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quid pro quo

Chapter Text

Most things in Todoroki’s life have come entirely naturally to him.  He has excellent combat instincts. He’s an inherently gifted student.   He has innate agility and strength. But with Izuku (because he’s Izuku now, Todoroki thinks, his stomach still twisting every time he thinks of him with his given name), he is horribly, hopelessly lost.

They’ve been together for a week and Todoroki is almost dizzy from it, from Izuku taking his hand unprompted, or pressing a kiss to Todoroki’s cheek whenever the urge strikes him, or smiling a small, secret smile at him from across the classroom.  It baffles him every time he thinks about it. Out of every possible option, Izuku has chosen him. Izuku wants to touch him and spend time with him and talk with him. Izuku, the brightest light in any room he enters, the bravest and the kindest and the best, has chosen Todoroki.

Todoroki is terrified of ruining it.  But more than that, he’s terrified of ruining him .

He’s read enough to know that people usually take after their parents, that they tend to reproduce the environments in which they grew up.  And Todoroki grew up knowing little but violence and anger and cruelty. So, by the prevailing logic, he’s going to treat Izuku like that too.

He’s been sleeping very poorly the past week, kept up by thoughts of all the ways he could hurt Izuku.  He could shout horrible things at him, the way he’d been shouted at all his childhood. He could go cold and distant and refuse to tell Izuku what he did to deserve it.  He could be demanding or controlling, try to dictate everything in Izuku’s life. He could hit him.

That’s usually the point at which Todoroki feels like he might vomit and has to splash his face with cold water and try to slow his breathing.

Outside of his capacity as a heroics student, Todoroki has never hurt anyone on purpose.  He never got in fights at school. He never even tussled with his siblings growing up. He simply hasn’t ever felt moved to violence.  But he knows it’s lingering in him like a dormant virus. He’s been infected, he’s sure of that much, and it’s only a matter of time before the symptoms manifest.

To try to forestall the inevitable violent eruption, Todoroki’s devised a few rules.  He is not allowed, under any set of circumstances, to fight with Izuku. In fact, he should try to avoid even the slightest of disagreements.  If he ever gets angry, he has to leave immediately and isn’t allowed to return until he’s perfectly calm. The moment he feels he could hurt Izuku in any way, he has to end it between them.  Permanently.

The rules are certainly not enough, but they’re the best he can do.  He can’t help that he’s been infected, no, but he can try to stop the virus from spreading.

“Shouto?  Did you catch that?”

Todoroki breaks from his reverie and turns to Izuku.  They’re sitting on Izuku’s bed watching a movie, only inches apart.  Todoroki’s chest aches with how he wants to touch Izuku, wrap an arm around his shoulders and pull him close, but he still isn’t sure he can simply touch Izuku whenever he pleases.  That notion strikes him as almost preposterous, to be allowed affection even if he hasn’t done anything to deserve it.

“No.” Todoroki says. “Sorry.”

“I said that I was feeling a little sleepy.”

There’s something in Izuku’s voice, almost the hint of a smile, that makes Todoroki think he’s trying to imply something, but these sort of social subtleties have always eluded him..

“Do you want me to leave so you can go to bed?”

“No,” Izuku says, and there’s that note again in his voice, that insistence that his true meaning lurks farther beneath the surface of his words.  “I want to spend time with you.”

Todoroki’s cheeks flush and he’s grateful that the darkened room makes it difficult to tell.  Will he ever get used to this casual affection, this gentle, natural way Izuku has of telling Todoroki he’s wanted?

“Okay.” Todoroki says, still not understanding.  “So what do you want me to do?”

Izuku regards him, green eyes glowing by the light of the computer screen in front of them.  And then, with a decided sort of set to his jaw, he positions himself so his head is resting in Todoroki’s lap.

“This is good.” Izuku says simply.

Todoroki’s mouth goes dry.  This is so agonizingly intimate, Izuku’s head in his lap in the darkened dorm room.  Will he ever stop feeling the urge to cry at moments like this?

For a few moments, Todoroki is absolutely still, not wanting to ruin this accidentally.  But he soon he finds he can’t resist, and slowly, trembling only slightly, he combs his fingers through Izuku’s hair.

Izuku makes a pleased little sigh and that means that this is allowed and Todoroki’s chest might burst from it.  He does it again, gently combs through Izuku’s hair, amazed at how anyone’s hair can be this soft.   It’s cool and wispy as it tickles his fingers, like combing through silk.

“That’s really nice.” Izuku murmurs, just barely audible.  Todoroki feels that slight lurch in his stomach, the one he gets whenever he makes Izuku happy.

For several minutes, they’re silent, Todoroki simply playing with Izuku’s hair, twisting it around his fingers and combing through his mess of curls.  The physical affection is already overwhelming, but the deeper implication, that Izuku trusts Todoroki enough to allow himself to be touched like this, is almost too much.

“I was thinking.” Izuku says, quiet and relaxed.  Todoroki tries not to feel self-satisfied that he’s the reason Izuku sounds so content.  He’s not successful. “You know how we’ve got the weekend trip downtown coming up?”

“Yeah.” Todoroki replies, still running his fingers through Izuku’s hair.  The trip was UA’s small concession to the restlessness of teenagers cooped up in dorms with strict security protocols.  They were allowed to go downtown for a day, stroll around looking at shops or go out to eat, albeit with strict check-in times and heavy consequences for not following the rules.

“Well, while we’re there, we should go on a date.  A real, proper date somewhere.”

Todoroki’s hand stops and his heart leaps into his throat.  He imagines it—chatting with Izuku in a coffee shop, or holding his hand in a darkened cinema, or buying him ice cream. He can’t quite tell if he’s excited or frightened at the idea.

“Shouto?” Izuku says and Todoroki realizes he hasn’t answered.

“Yes.” He says, resuming playing with Izuku’s hair.  “I’d like that.”


 

In the hall before lunch on Monday, Todoroki corners Uraraka and Asui.

“I need help.” He blurts out.  The words pain him slightly, but this is important.

“With what?” Uraraka asks, in that bright, eager way of hers.  Todoroki sees why she and Izuku make such good friends. They’re both far too interested in helping someone in need for their own good.  Midoriya has the scars on his hands to prove it.

Todoroki looks down at his feet, clenches his jaw, and looks back up.

“I need dating advice.”  He manages.

“Trouble in paradise?” Uraraka asks.  Her tone seems light, but there’s an edge of steel beneath her words.  Todoroki knows she could turn into a formidable enemy if he dared to wrong her best friend.  They’re allies in that regard, then. Todoroki too would never forgive himself if he hurt Izuku.

“No.” He replies.  “Izuku and I are going on a date and I need to know what to do.  You two clearly have it figured out.”

He gestures towards Asui and Uraraka’s joined hands.  Uraraka flushes slightly and smiles.

“Well, you and Midoriya-chan have been friends for over a year.” Asui says.  “It’s not really that different than what you’ve been doing all along.”

“Yes, it is.” Todoroki replies, sounding short in spite of himself.  Why won’t they just tell him what to do? “Where do we go? What do we do?  How do I act? I need to know the rules.”

Asui and Uraraka look at each other, seeming to communicate through expression alone.  Will he and Izuku ever reach that level of effortless synchronicity?

“Come with us.” Uraraka says, turning back to him, with a slight smile and the glint of determination in her eye.  “We’ve got this.”

Seated at the lunch table, hunched together and speaking low, they take him through the basics.  A great deal of it seems to have to do with “reading the energy of the moment.” Should Todoroki take Izuku’s hand while they’re walking together?  Read Izuku’s body language. Should he open doors for him? If it feels right in the moment. What should they talk about? It’s the same as hanging out with a friend.  Let the conversation flow naturally.

