’s standing in front of USJ, the building familiar and cold and daunting. It’s the first time he’s been there since his mother’s death and it’s just as painful as he expected it to be.  

He’s not even inside yet and his heart is already pounding painfully against his ribs. His entire body feels heavy as he forces himself forward, opening the door and slipping inside.  

The school had hired someone to clean up the bloodstains and they succeeded for the most part. The floor is stained slightly, probably from bleach, and it physically hurts him to look at it.  

But he does.  

His legs give out then and he crumbles to the ground, his fingers reaching out to touch the discoloration. He can feel the blood on his knees from the concrete scraping sharply against his skin, but he doesn’t care in that moment because all he can think about is his mom’s face, full of terror and fear.  

I’m sorry, Mom. I couldn’t save you.  

He closes his eyes and tries not to scream, even as the sound is bubbling in his throat like fire.  

Not for the first time since the incident, he wonders if he’s really cut out to be a hero. If he can’t even save his mom, the person he loves more than anything in the world, then what hope does he have at saving anyone else? The words bounce around in his head and he doesn’t bother trying to control his thoughts, even as they get darker and darker.  

And then he’s on fire again and the burning is back.  


“Do you need help?”  

He looks up at Todoroki and nods after a second.  

He’s sitting in the kitchen, staring at his bleeding knees when the dual quirk user walks in. He can barely feel the pain anymore. He just feels numb, like he’s encased in ice. He wonders if this is how Todoroki feels. Cold and hot all at the same time. 

Todoroki wets a towel and sits next to him, gently pulling his legs to lay across his lap. As nimble fingers clean his wounds, getting out the dirt and debris, Midoriya finds himself staring at his friend, studying the worried frown on his lips and the way his eyebrows furrow.  

“I’m sorry I scared you,” he says because what else is there to say?  

Todoroki watches him carefully for a moment, then smiles a soft smile. “It’s okay, Midoriya. You had a reason to run. Uraraka and Iida were being ridiculous. I tried to get them to stop, but I don’t think they noticed.” 

Midoriya forces a laugh. “Yeah, they were pretty determined. I know they were just trying to help, but—”  

“No. They crossed a line. It doesn’t matter what their intentions were. It was abundantly clear that you were uncomfortable and they should have stopped,” Todoroki says firmly, wrapping gauze around his friend’s scraped knees.  

Midoriya is used to being covered in bandages. He usually has at least one injury somewhere on his body, so he’s gotten familiar with the process. He stands up and grabs a bottle of water from the fridge, taking a sip before pulling himself up to sit on the counter, his legs dangling in front of him, heels touching the cabinets below him. 

Todoroki puts the first-aid kit back under the sink and stands in front of him, watching him with a curious expression. “If I ask you a question, will you answer me honestly?”  

Maybe it’s because it’s Todoroki, who has never lied to him before, but he finds himself nodding without hesitation.  

“How are you?”  

Midoriya knows it’s coming, but it still hits him hard, like a punch to the gut. He stares at heterochromatic eyes and thinks for a minute before speaking. “I don’t know. I miss her. All the time. And sometimes I think I’m okay, but then it feels like everything is burning and I don’t know anymore.” He makes a noise that’s somewhere between a laugh and a sob and he can feel tears in his eyes, destroying his assumption that he had run out of them.  

“Hey,” Todoroki says and then there are soft hands wiping the tears away, rubbing against his cheeks with featherlight touches. “It’s okay to cry.”  

“It just feels like that’s all I’ve been doing lately.”  

Todoroki nudges his knees apart to stand between them and wraps his arms around the smaller boy, guiding his face to press against his chest. “That’s understandable. I’m here if you ever want to talk.”  

Midoriya lets his body sink against Todoroki’s, his tears slipping out slowly. “I feel like I failed as a hero. I couldn’t save her. I’m supposed to be strong, but I was too weak to save my own damn mother.”  

