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but the heart stays the same

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The best part of being pregnant was Hizashi’s unwavering beta-ness. He wasn’t smothering or aggressive or demanding like some alphas got; he actually listened to what Shouta said and would either acquiesce or provide a reasonable rebuttal; and he was fully capable of giving a back massage without it inevitably leading to sex. These were all things Shouta had appreciated before getting knocked up, of course, but he appreciated them even more now.

The worst part of being pregnant was. Well. Being pregnant.

“No hero work!” Hizashi chased Shouta around their apartment with a doctor’s note in his hand. Shouta, despite the stupid gravity-shifting lump in his midsection, managed to escape up into their attic storage space and hide in a corner while sucking a juice pack. Hizashi popped his head through the attic opening and narrowed his eyes at him. “You’re still working full-time as a high school teacher, what more do you want?”

“Wasn’t going to fight,” Shouta grumbled, finishing his juice pack and tossing the empty plastic off of Hizashi’s head. The beta just waved it off with an impatient hand. God knows how things would have been if both of them had been addled by hormones. That, and Hizashi was used to Shouta’s low-key tantrums by now. “Just used my Quirk to help out, is all.”

“It alerted the villains to your presence and you know it. They could have easily decided to take out the hidden enemy—e.g. you with a big enough baby bump your speed's been cut in half.”

“Sure, go off about my weight,” Shouta took out another juice pack from his pocket and stuck it into his mouth. “Not like sensitivity is important or anything.”

“You’re underweight for how far along you are,” Hizashi pointed out, though he did seem a bit chastised. Whatever. Shouta ignored him in favor of sucking the pack as noisily as possible. Hizashi switched tactics, widening big green eyes and pressing his lips into small pout. “And I made a real nice homecooked meal for the two of you too. Oh well. I guess I’ll just pack up the leftovers and give them to the rest of the faculty instead.”

Shouta glowered at Hizashi’s puppy-eyes. He finished the second juice pack and tossed it at the beta again. Hizashi let it hit him square between the eyes without comment, which was no fun.

“Fine,” Shouta snapped, unfurling himself from his cramped position and crawling over to the pull-down ladder. “But only because I’m tired of juice packs. No, I don’t need help getting down. Let go of me. No, I’m not going to fall.”

“Shouta,” Hizashi sighed once Shouta successfully pushed him back to the floor. It was probably terrifying to see his omega teetering on a flimsy pull-down ladder, but experience kept his feet firmly planted on the ground.

Shouta hissed at him, mortified, but Hizashi just wasn’t as affected by omega posturing. He held up his arms and, after a miserable moment, Shouta fell into them.

“Not a word,” he grumbled as he quickly scrambled to his feet. Hizashi laughed at him, the bastard, but thankfully refrained from his usual chatter. Being pregnant was miserable enough as it was, and even someone as thick-headed as Hizashi knew better than to upset an already volatile omega.

An already volatile omega that knew all of his weak spots and, despite the break from hero work, could still tie him forty different ways with his capture weapon.

But not before eating dinner, of course. Damn, the man was clever.

 

--

 

“No, I don’t want kids,” Shouta had once said, fifteen and surly and slouching further into his seat so he didn’t have to answer more idiotic questions. “Growing a parasite and then pushing it out of my ass? No thanks.”

“Oh my god, you can’t just say that,” Hizashi whined, glancing around like their teacher was going to pop back from lunch break just to give the three of them the stink-eye. Shouta began rummaging through his pockets, irritated, and made a small harrumph when Hizashi procured a juice pack from his bag instead.

He stuck the straw into his mouth as Tensei recovered from the horror of Shouta’s declaration.

“But they’re so cute,” Tensei waved around his phone like staring at the red-faced baby in the screen would somehow convert Shouta to pro-motherhood. The alpha was literally glowing, stupid arrow eyebrows looking impossibly sharp, and Shouta was too tired for this. “Tenya’s only a few weeks old and I get it, I get why kids are worth it even with the pain.”

“Because you’re not carrying it,” Shouta snapped, and really, that was the problem with alphas. It wasn’t just the agonizing childbirth. It was the year it knocked you out of commission. For a hero looking to get their career off the ground, that was unacceptable. Tensei had a good heart and would become an excellent hero, he was sure, but Hizashi’s easygoing beta air was just easier to be around. Fewer expectations, clearer scent signals.

Shouta hated the idea of losing control over his own body. Which was probably why kids… well. Kids were something he always pushed out of his mind.

He had hero work to worry about, after all. There was no room for anything else.

 

--

 

Shouta couldn’t do this.

He was young and tired and a brutal workaholic. He could barely take care of himself half the time, much less his cats. Hizashi was the same, always running off to the radio station or teaching class or hopping about the streets screaming at pickpockets who looked at him the wrong way. It was hard but workable, and things were good.

Until an accident during a heat-ring mission left Hizashi tied up to the bed, a positive pregnancy test, and Shouta breaking a five-year-long promise by picking up his phone and calling his sister.

“I think I want to get rid of it,” he’d told her the day after he got confirmation from his doctor that he was, indeed, up the duff. He was hiding in the back room of his agency. It was time for Ms. Joke’s daily lunchtime invitation, which was a nice way of saying she routinely broke into his office and dragged him out to the convenience store for cheap rice balls. He just wasn’t up for it today. “I… I just don’t know if I’ll be a good parent.”

“Shouta, no matter what you do, you’ll be infinitely better parents than ours,” his sister had said. She’d taken the sudden call pretty well given the unfavorable way they’d parted at Shouta’s U.A. graduation. Aizawa Kaiya had always been the easiest family member for him to handle. They'd been attached to the hip before he'd decided to move halfway across the country to attend U.A.. “And you clearly want it. You wouldn’t have called me if you didn’t. You would’ve just done it.”

Which was true, but she didn’t have to say it like that.

Because it wasn’t just about him being a chronic hot mess of a twenty something. He was a hot mess that was also a disaster omega. Surly, temperamental, and scathing; and without any of the usual softness that rounded out his gender stereotype, too. It had grated on his omega mother’s nerves. Their fights had been legendary, mostly because his quirk canceled out hers. It was probably what made him feel unsuited to being a mother even years later away from her influence.

He’d spent his formative years doing his damned best to ignore the cooking-cleaning-breeding lessons she tried to force onto him, after all. Having a baby meant letting her win.

The other, louder part of him bristled at the idea of giving her that much power over him. Because expectations or not, this was his baby. His and Hizashi’s.

And that was what sealed it for him. It was the realization that this stupid, life-changing bundle of cells inside of him shared genes with his mate that defeated him.

There was no way he’d get rid of something that was part Hizashi. He’d been lying if he thought for even one moment that he would.

The logistics of it were, of course, going to be hell. God knows how long this would put him out of commission. Underground heroes might not feed off popularity ratings, which was a plus, but work was still work. And Shouta loved to work.

God fucking dammit, Hizashi.

He gave himself nearly a week to brood and rage and throw an emotional tantrum. Then, he told his mate the news.

“We’re having a baby,” he said over breakfast. Hizashi spat his coffee all over the table. Shouta sighed. “Clean that up.”

“Shouta!” Hizashi ignored him as usual and flailed about instead. “Shouta, you—”

“Millions of people get pregnant every year,” Shouta said. “It’s nothing extraordinary. And I’m not joking about cleaning that up.”

“Hitoshi for a boy, Hime for a girl,” Hizashi immediately said, and Shouta had chucked a paper towel roll at his stupid cockatoo head.

The details were a bitch to work out. They ended up having to take the day off, both of them, just to sit down and get everything in order. Shouta felt remarkably calm in contrast to Hizashi’s frantic, high-energy anxiety, but he’d always done better once decisions were made. It was the choosing that filled him with dread, not the execution. They were keeping the baby.

It was just a matter of waiting it out.

Shouta sent a brief prayer to the heavens that his parents wouldn’t find out. Dear god, please don't let them find out. Things were going to be a shitshow as it was, and the last thing he needed was Aizawa family drama breathing down his neck.

 

--

 

He was right.

Morning sickness was hell on his already awful eating habits. Backaches made sleeping on the spot nigh impossible. He was snappier, grumpier and overall more temperamental. He made half his homeroom class burst into tears one afternoon and Nezu banished him to the staff lounge.

The stretch marks were annoying. The larger size prohibited him from accessing his favorite hiding spots. And the lack of mobility meant the cats were running wild without Shouta reining them in with his capture scarf because yeah. Too busy throwing up in the trash to snap it around those little bean feet.

It was almost a relief when he finally waddled into Hizashi’s recording studio one day and banged on the glass window to tell him his water broke. The fans had a field day, of course, and while Shouta disliked strangers delving into his personal life, it was something he knew would make Hizashi happy.

That, and it gave radio host Present Mic an excuse to actually leave for the rest of the day. This was at least partially Hizashi’s fault and he was sure as hell going to suffer with him for it.

Because this. This was the worst.

The pain had driven Shouta’s quirk to its absolute limits. They had to cover his eyes with wraps just to make sure he wouldn’t accidentally cancel the quirk of whatever doctor was between his legs, and the indignity was nearly worse than the pain coursing through him.

“I haven’t worn wraps since I was six,” he hissed at Hizashi, the world now a black void. His mate’s hand was warm in his, though, and made an excellent stress ball. “And that was only because I almost caused a car accident near our house and it was my punishment for the week. To make me appreciate my quirk or some shit.”

The words were slow at times, but they came out clear. Shouta was irrationally proud of keeping his vow not to scream.

He’d made Hizashi vow not to scream either, though that was more to protect the surrounding staff than a test of will. Hizashi's voice sounded teary though, especially when the contractions got so bad Shouta bit through his own lip and had needed emergency stitches.

His sister Kaiya had shown up at one point, he was sure. It could’ve been a hallucination, but she said something along the lines of beating back their parents with a stick. The lack of stern commands around the room probably meant she succeeded. Good, one less thing to worry about.

Shouta loved his parents, yes, but he didn’t particularly like them. He’d probably attack them if they got within range out of hormonal confusion, so he liked to think his sister’s efforts were more for their sake than his.

(And good god, the pain combined with the memories just brought up all sorts of bad feelings. Shouta’s Sins in his mother’s eye were endless. Becoming a hero, mating a beta, moving far from their family estate, blah, blah, blah. She seemed to take personal offense at his standoffish attitude towards alphas, to his slob-like habits, to his gall. Thank god his mother needed eye contact to use her quirk or else Shouta wouldn’t have been able to cancel it out and get the hell out of town. It gave her a bitch of a headache to “suggest” things, sure, but that didn’t stop her from using it at his sister whenever she could.)

Black vision turned white with pain—“He’s crowning! Just one more push!”—and then there was no thought at all.

 

--

 

Everything hurt. His lower half, his back, his jaw. He’d been clenching his teeth shut, tears prickling at his eyes behind the wraps just from the effort it took to not scream, don’t scream.

But Shouta didn’t notice any of that at first. What he noticed was the relative silence. There was no baby crying. Babies were supposed cry, weren’t they?

“Hizashi,” he said, hand reaching out blindly. Lithe fingers wrapped around his own at once. He hated the panic lacing his voice. “Hizashi, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing, everything’s fine,” except that tremble in his voice meant Hizashi was worried too. “He’s fine, just… really quiet? I mean, glad we’re not getting a repeat of my birth, right?”

“Off,” Shouta demanded, letting go of his mate’s hand in favor of scrabbling at his eyes. Hizashi’s fingers helped pull the wraps off, and Shouta flinched back at how bright everything suddenly was. There was some murmuring from the doctors, Hizashi gasping softly, and then a warm bundle pressed into Shouta’s arms.

Shouta blinked rapidly as his vision cleared. The baby may have been quiet, but he wasn't unresponsive. Big purplish eyes stared up at him from the blanket wrap. Purple eyes and a fly-away tuft of purple hair sticking straight up in the air. He looked so wildly different from either of them that Shouta couldn’t help but stare dumbfounded for a long moment.

“He looks like your dad,” Hizashi proceeded to stick his foot in his mouth. Shouta scowled darkly. Of course he would say it. Clearly fearing for the safety of his other hand, the beta flailed about trying to find a change in topic. He settled on petting the baby’s head and Shouta bit back the sudden urge to snap at him. Most omegas would have melted into goo at their baby and mate bonding, but Shouta had always been unfazed by any pheromones other than his own.

He used the last of his control to rein it in. Hizashi didn’t take it personally, not anymore, but he still sulked whenever Shouta’s instincts had him lashing out.

“Hey little listener,” Hizashi cooed down at the baby. Hitoshi. They’d agreed to name their boy Hitoshi, which seemed cute on paper but difficult in practice when two out of three syllables were the same as his dad. Maybe a nickname. Hiichan? Toshi? “You put your mommy through hell, didn’t you? You little troublemaker.”

The baby stared at his father briefly before returning his attention to Shouta.

Shouta stared back. Hizashi hadn’t been wrong when he’d compared him to Shouta’s father, but it was still grating. The last thing Shouta wanted was for his son to inherit either of his parents’ worst traits. He’d been hoping for a more Hizashi-like child for the sake of them all. But now that Hitoshi was out and in his arms, Shouta almost felt ashamed of himself. The baby was quiet and dark-haired and curious like Shouta, even if he’d inherited that shocking Aizawa purple that Shouta’s mother had spared him of. Perhaps Hizashi’s genes would come through in his quirk. Speaking of… Shouta brushed back the tuft of hair and reached out a hand.

He tweaked the baby’s little red button nose.

Yamada Hitoshi screeched.

“Definitely not super voice!” Hizashi had the gall to laugh through Hitoshi’s sudden decision to put his lungs through a test drive. The doctors seemed relieved, however, and tried to take Hitoshi away while the baby wailed and wailed. Shouta growled at them and tucked the baby away from their grubby hands. He had no more patience left to keep his prickly omega instinct in check. Irrational omega behavior, a voice sounding awfully like his logic-prone father commented. The doctors only have your best interests in mind.

“I don’t care,” Shouta mumbled while pressing his nose to Hitoshi’s fluffy hair. He smelled like soft baby. Like his soft baby. His and Hizashi’s.

“Hitoshi,” Hizashi spoke over his crying, petting their son’s hair and wearing a disgustingly goopy smile. Hitoshi’s face was red and wrinkled like an ugly dragonfruit, far uglier than Iida Tenya had been in that photo so many years ago. But the blond was looking at him like he was the world. It was… Shouta didn’t know how to put the warm feeling in his chest into words. Sweet? Meant to be? It was like falling in love all over again, but not in that romantic way. In that gross, this-isn’t-happening, messy way that had plagued Shouta all through high school and into his young adult years, until he couldn’t deal with it anymore and tied Hizashi to his ceiling.

Like that.

It was almost nice.

Chapter Text


As the weeks flew by, it became clear that Hitoshi—Toshi, they settled on—was so much like Shouta it was almost scary.

“It’s like you asexually reproduced,” Hizashi mourned, bouncing the curious but quiet baby in his lap and trying to excite him with those stupid pop songs he liked so much. Toshi wasn’t opposed to them, but he didn't seem very interested either. “Serious, quiet and cat-obsessed? The only thing he’s got from me is his hair type—“ Tufted and always sticking straight up unlike the usual Aizawa curls “—and his lighter eye color. But the purple! The purple is all you, too!”

“I told you to put him down for a nap,” Shouta said irritably. When he tried to pick Toshi up, however, the baby actually shifted away from his hands and cocked his head towards the song-playing laptop. Huh. Perhaps he was more interested in the music than Shouta initially thought. “He’s your son, Hizashi. You know that.”

“I wasn’t saying I thought he wasn’t!” Hizashi said, appalled, and nearly did a flamboyant flail before remembering the baby in his lap. He did a weird wiggle instead, to Toshi’s delight. “I know you’d never—I just meant it’s cute! Having two of you around, I mean. Right, Toshi?”

Toshi clapped his hands, clearly looking for more weird daddy wiggles. Being the pushover he was, Hizashi indulged him. Wiggly, wiggly, with Hizashi chattering on about everything under the sun. They were so bright and cute Shouta had the urge to hiss and hide under a rug. He went back to their bedroom to take his own nap instead, because grown men with children don’t hiss.

Grown men apparently don’t bring their babies with them to class either, but everyone had their shots and Shouta could easily breast feed him in the privacy of his sleeping bag. Hell, Toshi even slept in the sleeping bag whenever Shouta crawled out to wrangle the hero wannabes into shape. It was incredibly efficient no matter how horrified Hizashi had been. He’d tried to fold up Shouta’s sleeping bag after class and found familiar purple eyes staring back at him instead.

“What if I stepped on him,” and oh, the beta’s voice could get so loud. Shouta glared at him from the floor. “What happened to the babysitter!”

“What babysitter?”

“You didn’t call the babysitter?” Hizashi’s flailing nearly smacked him in the face. Shouta swatted his leg and he stopped, though it had no effect on his tirade. “And this place isn’t sanitary, what if Toshi catches something, how can you just let him crawl all over your scarf like that, oh my god!”

“Kids needs to get acclimated to all kinds of pathogens to develop strong immune systems,” Shouta said flatly. Toshi was gnawing on a section of capture scarf. “Also, I washed it.”

“Shouta!”

“He’s fine,” Shouta said.

Toshi liked staring at the kids but he hated interacting with them. Whenever some gutsy student tried playing with him, the baby inevitably crawled back into the sleeping bag without a sound or, worse, began to scream. Another unfortunate combination of his parents: dead silent one moment and then throwing a tantrum the next. Toshi had no in-between.

Still, Shouta wasn’t a completely irresponsible mess. He drew the line at Toshi licking the floor and zipped him back up in the safety of the sleeping bag instead, making sure to leave a large enough opening that he wouldn’t suffocate himself.

Toshi beamed. Shouta smirked. And Hizashi, fuming, stomped out of the staff room.

The meddling announcer strong-armed Nezu into reducing Shouta’s hours to half days rather than full-days, the bastard. It’d been hard enough convincing the principal to let him back early to begin with, so Shouta wasn’t happy. Toshi, who loved Shouta's sleeping bag with disturbing fervor, wasn’t either.

“Shouuuta,” Hizashi whined from outside their bedroom door. Shouta pointedly tucked Toshi closer to his chest and went back to sleep. By day three, however, he’d cooled off enough to let the space heater of a beta back under the covers. Shouta insisted it was because he hated the cold and not because he missed the man’s presence. Hizashi just smiled big and pressed a loud kiss to his nose. When Toshi protested, he leaned down and kissed the baby’s nose too.

“Hate you,” Shouta grumbled, but it was more an acceptance than anything else. God, he was such a pushover.

At least his and Toshi’s walk back to their apartment every afternoon was short. Toshi’s silence warded off most nosy strangers and Shouta’s deadpan, red-rimmed eyes warded off the rest. For all the baby loved music playing in the background everywhere—he did take after Hizashi in some ways there, which pleased Shouta to no end—he almost never made those babbling nonsense noises parenting books keep insisting was good for his development.

Shouta would worry more about it if his mother—who’d gotten past his sister one day, damn her—hadn’t told him he’d been the same way.

“Your said your first word when you were four," she said. Shinsou Shino had invited herself into the living room when he’d opened the door. Shouta was covered in baby powder and was holding a fussy baby, sure, but manners, right? Shouta hated manners. He hated them even when he came out of the kitchen with a pot of instant green tea and handed his mother a cup to pour it herself.

“Shouta,” she sighed, and he’d crossed his arms. “I just want to see him.”

“Toshi’s sleeping,” Shouta said. He’d made sure to put him down in the crib the second he was out of eyesight “We’re not really showing him to anyone right now. Look at the pictures instead.”

“His coloring is just like your father,” his mother had immediately pointed out. She picked up a framed photo of Toshi staring deadpan into the camera lens. “That purple’s run through the Aizawa line until you, really. Too dark to notice. I’m glad to see it’s popped back up—that beta of yours is good for something, I suppose. I do love a good head of purple hair.”

Shouta was caught between rolling his eyes and tossing her out the door. Even his sister had hair that was a deep eggplant shade, but Shouta’s was black. Plain, boring black. Like his mother’s genes had washed the color out of his bones.

Which was fine, but she didn’t need to bring Hizashi into this.

“I’m heading to work soon,” he said. “Text me your hotel address and I’ll see if I can bring Toshi over before you leave.”

“I didn’t even have to ask,” she had said, clearly pleased. Which was Shouta’s intention. It was the only way to get her out the door.

Thankfully, his father was there when Shouta made his promised trip. Toshi was tired and fussy whilst strapped to his chest, and Hizashi hadn’t exactly been happy to hear about this impromptu visit with his in-laws. But Hizashi was off hosting his radio show and his parents weren’t going to leave until they saw Toshi, so Shouta hadn’t had much of a choice but to break out the baby carrier.

They looked ridiculous as they rode up the hotel elevator.

“He’s got Yamada’s bone structure,” his father had said, tracing a hand down Toshi’s cheek. The baby seemed mesmerized by purple hair mirroring his own. Shouta’s father kept his hair medium-length, curly locks just out of range from Toshi’s chubby fingers. “And your silence. Truly remarkable given his father. Yamada manifested his quirk at birth, correct? And you came into your powers early at three. I suppose the lack of any strange phenomenon means he’ll follow after your—”

“We’re not worrying about quirks right now,” Shouta had to stop his dad before he could dive into that rabbit hole. His father studied quirks for a living. Erasure and its variations in the Aizawa bloodline made studying the quirk factor much easier. Shouta couldn’t remember the number of lectures he’d gotten from his father insisting that following the family tradition would mean happiness.

Charts and logics and numbers. It was nearly as bad as his mother sometimes.

“You’re hogging him, Kyou! Let Grandma have her turn,” his mother insisted, looking his father in the eye.

“Dad,” Shouta said when she turned around to coo at an unimpressed Toshi, breaking the eye contact she needed to keep her quirk going.

“She uses it by accident when she’s excited,” his father shrugged, as unfazed as he ever was. They all had psychological quirks, after all. What often terrified others was just the norm in their family. “Though she’ll regret it in an hour when the headache kicks in.”

Shouta wanted to argue, but he didn’t want to drag this meeting on longer than he had to. He instead switched tracks. Dealing with his father meant stopping ideas before they even happened. “I just wanted to stop you before you suggest it—no, I won’t let you run a quirk analysis on Toshi. He’s not even one.”

“But that’s what makes him such an excellent sample!” his father sat up straighter, eyes gleaming. “A still undeveloped child before his DNA’s solidified—if we can study his genome, we can figure out if quirks are formed at birth or if it’s part of the developmental—”

No,” Shouta said. He stood up. His own omega pheromones were flooding the air with distress, enough that even Toshi noticed. The baby let out a rare whine and reached a hand out to his mother.

Not that the hormonal storm did any good against Shouta’s alpha father. He might as well have been scent-blind for all he ignored Shouta’s tantrum.

“Alright, son. I won’t push you. But I’m disappointed you’re making the emotional choice here rather than the logical one.”

“They’re not mutually exclusive,” Shouta said.

“Old argument,” his father said, and that was that.

Hizashi’s parents were so much easier to handle. The Yamadas were a rowdy bunch in general, loud and raucous and perfectly willing to talk around a silent Shouta and Toshi to interrogate Hizashi instead. Toshi had his cheeks pinched one too many times the first time he'd been introduced to them. The baby had spent the rest of the evening hiding his face in Shouta’s shirt, unaware of the cooing that incited.

At least the Yamadas' boundaries were clear. They understood Shouta’s need for space and seemed to apply the same rules to Toshi as the night went on. They were both perfectly content to watch Hizashi laughing loudly with his siblings on the couch. The blond’s smile was dazzling as he recounted Toshi’s funnier accidents to the delight of his family. There was even cake.

It was fun, annoying and normal.

It was everything Shouta had wanted growing up—and everything he was going to make sure Toshi had.

His parents were going home the day after tomorrow. If they were lucky, it'd be years before he'd have to see them again.

--

Wassup my listeners! Present Mic here bringing you the best music in town,” Hizashi’s peppy voice was just as energetic in person as it was being broadcasted. “With a little guest today, too! Come on, Mini Mic! Say hi!

Toshi, dressed in a poor imitation of Hizashi’s hero outfit and looking very put out, just stared at his father from his lap. Shouta smirked from across the room.

He’s a bit shy outside of the house,” Hizashi played it off anyway, bouncing the baby and trying to tickle his side. Toshi wasn’t having any of it. He swatted his father’s wriggly fingers and sank further into the fake directional speaker strapped around his neck. Hizashi just laughed and returned to the mic. “Y’all know I’m a dad now, right? Of course you do! MM and the mate are visiting the studio today and I need y’all to help convince Mini to take my side in this fight. Loud music! Exciting announcements! Yaaah!

Tell him we need some peace and quiet at home,” Shouta responded, courtesy to an assistant quickly handing him a mic. “The baby’s a light enough sleeper as it is and you’re not helping.

Oh! Straight to the heart!” Hizashi whined dramatically. “No punches pulled today, folks. Now, I’m sure you’d like me to move on from my family drama, and I’m here to deliver. Let’s show Mini the sick beats we rock every day. Hit it!

Toshi seemed a bit more interested when the music started playing and Hizashi took off the mic and spun them around his chair. He seemed to know something was off, though, because after a few minutes of this he began anxiously looking around for Shouta. Shouta, who was busy handing Midnight a list of Toshi’s likes and dislikes, his schedule, phone numbers, and actual parenting books. They figured taking Toshi to the studio for one last hurrah would soften the blow of the next few days, but Shouta supposed it'd take more for his boy to be fooled.

“No!” he actually shouted when the program was over and he was being handed off to a cooing Midnight. “No, no, no!”

“Set of lungs of him, huh?” Midnight didn’t seem to mind the flailing baby arms smacking her chest. “Maybe he’ll luck out and be a screamer in bed, too.”

“Nemuri, he’s one,” Shouta said flatly, not that it would stop the alpha from her lewd comments. She’d been like that since they first met at U.A., when she flirted with him in the hall and he threw her over his shoulder. “Please don’t teach him any strange habits while we’re out. You know I’m at least a few times scarier in heat than when I’m not.”

It wasn’t an exaggeration—the last alpha that had the gall to grope his ass while he was in heat had been surreptitiously thrown into a dumpster. Every one of his bad omega traits became amplified five times over. If it wasn’t damaging to his body, he’d take suppressants forever if he could. He supposed one heat a year was better than the standard four, but goddammit did he hate this annual hell.

Hizashi wasn’t too bothered by their forced vacation, often joking that the sexescapade was probably good for their workaholic lives. He wasn’t the one losing control over himself to hormones like a heathen though, a fact Shouta was both jealous of and grateful for. No matter how crazy and out of control Shouta got during his heats—and there was a reason they secluded themselves to a cabin in the woods instead of in their not-soundproofed apartment—Hizashi would always be the cool anchor to pull him back.

Still, heats were nothing new. What was new, however, was Toshi. It was his first heat since giving birth and he’d never been parted with his baby for so long. He hadn’t even given Toshi up to a babysitter, for god’s sake. Just the idea of spending more than a few hours away from him made anxiety bubble up in his throat. Toshi wasn’t faring much better, shrill cries dissolving into heart-wrenching sniffles as he reached out to Shouta.

“Mama, no!” he begged, and good god. That puppy face was all Hizashi, eyes big and wet and wide. Shouta leaned forward and pressed a kiss to the baby’s forehead.

“Four days and we’ll be back,” he promised in a low tone, brushing back wild purple hair. “Aunt Midnight will take care of you until then, okay?”

“We’ll have lots of fun!” Midnight bounced Toshi in her arms encouragingly. “Let’s put on some tunes! Hey, sound guys! You can play some tunes, right?”

God, Hizashi’s radio crew really did love him. They played songs and tried distracting Toshi as best they could as Hizashi and Shouta made their getaway. Well, it was more Hizashi dragging Shouta away and into a cab, where he spent the entire hour and a half drive to the cabin petting a trembling Shouta and assuring him things were going to be fine.

Thank god for that beta calmness. Shouta would have completely fallen apart otherwise.

Four days later, an exhausted Shouta stormed into Midnight’s apartment and scooped up his fussing child from the high chair at her table.

“Well hello to you too, gorgeous,” the woman sighed, hair down and looking a bit ragged herself. Toshi’s eyes were puffy from crying. “I hope you realize how much you owe me for this. I was kidding about the lungs on this boy, but apparently he wasn’t. Are you sure he didn’t inherit Mic’s quirk?”

“Hizashi can shatter your eardrums without even trying,” Shouta mumbled, too laser-focused on checking Toshi over to pay attention to Midnight gathering Toshi’s things. The baby wasn’t too different. A bit skinnier and more tired, but Shouta was skinnier and tired too. Toshi clutched his shirt tight and buried his face into his neck.

“We’ll catch up for real at school when you’re less hormonal,” Midnight told him as he headed out the door. She was right, mostly because Shouta didn’t snap at her calling him hormonal. He just gave her a little nod and hurried back to the car so that he and Toshi could go home where it was safe.

“Mama,” Toshi mumbled, and fifteen-year old Shouta would have died if he’d known how much his older self melted at that one word.

Chapter Text

Time passed quickly and yet not at all.

Their jobs were the same year after year, but Toshi brought newness to their household every day.

At two, he decided Iida Tenya was an entertaining robot and followed him around Idaten copying his chops like a little mime. The elementary schooler seemed caught between proud and annoyed. He finally cracked after half an hour and began teaching Toshi actual hand signals. When he found out these were real Idaten hero signs, Toshi dropped the cheekiness and gave the boy his undivided attention.

Toshi loved heroes. Perhaps because his parents were both heroes and he was always being looked after by heroes, or maybe because he was a toddler and kids in their world were all a little hero-crazy. Shouta found him, Tenya, and one of the Yukimura twins practicing hand signals while darting to and from training dummies in the practice room.

“Mama,” Toshi called out, popping his head out from behind a dummy. He made a gesture that meant the coast was clear and beamed. “Hero sign!”

“Useful,” Shouta said approvingly, and Tenya preened behind Toshi's smiling head.

At two-and-a-half, Toshi decided he was a cat instead of a human. He crawled around on all fours and meowed alongside the cats. Shouta cut up his dinner into mush and watched, fascinated, as Toshi stuck with the act and ate the discolored mess from his bowl on the ground.

Hizashi seemed caught between recording the whole thing and telling his son to stop eating off the floor. In the end, cuteness won out and he took out his phone to begin documentation.

Toshi the Cat managed to keep up his new lifestyle for a solid day and a half. When Tensei brought Tenya over to look after him while the adults tasked shop, however, Toshi abandoned his makeshift cat bed and began making hand signals.

“No, we’re not going to go look for villains,” Tenya said, much to Toshi’s disappointment. “My brother made it clear I was to keep you out of trouble. We’re going to watch Totoro like normal children and then we might eat a snack.”

Toshi threw a cat toy at him and ran off to hide under the sofa.

Tenya grabbed a leg and tried dragging him out.

“We’re watching Totoro!”

Toshi shook his head.

“This is very unbecoming of you, Toshi. Imagine all the pathogens you are inhaling by placing your face on the floor!”

Toshi opened his mouth and licked the ground.

“What have you done? Quick, we have to rinse your mouth out with soap!”

“No!” Hitoshi finally, finally broke his silent streak. He was frustrated and annoyed and his mouth tasted funky, and he wanted Tenya to let go of his leg. “No, don’t wanna! Jus’ go away, ‘kay?”

“Totoro—“

You watch Totoro!”

And then suddenly the hand was gone.

The adults finally came back to find Tenya watching Totoro alone on the couch with a blank look on his face. Toshi was asleep on the ground.

“Tenya?” his brother shook his shoulder. It wasn’t unusual to see Tenya acting so robot-like, true, but there was something in his gaze that had Shouta worried. The worry grew as Tenya jolted like he was startled awake.

He sat up straight. “Toshi! He’s under the couch and won’t come out!”

“He does that sometimes,” Shouta said, sounding far less concerned than he should probably be. “But why were you watching Totoro alone if you were so concerned?”

Tenya opened his mouth. Closed it.

“I…” he looked abashed, fingers stiff by his side. “I don’t really remember?”

The adults exchanged worried looks.

Toshi was still dozing when Shouta carried him to the table for lunch, and after reassuring Tenya that Toshi was fine and no one was in trouble, the Iida brothers went home. Shouta hefted Toshi onto his hip and carried him around the house as he straightened things out. He kept one eye on the boy, however. Two and a half was awfully young, but it wasn’t unheard of for a quirk to manifest early.

And the look on Tenya’s face before Tensei had shaken him out of it…

It sent a familiar feeling of dread down his spine.

Hizashi seemed to pick up on Shouta’s worries and tried filling in the silence with his usual noise. He even took over the less sanitary aspects of illness when Toshi came down with a mild stomach bug.

“You not feeling good, buddy?” he said sympathetically as he wiped up the last of the vomit off the floor. Toshi sniffled from his little bed. “How’d you catch a bug?”

“Licked the floor,” Toshi admitted, sounding miserable, and Hizashi coughed to hide his snort of laughter.

Nothing strange happened the next day, or the day after that. Toshi was as normally abnormal as usual. He decided  to choreograph a dance to one of his favorite songs and ended up stepping on one of the cats’ tails mid-whirl. He withstood the ensuing scratch with minimal tears, and Shouta ended up taking them out for rice burgers for lunch. He was still teaching half days, though he’d been pushing Nezu for more time with the students. He was accustomed to acting as a homeroom teacher, after all, not as the simple lecturer he’d become since Toshi came into the picture.

And then their hero case exploded, the media started going wild over something Hizashi said, and their collective students seemed to decide to start as much shit as possible while the two of them were down. Quirk watching seemed a lot less important when literally beating his students into hero-worthy shape. He put the incident with Tenya on the backburner.

He didn’t forget, however. He’d seen that look before.

 

--

 

Despite his efforts to start leaving Toshi with a babysitter for at least a few hours a day, Shouta ended up carrying the boy with him to class more often than he should. The students had learned early on not to ask questions about the toddler contently doodling by himself in the corner. It was a good test of focus, if nothing else.

“Mama,” Toshi tugged on Shouta’s pant leg while the students were taking a test. Some of them glanced up, intrigued, but quickly glanced back down when Shouta’s eyes glowed red. “My hero costume.”

Shouta squinted down at the scribbles. “…that’s my hero costume.”

“Nuh-uh!” Toshi pointed at the dark scribbles above the capture scarf. “Voice!”

“It’s my hero costume with Daddy’s speaker.”

My costume,” Toshi said sagely, and who was Shouta to tell him no?

After class, Shouta reluctantly dropped Toshi off at the Yukimura’s house on the way to the police station. It was a small home close to U.A., and while Shouta himself wasn’t too close to the family, the Iidas were. Tensei had pulled him aside and gave him a brief overview of their situation. The injuries on the boy twin, the lack of a father figure, the constant trips Yukimura Rei took to see U.A.’s private counselor every week.

“Hello Hitoshi,” Rei smiled softly at the toddler hiding behind his mother’s leg. Toshi clammed up like he did with all strangers, purple eyes both shy and cautious. He’d met the twins before, but Shouta doubted he spoke to them much. “Your mama’s going to do some hero work, so you’ll be staying with me, okay?”

Toshi seemed reluctant but resigned as Shouta handed him off. Rei was a very soft, classical omega in both scent and mannerisms. It was generally easier for children to find comfort in her scent, so unlike Midnight’s spicy alpha tones or even Tensei’s engine-oil musk. That, and Rei’s home smelled like her other children.

“My Shouto is around your age,” he heard her murmur to Toshi in a low tone. “He’s a bit shy, too. I think you’ll get along.”

“Shouto sounds like Shouta,” Toshi actually responded, sounding almost offended. “Mama is Shouta.”

“Yes, but the way you write their names is very different,” Rei said, and Shouta forced himself to actually head out. It sounded like Toshi was in good hands here, and they really needed to take his statement down at the station. He’ll be back before dinner.

Except what was supposed to be an hour turned into nearly ten. That’s what happened when the villain’s friends try to bust their colleague out; when they nearly succeed after stabbing an officer in the eye and hopping into a sewer line; when their friend dies mysteriously and suddenly they had bigger fish to fry than small time crooks.

It was this kind of exhausting work that Shouta wished his students understood. Not everyone could be like All Might, showing up to some big battle and punching his way into a quick victory. So much of hero work was doing reconnaissance, patrol, profiling. It was hard, thankless work and Shouta quite literally smelled like shit by the end of it.

“You can come pick Hitoshi up in the morning, Mr. Aizawa,” Rei sounded just as soft over the phone. Shouta bit his lip hard. Hizashi was still at the hospital recovering from a nasty break to his femur and Shouta was completely worn down. It was the middle of the goddamn night too, and Toshi was probably already asleep. Watching that peaceful face scrunch up in irritated exhaustion was the worst part about waking his boy up. “He and Shouto actually got along quite well after he made him prove his kanji was different than yours. I believe Fuyumi had them over as guests to her tea party, too.”

“I’m sorry to impose so much, Miss Yukimura,” he managed. The omega inside of him snapped and snarled. He couldn’t possibly entertain the idea of leaving their baby in some strangers hands, could he? He couldn’t possibly abandon him?

Shut up, she’s nice and I’m fucking tired, he snapped back at it. “It would be a great help, however. Thank you.”

“No worries. I’m just glad there’s a hero like you in the streets looking after us,” and Rei’s voice trembled just a bit at the end. “Thank you for reminding us what a hero truly is.”

Shouta could hear the weight behind the words, the unspoken truth of her past slipping past her careful, serene mask. He didn’t pry. He wasn’t close enough to the Yukimuras just yet, and it was clearly something Rei was trying to move past.

Besides, there were few reasons why someone like Rei would seek the protection of an institution like U.A.

Shouta hung up the phone after a stilted good bye and collapsed into his too-empty bed. He slept for nearly seven hours straight before the cats kneaded him awake.

“Were you good?” he asked Toshi as he watched the boy carefully Velcro his shoes shut. He spotted a toddler of similar age hiding behind Rei’s skirt. Red hair on the boy's left side, white hair on his right. This must be Shouto, then.

“Bye Toshi,” Shouto waved hesitantly.

“Bye Shouchan,” Toshi surprised Shouta by actually responding. He hopped onto his feet and turned to his new friend with a big, Aizawa smile. Most found it creepy, but Yukimura Shouto seemed touched instead. “Play again soon, okay?”

“We can set up a few playdates,” Shouta told Rei, keeping his tone as casual as possible. “Your oldest children are the same age as Tenya, correct? We often meet up with the Iidas. You’re welcome to join us, too.”

“We’ll think about it,” Rei demurred, clasping her hands together. “Thank you for the invitation.”

It was better than he expected, honestly. He nodded in acceptance and reached out to take Toshi’s hand.

They were going to go buy a cake and visit Hizashi in the hospital. They’ll eat it in front of him just to watch him cry. It’ll be excellent punishment.

It was a perfectly typical day.

Chapter Text

Despite being heroes, neither Shouta nor Hizashi had enemies determined enough to go after their son. Shouta was an underground hero and dealt mostly with small time crooks down forgotten alleyways. Hizashi, on the other hand, was a typically flashy hero whose patrols never ventured anywhere close to personal. His radio show kept talk of his family to a minimum, referring only to Shouta as “the mate” and Toshi as “Mini Mic.” It allowed Shouta the freedom to take Toshi wherever he wanted without looking over his shoulder—a freedom he had taken for granted until growing closer to the Yukimuras.

“Shouchan, I’ll save you!” Toshi whipped around his toy scarf in imitation of Shouta handling his capture weapon. He had his voice modifier strapped across the bottom half of his face, which was a much-beloved gift from Hizashi for his third birthday. Shouta disliked its muzzle-like appearance, but he supposed there were only so many different ways one can manufacture a voice device. Besides, Toshi loved it. From sounding like a dinosaur to a squeaky princess to even All Might—and Shouta had checked the back of the device, it literally labeled option 3 as “All Might Voice”—Toshi was the most talkative he’d been since ever.

That was probably Hizashi’s goal, to be honest, but Shouta couldn’t fault him for it. Toshi was close enough to preschool age that he had to learn to converse with people outside his family. Spending more time being babysat by the Yukimuras helped immensely. It was still hard for both them, though. While Shouta appreciated the extra free time to go back to full-time teaching—and good god had his students slacked off while he’d been a part-timer—he missed having Toshi attached to his hip.

“Save me,” Shouchan said in a deadpan voice. He was sitting on the counter and waving his hands. Shouta had been worried the boy was being dragged into Toshi’s games against his will, but Rei assured him Shouchan was having a lot of fun. That’s just what his fun face looked like. Seeing as Shouta had a resting bitch face himself, he wasn’t in any place to judge.

“I’ll pick him up after work. Thank you again, Rei,” Shouta gave the woman a little bow before forcing himself to step out of the house. This wasn’t anything new. He’d come back to find Toshi causing trouble again, to Tenya yelling at them to be quiet while he dutifully filled out his homework at the kitchen table, to Rei smiling softly at her children from the living room couch.

Things would be fine.

 

--

 

“Shouto! Counters are for placing food, not for sitting! Come down from there at once!” Tenya finally caught sight of the boys after Mr. Aizawa’s departure. He hurried over, arms chopping frantically. “We serve food there, and you are contaminating the surface with your feet. Do you know how much bacteria live in your feet alone?”

“No,” Shouto said. “How many?”

Tenya, not expecting to give an actual number, moved his mouth wordlessly for a second.

“A lot!” he finally managed, then grabbed Shouto by the waist and plopped him down on the ground. “Now don’t do it again!”

“I was saving him,” Toshi tossed his toy scarf over the boy. “I was a hero!”

“What happened to playing hero in the playroom?” Tenya frowned at the two of them, arms folded. His brother had charged him with two tasks: watching over the rascals and trying to draw the twins out of their shell. The former was progressing far smoother than the latter. Fuyumi was nice enough, sometimes choosing to join Tenya in the kitchen so they could finish their homework together. Touya, however, was like a ghost in his own house. Tenya sometimes saw him playing ball with Natsuo outside, the gleam of his burn scars obvious in the sunlight. It was a little sick to look at, a feeling that had shame crawling up Tenya’s throat.

Heroes must save and protect all citizens regardless of their appearance or identity. If Tenya wanted to follow in his brother’s footsteps, he needed to train his heart out of its prejudices.

“Touya’s taken it over,” Shouto told him, sidling up beside Toshi and fiddling with the end of his scarf. Toshi unbuckled his voice amplifier and hung it loose around his neck in a perfect imitation of his father. He was so much like Eraserhead it was easy to forget he had another parent. Shouto continued. “I think he’s trying to get Natsuo to freeze him solid.”

“He’s what,” Tenya yelped, whirling around and storming down the hall.

Miss Yukimura had frowned disapprovingly at her sons when Tenya finally managed to kick down the door and found the oldest half encased in ice. She’d gone out to purchase some heating pads from the convenience store to help the shivering, miserable boys now hunched over in the bathroom.

It was only a matter of time before the other children in the house gathered to watch the two idiots like animals in the zoo.

“Natsuo? You asked Natsuo to freeze you?” Fuyumi seemed caught between horrified and indignant, hands on her hips as she glared at her twin.

“You would’ve tattled to Mom,” Touya informed her through gritted teeth.

“You know Mom could probably freeze you in a way that won’t hurt you, right?” she shot back. “Natsuo’s got no control at all! He could’ve frozen you right through instead of simply around you!”

“Like you could’ve done better!” Natsuo sputtered back, and the three of them devolved into sibling bickering. Shouto looked longingly at them, like he wanted to join in but couldn’t figure out how.

It was nice, in a way. Until it wasn’t.

Tenya saw the crack in the wall only a split second before it burst. His engines fired up before he could even think, bulldozing the Yukimura siblings into the tub just as the villain tore through the wall like tissue paper.

“Toshi!” Shouto’s voice called out from under Tenya’s arm. He whipped his head around, horrified, and saw Yamada Hitoshi staring up at the villain from the bathroom doorway.

The villain ignored the toddler and glanced over at the children huddling in the tub.

“Which one of you is Todoroki Shouto?” he said.

Todoroki? Tenya filed the information into the folder called To Be Dealt With Later.

“I... I am Iida Tenya, the s-second oldest son of the Iida family,” he piped up, cursing the trembling in his voice. “You’ve broken into a private residence and caused damage to the property. These—these are all jailable offenses! Turn yourself in before you make the situation worse!”

“I don’t think you understand me, kid,” and the villain punched his hand through the wall beside Tenya’s head. Tenya flinched backwards, heart thudding wildly in his chest. “I’m asking you which one of you is Todoroki Shouto.”

“I dunno what the old man did to you, but you’re crazy if you think we’re handing our brother over,” Touya’s voice called out clear and sharp from behind Tenya. Fuyumi was frantically trying to shush him, but the older twin was staring up at the villain with fearless turquoise eyes. “Now get the hell out of here before I burn you to a crisp.”

And then a lot of things happened at once.

The villain thrust a big hand at Touya’s scarred face. Tenya forced his engines to come to life and grabbed a very quiet, very terrified Shouto around the waist. Natsuo and Fuyumi both sent bolts of ice towards the villain—Fuyumi freezing over the floor and Natsuo in a straight aerial beam that missed and hit the mirror.

Touya’s hand glowed with blue flame, his palm meeting the villain's fist fearlessly.

A deafening explosion. Porcelain pieces flying everywhere. And the heat—the heat was so painful, Tenya felt like he was dying.

“Touya!” Fuyumi’s voice barely registered past the ringing in his ears. His back felt singed, half of his t-shirt smoldering along the edges, in complete contrast to the numbing cold bleeding his hands dry of warmth on the floor. He staggered to his knees and tried heaving Shouto out the door towards where Toshi was still standing—only to yell when the villain grabbed him by the neck and wrenched the boy from his grasp.

“Stop!” he rasped, legs kicking frantically as engines failed to start. Out of juice, he was out of juice. Shouto was screaming now, little hands clawing at the villain’s arm, and there wasn’t anything he could do. Another burst of flame erupted from the shattered tub. The villain grunted in pain as it singed his face—he was holding both Tenya and Shouto in his arms, Touya couldn’t aim anywhere close to useful, why was he so useless?—and then swung out a leg.

Touya may be tough, but he was still only ten. He flew into the wall with a sickening crack and then slumped to the ground.

“Stop it,” Tenya heard a tiny voice say. “Stop it!”

“As much fun as it is playing with you brats, I think I have the one I need right here,” the villain hoisted a still struggling Shouto over his shoulder. “’Course, taking an extra one like this,” and Tenya hated being shaken like a ragdoll, hated it, “will be good insurance until we get the demands in order.”

“Stop!” No, no, no. Tenya watched in horror as Toshi finally moved. Towards the villain rather than away, and the boy began beating at the villain’s legs like he had any hope of freeing his friends.

“Run,” Tenya rasped. “Toshi, run!”

“Let them go!” Toshi ignored him. His voice began to reach ear-piercing levels. Tenya often forgot how loud Toshi could get when he wanted to, and the noise was drawing the unwanted attention of the villain. “I said let them go! What do you want with us?”

“Look, brat, I don’t—” and then the villain paused.

“Let them go and then go away,” Toshi screamed, eyes squeezed tight and hands clenching his scarf. “Go away, go away, go away!”

The iron-clad grip around Tenya’s neck suddenly vanished. He fell onto the floor with a ice-shattering crash, white-hot pain immediately shooting up his body from where he landed strangely on his ankle. He felt rather than heard Fuyumi shoot out some ice to cushion Shouto’s fall.

Groaning, he propped himself up in time to see the villain slowly turn around. What was he doing? Was there some other painful plan he had in mind for the children? Heroes needed to think quickly in a crisis but Tenya could barely keep his eyes open. No, he needed to protect everyone. He promised his brother he’d look after them, promised Miss Yukimura he’d keep everyone safe while she was gone, promised himself he’d be a hero—

The villain walked out of the bathroom through the hole he’d created in the wall. Tenya’s mouth dropped open. Everyone was frozen, gazes locked on the slowly retreating form of the villain walking aimlessly away from the Yukimura home.

When he finally turned the corner and disappeared out of sight, Toshi burst into tears.

 

--

 

The good news was that no one was dead.

The bad news was that children—his child included, and just the thought of it sent angry shivers up Shouta’s spine—were injured. Some more seriously than others. Shouchan had bruised his elbow when he’d fallen onto his sister’s ice pillar and knocked into the counter. Tenya had a concussion, a broken ankle, and burns across his upper back. Touya’s condition was the most serious, having actually dislocated a spinal disc when he’d been kicked across the room. Fuyumi and Natsuo, both relatively unscathed with only nicks and scratches, sat with red-rimmed eyes with their mother in the waiting room.

“I can’t believe we’re here again,” Fuyumi whispered to her mother in a trembling voice, her eyes squeezed shut. “Can’t believe Touya’s hurt again. Is he going to be able to walk?”

“The damage only affected the vertebrae, not the cord. He should be fine once the disc has been set back in place,” Shouta said from where he and Toshi were sitting across the row. Toshi had a few burns on his hands and a bad scrape on his forehead from where a broken piece of tub had made contact. His body would be fine but his psyche… Shouta’s pressed his lips together.

His baby had been mostly silent since they’d found the children in that godforsaken bathroom, Touya and Tenya both passed out and Fuyumi crying hard enough to rival Toshi. It had taken quite a bit of time and patience to drag the story out of them, and by the time they finished… well.

“I didn’t mean to,” Toshi’s voice had been very small as the paramedics had patched him up outside. He'd pressed his face into Shouta’s pant leg and snuffled wetly. “I didn’t mean to! I just wanted him to stop.”

Shouta had been prepared for Erasure to show up as it always did, as consistent an Aizawa trait as that shocking purple hair. Shouta himself had bred true despite his non-Aizawa coloring. With Voice crossed off the list, why wouldn’t he expect a quirk like his own to appear?

“I’m sorry, Mommy,” Toshi said, and Shouta’s heart thudded loud in his chest.

Brainwashing. The incident with Tenya months ago bubbled unbidden from the depths of his mind. He’d recognized that expression. He had, he just hadn’t wanted to admit it. Tenya had been slack-jawed the same way his father looked during one of his mother’s spells, but Toshi clearly didn’t need eye-contact to maintain control.

Just his voice.

Shouta combed his fingers through Toshi’s hair and suppressed the urge to laugh hysterically. Hizashi’s quirk snuck its way back in after all. Voice-controlled brainwashing.

Oh god, Toshi was starting preschool in a few weeks.

A quirk was a quirk was a quirk, and no one chose their quirk. But people could be so short-sighted sometimes. Short-sighted, ignorant, and cruel. He wanted to keep Toshi wrapped up at home even more now, if only to spare him the whispers that would trail after him once the quirk registration went through.

His mother’s quirk had never tasted so bitter on his tongue.

 

--

 

“You got your quirk, little listener?” Hizashi picked up a dour Toshi and spun him around. The boy just sniffled, still upset, but the beta continued as if nothing was wrong. “That’s awesome! A full year earlier than usual, too! I heard you can do mad cool things with your voice, yeah? Just like Daddy!”