After the fourth very similar answer in a row, Todoroki groans and scrubs a hand over his face.

“This isn’t helping.  I’m awful at reading people’s emotions.  I need you to tell me the rules.”

Asui puts a hand on his arm.

“Todoroki-chan, there aren’t any rules.  I mean, there’s the really obvious stuff.  Don’t get up on the table in a restaurant and start screaming at the top of your lungs.  But, short of something crazy like that, you just have to do what feels right. Stop doubting yourself so much.  It seems to me that what you’ve been doing up until now is perfectly fine, because it got Midoriya-chan to like you in the first place, right?”

Todoroki looks to the side.

“I guess.”

“Besides,” Uraraka says.  “You don’t have to do it all perfectly.  Relationships are always a little awkward in the beginning.  It’s okay.”

The bell rings, interrupting their conversation, and the students reluctantly return to class.  Todoroki has trouble focusing on the lesson, something about irregular past participles in English, too busy mulling over what Asui and Uraraka told him.

“You don’t have to do it all perfectly” and “there aren’t any rules” are very new and slightly terrifying philosophies.  Todoroki has lived his whole life with an extensive list of strictly enforced rules. He’s lived his whole life with the expectation that he is to do everything perfectly on the first try, with failures rarely forgiven.  But, perhaps, there’s another way.

Izuku is not his father, and Todoroki does him a great disservice by even implying a similarity.  His father leaves him burned and bruised from training. Izuku patches him up. His father is interested in him as a tool, Izuku as a person.  His father views Todoroki’s suffering as nothing more than an obstacle to his training, something to be pushed past and ignored. Midoriya sacrificed his hand and a chance at victory to try to heal even the slightest measure of Todoroki’s pain.

They are not the same person, Todoroki reminds himself sternly.  He’ll follow Asui and Uraraka’s advice, to do his best and know his failures won’t be punished.  Even if he stumbles in the beginning, he will make Izuku happy.

And with that, he turns his attention back to the lesson.

Chapter Text

Todoroki doesn’t know if he’s ever been to a movie theater before.  Perhaps his mother took him when he was very young, but it’s far too long ago to remember.  Certainly his father never permitted him such frivolities. It was an enormous risk even to try to sneak in some cartoons on a Saturday morning, so such an outing would have been completely out of the question.  But now that he’s finally here, he finds the cinema almost glamorous. The enormous posters outside advertising upcoming features. The overpowering aroma of salty, buttery popcorn. The neon lights and excited chatter.  He balks slightly at paying 850 yen for a ticket (Izuku informs him that they’re usually over 1,000, but matinees are less expensive), but he finds himself enjoying the experience all the same.

He’s especially enjoying being here with Izuku.  On his first actual date. With his boyfriend. Those two thoughts give him a slight thrill, his heart racing and his palms sweating from a strange cocktail of excitement and terror.   He tries to remember what Asui and Uraraka told him. It’s really no different than their usual casual hang outs. It simply has a different label. Don’t overthink it.

He can do that.  He kept his cool fighting the Hero Killer in a back alley, his friends broken and bleeding beside him.  He can stay calm for one tiny date.

“Do you want a snack?” Todoroki asks, nodding towards the bright, enticing counter stocked with every kind of candy imaginable.  Even though he can’t remember ever having been to the cinema before, he knows popcorn and candy are staples of the experience.

Izuku tilts his head, considering it for a moment.

“That’s okay.  Movie theater food is really overpriced.”

“It’ll be my treat.”  Todoroki relishes the words as he says them.

“You really don’t have to,” Izuku says hurriedly.

“I know that.  But I want to.”

And it’s true.  He does want to.  Being able to spoil his boyfriend, even a tiny bit, is one of the great joys of their relationship.  Todoroki’s only a high-school student, so he can’t do anything particularly lavish, but he uses any opportunity to make Izuku happy.  The other morning, he had woken up ten minutes early just to have a cup of tea ready for him when he got out of bed, and Todoroki had treasured the soft, sleepy smile Izuku had given him as he took the mug for the rest of the day.  So buying him some candy at the theater, giving him something sweet and good, is the sort of opportunity Todoroki leaps at.

“If you’re really sure,” Izuku says.  And of course Todoroki is.

Izuku is right.  The box of sour gummy candy Todoroki buys him is far more expensive than the convenience store equivalent, but the smile Izuku has when he eats one and the kiss he presses to Todoroki’s cheek in thanks are more than enough compensation.

Izuku leads him into the darkened theater and they take a seat about halfway back.  The chairs are large and comfortable and the screen is enormous, playing a preview for an upcoming action film.  Izuku keeps offering Todoroki some of his candy, holding out the open box to him, and while Todoroki doesn’t usually permit himself this much sugar, he takes one every time.  Izuku is offering, after all, so how can he refuse?

The lights eventually go down and the chatter subsides as the film begins playing.  It’s an action comedy Izuku had chosen. Todoroki had left the decision to him, as he didn’t really watch enough movies to have an opinion.  Izuku clearly has good taste; the film is very entertaining. The jokes are original and timed well and the fight scenes are exciting, although Todoroki finds himself criticizing the choreography just a bit.  You’re really supposed to kick with your toe, not the flat top of your foot, to inflict the most damage, but he supposes he can begrudge the actors a few imperfect moves now and again.

Todoroki imagines that if he had to choose one sound to listen to for the rest of his life, it would be Izuku’s laughter.  His small giggles at the jokes are like a fizzy drink on a hot day—sweet and bubbly and light, satisfying a thirst Todoroki didn’t know he had.  Illuminated by the screen in the darkened room, with a smile crinkling the corners of his eyes, he’s somehow even more beautiful than ever.

As an onscreen explosion lights up the theater, Izuku reaches over and takes Todoroki’s hand in his own.

Todoroki doesn’t know why his heart begins to pound the way it does.  He and Izuku have held hands plenty of times before. But something about doing it in public, surrounded by strangers, makes it all the more intimate.  It’s a public proclamation of their affection. Not only does Izuku like him, but he likes him enough that he’s comfortable with other people knowing. The thought warms Todoroki’s cheeks.

He gives Izuku’s hand a small squeeze.  Todoroki imagines he knows Izuku’s hand as well as his own by now.  The protrusions of his knuckles, the slight bulge of his veins, the rough, uneven scar tissue.  He must have memorized all the textures and shapes by now. He’s certainly tried to.

Todoroki isn’t sure what to think of the scars marring Izuku’s hands.  On one hand, they speak to Izuku’s unending selflessness, his determination to save Todoroki despite hardly knowing him.  They mark the beginning of their friendship. They are the best of Izuku. On the other, they are a sickening reminder of what Izuku will endure on his behalf.   He will break himself for you, they say.   You have already hurt him.  You know you will continue to.   They are the worst of Todoroki.

Todoroki knows he should leave Izuku.  He tells himself that at least he tried to, that when he realized his feelings for Izuku he made an attempt to keep his distance.  But he is selfish. He wanted Izuku, and it only took a quick press of Izuku’s lips to his own for him to decide to indulge himself.  Every moment Izuku spends alone with him is like leaving him alone in a room with a wild, dangerous animal. Every moment they are together, Todoroki is putting him at risk.  He knows this, and even so, he can’t bring himself to walk away.

Todoroki shakes his head slightly, attempting to banish the thoughts.  He owes it to Izuku to be present during their time together, not ruminating over the inevitable instance in which he hurts him.  He strokes his thumb over Izuku’s hand and tries to bring his focus back to the film and the warmth of Izuku’s hand in his own.