“You could never fail as a hero, Midoriya. It wasn’t your fault. Everything happened in a second and you couldn’t have done anything, no matter how strong you are. It had nothing to do with your strength. You are a hero. You always have been,” Todoroki says earnestly, his fingers lightly pressing against Midoriya’s chin, forcing him to look up. “It wasn’t your fault. Okay?”  

Midoriya nods because that feels like the only thing he can do. Even if he doesn’t believe it, he can’t bring himself to argue, not when Todoroki is looking at him with so much concern and support.  

Todoroki pulls away from him and watches him carefully for a long moment. “I’m supposed to be training with Kaminari in a few minutes. Are you going to be okay?”  

“I’ll be fine. Don’t worry. Have fun training.”  

With a final squeeze of his shoulder, Todoroki is gone and Midoriya is alone again in the kitchen with only his thoughts to keep him company.  

He doesn’t know how much time passes, but there’s a crook in his neck and his head is aching again. Eventually, he closes his eyes and leans his head back against the cupboards, trying to get away from the blinding lights.  

“Midoriya! I’ve been looking for you everywhere.” 

He opens his eyes to find Kirishima rushing towards him, Bakugou a few steps behind him. The redhead pulls him in for a fierce hug and Midoriya leans against him easily, the familiar position quieting his mind.  


Kirishima shakes his head and his eyes are angry when he replies, but it’s not directed towards Midoriya. “I am so mad at those two for saying what they did. You can always rely on me. Always. You’re my friend and I care about you and I told you I’m not going anywhere and I meant it. Besides, I like staying with you at night. It makes sleeping easier.” 

“You’re rambling, Shitty Hair,” Bakugou cuts in, though the words lack any bite.   

Midoriya looks at the blond, his chest tightening as he wonders what his childhood friend is thinking. After all, he had basically assaulted him in his efforts to forget about his mom.  

Bakugou frowns. “Give me a minute with Deku, Shitty Hair.” 

Kirishima studies him for a second, then nods and pulls away from Midoriya. “I’ll be in my dorm. Please don’t hesitate to come get me. I wouldn’t say no to a nap right now. And remember, they’re wrong. You’re allowed to need people, Midoriya. You’re allowed to ask for help. Relying on others does not make you weak.”  

“Thank you,” he replies and he knows that he’s getting choked up, but he can’t really help it because he’s just so grateful to have Kirishima in his life.  

The redhead leaves after ruffling his hair and he’s left staring at the floor, wondering what Bakugou is going to say.  

“Hey, nerd. Look at me.”  

Maybe it’s the softness of Bakugou’s voice or the fact that he’s never been able to say no to the explosive blond, but he raises his head and emerald eyes meet ruby orbs.  

Bakugou walks forward and Midoriya flinches, his eyes squeezing shut. He doesn’t know what he’s expecting, but he hears the other boy curse under his breath and then there are cautious fingers on his cheeks.  

“I’m not mad, Deku. Can you open your eyes?”  

He does, subconsciously leaning into the other’s touch.  

Bakugou smiles and it’s gentle and sincere and kind and it’s all so out of place that a lump forms in his throat. “You’re alright. I’m not going to hurt you, okay?”  

Midoriya nods and his voice catches as he speaks. “I’m sorry, Kacchan. About what happened at my house.”  

“Why did you do it?” the blond asks slowly in a neutral tone. 

“I just wanted everything to go away. I felt like I was suffocating and burning at the same time and I couldn’t handle it. I’m really sorry. I shouldn’t have used you like that.” He ignores the voice in his head, the one reminding him that he could have done a million other things, that kissing Bakugou was the first thing that came to his mind for a reason.  

But Bakugou is apparently on the same wavelength as he tilts his head to the side and continues to hold Midoriya’s face in his hands. “I figured as much. That’s not what I meant. Why did you kiss me?”  