He settled Toshi on his hip and leaned in to whisper at him conspiratorially. “Y’know, I think it’s even better than Daddy’s. My voice can knock a villain out, but it hurts them a lot, you know? Heroes try to save people without hurting people. But you—you can just tell a villain to go away! That’s, like, 100% less hurting than anything I can do!”

“Yeah,” Toshi finally spoke, looking up at Hizashi like he just saw him there. “I’m gonna be a better hero than you, Daddy.”

“What? I’m the best hero!”

“Mommy’s the best hero,” Toshi informed him, and Hizashi gave a dramatic wail of betrayal.

The boy did seem a bit more upbeat chatting with Hizashi while choosing out a snack from the vending machine. It eased Shouta enough to take his eyes off of him to check up on the Yukimuras.

The children were fast asleep on a row of lined up chairs at the edge of Touya’s hospital room: Shouchan snuggled in Fuyumi’s grasp and Natsuo practically falling off of the side. Rei was awake, however. She sat clasping Touya’s limp hand in her own, eyes tired and sad.

“The Flame Hero, Endeavor,” Rei suddenly said after when Shouta had pulled up a chair by Touya’s bedside. The boy had made it through the surgery and lay sleeping on the medical bed with far too many machines beeping away around him. Bandages wrapped around his waist and head, but his burns were still visible through the cloths. “He’s my ex-husband.”

“I heard from the Hero Network that Endeavor had separated from his wife,” Shouta said, choosing his words carefully. Todoroki Enji, the number two hero. A powerful, fearsome man who struck terror in the villains that crossed him. A man who wore his ambition as plain as day, so wholly focused on his work the media had never caught on to the family he'd had and lost.

“He’s a hero, Mr. Aizawa,” Rei said, sounding almost wistful. “First and foremost, that’s what he cares about. That determination to be the best… I admired it, once. But All Might’s invincibility seemed to eat away at him, and while I knew he wanted our children to follow in his footsteps.... I didn’t realize how bad it had gotten. Not until he forced Touya to go over his limit during training.”

Rei put a hand to her mouth. Shouta may not have known everything that had happened, but the evidence of Endeavor's error was literally burned into Touya's skin.

The woman found her voice again. “He burned himself so badly and Enji. Enji wanted to continue. I saw... I saw how it was getting worse, not better, and Shouto was only a few months old when Enji began asking about his quirk. So I took the kids and left.”

She looked down at her hands.

“That got through to him. I don't think he even realized how far he'd gone over the line until I handed him the divorce papers. He let us go, you know. He’s,” she laughs. “He’s even paying for the hospital bills, my psychiatric care. U.A. was his alma meter, not mine, yet the staff there has accepted us with open arms.”

“It doesn’t excuse what you’ve been through,” Shouta managed. It was a terrible, messy tale, but skulking about the underground had taught him that life was entirely made up of messy tales. Idyllic lives like his own family were the outlier, not the norm. “Even heroes should be accountable for their actions.”

“Yes, in their own way. You’re not idealistic, Mr. Aizawa. You know the faults and cracks in the system. Accountability starts here,” she points at her heart. “And I’d like to think what happened forced him to really look at himself. If he’d continued down this path, he might not have been able to see it, but right after Touya’s injury… even he knows no hero should act this way.”

“The burns are extensive.”

“I tell you this because he’ll probably come to see Touya,” Rei finally explained, her demeanor far calmer than it should have been given the secrets she’d poured into Shouta’s lap. “I’m asking you as a favor not to make a fuss. He won’t interact with us, and he won’t try to talk to Touya. He just… needs the reminder. To balance ambition with empathy. He’s trying, Mr. Aizawa. Please understand.”

“Of course,” Shouta said. He bit back the questions bubbling up from his throat. How a villain had discovered the Endeavor's family to begin with. How she’d managed to set herself up as a Yukimura with such little trouble. How she could stand Endeavor in the same room as her scarred son. “You’ve been kind to us, Rei. Know that we’ll be here to support you.”

“Thank you,” Rei smiled. It was soft. Genuine. The omega woman was far sturdier than she seemed on the surface, like an ice pillar surrounded by soft snow. Her tale was every omega horror story wrapped up into one—mated to a violent alpha, venturing out to raise her children alone. But Rei seemed content with her life as it was, and Shouta knew better than to take that contentment for granted. Not when his patrols at night showed him the pain and unhappiness saturating the unfortunate.

In a world like theirs, finding peace was the most they could hope for.

Chapter Text

“Toshi,” Shouchan said. He slid open the faculty door in search of his friend.

With Tenya staying at Idaten while his ankle healed and the Yukimuras busy with relocating to a new home, Toshi had lost the familiar structure of his day-to-day life. Shouta brought the boy with him to class instead, half to keep an eye on him and half to try and lift his mood. He loved heroes and he loved hero class, but these days it was hard to tell what Toshi was thinking at all. He’d stopped talking. Not to his parents, not to his friends. Not even to Yukimura Shouto, who’d taken to trailing after his mother to her counseling sessions at U.A..

Shouta knew from experience that time was the best remedy to Toshi’s bouts of strangeness, but that was in handling the child’s whims and not his trauma. These last few days of silence had broken his and Hizashi’s hearts.

“Toshi,” Shouchan crawled under Shouta’s desk and nudged the lump tucked inside the yellow sleeping bag. “Wanna eat lunch?”

Small hands stuck themselves out of the bag and made a series of gestures.

“Well I’m hungry.”

More hand gestures.

“Natsuo burnt the cookies. We’ll have to go to the cafeteria for food.”

Toshi grumbled but eventually emerged from the sleeping bag in assent. Shouchan held out a hand to help him up. Shouta watched them from the corner of his eye carefully. It was strange seeing the boys’ usual roles reversed. Toshi wasn’t particularly outgoing, but when it came to instigating play or conversation he was the one dragging Shouchan along. Since the Incident, however, Shouchan had come out of his shell a little. Wherein before he’d step back from his siblings’ antics, he now hesitantly started to join them. He left Rei’s side more often, too—like now, coming to fetch Toshi by himself.

“Do you want me to teach you sign language,” he asked his son flatly on their way home from school. Toshi glanced up at him quickly before looking back down to the sidewalk. “It’s a useful skill for hero work.”

Toshi hesitated, then shook his head.

“Why not?”

More shaking.

“Are you scared your quirk will activate if someone replies?” Shouta refused to mince words, not even with his toddler. Toshi’s expression crumpled around the edges but he didn’t cry. Just tucked his face back into his oversized scarf and snuffled. “You’re not controlling me now even when I respond to you shaking your head though. I think sign language should be the same. You need both your voice and theirs to activate it, so it won’t be a problem.” A pause. “Besides, you controlled your quirk pretty well these last few months, huh.”

Toshi actually flinched at this, whipping his head up to stare at Shouta with wide, guilty eyes. Shouta crouched down to his level and placed his hands on tiny shoulders, sidewalk etiquette be damned. “Toshi, look at me. If it wasn’t for you, Tenya and Shouchan and the others would have been hurt a lot more. You used your quirk like a hero would. It’s scary, I know, but the more you use it the more you can start learning to control it.”

Toshi shook his head again, cheeks flushed red.

“If things get out of hand, I’ll use my quirk to cancel yours,” Shouta smoothed a hand through wild purple locks. “No one’s going to get hurt, okay?”

“I,” and it was the first sound he’d heard from Toshi for days. “I—on the playground with Shouchan.”

Shouta waited patiently as Toshi tried summoning up the words. “If someone’s being mean… I ask them to stop. And they do. But I didn’t know it was my quirk! I didn’t, and then t-the villain was there and this time I felt it. Here.” Toshi tapped the middle of his chest. “I-I never c-controlled someone for so long before. But I couldn’t stop. If I s-stopped he’d come back and he’d hurt Shouchan again. I didn’t want him to hurt him s-so…”

“I’m proud of you, Toshi,” Shouta picked the boy up and hefted him into his arms. He immediately buried his face into Shouta’s chest, tears soaking through his shirt. “And I’m sorry you had to go through that. There’ll be people who’ll say mean things to you about it, but I need you to know that no quirk is bad. It’s about how you use it. Do you understand?”

Toshi clung to him tighter. The truth was, words were pretty but actions were cruel. It would take more to truly prepare his boy for children's cruelty, and Shouta wasn't sure he knew how.

By the time they made it home, the boy had cried himself to sleep. Wiping his tear-stained face and tucking him into bed nearly brought Shouta himself to tears. He wasn’t a teary person, but his goddamn omega hormones… well. He didn't know how, but he had an idea where to start. And he knew he’d do anything to help his boy through this.

Shouta picked up the phone.

“You what,” Hizashi hissed, horrified, when he came home from patrol and Shouta sat him down in their bedroom. “I know you’re worried about Toshi but we’ve got quirk specialists who can get him registered here, too—”

“Quirk specialists who don’t know the first thing about handling psychological quirks, much less registering them,” Shouta said. His stomach turned and he grit his teeth. “Besides, he lived with my mother for all these years. If there’s a quirk expert who understands brainwashing… it’s my dad.”

“Shouta,” Hizashi said.

“We don’t have time. Toshi’s starting preschool next week and it’s against the law to let a student's quirk go unregistered once enrolled. Besides that, I’m not letting our boy go into the lion’s den thinking he—thinking he did something bad, using his quirk.” Shouta rubbed his eyes. “Dad’s a lot of things but that sociopathic obsession with quirks holds no judgment. He sees a quirk for what it is. It’s…. it’s what Toshi needs right now. Please.”

Hizashi sighed and reached out to pull Shouta to his side. The omega pressed his face into his shoulder and let out a shuddering breath.

“I’d prefer it if you consulted me before making a big decision like this,” Hizashi sighed, voice even. It was easy to tell when he became serious given the usual flamboyance in his voice. “I know things with your parents are still… awkward.”

“You would have talked me out of it,” Shouta muttered.

“Yeah, and for good reason.”

“He’s coming tomorrow, Hizashi,” Shouta said. “And he better not have brought my mom.”

 

--

 

He didn’t.

Which was good, because if he had Shouta would have lost his nerve altogether and done an about-turn back to the train station.

They met at Toshi’s favorite café to put the boy at ease. He had a hard enough time dealing with strangers to begin with, much less after the attack. Shouta had bundled him up in a cat jacket and pink pants and bright blue sneakers. Hizashi would have cried if he’d seen it, but Toshi seemed pleased enough.

“Shouta,” his father greeted them from the booth. For as much as Toshi had changed these last few years, his father had stayed exactly the same. Toshi’s gaze flickered to and from Shouta and his father’s faces. “And Hitoshi. Come sit. I’ve already ordered tea.”

“Toshi drinks orange juice,” Shouta said.

“A little tea’s never hurt anybody.”

“Tea has caffeine, Dad.”

“Alright, alright,” Aizawa Kyou just waved his hand. “I’m sure you didn’t call me all the way here to argue with me about tea. So Hitoshi’s manifested his quirk, hm? You’re usually so stubborn, Shouta. Didn’t you refuse to let me study him just a few years back?”

“Dad,” Shouta snapped, resisting the urge to just get up and leave right there.

“A brainwashing quirk,” and before Shouta could stop him, his dad reached over and just—he just lifted Toshi up by the waist and held him in the air. “Just like your grandmother.”

“Down!” Toshi demanded, squirming in his hold. Kyou simply turned him around, cataloguing every physical trait he could. “Let me down! Please?”

“Just a second,” Kyou told him, and Toshi’s eyes flashed white.

Nothing happened.

“My father has the same quirk I do, Toshi,” Shouta rescued Toshi from his father’s grabby hands, fury bubbling under his skin. How dare he. The boy immediately tucked his head into his shoulder. “He can cancel your quirk as long as he’s touching you. Dad, I know you know better than to manhandle your patients.”

“Yes, but I wanted to see how he’d activate his quirk,” his father said, voice far too light given what he was admitting. “Children tend to use it subconsciously when under stress, after all.”

“You can’t just put a kid under stress, Dad!”

“It’s effective.”

“God, I don’t know what I expected out of you," Shouta furrowed his brow. "If you're not going to help catalogue his quirk—"

“How long can you hold control over someone?” Kyou addressed the toddler directly, cutting his son off without guilt. “Do they have to be within a certain range before the effect wears off? Does it work for verbal responses that aren’t proper words, such as hm and eh? Does your head hurt after you release control?”

Somehow the word vomit actually piqued Toshi’s curiosity. He turned and squinted at the strange, grabby man in front of him like he was seeing him for the first time.

“Your hair,” Toshi pointed. Shouta’d scold him for being rude if he wasn’t still angry at his father’s own rude behavior. “It’s like mine.”

“No, yours is like mine,” Kyou corrected. “Genetics, my boy. Colors can skip a generation. You inherited a lot of physical traits from your mother,” he pointed at Shouta with the same air as the toddler before him, proving once and for all they must be related, “and he inherited physical traits from me. Quirks work the same way. Yours, for instance. It’s the same as your grandmother’s.”

“She can tell people what to do?” Toshi looked horrified. It broke Shouta’s heart to see that expression on his son’s face—not when he had the same abilities too. “Is that why Mommy moved so far away from you?”

“Yes,” Shouta told him before Kyou could respond. “Yes, it was. But not because of her quirk, Toshi. It was how she used it. Remember what I told you the other day.”

Toshi mused over this fact for a solid moment. Finally, he peered up at Kyou with a small frown. “I don’t think I like you.”

“I don’t need you to like me,” Kyou said. “I just need to study you. Finish your lunch. We’ll head to the nearest park and really see what you can do.”

His dad may have been callous and rude, but he was good at what he did. He brushed off Shouta’s and Toshi’s glares in favor of going through a myriad of tests in the relative privacy of the park. The clinical nature of it all did seem to soothe Toshi. The few specialists Shouta had met with to verify Toshi’s case had immediately drawn back, horrified, when he mentioned the brainwashing. There was no way he was exposing Toshi to that kind of negative quirk-hating reaction, even if he had to call up his father instead.

“It’s a much stronger version that your grandmother’s,” Kyou told Toshi while filling out the paperwork with a pen. Toshi had exhausted himself after nearly an hour of using his quirk on his mother—Kyou had wanted to use park goers as his test subjects, but Shouta had to draw the line somewhere—and was falling asleep in Shouta’s lap. “Your grandmother can only control people if she maintains eye contact and still suffers from headaches as a consequence of her quirk. A voice-activated brainwashing offers far more mobility. It does seem that the further away the victim is the harder it is for Hitoshi to control them. Not impossible, but it puts more strain on his body. He complained of a headache when trying to control someone from a distance for a long period of time. Fascinating. His father’s voice quirk mixing with Shouta’s recessive brainwashing genes… very fascinating.”

“Don’t use the word ‘victim,’” Shouta said shortly. The sun was setting. It was getting chilly. And he was very, very tired—emotionally, physically, spiritually. “You’ve got enough to fill out the forms, haven’t you? We’re leaving.”

“I normally get paid for filing quirk registrations,” Kyou said. He took his stamper out of his pocket and pressed it to the paperwork anyway. “But as this is my grandson, I suppose I can give you a discount. Buy me dinner and we’ll be even”

“No,” Shouta said. “I’ll mail you a check. We’re going home, Dad.”

“Stubborn as usual,” Kyou sighed, but didn’t argue further. “Good bye, Shouta. Good bye, Toshi. I wonder how many more years it’ll be the next time you call.”

Shouta didn’t dignify that with an answer. He simply picked Toshi up in his arms and walked out of the park, determined to make it to the train station before dark. Toshi lifted his head up from Shouta's shoulder and waved back at Kyou.

“Bye Bad-Grandpa,” he said in a perfectly serious voice, and Shouta couldn’t help but smile.

Chapter Text

Toshi hated preschool.

Shouta didn’t know what he was expecting—for his sullen, soft-spoken son to suddenly enjoy running about with a bunch of screaming brats? For the caretakers to actually try and curb the inevitable gossip? The school was good but it couldn’t promise miracles. Even knowing Toshi was the son of at least one pro-hero didn't seem to help, not that it should have.

They’d briefly considered placing Toshi in a school for pro-hero children, but Shouta had decided against it. This was the closest one to their workplace. It’ll be fine.

He was regretting his decision already.

“Take it back!” Toshi screamed, pouncing on some poor boy with some kind of lizard quirk and pummeling him with his fists. “Eraserhead is the best pro hero! You take it back!”

“You made him up!” the kid called back, sticking to his guns despite Toshi’s attacks. “My dad says underground heroes are just a myth!”

“Your dad is stupid!

“Yamada Hitoshi!” Shouta snapped from where he’d been watching from the doorway. “What did I say about attacking people?”

“To only attack villains and only if you can’t run away,” Toshi mumbled back on rote. His little hands refused to let go of the lizard boy’s hair, however. “But he was being mean! He thinks you’re not real!”

“I’m sorry,” Shouta said through gritted teeth to the teacher. Not because he was ashamed of Toshi, but because he really, really didn’t want to switch preschools. It was Toshi’s first day, for god’s sake. “He’s a bit nervous being away from me.”

“We deal with it quite a bit here,” the teacher waved, laughing it off. “But keep in mind if things get out of control we might have to… talk things over. Most of the other children haven’t manifested their quirks, after all. And with Hitoshi’s…”

“Yes?” Shouta’s voice could’ve cut through stone.

“I’m sure it’ll be fine,” she backtracked quickly, demonstrating impressive survival instincts.

“Punching other kids isn’t nice,” was all Hizashi had to say when he came home to Toshi sulking on the couch. He had strapped on his voice amplifier and had been blasting All Might’s “You too can be a hero!” line over and over and over again. Shouta had been sorely tempted to break the damned thing against the wall, but Toshi was upset enough already.

“Meanies,” Toshi said, still using All Might’s voice to speak.

“Yeah, but heroes don’t have to hurt villains to save the day. Remember?”

A sullen pause.

Then, All Might’s voice once more: “You too can be a hero! You too can be a hero!”

Toshi started to hide away in the mornings. Shouta had to literally drag him kicking and screaming to partake in his socially acceptable play time and absolutely no one was happy about it. This lasted for nearly a week before things... well. Shouta shouldn’t have been surprised.

“He used his quirk on my boy!” and oh god, it was the lizard family again. The mother, like her son, had some kind of lizard mutant quirk that clashed horribly with her pink dress. Shouta firmly kept his gaze on her face. “He just—what kind of dangerous quirk lets a kid take control of another one? What if he had my poor Gagara throw himself out the window?”

“What kind of dangerous quirk gives a kid teeth sharp enough to bite through bone,” Shouta said, voice so flat it could’ve been automated. He was usually more civilized than this, but he was at the end of his rope. “This isn’t an issue of quirks. It’s an issue of accountability. Your son had been antagonizing mine all week.”

“He’s been antagonizing mine!”

“That’s enough!” the principal finally interrupted the feuding mothers, sweat beading visibly on his bald head. “Look, this altercation is indeed very complicated. But Hitoshi used his quirk on another student. We can’t allow this kind of behavior at our school.”

“So you’ve never dealt with toddlers who've use their quirks on each other,” and the flat voice was back.

“Well, yes…”

“So what makes my son so different?”

“He scares the other children,” the principal finally admitted, weary. He’d clearly accepted his imminent death. “And we’ve already gotten requests from other parents to take Hitoshi out of school.”

“I see,” Shouta said. He stood up.

“Where are you going?” Lizard lady screeched at him, and Shouta slammed the door on her and the principals’ collective shouts. Toshi was at the preschool’s tiny first aid station, scowling darkly at the bandages covering his forearm from where he’d been bitten. He’d used his quirk to stop the boy from biting his arm off. If anything, Shouta had the most grounds to sue.

“We’re not going back,” he informed Toshi on their walk home. They’d probably need to stop by U.A. to have Recovery Girl look at the wound. “Congratulations. We’re going to start paying five times the cost to have you play with Shouchan in Tokyo instead.”

“Yay,” Toshi said, only half guilty. The other half looked incredibly relieved.

Hizashi, upon hearing the news, had immediately exploded.

“They assaulted our baby, Shouta!” he wailed, voice nearing quirk-level volume. “They—that’s quirk discrimination, why the hell are we going to just let that stand?”

“Hizashi,” Shouta said, feeling far older than twenty-five-fucking years old. “I come from a long line of psychological quirk users. If we sued the pants off of every institution for discrimination, we’d never get anything done.”

“But—”

“Any legal case would also require Toshi to have to testify,” Shouta continued mercilessly. “He’d have to come face-to-face with that lizard brat and the principal. He’d have to endure the media. Do you understand what I’m saying.”

Hizashi deflated, fingers twitching restlessly. He took off his glasses and collapsed head-first into Shouta’s back. The omega grunted at the force but didn’t push him off, which he supposed said a lot about his own emotional state.

“We can still talk smack about ‘em, right?” Hizashi muttered.

“Be my guest.”

“Good,” and Hizashi was off to Toshi’s room, hollering about getting the bad jujus off his chest. Toshi, like Hizashi, had nearly invincible eardrums that could withstand pretty much anything. They’ll probably drive up towards the mountains and scream down a tree or two while Shouta sat at home brooding.

Once they had left, he pulled up Yukimura Rei’s number. There were plenty of other pro-hero preschools, of course, but after observing Toshi’s miserable experience this week he realized it’d help to have a friend to support him. They’d have to wake up at an ungodly hour in order to drop him off and make it to work, but sleeplessness was nothing new.

“Rei,” he said once the woman picked up. “I need another favor…”

 

--

 

The difference was instantaneous.

“Shouchan!” Toshi lit up for the first time since starting school. He ran forward and grabbed the boy’s hand. If Shouta had been worried about a change in behavior from Toshi manifesting his quirk, he’d have been reassured. Shouchan beamed, pleased, and tugged him ahead to their classroom.

“I sit over here so you can sit next to me,” Shouchan seemed to enjoy being the one to introduce Toshi to something new. “Idaten is close to here so we sometimes visit Tenya. His ankle’s still broken and his cast looks funny because of his quirk! If you want…”

Shouta smiled softly behind the privacy of his capture scarf. It was only the beginning of an uphill battle, he knew, but it was a start. If nothing else, it comforted him to know Toshi will always have a supporter here at school where Shouta couldn't watch him.

 

--

 

("What are you doing?" Shouta asked when he went to pick Toshi up from the Yukimuras one day and found him concentrating very, very hard on a cat-shaped lump of sculpting clay.

"School says 'forgiveness' is very important," Toshi said, not looking up from his creation. He was rolling a thin noodle-shaped piece in his little hands. "And that we should think very hard on what bad things happened and who we can forgive."

He plopped the noodle on the cat creature's butt and stared at it. Shouta wasn't exactly sure what he was looking for, but he stood there waiting until Toshi gave a nod of satisfaction. He turned to his mother with a miniature Aizawa grin that filled Shouta with a surge of fondness.

"I am going to give this cat to Gagara," he said. Who...? Ah. The lizard boy. "Then my forgiveness will be complete."

Shouta stared down at Toshi. "...your forgiveness."

"Yes," Toshi nodded. "A gift is always a good thing. It's not my fault Gagara is scared of cats."

"Huh," Shouta finally squatted down to Toshi's level. He gave the boy a matching grin, and Hizashi always said it was the creepiest thing to find them both smiling like they'd just planned a murder. "Do you need me to help?"

Toshi pointed to the Yukimuras' oven. Well, if the school required a forgiveness assignment, who was Shouta to refuse? He popped that cat thing into the oven and watched it melt into an Eldritch horror all on its lonesome, which would have worried him if Toshi hadn't seemed perfectly content. It was still a cat by child standards, albeit a deformed one.

"I'm also painting it pink," Toshi said. "Which is not Gagara's favorite color."

"That's my boy," Shouta said, because no one but someone who shared his blood could embody so much petty joy. Hizashi would say it wasn't a good thing, but Hizashi wasn't here.

They'll mail the thing before his mate got home. No one but the two of them and poor little Gagara would have to know.)

 

--

 

Once Toshi began school, time seemed to slip through their fingers. Before he knew it, Shouta found himself at a doorstep he'd vowed to never willingly approach again.

He supposed he should be proud to have made it ten entire years without ever coming home.

“Hello, little angel!” his mother hefted a far-too-large Toshi into her arms and kissed his cold-flushed cheeks. He squirmed a little, looking uncomfortable, and Shouta itched to snatch him back. But it was cold as all hell here in the northern half of Japan. He didn’t feel like getting kicked out of his family home at eleven at night when the hotels were booked full.

“Your mother’s stubbornly withholding information about your quirk,” His mother finally moved her ass away from the door so he and Hizashi could tumble inside. Hizashi, the big baby, was too busy chattering his teeth to help in their son’s kidnapping. “But I heard from a little birdie it’s just like mine!”

“I don’t believe you,” was the first sentence Toshi spoke to his grandmother.

“Mom, no,” Shouta turned to her, but he was too late.

She stared right into Toshi’s eyes and said, “Give grandma a little kiss!”

Toshi, eyes glazed over, obediently kissed her cheek.

Then she blinked, and the spell was broken. And Toshi screamed.

It cut Shouta to the core to hear that sound out of his little boy’s mouth; even more so when, despite his usual silence, Toshi could scream pretty fucking loud.

“Mommy!” he wriggled out of his grandmother’s hold and flung himself at Shouta’s legs. “Mommy, Mommy—

His words dissolved into nonsense as he grabbed Shouta's leg like a koala, tears pouring down his terrified face. Shouta tried consoling the hysterical five-year old, to no avail.

He shot a glare up at his mother, who only looked puzzled. “Mom! You promised not to use your quirk on him!”

“It's good for him to get a sense of how it feels like for other people,” she shrugged, far too nonchalant. “The Shinsou family has done it for generations. My father used to brainwash me when I was a little girl, you know.”

“Hizashi, take Toshi,” Shouta snapped. His mate immediately bundled the sniffling boy into his arms and carried him over to where Aizawa Kyou sat waiting by the electric heater.

“I don't care what traditions died along with my grandparents. Toshi faces enough trouble at school for his quirk—” Shouta glared at his mother, quirk activating out of habit. First rule of arguing with her: always cancel out her vision-based quirk. “He’s already nervous about it as it is and you used it in perhaps the scariest way possible—”

“Shouta, stop overreacting. It was just a kiss.”

“It’s not—!” Shouta forced himself to calm down. Forced those years-long repressed feelings back into his gut, because this was meant to be family time. Family time he only agreed to because his sister had come all the way down to Mustafu to drag him and his family “home.”

She’s only left when he’d agreed to give the parents Christmas. New Years was always at the Yamadas, and he wasn’t going to change that to suit his parents’ whims.

“Please don’t do that to him again,” Shouta finally said. “You’re not too old to forget what it’s like to have this quirk in everyday society.”

And then he stomped down the hall before she could respond, fury bubbling to the point where he made a detour to the kitchen.

“You owe me,” he hissed, jabbing a finger at his sister. “Don’t think I won’t drive us back in the middle of the night, because I will.

“Think of this as payment for keeping Mom off your back for another decade,” she sounded too unapologetic. “And for leaving me to deal with them alone.”

“Then move the fuck away like I did.”

“Not everyone wants to live in the middle of a goddamn city, Shouta,” and this was an old argument, Kaiya’s disapproval of Shouta abandoning his hometown. “Now shut up and cut the carrots.”

They worked in stony silence to whip up something vaguely resembling a meal. Her current boyfriend pulled out a pack of beer, and Hizashi tried to liven things up with some good old caroling.

“My parents don’t know any English,” Shouta said when the beta’s best efforts failed. The only other caroler was Toshi, who sat in Hizashi’s lap singing Silent Night at the top of his lungs. “They’re, like, disgustingly Japanese.”

“Your parents are boring,” Hizashi grumbled in English, and Toshi stopped singing to stare up at him.

“Bad-Grandpa isn’t boring. He just talks too much and asks too many questions and I don’t like it,” Toshi babbled in perfect English. Yamada’s mother was going to cry when she heard him speaking her native tongue so fluently. It wasn’t a surprise. Carols might have tanked in the Aizawa household, but every possible English classic was a hit at the Yamadas.

“You know, if you scare him more often he’ll be able to train his voice to get louder,” his father informed Shouta like one should regularly frighten their children. “It’ll give his quirk more range if he ever wanted to follow in your footsteps.”

“Thanks, Dad,” Shouta said flatly, because his father always thought he was genuinely helping. Hizashi tried picking up a dumpling with a spoon and dropped it into Toshi’s hair by accident. Toshi picked it up with his grubby little kindergarten hands and put it in his mouth, and Shouta had to force himself not to grab them all by their collars and drag them out of there. Now.

"I don't care if they start ragging on you for liking omegas again," he continued his conversation with his sister like dinner hadn't happened. Their parents had gone to bed and their respective partners had settled in the guest rooms. "If it was just Hizashi and me, fine. I've dealt with their crap before. But Toshi's too young to have to deal with... that. Mom brainwashed him the moment he stepped into the house."

"Shouta, you literally only have to stay another day before you get to go," and Kaiya looked tired in the dim lighting of the hallway. "Two days is not enough to traumatize your son. Just... the longer you don't come to visit, the more often Mom pretends you don't exist. And the more Dad stalks my workplace trying to convince me to call you up under duress. Is that what you want to happen, Shouta?"

Shouta didn't bother responding; he just turned and stalked into his old childhood bedroom and nearly stepped on Hizashi's stomach in the dark. The implication was clear. He could leave whenever, but his sister had to stay behind.

You could leave too, he wanted to remind her, but it was no use. He could never seem convince her.

 

-

 

"Hitoshi," his mother's voice cut through his early-morning dreams like a knife. He was still half-asleep in bed, groggy and sore. "Come over here. I want to show you how our quirk works."

Anger shot Shouta to awareness so fast he felt like his heart was going to burst out of his chest. He scrambled to throw on some clothes before disaster struck, but midway through his rush he registered the lack of screaming. He peered out the window and found the unlikely scene of Toshi perched beside his grandmother on the stone border looking over their garden. He wasn't looking at her face, which was a relief.

"What the hell is going on," he stormed into the kitchen and found a bleary-eyed Hizashi drinking from his coffee cup.

"Toshi's decided he's going to 'beat' Bad-grandmother in the brainwashing department," his mate shrugged. He feigned unconcern, but Shouta saw that little crease between his brows. "He is going to 'forgive' her for making you mad yesterday."

"Oh," Shouta said, and watched in wonder when his mother suddenly seized up. Toshi held up his hands— one finger on the left, one finger on the right. They were one-to-one. "And you let him?"

"Shouta, why does our son think forgiveness means 'get revenge?'' Hizashi asked.

"Flaw in the school system," Shouta answered, and could tell from the beta's narrowed green eyes he was unconvinced. He was actually surprised it'd taken Hizashi two entire years to notice. "And this is what my mother wanted, you know. So it counts."

Toshi added another finger on his right. His mother was starting to look frustrated and she was literally up against a five-year old. Shouta couldn't help but grin.

Hizashi jabbed him in the side. "It is too early for Aizawa grins. Stop it."

"No," Shouta said happily.

Then, because it was still too early in the morning for his tastes, he went right back to bed.

 

--

 

“Hitoshi!” Yamada Shannon screamed, arms spread wide, and Toshi jumped right into her generous bosom on cue. “Oh my goodness gracious, it’s been too long, kitten! Have you grown since I last saw you? Or is it just your hair?”

“It’s both, Nanny!” Toshi beamed up at her, proud. “My hair got an entire finger longer!”

“Wow, a whole finger,” Shannon made impressed noises. "What'd you do this Christmas? We missed you!"

"I missed you too," Toshi responded in English, and his Nanny placed a hand against her bosom in sheer delight. "And I brainwashed Bad-Grandma for Christmas! I forgave her for making Mommy mad!"

"Oh, did you?" Shannon rolled with it with amazing grace. "Well, forgiveness is a great gift to hand out for the holidays. I'm sure your mother is very proud."

"He laughed. It was very weird."

Shouta resisted the urge to put his head in his hands in embarrassment, especially when his mother-in-law let out a deep-chested guffaw. Hizashi patted him on the shoulder.

“It is an uncommon sighting," he said, and yelped when Shouta kicked his shin. "Hey! I was going to add that it's all the more special for it!"

"Mommy!" Toshi waved his arms, beaming, and Shouta's anger bled through him like a sieve. It was always hard to throw a fit at the Yamada's, not with their high energy, open-armed attitudes. "Mommy, come here!"

"What am I, chopped liver?" Hizashi mourned, and Shouta grabbed his hand as a consolation.

Then, without hesitation, they walked inside.

Chapter Text

Izuku was twelve-years old and slightly smoking after a run-in with Kacchan after school. His tears had been more about the ruined All Might backpack than any actual fear of bodily harm, but still. It was a limited edition All Might backpack. Kacchan knew full well how rare it was; he was as much of an All Might fanboy as Izuku was.

He couldn’t blame Kacchan too much for his temper—well, not for his temper these last few months. He’d gone from mildly grumpy to a horrifying rage monster since presenting as an omega, to the point where not even the teachers knew what to do with him.

“You don’t get it, you shitty Deku!” Kacchan had screamed after him when Izuku had found the courage to tell him off one day. “It’s like there’s someone else living under my skin and I hate it. You’re a beta, you wouldn’t understand! Don’t you look down on me because you don’t have to deal with this shit!”

Kacchan was rude and terrifying and so dangerous sometimes it felt like Izuku was staring into the sun. He was incredible.

But there were also some days where Kacchan was a huge, unrepentant jerk.

“Are you alright?” Izuku looked up, confused, when a voice called him from his musings. A second look revealed unfamiliar surroundings. Did he miss the turn to his street? There’d been some construction happening a few blocks down, had he somehow stumbled across the new complex? Panic was only overridden when the voice continued, “Your backpack is kind of on fire?”

“What? Oh, that’s—oh my goodness,” Izuku fumbled with the strap in his hurry to yank it off. God, this was embarrassing. The day was bad enough as it was, and now he was lost and his bag was still on fire and there was a stranger talking to him—

He didn’t get a good look at the owner of the voice until they crouched beside him.

“Here,” the boy—he looked around Izuku’s age, face still round with youth and his scent ambiguously unpresented—placed his right hand on the flickering flames. Ice crystallized from his skin and cooled the embers in an instant. “What happened? Villain attack?”

“N-no,” Izuku stammered and peered down at the extinguished hole miserably. Half of All Might’s face was eaten away. “My friend—Kacchan. He got mad and set off his quirk. But that’s pretty normal! Don’t worry! Anyways, that’s an awesome quirk! Ice production, yeah? Do you use the water droplets around you to form the ice or does it come from within you?”

The boy looked taken aback by the assault of questions and Izuku kind of wanted to curl up and die. His mouth tended to run off when he was nervous and this was a stranger. Asking strangers about their quirks was rude! His hair, Izuku noticed in the middle of freaking out, was perhaps the most unusual part about him: white on his right half and red on the left, split evenly down the middle.

“Both,” the boy finally said. He didn’t look creeped out like his classmates whenever Izuku fell into a mumbling rant, simply focused. Like he was trying to come up with a thoughtful answer to Izuku’s word vomit. “I can create huge ice sculptures using water vapor in the air, but I think I can still make ice on my own. Just not as big.”

“That’s cool,” Izuku’s mouth said without any input from his brain. “I’d totally root for a hero who could freeze a villain in half!” The boy’s expression flickered just a little, and he stepped back. Oh no. Izuku slapped a hand across his mouth. “Sorry! I’m sorry, you just stopped me to help out and here I am being nosy—”

“Your friend, Kacchan,” the boy interrupted him, a slight frown marring his otherwise stoic face. “He’s not much of a friend if he destroyed your backpack, is he? That’s a limited edition All Might backpack.”

Izuku’s eyes lit up. “You’re an All Might fan?”

“Of course. He’s the best,” the boy said.

“It’s true that he’s most people’s favorite hero,” Izuku tapped his chin.” He’s our Symbol of Peace. It’s to be expected.”

The boy gave him a wry smile, one side of his mouth raised. “I’ve got a friend who isn’t impressed. His favorite hero’s Eraserhead.”

“The Erasing hero! An undergrounder. Wow,” Izuku’s eyes lit up. “His quirk doesn’t help him fight so his villain takedowns are even more impressive. Your friend has good taste!”

The boy stared at him. Izuku stared back.

“Most people I tell that to have no idea who Eraserhead is,” the boy finally said. He stuck out a hand awkwardly. Izuku looked at it for far too long before realizing he’d meant to offer a handshake. He quickly clasped the boy’s hand with his own and tried ignoring how clammy both of their palms were.

“Yukimura Shouto,” the boy introduced himself. “We live in that complex over there. And you are…?”

“Midoriya Izuku,” Izuku stammered, glancing up at the complex with new interest. It was fancier than the rest of this sector. Fancier than Izuku’s place, at least. Yukimura must be relatively well off to be able to live somewhere like this.

“Midoriya. I’ll see you around, then,” Yukimura dropped his hand and stepped back. “And stop letting this Kacchan push you around.”

“Okay,” Izuku whispered faintly as he watched the boy head back inside his home. He stared at his palm, dumbstruck.

Was that… was that a friend? Did Izuku just make a friend?

His vision blurred with tears.

A friend!

 

--

 

He should have expected Kacchan to demand a meeting with his new friend. Especially after Izuku yelled at him about the backpack and Kacchan had, red-faced, thrown a wad of cash at him to get him to shut up.

“It’s not about the money!” Izuku wailed, still indignant, and only shrunk back a little when Kacchan whirled on him.

“Money can buy you a new bag! Now where the hell did you say this asshole lived? If he’s gonna talk smack about me, he better do it to my face.”

“Kacchan!” Izuku whined, already regretting letting slip his encounter with Yukimura. He’d just made a friend, he didn’t want Kacchan to immediately scare him off. “Yukimura’s really nice and he doesn’t mind it when I talk too much—”

“Must be as creepy as you, then.”

“—and he just moved into the area, we don’t want him to think we’re thugs!”

“What are you trying to say, Deku?” Kacchan shoved him. Izuku stumbled back with a wince but refused to stop chasing after him. “That I’m a thug?”

“That’s not what I meant!”

“What did you mean?”

“Kacchan!” Izuku finally managed to sprint ahead of him. He turned and faced the boy head-on, mouth trembling. “Can you stop being so mean for five seconds? Why are you such a jerk!”

He should’ve expected the ensuing explosion. What he didn’t expect was for ice to suddenly sprout between them, steam erupting from where blast met water. Kacchan cursed and yanked his hand back from where it’d been half frozen alongside his attack.

“Using your quirk to injure someone else is against the law, you know,” an unfamiliar voice said. Izuku squinted through the steam and saw two boys standing in front of the complex. One was Yukimura, whose frosted-over hand left little doubt who was responsible for the ice. The boy beside him was taller and dressed in black, purple hair sticking up wildly from his head. “If you want to be a hero—and let’s face it most kids our age do—you can’t go around acting like a villain. That isn’t very cool, is it?”

“Who are you to say—” Kacchan staggered towards them, mouth caught in a snarl. Izuku recognized the gleam in his red eyes, though. Fear. Dangerous when combined with his anger, and he would’ve tried putting himself between the boy and Kacchan’s ire if Kacchan… didn’t just stop moving on his own.

“Kacchan?” Izuku called out tentatively when his friend continued to just stand there.

“Come inside, sit down on Shouchan’s couch, and calm the fuck down,” the purple-haired boy said. To Izuku’s amazement, Kacchan actually turned and began walking towards the complex entrance. The new boy nodded at Izuku. “You’re Midoriya, right? Shouchan wouldn’t stop talking about you. You should come inside, too. Can’t solve this problem without both parties involved.”

“I wasn’t always talking about him,” Yukimura grumbled, cheeks pink. He reached a hand out to Izuku and Izuku, too confused to resist, took it.

Which was how Izuku and a still-docile Kacchan found themselves sitting on a nice couch in a nice apartment in the nicest complex this sector. It was so absurd Izuku might as well have been dreaming. Yukimura came back from the kitchen with a tea set and placed it neatly on the table in front of them.

“Uh,” Izuku squeaked. “Hello again, Yukimura. Kacchan… Kacchan found out about you and wanted to say hi?”

“I don’t think he wanted to say hi,” the purple-haired boy muttered. He looked at the blank-faced blond with an unimpressed furrow of his brow. “You can try attacking me before I activate my quirk again, but I want you to think long and hard about what that would look like on your record. Ambition is good and all, but don’t let that ambition burn those around you.”

“Go to hell,” Kacchan finally burst out, and it was like a switch had come back on inside of him. Rather than throwing himself at the boy, however, Kacchan surprised Izuku by folding his arms and slumping back in the couch. “I don’t know how the hell your quirk works, but if you try it on me again I’ll blast you until you’re dead. I’m going to be the best hero no matter what some loser nobody tells me.”

“My parents are heroes,” the boy answered without missing a beat. “I grew up around heroes. And I have a better chance of being number one, not you.”

Izuku’s eyes felt so wide he was surprised they didn’t fall out of his head. Did this boy have a death wish? Kacchan literally looked as if he was barely containing nuclear meltdown, face flushing red and hands clenched tight into fists. Small explosions crackled around his knuckles.

“I’m home!” The door suddenly opened. All four boys jumped when a young woman walked through and took off her shoes in the foyer. She paused once she caught sight of the two strangers on the couch. “…Shouto, are these your friends?”

“One of them is,” Yukimura said. Same white hair, and the flecks of red matched Yukimura’s shade. His sister? He nodded at Kacchan. “That one I’m not sure of.”

“Fuck off!”

“His mouth’s as bad as Hitoshi’s; you’re twelve, why are you swearing already?” Yukimura’s sister sighed. “Also, you’re supposed to tell Mom if you’re having someone over. You don’t want us to move again, do you?”

“They’re just neighborhood kids,” Purple-hair said. “I don’t think they’re villains in disguise.”

“Hm,” the woman said.

And there was so much to unpack in that interaction. The purple-haired boy said his parents were heroes. The sister implied they moved often due to villains. It wasn’t too much of a stretch to assume the Yukimura’s were somehow connected to heroes too, given the purple-haired boy’s use of “Shouchan” when referring to Izuku’s new friend.

“Why’d you bring us here,” Kacchan bit out once Yukimura’s sister walked out of sight. “Rubbing in how much better you are than us?”

“Not everything is about you,” the purple-haired boy said. “Midoriya’s here because Shouchan was so excited to make a friend. You’re here because you make Midoriya sad, and that’ll make Shouchan sad, and so I’m nipping the problem in the bud.” A pause. “Also, you were about to cause a commotion in the middle of the street. Do you know how embarrassing it’d be if my parents came to investigate it?”

“Do I look like I care?”

“You’re an omega, aren’t you,” the purple-haired boy said, ignoring the immediate tension gripping Kacchan’s shoulders. “If you only became this grouchy after presenting, you probably need to go on medication.”

“I don’t,” Crackling palms stung Izuku’s arm from sitting too close, but shifting away and drawing Kacchan’s attention was worse than a few burns, “need medication.”

“I’m Yamada Hitoshi,” the purple-haired boy continued blithely, like Kacchan hadn’t swung moods so fast in the last few minutes even Izuku felt woozy. “This sad lump over here is Yukimura Shouto. You’re Midoriya Izuku, right?”

“Right,” Izuku stammered. “And this…”

“I can introduce myself,” Kacchan growled from low in his throat. “I’m Bakugou Katsuki. Brand that name into your heads, you extras. Remember me when I’m at the top.”

“Do you have an email address?”

Don’t ignore me!”

“Uh, I can give you mine and Kacchan’s,” Izuku took the phone out of Yamada’s hands before Kacchan could blow it up. He’d just given Izuku his entire allowance for his backpack, he doubted the boy had enough money to pay for an entirely new phone. “We go to the middle school down the street. Are we going to see you there or…?”

“No, we go to private school,” Yamada said, tapping Izuku’s knee and extending a hand expectantly. Disorientation really tripped Izuku up, because he handed over his phone without a second thought. He watched as the boy punched in his own information into the device. “Sorry for being snobby rich kids.”

“We’re not snobby,” Yukimura tried.

“Snobby enough we haven’t made any new friends in the last five years,” Yamada said. It was that matter-of-fact tone, Izuku thought. It was authoritative without being aggressive, and it was everything Kacchan wasn’t. “And hey, this Bakugou looks kind of fun. We can hang out after both our schools get out. Go to the arcade or something.”

Yukimura looked at his friend blankly.

“O-or,” and Izuku didn’t know why he was interrupting. No, that was a lie. He couldn’t help but want to help and it was clear that Yukimura Shouto needed as much social interaction as he could get. “We can go see a movie? Play ball at the beach? Those are all normal things, right Kacchan?”

“Leave me out of this,” Kacchan snapped reflexively.

“Sure,” Yamada said. “We’ll just give Midoriya an inside look on a hero's life instead. It won't give him an advantage or anything. You don’t look like a dumb kid, Bakugou. You really want to let yourself fall behind?”

Kacchan glowered at him. Yamada smiled back, his grin not exactly kind. Izuku felt like his entire body was thrumming in place, energy bouncing within the frozen confines of his body as the world unraveled around him.

“Let’s meet tomorrow, okay?” Yamada said, his voice leaving no room for argument. “In front of here at four.”

Yukimura drank the last of his tea in one long swig and Izuku tried very, very hard not to faint.

Kacchan didn’t say a word on his way home. Fists buried in his low pants, jaw jutted out, back hunched. He was angry and confused and upset and Izuku couldn’t do a thing to help him. He just watched, wistful, as Kacchan stomped down the street and disappeared into his own home.

Kacchan always preferred unleashing his frustrations alone, explosions crackling through the night like fireworks. Izuku could hear the telltale pops all the way from his bedroom window, and he wondered.

He wondered if this was another turning point.

Making friends with Yukimura and Yamada seemed far-fetched but doable. But mending his friendship with Kacchan? Was such a thing even possible?

 

--

 

Yes.

Maybe. Well, comparatively, Izuku supposed.

Kacchan had shown up like a skulking shadow the following day, and every planned meeting after that. Even if he spent the first few times like a silent, bloodthirsty demon breathing down Izuku’s neck, he still showed up. It was actually disturbing to see Kacchan acting more… subdued around the other boys. Brooding and smoldering rather than explosive, which was still violent but more in line with how he used to be.

After months of an out-of-control Kacchan, it felt like a breath of fresh air.

“Fucking hormone imbalance,” Kacchan snarled darkly as they walked to the arcade. He rarely spoke to Izuku even when they were alone like this, so it surprised him to hear him instigate conversation. “You better not tell anyone, Deku. I’ll kill you if you do.”

“I won’t,” Izuku had responded, confused. Then, he saw Kacchan pop a few pills out from a bottle and down them dry. He wiped his mouth and then, without looking back at Izuku, kicked open the arcade door.

Izuku faintly remembered Yamada talking to Kacchan about taking medication. What was surprising wasn’t that the purple-haired boy was right, but that Kacchan had actually listened.

His hands twitched. Why wouldn’t he listen? The two boys had powerful quirks that Kacchan grudgingly respected. They weren’t like Izuku—they didn’t incite the same, irrational fear in him as Izuku did. Quirkless Izuku.

“What are you thinking about,” Yukimura startled him from his thoughts. He was incredibly good at breaking Izuku from his thought spirals. Had been since their first meeting. “Your face went sad.”

“Nothing,” he tried laughing it off, but the other boy clearly wasn’t convinced. “Just, y’know. Worried about school.”

Yukimura tilted his head. “Why? I thought you did well in school.”

“I do! But I’ve got to do better if I want to go to U.A., right?”

“Their exam has both a practical and a paper exam,” Yukimura conceded. “What part of the practical are you worried about?”

Izuku wrung his hands. It hadn’t come up, not even once. Kids often boasted about their quirks immediately, but the other three had shown their quirks off within seconds of meeting one another. He hated the anticipation. The fear. He had friends now. His mother had been so happy she’d burst into tears.

“I…” he muttered under his breath. “I don’t have a quirk.”

Yukimura stared at him, brow furrowed. He glanced between him and Kacchan and then narrowed his eyes. “Ah. So Bakugou thinks he’s protecting you in his own way.”

Izuku blinked at him, stunned. Of all the responses he’d dreamed up, this certainly wasn’t one of them. “What…? No, that’s not it. Kacchan. Well, Kacchan wants me to give up my dream because it’s his dream and he’s not good at sharing—”

“No,” Yukimura said. “He wants you to give it up because he doesn’t want to see you hurt.”

Izuku didn’t know what to say. Kacchan being mean to him to somehow protect him? The twisted logic wouldn’t fly for most people but it actually seemed like something Kacchan might actually believe. Why Yukimura seemed to convinced of its truth, Izuku had no idea.

“Toshi’s quirk doesn’t help him in battle, you know,” Yukimura changed the subject. He nodded at his friend. Yamada was thrashing Kacchan’s ass at their two-player arcade game and the blond wasn’t taking it well. He must actually like antagonizing Kacchan; it was the only explanation for his fearless habit of driving Kacchan to explosive violence. “It relies entirely on others to be effective. In an every-person-to-themselves testing environment, it’s practically useless.”

Izuku’s brain caught up with his ears. “His parents are heroes, though! Can’t he get in on recommendation?”

“Recommended students are still tested,” Yukimura shrugged. “And they’re often chosen by the middle school, not by our parents. Our private school is very… competitive. I can’t imagine either of us winning our professor’s recommendations any time soon.”

Izuku looked down at his hands, face feeling hot. Yukimura was trying to cheer him up in his own way, and Izuku had never experienced something like this before. He fiddled with his fingers. They felt clumsy, thick, useless. So unlike Yukimura’s graceful fingers, strong but beautiful in their own right. Izuku would be more mortified at finding the boy’s hands beautiful if he wasn’t practically vibrating out of his skin with the urge to escape the conversation.

“It has a nice ring to it,” Yukimura finally said. Izuku jumped. Ah, he’d been spiraling again. “Deku, the Quirkless Hero.”

It felt like a slap to the face. It felt like an epiphany blossoming in his head. Because Yukimura wasn’t taunting him. His smile was soft, understanding, and Izuku wanted to throw himself into his arms and run off crying at the same time.

“What are you sniffling about,” Kacchan snapped once he and Yamada returned. From Yamada’s grin, Kacchan hadn’t succeeded in beating his high score. “You better watch your mouth, half-and-half. Deku cries at the drop of a hat.”

“So only you can make him cry,” Yukimura inferred, voice low with disapproval. Kacchan flushed an ugly red. “I don’t think that’s fair.”

“I don’t—that’s not what I meant, you asshole!” Kacchan yelled after him, even when Yukimura shrugged and tugged at Yamada’s sleeve to whisper something in his ear. This, of course, only infuriated him further. “Hey!

“Bakugou, what's your problem?” Yamada said.

“I don't have—”

“Shut up and stop causing a scene. We’re going to get ice cream,” and oh, it’d been a while since Izuku had seen that slack-jawed look on Kacchan’s face. Yamada had been ruthless the first few meetings by using Kacchan’s natural tendency to trash talk against him. It was pretty hard to tell which question would lead to him using his quirk. Izuku was sure there was a pattern, but he’d yet to crack it.