 

Izuku’s hand is still clasped in his as they walk out of the theater.  Todoroki is almost giddy. He can touch Izuku whenever he wants, can take his hand as they walk together.  It’s miraculous.

“Did you enjoy the movie?” Izuku asks.  There’s a slight crease between his eyebrows that means there might be something more to this question, but Todoroki answers honestly.

“Yeah, I did.  It was really funny.”

Izuku is worrying his bottom lip with his teeth, but he says nothing.

“Okay,” Todoroki says, because he knows that look, “what are you really trying to ask me?”

Izuku looks at the ground, watching their feet move in unison.  After a few moments, he lifts his head.

“I just…” he begins, then stops again.

Todoroki doesn’t push him.  He’ll give Izuku all the time he needs.  Izuku breathes deeply, then continues.

“Don’t take this the wrong way, okay?  Because it’s not a criticism.”

“Okay,” Todoroki replies, stomach clenching slightly.  He thought the date had gone quite well, but he must have done something to upset Izuku.  He suddenly feels far too hot

“You just didn’t laugh at all, or even smile.  And that doesn’t bother me or anything. You shouldn’t have to express your emotions in a certain way just to please me.  But I just want you to know you can. You can laugh or smile or cry anything else around me. Any of that is okay. So it’s fine if you don’t want to emote or anything, but I want you to know that around me, you can.  I want you to know you’re safe to do that.”

Izuku looks back down at their feet, a blush coloring his cheeks.  He’s so painfully earnest, so intent to make Todoroki feel at ease.  Todoroki’s chest seems to clench at that. No one’s ever gone to such lengths to let him know he’s safe.

Izuku is right; Todoroki learned at an early age to suppress any outward display of emotion.  Although he spent most of his childhood terrified, looking frightened only made his father angrier, screaming at him about how he should never reveal what scared him to an opponent.  So he schooled himself to stop shaking when withstanding his father’s wrath. His mother cried every time he took a hit in training, so he quickly learned to mask his pain, to withstand blows silently to avoid upsetting her any more.  Even smiling and laughing meant trouble. One evening, his father overheard him giggling over a book alone in his room, and dragged him back into the training room to fight until he collapsed. Too much joy clearly meant he wasn’t training hard enough.  No matter the emotion, it was safer to maintain total composure.

But around Izuku, perhaps he could feel freely.  Izuku would comfort him if he was sad or scared, or share his happiness or excitement.

Just not anger, he reminds himself sternly.   Feel whatever you want, but Izuku is not safe if you are angry around him.

“Okay,” Todoroki says finally.  “Thank you.”

He turns to Izuku and smiles, just to test it out.  It’s not a big, exuberant grin, just a slight raise of the corners of his mouth, but Izuku laughs delightedly and pulls Todoroki in for a kiss.

Izuku steps back, eyes bright and grin broad.

“A smile looks good on you,” he says, and quickly pecks Todoroki on the cheek.


 

Izuku’s head is resting on Todoroki’s shoulder on the bus ride back to campus.  From his steady breathing, he appears to be dozing. Todoroki is somewhat perplexed; they’re out in the open, practically snuggling in view of the entire class.  And Izuku isn’t ashamed to be seen with him. Of course Todoroki is proud to be Izuku’s boyfriend, a small, prideful part of him wanting to flaunt their relationship to everyone he encounters.  But that’s because Izuku is kind and strong and smart and beautiful. But Todoroki himself is disfigured and socially inept and not particularly well liked, so he can’t understand why Izuku is comfortable displaying his affection.  But he decides not to question it. He’ll just enjoy the closeness while he can, before Izuku comes to his senses.

The sky outside is dark, only a few rays of sunlight still peeking past the horizon.  Todoroki is sharing Izuku’s headphones, some soft pop song playing in his right ear.

“Look at Todoroki and Midoriya,” Hagakure stage-whispers from the seat beside him.  Todoroki’s eyes are closed, so she must think he’s asleep. “Isn’t that adorable?”

Ashido keeps her voice low when answering.

“Yeah, it’s pretty cute.  But who would’ve guessed? I know they’ve been close since the Sports Festival first year, but I didn’t expect them to start dating.”

Todoroki stomach goes hollow.  Of course they wouldn’t expect it.  Midoriya deserves so much better. Todoroki always knew it, but apparently it’s obvious even to the rest of the class.

“I know,” Hagakure replies.  “I mean, Todoroki is so smart and focused and intense--”

“Not to mention gorgeous,” Ashido interjects.

“Exactly,” Hagakure continues, volume picking up slightly in her exuberance.  “Everything about him is just so hot. Half the class has a crush on him.  But Midoriya…”

“I know.  I mean, he’s a really nice guy and all, but he’s kinda plain.  And he’s so awkward and nervous and kinda nerdy. I just never would’ve paired the two of them together.”

Anger bubbles in the pit of Todoroki’s stomach.  He opens his eyes and turns his head, careful not to jostle Midoriya, and glares at the two girls in the seat beside him.  Ashido’s dark eyes go wide and the two of them devolve into giggles. Ashido is hiding her face behind her hands, and Hagakure appears to be doing the same.

“Sorry, Todoroki,” Ashido whispers through her laughter.  “We thought you were asleep.”

“This is so embarrassing!” Hagakure says, turning to bury her face in the bus seat.  Todoroki doesn’t quite understand why, seeing as she’s invisible, but perhaps it’s simply an innate human response to embarrassment.

Todoroki closes his eyes again, jaw clenched.  He doesn’t understand how Ashido and Hagakure can be so incomprehensibly wrong.  Todoroki is not hot. He is certainly not “gorgeous.” A quarter of his face is disfigured by a bright red, massive burn scar.  How on earth did they get to thinking he was remotely appealing?

But even more infuriating is their assessment of Izuku.  Plain? Izuku is beautiful, all wide eyes and bright smiles and freckles like constellations on his skin.  And perhaps Izuku does occasionally get anxious, but he’s so much more than his blushing and muttering. He is the bravest, kindest, strongest, most incredible person Todoroki has ever known.

Could the rest of the class also be so misguided, thinking that Izuku was the one who had gotten lucky?  Todoroki couldn’t bring himself to believe that. Certainly Hagakure and Ashido were the exceptions. The others must see the arrangement for what it truly is.

Todoroki turns and presses a kiss to Izuku’s mess of curls.  His hair smells slightly of peppermint. He rests his head on top of Izuku’s and allows his eyes to droop closed.  Slowly, he too begins to drift off, lulled into sleep by the comforting weight of Izuku against his side.

Chapter Text

Todoroki is intrigued by the concept of pet names.

 

Affection seems to come so naturally to Izuku, the way he kisses Todoroki to communicate everything from “thank you” to “well done” to “good night.” Or the ease with which he praises things Todoroki has never considered particularly commendable, like his performance in training or the bright contrast of his hair.   Or that genuine look of delight he gets whenever Todoroki enters a room. Everything Izuku does seems to say, over and over, “You’re important to me. I want to be with you” Todoroki doesn’t remember ever feeling this cared for in his life. The feeling warms him from the inside out, radiating from his chest all the way down his limbs and flushing his skin.  It’s something like euphoria.

Todoroki, in turn, tries to express his affection for Izuku.  Although he doesn’t pull it off nearly as effortlessly, there are small things.  Waking up early to make Izuku tea in the morning has become a daily routine. Todoroki has smiled more at Izuku in the past two months than he’s ever smiled before in his life.  If he’s feeling especially brave, he’ll be the one to initiate a kiss. But it’s not enough. Izuku needs to know Todoroki cares for him to his very core, with everything that he is.  But the tender words and relentless affection that come so easily to Izuku seem to elude him. He wouldn’t know where to begin, or how to phrase things, or how to make his eyes shine, warm and loving, the way Izuku’s do.