For some reason, Midoriya doesn’t even contemplate lying because he can hear his mom as if she’s standing right next to him and he’s lost in a memory.  

“When I was 13, I realized that I was different. Not just because I didn’t have a quirk, but because I didn’t care about crushes or girls. I just wanted to be a hero. And then Kiki from history class confessed to you on Valentine’s Day and I was so upset. I ran home crying and I didn’t even know why. I remember sitting on the couch beside my mom and telling her that I was mad at Kiki because she was going to take you away. You already hated me at that point, but at least you still paid attention to me. I was so scared that you were going to ignore me for her. I was confused and I kept asking why I was so emotional about something so small. Mom smiled and patted my head and told me that I’d figure it out eventually.”  

He laughs a bitter laugh and feels something tug at his chest when Bakugou’s hands drop away from his face, but he shoves it away. “It took two whole years for me to realize what she was talking about.”  

“Deku—” Bakugou tries to interrupt, but he shakes his head and waves him off.  

“Let me finish this or I never will,” he says, exhaling heavily. “When we both got into UA, I thought that maybe things would be different. You’d see that I had a quirk and you’d realize I wasn’t completely useless. You’d see that I was more than just a stupid Deku. I didn’t expect it to make you hate me even more. I tried so hard to get you to be my friend again and it wasn’t until the day you got kidnapped that I realized that being your friend wasn’t enough. I wanted to hold your hand and be with you. Somewhere in between the fights and explosions, I fell in love with you. Don’t ask me when because I can’t give you a specific moment. I think it happened gradually, then all at once.” 

Bakugou is watching him, eyes wide with an emotion that he can’t recognize at the moment.  

He drags a hand through his hair, even though he knows he’s only tangling his curls even more than they naturally are. “I called my mom when I realized it. God, I was panicking like crazy. She just laughed and told me that she knew I’d figure it out. I hung up on her. I never told her about the bullying or you hating me, but I think she knew. She called me back and told me that who I fell in love with would never change her love for me. Then, she said to be careful because it’s easier to fix broken bones than broken hearts. I really should have taken her word for it, but I guess I’m a bit of a masochist. I wish I could tell her that she was right.” By the time he’s done, he’s whispering, the words fading into the empty kitchen.  

He finally looks up and meets Bakugou’s eyes with a sad smile. “I know it doesn’t make it okay, but I’m sorry. I tried to make it go away. There was a particularly embarrassing incident with Uraraka that we still don’t talk about. But nothing worked. I guess hearts really are fickle things, just like my mom said. So, I’m really sorry, Kacchan. Anyway, that’s all I had to say, I think. I’ll leave you alone now.”  

He gets off the counter, stumbling slightly, and ignores the burning in his chest that he’s getting all too used to feeling. When he walks out of the room, he pretends it doesn’t hurt that Bakugou doesn’t follow him.  

He really should have heeded his mom’s warning. 

Hearts are fragile, Izuku. They don’t heal like bones do. Be careful.  


Uraraka and Iida corner him a few hours later with sheepish smiles and guilty expressions. They apologize profusely, acknowledging that it was none of their business and that they should have paid more attention to his feelings.  

He nods and accepts their apologies and hugs, though he can’t stop himself from wishing that it was his mom hugging him instead.  

Ever since his talk with Bakugou, he’s felt emptier than ever, his heart aching for his mother’s warm embrace and soothing words. He makes his way back to his dorm and folds himself around a sweater that he had grabbed from his mom’s closet at home. It still smells faintly like her and it’s comforting and heartbreaking at the same time.  

He hugs the soft material close to his chest, even though he knows it won’t do anything to extinguish the fire in his lungs.  

I worry about you, Izuku. Your quirk hurts you.” She’s sitting next to his hospital bed, a worried frown marring her features.   

“I know, Mom, but now I can be a hero!”  

She sighs and rubs a hand over his curls with a gentle smile. “You never needed a quirk to be a hero. You’ve always been my hero.”  