“Deku the Quirkless hero,” he muttered to himself as he stared up at his ceiling at night. It left a strange hollow in the middle of his chest. If anyone but Yukimura had suggested it, he might have laughed it off. But Yukimura did suggest it, and that meant something to Izuku.

He just didn’t know what.

 

--

 

“If you really want to be a hero, you need to get your body into shape,” Yamada told him one day. For some reason, neither Yukimura nor Kacchan had arrived yet and it was just Izuku and Yamada standing together in front of the complex. Izuku stared at him, surprised. He didn’t usually speak with Izuku, spending his time instead acting as a Kacchan-distraction while he and Yukimura talked. “Mom always says heroes can’t be a one-trick pony. Develop at least three ways of fighting—short-range, mid-range, long-range. Use support items if you have to. What’s your current fitness level?”

“Uh,” Izuku squeaked, and Yamada narrowed his eyes

Which was how he found himself in a massive training room in the basement of the Yukimuras’ complex.

“Midoriya,” Yukimura called out, alarmed, when he finally found the two of them an hour later. Izuku laid spread-eagled on the ground feeling like he was going to die. “Toshi! Did you beat him up.”

“I didn’t beat up your precious Midoriya,” Yamada rolled his eyes. Yukimura’s face pinkened. “I’m just trying to see how far he needs to go to get into shape.”

“And…?”

“If Mom was here, he’d probably expel him,” Yamada folded his arms. “Even if he had a quirk, he’d be fucked.”

“Fuyumi’s going to wash your mouth out later,” Yukimura warned. “She’ll freeze you in place if she has to.”

“She can certainly try.”

“Y-Yuki,” Izuku managed to gasp from the floor, and the boy immediately broke off his conversation to hurry by his side. It was as touching as it was mortifying. “I… I’ll do it.”

“Midoriya…”

“I’ll train my body to be a hero,” Izuku managed, determination bubbling up from his chest. Yukimura’s eyes softened. They were different colors. Gray on the white side, turquoise on the red. “I’ll catch up to you and Yamada and Kacchan. You’ll see.”

“Expelled,” Yamada repeated, unrepentant, and Yukimura chucked an ice shard at his head.

 

--

 

Kacchan carried him home, he discovered later. The knowledge sent an uneasy flutter through his chest.

 

--

 

Yamada didn’t always show up to their meetings.

“He follows me home after school,” Yuki said, swinging his feet in the water. Kacchan had gone kicking and screaming to another appointment with his omega specialist and Izuku had felt guiltily relieved when Yuki had told him Yamada wouldn’t be coming. They’d wandered to Dagobah beach and stared at the trash pile blocking out the horizon. Izuku had shown Yuki the path to a small deck leading out into the sea. It had been Kacchan’s and his path, once. The blond never came here anymore.

“Toshi lives close by U.A. His parents teach there,” Yuki shrugged. “I think today he promised his dad he’d make a cameo on his radio show.”

Izuku stared at him. Radio show? There was only one hero he knew who ran a Radio Show in this area…

He’d forgotten. The conversation that had convinced Yuki to reach out and introduce himself had been about his friend liking Eraserhead over All Might. And Izuku knew who Eraserhead was.

Eraserhead, the underground hero mated to Present Mic. Yamada Hizashi. Yamada.

“Wait, Yamada—his dad's Present Mic? And his mom's Eraserhead?” Izuku’s voice ended in a yelp.

“How did you—" Yuki frowned. "Not a lot people know Present Mic and Eraserhead are mated. But I suppose you would know, though, being a hero nerd."

Fond over derogatory. It was strange having Yuki turn all of Kacchan’s meanest phrases right on their head.

"What surprises me is you didn't figure out Toshi's their son," Yuki continued.

“Yamada’s a common enough last name! And his quirk’s not like either of his parents—well, not entirely? I mean, Eraserhead’s quirk is a psychological one as well. Erasing other people’s quirks brings them down to his level instead of augmenting his strength to match theirs. And Present Mic’s quirk is Voice. Yamada’s quirk is voice activated, right? Oh, that explains how he doesn’t flinch when Kacchan yells at him. I’m not scared of Kacchan but he’s so loud I sometimes have to step back, you know? But Kacchan must be nothing compared to Mic. I wonder if he inherited super eardrums as well? But…”

“Midoriya,” Yuki interrupted him. Izuku jumped, embarrassed. He’d been muttering again, hadn’t he? “Can you talk slower so I can follow what you’re saying.”

“You… you want me to keep talking?” Izuku’s brain ground to a halt.

“Yes? I like hearing you talk,” Yuki went back to swinging his bare feet in the ocean water. His socks and shoes were placed neatly on the deck beside him. “And you’re my friend.”

Izuku burst into tears.

It had taken a whole pack of tissues and Yuki checking him over on the beach for Izuku to assure him he was fine, just touched. They were on their way back to Yuki’s place when it finally occurred to Izuku what Yamada’s favorite hero really meant.

“Wait, his favorite hero is his mom?” Izuku scrunched up his face. It was sweet, but Yamada wasn’t exactly sweet.

“Yes,” Yuki’s voice was deadpan. “He’s a complete mama’s boy. Don’t let him fool you into thinking otherwise.”

“It was just me and my mom,” Izuku offered tentatively. Yuki cocked his head. “I mean, I get where he comes from, admiring his mom.”

“My mom raised my siblings and me alone,” Yuki finally said. Oh, Izuku hadn’t known that. “So when I call him a mama’s boy, he knows full well that I am too.”

“I guess moms really are the best heroes,” Izuku offered, and brightened when Yuki smiled.

Their times alone were uncommon but cherished. It felt like a secret between them, one that Kacchan couldn’t interfere with. Izuku would feel guilty if he wasn’t so happy.

Then, one day, neither Yuki nor Yamada showed up in front of the complex. Izuku twiddled his thumbs, increasingly nervous as Kacchan stewed in anger beside him. He jumped when Kacchan finally pushed himself off from the wall.

“Kacchan!”

“Calm down, nerd,” Kacchan whipped out his phone and began smashing his thumb against the screen. “I’m just giving Sleepy Face a call. Goddamn snobby brats, making us waste our time.”

It took far too long for Yamada to pick up. Kacchan growled when Izuku crowded into his space to better hear his response. “Bakugou, this is not a good time.”

“Where the hell are you? Deku and I have been waiting for half-and-half to show up for twenty minutes. If you’re not going to show, at least send a text, asshole!”

“Ugh, you’re so annoying,” Yamada muttered something incomprehensible to himself. Finally, he came back to the phone. “Shouchan went into heat at school today, okay? It’s been a shitstorm of going to the nurse’s office, stamping out the rumors before they start, and trying to stop Miss Yukimura from strangling the principal. I’m still here because I’m a good friend and the last thing Shouchan needs is to be left alone with his hysterical siblings. Yes, I’m talking to you, too, Natsuo! You’re just as bad as Fuyumi!”

“Heat?” Kacchan’s face did a weird, aborted spasming thing. “Half-and-half’s an omega?”

“Don’t you fucking start with me. Sorry I forgot to text you. We’ll talk tomorrow,” and then Yamada hung up. The two of them stared at Kacchan’s phone in awkward silence.

“Well, congratulations,” Kacchan finally snapped, pocketing his phone and shouldering past Izuku on his way to the main road. “Must be nice that half-and-half’s the right dynamic.”

“What are you even talking about, Kacchan,” Izuku scuttled after him.

“You,” Kacchan jerked his chin in Izuku’s direction. “And half-and-half.”

“Me and Yuki?”

“Is there another half-and-half I don’t know about, Deku?”

“No! I mean, I don’t know what you’re saying. Yuki presented, so…?”

“Oh my god,” Kacchan’s face turned five interesting shades of red. “Oh my god, you’re such a goddamn idiot. You’re not subtle, asshole. Your crush on him is so obvious I could throw up.”

Izuku gaped. Kacchan took the time to stomp quickly down the road, unhappiness clear in the slump of his shoulders.

“I don’t have a crush on Yuki,” Izuku ran to catch up. The protest sounded weak even to his ears. “He’s my friend. Kacchan. Kacchan, you’re walking too fast. Kacchan!”

“Shut up!” and Izuku had to stumble backwards to avoid the sudden explosion. It’d been a while since Kacchan had thrown his quirk around like this, and Izuku could only watch, stunned, as the omega continued his path to his home. “How about you stop thinking so hard about everyone around you and start looking at yourself for a change!”

“B-big words coming from you!” Izuku managed, anger pooling in his stomach. Kacchan flipped him off and then slammed the gate to his house behind him. Izuku, irritated and confused and upset, stormed into his own home and threw himself onto his bed.

What was Kacchan’s problem? What did it matter if Izuku had a—had a tiny crush on Yuki? Kacchan didn’t seem to like the boy much and the feeling was mutual. And he certainly didn’t like Izuku.

The next day, Yamada was waiting for them outside Yuki’s complex. He was in a t-shirt and loose-fitting pants and sandals, his usual black jacket nowhere to be seen. He also looked more tired than he’d ever been.

“Shouchan’s going to be out for a few more days,” Yamada yawned, not bothering to even say hi. Kacchan grunted in response. They barely had the manners of a normal person between the two of them combined. Izuku would feel more exasperated if he weren’t so overcome with worry.

“What happened? Why was his mother yelling at the principal? His siblings are in high school or graduated, right? So they must have come specifically to see Yuki. Is he alright?”

“Shouchan is fine,” Yamada said. Izuku relaxed only to tense up again when the boy continued. “The alpha who’d been following him around, though? Not so much.”

“An alpha was following him around during his heat?” Izuku wrung his hands. “Is—”

“I just said Shouchan was alright. He got pissed when the guy tried grabbing him, so…”

“So what? He lost control of his quirk?” Kacchan snorted like he’d never done the same thing when his emotions ran high. “Did he freeze the guy into a statue or something? It’s annoying but not anything I think the entire family should come down for. Spoiled brat.”

“He didn’t freeze the boy,” Yamada’s voice was hard. He glared at Kacchan with fierce purple eyes. “He burned him.”

It took a moment for the words to sink in. Izuku’s mouth dropped open. “H-he burned…?”

“Burnt the guy pretty bad, too. It’s what he gets for grabbing his left side, but the damage was pretty severe. They had to airlift him to the hospital because the nurse’s quirk was only enough to stabilize him. Shouchan was freaking out, and if you’ve ever been around an omega in heat while they’re distressed it’s… an experience.”

“He burned him,” Izuku was still stuck on Yamada’s previous point. “But Yuki’s quirk is ice-related?”

“He only uses ice from his right side, idiot,” Kacchan surprised Izuku by answering first. “Figured the half-and-half thing might have something to do with his quirk. Guess I was right.”

“Yes. His quirk is called Half-Cold, Half-Hot,” Yamada admitted. “But he rarely uses his fire side.”

“But that’s such an amazing quirk!” Izuku burst out. “His ice control is already really good—if he masters fire, too, he’ll become an amazing hero for sure! Why wouldn’t he use it more?”

Yamada wrinkled his nose like Izuku's brightness was actually hurting his eyes. “You... haven’t meant his oldest brother, have you?”

“Who cares about half-and-half's family?” Kacchan snorted. “If he lets something like that stop him from grabbing the top spot, he’s too soft to be a hero.”

“And I’m sure he’ll love it when you tell him that to his face. For now, that’s what happened. I just came to update you because you keep blowing up my phone and Mom started to look like he was going to smash it,” and then Yamada yawned, big and slow, and wow. He must really be tired to actually yawn twice. “I’ll let you know when Shouchan’s back, okay? Now go away.”

“Fuck you too, Sleepy Face,” Kacchan grumbled. Izuku shot him a glare and bowed in thanks. He understood that Yamada hadn’t needed to go out of his way just to tell them something he could’ve said over the phone. Things must’ve gone down more poorly than it sounded. Burning a boy bad enough to send him to the hospital… he supposed with something like that on his record, Yuki was more likely to stop using his fire altogether than master it.

Which was a shame, really. It truly was an amazing quirk.

 

--

 

His mother insisted Izuku bring the Yukimuras a cake.

“Presenting as an alpha or an omega is hard on the body, dear!” she said, wringing her hands in perfect imitation of her son. “We’re betas so it’s hard to understand, but the best thing we can do is help support our friends!”

Izuku didn’t disagree with her. He simply wasn’t sure if anyone in Yuki’s family even ate cake.

“Hello?” he pressed the buzzer at the front of the complex, awkwardly alone. The two private schoolers must have assumed him and Kacchan had the tactfulness to let Yuki ride out the rest of his heat alone. It was what Izuku should have done, really, but he was worried and heartsick and just tired of feeling sad. He was a beta. No matter how many pheromones Yuki pumped the air with, he should be fine. “Hello, is this the Yukimura residence? I’m Midoriya Izuku. Yuki’s… I mean, Shouto’s friend?”

A click and a snuffle. Then, without answering, the buzzer rang and the door opened.

Izuku rode up the elevator to Yuki’s floor. He heard the yelling even before the doors fully opened.

“You are not taking my son away from me, Enji! I didn’t let you do it before and I’m certainly not letting you do it now!”

“The boy needs to learn to control his fire,” came the resounding roar. “This isn’t a matter of taking him away. I know a child’s limits now, this isn’t like—”

“You only know the limits because you’ve crossed them!”

Izuku sidled up to the half-open door. Miss Yukimura had always struck him as a soft, mild woman. She was the embodiment of omega rage at the moment, however, hands clenched into fists as she squared off with the alpha before her.

An alpha that Izuku recognized immediately.

He drew back from the door and plastered himself against the hallway wall. Endeavor. That was the number two hero, Endeavor!

“What can I do to prove to you I only have the boy’s best interest at heart?” the hero’s voice was low and unreadable. “I know what happened before was wrong. I’ve agreed to continue supporting you to help make things right. But don’t let what happened to Touya cloud your judgment when it comes to our youngest. If he doesn’t learn to control it, he’s more likely to burn himself than not.”

“Get out,” Rei’s voice was trembling. “I can’t—not right now. I can’t deal with this right now. Out!”

“Think about it,” Endeavor said, and oh god, oh god, he was leaving. He was coming right out the door and Izuku was still standing there like a slack-jawed fool! He spotted Izuku from the corner of his eye and turned to face him. It was strange seeing Endeavor without his usual flame mask, but he supposed it wouldn’t make sense to discuss family matters in costume. Izuku stared back at him like a deer caught in headlights.

“Who are you,” Endeavor demanded.

“S-Shouto's friend?” he squeaked.

Endeavor narrowed familiar turquoise eyes at him. The color was so distinct, especially in Japan—god, how could Izuku not realize their relation sooner? Of course the Yukimuras had to move constantly. Endeavor’s cases were all high-profile, and it’d be easy pickings for a villain who decided to go after his children instead of the Flame hero directly. But how did they even know he had children to go after to begin with?

“Hm,” Endeavor said.

And then he turned and left.

Izuku watched the elevator doors close with his breath still caught in his throat, like letting it out would somehow summon the hero back up in a cloud of smoke.

“…Midoriya?”

He startled badly. He whipped his head around and found familiar gray eyes looking down at him. Yukimura Natsuo was sixteen and upbeat and sporty, often away from home for soccer matches all across the country. To come back for Yuki… Izuku swallowed. Did he know that Endeavor—his father—would make an appearance?

He wasn’t sure what was going on with the Flame hero, but clearly he and Miss Yukimura didn’t get along.

“Cake,” he stammered, holding out the slightly crumpled cake like a shield before him. Natsuo stared down at him. “F-for Yuki. I mean Shouto. I can leave, I just—I just wanted him to know we’re worried and missing him!”

“You can come in,” Natsuo looked amused and gestured for Izuku to slowly unplaster himself from the wall. “Shou can use a friendly face after that yelling match our parents just had.”

It was beyond strange to enter Yuki’s living room without the boy himself leading the way. Izuku placed the cake on the table and nearly jumped out of his skin when he saw someone unfamiliar on the couch.

“Yo,” the man said, hand raised languidly. His eye color and face shape immediately told Izuku this was the missing Yukimura twin. For some reason, he’d imagined the guy to look like a male Fuyumi, not… this. His hair was dyed jet black and his skin... Izuku swallowed. Burns. They looked old and half-healed but they were still clearly burns running like patchwork across the man’s arms and face. Yamada’s words came echoing back in his mind: you haven’t met his older brother, have you?

“You’re Shouto’s new 'friend,' huh,” the man said, and Izuku could hear the air quotes around the word 'friend.' Did he not think Yuki genuinely thought of him as a friend? What was he implying with those quotes? His thoughts whirred in frantic circles. “So he’s into the cute type.”

“Shou’s miserable enough already, Touya,” Natsuo came out of the kitchen with half a flan cup in his hand. “No one needs an inquisition.”

“No one expects the Spanish Inquistion.”

“Mom is literally crying in the bathroom right now,” Natsuo finished the flan cup and threw it at his brother’s head. “Can you please not?”

Touya sobered up immediately, lazy smile transforming into a cold seriousness that sent a shiver down Izuku's spine. His initial assessment of the man had been right. He was dangerous.

“Shouto’s room is the last one down the hall,” he told Izuku, who could only nod stiffly. “Go say hi and convince him the world isn’t ending because Dad showed his face for the first time in years. Our sister’s already changed his sheets so the gremlin should be mostly presentable.”

Natsuo elbowed him sharply.

“I said presentable! Not that he presented—I mean, he did that too, but—”

Izuku was never more grateful to escape in his life. He didn’t even need Touya’s instruction to find Yuki’s room—the scent alone drew him in. He may have a less discerning beta nose, but he wasn't scent-blind.

“Yuki?” he poked his head into the room.

It was neat. Organized. Even Yuki’s bed had all its corners folded, the boy himself squared away underneath the covers like he was sick with the flu and not in heat.

“M-Midoriya?” Yuki squinted at him, dazed. Izuku looked around and finally settled on pulling his desk chair beside his bed. “What are you doing here?”

“I wanted to check in on you,” Izuku muttered, shy.

“’m fine,” Yuki mumbled. “The-the others, though. Mom. I-It’s my fault.”

“It’s not your fault.”

“Dad wouldn’t have come if I hadn’t,” and Yuki swallowed, looking anguished. “If I hadn’t lost control of my fire. I was just. He grabbed me, I wasn't thinking, I just reacted. I tried so hard and Mom. She looked at me." Izuku couldn't help but worry the longer Yuki rambled. "You know. You know Touya lost control of his flames?” He tapped a finger to his cheek. “’s how he got his scars. It’s why she left him, you know.”

“Yuki,” Izuku tried, but the boy was clearly rather out of it. When Izuku went to hold his hand in comfort, Yuki clutched it like a lifeline.

“Don’t want him to come back ‘cause of me,” Yuki said. “Don't. 'M sorry.”

“I don’t really know enough about all of this to say much,” Izuku tried. He squeezed the boy’s hand. “But I know your quirk is amazing, Yuki. If. If you can use both sides, you’d be such a good hero. An inspiration. And Endeavor… he’s the best flame user there is, isn’t he?”

Yuki furrowed his brow.

“You don’t have to forgive him for whatever he did. You don’t even have to let him back in your life. But I think it’s worth learning more about your power, you know? To not be scared of it. It’s yours, after all. Shouldn’t you know it best?”

Yuki blinked at him rapidly. Turned so his face wasn’t visible to Izuku, like the sudden lack of distressed omega pheromones wasn’t enough to alert him that something he’d said had struck home.

“…Toshi’s gonna beat me up,” Yuki finally muttered to himself.

“What? No. Yamada’s your best friend, isn’t he?”

“When we were kids,” Yuki said, “there was a time when he was dead scared of his own quirk. Took a while for him to accept it. Took me a while to convince him. He still struggles around strangers 'cause he doesn't know how they'll react, but he's not scared of it anymore.” He raised his left hand. “He’s gonna beat me up when he hears I’ve been doing the same thing. He’s mad enough already for not texting him back.”

“Do you need my help typing?” Izuku glanced around wildly for Yuki’s phone. “If you can’t focus on the screen, I can transcribe a response for you—”

“No. Just,” Yuki’s eyes fluttered closed. “Stay here until I sleep?”

Izuku’s chest felt tight. Tight and warm and gooey and he wasn’t sure if he liked it or not.

“Okay,” he said, squeezing Yuki’s hand again. “Okay, I will.”

“Thank you,” the boy said. And oh. Izuku’s face burned so red he was surprised he didn’t pull a Kacchan and burst into flame.

He did like it. He liked it a lot.

 

--

 

“Congrats,” Yamada tossed a handful of confetti at Yuki’s head the next time they hung out. “You’ve officially joined the world of dynamic bullshit and societal expectations.”

“You say that like you're not still unpresented,” Yuki bore the confetti dotting his hair with grace. “You’re falling behind, Toshi.”

The boy shrugged. “My mom presented late, you know. I take more after his side than Dad’s, so I’m not worried.”

“Can we stop talking about our stupid dynamics and fight already?” Kacchan burst out, tearing off his jacket and tossing it to the floor. Yuki raised an eyebrow at the impromptu strip show. “You, half-and-half! Heard you’ve been holding out on me. So you don’t need to use everything you’ve got to fight me, do you? We’ll see about that!”

“Is this okay?” Izuku whispered to Yamada as Kacchan charged at Yuki, palms crackling. He was clearly aiming for his fire side, blast following blast, trying to keep Yuki on his toes and away from rational thought. “The whole thing with his fire and his father…”

“We talked about it,” Yamada said. “I beat him up a bit. It’s cool.”

“O…kay?”

“He’s meeting with his father every Tuesday and Friday to start training his quirk,” Yamada gave in and answered Izuku’s unspoken question. “Miss Yukimura’s still upset about it, but Touya actually backed Shouchan up on this one. God knows he’s got the most trauma from whatever went down a decade ago, but he seemed to think Shouchan can learn something from the bastard. It’s like what we said before… how important it is to put aside your pride to become a hero.”

“Shit!” Kacchan cursed, barely managing to send himself flying away from a fiery blast. “Your power’s not half bad but your aim is crap, Icyhot!”

“You talk too much,” Yuki told him, and Kacchan bellowed at him incomprehensibly in response.

“How’s the training regimen going,” Yamada gave Izuku the side-eye. “Wanna prove to me you’ve got what it takes.”

“Of course!” Izuku jumped up, eyes sparkling. “I won’t hold back, Yamada. You don’t either!”

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” the boy smirked and raised a hand to start.

 

--

 

For the first time in years, Izuku had friends to invite over for his birthday party. His mother seemed caught between running about the house playing hostess and breaking down into happy tears.

Yamada left halfway through the cake cutting and came back with a disgruntled Kacchan in tow. He’d mumbled an awkward hello to Mrs. Midoriya and had watched, blank-faced, as they handed over their gifts. Kacchan hadn’t brought anything but Izuku hadn’t been expecting him to.

It was amazing enough to have his oldest friend in his living room. Eating cake with Yuki and Yamada and only snarling a little bit, like how it used to be a long time ago.

 

--

 

Before he knew it, the teacher had handed him a 'plans for the future' sheet to fill out. There was still only one high school he wanted to write down, despite Kacchan's disapproval. So he did.

 

--

 

“What do you mean Bakugou threw your book in the pond?” and only Yamada could make Kacchan sound like a housebroken puppy had peed on the floor again. Izuku would have called Yuki, but it was a Friday. Friday was Training Day and Endeavor was a strict enough teacher without Izuku interrupting him. “He's still taking his meds, right?”

“I don’t know. I mean yes, he is, but I don't know why he did it,” Izuku said miserably, arm half wet from fishing about the koi pond. His other hand was busy holding the phone in place. “But I’ll need to air dry this as soon as possible. Tell Yuki I’ll be late?”

“Just text him like a normal person. Do you honestly need me as a middle man here?” The apology was already on his lips before Yamada’s continued: “Fine, keep pining. See you later.”

“Bye,” Izuku said and hung up the phone, cheeks flushing at Yamada’s comment. Kacchan had mentioned it a few times too, but Yuki… and him

Kacchan was mean and temperamental but he wasn’t wrong. Izuku was a quirkless beta with hopes too high for his britches. But he’d worked his ass off this last year so he could take the exam with his head held high, and he wasn’t going to let one of Kacchan’s temper tantrums get in his way.

He walked under the overpass with his mind on Kacchan and Yuki and U.A like he normally did, muttering to himself about wet clothes and notebooks. The manhole cover shifted beneath his feet.

 

--

 

“You, too, can be a hero,” All Might had told him after everything, and there was nothing Izuku wanted more in his entire life.

He stared at his hands while lying in bed, exhausted from his own crying, his mother crying, their collective crying. If he closed his eyes, he could still feel the villain forcing his way down his throat. He could still see Kacchan desperately struggling against his captor, explosions audible from across the street. He could still smell his fear.

It was pungent, hair-raising, an omega’s siren call for help. It made the heroes inaction even more absurd, because it meant they were actively resisting rescuing him.

“I didn’t need your help!” Kacchan spat at him while being carted away to the closest hospital. Izuku wrung his hands, gaze cataloguing everything. The way Kacchan’s hand was trembling. The smell of vomit on his shirt. “You stupid Deku—you don’t even have a quirk to protect you—”

“Sir, we’ll need to place this mask over your face,” the paramedic interrupted his ranting and promptly strapped the mask onto Kacchan’s face. The omega flailed, furious, and Izuku could only watch as they closed the back of the ambulance and drove away.

Becoming All Might’s successor. It seemed like a dream. And receiving his quirk… Izuku had had time to accept his quirklessness these last few months. To think to himself, hey, I’ll try anyway and work himself as best he could. Yuki’s voice rang in his head: Deku, the Quirkless Hero.

But here All Might was, offering him an opportunity that could actually make a difference.

Yamada liked to remind them to let go of their pride. To do whatever it took to become a hero. To not settle for less to soothe your morals when heroes risk their lives every day.

“Okay,” he texted All Might shakily, nearly fumbling the letters in the dark. “I’ll do it.”

Chapter Text

Toshi woke up to his cell phone going off far too early in the morning. Like, five in the morning kind of early. He rolled over and immediately regretted it when every muscle in his body cried for mercy. Right, they’d gotten home at around three, hadn’t they? Mom had wanted him to copy some thugs’ voices and Toshi had failed.

Sure, there was never any danger since Mom had already strung them up by their toes, but it was embarrassing nonetheless.

“Your quirk doesn’t work through electronic modifiers,” Mom had said, very pointedly not mentioning Toshi breaking off part of his voice modifier and wasting precious minutes searching the ground for it. “If you want to use your quirk to its fullest capacity, you’ll have to rely on analog ones instead.”

“Sorry,” Toshi had muttered, face red, and floundered when Mom just put his goggles back on and jumped onto the nearest rooftop. He did his best to keep up the rest of Eraserhead’s “patrol”—not an official patrol, not with his untrained, teenage kid trailing after him.

So he hadn’t gone to bed feeling the best, and he sure as hell wasn’t waking up the best either.

What,” he finally found his phone squashed between one of his pillows and the wall. “Shouto, it is five in the morning.”

“Have you spoken to Midoriya,” Shouto asked him without preamble, and Toshi clicked “end dial” on his phone and rolled over onto his back. Two seconds later, the phone rang again.

“He hasn’t been meeting up with us the last few weeks—do you think he’s in trouble?” Shouto continued when Toshi picked up a second time. He set it on speaker and put his hands over his eyes. “After that incident with the sludge villain… it makes sense why Bakugou’s been keeping his distance, but Midoriya’s always given me a reason for skipping our meet-ups.”

“Shouto,” he managed through gritted teeth. Only Shouto being his childhood friend kept him from turning the damn thing off and calling it a day. “It’s five. In the morning.”

“I know,” Shouto said. “I’m about to go on my morning run.”

Damn early bird. “Look, the entrance exams are coming up within the year, right? We’re all starting to train on our own. You’re not pissing and moaning about me spending more time training with Mom. I’m not getting on your case about spending time with Endeavor. If Bakugou’s training on his own, don’t you think Midoriya’s doing the same thing?”

Silence. Toshi almost thought he’d hung up, but clearly his hopes were not to be. Shouto said, “But Midoriya… he’d tell me. And he hasn’t texted me back.”

“Oh my god,” Toshi said.

“He always texts me back.”

“I’m not texting him for you.”

“Toshi,” Shouto said. To anyone else that tone would sound flat and blank, but years of hearing Shouto’s varying flat tones had trained him well enough to recognize this one. It was the kind of ‘Toshi” Shouto used when there was only one pudding cup left and Shouto wanted him to hand it over. “I just want to know he’s okay. Please.”

“Ugggh,” Toshi graduated from putting his hands over his eyes to pressing them hard to his face. God, he felt like crap. “Fine. I’ll text him. Just finish your run and let me go back to sleep like a normal person already.”

Shouto hung up without saying thanks. Jerk.

Toshi sent a quick shouchan wants you to text him text to Midoriya’s number and then threw his cell phone against the wall.

“Toshi?” his dad’s voice called out from the hallway, like he’d hoped Toshi had done a 180 and decided that yes, he’d love to be a morning person.

“I’m sleeping!” he yelled back in English and promptly cocooned himself under the covers.

His real alarm went off at seven-thirty, and he rolled out of bed on rote. His parents were long gone. Workaholics, both of them. Dad left at some ungodly time in the morning to take his first shift at the radio station, and Mom usually spent his mornings dropping off the paperwork he’d been too tired to hand over the night before. Toshi forced himself through the usual bathroom routine and then made himself breakfast. By eight, he was out the door.

He was dozing on the train when he remembered the whole too-early-Shouto-debacle and pulled his phone out of his pocket.

Sorry! Midoriya had actually texted back, been so tired lately, haven’t talked to anyone. Is Yuki okay???

He’s worried, Toshi wrote. It’s cool if you’re starting to train up for exams but even Shou told you when he’d be at his old man’s place.

A significant pause. Toshi had made it the private school’s stop and was exiting the station when Midoriya finally replied.

I can’t tell you guys who I’m training with, Midoriya said, like that was in any way what Toshi was asking. But it explained the sudden radio silence. Midoriya reminded him of his Bad-Grandpa sometimes, the way he fell into audible logic spirals without even realizing it. It was either spill or not talk at all, so if he’d been tasked with keeping a secret…

Still, Toshi was the one that had to suffer through Shouto’s sulking. Midoriya would find no sympathy here.

He was mid-text when Midoriya replied a second time: but we can still meet up once in a while! I’ll text Yuki and see if he’s free this afternoon. Kacchan will probably come if Yuki promises to spar with him.

I’ll see him in like five minutes hold on, he said and then literally crashed into an agitated Yukimura Shouto right at the school entrance.

“Toshi,” Shouto said, voice only a little higher pitched than normal. “Did Midoriya text you back?”

Toshi, tired and sore and just short on patience today, tossed him his phone instead of replying. Shouto immediately began typing into Toshi’s phone like a madman.

He wouldn’t get it back until after lunch, when Shouto finally remembered that nothing was free and gave him half of his Fuyumi-prepared bento as payment for his services.

“He’s fine,” Shouto told him, expression fond. “He found himself a trainer, which is good news. He won’t tell me his identity, though, so I won’t be able to run a background check on him at Dad’s office.”

“How sweet,” Toshi rolled his eyes and looked down at the croquette caught between his chopsticks. Fuyumi was a damn good cook but Toshi's mouth hurt. It was a dull, throbbing pain near the front of his soft palate, and it just made his already bad mood worse. It was to the point where even little things began irritating him.

Toshi always considered himself pretty laidback, so it was strange how infuriating it was to be called out for messing with his voice modifier during class.

“Yamada!” Mr. Gou called out sharply. “What is the answer to Problem 4?”

“I don’t know,” Toshi said, not looking up from his modifier.

“You don’t know?”

“That’s what I just said, sir. Is your hearing okay?”

Smothered giggles. Mr. Gou turned an unflattering pink.

“How do you expect to pass this class, Mr. Yamada?” the teacher began walking over to his desk. The other students began to whisper. “If you wish to apply to U.A., you’ll need top marks in all your courses. Though with your quirk… well. If you fail the practical exam and have mediocre test results, you won’t even make it to the General Studies department.”

Toshi stopped adjusting the modifier. He’d had a crap night and a crap morning and now he was having a crap day, and could the universe just not right now?

“Mr. Gou,” Shouto spoke up from second row. “What does this have to do with Problem 4?”

Mr. Gou opened his mouth to reply, but Toshi beat him to it. In a fit of pettiness, he placed the voice modifier over his mouth and flicked it on.

“Absolutely nothing, Mr. Yukimura,” Mr. Gou’s voice said through Toshi’s mouthpiece. His classmates gasped. Shouto’s eyes widened ever so slightly, like he hadn’t expected Toshi to have the gall. And Mr. Gou himself gaped at him, face purpling like a rotting tomato. “In fact, as a private school teacher, I shouldn’t be talking off subject at all. Not with the amount of money the parents’ are paying me every year. Isn’t that right?”

“Principal’s office,” Mr. Gou finally snapped, jabbing a hand towards the door. “Now! You too, Yukimura!"

“But I didn’t do anything!” Shouto protested.

Go!

Which was how they spent third and fourth period in front of the principal's office waiting for one of their parents to show up. It was great. Shouto, however, clearly didn't agree.

“Must you antagonize our teachers all the time?” he said sourly. They both knew the only reason Shouto had also gotten in trouble was because the teachers viewed them as a pair. If Yamada was causing trouble, Yukimura was probably in on it too. It usually balanced out, but Toshi acknowledged that his own problem-causing count had tripled in the last few weeks.

“Mom’s sarcasm plus Dad’s big mouth,” he answered. “Or maybe it's the souls of the innocent Mom feeds me after patrol."

“Why are you like this, Toshi? I told Midoriya we’ll meet him at four. If we’re late, I’m going to drag you to Endeavor’s Agency and force you to train with me.”

“We can probably blackmail Tenya into running us over if we’re short on time,” Toshi immediately pointed out, because the last thing he wanted was to go through training hell with Flame Dick.

Endeavor may be good instructor to his sidekicks, but Toshi couldn’t help but feel like Shouto had dodged a bullet by starting his training in his teens. Endeavor gave him the same regimen as he did the others, all of whom were full-grown adults; Toshi couldn’t imagine what it’d be like if he’d given that regimen to a child. Well, he could, but Touya had for some reason given Shouto the thumbs up on this whole training thing.

Maybe because he was too busy running across the country to stay and teach his little brother himself. So Endeavor was a great teacher. But he wasn’t a dad.

“Hitoshi!” a familiar peppy voice finally boomed through the hall. Shouto winced and Toshi sat up straight. Speaking of Dads.

“You promised not to disrespect your teachers anymore, didn’t you?” Present Mic—radio host, pro hero and teacher—always took up way more space than expected. Half of it was because of his hair, but still. Toshi just jutted out his bottom lip and said nothing. “Hey, I canceled my afternoon show to come here! Be grateful it’s me and not Shouta—he’d make you run five laps and then some.”

“Mr. Yamada,” the principal coughed, trying to restore some kind of order over the office. “Your son brought an unauthorized device and used it to attack his teacher and classmates. This is a gross violation of our rules.”

Dad blinked owlishly. “Attack? Attack how?”

“I pointed out how embarrassing it was for Mr. Gou to crush my dreams to be a hero instead of actually teaching his own class,” Toshi said, voice as flat as he could make it. His bored, flippant tone seemed to fool the principal, but not his dad. People tended to think Present Mic was an idiot, but Dad's emotional intelligence was nothing to sneeze at.

“Your teacher did what?” Dad turned back to the principal. “That sounds more like a teacher attacking a student, doesn’t it?”

“I’ve known Mr. Gou for many years. I trust his word.”

“Then why is Shouchan here?” Dad waved a hand at Shouto, who was doing his best impression of an ice statue. “If he somehow ‘attacked’ the class, wouldn’t there be a fire truck parked out by the entrance by now?”

“Mr. Yamada,” the principal’s voice grew cold. “We’ve never had a single issue with Mr. Gou until your son entered his class. This is the third time this semester he’s caused an incident like this. I don’t wish to speak out of turn, but if he wishes to apply to a prestigious school like U.A., this won’t look good on his record.”

“Speak out of turn,” Dad repeated. Then, he smiled. It wasn’t the usual Mic Persona smile or the Heroing Smile or even the Honey-You’re-Ruining-My-Image Smile. It was the kind of smile that meant he was very, very angry. “Well, I’ve got a show to run back to so I’m afraid I’ll have to take the boys and leave. My agency will call you later to discuss the details of this case, all right?”

The principal looked startled. “You can’t just—”

“Oh, are you worried about Shouchan?" Dad put a hand on Shouto's shoulder, smile still firmly in place. "I’m one of Yukimura Shouto’s authorized adults. You can check the paperwork if you want. His mother has given me permission to take him out of school if needed, which I am doing. Good day."

“That was badass,” Toshi told him while they piled into his fancy car. Dad just took off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose. It was a surprisingly Mom-like gesture, which should have warned Toshi of the Mom-like response he got.

“You’re grounded,” Dad finally said, putting his glasses back on. “Shouta told you not to use your voice modifier when you’re not practicing together, didn’t he? You used it, so you’re grounded. Give it to me.”

Toshi felt his stomach drop. “No.”

“Hitoshi, I’m not playing around. Give me the device. You’ll get it back in a week once you’ve proven you can take your studies seriously.”

“No!” and Toshi felt a growl rip through his throat. Dad stared at him, shocked, and it felt like he’s been getting these kind of looks all day.

And the scariest thing was, Toshi didn’t know what was setting him off. It wasn’t the first time Dad had taken a more serious role in his parenting. It wasn’t even the first time he’d taken away something Toshi loved. There was one time he’d brainwashed Tenya into carrying him and Shouchan around for an afternoon, causing him to miss an entire day of hero school. Dad had held his precious voice amplifier toy for an entire weekend before giving it back.

But he’d been working so hard on this all day, week, month. He’d almost cracked it, he could feel it, and there was nothing worse than losing something right on the cusp of a breakthrough and god, his mouth hurt

“Toshi,” Shouto called out, actually sounding concerned. He reached out and grabbed his bicep. “Toshi!”

“No,” Toshi gritted out through clenched teeth. The roof of his mouth throbbed like one big toothache. It hurt and his stomach was roiling and this shitty day was just going to get worse, wasn’t it? He felt Dad's hand press against his forehead. “No, I can’t—”

“Hitoshi, I need you to breathe.”

“Dad,” Toshi curled up into a ball in the small space the car seat could afford him. Shouto’s hand was like a brand burning through his skin. “Dad, my mouth hurts.”

 

--

 

They didn’t make it in time to meet up with Midoriya. Bakugou had nearly burned down the Yukimura's complex in a fit of rage, but fair was fair. The meetings had stopped for a while when Shouto’s body had thrown itself out of whack during his first heat. It made sense for them to stop when Hitoshi’s stupid alpha teeth came in after months of restless, surly behavior.

“You smell weird,” Shouto informed him one week later on their way to Idaten. “Like something sharp. A rusty crowbar.”

“And you smell like a fruitcake,” Toshi snapped. The enhanced scent had been an unpleasant development; he’d never envied his father’s blissful ignorance more than when they’d been trapped on the train during rush hour.

“At least I’m tasty,” Shouto mused.

“You’ve caused enough trouble already, baby alpha,” Mom corralled them towards Ingenium's agency without sympathy. “You’re lucky most schools will write off anything if you can give ‘presenting hormones’ as an excuse. Unless you really want to change schools a year before graduating?”

“Nah,” Toshi muttered. He carefully didn’t  look at Shouto; a little disrespect was nothing compared to the burn incident that was his friend’s presenting. “Bye Mom, see you later.”

He ducked through Idaten’s sliding doors before his mom could do something worse, like try and give him life advice. Tenya, working as one of his brother’s many sidekicks and easily the most extra in the entire room, caught sight of him from across the room and chop-handed his way over.

“To think, it felt like only yesterday I was changing your diapers!” Tenya declared far too loudly, and Shouto hid a laugh behind a cough. Toshi glared at them all when Tensei’s dozens of other sidekicks seem to turn and regard him as one.

“Congratulations, Hitoshi! Now, if you ever need any advice on your dynamic, feel free to ask me or my brother! We are alphas, too, after all!”

The idea of asking Tenya any kind of personal question was so mortifying Toshi refused to think about it any further.

“We need confetti,” Shouto told the sidekick seriously, and Toshi resolved to hide himself behind Tensei’s desk for the rest of the afternoon.

He went back to school the following day. Mom’s assessment on that alpha-allowance policy was spot-on, and he’d even been moved to another class to separate him from Mr. Gou.

They still occasionally passed each other in the halls, of course.

Toshi would grin at him his best Aizawa grin, alpha teeth extended. If he wanted to be especially petty, he’d take out his voice modifier. But he’d promised to be good.

 

--

 

“Midoriya stopped texting me again,” Shou informed him mournfully at yet another ungodly time in the morning. The sun was barely peeking through the blinds, what the hell. “Toshi…”

“No,” he snapped and hung up the phone. He buried himself under the covers and ignored the buzzing of Shouto calling back. They were fourteen going on fifteen and Shouto had to learn to start handling his Midoriya problems himself.

 

 

So it was entirely ironic that it was Toshi who found Midoriya on Dagobah beach and not someone who cared. Like Shouchan. Or Bakugou.

“Midoriya?” he called out over the constant howling of the wind.

Shouto had gone on some dreamy rant one night, telling him about his and Midoriya’s clandestine meetings by a little dock hidden behind a pile of trash. Toshi had told him it sounded like Tetanus waiting to happen and then rolled over so he could pretend to sleep.

From his description, however, he’d expected the trash pile to be. Well. Trashier.

Then again, Midoriya was currently in the middle of hauling a broken television to a disposal cart, so maybe that’s what happened to the rest of the mountain.

“Yamada?” Midoriya seemed startled. Thankfully, he dropped the television in the cart and not his foot. Toshi took out his earbuds and jogged down the sand dune. “What—we’re not meeting today, are we? What are you doing here?”

“Jogging,” Toshi said. “You know my parents live close by ‘cause they teach at U.A. I don’t normally take this route, though.” He glanced around. “If you’re just cleaning up the beach, you could’ve told us. We could help.”

“No! I mean, thanks for offering, but this is my way of training, you know?” Midoriya looked like he wanted to wring his hands but visibly forced himself not to. Huh. “I know you’re training in your own way too!”

“Okay,” Toshi said slowly. “But you could’ve told Shou when he’d asked what you were up to. He was kind of upset that you wouldn’t say.”

Midoriya’s face turned pink. “Um! Actually. Can you just. Not tell him you saw me here?”

“No,” Toshi said.

“Please, Yamada! Please don’t tell Yuki this is what I’ve been doing!”

“Why? You’re cleaning up a beach. That’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

“I’m not ashamed of it!”

“Then I’ll tell Shou.”

“No!” and okay, maybe Toshi was having too much fun torturing Midoriya. The beta was just so easy to work up, and he’d inherited his Dad’s attention-seeking habits. “It’s… it’s supposed to be a surprise.”

“A surprise,” Toshi repeated. "So this has nothing to do with your mysterious trainer? You’re just training by yourself by a trash heap every day, huh.”

“Y-yes,” Midoriya stammered, eyes so large they looked about to pop out of his head—which was when a figure approached him from the back and clapped a hand on his shoulder.

“Young Midoriya! Are you taking a break from your training?”

The boy jumped half a foot into the air and whirled around. “A—Mr. Yagi! Um. This is my friend!”

Toshi blinked up at Midoriya’s totally-not-a-creeper teacher. He was tall and gaunt, face sunken in and half covered by wild blond hair. An alpha too, but a sickly one. He wasn’t anyone Toshi immediately recognized from the various criminal and hero databases he liked scroll through whenever Mom was busy arguing with the police.

He did, however, totally look like a creeper.

“A-ah,” the man said, looking just as caught as Midoriya was. He paused for an awkward moment and stuck out a hand. “It’s nice to meet a friend of my student! I am Yagi Toshinori.”

“Are you even certified to be a teacher,” Toshi said, pointedly not taking the hand.

“Well—“ Mr. Yagi looked taken aback. “I will be soon—”

“Midoriya’s looking to enter U.A. What do you know of heroes?”

“I have some experience! But I’m retired now so I figured it best—”

“Retired? What was your hero name?”

Okay, it’s about time you head back home, right?” Midoriya was suddenly up in his face and not-so-subtly pushing him back towards the boardwalk. “I’m sure your parents will be worried if you don’t come home from your jog!”

“My parents aren’t even home yet,” Toshi pointed out, but let Midoriya push him anyway. This wasn’t a battle he’d win in one sitting. Of the four of them, he’d always been best at playing the long game—Bakugou was too impatient, Shouto too single-minded, and Midoriya too distracted by all the information around him. Toshi routinely beat his Dad at chess for a reason, though neither of them came close to Mom’s best score.

“Yamada, I will do you a favor if you keep this a secret between us,” Midoriya had finally given up begging in favor of bargaining. “From Yuki, from your parents, from Kacchan.”

“Okay,” Toshi agreed, and Midoriya looked taken aback by his quick response. “I want to read your analysis pages on the four of us. Me, Shouchan, you and Bakugou.”

“What?” Midoriya’s mouth dropped open. “I—no, I can’t do that! G-Giving you my analysis on everyone else wouldn’t be fair to Kacchan or Yuki.”

“That’s what makes this a favor.”

Midoriya looked down at his hands and mumbled under his breath for a good minute or two. He really did remind him of Bad-Grandpa like this, and not in a good way.

“I’ll give you the file on you and me,” Midoriya finally agreed. “But not Kacchan or Yuki. This is between us, okay?”

“Deal,” Toshi said immediately. He’d known he’d at least receive photocopies of the pages on himself. Receiving Midoriya’s too was an extra bonus. “Give me the papers at our next meetup. Whatever that surprise is for Shouchan, it better be a damned good one. He’s so grumpy lately I want to toss him in a lake.”

“Please don’t,” Midoriya squeaked, and Toshi shrugged and turned away. Earbuds back in, muscles prepped, the rest of his jog was a breeze. He’d feel worse about blackmailing Midoriya over his secret teacher if said secret teacher hadn’t driven a wedge in him and kicked-puppy-face Shouto. Midoriya Izuku couldn’t seem to balance secrets with friendship and Shouto was socially inept as it was.

What was such a big deal Midoriya couldn’t even tell his closest friends about it?

 

--

 

"Toshi, go take a shower," Mom was inexplicably standing in the living room when he got back. "We're heading to U.A. in ten minutes."

"All of us?" he said dumbly, because Mom usually stayed at school until six and oh, wow, that was Dad in the kitchen. Mom's schedule may be more erratic, but Dad's was not; canceling his evening radio slot meant Serious Business.

"Hitoshi," Mom said, and he immediately beelined it to the bathroom.

When Toshi reemerged, purple hair damp and face so clean it smarted, both his parents had tugged on their hero gear and were conversing lowly near the doorway. It was rare for them to stop by the school at night. It was even rarer for them to take Toshi with them.

His shock grew when, instead of shuffling to the train station as usual, his father directed them to the back of the apartment complex where their car was parked. "We're taking the car?"

"Stop sounding so gobsmacked. Get in." Mom's voice allowed no protest, and so Toshi obeyed. Whatever was going on, it must be big. Anticipation lit him up from the inside. If he was lucky, it might even be some kind of hero work.

Which was why he was so surprised when he saw a familiar face amidst the U.A. crowd.

“Mr. Yagi?”

The tall, skeletal man jolted like he’d been electrocuted. He glanced around, surprised, like anyone could miss the seven-foot stick hiding in the corner of the conference room.

“Ah—Midoriya’s friend!” Mr. Yagi fidgeted nervously as Toshi broke away from his parents’ side to walk over. “What—what are you doing here? This is a private briefing.”

“My parents brought me,” Toshi answered, tone flat. He narrowed his eyes at the man. “What I want to know is what you’re doing here. You’re not part of the U. A. faculty.”

“Your parents…?” Mr. Yagi shook his head. “It’s like I said. I’m going to be a new teacher starting next year, so I’ll be joining the faculty… eventually.”

Toshi opened his mouth to press further when Mom’s voice barked out: “Toshi!”

He jumped. So did the blond alpha in front of him, which was far more strange, and he looked stunned until Mom stalked up to them and placed a hand on Toshi’s shoulder.

“We’re starting the briefing soon. Remember you’re here out of courtesy to your father and I as teachers. Don’t be rude,” Mom’s eyes flickered up at Mr. Yagi. “I apologize if my son was bothering you. I don’t believe we’ve met.”

“No,” Mr. Yagi backed away nervously. “But you’ll understand soon.”

And then, in the next hour-long briefing and waiver-signing and thinly veiled threats from Principal Nezu, Toshi did understand.

Because Midoriya’s secret, illness-ridden trainer?

He was All Might.

And that opened a whole new can of worms because what was All Might doing training Midoriya?

“All Might! Teaching at our school! And he’s injured!” Dad burst out once they’d piled back into the car.

“Yes,” Mom said curtly. “Though I’m not as convinced he’d be as good at training students as he is making a spectacle of himself.”

“Aw, Shouta. He looks like he’s trying, right? I’m sure if you help tutor him he’ll make a halfway decent teacher.”

“Do I look like I have time to tutor a full-grown man?” Mom snorted into his scarf. He usually tried to keep his emotions in check, but something about All Might seemed to rub him the wrong way. “Besides, I know better than to try changing the mind of an alpha like that.”

“Y’know, it’s not fair to Hitoshi when you say those kind of things,” Dad’s voice lacked the joking quality it had just a few minutes ago, which meant he was being serious. “You’ve taught so many different kinds of alphas, you know better than to judge a book by its cover. At least study him for a bit first.”

Silence. Toshi caught a glance of Mom’s pout in the rear-view mirror, the faint reddening of his cheek the only sign that he knew Dad was right. Because Dad could be stubborn and Mom loathed apologies, the remainder of their trip continued in awkward silence.

“Just go apologize to Dad already,” Toshi said. It was nearly bedtime, which in Aizawa terms meant it was two in the morning. He shook the rest of the cat food into the metal trays and sat back as he was swarmed by furry bean feet and fluffy tails.

Mom pretended not to hear him. His hair was up in a messy bun and he had a cup of tea in one hand, but he hadn’t moved from his spot by the counter in the last five minutes. Dad had fallen alseep on the couch, looking pathetic.

“He’s got an important interview at the station tomorrow and he doesn’t need to worry about you being upset. I know you’re not still upset with him. But he’s an idiot, so you should just tell him anyways. With your words.”

“Watch it,” Mom snapped, and Toshi rolled his eyes.

He’d never understood what Mom meant when he described himself as a disaster omega. Not until he’d presented. Mom’s bristly omega self occasionally lashed out at him despite Toshi being his son. It said volumes about how bad he must be around alphas he didn’t trust.