Which brings him, then, to pet names.

Todoroki thinks of them as a sort of shorthand.  One word, just a nickname, that he hopes will communicate the affection he otherwise struggles to express.  True, there’s a chance Izuku won’t like it, that he’ll find it silly and embarrassing, but Todoroki at least has to try.  He’ll take any risk if there’s even the slightest chance of it making Izuku happy.

Todoroki’s been running through potential options, but finds he doesn’t like most of them.  “Baby” and “babe,” for instance, strike him as infantilizing. Izuku is not a baby, and Todoroki doesn’t understand why calling him one is supposed to communicate affection.  He worries “honey” and “dear” will make him sound like a middle-aged man addressing his spouse, so those are out. He’s not outright opposed to “my love,” but neither of them has actually spoken the words “I love you” yet, so that’s still risky territory.  After a few days of deliberation, he finally settles on “darling.”

Perhaps it’s a bit old-fashioned, but it communicates what he wants to say—that Izuku is precious to him.  It’s romantic without being corny. Out of all of the options, it seems like the safest bet.

The problem then becomes using it.

Todoroki wants to reduce the chances that Izuku will react poorly to the pet name, so he determines some conditions for trying it out.  He won’t use it in the presence of anyone but the two of them in case Izuku gets embarrassed. He’ll wait until Izuku is feeling especially affectionate towards him.  He’ll tack it onto the end of an innocuous, casual phrase so it doesn’t seem like he’s thinking about it too hard. Generally motivated by deadlines, he makes himself promise to try it by the end of the week.

An opportunity arises on a Thursday night, when Todoroki and Izuku are studying in Izuku’s room.  The two of them are sprawled on Izuku’s bed, Izuku lying at the head and Todoroki seated perpendicular at the bottom, Izuku’s feet resting in his lap.  It’s such a simple thing, Izuku’s ankles against his thighs—hardly the stuff romance novels are made of—but Todoroki finds it dizzying. Izuku’s touching him even as they work on separate tasks, completely at ease, almost as if the contact is somehow comforting.

Todoroki’s having trouble focusing on the Biology flashcards he’s attempting to make.  This opportunity is perfect to try out a pet name, the one he’s been waiting for. They’re alone, they’re comfortable, the mood, like Uraraka and Asui had told him all those weeks back, is just right.  He begins folding and unfolding the corner of a flashcard, heart rate picking up and breath going shallow. He’s going to try it. Izuku may be disgusted or offended or angry, but he’s going to try.

Todoroki scoots off the bed, doing his best to remain calm.

“I’m just going to run to the bathroom,” he says, hoping his voice doesn’t come out too strained.

Izuku looks up at Todoroki with his wide, earnest eyes, and then takes his hand and kisses it gently.  Todoroki’s stomach drops low into his abdomen. This constant, casual affection is always the most overwhelming kind.  Will he ever grow accustomed to it.

“Don’t be too long,” Izuku says.  There’s a pencil tucked behind his ear.  Why is that so endearing?

Todoroki takes a deep breath.  He’s going to do it. Now. He’s going to try.

“Can I get you anything while I’m up?” He asks, completely chickening out.

Come on, you coward.  It’s not that hard.

“Do you mind filling up my water?” Izuku asks, holding out a grey plastic bottle to him.  Todoroki takes it.

Now.  Do it now.  Just say it.

Todoroki swallows.  He takes a deep breath, heart beating a frantic staccato rhythm against his ribcage.

“Of course, darling.”

Izuku’s eyes go wide and his cheeks turn bright pink.  He simply holds Todoroki’s gaze for several long moments, absolutely silent.

The silence drags on longer and longer, stretched taut like a rubber band about to snap.  It wasn’t right, Todoroki realizes suddenly, insides going heavy and cold. He shouldn’t have tried it.  He’s just so new at this, and it’s all so difficult and confusing, but that’s no excuse. He should’ve known Izuku wouldn’t like to be called something like that.  He should’ve made the right choice. Will Izuku be mad at him now? How can he possibly begin to fix this?

Todoroki breaks his gaze, unable to look at Izuku’s shock, and probable disgust, for even a moment longer.

“I’m sorry,” he manages, voice stilted.  “I just thought… I mean, I was trying to—”

“Wait, what?” Izuku says, somewhat breathless.  “Why are you apologizing?”

Todoroki doesn’t understand.

“For what I said.  It… it wasn’t right.”

Izuku stands up from the bed and takes Todoroki’s face in his hands.  His smile is just a slight, soft thing, but it slows the frenetic beat of Todoroki’s heart.

“You are so cute,” he murmurs, and kisses the corner of Todoroki’s mouth.  “But you can be so clueless.”

Todoroki’s head is spinning.   Isn’t Izuku upset? Why the sudden affection? He has no idea what’s going on, hardly knows up from down.  It must show on his face, because Izuku explains.

“It was really nice, okay?  I was just surprised, but in a good way, because it was so sweet.  You didn’t do anything wrong. Alright, darling?”

Darling.

Todoroki’s heart seems to skip a beat.  He tries to gather his thoughts, tries to respond, but all he can manage to think, echoing over and over again, is “darling.”  His chest is expanding, or perhaps it’s contracting. He can’t really tell, can’t be sure of anything right now.

“See?” Izuku says, smiling and still cradling Todoroki’s face, his touch so tender it’s almost agonizing.  “It felt like that.”


 

It’s funny, the way Todoroki and Izuku’s routines have so quickly become inextricably entwined.  From Todoroki greeting Izuku with a cup of tea each morning to Izuku’s daily kiss good night, their waking hours weave together and apart and back together with an effortless grace.

Every evening, they meet in Izuku’s room, sometimes to watch a movie, sometimes just to talk, sometimes simply to read in each other’s company.  It’s Todoroki’s favorite part of the day, something the two of them share, quiet and peaceful, just enjoying the comfort of each other’s company after a long day.

Tonight they’re lying side by side on Izuku’s bed, idly scrolling through Twitter, occasionally showing the other a funny post but otherwise quiet.  It’s miraculous, the way Izuku’s presence improves any moment, even without having to fill the silence. Simply being near him is enough.

They’re touching, as they always seem to be in each other’s presence, Todoroki’s arm wrapped around Izuku’s shoulders and Izuku’s head resting on his chest.  The weight of Izuku’s head is so comforting against him, rising and falling slightly with his every breath.

Without any prompting, Izuku turns and curls up on his side, his back to Todoroki.  For a moment, Todoroki’s heart sinks. Izuku doesn’t want to touch him any more. It’s reasonable, of course.  He hasn’t really done anything to earn Izuku’s affection today, so he can’t simply think himself entitled to it.  But it’s disappointing nonetheless.

Until, after a second or two, it dawns on him.

Izuku wants to be held.

At least, he thinks that what he wants, for Todoroki to fit his front against Izuku’s back and hold him as close as he can manage.  Todoroki can’t know for sure and he might be guessing wrong, but he trusts Izuku to forgive him if he makes a small mistake.

Slowly, giving Izuku every chance to stop him, Todoroki turns on his side and moves closer to Izuku, pressing close behind him and wrapping an arm around his waist.

And then they’re cuddling.  Spooning, really. It’s absolutely blissful.  The solid warmth of Izuku against his chest releases a tension he didn’t know he’d been holding, leaving him more relaxed than he’s ever felt.  The warmth below his sternum seems to leak out between his ribs, like afternoon sunlight filtering through trees. Could Izuku feel it, the soft, comforting glow he’s certain is emenanting from inside of him?