He grins. “Thanks for believing in me. I’ll become the best hero for you!”  

It’s not worth it, he thinks. Being a hero just isn’t worth it.  

If he had known it would mean losing his mom, he would have turned All Might down. He would have walked away without looking back.  

It’s too late for that now, he reminds himself bitterly. He made the wrong choice and now his mom is dead. She can’t come back, no matter how much he cries and wishes for it.  

Part of him wants to go find Kirishima because he’s so tired, but maybe Iida has a point. He can’t rely on the redhead forever.  

So he burns instead.  


He doesn’t sleep. Every time he closes his eyes, he sees bloodstains on concrete and empty stares that send shivers down his spine. He wonders if he’s pathetic for still having nightmares.  

It’s been almost a month and he still feels like it happened yesterday. He can still see his mom falling, the hole in her chest taunting him. He can still see white skin and stitched lips and the fire in his chest grows to the point that he wonders if he would see flames if he looked down. 

He walks into the common room when his room becomes too much. He can’t bring himself to take down the photos or put away the blankets or hide the All Might comics, but every time he sees them, he is reminded of his mom’s unconditional love and support and it makes him ache in the worst kind of way. He knows how much his mom loved him and it just makes it that much harder to think about how he failed her when it really mattered. 

He doesn’t even notice the other person in the room until he sits on the couch and curls against the armrest.  


He jumps, eyes wide, and looks over to see Tokoyami sitting on the other end of the couch, book in hand. “Sorry. I’m a little out of it. I didn’t mean to disturb you. I can leave.” 

But Tokoyami just rests a hand on his ankle to stop him from moving. “You’re more than welcome. Did you sleep at all?”  

He shakes his head.   

“Why didn’t you get Kirishima? I know he’s been helping you with that lately.”  

Midoriya frowns, his teeth digging into his lip. “I don’t want to bother him.”  

Tokoyami nods in understanding. “Ah, I wondered if you would take Iida’s words to heart. It seems I have my answer.”  

“He was right. It’s not Kirishima’s job to take care of me. Or anyone’s job for that matter. I should be able to deal with this on my own.”  

His friend pats his ankle with a serious look. “I think you’re looking at the situation wrong. Kirishima doesn’t see helping you as a job. He’s your friend, so it brings him joy to be of assistance to you. That’s the same way I feel and I’m sure Todoroki and Tsuyu would agree. It’s barely been a month, Midoriya. It is entirely logical that you’re still struggling. You shouldn’t feel guilty about trusting your friends enough to rely on them. That’s why we’re here.”  

Midoriya, for the first time, really listens to the words and a memory pops into his head.  

“Mom, do you think if I become a hero, I can work with All Might?”  

He’s five years old and full of energy and he really just wants to fight alongside his favorite hero.  

His mom laughs and lifts him up, spinning him around as he squeals happily. “I think he would love to work with someone as cute as you.”  

“Mom,” he whines. “Heroes aren’t cute. They’re strong! And All Might is the strongest of them all. He probably doesn’t need help.”  

She sets him down and crouches to his level, looking at him seriously. “Izuku, even the strongest people need help sometimes. I’ll tell you a secret. Sometimes they’re the ones that need it the most.”  

“Sometimes they’re the ones that need it the most,” he repeats quietly, staring at the jagged lines that cover his hand.  

Tokoyami’s hand is still resting on his ankle and the weight of it is grounding and steady. “If you’re not comfortable trying to find Kirishima, you’re more than welcome to use me.”  

Midoriya flushes, his cheeks reddening easily. “Ah, I appreciate the offer, Tokoyami, but you don’t seem like the cuddling type and I really don’t want to bother you.”  

“You’re overthinking it, Midoriya. I’m more than happy to assist you. Do what you need to do. I promise you won’t burden me. I want to help you.”  