Which… didn’t bode well for All Might when it was Mom’s turn to show him around campus.

Mom stalked out of the kitchen. Toshi went to sleep. By the time he wandered into the living room the next morning, it was clear Dad hadn't spent the rest of his night on the couch. Which was good. School was fine, Midoriya handed him the blackmailed notes when Shouto’s back was turned their next meeting, and Toshi.

Toshi lay on his bed wide-awake with insomnia, rolling over Midoriya and All Might’s relationship like a loose tooth waiting to fall.

 

--

 

“I might not pass the exam,” he admitted to his mother once their fake patrol came to a crawl. Eraserhead’s expression was unreadable behind his yellow goggles. “Shouto’s so worried about Midoriya being quirkless he’s forgotten I’ve got the same problem. Mine doesn’t help my combat skills. No matter how good I get at hand-to-hand, there will always be someone with a quirk that’ll give them the advantage.”

“Okay,” Mom said, voice taking on that reasonable, objective tone he used with his students. Toshi glanced down at his own scarf, cheeks flushed with embarrassment. “If you don’t get in, what are you going to do?”

Toshi’s cheek twitched. “I…”

“My quirk is also one that doesn’t enhance my combat ability. How did you think I got accepted into the hero program?”

“Sheer willpower?” Toshi mumbled into his scarf. He cast a glance at his mother and said, voice very quiet, “I’m also applying to the General Studies department. Not that I won't give it my all in the Hero course exam. I’ll claw my way in if I have to.”

“Don’t get yourself too worked up, baby alpha,” and Mom was slipping down his goggles, dark eyes appearing faintly purple under the street light. Fond and proud and sad all at once, and Toshi’s throat tightened. Other kids might have expected a ‘You can do it! Believe in yourself!” speech from their parents, but Mom was honest to a fault.

The omega reached his hand out and patted Toshi’s hair. “You’ve got a stubborn streak that’s worse than mine. Even worse than Hizashi, and that’s saying a lot.”

Toshi sniffed, to his horror. He wasn't a baby anymore. This was embarrassing.

“A large part of heroics is having that drive to reach for the top,” Mom mussed up his purple locks without an ounce of sympathy for the time Toshi had spent gelling errant strands back. “I’ve gotten good at spotting kids without the willpower to make it. Expelling them is a mercy. But I wouldn’t expel you, Toshi.”

“Thanks Mom,” Toshi mumbled, and despite his internal flailing gave into the urge to press his face into his mother’s shirt. He smelled strong, confident, bittersweet. It was a comforting scent and one he knew he'd eventually have to let go of, especially once he entered high school. He was a hero in training, not a child.

But the exam hadn't happened yet and Toshi still had time to face his insecurities.

He still had time.

Chapter Text

Yamada Hitoshi wandered into the convenience store and stopped dead in his tracks in front of the magazines. He pulled out his phone.

“Shouchan,” was the first thing Shouto heard when he picked up. It was such a departure from his friend’s usual drawl that Shouto stared down at his phone. “Shouchan, get a copy of Heroes Daily.”

Shouto furrowed his brow. Toshi hated Heroes Daily. He only bought issues that featured his father and only if the journalist writing the article wasn’t, in his words, ‘a complete jackass.’ The U.A. entrance exams were almost here, neither of them had time to be looking through gossip.

“Why?” he managed—before the sound of glass shattering startled him into dropping his phone. Shouto raced to the kitchen to find Fuyumi shakily picking up shards from the floor and his mother staring blank-faced at the magazine in front of them.

ENDEAVOR’S SON REVEALED? Pictures of Endeavor with his alleged son have surfaced after a break-in at Endeavor Agencies. Eyewitnesses confirm him referring to the boy as his son while ushering him out of the attack zone. Photo analysis suggests a strong familial relation between them. Read more on page 9!

Shouto couldn’t take his eyes off the gaudy text.

They burned themselves into his retinas like an unrepentant nightmare.

“Shouto,” his mother murmured softly and Shouto.

Shouto turned and ran.

 

--

 

When he was seven-years old, Shouto hadn’t understood why the twins weren’t interested in becoming heroes.

“Heroes are cool!” he insisted, tugging at Touya’s shirt when the older boy continued to ignore him. He’d seen the plans-for-the-future sheet for prospective high schools in the trash and had been befuddled by U.A. High School’s absence. “They save people! Like All Might! All Might is the best!”

“Yeah, but heroes get hurt,” and Shouto yelped when Touya grabbed him by the back of his collar. His brother plopped him on the seat beside him and went back to playing some colorful video game on the computer. “And they save people because they’re paid, not because they want to.”

“That’s not true!”

“It’s totally true.”

“Heroes—heroes aren’t in it for the money!” Shouto had wanted to stamp his feet, but the chair was too high. His socked toes kicked uselessly at the air. “All Might’s the Symbol of Peace! He watches all our backs and keeps us safe from the villains.”

“Who do you think pays for all this, Shouto?” Touya paused his game and waved his hand at the apartment around him. His long-sleeve shirt rode up enough to show off the burns on his wrists. “You think Dad could get away with what he’s done if he couldn’t pay Mom off?”

Touya!” Fuyumi finally intervened from where she’d been doing her homework at the counter. Tenya, sitting across from her, was still putting all his energy into pretending he’d gone deaf. “You can’t say that to Shouto!”

“He’s seven!” Touya snapped back. “He’s the same age as me when this happened,” and he tugged down his collar to reveal the scars crawling down his neck, “and even I knew what it meant. He’s not a baby anymore!”

“That doesn’t mean you have to be so mean!”

“This is an inappropriate line of conversation for young Shouchan,” Tenya finally intervened, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose. “He has the right to come to his own conclusions about his own family—”

“This isn’t any of your business, Iida!”

And Touya’s hand was beginning to smoke, blue flames erupting from his palms. He took a step towards Tenya and—

“No!” Shouto suddenly burst out, drawing the teenagers’ attention. “No!

“Shouchan—” Fuyumi’s chair screeched as she hurried to stand up.

But Shouto had already hopped off his own chair and fled to his room. He could hear the twins arguing, Fuyumi’s “Don’t take your anger out on Shou, Touya! And put that fire out before Mom sees—” audible through the wall.

Later, his mother had quietly slid open his door and crouched by his bedside.

“Shouto,” her soft voice drew him out of his blankets like a magnet. She stroked his hair, her palm pleasantly cool. “You want to become a hero, don’t you?”

“Yes,” he admitted, voice wavering. “I want to save people.”

His mother’s hand stilled. She took a deep breath. Then, she stroked the red bangs away from his face and tucked them behind his ear.

“As long as you still want that when you’re older,” she whispered like she was speaking a promise. “You’ll make a fine hero, darling.”

And if his mother said it, it must be true.

But the meaning of Touya’s scars stayed with him for a long time. They’d always been a part of him as long as Shouto could remember, just another physical attribute of who his brother was. But they hadn’t always been there. Something had happened, and that something was important.

They were why Mom had left Dad. Why Touya never dared light a small flame in her presence. Why Natsuo went through clinging spells where he’d stick by their brother’s side like glue. They were why Tenya’s brother and Toshi’s parents came by so often, to watch over Endeavor’s estranged family and keep them safe from his enemies… and maybe even from the man himself.

 

--

 

“The smartest move would be to take my name,” Todoroki Enji told him matter-of-factly from across his obsidian desk. Shouto was fifteen. He’d been training under his father for three years without incident. The U.A. entrance exams was literally three days away. And yet the accursed magazine lay before them demanding attention. “The media has already come to their own conclusions and the photo evidence is undeniable. The best way to handle this is to get in front of the issue and hold a press conference officially introducing you to the world.”

Shouto swallowed. He regretted it when Endeavor paused.

The hero said in what he must have thought was a placating voice: “It may be a painful change, Shouto, but it is one that will help your hero career immensely. With my heroic successes behind you, no one would dare mistreat you once you step into the limelight. Do you understand?”

“So I’ll have to live in your shadow,” Shouto muttered darkly, though kept his face blank. Bakugou constantly went on about how creepy it was, how doll-like, but Toshi had backed him up by pointing out its tactical advantage. It was a better excuse than Shouto’s slow emotional reaction. By the time he came to terms with a feeling, the moment was long over.

So Endeavor leaning back in his chair and extinguishing his flame mask left Shouto too stunned to respond. The hero looked sour and regretful, like he was remembering a bitter taste on his tongue.

“Do not reject this opportunity because of your pride, Shouto. If listening to your father is too painful, then listen to the words of the number two hero.”

“Yes sir,” Shouto said, gaze pinned to the floor. He heard his father stand up and bark for his sidekicks. They were to handle the remainder of Shouto’s lessons for the day while he consulted his agency’s PR department.

Shouto didn’t mind the sidekicks. They were one of the few things in this agency that made Endeavor feel real.

“Your dad’s a real hardass, but he’s a damn good hero,” the one with bandages wrapped around his body had once told him when Shouto had taken one too many jabs to the chest. He’d taken a break in a corner where the sidekicks were going through moves on rote. “It’s a tough schedule but it’s worth it. Villains won’t care if you’re still in training or not. You gotta be able to move before you think, and there are only so many ways to train those reflexes.”

“Yes, but there’s wisdom in moderation,” their agency’s healer had scolded him, and the sidekick had shrugged. Five minutes and an ice pack later, Shouto was back on his feet.

Endeavor's sidekicks feared and adored him in turn; his success rate was undeniable; and there really was no room in his life for anyone else. Endeavor gave it his all during work, and while that drive had caused his family no end of grief these last few years, well.

He wasn’t wrong when he pointed out how Shouto could benefit from his career.

“Your dad’s a Flame Dick,” Toshi muttered the first time he’d followed Shouto to training. Shouto had never really been able to wander on his own, especially not after the Incident. His schedule from school to afternoons with his dad to homework with Fuyumi was carefully arranged ahead of time. Toshi, on the other hand, didn’t follow any schedule. He was a latchkey kid and a feeder of stray cats and he pretty much went where he pleased. His mother had taken him all around town when he was ten and was only satisfied when Toshi had a map of the area seared into his brain.

“Schedules make it easy for villains to plan ahead,” he’d told the two of them. When Shouto frowned, he amended: “You’re never alone, Shouchan, but Hizashi and I aren’t usually home when Toshi’s let out. Being unpredictable is his best defense against kidnapping”

“Also, I’m pretty sure he installed a tracker in my neck,” Toshi added in a deadpan tone.

“I did not,” Eraserhead said.

“That’s what you’d say if you did.”

Shouto spent an afternoon feeling his own neck just in case. Toshi had the gall to laugh at him.

So when it came to schedules, Toshi just did what he wanted. That usually meant following Shouto to his place after school out of childhood habit. He only made the mistake of following Shouto to Endeavor’s office twice.

“Eraserhead and Present Mic’s child,” Endeavor had identified him before Toshi could even open his mouth. Toshi, clearly unimpressed, had narrowed his eyes. “The son of two heroes must have a decent quirk. What am I working with here?”

“I’m not training,” Toshi said, voice flat. “I’m just here to watch Shouchan.”

“Nonsense,” Endeavor waved a hand. “If you aspire to become a hero, early training is essential. I’m not letting you waste your time watching when you could be learning. Either join us on the dojo floor or take your leave.”

As Toshi disliked turning down challenges, the outcome was painfully predictable.

“Your dad,” Toshi panted an hour later, forced into a gi and trying to copy the current set as best he could, “is a Flame Dick.”

“I didn’t ask for you to stay,” Shouto hissed back, struggling just as hard beside him. Endeavor had instructed him to maintain a constant fireball while going through different attack positions, and he was trembling from the exertion. It was taking all of his energy not to let it flare out of control, because if it expanded even just a bit… it’d burn Toshi.

Which was probably why his father had placed Toshi on his left side, as clever as it was cruel.

It took only one more hell session for Toshi to decide he was better off staying away. Shouto felt equally betrayed and jealous. If he had the choice, he wouldn’t want to go through this either. But Endeavor was the only person willing to train him in fire. Living with three ice users and a fire user who never practiced his quirk at home had honed his ice skills but largely left his flames untamed.

He could still hear the screams of that alpha he'd burned when he first presented. If he closed his eyes, he could even see the boy writhing as fire ate through his skin. The bright red burns that had welled up reminded him of Touya’s scars, and Touya had them all over his body—

So he ducked his head down and refused to complain.

 

--

 

"Todoroki Shouto," he told his reflection in the mirror. The words felt awkward on his tongue. "Todoroki Shouto. Todoroki."

It brought up vague memories of a villain roaring for him by that name. A painful memory but a useful one, because if he was going to take on his father's name he must train himself to respond to it. His brothers and friends had gotten hurt because that villain had been looking for a Todoroki.

He was that Todoroki.

"Todoroki Shouto," he hissed to himself, fists clenched. His reflection scowled at him. The anger felt so foreign he immediately dropped it in favor of his usual blankness. No. He couldn't get caught up in that, not when he had so many things he wanted to do as a hero. Todoroki was a stepping stone on his way to achieving that goal. He'll become someone who can rewrite his mother's bad memories of his father, who can support her and his siblings if needed, who could do the right thing.

If it took him swallowing the name Todoroki to achieve that, he'd damn well open his mouth as wide as he could.

 

-

 

“Well, I’m still calling you Yuki,” Midoriya declared, bless his heart. He grabbed Shouto’s arm and tugged him away from the boardwalk. “But I wouldn’t feel too bad about all of this. You didn’t ask for that photographer to leak that photo to the press, right? And we promised to become heroes no matter what. If your dad can help you, why shouldn’t you take advantage of that?”

Midoriya’s earnest, stream-of-consciousness muttering had become somewhat of a comfort these last few years. Normal conversations were terrifying because strangers always expected him to respond. But these rants left no room for input, and so he could enjoy the flow of words washing over him without worry.

He’d been looking forward to it even before he knew it’d just be the two of them. Toshi had seemed amused when Shouto had texted him after leaving his complex and finding no one waiting outside.

What do you mean we’re not meeting today, Shouto had finally texted back. Midoriya said we’ll be hanging out at that beach close to his house.

He said YOU will be hanging out, and Shouto could hear that dryness even through text. No purple hair or noisy blonds allowed.

Midoriya had sounded a bit jittery on the phone earlier. There had been the faint sound of explosions in the background, but Shouto had chalked it up to Bakugou practicing for the exams. What else could he have been doing?

Shouto allowed the beta boy to pull him down the beach, footprints trailing behind them in the wet sand. Midoriya had gained muscle mass since the last time he’d seen him. Surprising, but not in a bad way. They were all growing up, after all.

“It’s—it’s a bit early, but I wanted to show you,” Midoriya muttered. He tugged them down a familiar path.

The trash that had once towered over them was gone. Only a few spots remained along the coast: manageable piles that were nowhere large enough to block out the beautiful, moonlit beach.

It had been beautiful before, too, but he supposed that had more to do with Midoriya than the beach itself.

“I cleaned this part first,” Midoriya babbled, hopping down the rocks with practiced ease. Shouto’s heart thudded when they made it to their little dock. “I dug out all the trash under the water, too. You can see the bottom now. It’s—well, it’s really pretty. I wanted to surprise you once the whole beach was clean, but I think now. Now’s a good time.”

It was. They sat on the deck, feet swinging languidly in the clean water.

“I missed you,” Shouto finally said, unable to find a smoother way to say it and too tired to care. Fuyumi constantly lamented his and Toshi’s inability to pick up basic conversation cues. “These last few months. It’s like we’ve grown apart.”

Midoriya fidgeted, almost shy. “The exams are almost here. We’ll—we’ll get into U.A. together and then we can train like old times.”

You might not get in, Shouto’s traitorous internal voice whispered. It sounded suspiciously like his dad. And when that happens, what then? Will we still see each other?

“We might not end up in the same class,” he said instead, because traitorous internal voices were mean-spirited things. Midoriya had crafted an identity for himself by doing the impossible. And he’d clearly been up to something these last ten months, if the fidgety, secretive edge to his smile had anything to say about it.

“We were never in the same class. We managed to hang out just fine until this year,” Midoriya’s smile grew, still shaky but far more sincere. It was… cute. “Even Kacchan and I… I barely see him after school. He’s been backpacking through the mountains every weekend. A-and Yamada’s training with Eraserhead, right? And you with Endeavor?”

“And you with your mystery trainer,” Shouto tilted his head. Midoriya’s smile froze in place. “I won’t ask who he is. Toshi said he wasn’t a creep, though, so I’ll have to trust his and your judgment.”

“Yamada said—?”

“He didn’t tell me who. Said your bribe overrode our childhood friendship.” Shouto rolled his eyes. “Which doesn’t mean much. Toshi’s always been kind of an ass.”

Midoriya laughed, surprised. “Yeah? He’s got nothing on Kacchan.”

“No one’s got anything on Bakugou. He’s crazy even on hormone-adjustment meds. He’s going to drain his alpha dry and toss his corpse onto the ground.”

“Yuki!” Midoriya squeaked, mortified. Two red dots spread quickly across his cheeks. “You—that’s not—Kacchan might not even be into alphas! Or boys!”

Shouto gave him a flat look. “No, he’s definitely into alpha boys. I think he was even into Toshi for a while.”

What?”

“For about two seconds. Toshi’s too much of a confrontational dick to play nice with another confrontational dick, no matter how pretty,” and oh, he didn’t even know Midoriya’s face to go through so many horrified expressions. It was enlightening. “You didn’t know?”

“I don’t ever know what’s going through Kacchan’s head,” Midoriya mumbled to himself. “I mean… Yamada.”

“Yes.”

“But he’s—he’s Yamada!

“Did you know my sister thought we’d be good together?”

“No!”

“She’s a closet romantic. She made us ‘marry’ when we were four and fed us cupcake as our wedding gift.”

“That’s,” and the cheer had returned to Midoriya’s face, lighting his entire being up from within. It was moments like these that Shouto wished could last forever. “That’s adorable. Tell me you have pictures, Yuki. You have to have pictures!”

“They’re at my house,” Shouto cocked his head and let a soft smile grace his face. “We can look at them if you come over.”

Midoriya didn’t hesitate. “Okay, but I have to call my mom first. Is your family okay with me visiting? Your sister still lives at home, right, is she okay too? Is your brother back from his game—”

Shouto continued to smile as Midoriya rambled on and on. It was a perfect night.

 

--

 

“I don’t want you to recommend me,” Shouto said. “I’ve already taken your name. I’ll pass the entrance exam with the others.”

“A childish request,” Endeavor didn’t look up from his laptop. “But if you insist, I can’t stop you. This is your first showing as a hero under my name. Make it something they’ll remember.”

So he did.

The hulking zero-pointer looked absolutely stunning covered in a thick layer of ice. He'd never used his quirk to this extent before, not even against Bakugou. His breath became visible with the sudden drop in temperature, a trait he'd long associated with the rest of his family.

It seemed a fitting compromise for the "Todoroki Shouto" written on his identification card. And it sent a message to the judges.

He wasn't Endeavor. He was Shouto, whatever his last name was.

 

--

 

Shouto couldn’t find Midoriya.

Students were flooding out of the U.A. gate in the afternoon light, nervous and jumpy and exhausted. Did they score enough points? Did they pass the written exam? Will their dreams come true?

Shouto didn’t care about any of them. He’d already spotted Toshi, who’d just given him a brusque nod and stalked up towards the faculty room without a word. Huh. Toshi was so laidback, so matter-of-fact and confident in his choices, Shouto was ashamed of himself for forgetting his best friend's situation. Brainwashing would've been no good against robots.

The worry that Toshi might not get in struck him hard.

No, of course Toshi would get in. His quirk was useful, U.A. was a school renowned for its excellent heroes, and Toshi possessed an undeniable hero heart. They'd be idiots to turn him down.

Bakugou, in complete contrast to Toshi's dourness, burst out from the training hall with a maniacal grin.

“I blew those scrap metal losers to hell!” he proclaimed to no one in particular. It was difficult to ignore him, however, in both sight and smell and hearing. Bakugou just attracted attention without even trying. “No way I didn’t get in!”

“Congrats,” Shouto approached him, voice flat. Toshi he could find later, but his biggest concern was still worryingly absent. “Have you seen Midoriya?”

“Stop asking me about goddamned Deku!” Bakugou flung a hand out at him. Shouto caught his wrist and waited for the omega to calm down from his adrenaline high. The blond eventually jerked his hand back and shoved it into his pant pocket. “I don’t know how a quirkless loser like him could’ve taken down enough robots to pass. Let’s hope he didn’t get himself killed out there or Aunt Inko’s going to cry.”

“The teachers won’t let a student die,” Shouto said, sounding unconvincing even to himself. “I’m… going to go find him.”

Which was how he found himself coming to a stop in front of the door to Recovery Girl’s office, heart thudding heavily in his chest. He stared at his reflection in its metal surface.

Then, telling himself he wasn’t being paranoid or overbearing, he took out his phone and sent Midoriya a text.

Where are you?

Approximately five seconds later, his phone vibrated with an incoming call. “Midoriya,” he said, ducking his head down and leaning against a wall beside the door. “You didn’t come out with the others. What happened?”

“Hi Yuki,” Midoriya’s laugh sounded almost hysterical. Shouto suddenly had a bad feeling. “Sorry about that. I, uh. I kind of broke both my legs?”

“You what,” and that worry was flooding back all at once, because what? Did Midoriya say he broke both his legs? “How? The teachers should have intervened if you were so badly hurt—”

“It wasn’t their fault! It happened, uh, near the end of the exam. I just.” An awkward pause. Shouto clenched his fist, forcing himself to calm his breathing. “Yuki, I, uh. I got my quirk recently.”

Shouto furrowed his brow. “What.”

“I got a quirk! Really late, I guess, but better late than never, right? But I can’t control it, so it kind of… broke my legs. And arm, I guess.”

“Is that what you’ve been hiding these last few months? Why?” and really, none of this was adding up in his head. “You could have at least told us instead of disappearing without a word.”

“I’m sorry! I’m really sorry, Yuki. I guess I was… embarrassed? About how bad I was at controlling it? So I was working on it with my mentor so I could use it today, but apparently I blew out my limbs anyway so it didn’t even work. I’m sorry. I wasn’t keeping it from you because of anything else, I swear.”

Shouta took a deep breath. Let it out. Then, he hung up the phone.

“Wha—” Midoriya jumped when Shouto yanked open the nurse’s door and stalked inside. “Yuki?”

“You’re an idiot,” Shouto said, staring down at the bandages wrapped around Midoriya’s sad excuses for limbs. Recovery Girl must have already begun her work, which meant Midoriya had been injured even worse than this. “Are you going to kill yourself before you become a hero? What happened to setting aside your pride, Izuku?”

“You—I mean—” Midoriya seemed caught between shame at Shouto’s furious accusations and shock over the use of his given name. “I’m sorry. You guys are all so cool, I guess I wanted to prove myself too.”

Which was so infuriatingly avoidable Shouto wanted to set fire to the bed. It was—it was a strange feeling, this welling anger inside of him. Was this what Bakugou felt like all of the time? He turned and forced that weird, tantrum-throwing omega self down before opening his mouth to speak. “…when did they say you can leave?”

“In an hour, maybe,” Midoriya said, voice very small. “You—you don’t have to wait for me.”

Endeavor had commanded Shouto to stop by his agency to give him the play-by-play of his exam. But Shouto was in a foul mood and Midoriya was in a hospital bed and he didn’t want to take his eyes off of him for a second. He couldn’t take his eyes off of him.

It must be a dynamic thing. There was no other explanation for Shouto’s irrational behavior. He’d never fussed over Midoriya quite like this before, but he found he didn’t mind it. Neither did the other boy, judging from the way he slumped further into his cot.

Toshi texted back WHIPPED when Shouto updated him on the situation.

Shouto couldn’t even text a denial back.

 

--

 

“So he’s been training with a special mentor for a quirk he magically discovered,” Toshi said later, when Shouto found him tucked in his mother’s sleeping bag beneath his desk. “That isn’t suspicious.”

Shouto wasn't sure how to speak with an upset Toshi. His worry compressed into an uneasy, guilty ball in his gut. “I thought you said his mentor wasn’t a creep.”

“He’s not a creep,” Toshi said, voice flat. “He’s All Might.”

What?

"Midoriya could’ve gotten you an All Might autograph any time in the last ten months. You should dump his ass.”

Shouto should have felt annoyed at the constant jabs at his crush, but he instead felt a spike of nostalgia. They’d been in the same class since preschool. Shouto had even followed Toshi to a new private school after he’d been suspended from their first one. They’d celebrated each other’s birthdays since they were four.

The possibility that Toshi could have failed the exam... it was terrifying.

“You're still my best friend,” he blurted out, awkward and stunted and only partly what he wanted to convey. Toshi’s lazy grin twitched for a split second, meaning he'd picked up on Shouto's meaning anyway.

“Sap,” he muttered, regaining that unaffected air like vulnerability was something other people suffered from. "Of course I am."

 

--

 

One week later, the news arrived in the Yukimura's mail alongside Fuyumi's new workbooks for her class and a replacement whisk for his mother. Shouto watched the video with bated breath.

“Congratulations...”

 

--

 

Wassup my listeners! Present Mic starting early ‘cause he’s got a super special announcement to make!”

Some awkward rustling. A teenager’s protest.

So let’s set the scene, okay? Last week Mini Mic came home looking like someone ran over his cat—and like, if anyone hurt any of our cats we’d all be mad, okay?—‘cause the U.A. Entrance Exams were brutal! Now, I know you listeners know that the mate and I graduated from U.A., but that doesn’t mean we were allowed to give MM pointers, you dig? We’ve got our reps as teachers on the line! So we were kinda prepared, had all his favorite foods ready, and the kid just locks himself in his room! For a week! Now, I know what you’re all thinking—a teenage alpha locking himself up for a week? There’s only one thing he can be doing, Mic. Well stop it! Mini Mic is too innocent for that kind of speculation! Right, MM?”

“I am not going to participate in my own humiliation,” Toshi’s voice grumbled off to the side, as if sitting beside his father. “It’s bad enough you made me come here.”

“Don’t be like that! I’m a proud daddy, you know? ‘Cause a week later we get the letter in the mail. Mini Mic smells like a locker room and looks like he’s about to cry—”

“Dad!”

“—and the mate made him take a shower before letting him open the letter! The worst torture is the wait, amiright? Aaaanyway, he came out and he finally got to play the holotape, and y’all already knew what was coming.” A dramatic pause. “My baby boy’s going to U.A. next year! In the hero course! I knew you could do it, Mini! YEEEAAH!”

“Can I leave now?”

“Okay, okay. But before you go, you gotta pick the first song to play! It’s your day, little listener! Go wild!”

“Never Going to Give You Up by Rick Astley,” Toshi’s voice was perfectly serious. “Y’all can’t see my hands right now but I’m flipping my teachers off. Bye.”

“….and that’s a teenager folks! One Rick Roll coming up! HIT IT!”

 

--

 

"It was because of Bakugou," Toshi had said on their train ride home from school. "I managed to take down some robots with my capture scarf, but most of my points came from helping students escape that crazy bastard's collateral."

"I'm surprised you didn't just use your quirk on Bakugou to get him to stop," Shouto said honestly.

"You do realize if I did that we would have both failed, right?" Toshi said. "Even if climbing to the top requires us to step on each other's backs, sabotaging another student's chances of passing isn't right. I want to get in because I won, not because everyone else just happened to lose."

Shouto was tempted to say that using his quirk was still within the realms of him winning; that U.A. wasn't a school that looked down on certain abilities; that quirk-usage was pretty much a requirement for the hero course.

But Toshi had gotten through all of middle school without using his quirk and Shouto had given up talking him out of it by now. It wasn't something he did on purpose. Childhood jeers and countless playground fights over Toshi's alleged villainy had taught the boy how to hide.

"Maybe I should give Bakugou a stuffed toy as thanks," Toshi mused aloud, gaze growing foggy as he stared out into the distance. "How about... a Pomeranian Dog?"

"He'll kill you," Shouto informed him, and Toshi just grinned all sharp and wide.

 

--

 

They held a small gathering in Midoriya's home for the Lunar New Year, a departure from Shouto's usual tradition of wandering the festival with his siblings until midnight. It was worth seeing that brilliant smile on Midoriya's face, however, so bright he had no need to peer out the window for fireworks.

"Oh, I'm so proud of you boys!" Midoriya Inko tittered, fussing with the plates of food she'd laid out and pouring tea for various guests. "You're all heading to high school soon! And to U.A.! Congratulations!"

"Thank you for your hospitality," Toshi's mom said in a flat tone, sitting stiffly on the Midoriya's couch and furrowing his brow at the Bakugous squabbling in the corner. "It must have taken a lot of time and effort to set this up."

"Nonsense! I throw so few parties for Izuku, I can't help but go all out when he invites people over! Ah, Shouto, do you need more tea?"

"No thank you," Shouto answered, inwardly panicking, and breathed a sigh of relief when a familiar hand grabbed his elbow and dragged him outside.

"Kacchan found sparklers!" Midoriya said cheerily. He held up a red-and-white stick. "C'mon, let's set them off in the park!"

Even surly, foul-tempered Bakugou cracked a smile when the four of them lit their crackling sparklers together. It took only a little prodding to convince the boy to put on, according to Midoriya, the "best firecracker display ever!" which he apparently hadn't done since they were six. The boy's control over his explosions was impressive, especially when he put them to use in a light show.

Shouto jumped, embarrassed, when Toshi elbowed him in the ribs.

"No," Shouto mumbled.

"You put up with Flame Dick for three entire years, you can do a little fire twirl," Toshi refused to relent. Midoriya's face lit back up at the words 'fire twirl' and oh. He couldn't escape this now. "Come on, Shouchan."

Shouto took a breath and lifted his left arm. Flames blossomed in his palm, small and controlled like he'd been taught. He did an awkward twirl and watched the light follow his movements. Crude, but still pretty. Bakugou was clearly unimpressed, but something in Toshi's face kept the omega from pointing it out.

"Your fire control's improved so much, Yuki," Midoriya gushed. Shouto's cheeks pinkened at the beta's sudden attention. "I can't wait to see how it gets even better once school starts. It still feels like a dream, you know? We're going to U.A.! We're going to be in the same school!"

"Yes," Shouto smiled. "We are."

"I'm going to beat your ass so hard, Icyhot," Bakugou snarled, crackling explosions going off like tiny fireworks around his clenched fists. "I'll make it clear once and for all I'm better than you're snobby, rich boy ass."

"What, you're not going to challenge me too?" Toshi looked amused. "And here I thought I'd finally proven myself to you, Bakugou. I guess I was wrong, huh?"

Bakugou opened his mouth. Then, after a furious moment of internal struggle, he slowly closed it. He threw the alpha boy the darkest scowl he could manage under the bright light of the moon.

Toshi's grin had too many teeth. "Ah, you're learning."

"Boys!" and that was Midoriya's mother in the doorway waving a wooden spoon. "The mochi's ready! Come on in!"

"Okay, Mom!" Midoriya called back. Shouto startled when he felt Midoriya's hand clasp his own. His cheeks warmed as the boy led him inside without pause, his palm surprisingly rough against Shouto's own.

Toshi gave him a knowing wink from the corner of his eye, and Shouto's blush intensified. Ah.

These next three years were going to the best and worst years of his life.

Chapter Text

Aizawa Shouta narrowed his eyes at the white mouse creature sipping tea in front of him. He had faith in the Principal like the rest of the faculty. They even fell along a similar moral line when it came to difficult decisions concerning the students. But when he’d received his class list that morning, he’d headed over to Vlad King’s desk to make sure there hadn’t been a typo.

“With all due respect, sir,” he said flatly, ignoring the tea cup Nezu had placed in front of him. “I don’t think placing the four of these students in my class is a good idea.”

“Oh? And what do you suggest, Eraserhead?”

“Split them between my class and Vlad’s,” Shouta said immediately. “I can handle Midoriya and Todoroki. Vlad can handle Bakugou and Hitoshi. This way, their previous relationship won’t get in the way of their relationships with the other students.” A pause. “And it’ll resolve the conflict of interest that would occur if Toshi was in my class.”

“Ah, but you already have a conflict of interest with young Todoroki, do you not?” Nezu put down his cup. “You are close to the Yukimuras. And I trust your ability to act professionally, Eraserhead. I’d even wager you’d be harder on your boy, not easier.”

“What are you playing at,” Shouta gave up all pretenses and stared him down.

The principal just smiled at him, the image of a cheery mascot. “It is because their relationships are so complicated that we need to place them in the best scenario to overcome their issues. It’s best if they resolve them now while they’re still starting out as heroes in training then leave it be until it festers.”

“Issues,” Shouta said flatly

“From what I’ve observed of your son and Todoroki through the years, the boys have never truly faced each other as rivals. Realizing the competition heroism requires will be a great shock. And from what I’ve heard about this Midoriya and Bakugou, their relationship is… volatile. I trust your judgment when it comes to assessing whether this relationship will break their chances to be heroes or not. Not to mention this omega rivalry between Bakugou and Todoroki, Midoriya and young Hitoshi’s passive fight for Todoroki’s attention…” Nezu folded his hands. “In essence, I am asking you to babysit these problem children because you have the knowledge and skill to do what it takes. It might be ‘fair’ to split them up randomly, but can you honestly imagine Vlad King handling any combination of these boys?”

Which was… the last nail in the coffin. Shouta sighed to himself. Those boys would eat his poor coworker alive.

“Understood. Thank you for explaining your reasoning to me, Principal.” Shouta stood up and gave a very stiff bow.

It was a strange coincidence that Shouta would take his turn breaking in the freshmen the same year his son attended school. It would be the most time he’d spend with Toshi in years, ironically.

He’d be happier about it if the other three troublemakers weren’t coming along for the ride.

The new Class 1-A was going to be a massive headache, he could already feel it.

 

--

 

Katsuki, despite all appearances, knew there were those stronger than him.

It was a fact that had been driven into his brain when a twelve-year-old Yukimura Shouto and twelve-year-old Yamada Hitoshi stopped him in his tracks without breaking a sweat. He’d gone home and screamed until he couldn’t scream anymore, the ball of fury in his chest refusing to die down. When he stopped, all he could think of was this: he will get stronger than those idiots one day. He’ll surpass them no matter what it took.

Deku, of course, didn’t seem to get the memo. He thought they were friends. The idiot witnessed their power with his own eyes and thought it was amazing. The beta’s absolute lack of self preservation drove Katsuki insane. Yukimura was his worst enabler. He twisted Deku’s heart around his finger and lured him in, indulged those hero fantasies of his like a quirkless middle schooler could ever hope of stepping foot in U.A.

Well, joke’s on him, right?

The week after he'd come out of that entrance exam crowing with victory, he had to find out from the school that Deku had also impossibly, inexplicably gotten in. That Deku had somehow—what had he said? He’d manifested a quirk? What a load of crap.

"How did you do it?" he breathed, slamming Deku into the wall behind the school. "How did you cheat your way into U.A.?"

"I-I didn't cheat! I got my quirk and—"

"Bullshit! You've been tricking us all from the start, haven't you? Pretending to be weak to make nice with pretty Yukimura—" and the nervous shift of Deku’s mouth and averted eyes had told him his instincts were right. This wasn't a sudden manifestation of a quirk. This was something else, something Deku hadn't bothered to tell him, like he wanted to embarrass Katsuki in front of the whole class when the teacher congratulated both of them—

A blast of ice knocked him off of Deku and onto the ground.

“Honestly, I’m still not sure why Midoriya considers you a friend,” Yukimura said, hands pinning Katsuki's arms to the dirt. Katsuki freed himself with a blast to the boy's ice side and a snarl ripping through his throat. The other omega regarded him coolly. “But don’t you dare threaten him like that again.”

“Stay out of our business, Icyhot!” he roared, not bothering to question why the guy was even here. Probably something disgusting like picking Deku up from school. Or maybe he was here to rub Deku's win in his face. Whatever it was, something in the other omega’s eyes flashed.

Perfect Yukimura never lost control of his dynamic’s instincts. Perfect Yukimura was the ideal, sweet omega with an even disposition and the natural strength of a household matriarch. Perfect Yukimura was everything Katsuki was not, and he hated how much he hated it.

When they squared off behind his crappy middle school, however, Katsuki had seen that perfect façade nearly crack. The flame flickering up his arms made it clear that Icyhot was willing to duke it out like the animals they were, that Katsuki would finally have proof that even high class princes could be slave to their instincts.

But then the teachers arrived and they’d been separated and things went to shit.

Deku, head bowed, had still followed Katsuki home when they were finally let out of the principal’s office.

“Kacchan,” Deku said.

“Shut up. Don’t talk to me.”

“Kacchan, wait—”

“I said, don’t talk to me!” Katsuki whirled on him, teeth bared. Deku, that dumbass, scent-blind beta, just stood there unaffected by his rage. “Haven’t you done enough?”

“I’m not… I didn’t trick you, Kacchan. I really did only receive this quirk recently. It’s new to me too, and to be honest I still can’t control it very well—”

“Do I look like I care? I’m already going to beat Icyhot and Sleepy Face. You think I can’t beat you too? Give me a break!” Sparks flew from his palms. Frustration coursed through him like fire. It hurt so badly but he couldn’t stop. It was like he was eleven again, freshly presented and gripped by omega tantrums so bad his alpha parent had had to pin him to the wall to keep him in line. “Don’t think so highly of yourself ‘cause Icyhot’s crushing on you! You’re still just a worthless Deku!”

Deku appeared taken aback. “Yuki—Yuki has a crush on me?”

“Are you even listening to me?”

“Kacchan,” and Deku was stepping into his space. He was too close, those wide eyes of him too honest, and Katsuki wanted to shove him away. “I can’t control this quirk right now but it doesn’t make me weak or worthless. I’m going to get stronger and stronger. You won’t have to worry about me anymore.”

“Who says I worry about you?” Katsuki snapped, mouth trembling. And then, before his stupid body betrayed him further, he turned heel and stomped away.

Beta Deku was meant to fall into line like the rest of their classmate extras, but for some reason he’d hung on. If he’d been an alpha, then maybe Katsuki could have accepted his tenacity. But no, stupid Deku couldn't even get that right.

He began walking faster.

Things didn’t make sense anymore. Katsuki couldn’t bear it, and so he did what he did best. Buried it deep along with the dissatisfied omega lurking just beneath his skin. A few more weeks and then he’d be at U.A.

Once his plan was back on track, he'd finally be able to breathe.

 

--

 

"There's going to be a New Years Party at my place," Deku told him, as if Katsuki hadn't been giving him the cold shoulder since the almost Yukimura-Bakugou showdown behind the school. "Yuki and Yamada are coming."

"So?"

"...and my mom asked your parents, and your dad said yes?"

An explosion burst from his palm without warning.

"It wasn't my idea!" Deku tried to say, but Katsuki hissed at him anyway. "B-but Mom's really excited and I don't want you to... to..."

"To what?"

"To ruin the night for her!" Deku let the words burst out in a rush. "I know you're still mad at me and that's fine, but if you... if you take it out on my mom, I won't forgive you! I'm serious, Kacchan!"

"What the fuck, you shitty nerd?" Katsuki vaulted over his desk and grabbed Deku by the front of his shirt. "You think I can't keep it together for a stupid night?"

"Well, I don't know!" Deku shouted back, clearly losing all sense of self-preservation. "I don't know what sets you off anymore, I just don't want you to do it in front of Mom!"

"Midoriya! Bakugou!" their shitty-ass teacher finally decided to intervene now that their furious conversation had gone into full-on shouting. Much harder to write his inaction off as ignorance then. "It may be lunch break, but I expect a certain level of order in this room! If you insist on shouting, do it outside so others can study in peace!"

Katsuki itched to whirl around and tell the guy exactly what he thought about studying in peace. But he wasn't eleven, no matter how much he felt it. He was fifteen and about to attend the most prestigious hero school in the country.

He let Deku go and slumped in his seat.

The beta had enough sense to leave him alone after school let out. Good, because Katsuki was saving all his screaming for that damned old hag for going behind his back again. They hadn't celebrated New Years at the Midoriya's since he'd been six.

Honestly, after years of tormenting Deku and then begrudgingly tolerating him, it was always a bit awkward looking into Aunt Inko's trusting, smiling face.

 

--

 

And no, he didn't fucking ruin her night like some psychotic jerk. Thanks for the vote of confidence, Deku.

 

--

 

“Katsuki,” the old hag’s voice called from the kitchen.

Katsuki trudged in and sat himself down before the breakfast spread. Mom had outdone himself with the bacon and eggs, which was immediately suspicious. He was usually at the office by now, which meant whatever Dad was going to say was going to set Katsuki off.

“Just get it out already, old hag,” he muttered.

She slapped him upside the head. “Is that the first thing you have to say to me in the morning? How the hell are you going to make friends at your new school with this kind of attitude?”

“I’m not going to U.A. to make friends!” he yelled back. “I’m going there to become a hero and get out of this lousy dump of a town!”

“This town’s not lousy! You think houses like this exist everywhere in Japan?”

“A town’s not its buildings, it’s its people. Everyone here are boring extras.”

“What about Izuku and those other two friends of yours?” Dad narrowed her eyes at him. “You came home pretty beat up tussling with that other omega, didn’t you?”

Katsuki gritted his teeth so hard a vein in his jaw twitched.

“Now, now,” Mom intervened, placing a hand on his mate’s shoulder and gesturing for her to sit down. “We agreed to try and keep things calm this morning, Mitsuki.”

“He’s being a brat,” she snapped back at him.

“’Cause you won’t tell me what you assholes are up to!” Katsuki slammed his hands on the table. There were various marks in the wood grain—scars from him losing control of his quirk when he'd been younger. “Just spit it out!”

“We’re going to see the omega specialist again this afternoon,” Mom sighed. He adjusted his glasses. “To… check up on your dosage and to see if there’s anything we can do to make sure you put your best foot forward at U.A.”

"We're going to make sure your common sense meter isn't broken given your recent temper," Dad translated.

“I,” Katsuki jabbed a finger at her, “am not broken.”

The chair screeched as he stood up and stormed back up to his room. He slammed the door and pretended not to hear his parents whispers trailing behind him.

“I wasn’t like this at his age,” Mom would always say. The first time had been when he spoke with the omega specialist while Katsuki had demanded Dad teach him cat’s cradle. The old hag may be annoying as hell, but she was better with her hands than Mom was. “I mean, omega males are more likely to be moodier, I know, but Katsuki’s at risk of being expelled from his middle school if he doesn’t stop attacking the other students.”

“Your alpha is very dominant, isn’t she?” the specialist had tapped her chin in consideration. “It’s not unusual for the omega child of a very dominant alpha to be more volatile. Old, sexist textbooks used to theorize it had something to do with ‘finding an even better alpha’ and furthering our evolution as a species. Nowadays, we call that bullshit. The most important thing to understand is that his volatile nature won’t go away. Omega instincts cannot be changed, only managed. Prescribing him hormone management pills will soften the extent of his tantrums, but it’ll be something he needs to work on as he gets older.”

Those words had left an uncomfortable, squirming feeling in his stomach. So he needed to be fixed. But he didn’t need to be fixed. It was confusing and irritating and Deku trailing after him asking question after question about ‘Has presenting affected your quirk? You can smell better now, right? Can you smell me?” wasn’t helping.

He took the goddamn pills because getting expelled would bar him from U.A. They reined him back enough for him to toe the line. Tantrums weren’t uncontrollable, just difficult to suppress. It was easier to hold himself in a cold simmer, to turn a snarl into a clenched fist, to walk away from idiots who didn’t deserve his attention instead of fly into a rage.

Apparently, it wasn’t enough.

“His hormone levels are as it should be on the pills,” the omega specialist frowned down at a fifteen-year old Katsuki glaring from his seat between his parents. “The episodes should actually start lightening up as he reaches sixteen. Most omegas’ bodies fully stabilize by that age.”

“But Katsuki pretty much burned a hole through his wall,” Dad said, red eyes narrowed and unconvinced. “He’s been testier, more disobedient, angrier. We’ve both noticed it. It can’t be nothing.”

“Well, he is a teenager,” the omega specialist responded in a wry tone. “Besides, even the sweetest omegas can grow grumpy over standard stressors: failing to find a mate, having no sense of home, fighting with another hostile omega.”

“The last one,” Dad snapped her fingers. “Some omega beat him up a month ago!”

“He didn’t beat me up—ow!” Katsuki grabbed his dad’s wrist before she could draw it back. “I’m fifteen, not eleven! I can speak if I want to!”

“If you speak, than you speak politely,” Dad snapped. “If you talk like a child, I will treat you like a child.”

“They’re always like this, aren’t they?” the omega specialist turned to Mom, who’d long given up meddling in their fights and simply waited them out in silence. He seemed surprised at being addressed. “Haven’t you explained to your alpha that exerting her dominance won’t result in the usual submission here? It’ll only agitate Katsuki further.”

“Yes, we understand. But Mitsuki… well. She can’t control her temper sometimes. It’s nothing like Katsuki’s, but it’s enough to set him off at home, which results in… this.”

“Then I suggest Miss Bakugou take an active step back then,” the omega specialist declared. Dad stared up at her like she’d forgotten she was there. “If your son is feuding with another omega, that added stress may be enough to become more agitated by your dominance. Either actively suppress your alpha pheromones or, at the very worst, stagger your times so you interact as little as possible.”

“You’re saying you want me to stay away from my own kid?” Dad sounded incredulous.

“Stay away or keep yourself in line. If Katsuki’s expected to control himself, what better way than to set an example yourself?”

Dad pursed her lips and took a step back. She exchanged glances with Mom in some creepy parental silent communication. Finally, she bowed her head. “Alright. If it’ll help Katsuki enter U.A. at his very best… I’ll do it.”

“Never thought I’d see the old hag bow,” Katsuki muttered, and hissed when Dad glared at him from the corner of her eye.

“Honey,” Mom reminded her and she settled back, disgruntled.

So he wasn’t broken. In fact, he was supposed to become less broken over the next year, like his body would magically rearrange itself to stop flinching at goddamn everything. It sounded like crap, but whatever.

Mom and Dad hadn’t a clue how to handle him, and Katsuki didn’t know either. If he could wake up one day with a high fever and slick wetting his pants, why couldn’t he wake up one day with a personality that would let him relax?

Relax. Ha. Katsuki hadn’t relaxed in years.

 

--

 

He thought he’d gotten better control of himself, however. But goddamn Deku kept pushing and pushing

 

--

 

“Put your gym clothes on,” Aizawa Shouta stared down the newly formed Class 1-A, unimpressed. “We’re going outside.”

He’d done his due diligence and carefully went through each student’s file the night before. Toshi had attempted to look over his shoulder, but Shouta promptly tossed him back to his room with a twitch of his capture scarf. He wasn’t the boy’s mother at that moment. He was his teacher.

He spent quite a bit of time watching and rewatching their entrance exam videos to get a feel for their potential. He had to admit that Nezu did a much better job assembling his class this year—after that fiasco three years ago when he’d outright expelled the first round of kids Nezu handed him, the principal had been much more thoughtful in the lineups.

Of course, watching a video recording was different than observing the students in person.

“Is that even allowed?” one of the students complained when Yaoyorozu Momo, an alpha girl who’d got in on recommendations, created a clamp to use for the hand grip test.

“She created it with her quirk,” Shouta said, deadpan. “The point of this is to see how you perform at your very best, with the full use of your quirk behind you.”

By the time the last few tests rolled around, Shouta had enough information to make the call. There were two students that stood out to him: Midoriya and, worringly enough, Hitoshi. The rest of them were already developing a camaraderie that would tie them into a class pack, instinctively testing the waters to see who came out on top.

It would take a few more weeks for the alphas and omegas to find an equilibrium, but that was to be expected. The beta students were almost never any trouble, acting more as a buffer for the other dynamics’ insanity until things settled down. But this year…

One of the problem children was a beta. Midoriya Izuku.

Shouta narrowed his eyes at the boy.

Toshi had been right when he’d said Shouchan overlooked the boy’s flaws. He wasn’t ambitious and inspiring. He was self-destructive.

As the king of disaster people, Shouta had gotten very good at toeing that perfect line between self-destruction and livable workaholic. Good enough he cast out his capture weapon and reeled the beta in before he could even think of shattering his arm.

“E-Eraserhead!” Midoriya squeaked, eyes wide and gaze darting everywhere at once. Eyes, scarf, hair, goggles. Betas, being peacekeepers uninfluenced by pheromone shifts, were naturally better at unbiased analysis. Midoriya had taken that skill to the next level, and it was his only possible saving grace in handling Shouta’s ultimatum.

The goddamn kid broke his finger.

“Better,” he said grudgingly, and glared when the kid had the gall to look proud. “But still completely useless in battle. What happens when you run out of fingers? You’ll take off your shoes and use your toes?”

“If I have to,” the boy stared him dead in the eyes. “But I promise I’ll do my very best to master this quirk of mine while I’m here, sir. I’ll become the best hero.”

“I like that passion!” the second recommendee raised his voice from the back of the crowd, and Shouta cracked his scarf at his head.

Don’t encourage him,” Shouta snapped, and the alpha had the decency to look embarrassed. Inasa Yoarashi. An incredible athlete with excellent control over his quirk. His inability to filter his honest, powerful emotions would be his greatest obstacle these next few weeks. Shouta turned his glare to the rest of the crowd. “Everyone stop gawking and let’s continue. We don’t have all day. ”

At the end of their assessment, Shouta cast a look at the three students at the bottom of the scoreboard. Two of them he needed to observe further, but one of them was within his reach.

“You could have scored much better if you’d used your quirk,” Shouta said flatly. He’d taken his son aside while the remaining students filed back to the locker room to change. “Heroes have to give it their all on the battlefield. Half-assing things isn’t an option.”

“So you wanted me to brainwash my classmates on the first day of class?” Toshi hunched over, hands in his pockets. His expression remained as troubled and frustrated as the moment he saw his name ranked eighteenth on the board. “Sure, that’s going to make me friends.”

“You’re not here to make friends.”

“Look, I know I didn’t do well, okay?” Toshi snapped, so frustrated a tinge of alpha voice bled into his tone. Shouta curled his lip without thinking and watched his son visibly rein himself in. In a more passive voice, he continued, “The others are going to start wondering why you took me aside instead of humiliating me in front of the class like you did with Midoriya. I’m going home.”

Later, head down at his desk ignoring a worried Hizashi—“What do mean Toshi already went home? Wasn’t he going to catch dinner with us after we packed up for the day? This is family time, Shouta! Family time!”—Shouta mused over his findings.

He was already familiar with Toshi’s and Shouchan’s problem areas: the former still hadn’t shrugged off the stigma of his quirk, and the latter continued to rely too heavily on his ice. Both an indirect result of their experiences at school, where even Hizashi’s influence couldn’t stop the teachers from their prejudices and preconceptions. Shouta wanted to go back in time and shake them for hurting his boy's psyche.

“Hey, hey, you got a better look at Bakugou, right? Tell me honestly, you think there’s anything between him and Toshi? The boy’s an omega, isn’t he?” Hizashi's whining had melted into gossip. Shouta turned his head without lifting it from the table and gave his mate his best dead-man stare.