Todoroki wraps his arm tighter around Izuku’s waist.  Like this, he can keep Izuku safe from anything, can protect him from all the hurt and horror in the world.  He wants to fall asleep like this every night, to go to bed knowing Izuku will be safe as he sleeps.

“Shouto?” Izuku asks, breaking the silence.  “Can I ask you something?”

“Of course,” Todoroki murmurs.  Holding him like this, he doesn’t think he can refuse Izuku anything.

“I’ve just been wondering for a while, at the Sports Festival, why did you tell me all of that?  About your family, I mean. I’m glad you did, of course, because that’s how we got to know each other, but I just wasn’t sure what prompted it.”

Todoroki’s quiet for a long moment.  He’s asked himself the same question.  He hadn’t ever told anyone about his father, or his scar, or his childhood.  And he’d suddenly bared it all to Izuku without a second thought. He’s pondered it over and over, so he tries to give Izuku the most honest answer he can manage.

“I think,” Todoroki begins, “I’d been carrying it around inside me for a long time without telling anyone.  And I was about to burst from the pressure of it. I needed to tell someone, and you just have this aura about you.  I don’t know how to describe it, but I think it just makes people feel safe. I felt like I could tell you, so I did.”

Izuku doesn’t say anything for a while.  Was that the wrong thing to say? Just as Todoroki’s about to try to apologize, about to try to make amends for whatever transgression he must’ve committed, Izuku he turns to face Todoroki, his eyes damp, and kisses him, soft and tender.

“I really make you feel safe?” He whispers, almost disbelieving.

Todoroki can’t help but be honest in his answer.

“I don’t think I’ve ever felt safe before, but with you, yeah, I do.”

Izuku kisses him again, but this time there’s a passionate urgency behind it, and Todoroki knows exactly where the rest of the evening is headed.

Chapter Text

The migraine starts on a Friday in Classical Japanese.

Todoroki knows the signs, the slight dizziness, the way the fluorescent classroom lights are suddenly far too harsh and bright, the nausea beginning to churn in his stomach.  It won’t be long before the pain starts.

Todoroki doesn’t get migraines often, perhaps a few times a year at most.  But they’re always miserable. The throbbing pain just behind his left eye.  The way any light is too bright, or any sound too loud. The vomiting. They’re not unbearable, just extremely unpleasant, leaving him wanting nothing more than to lie still in a dark, quiet room, undisturbed, as he waits it out.

But he has to make it to the end of the school day.  A headache is no reason to miss class or training, so he just has to push the pain and nausea back into a small, quiet corner of his mind, and get through.  Breathe slowly. Focus on something else. Withstand it.

Training that afternoon is a team obstacle course.  The obstacles are courtesy of the Support Course, a slew of trip wires, deep pits, stun grenades, and booby traps.  They’re divided into groups of four, each team running the course separately and vying for the fastest possible time.  It’s a good exercise, combining teamwork, strategy, and physical prowess. On any other day, Todoroki could find himself enjoying it.

But the pain and nausea are too overwhelming.  He does his best to contribute to the strategizing with Aoyama, Uraraka, and Kouda, clenching his teeth and forcing himself to speak deliberately and calmly even as the ground warps and undulates under his feet.  But then the start bell goes off and there’s no time for pain. He has to go. Now.

Endeavor’s training was cruel and brutal, how he hit Todoroki with no intention for him to block or dodge it, just to teach him to withstand the pain.  But today, Todoroki’s almost grateful for it, the way it taught him how to push the pain away when he really needs to. It’s like trying to shut an overstuffed suitcase.  He has to push hard, try to cram the throbbing agony into a small, unobtrusive box and hold it closed tight. It takes an enormous degree of focus, but he’s gotten good at it.  So good that he’s able to keep the pain at bay and remember the plan their team devised and maintain complete control over his Quirk. He’s hardly even shaking as he dodges the obstacles, climbs the ladders, and leaps across the ravines.

Todoroki’s knees go weak when he finally reaches the end and he only barely catches himself before he falls.  He feels like his left eye is going to burst and his stomach clenches and churns dangerously. He forces himself to relax his shoulders and breathe steadily through his nose.  He’s almost done. He’s almost made it. Just wait for the final group to complete the course.

Tokoyami, Iida, Ojiro, and Hagakure finally cross the finish line and the results are tallied and at last, they’re done, headed back to the locker room.  The post-training chatter is grating, making Todoroki’s head throb like a slow, steady kick-drum. But he’s almost there. Reach the locker room. Change.  Vomit in the locker room toilet. Go upstairs and finally lie down in the dark. He’ll make it.

As he’s buttoning back up his uniform shirt in the locker room, Izuku materializes at his side.

“Hey, you wanna have a Mario Kart night?  Loser has to cook the winner whatever meal he wants this weekend.”

Without a second thought, Todoroki answers.

“Absolutely,” he says, smiling slightly at Izuku.  Izuku beams, his whole face shining with it, and kisses Todoroki’s cheek.  Todoroki, despite himself, feels his face flush.

“Great!  I’ll meet you in the common room as soon as you’re changed,” Izuku replies. He lifts his backpack over his shoulder and heads for the door, stopping to flash Todoroki a small smile just before he leaves.

Todoroki dawdles in the locker room, waiting for his classmates to leave so he can vomit in the toilet unquestioned.  He ties and re-ties his shoelaces, fusses with the zipper on his backpack, smooths imaginary wrinkles in his pants. He only has to hold out for a few minutes longer.

Finally, finally, the last student leaves the locker room and Todoroki races to the toilet.  Closing the stall behind him, he kneels down in front of the toilet and stops suppressing the nausea he’s been working so hard to ignore.  He gags a few times, the retches into the basin. The process of vomiting is always extremely unpleasant, but he knows he’ll feel better after.

As soon as he’s finished emptying his stomach and is panting over the basin, a voice calls out.

“Excuse me! Are you okay in there?”

It’s unmistakably Iida, likely having just overheard Todoroki being sick.  He could’ve sworn the locker room was empty, but perhaps Iida came back for something he forgot.  He says nothing, hoping Iida will just leave when he doesn’t get a response.

It’s to no avail.  Footsteps approach the stall and Iida raps sharply on the door.

“Do I need to call a teacher?”

Todoroki knows Iida isn’t going to leave without an answer, so he replies.

“I’m okay.  Just got sick, but I’m fine now.”

Todoroki wipes at his mouth and manages to get to his feet.  He flushes the toilet, then opens the stall door. Iida’s eyes are soft with concern behind his glasses.

“Are you ill?  Do you need to go the infirmary?”

“It’s just a migraine,” Todoroki replies.  “I’ve had them plenty of times before. I’ll be okay.”

“At least allow me to escort you up to your room so you can rest,” Iida says, holding out his arm for Todoroki to take.

Usually, Todoroki appreciates the almost fatherly concern Iida has for every member of the class.  But having just vomited and with his left eye still throbbing, he’s just not in the mood for it.

“Iida, really, I’m fine.  I can get back to the dorms myself.”

Iida pauses and considers it for a moment.

“If you’re certain you can make it,” he replies, “then I won’t badger you any longer.  Just please get some rest.”

“Of course,” Todoroki lies.


“Are you usually this bad at Mario Kart?” Izuku teases.  “You’ve just lost your fourth race in a row.”

Todoroki’s smile is a little strained, but he hopes Izuku won’t notice.  While he doesn’t think he’s in danger of vomiting again, the bright lights and loud sounds of the game are only making the throbbing behind his left eye worse.