The earnest note in his friend’s voice makes him pause, watching Tokoyami with a careful gaze. Once he’s sure that there is no dishonesty in his expression, he slides closer to the other, hesitantly leaning his head against his shoulder.  

Tokoyami reaches out and runs a hand through his friend’s green curls with a sigh. “Midoriya, calm down. I can feel how tense you are. It’s perfectly alright. You can relax. Like I said, I’m not bothered in the slightest.”  

At the taller boy’s words, Midoriya allows himself to sink into Tokoyami’s shoulder more heavily. It’s different than with Kirishima, but still pleasant and comforting. He closes his eyes and tries to regulate his breathing, tries to force the burning to fade away. 

Tokoyami slides his arm behind Midoriya’s neck and continues to run his fingers through his hair, even as he resituates his book in front of him with his free hand and reads silently.  

“Thank you,” Midoriya whispers.  

The hand on his head is soothing and Tokoyami is warm, so he’s only slightly surprised when he finds himself dozing off.  


He knows it’s going to happen eventually. He can only avoid Bakugou for so long after all. But the knowledge doesn’t do anything to alleviate the fire in his chest and the ash in his lungs.  


“Hi, Kacchan,” he replies. He’s whispering, even though they’re alone in the common room, the sky dark and the lights dim.  

The blond sits next to him on the couch and the space between them is cold and distant. “We need to talk, nerd.”  

Midoriya sighs and barely resists the urge to run. “I think I’ve already said everything I need to say.”  

“Let me rephrase that. I need to talk and you need to listen.” Bakugou’s voice is steady and level and there’s a note of frustration in his tone that makes Midoriya flinch.  

He nods.  

Bakugou softens and reaches out, but ultimately lets his hand drop back to his side. “I’m not going to hurt you, Deku.”  

“I know.”  

And it’s true. He does know. Bakugou may have used violence in the past, but he’s since switched to clever insults and the occasional threat to get his displeasure across.   

The blond pauses for a second, staring at him, then looks away. “You’ve always been the weak one. The one that needed protecting. The one that needed someone to take care of them. That was my job when we were kids. To watch out for you. And when I got my quirk, I figured that it would be an easy job. But then you were quirkless and your dumb ass still insisted on being a hero. You still wanted to save everyone, even though you were weak. And I just kept seeing tiny, weak, quirkless you getting yourself killed because you wanted to be a fucking hero. You were always trying to save me and I hated it. You were going to die and it was going to be all my fault.”  

Midoriya sits silently, staring at his lap. He’s still weak, he wants to say. His quirk has nothing to do with it.  

“So, I pushed you away. I called you a useless Deku because I thought that eventually you would give up and stop trying to be a hero. But you never did. If anything, you got more determined. But then when the entrance exams happened, I figured you didn’t stand a chance. You didn’t have a quirk, so there was no way they’d accept you, right? So you’d fail and go home and stay safe and give up on the hero thing entirely. But, of fucking course, you managed to get a quirk. Shit, Deku, when you walked into class that first day, I wanted to kill you. I wanted to grab you and drag you home and make you stay there so you couldn’t get hurt.”  


“Don’t interrupt, nerd. I’m almost done.” The blond exhales heavily, digging his fingers into his knees. “I never hated you. I just wanted you to be safe. Yeah, I definitely went about it the wrong way. I was an asshole and I’m genuinely sorry for that. But that’s what it boils down to. You have no self-preservation and I wanted you to be safe. I would rather have you alive and hate me, then have you dead and next to me.”  

“I’m sorry,” Midoriya whispers once the words become physically painful to hold in.  

Bakugou blinks at him, confused. “What the hell are you saying sorry for?”  

“For scaring you.”  

“Fuck, Deku. That’s not what I mean. I’m not trying to make you feel bad. I’m trying to make you understand,” the blond says and there is tension in his voice, strained and frantic. “That day at your house. I didn’t want to kiss you.”  