“There is absolutely nothing.”

“Are you sure?”

“Hizashi, I am their teacher. And yes, I’m sure. That wasn’t the point of today’s observation anyway and you know it.”

The beta tapped his chin thoughtfully. “Yeah, yeah, I know you were playing the expulsion game again. What did Toshi say about those two… something about Midoriya being reckless but stubborn and Bakugou being a grumpier version of you?”

“Not a grumpier version of me. He just has the same problem with his hormone levels as I did,” Shouta furrowed his brow, considering. “The boy’s talented with his quirk and has sharp instincts for someone who’s self taught. But his temper plus his strong omega instincts can lead to disaster if provoked the wrong way.”

“So… like you, but aggressive rather than cold-shoulder-y.”

“It’s the worse around Midoriya. They’re childhood friends, but clearly Midoriya presenting as a beta set something off. There’s a sourness there that needs to be handled delicately.” Shouta finally peeled himself from the desk and blinked through the resulting curtain of hair. “All Might’s planning to take the students through combat training tomorrow. I’ll need to write him a note about keeping certain match-ups off the table. The idiot probably doesn’t even realize how omega or beta dynamics work outside of rescuing them from the rubble.”

“Hey, he’s been training up on teaching this past year!” Hizashi, ever the optimist, helped pull Shouta’s hair back. The omega patiently allowed him to tuck it behind his ear and grant him a mega-watt grin. “I’m sure he’ll be able to read the mood, yeah? They’ll be fine.”

 

--

 

Except All Might apparently never stopped by his desk before class, and Shouta.

Shouta wanted to punch his perfect face in.

 

--

 

“Izuku,” Yuki—Todo—Icyhot pushed past a stunned Katsuki and dropped to his knees by Deku’s mangled side. He immediately iced over the worst of the shattered arm, an arm Katsuki hadn’t even touched in their battle because—

Deku had done that to himself.

"Bakugou?" a familiar voice asked.

“Why,” he managed, and then somehow found himself sitting in a nurse’s chair. He blinked rapidly, disoriented but not dumb. Yamada sat next to him. He must’ve brainwashed him, then, because Katsuki sure as hell couldn’t have walked out of that ruined building alone.

His hand was shaking. It had been—he’d felt an undercurrent of unease since stepping into his new classroom yesterday and spotting two alphas laughing in the corner. The larger one had bounded over in greeting and stuck out a large hand. He was far too close. “I am Inasa Yoarashi! It is very nice to meet you! Say, your face looks familiar. Were you the boy involved with that sludge—”

“Don't talk to me!” Katsuki had whirled around and threw a blast at the alpha’s face, like he hadn't just promised his parents to keep himself together. And then there were all these new classmates, new scents, unfamiliar alphas that incited a panicked feeling in his chest, and this was all wrong. He was here in U.A. to be a hero, goddammit. Who cared about all these extras.

But that strange itch under his skin continued to build and build as the day progressed. And then today… he lost to Deku.

He lost.  Just the sight of the boy on the ground had turned unease into panic, and panic into paralysis. He couldn’t move. He couldn’t think.

He couldn’t even remember half the things he’d screamed just ten minutes ago while chasing Deku down the hall. His temper had been spiraling since yesterday. Caught between pride and humiliation, triumph and despair, knowing he wasn’t the best in his head but not his heart and it was tearing him apart. He was exhausted and angry and couldn’t figure out where he fit in their four-man group, much less how he’d carve a place for himself in the class overall.

It was all too much.

“You should have stopped the fight long before it came to this,” Icyhot said, voice cold and harsh and loud. Icyhot rarely raised his voice but he was doing it now. With All Might. “Do you really think the best way to teach Izuku is to hurt him? If you’d let me into the arena sooner, I could have frozen them both in their tracks. And now he’s in the hospital for like the third time since the entrance exam. I don’t care if you’re the Symbol of Peace! You’re indestructible but Izuku isn’t!”

“Shouchan’s really going off,” Yamada murmured, hands stuffed in his pockets. He was faintly extending his alpha presence, the kind he used whenever Katsuki or Icyhot started going off the rails. He was one of the few alphas Katsuki could stand being settled by, and Katsuki hated it.

“Bakugou.” The door to the nurse’s office slammed open. Yamada’s eyes widened. Aizawa Shouta, Class 1-A’s homeroom teacher and Yamada’s mother, stood before them with a trademark I-Can-Be-Thinking-Anything face Yamada liked to pull whenever Deku went on a spiraling rant. “Conference room. Now.”

“Mom—” Yamada tried to keep Katsuki seated, hand on his shoulder and alpha presence still attempting to settle him.

“I don’t need you protecting me, Sleepy Face,” Katsuki snapped, feigning bravado even when everyone in this goddamn room had seen him fall apart. He shook off Yamada’s hand and rose to his feet. “Let’s go, Teach. I can take it.”

 

--

 

“Mom’s pretty grumpy too,” Yamada had once told him, unwarranted and creepy as ever. They'd been fourteen and still fresh-faced. They hadn't gone their separate ways to train just yet.

Katsuki ignored him and slumped further against the wall. They were waiting for Deku and Yukimura to pick a goddamn ice cream flavor so they could get going. Katsuki always ordered spicy mango. Yamada always ordered birthday cake. Deku and Yukimura were fucking saps who wanted to “try every flavor of the menu” and spent way too long deciding what flavor of the week to test next.

“He also took those pills as a kid. He’d face similar issues as you. Just… opposite, I guess.”

Katsuki couldn’t help himself. Yamada always liked to fucking poke him until he snapped. “What the fuck does that mean?”

“Mom doesn’t really like alphas. He doesn’t like being controlled.”

I don’t like being controlled!”

“No, you don’t like inferior jerks who try and use their alpha hormones to push you down,” Yamada said like he was talking about the weather. “You want an alpha strong enough to keep you grounded and secure enough to let you be as you are. I mean, pigs would sooner fly, but you can always pray, I guess.”

“If you don’t shut up in the next three seconds, I will smash this cone into your face,” Katsuki gritted out. His cheeks were far too warm under Yamada’s lazy gaze. The alpha boy had never backed down from Katsuki’s tantrums, nor had he ever used his dynamic to force him to his knees. But he was an annoying ass who failed completely at the “grounded” part of his own theory, and so that route was out.

Besides, his purple hair looked stupid.

“Set clear boundaries,” Yamada yawned. “Stereotypes are awful but a part of life. Make it clear to those around you what you can and can’t accept, ‘cause otherwise they’ll try and treat you like Shouchan over there. It’s good for your temper and their wellbeing, so it’s kind of a win-win, yeah?”

The two idiots had finally settled on their flavors, thank god. The only reason Katsuki was here wasting time with creepy Sleepy Face was because Icyhot had promised him a spar at the beach. With their quirks.

“Yamada,” he said calmly once he caught sight of Deku and Perfect Princess wandering over.

“Don’t,” Yamada said, but didn’t move away when Katsuki whirled around and smashed the remains of his spicy mango ice cream onto his face.

Kacchan!” Deku shouted, mortified. Like Yamada didn’t deserve every inch of orange ice cream dripping its way down his chin. “Oh my god, Yamada! Are you okay?”

“Icyhot!” Katsuki barked, stomping over and poking Yukimura in the chest. “Beach. Now!”

“I need to finish my ice cream,” the other omega said, blank-faced.

“I don’t give a fuck about your ice cream!”

“If you destroy this ice cream, I’ll have to go back in line and get another one. And then it’ll take even longer for us to get to the beach. So maybe you should let me go.” And before Katsuki could growl, ice sprouted from the point where his finger met t-shirt and pushed him back onto his ass.

“Yuki!” Deku’s voice grew even more hysterical.

“You want to die?” Katsuki roared, getting to his feet.

“No,” and occasionally Yukimura would break out that icy stare, the same one he used the first time he’d put Katsuki down. Just feeling its weight on his face had Katsuki’s hackles rising. “I want to eat my ice cream.”

They stared each other down. Katsuki didn’t mind. As long as he got to fight, they could throw down right here and now if Icyhot was up for it.

“We can eat ice cream on the way to the beach,” Yamada, of all people, intervened before the other ice cream patrons could call the police. He wiped off the glob of ice cream on his forehead with his hand and frowned at the spattering of spicy mango ruining his birthday cake. “You eat it fast enough that you’ll be done by the time we get there.”

Yukimura’s face was completely unreadable. But Yamada must have read something in that creepy stare of his, because he walked over to Katsuki and yanked him up by the back of his shirt.

“Hands off!” Katsuki growled, but Yamada just let go and walked over to Yukimura’s side. Like Katsuki… like Katsuki was nothing.

Fury and shame warred inside his chest until he felt like he was about to explode. He tried to clench his fists but found his tendons locked. Little bursts danced down his fingers.

“Kacchan,” and a plastic bottle was being shoved into his hands. It took a second to process its existence, but when he did he immediately downed it in one long swig. His ragged breaths burned like steam. “You haven’t lost your temper like that in a while. What did Yamada say to you?”

“None of your fucking business, Deku,” Katsuki hissed, wiping his mouth and shoving the bottle back. “Go away and hang out with your perfect princess, why don’t you.”

“We already talked a lot when we were waiting in line,” Deku smiled fondly. Ugh. “Besides, Yamada’s helping him cool off. He isn’t usually so rude, but I guess you set him off too? Is this an omega thing?”

“Shut up,” Katsuki threw the empty bottle at Deku’s head. It bounced off his curly hair. “Icyhot better be ready for me to throw him into hell later. Let’s see him enjoy his ice cream when it melts.”

“Kacchan, no,” Deku sighed, but didn’t protest when Katsuki ignored him and stomped after the other two boys.

Kacchan did not, in fact, throw Yukimura into hell. He did succeed in tossing him into the ocean, however, and seeing the bedraggled mop of hair in the water had tasted like victory.

 

--

 

The conference room was tiny. It felt surreal to be sitting face-to-face with a man responsible for his hero career on his second day of school. He slumped into his chair and glowered up at the older omega, lips curling.

“To be honest, I’ve already heard a lot about you from my son,” Aizawa said, voice as unreadable as his face. “He seemed to think we had enough in common that he could help you. Like trying to calm you down after your panic attack—it worked when the same thing from most other alphas would have sent you into a rage.”

“So he’s got Mommy issues and projects his problems onto me,” Katsuki bit out. “How the hell is that my problem?”

“Bakugou,” Aizawa’s voice took on a serious edge. “You went into a full-on omega break today.”

Katsuki’s throat closed up. Shame and anger coursed through him in equal measure until his arms felt like they were burning the uniform off of him from the inside out.

“Do you remember what happened?”

“No,” he said shortly. There wasn’t a point explaining himself.

“Have you thought about what would happen if you experienced a similar break in the middle of a villain attack?” Aizawa was just as much of a meddling bastard as Yamada. “How can you expect to become a hero if simple stressors can still set you off?”

“I take my meds,” he snapped. “And the specialist says there’s nothing more she can do. If you’re trying to say I should quit ‘cause I’m an omega—”

“I’m saying you need to find a way to manage yourself,” Aizawa interrupted him. “Instincts aren’t borne out of nothing. Volatile omegas all have reasons for their outbursts, and you are no exception.”

“What, you gonna say I need an alpha to keep me in line?”

“That’s one option,” Aizawa said. Katsuki stared at him. “The root issue isn’t finding an alpha; it’s forging a bond with someone who can take responsibility for you. It’s a pack thing usually formed between you and your parents, but friends work too. Unless your parents are well-meaning but still unable to adjust their own behavior to help you, and your childhood friend presents as a beta unable to give you the pheromone anchor you need. For an omega, there’s no feeling worse than not knowing where you belong. Does any of this ring a bell?

Katsuki wanted to yell at him. To burst out into a teenage you-don’t-know-me rant, and he might have done so if the man sitting before him wasn’t being completely honest. Adults were so rarely honest with him that he was speechless.

“I’m going to be frank,” Aizawa said. “Omega breaks are a serious issue that, if unfixable, has led to heroes transferring into other departments before. And while the ‘traditional’ solution is to find you an alpha as soon as possible, you are fifteen. Expecting you to find an alpha at your age is absurd.”

Katsuki twitched.

“Instead, we will address this packless fear that’s acting as your biggest stressor. I’m sure you’re aware that each U.A. class eventually settles into a class pack that will exist for the next three years. Do you know who the head of that pack is?”

Katsuki narrowed his eyes: “You.”

“Me,” Aizawa grinned, wide and toothy, and oh. It was far scarier on his face than on Yamada’s. “You are part of my pack, Bakugou Katsuki. That means you’re one of my surrogate puppies. I don’t care what dynamic you are. I don’t care how well you fit your stereotypes or what you do in your free time. I don’t need to put you down to retain control over the pack. You’re all my surrogate children and I am the pack leader responsible for raising you from helpless pups to mighty wolves. Let me worry about whatever you can’t and focus on your hero work. If you ever feel out of control, I’ll put you in line. You got that, baby omega?”

And suddenly, the man’s presence was everywhere. It wasn’t sweet and mellow like his mother’s or steady and headstrong like Icyhot’s. It was an assured, independent thing that refused to bow down to anyone. And it belonged to an omega older and more experienced than Katsuki’s own presence, enough so that Katsuki suddenly felt… settled. Really settled.

Like the beast inside his chest had acquiesced, however unwillingly, and that hadn’t happened to him. Ever. It was so strange Katsuki jerked back in his chair.

They sat in awkward silence until Katsuki got himself under control.

“Whatever,” he finally mumbled, voice far gruffer than he’d liked. He’d never… been in a clearly-defined pack before. Just strange half-relationships and frustrated family miscommunication. It didn’t mean he’d suddenly start playing nice. But it already felt a bit easier to relax in Aizawa’s presence.

“Oh,” he remembered. “Am I in trouble?”

Aizawa snorted. “Not this time, since I've taken responsibility. I have to warn you, though. Your classmates watching the fight may not understand how little control you had over your actions.”

“So they all think I’m a psychotic jerk,” Katsuki rolled his eyes. “That’s nothing new. I’m not here to making fucking friends. I’m here to prove I’m the best hero there is.”

“Hm,” Aizawa said. He didn’t say anything but they could both hear Deku’s declaration yesterday. I’ll become the best hero!

Fucking Deku always stealing his lines.

He better pull through so Katsuki can shake him for playing out every nightmare five-year old Kacchan had when he’d realized what it meant for Deku not to have a quirk. Except it wasn’t a villain Kacchan needed to grow stronger to defeat. It was Deku himself, and if that wasn’t the kicker.

What a goddamn reckless dumbass.

 

--

 

U.A. students clearly had a high tolerance for insanity, because conversation continued on as normal.

“So, I have to ask,” Electric Boy pushed himself right up to Yamada’s desk like they were good buddies. Yamada gave him his trademark deadpan stare, which didn’t do shit to hide his hesitance from Katsuki’s eye. It was stupid. The boy had brainwashed Katsuki in front of the entire class just to get him to Recovery Girl’s office; any hope of keeping it a secret was out. Seeing Yamada’s usual confidence falter for being scared of others made Katsuki want to smack him.

“You’re Yamada, right?”

“Yeah?”

“And Present Mic’s name is Yamada Hizashi, right? I mean, I know his kid might be attending U.A. under a different name and you look totally different, but I wanted to get the ‘are you Mini Mic’ thing out of the way—”

“Yes,” Yamada said.

“—just so it’s not… what?”

“Yes,” Yamada repeated, tilting his head. “But if you call me Mini Mic again I’ll brainwash you into licking the floor.”

“Wait, for real? Oh my god—y’know I used to listen to the Double Mic specials every year growing up? It was mad cool hearing someone my age speak on a hero’s radio show!”

Yamada looked dumbfounded that anyone could brush off brainwashing in favor of fanboying over some show. Katsuki clicked his tongue and turned back to slump against his desk. Yamada was going to be fine. He was, despite his flaws, an even-tempered alpha that wouldn’t, say... go full psycho and blast down a hallway with a gauntlet.

“Heeey listeners!” Present Mic burst through the door with a trademark yell. The students scrambled back to their seats, though Electric Boy gave Yamada a side glance. The purple-haired student slumped lower in his chair. “Y’all ready to get your English skills flowing? Good! Oh, and just to get it out of the way…” Present Mic threw up his hands. “Congrats on getting into U.A., Mini Mic! Daddy’s so proud of you!”

Dad,” Yamada hissed.

“Definitely Mini Mic then,” Electric Boy whispered to Tail Boy, “Though maybe he takes after his mom?”

“They both have voice quirks,” Deku blurted out without asking. “And if you think about it…”

“Hey, hey, hey, I’ve got the mic here!” Present Mic shouted, causing everyone to flinch. “Now, I’m not singling Mini out just for kicks. His English comprehension is pretty damn good, so from this point on… he will be acting as my class assistant this year! Yeaaah!”

“If I’m going to be a teaching assistant, I better be paid," Yamada cut him off. "How much is U.A. going to give me per hour?”

“I don't know! Talk to me after class!” Present Mic smiled the more his son frowned. He then addressed the class as a whole. “Regardless, if you ever have questions about the coursework, feel free to ask my son if I’m not available! Got it? Let’s get the lesson started!”

Yamada disappeared out the door after a short break was called between English and the next class. To hammer out the details of his impromptu side job or to hide in the bathroom from embarrassment, Katsuki wasn’t sure. Icyhot didn’t look too worried, though, so it was probably the former.

“Hey Kacchan,” Deku kicked his foot from behind. Kacchan growled in warning. No foot this time, just annoying whispering. “Kacchan.”

What?

“I need you to look at this and tell me if I’m on the right track,” and Deku was shoving yet another notebook at him, rambling on even when Katsuki tried to unsuccessfully shove it back. “It’s something Mr. Aizawa actually suggested. I’m a beta so my sense of dynamics isn’t as good as an alpha or omega. Good for high stress situations, bad for picking up the intricacies of a pack. So I was puzzling out how our class is shaping up. We have seven alphas, seven omegas and six betas. It’s a pretty even split. Of course, each dynamic works well with different types of hero work, so it makes sense for U.A. to want to produce a variety to prevent competition amongst its alumni—“

“Is he always like that?” an unfamiliar voice said, far too close. Katsuki jumped. “Y’know, I never met a beta with such drive.”

It was Crappy Dye Job, standing far too close behind him with his hands in his pockets. The guy's only notable quality before this was how badly his roots were in need of repair, and Katsuki had written him off as another dumb alpha.

A dumb alpha that had entered his space without his instincts going haywire as usual, and the lack of response from his inner omega had Katsuki... unnerved.  He didn't like it.

“Back off,” Katsuki bit out, voice low.

The idiot blinked. “Huh?”

Back off!” Katsuki's accompanying blast was larger than he would've normally used against errant alphas. The explosion met rock-like skin, however, and left an infuriatingly unfazed Crappy Dye Job still too close to him.

“Hey, man! What was that for?”

Katsuki gave up his blasts in favor of just shoving the guy back. “For being in my fucking space!"

"Huh? Oh! Oh my god, I’m so sorry, dude!” Crappy Dye Job took a few more steps back, hands raised. “I’m, uh, from a touchy-feely family so I keep forgetting not everyone’s as comfortable with it? I was just trying to make conversation, not piss you off.”

“Kirishima!” Deku finally found his voice. “Are you alright?”

“It’s fine! My quirk can withstand anything,” and Crappy Dye Job hardened a section of his forearm a second time to demonstrate. “I just wanted to say hi, you know? We're all gonna be pack for the next three years, we might as well get to know one another! Also... I wanted to ask something?”

“If it’s about Yamada, he’s definitely Present Mic’s son,” Deku immediately said.

“Uh… no, I wanted to ask about Todoroki, actually,” Crappy Dye Job finally stopped his stupid hovering and pulled up a chair between their desks. “Why do you call him ‘Yuki?’ Did you guys know each other before U.A. too?”

“Ah!” Deku actually flushed, the transparent sap. “Well—yes, Yuki moved to Mustafu when we were twelve. We just ran into each other and became friends, you know? Not because I knew who he was beforehand! I mean, pretty much no one knew until the Hero Daily fiasco! I did, but that was because I saw Endeavor at their house once. And Yuki’s Yuki because—uh—”

“Because he only became Todoroki a few months ago,” Katsuki interrupted because the rambling had gone from entertaining to painful. “And Deku’s a dumbass who gives people cute nicknames for kicks.”

“I do not! At least I remember their names!”

“Guys, Mr. Aizawa’s coming,” Tentacle Arms suddenly said, saving Deku from another round of word vomit as everyone scrambled for their seats. Indeed, the door swung open and Aizawa wandered in. Yamada trailed behind him looking particularly unhappy.

“So they’re not paying you,” Icyhot leaned across the aisle to whisper to his friend once Aizawa’s back was turned.

“Dad says it’s my classwork, like anyone with half a brain wouldn’t see it as unpaid child labor,” Yamada grumbled back. “I’m writing to Child services.”

“Are you sure you’re Present Mic’s kid?” Electric Boy piped up far too loud, and Aizawa whirled on them with the full force of his quirk.

There was no more whispering after that.

 

--

 

“We’re going a field trip tomorrow,” Aizawa declared one day. “Everyone should arrive half an hour early to account for travel time. If this is a problem, let me know so I can make arrangements. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s actually teach something. I hope everyone finished the worksheets from yesterday because I’ll be collecting them now…”

“A field trip?” Deku was mumbling to himself. “Must be on campus if it’s only a thirty minute drive…”

Katsuki didn’t bother listening in on the rest of his rambling. It was just a goddamn field trip. 

Chapter Text

Things could never be easy, could they?

 

--

 

“Fuck!” Katsuki, disoriented and pissed and terrified out of his mind—never admit that out loud, keep down that omega panic—moved on instinct. It wasn’t the first time he’d encountered a villain and it was sure as hell not going to be the last, but feeling the hot breath of these assholes trying to take him and Kirishima down disgusted him to the core.

“Bakugou!” Kirishima seemed to be better at combat than dyeing his hair; he easily moved into defending Katsuki’s six. That hardened skin let him keep close despite the blasts, and fuck, these villains weren’t even good.

“You go back and hide with the others if you want,” he snarled once the bottomfeeders were knocked out and smoking beneath them. He slapped the alpha’s hand away, too hyperfocused on the sound of Aizawa fighting the villains back at the center. “I’m going to blow that creepy hand villain to hell.”

“Hey, I like that manly spirit!” Kirishima surprised him by agreeing. He pounded his fists together and grinned his signature razor-tooth smile. “I’ll support you, man. Let’s go!”

“I don’t need your help!” Katsuki snarled out of habit, but he didn’t try and shake him when he followed him out of the cityscape. Anyone else would’ve been cannon fodder, but Kirishima was literally indestructible. The fighting sounds stopped abruptly and—

 

--

 

“No!” the scream tore its way out of Toshi’s throat when the hand-villain turned his mother’s elbow into dust. Goddammit, why had he decided against including his capture scarf in his costume? Even with his weak control, he could’ve done more than he was doing now.

It was too much like Eraserhead’s, he’d worried. Like Mom’s desire for privacy was worth more than his life.

“Oh? Some students escaped the traps we laid out, huh?” The villain turned towards the three of them hiding behind the rock formation. “Nomu, take care of Eraserhead. I’ll deal with the brats.”

“Get the hell out of here!” Mom managed, clearly pissed, before the hulking beast smashed his head into the ground with a sickening crack.

“Why are you doing this?” Toshi yelled out, heart beating in his chest, because the villain was surprisingly quick with all those hands in the way and he was reaching for Asui’s face.

“Because I want—”

Toshi flinched when the villain’s smile went slack. His hand was centimeters from Asui’s face, had almost done what it did to Mom’s raw, bone-white elbow, if he hadn’t just gained control over the man’s twisted mind. Too close. It had been too goddamn close and Mom was bleeding all over the floor and there were still villains off fighting his classmates.

“He’s got too much back up. If any of those other villains shake him or try and attack me, my control over him will snap. So you need to hurry,” he told Midoriya in a shaky voice, eyes trained on the dull red pupils of his current puppet. “You two need to go save M—Mr. Aizawa. I'll stay here and keep him under control.”

Asui finally spoke. “Midoriya, can you distract Nomu while I grab him? Or better yet, can Yamada control him too?”

“He hasn’t spoken the entire time we’ve been here,” and god, holding control over this villain felt like keeping a cardboard box closed around a suspiciously quiet tiger. “I don’t know if I’ll be able to trick him into falling under my spell, too.”

“I’ll fire off a Smash,” Midoriya pulled back an arm and began charging up. “Asui, get ready!”

The Nomu turned towards Midoriya as he sprinted right at him, and—

 

--

 

Shouto jumped back as blue fire suddenly swallowed up the ice floor he’d created to hold the villains in place. He raised up several ice walls behind him as he ran, trying to put as much distance between him and the fire villain as he could.

“Shouto,” a familiar voice stopped Shouto dead in his tracks. The crunching of footsteps, a sizzling crack, and a flame-covered hand emerged from the ice wall like out of some nightmare.

It was followed by a familiar scarred wrist.

“Touya?” Shouto said weakly. Because his oldest brother was supposed to be backpacking his way through Hokkaido right now, not here in a den of villains, so—

 

--

 

“Shigaraki Tomura!” the warp villain’s ghostly voice called out from behind Izuku. The beta was busy staring at his unharmed fist pressed solidly against unharmed black flesh. He’d felt One for All coursing through him. He’d executed that smash perfectly, and yet—

Warp villain. Yamada’s quirk failed if he loses concentration, and warps were by nature startling.

“Yamada!” Izuku whirled around, warning at the tip of his tongue. But he was too late.

The alpha fell into a portal that’d opened up under his feet with a cut-off gasp, and the hand villain snapped back to alertness.

“Goddamn brat!” he screeched at once, flinging his arms out in utter, unbridled rage. The hairs on the back of Izuku’s neck stood up. He’d noticed it when this man had attacked Asui earlier.

This villain was a beta like him.

Which meant that rage had no instincts fueling it. It was as pure an anger as it could get and it was terrifying.

“Thinks he can just play main character whenever the hell he wants? Bring him back, Kurogiri! Let’s show him what happens when he messes with a real player!”

“We cannot waste time on such trivialities. The student with the wind quirk has escaped and has no doubt called for backup. I suggest—”

“You let one escape?” and even the warp villain shrank back at the acid in his voice. “You ruined our game, Kurogiri! We’re going to have to redo it all now!”

“Perhaps you can kill these students to cheer you up,” the other villain suggested, and the hand villain—Shigaraki, Kurogiri had called him—just threw him a look.

“What do you think I’ve been doing?”

And then he was in front of Izuku, hands outstretched.

Smash! One arm down. The pain was excruciating but he had to move, because if he didn’t move he would die. Shigaraki was closing in once more, red eyes manic.

Yuki or Kacchan would have known what to do. Their instincts were unrivaled, their ability to execute their plans unquestionable. Izuku’s mind was still limited by his body, however, so useless he—

 

--

 

I am here!”

 

--

 

Shouto couldn’t find Midoriya.

It was déjà vu in the very worst way, with far higher stakes than failing some entrance exam. His inner omega loathed it. Raged at it. He’d never understood Bakugou’s tantrums until now and he already hated it. How could the boy live like this?

“That idiot broke his fucking limbs again,” Bakugou snorted, lips twisted in a sneer. His hands were trembling, however, and not just from quirk exhaustion. “They’re probably scolding him before getting Recovery Girl to do basic first aid. Stop worrying. I can hear it all the way from over here.”

Shouto was tempted to say it was his smell that gave it away, not his soundless concern. But bringing up omega pheromones when Bakugou was pumping out waves of distress was probably not a good idea.

Toshi would have been able to calm them both down. He’d be the voice of reason even if he had to dress his words in five layers of sass, because unlike most alphas he was rarely affected by their pheromones. But Toshi... Shouto swallowed.

Any thought of speaking about Touya had fled when he'd seen Eraserhead being carried away. Blood dripped down his wet jumpsuit; bone peeked out from a mangled elbow. They’d placed his stretcher in a vehicle waiting outside, and Toshi was right there crouched beside him with his face pressed into his scarf. The other students were far enough away to allow Toshi his honest reaction, and it was heartbreaking.

“Yuki?” a faint voice called out. Shouto immediately whirled around, heart-pounding, and caught sight of another stretcher being carried out of the building. He ran over and pushed the irritated medical robots aside so he could lock eyes with the dumbest beta in existence.

“You’re so dumb,” he hissed at the boy. Midoriya just grinned at him, clearly out of it. “You didn’t stand a chance against that thing with it beating All Might. Do you want a heroic death that badly?”

“Do you have a crush on me, Yuki?” came out of the beta’s mouth instead of something appropriate, like an apology.

Shouto stared.

“Kacchan said you had a crush,” Midoriya mused, eyes beginning to flutter closed. “But that’s impossible, right? You’re so amazing, Yuki. Got everything anyone needs. I’m just some plain-faced beta… a useless Deku…”

“Don’t call yourself that,” Shouto broke out of his trance to grab Midoriya’s arm. The boy winced in pain and Shouto immediately let go. In a gentler voice, he said, “And you’re not some plain-faced beta. You’re smart and determined and you’ve got a hero’s heart. Do you know how important that is? You earned your place here like the rest of us, Izuku. So stop trying to kill yourself to prove it.”

“Yuki…” and Midoriya made a startled noise when Shouto pressed his face into Midoriya’s ripped-up uniform. Beta scents were weaker, fainter, but that was exactly what he needed. A breath of fresh air. Something other than the intense alpha and omega distress pheromones hanging over their classmates like a pungent cloud.

“Human,” one of the robots poked Shouto’s arm. “We need to escort this other human for maintenance. Please desist your groping and return to your class at once.”

“No,” Shouto mumbled into Midoriya’s chest.

“If you do not leave of your own accord, we are authorized to use force.”

“Yuki, I’ll be okay,” Midoriya’s chest rumbled with a small laugh. “I’m more scared of Recovery Girl yelling at me, to be honest. Go… go help Kacchan, okay? Toshi and Mr. Aizawa can’t right now, and they’re usually the ones who handle him. He must be so scared…”

“Izuku.”

“I’ve got a crush on you too,” Midoriya blurted out, and Shouto suddenly wanted to yank the stretcher back from the robots with his own two hands. But they were already beginning to wheel him away, Midoriya’s rambling growing fainter as the distance increased. “In case you were wondering. Only fair ‘cause Kacchan outed you, unless he was lying. In which case…”

“Izuku!” Shouto’s heart couldn’t take this right now. It just couldn’t.

 

--

 

Classes were canceled. News regarding the injured were scarce.

Shouto sat in his father’s office and looked down at the city below, so high up the buildings were like some elaborate playset beneath his feet.

“Shouto,” Endeavor’s voice alerted him before the man himself entered the room. “You did well holding your own against the villains at the USJ. The circumstances were… unfortunate, but the experience will put you above the other hero class immediately.”

“Mr. Aizawa might not be able to see again,” Shouto said flatly, refusing to turn around. “Toshi won’t answer my texts. Midoriya got beat up five ways to Sunday.”

“Midoriya?”

“No one you know,” Shouto corrected himself quickly. He glanced over his shoulder. Endeavor stood directly behind him, arms crossed and flames twisting eerily around him. “I came in and told you what I could about the incident like you asked. Can I go home now?”

Endeavor only frowned.

Tired of playing whatever game this was, Shouto tore himself from the glass and marched past his father’s bulky side. A hand landed on his shoulder.

“Shouto,” Endeavor’s voice was… dark. Unreadable. “Are you sure you told me everything?”

Blue fire blinding his sight, a scarred sliver of wrist as damning as a DNA test.

“Yes,” Shouto lied, and shrugged the hand away.

The first thing he did when he came home was hide himself in the bathroom.

“Shouto?” Fuyumi called out, worried, when she returned an hour later. She’d been beside herself when he’d first stumbled home just hours after the attack, fussing over him and smothering him in her crisp beta scent. She hadn't wanted him to head over to Dad's, but Shouto knew better than to put the man off for too long. “Are you here?”

“Fuyumi,” he called out from the tub, knees tucked to his chest. Fuyumi opened the door to the bathroom and furrowed her brows at the sight of him. “Fuyumi, have you heard from Touya in a while?”

“Touya?” she startled. “You know he’s been traveling around since graduating high school. Why? Is—is he in trouble?”

Shouto stared blankly at the porcelain rim of the tub.

More than ten years ago, he’d been in a tub eerily like this one. Touya had tried to save him, he remembered. He’d broken his back and spent an entire month in the hospital. Natsuo wouldn’t stop crying.

“No,” he mumbled, and Fuyumi let out a worried noise.

“I’ll call him, see if he’ll pick up,” she said, wringing her hands. “I mean, he usually doesn’t respond to calls, but it doesn’t hurt to try…

“Sis,” he protested, but she scurried away before he could lie and say ‘nothing’s wrong, it’s fine.’

Mom came home eventually. She peeked in on Shouto in the tub and then backed away, leaving him in peace.

When Shouto’s legs started to cramp so bad he had to grit his teeth, he was finally forced to unfurl himself. He dragged himself to his room, exhausted. He would’ve passed out on the comforter if he hadn’t noticed his phone screen lit with an unread message.

He stared at it. It was from Touya.

 

--

 

He hadn't thought it possible for things to go even more wrong.

“Touya, don’t!” but Shouto couldn’t maneuver his ice around his brother, not with the wall of blue flames licking at their heels, and the screams—

The screams were horrible.

Irrational as it was, he immediately latched onto Touya’s arm and buried his face into his shoulder. He could still see the afterimages of peeling skin, flame-tinged flesh, the agonized eyes of the two villains Touya had been tracking all set aflame.

“C’mon,” the alpha said, grabbing Shouto around the waist and hauling him towards the mouth of the alley. “Goddammit Shouchan, move.”

“I—” and he retched, already regretting pulling his face away from Touya’s jacket. The smell of burnt flesh caused his eyes to water.

“Fucking hell,” Touya muttered, and Shouto suddenly found himself flipped over his brother’s shoulder like a sack of potatoes. He carried them into a nearby building and up the stairwell. The clanging of boots on metal kept Shouto’s mind eerily blank.

When Touya put him down against the wall on the highest floor, Shouto threw up.

“Ice,” Touya tapped his hand. Shouto tried shoving him away, but everything felt weak. “Shouchan, give me some ice.”

With only a little trembling, Shouto managed to drop a chunk of ice into Touya’s palm. He watched as blue fire licked it into a puddle of water, which his brother offered up to his lips.

“Drink,” he said.

Shouto was drinking before he could think. Alpha voice. Touya rarely used it on him, had only really brought it out whenever he’d thrown a tantrum their mother couldn’t get him out of.

“They weren’t supposed to be there,” Touya muttered darkly, turquoise eyes already beginning to search the ground in thought. “The intel said they’d be here in an hour, not now. You weren’t supposed to see that, Shou. Here, give me some more ice.”

Shouto managed to slap his hand away this time. “You killed them, Touya.”

“Before they could hurt you,” his brother snapped back.

“They weren’t going to hurt me!”

“Not now,” Touya’s hand clenched into a fist. “Later. They were planning to go after the apartment next week, so I took care of them.”

“Killing them is taking care of them?”

“Shouto,” and Touya grabbed his wrist, grip tight and warm fingers splayed against his pulse. This close, Shouto had no choice but to stare into his determined eyes. “How do you think we’ve stayed in this apartment for so long?”

Shouto breathed shakily. His mouth still tasted like vomit.

“We spent our entire childhoods moving from place to place ‘cause Dad’s enemies kept finding us,” Touya continued. “No one else is supposed to know we're his kids, not even the media, which means there's a fucking leak in the Hero Network. Even when that villain broke into our bathroom, Endeavor never investigated. This apartment was supposed to another pit stop, but you made a friend. Two friends other than Toshi, I mean. You were so goddamn happy, Shou, like a real kid should be.”

Dread pooled in Shouto’s stomach. “And we didn’t move because…?’

“Because I overheard a villain at a seedy bar bragging about finding Endeavor’s family,” Touya said, voice flat. “So I followed him into an alley and burned him to a crisp.”

Once again, the image of burning flesh flashed across Shouto’s vision. He squeezed his eyes shut and pressed his hands to his head. After a moment, Touya’s arms wrapped around him. It should’ve been horrifying, but his brother’s alpha scent always settled him. Even now.

“No one else is doing anything about the leak, and I'm done running. If I have to track these assholes down myself, so be it. To find a villain, you gotta be a villain.”

“Are… are you a villain?” Shouto whispered.

“To some people? Yeah, I am,” Touya ran a hand through Shouto’s hair. His touch was warm but firm. “But I’m just doing what I have to so you guys can have a normal life. I needed to tell you that, Shouchan. Even if you have to hunt me down one day, you’ll know why I did what I did.”

And before Shouto to pull back and protest, that hand moved from cradling the back of his head to holding him in place as Touya pressed his forearm to Shouto’s throat. He thrashed, breath faltering, and he should’ve used his quirk, fought fire with fire, but—

Haunting screams and skin peeling from outstretched fingers.

He blacked out.

 

--

 

Shouto woke up tucked in his own bed, water at his bedside and his mother and sister making noise in the kitchen.

When he pulled himself out of the covers and crept out into the hallway, he saw Fuyumi carrying a pot of stew to the dining room table.

“Ah, Shouto! You’re awake!” his sister beamed, like he couldn’t see the redness around her eyes. She’d been crying. “Mom bandaged up your throat so it should be fine by the time you go back to school. Sit, sit. You should get some food in you.”

Shouto stared after her back. It was painful watching the jerky, upset movements interrupting her cheery workflow.

“Shouchan,” his mother’s soft voice called out from the kitchen. She was leaning against the wall separating the kitchen from the dining room, her beautiful face tired. She ambled over and brushed his bangs away from his face. Her cool hands were comforting against his flushed skin.

“Mom,” he whispered.

“Shouchan, please,” and his mother dipped her head over him, white hair flowing like a curtain around their faces. Her voice was quiet. Quiet, but not weak. “Don’t tell your father about Touya.”

Shouto felt like something large was lodged in his throat.

“Promise me,” his mother said. Her eyes were very big and very gray.

“I…” he swallowed and barely resisted the urge to scratch at the thin bandage wrapped around his neck. “I promise.”

His mother smiled and kissed his forehead, as if today's events hadn't just pulled the rug out from under his feet.

As if Shouto wasn’t falling.

 

--

 

There was something wrong with Shouchan.

Toshi noticed it far later than he usually did, but his mother had nearly died in front of him. Said mother was also currently winning the award for Worst Patient Ever.

“The doctor said to rest,” Toshi snapped, pressing his shoulders down. Mom was pretty much hurt everywhere, but his shoulders and legs were intact enough he didn’t wince when pushed. “You’re already going back to school in two days. It’s not like an afternoon eating Dad’s soup is going to kill you, right?”

Mom didn’t take the bait. Toshi hadn’t expected him to, not after the first time he’d brainwashed his mother into compliance when he began raising a fuss at the hospital.

“Still won’t talk to you, huh,” Dad said once he stepped out of the bathroom. He looked tired with his damp hair tucked up into a bun and his at-home glasses crooked on his face. “You don’t have to keep looking after him, Toshi. We’re all right.”

He knew they were all right. He’d crawled out of the canopy Warp-Ass had flung him into, panic infused in every limb. He had to get back to the battle, had to stop the villains from finishing Mom off. Mom had been… Mom was…

If Toshi had acted just a tiny bit faster, he could’ve controlled Hand-Jerk before that monster broke Mom’s fucking orbital floor. They’d saved his eye at the hospital, thank god, but if they hadn’t…

Toshi blinked back frustrated tears. “I know, but I have to. I have to… see he’s fine.”

It was probably an alpha thing. The insane urge to hover around and act as a physical protector, to refuse to let pack members too far out of range, to be so incapable of tearing his attention away he couldn’t even check his goddamn phone.

The news channels played coverage of the USJ attack on loop. They were milking the public’s attention for all it was worth: from questioning U.A.’s credibility as a school, to the heroes “uselessness” despite the zero-student death count, to this new League of Villains that dared to try and kill All Might. Mom kept yelling at Dad to turn the damn thing off, but Dad kept turning it back on whenever Mom fell asleep.

“They’re really trying to get the public to lose faith in heroes,” he muttered angrily, fingers tapping show tunes onto his legs. “They’re stirring up fear, getting villains to act out even more— this is why Shouta hates them, they’re so goddamn irresponsible.”

“Then say that on your show,” Toshi yawned. He hadn’t been sleeping, not with how tense he was. His eyebags matched Mom’s to a T. “You’re, like, an influencer, aren’t you?”

“I’m part of the U.A. faculty, and you’re a student. One word and there’ll be cries of biased reporting.”

“Like these idiots aren’t biased?”

More U.A.-centered news. Some talk shows. A few reports of villain attacks sprinkled in for variety, and then Mom woke up and growled at Dad to “Turn that nonsense OFF, Hizashi, I can hear those vultures in my fucking dreams.”

It wasn't until the next day that Toshi realized the Yukimuras hadn’t come over yet. Yukimura Rei used to come by to look after little Toshi while one or both of his parents were in the hospital. Even with Toshi older and no longer at risk of falling out a window, at least one Yukimura usually stopped by if there was a patient parked on the couch.

When he finished picking up some more bentos from the convenience store, Toshi decided to pay Shouto’s complex a visit. No one answered the buzzer at the front, which wasn’t too unusual. He let himself in with a key.

Riding the elevator up like he’d done dozens of time before should have felt comforting in its familiarity. For some reason, it wasn't.

“Hello?” he called out and knocked on the Yukimura’s front door.

After a long moment, there was the click of the lock being turned. The door opened to reveal tired turquoise eyes behind wire-frame glasses.

“Hitoshi,” Fuyumi threw him a wan smile. “What… what are you doing here?”

“Is Shouchan okay?” Toshi took a step forward, but Fuyumi refused to stand aside and let him in. Which was setting off all kind of alarms in his alpha brain, enough so his fingers twitched. If he focused hard enough, he could smell a faint, distressed omega scent coming from the apartment. Like Shouchan was upset and hiding, which was strange.

“Fuyumi—” he tried, and jumped back when the door slammed in his face.

“I’m sorry, Toshi!” Fuyumi’s voice was muffled behind the thick wood. “But… Shouchan’s not feeling well today, okay? You’ll see him tomorrow at school.”

“What the hell,” Toshi banged on the door with his fists. “Fuyumi, let me in! I’ll call Tenya if I have to, don’t think I won’t!”

Silence.

Toshi dropped his hands and laid them flat against the wood instead, his breath harsh. He palmed his pockets and came up empty. Fuck. Shouchan was literally right behind that door, distressed, and Toshi couldn't do anything about it. The Yukimura's door had been reinforced after one too many villain attacks and if Fuyumi wasn't letting him in...

He kicked the door and spent the next few minutes soothing his throbbing foot. Then, he went home.

Toshi spent an entire hour and a half hunting for his phone. He finally fished it out from under one of the cat beds and furrowed his brow at the list of messages from Shouchan.

Sorry about Eraser, Toshi. Call me when you can.

I’m heading out at 8. If I don’t come back call my mom.

Toshi, call me.

I’m serious, I need to talk to you.

The first message was right after the USJ attack, when Toshi had been sitting nervously in the hospital waiting room. The last message was sent sometime last night, a little bit after the Yukimura’s usual dinner time.

Ignoring the dread in his stomach, Toshi managed to dial Shouto’s number with relatively steady hands. If this was all over something as stupid as Shouto whining about Midoriya again, Toshi was going to kick him out a window.

“Shou?” he said when his friend picked up. “I just stopped over by your place and your sister slammed the door in my face. What the hell is going on?”

Absolute silence. Toshi stared at the phone, frowning, and then placed it back to his ear.

“Shouchan?”

“Hitoshi,” Shouto’s voice was very quiet and very hoarse. The hairs on the back of Toshi’s neck rose. “I…” Another awkward silence. Then, “No, never mind.”

“You can’t send me some creepy texts and then just say ‘never mind’. Are you being held hostage by a villain right now? Do I need to tell my dad?”

“No! It’s not like that,” which was a weird turn of phrase, but okay. Shouto continued in a calmer voice: “Have you been watching the news?”

“You mean the twenty-four hour dressing down of U.A.? Dad won’t stop obsessing over it.”

“No, not that. There were some other reports sprinkled in the yesterday’s evening news. Did you see those?”

Toshi’s brain was way too tired for this, but he wracked his brain in the name of friendship anyway. “A few muggings, some thwarted bank heist… someone started a fire in the warehouse district but I think they’re still clearing it out. With the USJ, though, none of the news stations care enough to investigate.”

“The fire,” Shouto’s voice flat like it always did when things became too much. He withdrew like Toshi did, leaving an empty shell of himself. “He started the fire, Toshi.

“What?”

“I saw him at the USJ,” Shouto said, voice going toneless. Blank. “But he’s my brother. I don’t know what to do.”

“Your brother?” Toshi said, and the word seemed to snap Shouto out of whatever daze he’d been in.

“No! Fuck. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said any of that,” and before Toshi could yell at him for dropping something like over the phone in the midst of this crisis—because Shouto only had two brothers and only one of them could use fire—the boy hung up. Of all the goddamn, idiotic things to do—

Toshi tried calling him again. No one answered. A second time. No answer.

He sent angry texts until he fell asleep, unsettled and dreamless with worry. Mom, Dad, Shouto.

Midoriya and Bakugou too, if he was pressed hard enough to tell the truth.

They were going back to school tomorrow and it was both too soon and not soon enough.

 

--

 

Shouto woke up to sounds of arguing. Angry whispers and tense voices but no shouting, which wasn’t a surprise. The Yukimuras weren’t a particularly shouty family, especially not Fuyumi.

“I don’t know where he is. He just dropped Shouto off and left. He could be on a train to Kyoto for all I know. Don’t you heroes have more important things to be investigating? Shouto nearly died at the USJ the other day! What are you doing about that?”

“Fuyumi,” and that was Iida Tenya. There was no mistaking his lecturing tone. “Two people are dead. We have reason to believe your brother has been associating with villains for a while now. If word gets out that Endeavor’s son—”

“No one even knows Endeavor’s got more children! And even if they do, I’m not turning Touya over to save Dad’s image. Mom didn’t do it when we were seven, I’m sure as hell not going to do it now!”

“We just want to know where he is, Fuyumi. We're just going to talk to him.”

Shouto crept out of his room and quietly locked himself in the bathroom. Wash his face, brush his teeth. Stare at his haunted eyes and scrubbed his face a second time, like that would wash away the imaginary blood he could still feel clinging to his skin.

By the time Shouto finished, Tenya was gone.

“You sure you’re good to go to school, Shouchan?” Fuyumi reached out and touched his throat. The bruise had faded to pretty much nothing, and his collar would hide the rest. “I can call you in sick…”

“Sis,” he said. “I’m fine. A hero will have to face this kind of thing all the time.”

Fuyumi’s lips trembled.

She was a soft soul, his sister. While she wasn’t exactly a pushover, she preferred peace over strife. She’d spent her entire life watching Touya’s pain, recovery, and righteous anger; had reeled him in until they graduated high school and Fuyumi had decided to attend college and Touya… hadn’t.

Shouta scrolled through the dozens of increasingly angry text messages from Hitoshi, everything ranging from What did scarface do to you and Two people DIED in that fire what the fuck and I’m going to brainwash you into staying put so don’t you run away from me.

From anyone else, the last text would’ve been a threat. But Toshi regularly threatened to brainwash Shouto, and had done so a few times when they were younger and Shouto’s constant avoidance would drag their fights on for weeks. Forcing him to sit frozen in place while Toshi explained his side had been a tactic Shouto hated. Mostly because it worked. His friend was very good at inciting a reaction, and by the time the shouting stopped the fight would be over.

“Shouchan,” Tenya’s voice suddenly interrupted his text scrolling. Shouto glanced up to find the alpha hovering close to his train seat despite never taking this train to work before. Pretty ballsy for him to approach Shouto, given his earlier spat with his sister. Even more so given that the two had only been officially dating for a few months. “Can I talk to you?”

“Why are you even on the train?” Shouto said, looking back down at his phone. “You can just run to wherever you’re going, can’t you?”

“Yes, but this is the best way to speak to you before you head to school,” Tenya answered, honest to a fault. He plopped himself down beside the boy despite Shouto’s clear reluctance to continue their conversation. “I know things are… difficult now, with what’s happening at school and home. It’s not something I’d like to involve myself in, but a job is a job. My brother insisted I take point on this, since Touya and I… are acquainted.”

Shouto squeezed his phone a bit too tightly. Its thin edge bit into the frost forming on his palm.

“It’s not that I don’t understand your brother’s intentions,” Tenya said tersely. “But he’s one of our only possible leads for learning more about the USJ incident. Just answer me one question, Shouto—did you see your brother amongst the villains at the attack? Please, it’s important.”

Shouto couldn’t look at Tenya’s stupid, earnest face.

He glanced over at the window beside them and briefly considered freezing it into shattering. But that would injure the other train passengers and Tenya would probably waste even more of his time throwing a shit fit.

So he did what any reasonable high-schooler would do and stood up.

“That’s not the stop to U.A.,” Tenya said, alarmed, but Shouto just ducked out into the station anyway. “Shouto!”

He quickly melted into the crowd, knowing full well Tenya couldn’t activate his engines in such a tight space without causing a panic. Once he made it out into the open, he let out a shaky breath. One. Two.

He couldn’t. It was an easy choice from a black and white heroic perspective, but goddammit all, the Yukimuras had only had each other for years. Especially when they’d been moving from place to place, before he'd met Midoriya and Bakugou. They always had each other's backs. No matter what.

“Please drive me to U.A. High School,” he told the cabbie he flagged down at the side of the road. The driver gave him the side-eye but complied once Shouto handed him cash through the window.

He’d barely make it to class on time at this rate, but that was actually okay. Toshi was probably planning to corner him in the hallway before homeroom started, and Shouto.

He wanted to fall into the alpha’s arms and spill his guts; to latch onto his best friend like they used to when they were on the playground; to finally, finally settle that restless omega inside his chest after two whole days of anxiety.

But Toshi had enough things to worry about with his mother out of commission. That, and some cowardly part of Shouto worried he’d side with Tenya on this one. That he’d turn and betray his trust to the authorities.

It might have even been the right choice, one Shouto couldn’t see past his own bias. But he really didn’t want Toshi to knock sense into him today.

He wanted time to think. So, he did what he always did when he wasn’t sure how to process his emotions.

He hid.

Chapter Text

Mom looked absurd standing in class wrapped up in his bandages. Toshi was torn between watching him for signs of pain or glancing backwards at a quieter-than-usual Shouchan blanking out in the middle of announcements.

The U.A. Sports Festival. It defied common sense, but Toshi knew heroics were all about appearances.

“Oh,” Mom said, turning to face the door. “And if establishing yourself as fledgling heroes isn’t enough motivation, I’ve asked someone to come and assist your training these next few weeks. He'll knock some sense into you when I can't. Come in, Tengine.”