“Maybe I’m just letting you win,” he jokes.  It’s something he’s only recently learned how to do, bantering with Izuku.  He finds he enjoys it, the good natured jokes and jabs. He and Izuku trust each other enough to know it’s all in good fun, and Todoroki cherishes it, that effortless familiarity and affection.

“Well if you keep letting me win, you’re gonna end up making katsudon tomorrow night.”

“Guess I’ll stop going easy on you, then.”

Izuku sticks his tongue out and the two of them laugh, warm and light.

“It’s your turn to pick the next course,” Todoroki says.

Izuku chews absentmindedly on his thumb as he scrolls through the courses.  He’s so beautiful when he’s lost in thought, completely oblivious to the world around him, the slightest crease between his eyebrows.  It makes Todoroki’s chest clench in that warm way he’s come to associate with Izuku.

“Todoroki!” It’s Iida’s brisk, sonorous voice from the common room doorway.  “I thought you were supposed to be resting!”

Todoroki’s insides go heavy and cold.

“I’m feeling much better now,” Todoroki lies, keeping his tone neutral and willing Iida to stop questioning him.  Without really knowing why, Todoroki knows Izuku will be upset with him if he learns of the migraine and the vomiting.   At the very least, he won’t enjoy having been lied to, even if only by omission.

Izuku stops scrolling and looks at Todoroki, his eyes gentle and concerned.

“Wait, are you ill?”

Before Todoroki can tell him no, smooth the whole thing over and resume playing, Iida cuts in.

“I found him vomiting in the locker room toilet.  He said he had a migraine.”

Izuku’s eyebrows knit even more tightly together.

“You were vomiting?” Izuku says, somewhat shocked.  “Is that why you’ve been so quiet this evening? And squinting at the TV like the light hurts your eyes?”

“No. I’m really feeling better.” It sounds like a lie even to his own ears.

“Nope,” Izuku says decidedly, getting up and turning off the television.  “You’re clearly still in pain. The last thing you need to be doing right now is playing a video game.  Let me get you into bed with some water, okay?”

Todoroki nods, feeling strangely small, and follows Izuku back to his room.  Izuku instructs him to sit down on his bed and fills a glass of water from the sink.  There’s a slight, unplaceable tension in the air, something Izuku obviously wants to say.  Todoroki picks at his fingernails as he waits for the other shoe to drop.

“Shouto, can I say something?” Izuku asks, sitting beside him and handing him the glass.

This is it, then.  Izuku’s going to be furious that Todoroki wasn’t fully honest with him.  He clenches his fists and squares his shoulders.

“Of course,” he replies, keeping his tone neutral.

“So I don’t know if this was something you learned from your dad, that you’re not allowed to take it easy when you’re in pain, but it’s bullshit.  The last thing you need to be doing when you’ve got a migraine is playing a game with all those bright lights and loud sounds. It’s okay to rest when you’re ill or injured, alright?”

“Okay,” Todoroki replies, a wave of relief cooling him.  Izuku’s not angry, just concerned. “Thank you.”

Todoroki takes a sip of the water and he and Izuku are silent for a moment.

“Unless,” Izuku begins slowly, a look of dawning realization on his face, “this was actually about you not wanting to disappoint me.”

“I don’t know what you mean,” Todoroki says.  Somehow, he knows better than to admit to the truth.  It’s a skill he picked up long ago, an instinct for what responses are going to provoke anger or disappointment.  Izuku won’t be happy if he learns Todoroki’s true motivation. He’s sure of that much.

“I mean that it’s something I’ve noticed the past few months—you never turn me down or actually disagree with me on anything.  Not even stupid things, like what movie to watch or which meal is the best in the dining hall. I’ve gotta imagine you’re doing it on purpose.”

Todoroki’s heart begins to race.  Like animals that spook just before a big storm, Todoroki’s learned, at a primal level, to tell when trouble’s brewing.  He has to end this conversation quickly.

“My head really hurts,” he says.  “I think I need to lie down alone for a while.”

“Nope,” Izuku says.  “I’m not letting you get out of discussing this with me.  Just tell me the truth, okay? Are you deliberately avoiding disagreeing with me on anything?  Or ever turning me down?”

This has all the makings of an argument, all the makings of a situation when the violence Todoroki knows he’s been infected with can manifest.  He’s better off answering honestly, ending this quickly so he doesn’t fly into a rage and do something he’ll regret.

“Yes,” he says finally, voice barely above a whisper.

“Okay, then why?”

Todoroki imagines telling Izuku the truth.  “I knew I could hurt you. I knew I’d been infected.  I was doing everything in my power to avoid infecting you too.”

Then he imagines Izuku’s response.  The betrayal, the shock, the hurt. “You knew you could hurt me and yet you didn’t leave.  You’re selfish. You’d put me at risk just to have something you want. How could you?”

No, that won’t do.  He can’t tell Izuku the truth.  He’s certain of that much.

“I don’t really want to talk about it,” he says finally.

“Did you think I’d leave you if you disagreed with me on anything?  Is this, I don’t know, some kind of fear of abandonment thing?”

Todoroki’s shaking now.  It’s hardly perceptible; he learned a long time ago how to shake without anyone noticing.

“Izuku, I don’t want to get into this right now.”

Izuku stands up and begins pacing the room, agitated.  Todoroki stands as well. He’s not sure why he does it, but this doesn’t seem like the sort of conversation he can have sitting down.

“Do you realize what kind of situation that puts me in?  If you never tell me ‘no,’ think of how easy it would be for me to hurt you.  You can’t have absolutely no boundaries. That’s insane.”

For the first time in this conversation, Todoroki is sure of his answer.

“You’d never hurt me.”

“You’re not listening to me!” Izuku says, voice raised slightly. “If you never tell me ‘no,’ I’m going to hurt you.  Period. It’s inevitable. I’m bound to do something you’re not comfortable with, and I’ve got to know you’ll stop me.  You were willing to cause yourself even more pain tonight just to avoid turning me down. I’ve got to know you’re going to draw a line somewhere.”

The room seems to spin slightly, and Todoroki’s pretty certain that’s not just the migraine anymore.  He thought this was the safest possible route, refusing to disagree with Izuku. That was the way not to hurt him, to prolong their relationship, to keep him safe.  But it wasn’t. He’s only gone and made him upset. His stomach goes cold and hollow. He did it wrong. There are going to be consequences, he knows that. He did it completely wrong.

“Izuku, I don’t want to have an argument.”  Even he can hear the desperation in his voice, the plea to stop this immediately.

“But that’s the thing— we’re not having an argument .  Even now, you’re not really arguing with me.  You’re just trying to avoid having this conversation.  You’re not choosing ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ It’s just ‘none of the above.’”

Todoroki’s chest heaves up and down as if he’d just run a mile.  He can’t quite breathe. The room’s getting smaller and tighter, and the air is slowly seeping out of it, leaving him choking on nothing.

Izuku’s facing slightly away from Todoroki now, as if he can’t bear to look at him.  Todoroki supposes he deserves it.

When Izuku speaks, his voice is soft and a bit broken.

“Okay, answer me honestly.  Worst case scenario—if I asked you to have sex, and you weren’t ready, would you tell me no?”

“You’d never ask me to do something I wasn’t ready for.”

Izuku spins back to face him and throws his arms down with a frustrated groan.

Todoroki doesn’t mean to react the way he does, but Izuku is angry with him and he moved so suddenly and Todoroki’s already terrified so he doesn’t mean it, he shouldn’t do it, but he flinches back, hands flying up to cover his face.

Izuku stops dead, his eyes wide and disbelieving.  Todoroki’s insides go hollow. He’s made an enormous mistake.

“Did you think I was going to hit you?” Izuku asks, voice soft and pained.

