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burnt blood

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 “…Dabi was right. I shouldn’t have been born.” Todoroki tells him one night, alone in an empty park.

There has been a tightness around Todoroki’s eyes all week and Midoriya, who knows the signs, had been waiting patiently for their chance to be alone. The confession still catches him off-guard though and he swallows his first angry and indignant reply. Instead, Midoriya tentatively putting a hand on his shoulder, “What do you mean?”

“I… asked my mother last weekend. For the full story. Of our family. I had to know after

The truth of Dabi’s parentage had become an open secret now and Midoriya nods with a frown. The unmoored look in Todoroki’s eyes scares him. He does not remove his hand from Todoroki’s shoulder, hoping to ground him and keep him close. He had once thought of Todoroki’s family as a fantastical tragedy, similar to the fated hero of a comic book.

The reality was far crueler than he had understood, back then.

“What did she say?”

Todoroki doesn’t speak for a long moment. Then a shudder rolls through his body and he begins to recount, his eyes faraway and hazy.

“My mother had six pregnancies and four children, all the result of marital rape, including myself. Touya was her first. But he came out weak and so my father was already planning others.

"She was ill when the second pregnancy happened and the miscarriage nearly killed her. My father adjusted the schedule to give her a week rest. It wasn’t enough. The second miscarriage sent her spiraling.

"Touya… Dabi bore the brunt of that household for those years, until my mother got lucky with Fuyumi and Natsuo. They were closer to her in quirk temperament and less likely to hurt her while she carried them. But their weakness only made him angrier. My mother said he blamed her for losing the others - the ones that had his fire.

"Then… I don’t know what he did to make me, but I survived. Even as I burned her from the inside.”

Todoroki’s left hand begins to shake and he grips it with his right, to keep the embers from reaching Midoriya. He speaks as if the words themselves hurt and Midoriya’s own furious pain, at the injustice of it all, grows and grows. Still, he waits for Todoroki to finish.

“Apparently, when I opened my eyes and began to cry, he knew he had succeeded. So, as soon as I was born, he took me away and left her still bleeding on the hospital bed, delirious with fever.

"My siblings thought she was going to die. But, somehow, she survived. They took her back into that house. Her own mother dismissed her tears as postpartum depression. And she watched me slowly become the man that terrified her.”

Todoroki finishes his story quietly. There is no declaration of war. No resolve steeped in hatred. They know each other better now, have entrusted each other with their secrets. The truth simply hangs between the two of them, smothering and terrible.

“Todoroki-kun…” Midoriya has always given comfort with a smile, but he cannot now, not here. Not when Todoroki cannot even meet his eyes. His scarred arm snakes around Todoroki’s hunched shoulders and pulls him flush to his side. Pliant, Todoroki collapses against him, warm, heavy, and alive. Like this, he feels just like another human boy.

“Dabi said we were all mistakes and I think he’s right. I don’t think someone like me should exist.” Todoroki finally mumbles. “Have you ever felt that way?”

Midoriya thinks of that missing joint, of that missing father, of years and years of vitriol for daring to live. Finally the smile comes, small, bitter, and achingly tender, all at once. He presses his cheek against the crown of Todoroki’s head, struggling to not cry.

“Yeah. I know the feeling.”