“Hello, First Years!” The door burst forth, and a familiar armored sidekick rushed in with the help of his engines. “I am Tengine, a sidekick to the Turbo Hero Ingenium. It is a great honor to return to U.A. to assist you! I promise to do my utmost best to become Eraserhead’s hands these next few weeks! Thank you!”

“Tengine?” Midoriya perked up just a little. He’d been glancing back at Shouto too, clearly sensing something off without the help of creepy texts and weird sisters. Shouto himself appeared apprehensive at the sight of their childhood babysitter. Interesting. “Oh, oh! You’re Ingenium’s brother, right? Iida Tenya! Your Quirk is the same, too. But his engines are located in his elbows and yours are in your calves, so your fighting styles are very different—Ingenium fights more in the air while you use your speed on the ground. You’ve been a side kick since you graduated but everyone knows you’re planning to strike out as your own hero soon. I think your dedication to your family is amazing! But if you’re quirk enhances speed, wouldn’t you be better suited to help out securi—”

“Midoriya,” Toshi kicked the boy’s chair. He flailed in shock. “Let Tenya introduce himself.”

“Well…” Tenya seemed a bit thrown off. “Yes, I will definitely be part of the security team during the festival, but Eraserhead asked me to come early to assist your class. I have no issues doing a favor for a family friend! My previous relationships with two of your classmates also makes me an excellent—”

“Previous relationships?” Pink-haired Ashido piped up, expression gleeful.

Family friend?” Kaminari added.

“Wait, which two classmates are you even talking about?” Earphone girl muttered.

Enough!” and it was amazing how terrifying Mom could be even without the use of his quirk. “Tengine is not here to play twenty questions with you. He and I will go around the room helping each student come up with a plan of action for the festival. If you don’t have a plan, I suggest you think of one now. Tenya, take the first row to the right. I will start on the left.”

“Yes sir!” Tenya saluted and immediately arm-chopped his way up to a startled Hagakure. “Your quirk is invisibility, correct? What are its parameters and how does it operate?”

Toshi abandoned his blank idea sheet to stare Shouto down. The omega looked awful, like he’d been stewing in his own distress pheromones for the past two days and was crumbling under the weight of them. Which was worrying, because Toshi rarely had to settle Shouto. Or maybe it just seemed that way compared to the volatile Bakugou.

“Shou,” he said, quiet enough not to draw too much attention but loud enough that Shouto definitely heard him. Indeed, one turquoise eye darted in his direction. “Do you know why Tenya's really here?”

Shouto stared at him, lips pressed tight.

Yaoyorozu, having the most awkward front-row seat to their staring contest, tried to settle them down. “Todoroki, you’re not looking too well. Do you need to go to the nurse?”

Toshi snorted when Shouto shook his head. “You can answer her, idiot. I can’t control you if you’re answering someone else’s question, can I?”

Shouto, who was used to all of Toshi’s tricks, just flipped him off.

“Yamada, are you trying to brainwash our classmate,” Yaoyorozu finally realized what was going on. “You can’t just—”

“Don’t tell me what to do, Four-Eyes!” and of course Bakugou would interrupt his Shouto-brainwashing strategy. “I’ll blast my way to the top of this fucking festival and there’s nothing you can say to change my mind!”

“How can a hero hopeful use such distasteful language?” Tenya’s arms swung up and down in indignation. The entire class was staring at them now, even Asui mid-talk with Mom. “And your plan simply says ‘EXPLODE KILL’—that is not an appropriate response for someone in Mr. Aizawa’s class. I insist you change it at once!”

“Go to hell!”

“Again with the language!” Tenya rushed forward to grab the sheet of paper from Bakugou's desk—a trajectory that put him too close to the omega's space. Things seemed to happen in slow motion.

Bakugou drew his hand back, teeth bared and explosions already beginning to form in the palm of his hand. Toshi sat up, words already forming in his mouth despite knowing he didn’t have enough time to stop the guy from blasting an almost-pro-hero and putting himself on the Idaten blacklist. And Kirishima, of all people, leapt over Sero’s desk and activated his quirk.

Bakugou Katsuki,” Mom snapped, eyes flashing, and everything seemed to speed up again.

Toshi tripped over a chair leg in his failed intervention, Bakugou’s explosions vanished, and Kirishima's dive knocked both him and the omega right into the wall. Desks, chairs and students toppled to the floor.

What the fuck, Hair-for-brains!” Bakugou screeched. Blood ran down a nasty cut across the blond's forearm. Even without his quirk, his hands still did damage to the alpha shaking plasterboard out of his hair. “You're heavy as shit!”

“Dude, you can’t just attack a pro!” Kirishima shouted back. “Like, I know you hate alphas in your space, but you can’t just freak whenever someone accidentally bumps into you! How do you even survive in public? Apologize to Tengine—it’s unmanly to be so rude!”

“Fuck off!” and Mom must have blinked, because the next smack had the weight of an explosion behind it. Kirishima didn’t even flinch. “Mind your own fucking business!”

“Hard to do when your tantrum's interrupted our lessons,” Mom stalked forward, menacing despite his completely gauze-covered form. Or perhaps because of it. “Bakugou, go to Recovery Girl’s office and wait for me after she heals you. Kirishima, you had good intentions but I had the situation under control. Using my quirk is difficult, not impossible. And the destruction caused by your intervention is something heroes try to avoid on the field.”

“Sorry,” Kirishima looked suitably abashed. Bakugou bared his teeth. “Just—I knew I could withstand an explosion, but I wasn’t sure if Tengine could. I know he’s a pro—or almost a pro—so I was just being presumptuous. I’m very sorry, Tengine!” He faced the older alpha and pressed his fist to his chest. “Our class has already given you so much trouble on your first day! It’s incredibly unmanly.”

“Ah,” Tenya said, gaze flickering between him and Bakugou. “I suppose it’s partly my fault. I hadn’t realized young Bakugou was so sensitive.”

“Bakugou,” Mom interrupted. “Recovery Girl. Now.

“I got it!” Bakugou snapped and hobbled towards the door. When Kirishima tried supporting him from the side, the omega kicked his shin. “I’m not a fucking invalid, Hair-for-Brains! Make yourself useful and clean that mess up or something. Just leave me alone!”

“It’s Kirishima, not Hair-for-Brains!” the alpha hollered after him. “Kirishima Eijirou!”

Toshi observed the boy as he returned to his seat, going from indignant at Bakugou to sheepish at Mom in a heartbeat. He’d noticed it earlier in the week but hadn’t been sure until now: Bakugou didn’t instinctively lash out at this alpha like he did with others.

Toshi’s feelings were mixed but somewhere along the lines of Oh thank god.

“Well!” Tenya finally said after an awkward silence. The class was still staring at the ruins of Bakugou’s desk. “Let’s finish up these Festival Plans so we’ll be ready for Present Mic’s class next, shall we?”

“Thank you, Iida,” Mom said dryly, and glared at everyone until they picked up their pencils.

 

--

 

Time seemed to pass very, very slowly. Shouto didn't want to think. He just wanted to write his notes and ignore Toshi's jabs and sit there pretending combat training wasn't happening soon. He wasn't sure why he was nervous. He was fine.

 

--

 

Shouto glanced up at the training area with his heart in his throat, praying Tenya wouldn’t be tagging along Eraserhead and All Might today. Unfortunately for him, he was.

“Shouto,” Toshi sidled up to him and placed a hand on his shoulder. He’d gone from antagonistic to worried to straight-up angry at Shouto’s refusal to speak to him as the day went on; and while Shouto knew he was still actively trying to brainwash him, he also knew Toshi’s concern was genuine. “I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m not sure if you should be training in this condition. At least let me settle you.”

“I’m fine,” he snapped, shrugging his friend’s hand away. It was only a matter of time before Toshi could control people with any response, not only to questions, but it was a weakness Shouto knew he could still exploit. “If Tenya tries to talk to me, distract him. I just want today to end.”

“And Midoriya? He’s been trailing after you like a kicked puppy all day. You’re not going to say something to him?”

Midoriya had been looking especially downtrodden, big green eyes sad enough to melt Shouto’s heart. But he was confused and worried and just in an awful state right now, and he didn’t want Midoriya to see him like this. It was selfish, but after their last conversation...

Shouto was so undeserving of Midoriya’s brightness it was shameful. He’d know what to do without hesitation, nothing like Shouto's murky indecisiveness.

“We’re going to be splitting you up into pairs and pitting you against each other in basic combat,” Eraserhead announced once they were all gathered before him. “We’ve chosen match-ups that will force you to deviate from your usual fighting style. All Might, Tengine and I will be walking around observing the fights. If one combatant yields, mark their score down and start another round. I want as many opportunities for your brains to start working as possible. Here are the pairs.”

It wasn’t just a quirk match-up, Shouto immediately realized, but one of personality and dynamic, too. Ojiro, the beta boy with the tail, would challenge a shy and silent Koda to rely less on his omega presence to skirt his way out of fights. Uraraka and Yaoyorozu were alpha girls with similar insecurities that could benefit from being forced to make decisive choices when pitted against each other.

And Shouto, with his versatile, far-reaching quirk, was matched up against the equally versatile Bakugou.

Eraserhead’s decision, undoubtedly. They were both headstrong omegas with a borderline antagonistic relationship that had started even before entering U.A. They were rivals as heroes and as omegas, and it would have been a good match up if Shouto weren’t… off today. A fact that angered Bakugou even more than usual.

“What the hell is up with you, Icyhot?” Bakugou roared. He propelled himself up into the air and over Shouto’s ice walls, something Shouto had anticipated and prepared for. He froze over the ground and slid towards Bakugou rather than away, one hand up. Blast of ice right into an explosion, another blast at Bakugou’s unsuspecting leg. The other omega flipped mid-air to avoid the leg blast and hit Shouto with a frontal explosion. If he hadn’t taken the brunt of the attack on his fire-resistant left side, it might have brought him down. “You’ve smelled off all morning, you won’t talk to fucking Deku or Yamada, and you—keep—relying—on—your—ice!”

Blasts punctuated every word. Shouto gritted his teeth and raised an ice shield around himself. He knew from experience that he was more heatproof than Bakugou was; that blasting Bakugou with a flamethrower always sent the boy spinning backwards to avoid being burned. His left hand twitched. With the ice shield blocking Bakugou’s vision of him, he’d have the element of surprise.

Flames licked his palms in preparation and—

Screams, sizzling flesh, outstretched arms warping in merciless blue flame—

The flames went out at the same time Bakugou broke through and smashed Shouto’s face into the ground. Shouto coughed, breath short and mouth tasting like dirt. He couldn't get up, the other omega's hand still pressing him down, and he couldn't breathe.

Bakugou!” and suddenly Bakugou was off of him. Shouto rolled over and coughed. He caught sight of a mummy above him. “Todoroki was clearly down—attacking him after a defeat is unacceptable behavior.”

“He wasn’t even fucking trying!” Bakugou hollered back. “Look at this mess! He didn’t use his fire, not once, like I’m not worth it. I want a real fight, Icyhot! You hear me?”

“Is that true?” and Eraserhead was crouching in front of him now, face unreadable behind his bandages. Still, he kneeled patiently as Shouto picked himself up and spat out the last of the dirt in his mouth. “Bakugou, stop throwing a tantrum and get ready for a second round. Todoroki will only fight you with his fire this round, to make up for this last one.”

Shouto’s heartbeat spiked. “…no.”

Eraserhead turned his head to stare at him. “That wasn’t a suggestion. Use your fire.”

He could smell the greasy residue of burnt human flesh. It was like he was back on the top floor of that apartment across the street, shaking against a wall as he threw up his dinner.

No!” Shouto staggered to his feet and took a few steps back. “I—I can’t. I can’t use it.”

“The hell you mean you can’t use it?” Bakugou snapped. “You think a villain’s gonna care what side of the bed you woke up that day? Give your all or get out of my way. I’ll make you use it if I have to!”

And then he was charging at Shouto again, explosions already beginning to spark. Eraserhead responded too slow—he was still injured, after all, and the time he could use his quirk was incredibly limited. Shouto managed just enough of an ice shield to take the brunt of Bakugou’s charge. The next bombardment sent him flying backwards onto his ass.

“Bakugou—” Eraserhead snapped.

“Fight me!” and it was too much. He couldn’t think, not with the other omega literally keeping him on his toes as he chased him around the training area. Midoriya had been keeping a respectful distance, and Toshi’s brainwashing attempts still gave Shouto plenty of room to ignore him. But Bakugou’s drive to scrape out the truth was inescapable. The constant blasts reminded him of fire igniting, of the dazzling sparks that flew before his father’s palms lit up with flame. A skill he’d passed onto Shouto and, more importantly, to Touya, whose inability to control that flame had roasted him alive—

NO!” Shouto screamed, that uneasy, wriggling mass of omega terror inside his chest finally surging up his throat and—

 

--

 

Toshi had expected Mom to pair him up with the silent Kouda given the omega’s natural resistance to his quirk, but he’d clearly underestimated Mom’s capacity for evil. Jirou Kyouka’s quirk allowed her to send out shockwaves of sound that somehow rendered his voice harmless. They kept him at a distance, too, so Toshi couldn’t even use his superior hand-to-hand to turn the battle. His eardrums were fine—thanks Dad—but the shockwaves affected the rest of his body: heart, lungs, brain. Anyone else would have long fainted by now.

“You couldn’t tell by looking at you, but you’re kind of tough, huh, Mini Mic?”

“I’m a U.A. student,” he said, feinting left in an attempt to force an opening. She yelped when he made it close enough to grab her arm and—

It hit so suddenly he lost his grip.

The omega girl buckled and fell hard to her knees. Toshi slapped his hand over his mouth. Ojiro, who was staring at a similarly downed Kouda, glanced around in confusion.

“Guys?” the beta called out, picking up just enough to know something was wrong. “What’s happening?”

“Shouchan,” Toshi gasped. That distressed scent was stomach-turning and familiar and growing worse by the second. And Toshi was naturally resistant to omega pheromones, too.  “It’s Shouchan, someone get me to him.”

“Are you crazy?" Ojiro stumbled back as Toshi advanced right into their training space. "I can’t smell it entirely, but any alpha or omega who gets too close won’t last long—”

“If I can brainwash him, I can get him to stop. The longer we wait, the worse it will get. Can you throw me to him?”

“I’m not going to—”

“Sorry,” Toshi apologized to the boy’s slack-jawed face. It hurt to use his quirk with his senses being pulled apart at the seams, but heroes couldn’t afford to hesitate. “Curl your tail around me and throw me in that direction.”

And he did.

It was Kaminari who saw him tumbling down from the sky. Kaminari, who was the only one still standing within sight of Shouto curled up in the middle of the field.

“Yamada, what the hell is going on with your boyfriend?” the omega hollered, stomping over to Toshi’s bruised form. “This distress call’s reaching omega break levels of crazy. Stop him! Knock him out if you have to!”

The boy’s hands were trembling, but he was cognizant. Clearly another hero-to-be resistant to pheromone attacks too, which would be an interesting tidbit of information if Shouchan wasn't freaking out.

“He’s not my boyfriend,” Toshi gritted his teeth. “But I’m the closest alpha to him in class. Hey, Shouto! Shouchan!”

He shook off Kaminari's hands and began shouting as loud as he could. Which was loud, but that stupid lump wasn’t responding and the more he shouted the more pheromones he inhaled and—

“If he’s not your boyfriend, that distress scent is going to fuck up your system!" Kaminari reappeared in front of him and pushed him back. "You shouldn't even be walking right now, what kind of crazy resistance do you have?"

A pretty high resistance towards omegas, to be honest, but that didn't make him immune. Something Kaminari immediately noticed, judging from his cursing. "You're way too out of it. Where the hell are the teachers?”

Probably evacuating the other students as per protocol; All Might had been the outlier by allowing Bakugou to continue his rampage. None of them were betas that could stop Shouto directly, which mean Shouto was alone out there and Toshi needed to help him. He couldn’t stand by and do nothing.

But everything was quickly turning foggy and uncomfortable, like he'd swallowed something he couldn't digest and was about to vomit all over the floor. His alpha teeth spasmed but refused to extend; his head hurt; and he felt sick enough he couldn't move.

“Y-Yamada? Kaminari?" a familiar voice called out from behind them. Toshi nearly sagged with relief at the unmistakable blob of curly green hair making its way towards them.

“Midoriya,” he rasped, reaching out to him. “Midoriya, it’s Shouchan.”

The beta's scent spiked immediately: “Yuki’s causing this?”

“I can’t—I don’t think I can settle him if he’s this far gone." Toshi grabbed at the boy’s uniform and shook him, ignoring Midoriya’s yelp. “Omegas in distress just want to feel safe. It’s the number one goal of a hero trying to calm them down. And he likes you and your—your stupid obsessive brain so stop him before he breaks completely.”

Yamada!” Kaminari’s voice cried out.

When Toshi lost control of his legs and slumped to the ground he expected to hit packed dirt. Not familiar, reinforced armor.

“Midoriya, Kaminari, Everyone,” and Tenya’s voice sounded so far away despite the fact that the sidekick was carrying him. “I apologize for the time it’s taken me to return. I’ve alerted the school to what’s happening. Please pass these pheromone masks around to your affected classmates as we wait for backup—”

Warbled murmurs. Toshi couldn't make out the words, but he could still understand Tenya.

“I understand your concern for your friend, Midoriya, but it’ll be safer for everyone if Midnight uses her quirk and puts him to sleep. Please wait patiently until she arrives. I cannot let you approach him in this delicate state!"

“Tenya,” Toshi managed. The man froze at the sound of his voice, his arms tightening around him. “Tenya, take him to Shou. Please.”

“Toshi…”

Please.”

Angry revving. More murmurs and shouts and Toshi couldn't keep his eyes open much longer. He closed them, just for a moment. As he slipped into darkness, he heard confirmation.

“Very well. But this is for Shouto, do you understand? Don’t make me regret this, either of you.”

Chapter Text

“Yuki? Yuki!”

Warm, clean, crisp. Like a breath of fresh air after days of murkiness, and Shouto breathed it in greedily.

“Hey, it’s okay. It’s okay. I’m sorry, Yuki—I knew something was off with you today but I didn’t want to impose. Even when All Might told me meddling where you don’t have to makes a hero… I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you.”

Solid arms wrapped around his middle and gave him a shoulder to press his face into. It was… nice.

“But I’m here now! We’re both here, and all of Class A, and even Mr. Aizawa even if he looks like a mummy! We survived through the USJ. What… whatever comes next, we’ll survive it too! Okay, Shouto?”

It was strange moving his body again, but Shouto slowly lifted his arms and clutched a small but sturdy frame. He tilted his face into the boy’s neck to try and settle himself with that fresh scent. The arms around him tightened.

“Everything’s going to be fine. I’ll make sure of it. I promise you, it’ll all be okay. Even if I’m just a—a beta with no name or quirk of my own behind me, I’ll take care of you. So don’t worry, Shouto. It’ll be okay.”

It was like vaguely waking up from a dream but also falling asleep at the same exact time; like the despairing fog that had been gripping him was fading, leaving him exhausted.

“I…Izuku,” he mumbled, confused and tired and heartsick all at once.

And then nothing.

Blissful, quiet nothing.

 

--

 

He woke up in an infirmary bed.

“Izuku!” he gasped, struggling to sit up and finding himself being pushed back down. “Izuku, where is he?”

“We sent him out of the room,” and that was Eraserhead’s voice, as flat and disapproving as ever. His body language was completely unreadable. “The topic we need to discuss is personal.”

Shouto froze midway through trying to yank someone's forearm—Tenya, that was Tenya holding him down—from his chest. Memories and recollections flooded back: confusion, fear, anger, distress.

“You nearly went into an omega break,” Eraserhead explained shortly. He rarely minced his words, a habit Toshi had unfortunately—or fortunately—inherited. “If Midoriya hadn’t managed to calm you down, we’d have to put the entire situation on your record. Thankfully for you, it didn’t come to that.”

“A… a break?”

It was such an unexpected avenue of failure Shouto couldn’t even wrap his mind around it. Breaks were for unrefined hooligans, baby omegas with spotty control, for—for Bakugou, whose own break had put Midoriya in the infirmary for an entire day. Shouto had always prided himself in being an unflappable omega, unmoved by most stressors.

Then the reason for this entire fiasco came rushing back to him like a train hitting concrete, and panic filled his senses.

His scent must have spiked, because Tenya was immediately bowing so low before him he nearly smacked his forehead on the bed. “Shouchan! I apologize! It was my misjudgment that led to such emotional turmoil on your part, thus resulting in the incapacitation of those in your class. As a sidekick and almost pro hero, my negligence is inexcusable!”

Shouto stared at him blankly, as if the longer he looked the more the man’s words would make sense. “…what?”

Tenya straightened. “When I approached your sister this morning, I didn't tell her the full story. Shouchan, last night we got our first break in the villain-deaths-by-fire case. We found… we found your DNA close to the scene of the crime.”

A chill ran up his spine. His DNA…?

Oh. His goddamn puke. He’d emptied his stomach contents right on the floor, had seen it splatter everywhere. Touya must not have cleaned it up thoroughly, too busy carrying Shouto home. So the police had found it and drawn the reasonable conclusion that it was his fire-using brother that—

“When I approached you on the train, I’d hope you’d offer the information on your own without me formally calling you into the police station. I thought it’d be easier to confirm it this way than disrupting your schedule. Clearly, I was wrong. Shouchan,” and Tenya’s expression had melted back to utter earnestness again. It reminded Shouto of them as children, when Toshi would blame Shouto for something he’d done and Tenya would fall for it hook, line and sinker. When he inevitably discovered the truth, his outrage and horror would lead to profuse apologies just like this. “I never intended to make you think I was forcing you to choose between your family and your hero career. In hindsight, the result of my withholding information was obvious. A fact Eraserhead has scolded me for quite a bit.”

“But you’re still making me choose," Shouto said, voice low. "Even if I knew where he was and told you, you'd just arrest him.“

“That isn’t true!” Tenya chopped his hands frantically. “After hearing of your almost-break, my brother has agreed to tell you the whole plan. While your brother is… guilty of very serious crimes, the public’s panic over the USJ incident means our top priority is hunting down the League of Villains. Our best way in is to send a spy disguised as another small-time villain. Someone who has... enough of a villain background to pass their inspection.”

"Your brother fits the profile well," Eraserhead clarified. “If he agrees, the police may write off his previous crimes entirely."

The words washed over Shouto like the tide. Infiltration, under the table deals, Idaten and their willingness to compromise… it all left him numb. He could see the logic of it, but it reminded him far too much of his father’s way of playing hero.

But Tenya and Tensei were nothing like Endeavor, and that was the most confusing thing about this.

“He’s killed people,” was the first thing Shouto managed to say.

“Yes,” Tenya grew reserved. “But he's still trying to do the right thing, in his own way. I think we can still pull him back if we give him a chance. And... I'm willing to swallow my pride to help a friend.”

Were Tenya and Touya even friends? Antagonistic acquaintances, maybe. But they’d been hanging out after class since they were in elementary school; Tenya, Touya and Fuyumi. A bit like Midoriya and Bakugou, in a way. Even if they barely ever got along, they were still close.

“…I don’t know where he is,” Shouto finally said. “Fuyumi wasn’t lying. He met me yesterday to explain why he was at the USJ, and then he knocked me out and dropped me back home. He could be anywhere by now.”

Eraserhead said, “You might not know where he is at the moment, but you may be able to ask him to meet you at a set location. There is one event everyone in Japan will be watching this season—everyone including your brother.”

It didn’t take long to figure out what he was talking about: “The… the sports festival.”

“Yes,” Eraserhead leaned in. “In particular the one-on-one battles in round three. It’s where the cameras will be focused on the students the most. He'll definitely be watching you, I guarantee it. So if you want to help Tenya and your brother, you better make it to the final round. Which means you need to use your fire.”

His reaction was instantaneous: “No.”

“Eraser, he must have been there when Touya…” Tenya pointed out, concerned.

“Trauma is an inevitable part of hero work,” Eraser said, unmoved. “I can guess what might have triggered this sudden fear of fire, Shouto, and I sympathize. But if you can’t overcome something that’s cutting your power in half, you aren’t suited to work in heroics. That’s just a fact. But I think you can overcome it, knowing what's on the line.”

Shouto stared at his left hand. He flicked a finger, tested the warmth welling up just beneath his skin.

“Yes sir,” he answered faintly. He had to. If he couldn’t even save his own brother, how could Shouto ever hope to become a hero who would make his mother proud?

 

--

 

Five students had to be sent to Recovery Girl, two of which with serious enough injuries to stay after school. The betas and omegas had recovered quickly once Shouto had stopped acting like a pheromone bomb; the alphas furthest away from ground zero—Ashido and Kirishima—needed minimal treatment; and Inasa had used his quirk to come out relatively unharmed.

Yaoyorozu, Uraraka and Shoji were put on pheromone cleansers for an hour before being released. Shouto had remained limp and unmoving like a doll curled up against Midoriya, eyes open but… not there. It would take him half an hour to snap out of it, and by then Mom had forced Midoriya to return to class.

These were all events related to him by his father after the fact. Toshi himself wouldn’t wake up until school had ended and most of the students had filed out through the gates. When he finally opened his eyes, his hand was being clutched by a wretchedly guilty Shouchan.

“What the hell,” he rasped, because clearly Shouto was fine right now and could stand a scolding or two for ruining their training. “You made me miss class, you fruitcake.”

“You’re the one that ran towards me instead of away,” Shouto bit out, less angry and more guilty. But he responded fast enough, so he wasn’t upset beyond reason. “Even your natural resistance has a limit.”

“Well sorry for wanting to save your sorry ass,” Toshi coughed and had to signal Shouto to sit the hell down. His throat was still irritated from the tube used in pheromone cleansing, but it wasn’t anything to call over Recovery Girl for. “Now are you going to spill?"

Shouto's face was blank as the still waters of a pond.

Toshi sighed. "I know Touya’s involved, Shouchan. That fire on the news... he killed those villains, didn’t he?”

Shouto’s mouth spasmed. He tilted his head down, jaw clenched tightly, and managed, “Yeah. I saw him do it.”

Toshi wanted to brainwash Yukimura Touya into utter oblivion. Shouto was fifteen. Even third years at their school rarely saw death, much less come as face-to-face with it as Shouto had.

“I thought Tenya wanted me to turn him in,” Shouto continued, still staring deeply at the blanket covering Toshi’s legs like they held the meaning of the universe. “But it turns out he wants me to ask him to spy on the League of Villains instead. Either way, I don’t know where he is now...”

“...so Mom wants you to send him a message during the Sports Festival?” At Shouto’s startled look, Toshi shrugged. “It’s the closest, nationwide broadcast we’re going to be participating in and it’s something I know your brother watches every year. And he'll definitely be watching with you as a participant."

Shouto clenched his left hand into a fist. He kept doing that, Toshi noticed. Like he was feeling the fire under his skin but was hesitant to let it out. Like he used to do when he was little and still scared of Touya’s burns.

“I’ll need to make it to the third round,” Shouto said.

“Then do it.”

"I'll need to do it without my fire."

"That's the stupidest thing you've said to me," Toshi told him. "Going in using half your quirk. Bakugou's going to kill you."

Shouto clenched his left hand again. Once, twice. His right hand remained firmly on Toshi's.

“I… when I use my fire, I remember it,” Shouto admitted. “The villains he killed… I can still hear their screams.”

Toshi wanted to reassure him with the right words, to handle his trauma with the delicacy he deserved. But he was tired and confused and he didn't know what to to do. “You don’t have to use it in combat again right away. Remind yourself what your fire means first. Take your time but don't hide, Shouchan. I don't know if I have the energy to pull you back anymore.”

Which was kind of cold but true. Hero training was taking one hundred percent of his attention—both their attentions—and Toshi wasn't sure if he could dedicate the same amount of time watching over him as he used to. He didn't like it, but if he wanted to catch up with the others...

Shouto’s expression… crumpled.

Toshi could only stare, stunned, as his friend pressed his face down onto his lap and clung to his waist. Shouto hadn’t cried since they were twelve and the alpha he’d burned had called him a freak. Toshi had ended up brainwashing him into shaving off all his hair, because Shouto crying was the worst thing ever.

He always did it like this: silent, barely perceptible, face always hidden in something comforting. A pillow, his blanket… and, apparently, Toshi’s lap.

Which was how Midoriya found them when he came back with four coffees and a disgruntled Bakugou trailing behind him.

“Ah,” Toshi said, wondering if this counted as compromising positions or not. Midoriya flushed bright red, coffees sloshing, but he still seemed more concerned over Shouto’s well-being than his position.

“What the hell is Icyhot doing,” Bakugou grabbed a coffee from the tray and went over to Shouto’s chair. He kicked his legs. “Hey, stop that. You’re going to give Deku a complex thinking you don’t like him or some shit.”

Kacchan!” Midoriya tried wringing his hands, but his own coffee was in the way.

“No, I still like him,” Shouto lifted his head up enough to say. “I’m just… realizing how good of a friend Toshi is."

“Enough to give him a blowjob?”

“Don’t be crude,” Toshi interrupted before the omegas murdered each other and Midoriya melted into a mortified puddle on the floor. “The USJ attack was only a few days ago. We’re all dealing with it in our own ways.”

“Sure, but Icyhot had a meltdown in the middle of class—”

You’ve had a meltdown in class,” Midoriya helpfully contributed.

Bakugou, showing admirable restraint for himself, continued, “—which is fucking weird since it was Deku that got beaten to a pulp and your mom that nearly died. What the hell is going on with Icyhot that caused him to flip out?”

Shouto’s hand squeezed his so hard Toshi’s eye twitched. He didn’t want to give Bakugou the satisfaction of calling the other omega out, however, so he kept his expression flat otherwise. “It’s none of your business.”

Excuse me?”

“It’s none of your business,” Toshi repeated. “You’re not authorized to know and Shouchan’s upset enough already.”

“Don’t tell me you’re involved in some actual hero shit?” Bakugou seemed even more furious. “Just ‘cause your dad’s a hero and you both have connections doesn’t mean you get to jump ahead of the rest of us whenever you want!”

“Kacchan, I don’t think it’s like that,” Midoriya was staring far too intently at Shouto now. “Shou—I mean Yuki. He was really upset. Whatever this is, I don’t think he intentionally wanted to get involved.”

He put his coffee down on the counter and awkwardly knelt on Shouto’s other side. He offered a hand to Shouto’s clench-unclenching left one, and the omega slid off of Toshi’s lap to curl up against him instead. Toshi carefully folded the blanket to hide the tear stains.

“Did you say you liked me,” Midoriya whispered in a still-not-soft-enough voice.

Shouto mumbled something.

“Well Kacchan said that and I was like, no way, Yuki’s got so many better people to choose than someone like me.”

More mumbling.

Midoriya flushed red to his roots, which was when Toshi had had enough and Bakugou began gagging in the corner.

“I’m going to find Mom,” he declared, gingerly stepping out of bed. Still a bit woozy, sure, but there was no way in hell he was staying if he could help it. “Bakugou, let’s go.”

“Don’t tell me what to—“

“Let’s go,” and Bakugou still responded to his alpha voice, enough so he’d already followed him out the door before his will reasserted itself.

The omega bared his teeth at him, bristling. “You’re seriously leaving those two alone there?”

“Shouchan needs space to talk to Midoriya about what happened,” Toshi said, stepping past Bakugou to continue his way up to the faculty room. The boy chased after him. “And they’ve been doing this almost-dating thing for a while now. Forgive me if I want them to get it over with and make it official.”

Ugh,” Bakugou scowled so darkly Toshi was surprised his mouth didn’t just fold in on itself. “Deku. And Icyhot. Just… why?”

“Because Midoriya’s not an asshole?” Toshi said. He reached the top of the stairwell and glanced over his shoulder at the omega still following him: “Why are you walking with me, by the way? You want to say hi to Mom too?”

The boy flushed an angry red but made no move to turn heel. “Shut up! I don’t want Deku getting on my case if you pass out in the middle of the hall and I wasn’t there to bring you back. Just… go find your mom so I know someone’s looking after your sorry ass so I can go home. Got it?”

“Hm,” Toshi said. “Whatever you say.”

Bakugou flipped him off. Toshi, unimpressed, flipped him off right back.

The omega wasn’t crowing over Shouto’s episode like he’d expected, given his resentment. But maybe seeing this almost-break landing a quarter of the class in the infirmary made it feel less like a victory and more like a sympathetic commonality.

Not that Bakugou did sympathy. No, he just walked Toshi right up to the faculty room because he felt like it, not because he was worried.

If Bakugou weren’t an omega, maybe... but no, he was still too violent. God help the alpha who tried to ride that horse.

Toshi’s thoughts wandered to a certain boy.

They’d need to be indestructible.

 

--

 

“Shouto,” Izuku said when he slipped into class the next day, a hair’s breadth away from being late. “I… um, I mean. Do you want to hang out after school? We haven’t gone to the arcade in a while and we can go over our plans for the Sports Festival together.”

Shouto?” Kirashima mouthed to Kaminari, incredulous, and Shouto would have felt more embarrassed at being the center of class gossip if he weren't so elated.

It was hard to put into words. He felt free. Calm. Not like all his problems had suddenly disappeared, no, but like there was a light at the end of the tunnel ahead of him. Toshi had taken one look at him that morning and rolled his eyes.

“Fruitcake,” he’d said, which was all Shouto needed to know about what his scent was screaming to the heavens right now.

He didn’t care.

“That sounds nice,” he said, expression blank but a smile still audible in his tone. Izuku beamed. “I could use your help coming up with ways to use my quirk more effectively.”

“If you are done flirting,” Mr. Aizawa interrupted dryly, and Izuku's face turned beet red to the roots of his hair. “I have a class to teach and a nap break I’m not willing to part with. Tengine, you’re playing assistant to me today. Everyone else, sit down in your seats and shut up.”

He gave Shouto a pointed look, too, and Shouto’s good mood ebbed just a little. Ah, he’d almost forgotten. When class ended, Mr. Aizawa cleared his throat and gestured for him to come up to the front of the room.

“I apologize for the inconvenience yesterday,” Shouto said, subdued. “Losing control over myself is… embarrassing. I hope you can forgive me for interrupting class.”

Silence. His classmates glanced at each other and then back at him. It wasn’t as if he was close friends with any of them. Since the year began, Shouto had either been keeping to himself or associating with the friends he’d had since middle school. It shouldn’t matter what this group of almost-strangers thought of him, but somehow it did.

This was going to be his class pack for the next three years, after all.

“Hey man, it’s cool,” Kirishima was the first to pipe up, a bit awkward but genuine. “We’re all handling what happened differently, so…”

“I have nightmares sometimes,” Asui offered, as unabashedly honest as ever. “And I know some of the other students have been heading to the train station in groups more than before. I’m a beta, so I don’t understand completely, but stressors can have a big effect on alphas and omegas, right?”

“Yeah, and the news outlets aren’t helping,” Kaminari waved a hand. “They keep playing that story about the USJ over and over and over—it’s all anyone can talk about. So it’s like we can’t escape it, you know? Do you see the way the kids here act around us? And then at home, too. It’s exhausting.”

“I’d like to think U.A. students are more sensitive than that, but Mr. Aizawa chased away some Class 1-B students yesterday,” Yaoyorozu sighed, putting a delicate hand to her cheek. “They acted like we wanted to be well-known, not like we’d survived an unfortunate experience. And when they heard there was an incident in training…”

“Bottom line is, it’s understandable,” Kirishima reaffirmed. The alpha thumped his fist to his chest and raised his chin. “So yeah, it kind of sucked that class had to end like that, but don’t beat yourself over it too much. Hell, it’s actually kind of refreshing to see you’re as human as us, you know? I mean, that Todoroki name is so intimidating. But I see now how unmanly it was to let that affect my judgement of you. So I guess I should apologize too!”

“What? Why should you apologize?” Shouto had lost track of the conversation a while back, too caught up in everyone’s… support. It was all true. He wasn’t the only one worrying about the consequences of last week’s attack. Hell, even Toshi wasn’t over his mother’s near-death given the way he’d been splitting his attention between himself and Eraserhead. An undistracted Toshi would have wrangled out the truth about Touya at once. It was yet another embarrassing example of how much he relied on Toshi to deescalate his problems.

I don't know if I have the energy to pull you back anymore, the boy had said. The meaning behind it had hurt because it was true. There were a lot of positives in being childhood friends, but there were also things like this that... weren't.

“Okay, okay, enough. I need to take a nap. Go hug it out before Present Mic arrives for English. I don’t care.” Eraserhead yawned—or sounded like he was yawning, since no one could see past his bandages—and stepped out the door.

“Hey, Class A!”

The door burst open and missed smacking Eraserhead in the face. A crowd of other first-year students blocked the doorway, so many it was impossible to see the hallway behind them. A silver-haired alpha boy stood in the front, cracking his knuckles.

“Move out of my way or you all get detention,” Mr. Aizawa announced, deadpan. The crowd parted like the sea before him. “You can rattle them all you want with your words, but no physical violence. I don’t want to write anyone up. Good bye.”

“Tch, the extras are already sizing up the competition,” Bakugou was the first to speak up, which was... unfortunate.

“Hey, we’re not extras! I’m Tetsutetsu Tetsutetsu,” the silver-haired boy shouted back. “Class 1-B! Eraserhead stopped us yesterday ‘cause some of you were out, but you’re all here now, right? Good. We want to declare our intentions to beat your asses at the Sports Festival. You got that?”

“Like hell, you B-class jerks!” Bakugou vaulted out of his seat and stalked towards the door, mouth curled in a snarl. “You beat me? It’s not even a question. You’re all just stepping stones on my way to the top.”

Kacchan!” Izuku cried out, but it was too late.

The crowd’s mood turned from casual class rivalry to murderous. Kirishima yanked Bakugou back from the doorway despite the omega’s growl, then glanced back at Yaoyorozu for instruction.

Shouto glanced over at the alpha girl too and watched her freeze with uncertainty. As Class Rep and lead alpha, it was her job to diffuse situations like this. But...

“’Stepping stones?’ What arrogance!” a blond beta boy piped up from behind Tetsutetsu. His voice dripped with contempt. “Class B passed the same entrance exam as Class A. We have two recommended students in our class as well. Yet you think you’re so much better just because Class A was lucky enough to catch the spotlight?”

“Did you just call us being attacked by villains lucky.”

And oh, Shouto hadn't expected that voice. Neither had anyone else, given the amount of swiveling he saw, because of all the alphas to step up no one expected Toshi. Toshi, who rarely instigated fights with strangers and often didn't speak up unless he had to.

“We don’t think we’re better because we’re more popular. We think we’re better because we faced down actual villains and survived.” Toshi slowly straightened from his slouched position, an unkind grin spreading across his face. “You stare death in the face a few times and see if that doesn’t help you grow as a hero.”

“Yamada Hitoshi,” the boy said after a pause, smile unflinching. “Funny to hear that from you, Mini Mic. You're no stranger to the spotlight."

”Do I have a fan?”

“What arrogance! You think everyone needs to bow at your feet?”

”Well, my full name’s not common knowledge,” Toshi said. “So you must listen in to Dad’s radio show quite a bit.”

”Yamada,” Asui finally intervened when none of the other betas stepped forward. It was one thing to argue generally, but a specific pack face-off between two different dynamics spelled disaster. It should’ve been instinctual to switch attention to the beta girl, but the blond... didn’t.

Even Shouto, who Toshi has called as dense as a concrete block, knew that was strange.

Toshi continued as if Asui hadn’t spoke. “How about we write a letter to the station asking them to treat Class B fairly in their coverage. I’m sure upstanding, hero-loving citizens like the anchors there would comply once you’ve made their case.”

"Made my case?"

"Isn't that what this about?"

"No! This is about telling Class A we won't go down without a fight—we'll restore the public's trust in hero society that you so callously tore down—"

"Ah," and oh god, Toshi kept going, "So you're jealous, then. Hey, I'm sure if you ask nicely enough you can convince some trashy villain group to attack your class too."

"Toshi!" Shouto shouted, horrified, at the same time a Class-B student slapped a hand over the blond's mouth and hissed, "Monoma no!"

Which was when Present Mic finally, finally arrived.

“What are you doing here, B-listeners? Don’t you have a session with Ectoplasm right now? Go back to your classroom!” the teacher scolded them and made a shooing motion with his hands. “Go, go!”

“Just as high and mighty as I thought,” the blond boy—Monoma, the other student had said—called out as his classmates dragged him away. “We'll prove we're better on the field, Class A! Especially to you, Mini Mic!

“It’s Yamada at school,” Toshi said, and Shouto tossed a crumpled-up piece of paper at his purple hair for making things worse.

"I thought you outgrew starting fights," Present Mic looked very disappointed in his son.

Toshi said something back in English. Present Mic flailed and spoke English back.

Despite growing up with his friend and having been exposed the English language far more than the average Japanese boy, Shouto’s English was terrible. Like, shockingly bug-eyed-Izuku terrible. He’d been so embarrassed the first time Izuku had stared at his middle school test scores he’d excused himself to the bathroom to freeze and melt ice for half an hour.

Izuku had been too polite to ask, but Shouto was pretty sure he thought he’d been taking a dump.

Which was embarrassing for a whole other reason, but that was besides the point.

Class B, the other hero class. He'd need to defeat them too if he wanted to get to the third round. For Touya.

His mind shied away from the thought at once. The wound was still too fresh, too painful. Focus on getting to the third round and less on the why. Focus. As long as Izuku traveled beside him, he knew there was a light at the end of the tunnel.

Chapter Text

"Your class has no lead omega," Mom told him one day before they arrived to class. Toshi grunted noncommittally from behind his purple scarf. "I expected you to sort out your dynamic politics within the month, Toshi."

"S'not my fault," he grumbled, because dynamics sorted things out on their own and the alphas had chosen Yaoyorozu and Inasa the same day they decided class reps. Not that they were the best lead alpha and vice alphas, but cobbled together they were... passable.

The fact that their omegas were a bunch of powerful loner types wasn't his problem. If anything, Mom should be scolding Shouchan for making things worse with his lost-in-his-own-head act.

Then again, Shouchan had been acting far more subdued after the Training Incident—nearly perfect from the point of view of most people, but Toshi could see the denial dripping from his pores. Rather than confide in Toshi as usual, however, he clung to Midoriya instead.

Which sent a weird, discontented feeling through Toshi despite the fact that he was the one who told Shouto to stand on his own. Alpha instincts, maybe. That, and clinging to Midoriya instead of Toshi wasn’t any better from a growing-up standpoint. Toshi wanted to shake even more sense into his friend, but there were some things Shouto needed to learn without Toshi watching over him like a hawk.

Even if every fiber of his being sometimes screamed for him to do something, he couldn’t.

So he stalked the halls instead.

Contrary to popular belief, Toshi didn't always spend his free time taking a nap beneath his mom's desk. U.A. had been like a fourth home growing up—right after his own home, the Yukimura's and Idaten—and so he'd gotten into the habit of just wandering around when he felt like it.

Keeping distance from Shouto meant he didn’t have to interact with Midoriya; not interacting with Midoriya meant there was no need to deal with Bakugou. It was sobering to realize his closest friends were simply an extension of Shouto. It was another reason he’d wanted to take some time to breathe on his own.

Without anyone relying on him, Toshi wasn't much of anything at all.

There was a time when he actively wanted to rise to the top. To do his best. When had he lost that? At what point had hovering in the middle of the pack with excellent hand-to-hand but mediocre quirk usability sound like a good idea to him?

He stopped in an empty hallway and pressed his forehead to the window glass.

Toshi had worked too damn hard to get here to succumb to wishy-washiness. The Sports Festival was coming up and only those with the greatest conviction can make it to the top. He’d never questioned Shouto’s ability to make it, but his own?

Of course he could make it to the third round. Fuck anyone who said he couldn’t.

He caught a glimpse of movement reflected in the window.

Toshi ducked before a lithe hand could land on his exposed wrist, those years of training with Mom finally coming in handy.

“Ah,” the blond boy that had been stalking him down the last few halls said. “Quick reaction time. Maybe you’re not skating by on your dad’s popularity after all.”

“Or maybe it’s because your stealth work sucks,” Toshi said, voice flat. While he did like to verbally spar with assholes, he wasn’t in the mood to play. “For someone who looks so graceful, your movements are as unrefined as your mouth.”

The boy looked insulted, though at what part Toshi honestly couldn’t say. Whatever, no one cared. He tucked his hands in his pocket and began walking away.

When the boy—Monoma Neito, Toshi had gathered after a bit of digging—made to place his hand on the nape of his neck, Toshi whirled around and grabbed his covered forearm. His height and strength made it easy to flip the boy hard onto the ground; even easier when the move knocked the breath out of a beta clearly unused to physical combat.

Toshi didn’t release his grip, not even with his arm twisted so awkwardly between them.

“It’s against the rules to use your quirk against students outside of combat training,” he said, alpha voice bleeding through unbidden. He spent most of his time restraining it for Mom’s and Shouto's sakes, but he was pissed and this guy was a jerk and what the hell did it matter how good of a lid he kept on his alpha instincts? “That’s the second time you’ve tried to touch my skin, which makes me think it has to do with your quirk. Your physical skill is abysmal, so you must rely on it far too much. Am I close?”

“Fuck you,” Monoma spat like he wasn’t still trying to catch his breath. He stared up at Toshi upside-down and tried tugging his arm away. Toshi squeezed it harder. “Y’know, we’ve already heard a few rumors about Class A’s quirks, but you’ve never really stood out, Mini Mic. A strong quirk and a weak body is easy to fix, but what about you? A weak quirk and a strong body? Who are you trying to fool?”

Toshi bared his alpha teeth, not wanting to admit how much those words hit home. “If I’m such a joke, why the hell have you been following me? You desperate for attention that badly, little beta? What kind of state is Class B’s pack in if you’d rather spend time with an outside alpha instead?”

And honestly, Toshi knew he was just begging for a fight. Betas may not be as pheromone-driven or easily goaded, but from what he could tell Monoma had pack loyalty in spades. Some twisted part of him wanted the beta to hit him just so he could have an excuse to hit him back.

Which was why it threw him off when the beta blushed. The red was very pretty on his pale skin, even if the rest of him was mostly insecure bullshit.

“T-that’s so far off, it’s laughable,” he attempted to keep up the asshole act, but something about the way he’d stopped trying to yank his arm away peaked Toshi’s interest. “It’s normal to scout out the competition before an event like the Sports Festival. Even on middle-of-the-pack losers like you.”

“If you’re trying to figure out my quirk, it’s only fair to tell me yours,” Toshi informed him. He leaned forward to get a better sense of his beta presence. He’d been too distracted and angry earlier, but they were close enough now that Toshi could catch a whiff of almost—

Monoma suddenly lunged forward in an attempted headbutt. Toshi let go of his arm when evading the attack, giving the beta the freedom to skitter an unreachable distance away across the hall. Toshi stood up and stared considerately at the boy in front of him.

The beta clutched his arm with his free hand, blond hair tousled and eyes wild. He looked like a startled mouse, to be honest, and Toshi was exactly the kind of asshole who thought it was cute. In a kind of sadistic, cat-playing-with-his-food kind of way.

“You act like such a perfect gentleman, Mini, but you’re as much of a brute as the rest of your dynamic,” Monoma hissed, cheeks still red. “Throwing your dominance around the first chance you get.”

“Sure, I’m a brute,” he agreed, words slow and considerate. Monoma tensed. “But that’s just the way you like it, isn’t it?”

The beta went from red to ashen. Fear radiated from his presence, clear even with a beta’s weaker scent. “I—“

He stopped. Wrapping his quirk around someone’s will was so second nature Toshi barely had to focus. It left him plenty of time to think as he advanced towards the boy’s frozen form.

When he passed him, Toshi ducked his head to whisper in his ear: “Don’t worry, mouse. I like it too.”

He didn’t release his control until he was well on his way down the stairwell, far enough that the beta had no hope of catching up to him before the lunch bell rang. It was probably reckless of him to show off his quirk in such an obvious way to a would-be opponent, but Toshi wanted to start on even ground.

A secret for a secret. Let the game begin.

 

--

 

“Where have you been,” Shouchan asked him neutrally when he slipped into his seat a few minutes before class resumed. “Kaminari’s been trying to convince us to make him lead omega for the last ten minutes.”

“No,” Toshi said. “You’d make a better lead, and you suck.”

“Thanks,” Shouchan rolled his eyes and seemed to relax, like Toshi’s sass meant everything was okay. And it was, on the surface. But there was a distance between them that had never really been there before, topics neither of them wanted to address. Shouto’s were obvious, of course, while Toshi’s had always hidden behind his ability to misdirect.

“You’d cause more drama for our pack, not less!” Bakugou finally lost it when Kaminari stood up on a desk to better convince a flat-eyed Tokoyami. “Sit down and shut the fuck up, Idiot face! Who cares if we’ve got a lead omega or not!”

“I care!” Kaminari flailed. “And Mr. Aizawa expects us to nominate one soon! If no one else is willing to step up, then it might as well go to me.”

“Like hell it’s you!”

“What, do you want the job?”

“No!”

“And this is why we’ve made no progress,” Shouchan said, just as Bakugou smacked Kaminari down from his makeshift pulpit and Tokoyami used Dark Shadow to stop the boy from braining himself on the floor. “We’re probably going to go into the Sports Festival just as disorganized as this. Not the best showing on television.”

Toshi observed Shouto from the corner of his eye. He seemed eerily serene, like speaking of the Sports Festival was as interesting as the weather. The look in his eyes was very, very blank.

“Probably,” he said, and forced himself to remain seated in his chair. If they were going to be heroes, he needed to trust Shouto to take care of himself. But it didn’t stop him from worrying. Not even when Midoriya walked into class and Shouto lit up, and Toshi’s frown seemed etched right into his soul.

 

--

 

Kaminari was not, in the end, acknowledged as lead omega. Not by any of their class’s most volatile omega powerhouses, though the chance of anyone gaining their approval was little to none.

It didn’t matter that much, Toshi reasoned, since the class remained controlled under Mom's iron fist. Until tensions relaxed enough to let through something a lead omega had always handled that Toshi had taken for granted: gossip.

“Think about it!” Ashido whispered in a conspiratorial tone, like everyone in class couldn’t hear her. “Mr. Aizawa can’t be too happy with his life if he’s always taking it out on us, right? I think we should introduce him to a nice alpha. One that’ll let him be but give him a little… wink wink, nudge nudge, you know?”

“Hey, it doesn’t have to be an alpha,” Kaminari corrected her. He was always mindful of omega prejudices despite the airhead act he had going on. “Honestly, I think Mr. Aizawa would be happier with a beta, you know? He’s got a pretty strong presence that’s kind of dominating… he might just pull a Bakugou and blow an alpha to kingdom come for annoying him so much.”

“But that’s what the right alpha is for!” Ashido argued. “Being picky just means the alpha he finds must be the perfect one for him!”