“No,” Todoroki says hurriedly.  He’s digging his own grave, deeper and deeper with everything he does.  “Of course I didn’t. I know you’d never do that.”

“But you jumped.  You went to cover your face.  How else am I supposed to interpret that?”

He wants to tell Izuku “I didn’t think you were going to hit me, but I’ve never made a mistake this big and not gotten hit, so I didn’t really think it would come from you, but it had to come from somewhere.  And I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry because I know you wouldn’t hurt me and I shouldn’t have suggested that. I’m just so scared. Please forgive me.”

But the words won’t come.  He simply stands there, shaking slightly and trying desperately not to cry.

“What the fuck, Shouto?” Izuku whispers, betrayal and hurt and pain twisting his voice almost past recognition.  He pauses for a moment, taking a breath. “I’m gonna go. I need some time to myself to think, okay? I just need to be alone for a bit.”

And with that, he leaves the room, shutting the door behind him.

Todoroki can’t breathe.  He doesn’t know what he’s feeling, just that it’s far too much, the pressure of it squeezing his insides. It’s filling him up so that he doesn’t have room for air, winding around his heart so that it can’t beat right, flooding his stomach so that he worries he might be sick.  He’s full of something, something agonizing and infectious, a black, thick tar that’s quickly overtaking him. He wants to grab just below his sternum and tear himself open, let his guts spill out on the floor, in the hopes that this unbearable pressure will subside. He hardly notices the migraine anymore.  It's nothing compared to this overwhelming, all-consuming pain.

He gasps, trying to pull air into his suddenly useless lungs, and stumbles over to his bed, only just making it before his knees buckle.

Todoroki learned at a very young age not to cry.  He remembers all the times his father loomed over him, shouting that heroes didn’t cry, that Todoroki was pathetic and worthless and weak.  Endeavor always threatened to really give him something to cry about, and if Todoroki couldn’t manage to stop the tears, his father made good on that promise, leaving Todoroki, still sobbing, with a bloody nose or split lip.  So he learned, very early, to will away tears, to clench his jaw, squeeze his fists tight, and swallow down hard. He last remembers crying when he was seven years old.

But the dam breaks, and for the first time in nine years, he’s crying, his entire body shaking with the audible sobs.  It’s a desperate sound, like a man drowning, gasping for air. He grabs his pillow and holds it to his face to try to muffle the sobs.  He orders himself to breathe, to calm down, to stop acting like such a child, but it’s useless. His years of training, of learning discipline of his body and mind, are nothing in the face of this pain.

Izuku is leaving him.

It’s all he can think, echoing over and over in his head.  Izuku is leaving him. Izuku doesn’t want him anymore. Todoroki tried so desperately to this right, and he failed.  And there are consequences for failure. So Izuku is leaving him.

He can’t remember what Izuku said when he left, perhaps something about having to go.  But the look on his face when Todoroki flinched? The betrayal and hurt etched into his every feature?  Todoroki remembers that. He knows, from that one look, that Izuku doesn’t want him anymore. He curls in on himself, tighter and tighter, as if he could get small enough simply to disappear.

Eventually, the hysteria subsides.  Todoroki imagines a person can only cry that hard for so long before he simply runs out of the energy for it.  But while not sobbing, his eyes still leak tears consistently.

He lies awake all night, staring at the ceiling.  He tries to read a few times, or to play a game on his phone, but he can’t focus.   The pain is too intense, radiating through his ribcage and weighing down his limbs. He makes himself get up and drink a glass of water a few times during the night, trying to replenish what he’s losing through his tears.  But mostly he simply lies on his back, looking at some unfocused sport just beyond his nose. Time has lost its meaning. Has he been lying there for an hour? Or three days? It’s only the eventual lightening of the sky that gives him any idea.

Todoroki finally checks his phone.  It’s seven AM. He might as well get up and get ready for the day.

His movements are mechanical and slow as he changes out of his uniform into clean clothes.  His limbs seem to be twice their normal weight.

He pulls on his shoes.  No point in dawdling any longer.  He’ll go down to the dining hall and have breakfast. It’s Saturday, so if he’s this early, he’ll likely miss Izuku.  Or perhaps he should be Midoriya now. Todoroki isn’t sure he’s still permitted to use his given name.

He’ll think of it as a mission, just part of his heroics training.  Avoid Midoriya. Stay in his room as much as possible. When in public, don’t cry.  This is a training exercise. Perhaps the hardest he’s ever done, but an exercise nonetheless. He can do that.

Taking a deep breath and schooling his face into a neutral expression, he heads downstairs.

Chapter Text

Breakfast that Saturday morning is an unpleasant affair.  Since he was a boy, Todoroki’s always lost his appetite when distressed.  After his mother left, he barely ate for two weeks. The evening before school reports came out, when Todoroki knew his father would be furious that he was only second in the school, he could never manage dinner.  So when he tries to force himself to have some toast in the dining hall, he almost chokes on it. His mouth is far too dry and the food simply won’t go down. Instead, he has a cup of coffee, accepts breakfast as a lost cause, and heads back to the dorms.  He figures he can do a bit of homework in his room. Reading textbooks and working on math problems will be a welcome distraction, and he’ll be free to cry alone, safe from any curious classmates. He doesn’t think he can bear their concern right now.

As soon as he steps off the elevator onto his floor, he stops dead.

Izuku—no, Midoriya—is sitting outside his door, arms wrapped around his knees.  He’s wearing a faded Edgeshot t-shirt and cut-off sweatpants, looking soft and sleepy, which Todoroki tries desperately not to find endearing.  He isn’t permitted affection towards Midoriya anymore, he reminds himself sternly.

For a moment, Todoroki considers getting back on the elevator and avoiding Midoriya entirely.  But he won’t allow himself such pathetic cowardice. He’ll see what Midoriya wants, manage the conversation without crying, and leave.  He and Midoriya are in the same class. They live in the same building. Avoiding him simply isn’t a viable solution.

Clenching his fists at his sides, Todoroki approaches.  At the sound of his footsteps, Midoriya raises his head.  Have his eyes always been so disarmingly large and green? It’s as if Todoroki’s seeing them again for the first time.  Midoriya stands, glances down at his feet, then looks back up.

“Midoriya,” Todoroki says with a slight nod, trying to keep his tone neutral.

Midoriya seems to deflate at that, his head lowering and shoulders rolling inwards.

“I guess you’re still angry, then,” he says with a small, almost self-deprecating smile, not quite meeting Todoroki’s eyes.

“I’m not angry,” Todoroki replies, not understanding what Midoriya’s getting at.  It’s true, of course. He’s hurt and miserable and terrified, but he can’t imagine ever being angry at Midoriya.

“Oh, well you called me by my family name, so I thought maybe you were mad or something.”

“I just didn’t think you’d want me to call you by your given name.”  Speaking those words is like tearing out his fingernails, slow and messy and utterly agonizing.  “You know, because…”

Todoroki trails off, unable to bring himself to finish the sentence.  Saying it will only make it more real.

Midoriya’s eyebrows knit together.

“Because why?”

Midoriya isn’t cruel, Todoroki reminds himself.  He is, to his core, kind and considerate and good.  Midoriya is not trying to torture him by asking this.  He wouldn’t.

“Please don’t make me say it,” Todoroki says softly.

“You’re going to have to say it because I have no clue what you’re talking about.”

On second thought, perhaps Midoriya is trying to punish him.  Shoving his nose in it like one might with an untrained dog. Look at what you did wrong.  Face your own failing. Todoroki can’t even feel betrayed by it.  He knows he deserves it.

Todoroki gathers his strength and manages to reply, although he can barely get his voice above a whisper.