Midoriya feels like he’s going to cry. “I know, Kacchan—”  

“I said stop interrupting me, asshole! God, no, fuck. I didn’t want to kiss you like that.”  


Bakugou is sliding closer to him now, tangling their fingers together slowly and meeting his eyes. “I said, I didn’t want to kiss you like that.” He leans forward then, carefully, until his lips brush against Midoriya’s.  

It’s light and feels almost like a soft breath against his skin, but Midoriya is weightless, his heart pounding in his chest.  

“I want to kiss you like this.” The blond presses their foreheads together, his free hand wrapping around the back of the other’s neck. His touch is warm and gentle and familiar in the best kind of way. “I figured out I was in love with you when we were four. You’re a little slow.”  

Midoriya doesn’t move, terrified to break the spell that has fallen over them both. “You’ve always been better than me, Kacchan,” he says instead.  

And then Bakugou is kissing him again, arms wrapping around his waist and tugging him into the blond’s lap. He clutches the other’s shoulders and tries to convey every bit of desperation, love, and warmth that he can into the kiss. He thinks he succeeds if the way Bakugou grabs his hips is any indication.  

It’s messy and clumsy and awkward, but it feels like coming home and that makes it perfect. 

“I love you,” the blond says against his lips.  

“I love you, too.”  

Bakugou kisses his forehead and it’s so tender that he can’t help but cry, tears welling in his eyes and streaming down his cheeks with no inhibition.  

The blond’s eyes widen as he frantically tries to wipe them away. “Deku? Why are you crying?”  

“I just, I’m so happy,” Midoriya sobs, hiding his face in the other’s neck.  

“I’m happy, too, nerd. I’m sorry I’ve been an idiot for so long.” The blond runs his fingers through mossy hair, his touch reassuring. 

But Midoriya just shakes his head. “It’s okay, Kacchan. We’ve got forever to make up for it.”  

And Bakugou offers him a soft, private smile. “Forever sounds nice.”  

Yeah, he thinks, it does.  

It’s not until hours later when he’s curled in the blond’s arms half-asleep that he realizes the burning is gone. 


He holds the bouquet between sweaty palms and stares at the stone in front of him.  

Midoriya Inko  

It stings, but it doesn’t burn and he thinks that’s progress.  

“Hey, Mom, it's been about a month since it happened. I know I haven’t come to see you yet. I’m sorry. I just wasn’t ready to face it. That you were gone.”  

He kneels down, lays the flowers against the granite, and presses his fingers to the engraving.  

“I failed you. I’m supposed to be a hero and I couldn’t save you. I tried, I swear, but I was too slow.” 

He laughs, even as the tears start. “I know what you’d say if you were here. You’d tell me to stop being stupid because the only person at fault is the villain. Part of me knows you’re right and I’m trying so hard to accept it. It’s just going to take some time.”  

He traces each word on the stone, his heart full of longing.  

“I miss you so much. It’s hard with you not here. But I think I’m going to be okay. I finally took your advice and told Kacchan how I feel. We’re together now and I’m just so happy with him. You would have been proud, I think. Kacchan told me that you knew about how he felt. He said to tell you that he’s no longer acting like an emotionally stunted toddler. I think it’s too soon to tell, though, but don’t tell him I said that.” He glances behind him and smiles at the figure waiting for him.  

“I have to go now, Mom. But I’ll come visit you soon. I promise.” He kisses his fingers and drops them against the stone one last time before walking away, eyes red-rimmed, but his heart content.  

“How’d it go?” Bakugou asks, wrapping an arm around his shoulders and kissing his temple lightly.  

Midoriya nods, wiping away the last remnants of his tears. “It was easier than I thought it would be. It didn’t hurt as much.”  

“Stupid nerd,” the blond says, but the words are fond and his tone is smothered in affection. “Love you.”  

He grins and leans against his boyfriend. “Love you more.”  

Bakugou kisses him then and he is burning in an entirely new way.  

He thinks he likes this kind of fire.