Toshi wanted to brainwash them all just to get them to stop talking. It was uncomfortable hearing his classmates talk about his mother’s Dad-less love life, about his nonexistent alpha-or-beta boyfriend, about “finding the right alpha.” Toshi wanted to smack Ashido upside the head, though he knew she was just being a genuinely ignorant alpha girl.

Surprisingly, it was Kirishima, not Kaminari, that responded: “I don’t think Mr. Aizawa’s like that. Omegas waiting for the right alpha are open to an alpha at first before deciding they ain’t manly enough, y’know. I’ve never seen Mr. Aizawa do that? He’s so mellow and no-nonsense, he’d definitely be happier with a beta.”

Ashido pouted. “You two are so boring! Come on, imagine with me a little!”

“You’ve been reading too many alpha and omega romance novels,” Kaminari drawled, and yelped when the alpha girl swatted his arm.

Despite the urge to yell at them, Toshi wasn’t about to break his mother’s privacy rule over something as trivial as gossip. So he gritted his teeth and put on his headphones during break, ignoring Shouto’s knowing look and the gleeful gleam in Bakugou’s eyes.

Only Midoriya seemed honestly concerned for his mental health. The other two were assholes that loved watching Toshi suffer.

And then the gossip mill moved on to possibly the only thing worse than speculation about his mother—it moved on to him.

Specifically on his close relationships with the two strongest omegas in class. With Shouto clearly focused on Midoriya now, that apparently left him as the main contender for the hand of the other omega in his life: Bakugou fucking Katsuki.

“I mean, he actually lets you settle him?” Ashido chose to gossip rather than focus on their combat training like they were supposed to. Toshi ignored her in favor of looking over the map All Might had handed to them. The target couldn’t speak and had a time limit before the villain killed them. If they wanted to rescue them successfully… “And it’s obvious you guys know each other from before. I mean, you call Todoroki ‘Shouchan’ which means you probably knew other since you were kids. Makes sense, your dads are both heroes. And Midoriya calls Bakugou ‘Kacchan’ ‘cause they knew each other since they were kids. And then Midoriya’s called Todoroki ‘Yuki’ since the first day of school, which means they at least know each other before U.A. So by some law of the universe, that must mean you know Bakugou!”

“Ashido?”

“Yeah?”

“Melt that wall at this corner here. Make the hole a quarter of a meter tall.” Toshi narrowed his eyes at the wall as Ashido, slack-jawed, unquestionably did his bidding. He even got points for brainwashing his partner after the exercise was over—she’d been unacceptably distracted and they had a time limit. He was simply maximizing their effectiveness.

And then Bakugou found out.

“You fuckheads think I’d hook up with that asshole?” he’d roared, hands raised and explosions crackling from his palms. School had just let out, and the students were mostly crowded around the U.A. gate. “That lazy little shit’s only reason for being able to settle me is ‘cause my instincts don’t even register him as an alpha! He’s pretty much negative alpha. What the hell are you guys even thinking!”

“So you’d prefer someone who’s positive alpha?” Kaminari piped up cheekily. He elbowed Kirishima with the tact of a bumbling horse, and the alpha threw him a Not Cool Man glare. “I know someone I can set you up with.”

Bakugou turned a truly startling shade of red. “I didn’t say that!

“Bakugou,” Toshi decided to nip the argument in the bud. “Settle down before Class B sees and starts annoying the crap out of you again. Not that you have to listen to me; you want a fight, go right ahead.”

“See, it’s that attitude that pisses me off the most,” Bakugou growled at him. He tucked his hands in his pockets and shouldered past the gossipy-trio without looking them in the eye. “That don’t-care-but-sure thing is such a fucking lie. You don’t want people knowing how much you want something ‘cause it’d ruin your image. Not even Deku or Icyhot lie as much as you do.”

If there was a double meaning behind its words, Toshi wasn't about to acknowledge it. As he watched Bakugou storm away, he noticed Kirishima splitting off from his friends and hurrying towards Toshi's direction.

The alpha boy shuffled his feet. “What Bakugou said… is that true? There’s nothing between you guys?”

“An alpha can be friends with two omegas without wanting to bone them, yes,” Toshi said dryly. Kirishima flushed red. The boy was pretty good friends with Kaminari, after all, though the omega was incredibly vocal about his preference for girls. “He’s all yours.”

“W-what? No, I mean,” Kirishima rubbed the back of his neck. “I just… think he can be cool, you know? And even though he hangs with you and Midoriya and Todoroki sometimes, he seems lonely? But I didn’t want to step on any alpha toes by inviting him to hang with us, so.”

Toshi narrowed his eyes at him.

“You can try,” he finally said, a warning and advice in one. “But he might not say yes the first few times.”

“Hey, it wouldn’t be manly to give up after one or two goes! Thanks, man. Let’s do our best getting ready for the festival!"

"Yes," Toshi said, looking up at the sky and carefully not thinking about his continually mediocre combat training scores. That subconscious desire to hold himself back was proving nearly impossible to shake. It was ingrained into him, just as alpha etiquette was after a lifetime of living around Mom’s sensitivity—

The only time he’d let loose was with Monoma Neito in that hallway. And he hadn’t even had to fight for it.

He smiled at Kirishima, mostly genuine. "Yes, let's do our best."

 

--

 

Katsuki spent an entire morning ignoring Kirishima’s puppy face, like that wasn’t proper punishment for being a fucking moron. Him and Yamada? No. Deku and Icyhot were stuck in their own little bubble and were dense enough not to notice, but Katsuki had expected top students attending U.A. to have better observational skills.

Then again, Yamada was a terrifyingly good liar. He lied without lying just like his mother did, and it was a skill Katsuki both envied and hated.

“Hey, hey,” and of course Electric Boy would interrupt his line of thought. Katsuki's newest goal in life was to trick him into knocking himself stupid as early as possible, if only to get some peace and quiet. The Sports Festival was coming up and he had shit to do. The omega had turned around in his chair and was gushing all over Kirishima’s desk. “The alpha girls in this class are really hot, right? Hey, what are the chances they’ll go on a date with me?”

“I wouldn’t know, man,” Kirishima didn’t seem to mind him leaning into his space. An uncomfortable feeling wormed its way into Katsuki's chest, immediately washing away any remaining thoughts of Sleepy Faced jerks. “Why don’t you ask?”

“Great idea! We live in an age of free-spirited, sexually awakened omegas, after all! Hey, Uraraka! You wanna hang out later after school?”

“Have some class,” Icyhot muttered under his breath.

“Oh, is the Pampered Prince put off by my boldness?” Electric Boy turned and batted his eyelashes at the other boy. Icyhot’s expression turned five degrees colder. “Maybe you’d get along better with the alphas if you weren’t so aloof.”

Icyhot glowered just as Deku pretended to suddenly go deaf, his freckled cheeks pink. The boy bit out: “Who says I want to get along with alphas.”

“Ah, so are you strictly a beta man? What about other omegas? Tell me! It’ll be our secret.”

No.

“Hey Bakugou, back me up!” Electric boy said, completely unaffected by the waves of omega rage wafting off of Katsuki. “If you want a mate who’s not scared of an omega in charge, it’s way better to make the first move, right? Right?”

He clenched his pencil so hard he could hear the wood beginning to crack. “Shut up already, you’re so fucking noisy.”

“Pampered princess and omegodzilla,” Electric Boy dramatically mourned to himself. “Male omegas should stick together, you know?”

“Oui!” Twinkling boy called out from the front row.

"This is a pointless avenue of conversation," Bird boy muttered. "We should be practicing for the festival, not gossiping. Procrastinating won't help you, Kaminari. The darkness waits for no one."

"Oh my god, not the darkness again," Electric Boy slumped over his desk. "I just want a boyfriend to gossip with! Give me tips about picking up girls! Why are you all so lame?"

It was exactly this kind of whining that made him unsuitable for lead omega. While Katsuki couldn't care less about dynamic politics, he knew the basics: lead alphas deal with external problems, lead omegas dealt with internal ones. Electric Boy was more likely to cause problems than solve them, and it wasn't like he'd be able to get anyone else to stop anyway.

"What's this about male omegas having to stick together," Earphone girl called Electric boy out. "Sexist much? There are six of you in class and one of me. If anything, I'm the one that needs a girlfriend to gossip with."

"Jirou, no!" Electric Boy sat up. "If you go after the alpha girls, who'll be left for me?"

"There are three alpha girls! Are you planning to hog them all for yourself?"

Electric Boy put a hand to his chest. "I have a lot of love to give, you know."

"Sure," Earphone Girl leaned back in her chair. "But no one's asshole is big enough for that."

"JIROU!" The other girls in class flushed beet red or began to laugh hysterically. Round Face happened to be doing both. "You can't just say that, oh my god!"

"Alright, I've had it!" Katsuki was suddenly on his feet, arms outstretched, and he must have been wearing a particularly scary face because the rest of the class went silent. "No one cares who's sticking what where. You extras can slack off all you like but you're not cutting into my studying time. You really want to be heroes? Act like it and shut the hell up!"

He yanked back his chair and slammed himself back down into it. The ensuing silence was so much better. Katsuki missed hiking in the mountains for this very reason. He thought better, practiced better, did pretty much everything better alone. Having to spend study hall eavesdropping on conversations was the worst kind of hell.

"Sometimes I think Bakugou should be lead omega," Electric Boy finally leaned back to whisper to Kirishima. He yelped when Katsuki threw a pencil at his head. "Ow! What, it's not a bad thing!"

"What about 'shut up' don't you understand?" he snapped, and Electric Boy just turned back to his paper with a pout. No point correcting his assumption, not when the end result was the same. If that idiot threw himself at Kirishima one more time, he was going to stick the boy's finger in a socket.

 

--

 

“Stop babying him,” he snapped at Deku one day as they walked home after school. “What’s the fucking point of Yamada backing off if you’re going to be doing his job, but shittier?”

“What?” Deku looked like he’d been slapped. “What are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about Icyhot! Who else am I talking about?”

“No, I mean…” Deku glanced away and bit his lip. “Whatever's bothering him, I’m sure Shouto will tell me eventually. In the meantime… being his partner means supporting him.”

“Babying him,” Katsuki repeated, and snarled when Deku’s brows furrowed in a way that meant he was about to argue vehemently. He didn’t have time to deal with this. Not with his new regimen requiring him to wake up at ass-o-clock in the morning to work on his precision. Everyone was giving their all to ready themselves for the Sports Festival, and Icyhot was just sitting over there in a denial tantrum.

If he didn’t fight Katsuki with everything he had during the festival, Katsuki was going to kick his ass.

 

--

 

There was less than a week left before the Festival.

It only took ten minutes to sit in the faculty lounge making sure Mom ate all his lunch—“Yes, every bite. No, I’m even worse than Dad. I can make you eat it if I have to”—and the cafeteria meant Shouchan and all kinds of uncomfortable feelings.

So it was back to wandering the halls like a creep, Toshi supposed.

It did allow him to gather important intel about the competition, however, because he wasn’t too proud to admit he needed all the help he could get.

Here were the facts: his hand-to-hand had never been a problem and his capture scarf practice was going better than expected. But showing off his quirk... it drew attention, and not in a good way. People saw Shouchan materialize an ice sculpture before their eyes and cheered. People saw Toshi take control of a classmate to either focus their team or force them to listen to his plans and thought he was an asshole. So he'd held himself back subconsciously, a weakness that may cost him a win.

What had Mom said? The Festival wasn’t all about technical wins. It was about making an impact. Showing off your skills as a hero. And Toshi, despite all appearances, had watched Dad enough to know how to put on a show.

Toshi stared down at one of the many training fields through the window. First-years, as it so happened, and from their uniforms... ah. Students from Class 1-B. A strange feeling rose up in his chest. Despite every sense telling him to just stay up here and observe without giving himself away—a lesson Mom had taught him during those months of fake patrol—Toshi's impulse control was not that good.

He wanted to go down there, so he did.

The Sports Festival would be a good chance for him to see how much he could let loose. Show off what he could do and prove to the public he deserved to be here. Toshi knew he had earned his place here as much as the other kids, but he wasn't made of stone. Other people's opinion mattered more than he was willing to admit.

"Ah, I see Class A's scared enough to spy on our practice!" a familiar voice drawled right before he could make it to the training field. "Not that we'd be dumb enough to show off our best tricks in public!"

Toshi turned and sized up Monoma Neito, who stood before him as pompous and grating as ever. Like the last few minutes of their fight last week hadn’t happened, and they were back to verbal sparring matches. He noticed it the first time they’d spoken: there was a delicateness to the beta’s features that belied that spirited antagonism.

The itch to verbally poke him was overwhelming.

"Like you said, this hallway is public," he said, keeping his tone and expression flat. He stepped forward and raised a brow when the boy stood his ground. The slight flush to his cheeks betrayed the nervous mouse inside, even if the boy’s blue eyes glinted with stubborn fury. "There's nothing that says I can't be here."

Monoma spread his arms with dramatic flair. He was holding his cell phone in one hand, unlocked and mid-text. Toshi twitched. "Yes, but it's common courtesy. What poor sportsmanship from the son of one of U.A.'s teachers. Class A just loves to drag our school's name through the mud, don't they?"

"Are you really getting on my case about sportsmanship? You're the one that stalked me down the other day and attacked me.”

"I didn’t stalk you!” Monoma visibly reeled himself back from his outburst. A dark smile spread across his face as he considered his next words. “And I didn’t attack you with my quirk in the end, did I? In fact, you attacked me. That’s very villain-like, especially given your quirk."

Toshi tilted his head. "It is, isn’t it?”

"Yes, and if you think—”

Monoma's expression froze. He stood completely still as Toshi reached over and plucked his open phone from his hand. It wasn't difficult navigating the unfamiliar set-up to add his contact information in, nor was it any trouble sending a message to himself. He showed Monoma the new contact and tapped the screen.

"If you ever want to actually do something other than talk smack, the radio show offer’s still open. Unless you're really just full of hot air, Monoma Neito." He grinned. "Which is still fine. It's like hearing a little mouse squeak over and over. Kind of annoying, kind of cute."

He tucked the phone into Monoma's pocket and then deliberately, slowly, let his control snap, Monoma came back to himself with fury in his eyes, his lips pressed in a tight line and his fists clenched.

"I know how your quirk works now, Mini Mic, and there are better ways to mock me," he said, pale eyes cold and steely. "Stop treating me like a goddamn omega."

"Two of my good friends are omegas," Toshi said. "So I'm not sure how that’s an insult. Unless you're talking about something else?"

Monoma’s blush was just as pretty as it was before. They were close enough Toshi could pick up the lower tones of his scent. Fresh and salt-whipped like the sea, as angry as it was reluctantly interested. Toshi’s smile widened.

He made a point to take his time glancing around the hallway and then out towards the courtyard. Then, he put his hands in his pocket and walked away. Monoma made no move to follow.

FUCKER! the text came just as he'd walked back into 1-A's classroom. Toshi let a far more genuine grin split his face. That's a second win for him. If Monoma didn't smarten up soon, this game was going to turn into a massacre.

 

--

 

“Izuku,” Shouto raised his chin while the boys changed in the dressing room. “Just because you’re courting me doesn’t mean I expect you to go easy during the Sports Festival.”

Courting?” Kaminari commented gleefully, ruining the illusion of privacy the other boys had the sense to give them. “So it’s serious, huh? What does Endeavor think about Midoriya—”

“Dude!” Kirishima elbowed the omega so hard Kaminari banged his face against his locker door.

Izuku flushed berry red at Kaminari’s whining and subsequent scolding by Ojiro; nevertheless, he stood his ground in front of Shouto without fear. He glanced up at him instead with sparkling, determined eyes, wearing the kind of look that Shouto had fallen in love with within weeks of meeting the boy. The look that promised he could do anything.

“I expect nothing less,” the beta boy proclaimed, serious for all of two seconds before his face split with a warm grin. “I’ll definitely beat you!”

Shouto let his amusement bleed into his voice. “You can’t even control your quirk enough to not injure yourself.”

“I’ll figure it out!”

“Well I’m going to beat the both of you, so shut up already!” Bakugou wriggled past Kirishima’s attempt to act as a guardrail and smacked his towel across Izuku’s head. The boy yelped and nearly fell off the bench when Bakugou shouldered past him to jab a finger to Shouto’s chest. “Your rival’s me, you got that? Fucking Deku isn’t even on our level!”

“He’s stronger than you treat him,” Shouto said, voice cold and harsh. “And he’s stronger than you in the ways that count.”

What did you say?”

“By all means, be late to combat training and get two laps around the track as punishment,” Toshi drawled from the door to the training area. He was already clad in his semi-loose leather costume, his voice modifier tucked snugly against his neck.

He was a dead ringer for Eraserhead without his scarf—from his posture to his lazy expression to the hidden strength in his shoulders masked by his jacket. Sure, none of his facial features matched Eraser’s exactly, but it was the overall air about him that sealed the deal.

It was a wonder no one had figured out the familial relation yet.

“C’mon man, don’t take it as a rival thing!” Kirishima had tugged on what little costume he had—good lord, that was a lot of skin—and grabbed Bakugou’s arm. The omega hissed at him like a wet cat. “It’s a couple thing! Like ‘sweetie I love you but I’m gonna kick your ass’ kind of declaration, you know? Todoroki doesn’t have to worry about you doing that to him, right?”

Bakugou’s face spasmed with clearly conflicting emotions: the angry insistence that it was a rival thing, the horror at the implication that he would ever have a crush on the other omega, the annoyance of the alpha’s disregard for personal space as usual.

“Shut up,” he finally snapped, jerking his arm away and stomping back to his locker. “I’ve told you to mind your own business, Hair-for-brains.”

“It’s Kirishima.”

Shitty Hair-for-Brains.”

“Kirishima, come here before he bites you,” Toshi said, and the alpha, after a moment’s hesitation, complied. Not a complete musclehead, then.

Shouto caught Izuku’s eye and smiled. They were still fellow heroes and rivals, even if they were friends and more. And Shouto needed to show the world—and the TV broadcasters—what he could do.

 

--

 

Tomorrow, he'll do his part to bring Touya home.

Chapter Text

Standing there amidst the furious crowd as Bakugou walked away from the podium, Shouto realized exactly how good the last few weeks had been. Not the USJ situation, of course, but his training with Izuku.

His—boyfriend? Is that who Izuku was? They'd confessed, but then the Sports Festival came up and everything had been shoved aside to prepare for it. They hadn't even kissed, not that Shouto hadn't been tempted.

But Izuku really gave it his 100% when he trained; Shouto could have danced naked in front of him and Izuku would spend five minutes analyzing the development of his muscles instead of making a move. Which was fine. The Sports Festival was important for their hero careers, and even if Shouto wasn't—

Even Shouto could benefit from a good showing.

So following Izuku's training regimen had been the obvious choice. More time spent with his maybe-boyfriend, more training to buff himself up for the festival. Izuku's regimen was as strict as Endeavor's and nearly as tiring, and it was hard not to get swept up in the beta's energy. Izuku wanted to get better, to improve his endurance, to go through every absurd five-minute exercise to help him scrabble his way to the top. Shouto, who may have always wanted to be a hero, had never felt that same desperation to prove himself. It was... enlightening.

Especially when he refused Endeavor's offer to train him for the festival and then proceeded to sit alone in the dojo thinking.

"He goes easy on me, doesn't he?" he finally asked his father's sidekicks once they took their five-minute water break. He hadn't noticed when they first started, too caught up in adjusting his schedule from no formal training to belt-level mastery, but it was obvious now. Training alongside Izuku had given Shouto new insight on how hard Endeavor could have pushed him. 

The sidekicks exchanged glances.

"Yes," one of them admitted, scratching the back of his neck. "But Endeavor going easy is kind of like a normal instructor going hard... to be honest, it's probably a good thing he's being careful. We sometimes have trouble keeping up, and we've had our hero licenses for years."

"Hm," Shouto said, not exactly sure how he felt about it. Grateful? Guilty? Because while no one said it, Endeavor's careful approach wasn't one borne of consideration. It came from experience. Which led to his other issue.

"You're having trouble using your fire?" Izuku had drawn that truth out of him by the end of the first week. He'd grabbed Shouto's left hand like the secrets of his trauma would suddenly reveal itself. "I know things are still weird with your dad, but... ah, don't worry! I promised not to pry! I'm just trying to think of a training method that could help..."

"Toshi suggested using it for non-combat situations," Shouto said, ignoring the pang in his chest at the memory. "So I guess we could start there?"

And he did. Small things like warming up their tea once night had fallen and even their thermoses couldn't keep the cold out. Lighting their way in the early morning, when the sun hadn't yet risen and Izuku had clearly forgotten breakfast again. Every instance where he summoned a ball of familiar orange flame—not blue, and the color difference helped—without burning himself or Izuku or anyone else, his confidence rose.

He was getting better.

Which was why Shouto felt so frustrated when he caught Toshi constantly giving him the side-eye. The alpha boy was worried and Shouto didn't know why. He'd stopped going to Toshi for every little thing, hadn't he? He's been using his fire, speaking of the Festival, going through the daily routine of every other U.A. student. What more could he want?

He didn't get it, not until Bakugou had rejoined their group looking absolutely unrepentant for his rudeness. The conviction in his eyes rivaled Izuku's. Toshi, standing near the back of the group feigning boredom, had a similar gleam in his eye. The three of them were clearly here to win the competition; to prove themselves; to do their best.

Shouto, on the other hand, felt empty. Sure, it'd be nice to prove himself as a hero, but that wasn't why he was here. He was here because...

Shouto clenched his left hand. He needed to find Izuku. Ignoring Midnight's introductions, he shouldered past a few students before spotting the mop of telltale green hair amidst the crowd.

Izuku was smiling up at the stands, gaze locked with a gaunt, sickly-looking man who was grinning with pride. It wasn’t the first time Shouto had seen this strange alpha interacting with Izuku, not when he'd spent so much time glued to the beta's side these past few weeks.

He reached over and tapped Izuku's hand. The beta whirled to face him, startled, but broke out into a sheepish smile once he realized it was Shouto touching him.

"Your dad?" Shouto guessed, because there was honestly nothing else he could think of for the man's presence.

"What?" Izuku flushed red. "N-no, he's not! He's my trainer!"

"...isn't your trainer All Might?"

Izuku's eyes widened so much they looked about to fall out of his head. "What—where did you—I mean—"

"Toshi told me," Shouto said. He turned back to watch Midnight explaining the rules of the first round. "If you don't want to tell me who he is, just say. You don't have to lie."

"...sorry," Izuku said, subdued. He squeezed Shouto's hand, his palm rough. For all his supposed nerdiness, the beta had enough muscle and scars to prove his hero-to-be status. "I... promise I'll explain it to you, one day."

“Hm," Shouto said, and then deliberately let go of Izuku's hand and stepped away. The beta straightened. "Looks like the obstacle race is starting soon. Remember what I said. From this point on, we're rivals."

"Yes, of course!" and Izuku's eyes shone so earnestly Shouto smiled.

It made him feel better about icing the field the moment the first round started, leaping ahead of the pack with one goal in mind.

Make it to the third round. Just make it to the third round, Shouto.

 

--

 

"Shouchan," Toshi approached him after clearing the first round, frown already foretelling the sort of conversation he expected to have. "Shouchan, I need to talk to you."

"Why?" Shouto said flatly. He stiffened when his friend clapped a hand on his shoulder and led him to the edge of the field. "I thought you said I was on my own, Toshi. I'm doing just fine."

"That wasn't the point of what I said and you know it," Toshi's voice offered no room for argument. His gaze was far too sharp, like he was looking through Shouto's layers and found fault in what lay inside. "Shou, you didn't use your fire during the Obstacle Course."

"I didn't need to."

"It could have won you the round."

"I came in second. That's pretty damn good. If you want to say something, say it," Shouto shrugged the alpha's hand off. "You're usually straightforward to a fault. Say it."

Anger flashed across Toshi's eyes. A rare sight that Shouto would have normally been wary of if he weren't so frustrated himself. Toshi’s next words held a hint of alpha voice, which was even rarer than the anger. "You're not okay, Shouto. We should tell Mom to find another way to contact Touya."

"No," Shouto said, tossing off the pheromone suggestion with all the anger of a wild horse. "No, I can do it."

"Shouchan—"

"You're the one who told me to stop hiding," Shouto said. "If I give up now, isn't that doing what I've always done?"

"Shouchan—" and Toshi may have even started shouting if the 42nd student hadn't just cleared the obstacle course and Midnight's call for the second round didn't cut him off. Shouto used the opportunity to flee, because the more Toshi talked the more Shouto had to remember why he was here in the first place.

Toshi was the only other student to know about Touya, and it was the last thing Shouto needed to hear before the second round started.

 

--

 

“No,” Toshi said. “I’ve already formed my own Calvary team. Besides, there’s no advantage in having me with you other than us knowing each other.”

“Shouto refused too,” Midoriya said sadly. Just the mention of that stubborn, self-destructive idiot had Toshi internally growling. Spending all his time with an equally stubborn and self-destructive Midoriya had clearly made Shouto's problems worse, not better, and while Toshi knew it wasn't Midoriya's fault...

He wasn't a saint. But he was also a decent actor, and swallowing his unhappiness wasn't anything new.

“You’re rivals here, not boyfriends. Of course he said no. Think about what your team lacks instead of who you think will most likely agree to be on your demon target squad. Hey Ojiro, no hard feelings about the Obstacle Course, right?”

“If you brainwash me again during this Calvary battle, I’m going to toss you off my back,” Ojiro grumbled.

Toshi leveled him a look. “Then we’ll all lose.”

“I have my pride!”

“Well, I was going to choose Shoji for the first round,” Toshi assured him, though the beta looked anything but assured. “But he was too far away and rarely talks. Besides, you agreed to be on my team this time around, right?”

“Yeah—”

Ojiro’s face went slack.

Yamada!” Midoriya said, exasperated, and Toshi just shrugged.

“He was putting up a fuss. It’s easier to coordinate if they’re all under my control anyway. You should worry more about your own team, Midoriya. Your sweetheart is going to eat you alive.” And Midoriya paled, swiveling around to look at Shouchan’s honestly impressive lineup in preparation for maximum ass-kicking.

When Midnight called the start, chaos erupted across the field.

Toshi wasn’t the only one using Midoriya’s one-million point distraction to snipe headbands from the unobservant. Monoma Neito from Class 1-B was coordinating his own attack in the mayhem, using that sharp wit for something useful for once. A copy ability explained the beta's attempt to touch his skin that first time. Interesting. Even if he'd copied his brainwashing quirk, would the boy know how to use it?

Yes, Toshi concluded when he spotted the way he defended against Bakugou's blast with Kirishima's quirk. Hardening to that extent was something he knew Kirishima had worked up to, and Monoma had achieved that same level of control in seconds.

It would have all been very impressive if Monoma hadn’t made the fatal mistake of poking the beast.

Toshi was a little shit, but even he knew better than to push Bakugou too far.

“Too bad, mouse,” he called out lazily as he guided his team over to the beta's shocked group. “I guess you were the one underestimating him instead of the other way around."

Mini Mic,” Monoma hissed, whirling around and glaring at Toshi.

"It's Yamada," Toshi said. "I saved my name in your contacts and everything."

The beta reddened but refused to back down: "Are you here to humiliate me even more? Pretty damn cocky coming within reaching distance when we're sitting at zero and you have all those pretty headbands around your neck."

"Monoma" one of his teammates tried to say.

"Come and get them, then. Time's almost up, so you better hurry," and Toshi's smile was nowhere near kind. It was startling how easily the beta drew out his predatory instincts. "I won't even use my quirk on you."

“You arrogant alpha—"

And then it happened.

Toshi turned at the sound of the crowd roaring. He saw Midoriya lunge for Shouto’s neck, hand crackling with that power All Might had somehow bestowed upon him—a power that had wrecked several floors during their combat training and broke Midoriya’s arm more than once. And he was directing it at Shouto’s face.

Shouto, eyes wide, immediately burst into flames.

“I got it!” Midoriya shouted, headband in hand and forearm burned.

But Toshi was already urging his group towards Shouto, ignoring Monoma's indignant shout behind him.

He'd warned him. He'd known something like this would happen, had tried to convince his mother to draw Shouto out of the Touya Plan before the festival, but no. Mom had only agreed to do so if Shouto requested it himself, and Shouto's denial was as thick as his obliviousness. Toshi may have decided to take a step back, but Shouto was still his friend.

A friend who was staring at Midoriya’s burned skin like he’d committed the worse sin imaginable. The flames on his left arm grew higher, wilder, and all of Shouto’s self-restraint seemed to evaporate as distress began pouring from his polite façade—

“Shouchan, are you okay?” he yelled as loud as he could, knowing every second counted.

“No,” Shouto choked out, voice panicked, and went blank the moment Toshi's control snapped around him.

The flames went out. The distress faded out like a whisper.

And Midnight called time, to Bakugou’s rage and Midoriya’s horror once he realized the headband he’d taken hadn’t been the one he wanted.

“T-Todoroki?” Yaoyorozu raised a hand to try and shake him back to himself. Toshi made it in time to swat her away and lift Shouto off the riders. The alpha girl followed after him, hands clasped together. “Is he going to be okay, Yamada?”

“He’s fine,” Toshi said shortly. With how close they'd been, there was no way Yaoyorozu, Inasa or Kaminari could have missed Shouto’s almost panic attack. The alphas were worried and apprehensive while Kaminari seemed thoughtful. “I’ll take him to the waiting room to get settled.”

“He brainwashed his friend!” Inasa finally burst out as Toshi turned and hurried towards the arena exit. "Is this how he wants to show the world his quirk?"

“Todoroki was going to lose his cool on national television, man," Kaminari argued back. "What's your deal with those two anyway? We all want to be heroes, why do you keep looking for reasons to write people off?"

“Guys,” Yaoyorozu was the voice of reason, and nearly the last thing he heard before striding out of range. Nearly, because just as he stepped off the field he released control over his cavalry team.

Ojiro’s enraged: “YAMADA!” followed him down the hall.

 

--

 

He’d burned Izuku. The boy hadn’t reacted much other than flinching back, but seeing the skin turn red and painful from something Shouto had done—

The memory he'd been holding back slammed into him without mercy. Blue fire. Screams. The god-awful smell of flesh sizzling before his eyes. That mental wall came tumbling down the second Shouto had burned the only person to believe in him these last few weeks. Izuku had spent so much time trying to show Shouto that his flames were warm, gentle, and in return—

He'd burned him.

“Shouchan," and Shouto flinched when felt himself being set down on a bench. How did he...? Oh. Toshi must have carried him. “Shouchan, hey. Listen to me. Midoriya's fine. That idiot breaks limbs for fun; do you think a little burn's going to stop him from putting his all in the third round?"

Shouto couldn't find the words to respond. He wanted to say something, grow angry, but he found himself clinging to Toshi's arm instead. And after all his work trying to stand on his own, too.

“Mom actually suspected this might happen,” Toshi said, sounding testy. “You’ve been… better these last few weeks, but a lot of it is Midoriya distracting you. Facing each other on opposite sides, having to use your fire on him. Mom’s biggest concern was that the trauma you experienced that night would catch up to you.”

Shouto’s cheeks burned. The fact that Eraserhead's fears had been right made him feel inexplicably small and weak.

“I brainwashed you before you could go nuclear, so nothing happened,” Toshi continued. “But I still think you need to talk to Mom now. He won't judge you for knowing your limits."

Shouto’s throat closed up. “No.

“Shouchan.”

“No,” Shouto squeezed Toshi’s arm hard. “This whole thing with Touya is—is personal. I need to do this. Please."

“You can't keep hiding from this," Toshi's voice bit out, angry. Shouto flinched and felt pathetically grateful when the alpha forced his presence down. "...look, at least tell Midoriya what's going on. You need more people in your corner and Midoriya's your boyfriend or whatever. He obviously cares about you. His heart’s big enough for four people, so he's not going to judge you for wanting to protect your brother."

“No,” Shouto said. “I can’t. Izuku can't know.”

And before he could fall back into another pool of He-Won't-Like-Me-Anymore worries, he found himself pressed into a familiar chest. Shouto immediately tucked his face into Toshi's neck and breathed. He often joked that the alpha smelled like a rusty crowbar, but that didn't make it any less comforting. Toshi hadn't settled him like this since middle school, not when simply extending his presence was the more socially acceptable method.

Shouto had... forgotten how peaceful a full-contact settle could be.

Eventually, however, Toshi let him go. Shouto's next inhale was shaky but clear. He could think again, and that was what mattered.

"Are you sure you want to keep going?" Toshi said, voice deliberate. He wasn’t starting a fight, then, backed up by the earnest instead of patronizing tone of his voice.

Shouto nodded. His friend sighed but didn't bother arguing any further. Just stood and cracked the door open a bit to whisper at someone outside. He pulled back with a long-suffering expression on his face. "Brace yourself, Shouto—I’m letting the puppy back in."

Shouto stared, mystified, until Toshi flung open the door and Izuku barreled through.

Shouto!” he wailed, tears in his eyes, and Shouto found himself with an armful of worried beta blubbering all over him. “Are you okay? Yamada wouldn’t let anyone in here and Yaoyorozu said you seemed distressed and—”

Toshi closed the door behind him, the bastard, and Shouto curled his arms around Izuku’s waist and buried his head in his shoulder. The boy’s words ran over him like a river over pebbles in the riverbed. It didn't have the same physical effect as an alpha's presence, but Izuku's fresh scent was nearly as good. Besides, Izuku was clearly okay. Toshi was right—a little burn was nothing. Things were fine.

He was so close. It was the third round and the nation was watching. He could do this.

 

--

 

Toshi wasn't sure who was more at a disadvantage in this matchup. Of course he had to be matched with Shouchan's impossible boyfriend the first round. Toshi had to prove himself this festival, and Midoriya was the most unknown variable that could have been thrown at him.

So there was that, and there was Toshi's lingering resentment over Shouto. Midoriya was supposed to have helped him, not made everything worse, and seeing Shouto so scared of what this stupid freckled beta thought of him had Toshi's blood boiling.

Which wasn't fair given the complexity of Shouto's situation, but anger was rarely fair. He may have been able to talk himself back into rationality after a few days, but to go face-to-face with Midoriya during the first round?

If he thought Toshi was going to hold back his punches like he usually did, the beta had another thing coming.

“First match is between two class 1-A members: Midoriya Izuku, winner of the first round, and someone I know you’ve all been dying to see in person: Mini Mic!

Dad,” Toshi hissed, glowering up at where his parents were staring down at the arena.

“That’s right! That’s Yamada Hitoshi, another class 1-A student, and my very beloved son whom I am so proud—”

“Get to the point, Present Mic,” Mom thankfully interrupted him, his voice deadpan through his own microphone. “We’ve got fifteen matches to get through so let’s get started.”

“…and with his usual party-pooper attitude, Eraser ruins my precious son’s intro!”

“You ruined your own intro.”

Toshi was sure his face was burning red—for the utter embarrassment he’d known Dad was going to heap onto him or for Mom’s subsequent semi-flirting in response, he didn’t know. He just wanted it to stop.

“The match will end when a student either knocks their opponent out of the ring or gets them to yield,” Midnight finally intervened, though the grin she threw Toshi was sharp and knowing. Toshi would have flipped her off if it didn’t raise too many questions. “Ready… begin!”

Midoriya immediately bulldozed towards him. Smart. The best strategy against Toshi's quirk was to take him down before he could use it, and it was something Toshi knew Midoriya would do. He'd bribed those notes on himself for a reason, after all.

“Going right for it, huh?” Toshi called out lazily, like it wasn’t taking a good portion of his concentration to flip away from Midoriya’s punches or block the ones he couldn’t. “I can respect that. You want to prove to Shouto you can win, but that’s not even as important as proving—” he caught the next kick and used his bigger size to throw Midoriya over his shoulder. The beta landed hard but rolled away before Toshi could grab him again. “—proving to All Might you deserve his power.”

Midoriya’s eyes blew wide and scared. He stared at Toshi for a solid moment, mouth gaping like a fish. No sound came out, however, and dammit, Toshi needed him to talk if he wanted to show off what he could do—

“You haven’t told Shouto yet, have you? I only really know ‘cause my parents brought me to the briefing on All Might’s… you know,” he pointed to his left side. “But if you’re serious about courting Shouchan, you probably shouldn’t keep something this important to yourself.”

He let his grin stretch out slowly, enough to raise Midoriya’s suspicion. If he drew inspiration from a certain blond beta with a mean streak, Midoriya would never know. “Then again, Shouchan hasn’t been too honest with you either. He didn’t explain what happened at the USJ, did he? What he saw?”

“Yamada, what—?” Ah.

Midoriya’s outburst was cut short by Toshi’s quirk snapping into place.

It was an asshole move, but Toshi had never denied being an asshole. Mom had always made it clear that playing dirty against a villain was more important than playing fair and ending up dead, and this was a prime example of exactly how far Toshi knew to go to ensure a win.

The moment that puppet string had formed between them, the fight was his.

“Turn around and walk out of bounds,” he told the blank-faced Midoriya. It soothed his pettiness just a little when the beta obediently turned and began to walk.

He was nearly to the line when Toshi felt it.

Whenever people asked how it felt to use his quirk, his explanations always fell short. It was a bit like maneuvering puppets on mental strings, strings that he created through a call and response. Physical force on either him or his puppet snapped the string, and while he could adjust the level of awareness the puppet had, they couldn't do anything about it.

His Bad-Grandpa had written an entire essay about his quirk and mailed it to their home for his tenth birthday. Mom had, in a fit of graciousness, actually let him keep it. Toshi knew his quirk. 

Except he’d never had a person tied to his string before suddenly feel like two people. Or three. Or four, or five, or—

The one string strained to contain what felt like nine people at once, and in that second of weakness, Midoriya flicked his finger.

Toshi blamed his inaction on his utter shock. Of course. Of course fucking Midoriya would use his god-given luck to do the impossible, just as he'd been doing the impossible since they were kids. But spitting in the face of a quirk Toshi knew like the back of his hand...

It wasn’t fair.

Then his vision went white with pain, and he found himself face-down in the dirt.

“The match goes to Midoriya! Yamada is out of bounds!”

No.

The worst part about lying in the dirt wasn't the shame of failure. Of losing a match he'd wanted to win as badly as he'd wanted anything, even if he pretended he didn't care. It was the frustrated tears pooling at the corner of his eyes, and Toshi didn't cry. Not when the whole nation was watching, and not against Shouto's impossibly impossible boyfriend.

“And… and in a shocking twist, Midoriya wins the match?” and Dad's disbelief was just another stab to the gut. "Good showing, Mini Mic! I'm still proud of you!"

“Hey,” Midoriya called out shakily as he approached him. He looked a bit like a terrified rabbit that had poked a bear. The beta swallowed but persisted. “Y-you okay?”

Toshi ignored Midoriya's hand and stood up on his own. Anger bled into his scent, a change he knew Midoriya could sense by the way the beta stepped back. Rather than tamp it down as usual, Toshi let it boil. He didn't feel like being nice, not when he needed time to just think.

"Midoriya," he said, voice clipped and flat. "I’d talk to All Might as soon as you can, if I were you.”

The boy's mouth flapped soundlessly. Then: “All—All Might?”

“Don’t act dumb,” Toshi snapped, and Midoriya actually flinched back. “When you broke out of my control… I felt like I was trying to control nine people at once rather than just one. Shouchan will kill me if something happened to you and I didn’t stop it. So stop blubbering and go talk to All Might.

Midoriya's eyes were big and green and scared. His mouth trembled, no doubt trying to come up with some sort of lie, and Toshi didn't have the patience for this. Not when everything that could possibly go to shit was going to shit: Shouto refusing to stand down, Toshi losing his match, Mom insisting on continuing this farce. At this rate, Touya might not even be watching the fucking TV and all of this would have been for nothing.

Toshi turned heel and walked away. He needed to get a hold of himself. With Midoriya and Shouto both frazzled over their respective secrets, Toshi couldn't afford to lose it too. Not when that would leave Bakugou the last sane man standing, and god knows what havoc that omega would wreak unsupervised. No.

He needed to get himself under control.

Chapter Text

Toshi was sitting on a bench in the locker room, eyes closed, when he heard the door open.

“You talked big words during the Calvary Battle, but you lost in your first round, Mini Mic,” Monoma Neito sat on the bench beside him. “That quirk of yours must not be very strong if that kid could break—”

Toshi grabbed him by the shirt collar and slammed him into a locker.

The beta let out an oomph but, against all sense, refused to shut up. “Your quirk is useless on its own. Your parents must be so disappointed."

“Funny,” Toshi breathed. “Since your quirk relies entirely on others, too."

"I only need to touch someone to gain their quirk. You need an actual response. On the scale of versatility, mine is clearly the winner. You’re just the inferior, Class-A version of me, aren’t you? What makes you think you can become a hero with some unreliable mind control quirk like that?”

They were close. Monoma’s eyes were a pale blue under the light of the locker room: scared and defiant and so very pretty. The beta's hand landed on his forearm, his palm surprisingly rough despite his delicate appearance.

And Toshi. Toshi grinned, sharp and dangerous, because he was in a shitty mood and playing with Monoma was like a cat playing with a mouse. The beta boy was such a mouthy asshole that it was fun to rile him up, to see his theatrics, to goad him until all Monoma’s attention focused on him. And it wasn’t like his instincts demanded he give Toshi attention, either. Toshi could let his presence loose without ruffling delicate omega feathers, and it was as freeing as it was terrifying. Toshi never let loose. Not like this.

Monoma's mouth turned up triumphantly, his fingernails digging into Toshi's skin, but Toshi didn’t need to talk to get his point across.

He yanked Monoma’s head back against the locker and sank his alpha teeth right into his neck.

FUCK,” the boy yelped, his entire body flinching. Broken concentration was the bane of Toshi's quirk, and by the shudder he received, Monoma was anything but concentrating. "Ow, what the fuck?"

He shuddered again, not entirely uninterested when Toshi finally tasted blood on his tongue.

“You've been under my quirk twice," he said, drawing back and cocking his head in lazy indifference. "Do you really think it's unreliable?"

Monoma glanced up at him in equal parts shocked, angry and… like he was seeing him for the first time. Not as some weird embodiment of Class 1-A, but as Yamada Hitoshi. Ah, there was that beta honesty he liked.

His grin widened. “No more words? If that's all you have to say after stalking me down, I'm disappointed. Is Class B really so boring you need to come yapping to Class A for someone to put you in your place?”

“Like hell! You’re the one who needs to be put in his place,” Monoma stammered, cheeks flushed pink. Blood trickled down his neck. “W-what do you think’s gonna happen once I tell everyone what a savage you are? The kind of alpha so insecure he’d try and dominate a beta? Huh?

“I don’t think you’ll tell anyone.” Toshi ducked close a second time. He didn’t bite, just pressed his nose against the boy’s neck and felt the panicked heartbeat thudding through the skin. The smell of sea breeze was stronger here, and Toshi had the alpha nose to read it like a book. “’Cause then you’d have to admit you liked it.”

Which was when Monoma finally, delightfully blushed a pretty red. It stood out bright against his pale skin and ran all the way down his neck, past the indent of Toshi’s teeth. When Toshi curiously exuded more of his alpha presence around them both, the blush intensified. It was a satisfying response from a mouse being hunted by a cat.

“We’ll play a game,” Toshi said, like the beta's reaction wasn't anything special. It clearly made him nervous, given the tremble of his lips, but keeping Monoma on his toes was half the goddamn fun. “You keep trying to prove we’re pretentious losers who don’t deserve the spotlight. And I keep proving to you we’re just naturally superior and you’re just a squeaky little mouse.”

“That’s what I’ve been doing,” Monoma managed to pick up the conversation despite his distraction. His hands had moved from Toshi's arm to his shoulders, no longer interested in copying quirks. “And I’m not trying anything. You are losers!”

“And how many Class B students ended up in the final round?”

“Your strategy was the same as mine!”

“True… but what did you say before? You’re just an inferior, Class B version of me?”

“Fuck off,” Monoma rasped, pupils blown dark and wide against the pale blue of his iris.

And then he yanked Toshi’s shirt forward and mashed their lips together.

Despite knowing where this game of chicken was heading, the surprise of soft lips against his nearly froze him in his tracks. But Toshi was a decent improviser and Monoma was bossy. It didn’t take a genius to figure out Monoma tugging his arm meant he wanted him to lift him up more comfortably against the locker. While he considered pretending not to understand just to mess with the boy's head... the idea of holding him in his arms was appealing . So he did.

Toshi had never kissed anyone before, much less made out, but his inner alpha couldn’t have cared less. Enthusiasm and frustration more than made up for inexperience. Sure, he may have jabbed the boy in the side by accident, but Monoma bit Toshi’s tongue within the first few seconds and played it off like he’d meant to all along.

He was so goddamn ridiculous.

“Three to zero,” Toshi finally drew back, breath harsh. The beta shuddered and pressed his face into the crook of Toshi’s neck. “I'm wiping the board with you, little beta.”

"Fuck. Off." Monoma said, voice surprisingly even. His ears were red to the tips, betraying the expression he was trying to hide from Toshi's eyes. It made him feel a bit better for his own flush, the thumping of his heart in his chest, the dizzying amount of alpha scent filling the room. He'd be more embarrassed if he weren't relieved.

He was still annoyed, of course, but letting that aggression out instead of holding it in had more of an effect on him than he realized. He would've thanked Monoma if that little shit wouldn't hold it against him forever.

Sharp fingernails dug under his collar: "I told you to fuck off!"

Ah, so that mask was back on. Not perfectly, given the beta's inability to look him in the eye, but that tone was 100% "Class B will beat you!" that Toshi no longer had the energy to entertain.

So Toshi did, indeed, fuck off. He set the beta down onto the floor—despite his first instinct to just drop him, but Toshi wasn’t evil—and stalked out of the locker room without a word. He knew better than to look back at Monoma's sputtering. In shows of dominance, these little details counted.

He did have tuck his hands into his pockets, though. They were shaking. He could still taste Monoma’s mouth on his tongue and his cheeks were flushed and god, he’ll have to calm down for an entirely different reason before facing his classmates in the stands.

This was a bad idea on the level of Bakugou’s omega-break bad ideas, but Toshi couldn’t find it in himself to regret it. It was fun.

 

--

 

“Is Yamada mad at me?” Izuku turned to Shouto in the stands, hands wringing with nervousness. “I mean, he doesn’t usually take a loss personally but the way he looked… I don’t know. And he didn’t come back to the stands? Do you think something’s wrong?”

Shouto didn’t respond right away. Despite the beta's soothing presence beside him, the weight of what he needed to do was overwhelming. It's why he avoided looking directly at Izuku; despite his bold declaration to Toshi, he knew the situation was delicate. If he saw the faint burn marks left over from Recovery Girl’s brief treatment, it might be enough to send him spiraling again.

Izuku was a marvel, really, but for once Shouto selfishly wished he’d kept that determination in check.

If Toshi was here, he’d be able to talk some sense into him. Even if he tried convincing him to approach Eraserhead again, it'd be better than holding it all in. Hell, Shouto may even been more willing to listen this time, sitting in the stands waiting for his own round to begin. Toshi was savvy enough to know this was the best time to catch Shouto unaware, and he'd never failed to take advantage of that before. But Toshi wasn’t here.

Of course he wasn't, Shouto forced himself to remember. He'd lost, and Toshi's world did not revolve around forcing Shouto to solve his problems.

“Shouto?”

“Sorry,” he finally stammered out, glancing over at Izuku and firmly keeping his gaze on his face. “Toshi… you broke through his brainwashing, Izuku. On your own.”

“Uh… yeah? I guess when they say my willpower is strong, they mean it’s real strong?” Izuku laughed nervously.

Shouto refused to let that pretty sound distract him. “No one's broken through his brainwashing since he was very little, and that was only because he had a shorter time limit. That hasn't been a problem for him in a long time. Once you were caught, the battle should have been over.”

Izuku went very, very quiet. The nervousness bled out from his bones and he ducked his head to stare at his lap.

Shouto, against all his senses, stared down at his crossed hands. At his burned arm.

He’d done that.

He swallowed.

Izuku finally said, “Honestly… I don’t know how I broke through either. It’s complicated, but whatever happened really scares me. I can’t talk to anyone about it but it scares me.”

“You can talk to me about it?” Shouto offered before realizing how hypocritical it was to ask Izuku to spill his guts when he’d refused to explain his panic at the end of the calvary battle. He flushed and glanced away. “I mean… you don’t have to. We can just watch the games, if you want.”

Izuku’s smile was watery but genuine. “Th-thanks, Yuki. Shouto. I’m… I’m glad we might at least face off against each other now, you know?”

Shouto suppressed a flinch. He wasn’t glad—not at all.

Sitting beside Izuku wasn't exactly awkward, but the secrets between them were suffocating. Maybe he should tell Izuku like Toshi suggested. But he didn't want to distract the boy from focusing on the Festival; didn’t want to force someone else to coddle him; to drag Izuku down into his complicated family drama anymore than he had to. He couldn't.

His left hand twitched.

Toshi finally slunk out of the shadows midway through Kirishima’s match with Ojiro. He seemed... strange. Not as upset as Shouto had expected, and that unnerved him more than if Toshi had come back with tears running down his face. If things were suffocating with Izuku, things were downright claustrophobic with Toshi.

Izuku glanced up at the alpha nervously as he took his seat on Shouto’s other side.

“Kirishima’s going to win,” Toshi said conversationally, mere moments before the alpha boy took advantage of an opening to pin the beta to the ground. Ojiro struggled briefly before yielding. “Ojiro’s pride got the better of him this time. Being a hero isn’t about deserving to be here. It’s proving you are meant to be here. Idiot.”

“Well, hello to you too,” Shouto grumbled, tetchy. His internal omega was restless and angry and fearful, but Toshi had withstood bitchier moods from him before. “Where the hell have you been?”

“Playing with a mouse.”

“…the principal?”

Toshi gave him an incredulous look. “No.

“Yamada!” Izuku burst out, glancing around Shouto to get a good look at the boy. “I—I know you want answers and I can’t give them to you, but I’m sorry! It felt like… it felt like I stole your win.”

“Being a hero requires stepping on the backs of others,” Toshi said, pulling a Shouto and not looking in Izuku’s direction. The boy wilted at the combined cold shoulders of two of his closest friends. “Mom made that clear about the festival since the beginning. Don’t be like Ojiro. Prove you’re meant to be here.”

Izuku blubbered. Toshi watched Bakugou approach the field with all the seriousness an alpha like Uraraka deserved, no matter their appearances. And Shouto spent far too long staring at the line of Toshi’s back, trying to figure out what was wrong and growing more and more frustrated as it escaped him.

When Uraraka's meteor blast crumbled under Bakugou's unrelenting explosions, he got it.

“You smell different,” Shouto said, and caught the slight stiffening of Toshi’s shoulders. The new smell was faint but present, like the extra scent Fuyumi carried whenever she came home after a date with Tenya. The omega inside him began to itch. “Why?”