“Because you broke up with me.  I just thought you wouldn’t want me to use your given name anymore.”

Midoriya’s whole face scrunches together in a look of absolute bewilderment.

“Wait, what?”

“I thought that because you broke up with me—”

Midoriya puts up a hand, cutting him off.  Todoroki stops immediately.

“I heard you the first time,” Midoriya says.  “But I didn’t break up with you.”

Todoroki is completely still for a moment before his knees suddenly go weak.  He only just catches himself with a hand against the wall. Midoriya didn’t break up with him?  Did he hear that correctly, or did he imagine it, his mind producing the one phrase he most desperately wants to hear of its own accord?

“You… you didn’t break up with me?” he asks, a bit breathless but needing confirmation.

“Of course I didn’t, Shouto,” Midoriya replies, voice so soft and gentle it hurts.  “Let’s go in your room and talk about this, okay?”

Todoroki nods, suddenly unable to speak, and follows Izuku (because he’s Izuku again now, Todoroki thinks, the relief not seeming to fit entirely inside his body) into the room.  Izuku sits down on Todoroki’s bed, Todoroki beside him. They’ve done this a thousand times, but Todoroki’s almost giddy from it. He thought he’d never get this again, being alone with Izuku, sitting so close to him, talking together, just the two of them.  Air doesn’t quite seem to be filling Todoroki’s lungs.

“Okay, let’s talk this through,” Izuku begins.  “Why did you think I broke up with you?”

“Well, you were so upset with me.  And then you left. So I just thought you’d left for good.”

Saying it outloud, it seems so silly.  What evidence did he really have besides instinct? Todoroki can’t really explain it.  He simply knew, with absolute certainty, that Izuku had left him.

Izuku reaches out and takes both of Todoroki’s hands in his own.  His touch is grounding, like an anchor keeping him from floating out to sea.  Todoroki can suddenly think more clearly, breathe more fully. Since Izuku had left last night, Todoroki hadn’t quite felt fully solid.  His body was like the afterimage of a bright light, amorphous and translucent, a mere remnant of the real thing. Now he’s himself once more, corporeal and real.  He’s alive again.

“I’m so sorry I wasn’t clearer,” Izuku says.  “I was just really upset and scared. I needed some time to calm down and process everything, but I wasn’t breaking up with you.  I just needed to step away for a moment and think.”

Todoroki’s shoulders sag.

“I scared you?”  he asks, voice soft and shy.

“No!” Izuku says hurriedly.  “No, no, not at all. You weren’t the problem.  I was just scared at the idea that I could do something awful to you and never know about it.  I wasn’t at my best in that conversation, and I’m sorry. But that thought was just overwhelming.  You’ve already had to go through so much and…”

Izuku trails off and looks down at their joined hands.  After a pause he looks back up again, his eyes gentle when they meet Todoroki’s.

“And I was scared that I was going to be just another bad thing that happened to you.”

“You really don’t want to hurt me,” Todoroki says, a bit wonderstruck.

Izuku takes a deep breath before replying.  When he does, it’s with a set jaw and a certain fierce determination.

“I mean, yeah, that’s how it tends to go when you love someone.  That’s one of the conclusions I came to when I was thinking last night.  That I love you.”

Like with all of the most overwhelming experiences of Todoroki’s life, he finds himself completely frozen.  Struck dumb, unable to think or speak or move.

Izuku loves him.

The thought warms him from the inside out, like a hot drink on a winter’s day, sliding down his throat and expanding into his stomach before slowly radiating throughout his entire body, right down to his fingertips.  That’s how it feels to be loved, then, a sort of shimmering warmth. Todoroki doesn’t know if he’s ever felt it before, or if he’s ever felt anything better.

Todoroki’s rarely been told he was loved.  He’s certain his mother said it when he was a child, but it was so long ago that he can’t recall a distinct instance.  His father, of course, would never think to speak those words. Since their reunion, his mother hasn’t either. Todoroki suspects she doesn’t think herself allowed it anymore, too burdened by guilt and confusion.  He and Fuyumi, occasionally, whispered it to each other on the especially bad nights, as she tended to whatever injuries he’d acquired and snuck him something to eat from the kitchen. But those were rare instances, perhaps only a dozen times at most.  Growing up the way he did, with pain and fear and crushing loneliness, they weren’t words that came to him easily.

And yet when he regains the ability to speak, he finds himself answering Izuku without a second thought.

“I love you too,” he says, and the words feel so natural, so right, like he’s been waiting his whole life just to tell Izuku he loves him.

Izuku smiles at that, but it’s not the wide, sunshine-bright grin Todoroki expected.  There’s a sense of hesitation, of something left unsaid.

“It makes me really happy to hear you say that.  I wasn’t sure you were going to.” Izuku says, sounding just a bit shy.  He pauses, for a moment. “But I came to some other conclusions too. I think there’s some stuff we have to talk about.”

“Okay.”

“First, we need to talk.  Really talk. About boundaries and expectations and what we’re thinking and feeling.  I think that was one of the things that I found so overwhelming last night, that there was this whole side of you and our relationship that I never knew about.  We don’t have to do it all at once. We don’t even have to do it right now. But we’ve gotta talk some of this stuff out.”

“Yeah, of course.”  That’s but a small price for the privilege of Izuku still wanting him.  He’d have a thousand conversations, no matter how difficult, for even one more day of Izuku being his.

Izuku strokes at his hand idly for a few moments without speaking.

“But there’s another thing,” he says at last.  “I think you need to talk to someone else. A professional, I mean.”

“You think I need to see a therapist?”   Todoroki doesn’t mean for it to come out so shocked and disdainful, but it does.  Izuku wants him to sit down on a couch across from some stranger and, what? Cry about his childhood? Wallow in self-pity?  An aspiring hero, right at the top of UA’s heroics program, who needs to spend an hour whining? It’s ridiculous.

“Hear me out, okay?” Izuku says, in that way of his that doesn’t leave any room for disagreement.  “You’ve been through some really intense trauma. I know that’s not how you see it, because to you it’s just your life.  You’re so used to it that you don’t realize how awful it was. But just hearing you talk about it at the Sports Festival made me feel sick to my stomach, and you didn’t even go into detail.

“You’re so calm and reserved all the time that I didn't know how much it affected you.  There were some signs, but honestly? I don’t think I wanted to know. But when you jumped last night… I mean, Shouto, you didn’t see yourself, but you looked so frightened.  And that’s when I actually realized it, that even though you’re incredibly strong and have this appearance of total control, no one can come out from something like that unscathed.  So yeah, to put it bluntly, I think you need help. It doesn’t mean you’re weak and it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you, but you need to work through this shit.”

While Izuku’s eyes are now over-bright, he looks straight at Todoroki, unflinching.  They hold each other’s gaze for a few long moments in a battle of wills before Todoroki breaks.

“Fine,” he says.  “But only because I can never deny you anything.”

Izuku smiles at him, then leans forward and kisses his cheek gently.

“I’ll take it,” he murmurs, before kissing Todoroki’s lips, slow and sweet as boardwalk taffy.

“I bet you didn’t sleep well last night,” Izuku says when he pulls back, flushed and breathing just a bit harder than before.

“Didn’t sleep at all, actually.”

“Take a nap, then,” Izuku says, patting the bed.  “I’ll stay with you.”

Todoroki obliges, kicking off his shoes and curling up under the covers.  Izuku strokes his hair in that slow, rhythmic way that never fails to relax him.  The past twelve hours were exhausting and it finally catches up with him; within moments, he’s drifting off.  Just before he falls asleep, so close to dreaming he can’t be sure it’s real, he hears Izuku murmur, “I promise I’ll always stay with you.”