Toshi slowly turned his head and stared at him. His expression was both soft and stubbornly standoffish. Shouto knew that look. Despite sharing nearly everything growing up, there were still some things Toshi hoarded even from Shouto. It had been a while since he'd last seen this expression, which... probably meant Toshi really had been spending far too much time on Shouto as of late.

“…your match is starting soon, Shouchan," Toshi said, turning back to the stage where Uraraka was being carried off. "Go and kick tape boy’s ass.”

Shouto blamed it on his temper. On Izuku’s cluelessness when it came to his injuries by Shouto’s hands, on Toshi’s sudden distance and secretive behavior, on his pitiful reliance on the alpha for support because god. They were fifteen, Toshi had his own problems to work through and Shouto couldn’t keep expecting him to babysit him like in the Calvary battle.

Shouto needed to stand strong on his own.

“Overkill, much?” Sero Hanta shivered from his prison of ice. It was the largest glacier Shouto had ever created, one that sent such a chill through his right half his fingertips had frosted over.

“Sorry,” Shouto said, realizing now that he'd won the battle so fast he hadn't even managed to make the hand signals he needed for Touya. Well, there was always next round. “I was angry.”

 

--

 

The message to Touya would be simple.

Though rarely used nowadays, Shouto still remembered the Idaten hand-signals he and Toshi had used to communicate through Toshi’s mute phase. In the spirit of supporting his friend, Shouto had brought his muteness home, to the utter confusion of his family.

“What? What do you want?” Touya had huffed when Shouto kept tugging his pants and making wavy motions with his hands. “What the hell are you doing?”

“Swear jar!” Natsuo shouted from the couch. Touya flicked two hundred yen coins off his head, to their brother’s indignation. “Ow! I’m telling Fuyumi!”

“You tell Fuyumi, you’ll have to play Mario Kart with Shouto instead,” Touya said.

“Ugggh,” Natsuo sank back into the cushions. “Whatever. He wants you to take him to the beach.”

“How do you know that?”

“’Cause he and Toshi have been doing that for weeks? I mean…” Natsuo’s usual grin dimmed a bit. “Well, you were in the hospital for a lot of that time, so I guess you might not know. Anyway, Toshi’s not talking right now. He and Shouto are using some of Idaten’s hand signals instead.”

“Not talking? Why isn’t he talking?” Touya ignored Shouto’s increasingly agitated tugs and swung him up onto his hip instead, to the little boy’s ire. “Trauma from the attack?”

“Nah… it’s his quirk. Brainwashing. It’s voice activated, and, well. He’s scared of it, I guess?”

Touya stared down at Natsuo with an unreadable expression across his patchwork face. Then, he sighed.

“You want to go to the beach, huh,” he finally addressed Shouto, who nodded vigorously. “Fine. Get your helmet. I’ll bike us there.”

“But Mario Kart!” Natsuo wailed, shaking the controller at him, and fell face-down on the couch when they left the room anyway.

Toshi and Mr. Aizawa had been waiting for them in a clear patch of Dagobah beach. When the former saw Touya’s bike coming up the hill, he ran towards them and began making hand signals at Shouto, who was sitting on Touya’s lap.

“He shouldn’t be scared of his quirk,” Touya had said when he’d assumed the boys weren’t listening. Shouto remembered how strange his face looked, that startling blue of his eyes gleaming under the summer sun. “Why are you letting him avoid the issue?”

Mr. Aizawa made a clicking noise with his tongue. “Everyone works through things at their own pace. Learning to make decisions on your own is an important lesson in self-confidence, and I’m not pushing my son before he’s ready. Something I assumed you’d understand, Touya.”

His brother bristled. “It’s not the same.”

“No. But if you’re here, you might as well learn some of their most common signals. If Shouchan’s as stubborn as Toshi over here, he’d rather pee his pants than explain in words that he needs to go to the bathroom. Come on.”

And Touya, contrary to his rebellious attitude, had learned.

It was ironic how bringing Touya in meant literally digging up the good old days, before Shouto’s quirk had manifested, before Endeavor had come back into their lives, before Touya had somehow grown apart from Fuyumi and began skulking city corners.

The message was simple. Just a handful of gestures.

 

--

 

He wasn’t sure he could use his fire against Izuku again. He'd hoped the boy would understand.

But no.

“It’s your power!” Izuku screamed, half dead on his feet and honestly horrible to look at across the field. “It’s not your brother’s or your father’s—it’s yours!”

And god, Shouto didn't know what the beta wanted him to do. He was holding himself hostage, breaking himself finger by finger until Shouto could somehow overcome the mental block stopping up his fire through willpower alone. But that wasn't how it worked. All Izuku was doing was hurting himself, and Shouto couldn't stop him. If he used his fire, he'd hurt Izuku. If he didn't use his fire, he'd hurt Izuku. It was a lose-lose situation, and Shouto wanted him to stop.

"That's enough!" He threw another ice blast at him, hoping this one would be the one to knock him out of the ring before things became worse. But no, there was another finger-breaking blast, and hopelessness settled in the pit of his stomach as Izuku's gaze begged him to use his full power. To make this a fair fight.

Because Izuku still thought this was about winning the tournament, and Shouto couldn't tell him the truth.

He knew it was his power. He'd been told that since he’d manifested both fire and ice as a child and promptly burst into tears. But being told something was different than actually accepting it. While his mother was kind and sweet and gentle, she’d never liked fire. Fire was his father’s mistakes literally burnt across Touya’s skin. Fire was Shouto having to leave the house and train in expensive, empty halls at Endeavor’s agency. Fire was leaving the Yukimura name behind, was screams in the night as Touya—

Once the smoke cleared and the cement rubble removed, Shouto could only stare at what his indecisiveness had cost him.

Izuku looked like a broken ragdoll on Recovery Girl’s stretcher. His fingers twisted in unnatural directions. Frost covered his bare feet, bruises covered his chest, and Shouto. Shouto stared down at his left hand, betrayed.

He tried making the first set of hand signals to the camera but was forced to stop halfway. His left hand kept shaking. He wanted to go see Izuku but wasn’t sure if he could, not when it was his fault he—

“Shou.” Toshi drew him into his arms the moment he stumbled into the locker room. Shouto barely reacted. He leaned against his friend’s shoulder instead, breath cold on his lips, and squeezed his eyes shut. He should do something other than stand there. Hug Toshi back, maybe, tuck his face into his neck and breathe his scent in to try and settle himself like he had earlier that day, but Toshi still smelled like some beta he didn’t know.

Toshi, who had never shown interest in anyone as long as Shouto had known him.

“Shouchan,” Toshi repeated, drawing back and gripping Shouto’s shoulders with his hands. Dark purple eyes demanded his attention. “Shouchan, we need to talk to Mom. C'mon.”

Shouto, too dazed to fight back, went. Except the staff stopped them before they could make it up to the commentary box where Eraserhead sat. Toshi actually growled at the poor man, but the employee had the guts to stand firm.

"Eraserhead isn't even here right now," he told Toshi like he was talking to a lost puppy looking for his owner. Of course. The entire nation knew Toshi was part of Class 1-A. They thought he was pathetically looking for his teacher, not tracking down his mom for hero business. "He left all of a sudden about... twenty minutes ago? An urgent call, he said. I don't think he'll be back."

“Toshi…” Shouto was tired. He tugged on his friend's arm before he could do something reckless, like brainwash the employee into letting him into the box anyway. Which was when it finally hit him.

Toshi was never this reckless with his scent, which meant he was still upset about his loss.

Pretty damned upset, now that Shouto was paying attention, and had he really been too self-absorbed to notice? He'd focused on the foreign scent of a beta over Toshi's emotional well-being. What the hell was wrong with him? He said, voice faint,  “It's fine. I'll get through this. You don't have to protect me."

"Dammit, Shou," Toshi said, sounding just as helpless as Shouto felt. He didn't have another match to distract him, however, and Shouto could see the strain of his friend's mouth.

It was like waking up after being in a long, bizarre dream, and Shouto.

What had Shouto been doing? 

 

--

 

“You’re just like your father!” Inasa Yoarashi spat as winds buffeted Shouto from all sides. “Looking down at everyone from—”

“I am like him,” Shouto said flatly and raised his hand. He didn't know the alpha very well, and he honestly didn't care much of what happened to him. Fire exploded from his left in horrifying glory, riding along the winds in a firespin that sent Inasa reeling back. The flames were entirely out of control, reckless and dangerous, and it was only by some miracle the match was called before Shouto could burn himself like Touya had once did.

Because his anger was no longer vague and unfocused. It was as strong as his flames were hot, and it was directed at himself.

No signals this time either, and Shouto knew he was running out of chances to do his job. But after watching Toshi and Izuku and actually taking some time to think, he knew it wasn't the right time. If he wanted Touya's true, unbridled attention, he needed to be in clear view of the camera. Not running around on a field half obscured by firespins or explosions.

Everything felt eerily clear once he made up his mind. Even when Bakugou was shaking him like a doll while demanding a real fight.

It was so goddamn simple.

The awards ceremony. Bakugou was throwing a fit the likes of which national television had rarely seen before, but that's just how he was. The viewers at home probably thought he was borderline on an omega break, though anyone in person could tell his scent was more annoyed than distressed. Shouto didn't care. First place or second, it really didn't matter.

All that mattered was All Might placing the silver medal around his neck, and the camera zooming in on him to get a clear shot of the Sports Festival Runner-Up.

Shouto, blank-faced, made a series of gestures with his hands: Dagobah beach, three days, nine o' clock PM. Please.

And then it was over.

It was so simple and easy and it was over, and Shouto had left a trail of destruction in the wake of his issues. Izuku had broken his fingers, Toshi had had to deal with his loss alone, and Bakugou was throwing a televised tantrum that wouldn't exactly endear him to the public. Shame coursed through him. Heroes held each other up. They were a pillar of hope. Especially here and now watching All Might awkwardly hang a gold medal in Bakugou's mouth, Shouto realized just how far away he was from the hero ideal.

He'd been skirting by on the excuse that this festival was for Touya, not for some medal, but what was everyone else fighting so hard for? How oblivious had he been to those around him to ignore that passion in favor of his own problems? Inasa had been right, in the end. Thinking his own concerns were more important than others was exactly the kind of behavior he hated about his father, and Shouto.

Shouto knew he could do better.

For Izuku and even Bakugou, to some extent. And, more importantly, for Hitoshi.

His best friend had needed him and he hadn’t been there.

 

--

 

And now, they had to wait.

Chapter Text

Tensei had actually written Aizawa Shouta on the list of approved visitors, which was a plus. Saved him the energy of arguing with the secretary at the counter and spending even more time in the goddamn hospital.

“Tensei,” and it was awful seeing one of his oldest friends lying beaten on the medical cot, hooked up to god knows how many machines and breathing shallowly into a mask. Mrs. Iida glanced up at him anxiously. “Is he good enough to talk?”

“I… I don’t know. Honey, are you…?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Tensei rasped, cracking an eye open. “Hey Aizawa. Is Tenya with you?”

“No,” Shouta said. “I figured it’d be easier to break the news after the festival wrapped up and not during—he’s still on the clock and we don’t want him distracted.”

“As rational as ever,” Tensei smiled faintly. “Hizashi?”

“Finishing up his commentating.”

“Did Shouchan…?”

“Yes, eventually,” Shouta sighed, heavy and hard. It might have been too cruel to push Shouchan into helping his brother’s case, but as his teacher he’d wanted to give him the opportunity to overcome his fears. From the beginning, however, he could see Shouto's focus already slipping in the opposite direction. Especially when Midoriya injured himself, that fool...

Honestly, he'd been surprised when he'd gotten the phone call from Hizashi informing him Shouchan had succeeded. He doubted the boy had overcome the mental hurdle of Touya's crimes, so there must have been another reason he'd picked himself off the ground. Something equally distressing, perhaps.

Either way, Shouta wasn't sure if it had been worth pushing the boy to the brink.

He continued, “I think we have a better chance there. Tensei, we agreed to prioritize Touya as our vigilante spy and leave the Hero Killer alone. Why on earth would you—” He stopped himself with a harsh breath. “They’re both violent on paper but Touya knows you. And he only kills villains. The Hero killer kills heroes and you went after him—”

“I know, I know. Reckless. You can scold me all you want later,” Tensei coughed. “But I couldn’t just let him kill someone once I saw him…”

“So you let him try to kill you?”

“He didn’t kill me."

“You'll never work as a hero again," Shouta said, voice flat. "You're paralyzed from the waist down, goddammit."

“Aizawa," Mrs. Iida rested her hand on Tensei's arm, alarmed. “I know you’re coming from a place of caring but I don’t think Tensei should be under such stress. Can you please leave?”

“No,” Shouta wasn’t in the mood to play nice. “Tenya’s going to literally rocket himself here once Hizashi breaks the news. What are you going to tell him?”

“Tenya’s been thinking of striking out as a hero for a while now. He would have the whole support of Idaten behind him, of course, but the logistics of opening his own agency was his biggest struggle. With my retirement, however…”

“Tensei,” Mrs. Iida pleaded.

“You want him to take the Ingenium name,” Shouta said. “As your friend, I’m going to ask you not to say that to him.”

Tensei’s brows furrowed, the first sign of annoyance flickering across his features. “He’s my brother. It’s important. Idaten…”

“He won’t give a flying fuck about Idaten or Ingenium, Tensei! He’s going to be reeling from the idea of you not working as a hero anymore. Don’t throw him another loop like taking over your job. Tenya’s strong but he’ll crack under enough stressors like any other alpha, and the last thing we need in this mission is for him to go hunt down the Hero Killer himself.” Shouta would've clenched his hands if he could, but he figured his voice got the point across well enough. “…I’ll stop by Idaten to coordinate with your sidekicks on Touya’s case. Get some rest.”

Tensei didn’t say anything in return. He just closed his eyes, and Shouta chose that moment to turn on his heel and stalk out of the room before Mrs. Iida could, you know. Kick him out herself.

No matter how many friends he’d seen killed or injured on the field, the reality of it hit hard every time. Tensei not being able to work as a hero…

He still remembered their graduation from U.A., Tensei holding up a toddler Tenya and rocketing them both into the air, to their mother’s horror.

But Tensei was still alive. Shouta forced himself to take a deep breath. He’d been working in this field long enough to know that in itself was a blessing. He was alive.

 

--

 

"Tensei," Tenya staggered into the room, distraught, and that look in his eye... Shouta sometimes hated being right.

 

--

 

Izuku jogged the stretch of Dagobah beach. It was far easier and more focused after a year of daily exercise. It gave him plenty of time to get lost in his horrible, no-good thoughts because everything…

Everything was wrong.

Shouto… Izuku’s heart clenched at the memory of the boy being led out into Endeavor’s car. He’d glanced at Izuku briefly and had seemed to zero in on Izuku’s scarred palm like he’d taken a knife to it himself. Izuku had never hesitated to hurt himself for the sake of others before, considered it a small price to pay for saving someone, but seeing Shouto had him reconsidering that.

It was strange. He’d wanted to help Shouto because the boy was clearly hurting. Something had happened after the USJ regarding his family. It had been obvious when Shouto began avoiding using his fire during their training sessions, and Izuku didn’t understand.

It was his own power, not his family’s, and Shouto being scared of his own quirk was so sad Izuku wanted to help—

But he clearly made it worse.

Izuku swallowed. Shouto had shut down over the weekend. He still replied to his texts, but they were curt, one-worded things that only added to Izuku’s paranoia. Texting Yamada was out of the question too, not after the fiasco at the festival.

All for One seemed like some supervillain out of an old movie. While the seriousness of the situation weighed heavily on his shoulders, the inability to tell anyone weighed on him even more.

Shouto may be hiding things, but it was nothing compared to what Izuku was keeping to himself. Confusing Kacchan into going into an omega break, hurting himself until Shouto refused to look at him, breaking through Yamada’s brainwashing when it was impossible—gaining a quirk had been rewarding in a lot of ways, but One for All had hurt each of his friends in turn.

He found himself at Kacchan’s door before he knew it, out of breath and tears already welling up in his eyes.

“What the fuck are you doing here,” Kacchan snapped, and growled when Izuku just pushed himself in through the door and fell onto the Bakugou’s couch. “Don’t invite yourself in!”

“I don’t want Shouto to break up with me,” Izuku cried into the cushions.

“Well, he is going to break up with you,” Kacchan said savagely. Izuku flinched. “Because I’m going to kill him and bury his remains in my yard, and then there’ll be no Yukimura to date in the first place. Now get off my couch.”

“Don’t take his loss out on him, Kacchan,” Izuku seemed to sink deeper into the soft abyss. “It’s my fault—I pushed him too hard in my fight and he just. He just shut down and—”

“And nothing. If he shuts down every time he came across something he didn’t like, he’d make a shitty hero in the future. Eraserhead’s an ass, but he was right about that. Don’t blame yourself for him being weak.”

“He’s not weak!”

“He needs to grow the hell up,” Kacchan, having enough, stalked over to Izuku and began trying to kick him off the couch himself. Izuku clung to the cushion below him like a limpet. “He’s been the baby of his family forever and you and Yamada spoil the hell out of him. No wonder he can’t handle anything bad happening when he’s never had to before. Get off, Deku!”

“I can’t even talk to Yamada since he’s mad at me.”

“Of course he’s mad at you! You and your stupid mutant quirk break all the rules. And you think you’re being so secretive about it too, when you and All Might are clearly buddy-buddy—” and Izuku’s grip on the cushion must have loosened in shock, because the next tug sent him flying onto the floor. He blinked up at Kacchan’s furious red eyes. “—and All Might’s patrolling less and less, and even Yamada knows something’s up ‘cause he keeps giving you that look of his whenever you start lying off your ass. Yukimura’s too smitten to call you on your bullshit but I don’t give a rat’s ass about hurting your feelings. So yeah, Yamada’s pissed. You’re not telling us anything, what the hell did you expect?”

Izuku burst into tears.

Why are you crying,” Kacchan said, letting him lay there on the floor sobbing like the jerk he was. But he didn’t smack him again. “Goddammit, Deku.”

“I’m sorry,” Izuku wailed past the snot and tears. “I’m sorry, I—I don’t know what to do.”

“And you think I know?”

“Y-you’re smarter than me sometimes, Kacchan. M-maybe you do.”

“Sometimes? Try all the time!” Kacchan clicked his tongue, annoyed, and sat beside the still sniveling beta. “Maybe you should call Icyhot instead of texting him. Tell him you’ll stop breaking yourself for his sake or something. God knows the guy looks like he’s going to cry any time you get hurt. And when you hurt yourself for him? How did you think he’d take it?”

Izuku’s sobs quieted down.

Kacchan was not the nurturing type, nor was he especially good at comforting. He wasn’t even as brutally honest as Yamada, not when his own temper got in the way and skewed his responses to the smallest things. But he did possess an omega’s acuity underneath all that bravado. Kacchan knew what buttons he shouldn’t press. He just pressed them anyway.

“I want water,” Izuku said.

“Get your own fucking water.”

“Fine,” Izuku forced himself onto his feet and staggered towards the Bakugou’s kitchen. Kacchan seemed to realize too late he’d given him permission to stay and began to colorfully curse. Izuku, having nearly grown up in this kitchen, poured himself a glass and forced the water down his throat.

Kacchan was right in the end. Izuku couldn’t keep looking at things from his own perspective; he needed to consider Shouto’s feelings too, even if Izuku thought he was ‘helping.’ Shouto liked him too, Izuku had to remind himself. This wasn’t some one-sided thing where Izuku sacrificed himself for Shouto’s happiness. Shouto cared about him too, hurt when Izuku hurt, and god.

He was such an idiot.

“Deku, come back here and clean your snot off the floor! Dad’s gonna throw a fit if she sees it so you better get your ass moving!”

“Okay,” Izuku sniffed, and grabbed a paper towel roll from beneath the sink.

Apologize, stand strong, be someone Shouto could lean on. That’s what real partners did, after all, even partners entering a profession as dangerous as their own.

 

--

 

Yukimura Rei opened the door.

“Oh—hello Miss Yukimura!” Izuku fiddled nervously with his fingers. “I’m here to see Shouto?”

“Ah, Midoriya,” and it was hard to tell what the woman was thinking, despite her soft features and easy smile. She may be Shouto’s precious mother and someone all her children respected, but there was an air of dangerous determination about her. “Shouto told me you were stopping by. Please, come in.”

There was no one else at home. Fuyumi was likely busy doing her own thing and Natsuo had moved out for college a while ago. Touya was missing.

Shouto was reading a book on his bed, his injuries nearly all healed up and his hair neatly clipped back. Izuku swallowed and hovered at the doorway of his bedroom.

It was strange how standing here could feel so simultaneously familiar and foreign. This was Shouto. The Yuki he’d known since they’d been awkward middle schoolers, a beautiful boy whose dry wit, calm demeanor and genuine interest in his ramblings had drawn him in. But now there were so many secrets between them that Izuku felt like he was drowning.

“I,” he burst out, still standing in the doorway. Shouto glanced up from his book. “I’m sorry! It was reckless of me to go so far in our fight. A-and—and I haven’t been honest with you either!”

“Don’t apologize for my own failure,” Shouto said. His voice was as monotonous as it had been over the phone. “I shouldn’t let my own emotions affect my ability to do hero work. Not using my fire… it’s like a kid throwing a tantrum.”

“No, no, I don’t think that at all! I mean, you’re pretty hard to unnerve. Whatever put you off must be serious! And I would have pushed about it harder if I wasn’t so focused on my own problems—”

“You’re not getting the whole picture, Izuku. I nearly failed.”

“—failed what? The sports festival? I mean, yes, Kacchan’s going to furious with you once we get back to school, but it’s like I said. It’s okay to get thrown off from time to time. We’re human, you know? I think emotion—passion or anger or a sense of justice—is a huge part of being a hero!”

Izuku flushed bright red when Shouto gave him a look, startled like he’d forgotten that Izuku was amazing. Izuku wasn’t amazing, he never understood why Shouto ever gave him that look, but he pushed ahead regardless: “And I should have been reassuring you instead of worrying over you finding out about… about you finding out about my quirk.”

“Your… quirk?” Shouto looked confused. But confusion was better than that mannequin act he was pulling before, so hope fluttered in Izuku’s chest. He glanced over his shoulder and stepped into the room. He crawled onto the bed beside Shouto and curled up beside him, using the familiar warmth to ground himself. Shouto cocked his head and said, “Is this about you getting it late? It was a surprise, but it let you join us in U.A., so I don’t think…”

“I didn’t get it late,” Izuku blurted out, guilt eating at him the longer Shouto went on about Izuku’s miracle quirk. “I… I received my quirk. From someone else. It’s a quirk that’s passed down over time and—and—“ he buried his face into his hands. “And I honestly don’t know a lot about it, Yuki. It’s an amazing power and I’m grateful for it, but every time I use it I rip my body to shreds. And when Yamada controlled me, I saw... I saw the others.”

“…others?”

“The people who had this quirk before me,” Izuku let out a shuddering breath. “They were the ones that broke me out of Yamada’s control. And they’re real, given everything you guys told me about Yamada’s quirk, and it’s like I just realized this power I have has put people in my head—”

Izuku,” and Shouto’s arms were wrapping around his shoulders, startling warm. Oh, he was sitting on Shouto’s left side. He pressed his face into the omega’s neck and forced himself to calm down. He’d come here to reassure Shouto, not the other way around, and yet… “Izuku, I don’t really know what you’re saying, but I’ve never doubted you were ever you. These… people helped you out of an impossible situation. And if you’ve only seen them now, then perhaps it’s a one time thing?”

“I don’t know,” Izuku wiped his face with his forearm. “Not even All Might knows, and if he doesn’t know then I’m not sure who does.”

“All Might?” A long pause. “All Might… was your trainer.”

Izuku nodded.

“Did he… know the person who passed you their quirk?”

Izuku stared.

He’s the one that passed you his quirk,” Shouto finally landed on the right answer for another pause. He was so dense sometimes it was cute. “That… makes a lot of sense, actually. He’s been patrolling less and has been supporting you this entire time at school.” A look of displeasure crossed his face. “Oh, I’m going to kick Toshi’s ass for not telling me.”

““I mean… I don’t think Yamada knows the entire story? And neither does Kacchan, even if he’s suspicious,” Izuku bit his lip. “It’s a really big deal, Shouto. I promised All Might not to tell anyone, but you’re all my friends and it was getting in the way of us supporting each other and I wanted you to be the first one I tell, so here it is. The reason I’ve been so weird lately. I just. I’m trying to live up to All Might’s legacy. I want to be the best hero in the world. But how can I be that if I’m so focused on my secrets that I don’t even notice my friends around me hurting?

Shouto looked like he’d been slapped across the face. It melted into an intense, hurt frown after a moment, and Izuku had an apology on the tip of his tongue when the omega clarified: “I know how you feel, Izuku. Not about All Might, but about… about emotions blinding my view of others. It’s been this way since the USJ.”

Izuku shut his mouth.

“Toshi was upset about what happened during your fight. But instead of comforting him, I fell apart because he wasn’t comforting me. I… I want to be a better friend than that,” Shouto sighed, his exhale cold against Izuku’s cheek. “I’m the youngest in my family. Everyone’s always protected me, even Toshi, and it’s not an excuse. Just an explanation. I didn’t even realize how much they did for me until Touya…”

He swallowed. Izuku laced his fingers with Shouto’s own and felt the boy trembling. He’d never seen Shouto like this. His fear was usually directed at himself. But fearing someone else?

He said, “I… I saw Touya at the USJ, Izuku. He was with the League of Villains.”

 

--

 

The news about Iida Tensei’s forced retirement broke overnight.

Izuku watched the coverage over Shouto’s shoulder, the light of the phone screen the only brightness in the dark of the boy’s room. They’d talked so late into the night Shouto’s mother had already gone to sleep by the time they were done. Izuku had been surprised but grateful that the woman hadn’t chased him out.

He didn’t want to move. Shouto was warm and smelled good and the air between them was finally clear. Izuku felt so free he could cry.

And then he nearly had a heart attack when Fuyumi flung open Shouto’s door. She stared at the two of them cuddling together under the covers, her red eyes puffy from crying. She then slammed the door shut.

Which was such bizarre behavior that Shouto immediately took out his phone.

“She must have just come from the hospital,” Shouto scrolled through long-winded articles about the Hero Killer, his previous kills, and the history of Idaten. “Tenya must be devastated. Ingenium, unable to walk again… you hear this kind of thing about other heroes, but when it happen to you it’s almost hard to believe.”

“He used to babysit you guys, right?” Izuku tried his best to understand. Shouto’s and Yamada’s childhoods around heroes always sounded so surreal to him. What had decorated Izuku’s childhood room in the form of trading cards were people that had watched his friends grow up. They were Aunts and Uncles and part of a larger hero network, not a beacon to be worshipped on a TV screen.

“Ingenium was in the same graduating class as Toshi’s parents. He's the one who introduced my family to Toshi's to begin with, ” Shouto said flatly. Oh. Izuku should have realized that given Tengine's familiarity with both Shouto and Yamada. The easiness in which they spoke about Idaten.

And now Ingenium...

“We can’t do anything about it. Tenya… he shuts down when he’s upset. Focuses on his work. Only Fuyumi can get through to him, but with the Touya issue… I don’t know.” Shouto clicked the phone shut and tossed it somewhere down the bed. He turned his body around so his face was inches away from Izuku’s, his mismatched eyes ethereal in the darkness. “Between the USJ, Touya, and this… it’s like the world’s suddenly falling apart.”

Izuku, helpless in the face of Shouto’s distress, just grabbed the boy’s face in his hands and pressed their foreheads together. He probably looked stupid, but he wanted Shouto know he was here and present. That he wasn’t alone.

“Hey, Yuki?” and it was habit, still, to fall back to his old nickname for Shouto before the boy had given him permission to use his given name. Saying Shouto left a giddy feeling in his chest, but Yuki felt more comforting and sweet.

“Hm?” Shouto’s eyes had fluttered closed on contact. The omega’s scent was less distressed now. Izuku didn’t have a lot of experience settling others, but at least Shouto leveled out far easier than Kacchan did.

“This… is probably not the right time, but I,” Izuku flushed all the way down to his chest. “I want to kiss you? Is that okay?”

Shouto opened his eyes slowly, his expression… calm. There was no hesitance or shock in that gray and turquoise. “…okay.”

His lips were soft and slightly chapped, Izuku found. It was a bit awkward and strange but still filled his chest with butterflies. Shouto seemed just as clueless as Izuku was, pressing forward chastely before ducking back and—

“Cold!” Izuku yelped when he felt Shouto’s right hand reach under his shirt and splay upon his back.

“Sorry,” Shouto said, startled. A warm hand joined the cold one on Izuku’s other side. Before Izuku could register the feeling of the boy’s hands against his bare skin, Shouto pressed his nose into Izuku’s neck and breathed. “Sorry, I. I want to scent you, okay?”

It felt nice having Shouto tucked against him like this. Way better than the awkward kiss they’d shared, but perhaps it was because this was more familiar. Intimate. Izuku wrapped his arms around Shouto’s wider shoulders and pressed his face into the boy’s hair. He smelled sweet and slightly of citrus. It was pleasant despite Yamada’s loud complaints of Shouto smelling like a fruitcake.

“Ah,” Izuku suddenly had a thought, reluctantly pulling his mind out of that soft, dreamy zone Shouto’s contented scent had drawn him into. “I forgot to text my mom.”

Shouto’s only response was a low rumble in his chest. A laugh.

Izuku prayed for his mother’s eternal forgiveness and settled deeper under the covers of Shouto’s bed. The omega needed him here, so Izuku was going to stay as long as he could.

Chapter Text

"Isn't someone from Idaten supposed to be here?" Shouto noticed the absence of any heroes and sidekicks the moment he arrived at the police station. He didn't let it show, but the lack of a familiar face unnerved him. "This is their mission, isn't it?"

"Yes, but there was no way Ingenium can assist us with his injuries," the police commissioner said shortly, looking unconcerned. "Besides, we police are more than capable enough of bringing Yukimura Touya in. Do you doubt that?"

It wasn't a matter of doubt, but Shouto wasn't one to test the waters unnecessarily. He ducked his head and watched as the man began ordering around what looked like a swat team of officers. It was ridiculous. They were just here to talk to Touya, convince him to help them out, and the more armed men the police brought the less likely Touya was going to cooperate.

"I don't think..." he brought up one last time and furrowed his brow when the commissioner put a hand up in a clear "not now" gesture. That unnerved feeling intensified.

He wished he hadn't been too stubborn to let Toshi accompany him. But after the fiasco of the last few days, he'd decided to give his friend space. Not because he was hiding like he'd been doing with Izuku, but actual, intentional space. So when Toshi had offered to ride with him to the station—which was a thinly veiled offer to join him on this mission—Shouto had politely refused.

"Even if Ingenium's not there, I'm sure Tengine will help out," he'd assured him.

But Tengine wasn't here either, nor were any of the dozens of sidekicks he'd grown used to seeing around Idaten. It was just him and the police, and no matter where he went to school they just saw him as a student.

Idaten not here? he finally gave in and texted Fuyumi. She was in the middle of typing a reply when the phone was suddenly snatched from his hands.

"The operation's about to start," the commissioner said, pocketing the phone with no further explanation. Shouto stared blankly up at him. "Polly will set you up with the receiver. Remember, this is a delicate situation. You must follow the script we give you exactly."

"He's my brother," Shouto shrugged off the man's hand when he tried patting his shoulder. While he still wasn't sure how he felt about Touya's actions, he knew in his gut he wouldn't be in any danger. "He won't hurt me."

"You're too naïve," the commissioner shook his head, and Shouto had the intense and inexplicable urge to bite him. Or at least steal his phone back. But he was being manhandled by tech support and then ushered into a car and then it was happening.

He was on the beach, and his brother's familiar, lanky form was ambling right towards him.

After the nightmares that had haunted his days and nights the past few weeks, Shouto had expected the sight of his brother would terrify him. But no, he still found the familiar alpha scent comforting. It was a juxtaposition, one he might have let affect him if Izuku’s reassurance wasn’t fresh in his thoughts.

“You turning on your brother now, Shouto? I’m hurt,” Touya drawled, stepping right into Shouto’s space. He could see some of the officers tensing from their positions behind the shrubbery. Dagobah beach had far fewer hiding spots after Izuku’s impromptu community service, but there were still some nooks and crannies.

“No,” Shouto said. He furrowed his brow at the instructions being relayed to him via earpiece. “They… the police want to strike a bargain. You act as their inside man to the League of Villains and they’ll reduce the sentence for your murders.”

“Ah, so they’re calling it murders now,” Touya sighed. “They were going to kill you and Mom and the others. I wouldn’t have to do shit if Dad had picked up the slack.”

“They say…” Shouto frowned. The alarms that had been going off since the night had started were blaring now. “They say they’ll reduce your sentence from life in jail to… ten years? That wasn’t what you said before,” and he turned back towards the sand dunes, ignoring the police commissioner’s frantic hand-waving. “Touya wasn’t supposed to get any jail time if he cooperated. No, but you’re asking him to infiltrate the League of Villains. Don’t you think that’s dangerous enough already?”

“Ah,” Touya sighed. He leaned forward and plucked the communicator out of Shouto’s ear. “Playing the naïve hero in the making already, are you? Adults are such bastards, sometimes.” He crushed it in his fist.

“Tenya promised me,” Shouto insisted, panicking but unwilling to let it show on his face. Touya seemed to catch it with his magical big brother powers, however, and pulled him to his chest before Shouto could twist away. “Tensei said—”

“It's not your fault, little brother. Tensei’s in a fucking hospital bed and Tenya’s on a vendetta. No one else in Idaten has the spine to say no to the police commissioner, and that man’s a right ass even on a good day. This is the dark part of the justice system hero school doesn't bother teaching you," and Touya's grip on his shoulder was firm and steadying. He was trying to comfort Shouto in his own macabre way. "Now hold still.”

And blue flames erupted from Touya’s palm over Shouto’s shoulder, the heat melting the tranquilizer darts about to pierce his back. The police gave up any pretense of secrecy and stormed the beach, capturing weapons at the ready, and Shouto—

Shouto wanted to save his brother. That’s all he wanted to do. He slammed his right foot onto the ground and sent a sheet of ice right under the officers, locking them and their tools in place with the sheer force of his betrayal. It probably proved Touya's point that it was the police that went back on their word and not his own criminal brother, but Shouto wasn't here to debate ethics.

Officers from the other side of the beach began to fire as Touya led them sloshing into the water. Shouto's ice walls became too brittle to be much good; salt water was difficult to ice over and the projectiles were being shot at closer and closer range. If Shouto made one wrong move, he’d hurt Touya instead of protecting him.

Something suddenly grabbed the back of his collar and yanked. He choked and scrabbled at the hand of one of the officers. She had a stretchy limb quirk and was trying to tug him away from Touya's grip.

She screamed when Touya sliced through the offending hand with a blast of blue flame.

“Touya!” Shouto said, horrified as the woman withdrew what remained of her burnt limb.

“It’s them or us,” Touya hissed. His turquoise eyes seemed to crackle in the light of his fire. “We need to get further into the sea. Natsuo’s got a boat—"

Shouto saw the dart too late to wield his quirk. It zoomed right past his face towards Touya’s eyes, as if in slow motion, too close to either of them to safely burn away. Perhaps if he concentrated, he could cover Touya's skin with a sheet of ice instead—his brother's ice tolerance was just as good as Natsuo's, after all, though it was possible the needle would still pierce—

“That is enough."

Expertly concentrated flames burnt the projectile into ash. It took more precision than either Touya or Shouto possessed, and Shouto didn't need to turn around to recognize who had that sort of skill.

Touya’s hand across his shoulders tightened painfully, the alpha’s scent going sour with distress.

There was no mistaking that bulky silhouette stepping in between the brothers and the commissioner's men on the beach. Especially not with the telltale flames licking his costume.

"Touya," Shouto pressed his brother back before he could do something reckless. Like launch himself at their father in a rage. Because he'd actually never seen Endeavor and Touya standing in each other's presence before, and the look in his brother's eyes...

It was the same steeliness he'd had when he'd killed those villains in the ally, like Shouto wasn't standing behind him begging him to stop.

 

--

 

Touya used to be mercilessly picked on for his scars, Shouto remembered. He'd been very little, so the memories were vague, but there were definitely a few times Touya had come home bruised and battered. He'd hide in the bathroom and carefully treat his own wounds like it was perfectly normal for an eleven-year old to know first aid.

Yet for all the troubles his scars brought upon him, Touya refused to let them be healed.

"What do you mean you said no?" Fuyumi had shouted at him once, chasing after her twin with an upset turn to her lips. "She can get rid of your scars! Isn't that—it'd draw less attention, you can be normal—"

"I don't want to be normal!" Touya had shouted back, hands curled into fists. "And I'm not going to let him use his money to erase his mistakes! I'll wear these scars my whole life as a reminder if I have to!"

"Do you think this is what Mom wanted, taking you away from him?"

"All Mom wanted was to get Shouchan away! She doesn't give a damn what I want!"

"That's not true! Touya, how can you... that isn't true!" and Fuyumi was crying now, tears dribbling down her face in large drops. "Why are you like this? H-he's already gone but you still act like he's here and I just. I don't get it."

"You'll never get it," Touya had hunched over into himself, angry and guilty and unable to look their sobbing sister in the eye. "I want to keep it that way."

Shouto had only had a vague idea of what they were arguing about, the same way he only had a vague idea of what having a job as an adult was like. He was four and too busy trying to convince Toshi to eat a cracker that had fallen onto the floor. The twins argued all the time, though Fuyumi crying was never comfortable for anyone.

"Popsicle," he's graciously handed her his share of dessert after dinner. She'd taken it, surprised but touched, and Shouto had assumed all was right in the world again.

Touya never got his scars removed. Fuyumi never stopped wringing her hands over him. And Shouto, as blissfully unaware as ever, had never noticed anything wrong until it was too late.

Touya was his oldest brother, the eventual alpha of the house, the one Shouto could turn to whenever Natsuo played too rough. No matter how mean and grumpy Touya could get, Shouto never questioned his love for him.

And despite everything that had happened until now, he still didn't question it. Not even once.

 

 --

 

“Endeavor,” the police commissioner straightened, feigning nonchalance. He was nervous, though, Shouto could tell. “I... received word you couldn’t make it to this meeting today.”

“That was until I realized Tengine wouldn’t be arriving either,” Endeavor said. He held up his phone to the commissioner's face. "Why did I have to hear from my daughter instead of your department that the plans have changed? I expect more professionalism from the police."

Fuyumi, Shouto though hysterically. He'd expected her to get into contact with Tenya, not their father, and the fact that she'd told Endeavor instead...

"We have this under control," the commissioner said. "If your son hadn't veered off script, this would already be over. We made our bargain. For Yukimura Touya’s cooperation, we’d reduce his sentence from life in prison to ten years—”

Endeavor cut him off: "The agreement was to waive his sentence altogether.”

“No offense, sir, but you heroes do not understand the consequences of letting a villain go free. We cannot just waive a sentence, not even for the son of a hero," and the way the commissioner said those words told Shouto everything he needed to know about his intentions.

Of course everything led back to Endeavor. Their dad had probably pissed the commissioner off at one point if he so desperately wanted to make an example out of Endeavor's son.

“What the hell are you playing at, old man?” Touya finally spat out. “You here to see them take me down yourself?”

“Shut up,” Endeavor barked. “A hero is not above the law. The blood on your hands is blood you’ll never be able to wash off, do you understand?”

“Are you fucking kidding me right now? You’re talking about heroes not being above the law?”

"It's been nearly fifteen years, Touya."

"You think fifteen years is enough time when I still have these to show for it?" Touya clutched Shouto tighter, even as he raised his free hand to show their father the ugly burns still visible across his forearm. “You did this to me, Dad! These bloody hands are because of your mistakes, not mine!”

And Shouto couldn’t read the strange depths of their father's turquoise eyes; he never could, not even after years of training under the man. But the way Endeavor took in Touya’s enraged visage...

Shouto had known in the back of his head, hadn't he? Endeavor must have once handled all his children's training himself. One-on-one, relentless instruction until Touya had been driven to the point of losing control. Until he’d nearly killed himself by setting their old home’s training room ablaze and Mom had finally had enough.

Endeavor kept his distance from Shouto because his experience with Touya had taught him better. Which was just another way his brother had taken the fall for him, sheltered him, was still sheltering him now by angling Shouto away from Endeavor as best he could.

Rather than address Touya’s accusations, the hero turned to the commissioner. “My son will participate in this… League of Villain spy mission only if you agree to drop the charges he’s incurred so far.”

The commissioner went white with rage. “We can’t just—you can’t—”

"—protecting your own image as usual, you asshole!" Touya was nearly as furious. "If I actually serve time, it'll lead the media right back to you, won't it? Can't have that!"

A sudden burst of flame nearly singed Shouto's hair, causing Touya to flinch back. Endeavor's gaze could melt through steel. "I told you to shut up, Touya. I will do the talking."

There was something dark in that voice, the kind of edge Shouta had only heard Endeavor use when apprehending a villain. Touya pressed his lips so tightly they bled white.

Endeavor continued to speak to the commissioner: “Your only other possible spy into the League is the Hero Killer Stain. Imagine what would happen if the media discovered you struck a deal with the villain who wounded the popular Ingenium."

"But..."

"Especially with the public losing faith in the hero system. Are we agreed?”

“…yes,” the man said, clearly calculating the police station’s odds of going against the number two hero and coming up on the losing side.

“No,” Touya couldn't hold in his words any longer, letting Shouto go in favor of stomping towards their father. “No, you don’t get to do that. You don’t get to use your goddamn influence to 'help' me, not when it’s everything I hate about you—”

Endeavor grabbed Touya’s arm and stood, expressionless, as the younger alpha set his own arm ablaze in rage. The blue flames licked Endeavor’s hero suit uselessly.

“This is not a favor given but a favor owed. I am wiping away the last of my mistakes here,” Endeavor said, voice low. “The past is the past. The future is the future. From now on, any crime you commit is on your head and not mine. Do you understand, Touya?”

Touya bared his alpha teeth at him, furious.

“Touya,” Shouto finally summoned the energy to wade towards his brother. The man stared at him, startled, like he just remembered the reason behind his anger in the first place. “Touya, please. I’m going to be a hero, too. I don’t want to have to fight you.”

Touya’s entire face twitched. Crumpled. He jerked his hand from Endeavor’s grip and reached out to pull Shouto against his chest. The omega wrapped his arms around his thin waist without hesitation, every ounce of his being willing for Touya to yield.

Not for Endeavor’s sake, but for their mother’s. For Fuyumi, who had cried so much these last few weeks Shouto could hardly bear any more of it; for Natsuo, who clearly looked up to Touya and had even been helping him, apparently, given the tiny boat he saw watching them in the distance; for Shouto, who finally understood what exactly his family had done to shelter him. Who wanted to prove it was worth it and not have the price of his own comfort damning Touya forever.

“That’s not fair, Shouchan,” Touya hissed, mouth pressed to the crown of his head. “This is my fault, not yours.”

“Hurting yourself for my sake hurts me too,” Shouto mumbled, memories of Izuku’s broken body flashing across his mind. “Please, Touya. Take the deal.”

"This isn't a debate," Endeavor said.

"You shut up," Shouto snarled at him, and his father actually looked taken aback at the omega fury being sent in his direction. Even Touya seemed surprised. Shouto was past keeping up his polite facade, however. Keeping quiet had done nothing to stop the trainwreck of this mission so far, and the stakes were too high for him to hide. He turned back to Touya. "You... you don't have to protect me anymore either. I'm going to be a hero that can protect Mom too. So please. Don't give him any more power than he already has over you."

“Fuck,” his brother swore as Shouto actively extended out his presence. If there was one thing Shouto had learned from the last few weeks, it was that the effect of his pheromones was nothing to sneeze at. When Touya continued to grind his teeth, he pressed harder. His brother twitched, irritated. “That's fucking emotional blackmail, Shou. Fine. Fine. I’ll play your stupid spy game, alright?” He glared up at his father and the commissioner, his scent changing from angry to protective. “But it’s for them and not you, you understand? We’re wiping the slate clean.”

“Yes,” the commissioner said reluctantly, sweating under Endeavor’s stare. “Yes, I suppose that’s fair.”

Shouto let go of his presence with a shaky breath and buried his face into Touya’s chest. Thank god. Thank god Touya had stood down, because not even their mother could influence Endeavor's iron will and Shouto hadn't wanted to try and fail.

“And here I was looking forward to spiriting you guys to Okinawa or something,” Natsuo sighed once he’d been coaxed back to shore, like he hadn't been caught red-handed assisting his on-the-run brother. His absence during their family breakdown now made far more sense than "Sorry, I've got a soccer game this weekend, tell Mom and Fuyumi I love them, bye." Natsuo had looked up to Touya for as long as Shouto could remember. “It’d be like a vacation. We could’ve played on the beach and drank martinis.”

“I’m underage?” Shouto offered, bewildered, and Touya made a noise that sounded suspiciously like a chuckle.

Endeavor stared at the three of them like he was observing strangers. He'd made no attempt to speak since Shouto's snarl. No attempt to scold or praise or awkwardly try to join in on their conversation, and Shouto was grateful for the distance.

This was a matter between Yukimuras, after all.

Chapter Text

Despite his intense desire to sleep the day away, school was as uncaring of momentous events as ever.

Shouto caught sight of Izuku at the gate and greeted him with a chaste kiss to the lips. Kaminari wolf-whistled and Kirishima gave them both a thumbs up. Bakugou, who’d been trailing after the two other boys like a disgruntled cat, kicked Izuku’s shin on his way through the gate.

“Messed up my floor for nothing,” he snapped, which made no sense to Shouto but every sense to Izuku. The beta just beamed, absolutely guiltless. “Don’t you just smile at me!”

“C’mon, smiling is good!” Kirishima assuaged him, grabbing his elbow and tugging him back. “We should all smile more, right? Like this! A big manly smile in the morning is good for the soul!”

“What the fuck, Shitty Hair,” Bakugou finally turned his attention away from the couple to glare at the alpha. “What are you even going on about?”

“Can we just get to class,” Shouto cut in, because Kirishima looked too embarrassed to explain himself and Kaminari was dying of laughter beside him. “Izuku, c’mon.”

A big manly smile!” Kaminari howled, and Kirishima let go of Bakugou to elbow him in the ribs. “Ow!”

Toshi was the last student to arrive to class, wandering in alongside his mother. If anyone else noticed the coincidence of their arrival they didn’t mention it. Too busy talking over each other about the Festival, their sudden popularity, their futures as heroes.

Shouto had told Toshi the bare minimum of what happened after everything was over: after Touya had begrudgingly sat beside Endeavor as the commissioner hashed out the details of his spy work; after Fuyumi had appeared just to burst into tears all over Touya's shirt; after his mother arrived once Endeavor left and wrapped her thin arms around Touya's shoulders.

"What do you mean Tenya wasn't there?" Toshi had demanded after Shouto finished. "He just left you alone with the commissioner?"

"With what happened to Tensei..."

"That’s not an excuse! He should've at least called Team Idaten to send someone else instead of leaving you out to dry."

Shouto, too tired to argue, had just let Toshi rant before hanging up to go to sleep. He did agree that something was off, however. Tenya was so normally straight-laced, dropping the ball on something that could have gone very wrong wasn't like him at all.

Once everyone was seated, Mr. Aizawa pulled the internship offers up on the screen.

There were an awful lot of numbers after Shouto’s name and much fewer after Toshi’s—but he didn’t need to talk to his friend to know where they’d both go. Not after their discussion yesterday and the worrying absence of their neurotic once-babysitter.

And then... hero names.

"My hero name is Shouto," Shouto had said once prompted to stand in front of the class. "Because I refuse to be called Icyhot."

"Fuck off, I give the best names!" Bakugou shouted despite Midnight's absolute shut-down of King Explodomurder or whatever he'd called himself.

"Well, it's a bit unconventional, but several heroes do go by their given names," Midnight mused. "Makes you sound approachable. But I'd think about a more suitable name in the future, Todoroki."

Which was fair, though Shouto didn't know what he thought of Midnight basically calling him unapproachable. When he sat down, Toshi stood up.

"I'm the mind control hero, Mind Eraser," he said, voice absolutely deadpan, and the only thing more interesting than Midnight's squee was Aizawa's honest surprise. Toshi had never made up a hero name growing up. In fact, calling himself Shouto had been partly inspired by Toshi addressing himself simply as "Hitoshi" during their hero make-believe.

"Eraser?" Asui put a finger to her chin. "Like... Eraserhead?"

"We both have mental quirks," Toshi pointed out. "And I'm planning to become an underground hero, too."

"Yeah, but Mr. Aizawa's our teacher," Kaminari burst out laughing. "You never struck me as a teacher's pet, Yamada!"

"Well I think it's sweet," Midnight finally managed after getting a hold of herself. The mirth was still very evident in her voice, however. "Besides, the name fits your quirk very well. Kirishima doesn't have to be the only one paying homage to their favorite hero."

"Our teacher's your favorite hero?" Kaminari's laughter went up in volume, until Bakugou suddenly turned and smacked him face-down onto his desk. "OW!"

"If you're going to disrespect Aizawa, you can do it outside," the omega snapped. "Otherwise, shut the fuck up."

"Mean," Kaminari whined, but settled down obediently. Toshi just took his whiteboard and walked back to his desk without further comment. While the next student made their way up to the podium, Shouto cocked his head at Bakugou. It wasn't the first time he'd shut down possibly pack-breaking behavior. He'd been unconvinced when Toshi had suggested Bakugou as the best candidate for lead omega, but now...

"No offers and no ideas," Izuku mourned under his breath once Midnight had left. His whiteboard declaring "Deku" lay flat on his desk. "Where am I going to go for my internship...?"

 

--

 

Tengine! Tengine, a word, please!” the reporter crowded the rookie hero with her mic and camera, getting an awkward angle of the man’s helmet before his gloved hand pushed her back to a more respectable distance. “What does Idaten have to say about the capture of the Hero Killer? Was it difficult coming face to face with the man who cut your brother’s career short?”

“Yes,” Tengine said, stiff as a board as the other reporters stood in a ring around him. Their microphones were readied to pick up every byte. “It has been a difficult night for Hosu with both the League of Villain’s attack and Stain’s capture. Idaten is doing what it can to assist businesses in the area with repairs. We will restore order here, even more so now that the Hero Killer is behind bars.”

“There are rumors of the Hero Killer and the League working together—what do you have to say to that?”

“I find it very unlikely. Stain’s convictions are very different from what we know of the League of Villains. Rest assured, the police will be doing their best questioning him to see if he does in fact know anything.”

“Capturing the Hero Killer is an impressive debut as a hero,” and the reporters weren’t holding back, not when they sensed vulnerability like sharks scenting blood. “People are already speculating that you’ll soon take up the Ingenium title yourself. Any comments?”

“No. I am Tengine, brother of Ingenium and the second son of the Iida family,” Tengine said, voice growing brittle with emotion. “I can only honor Ingenium, not take his place. Besides, Stain’s capture was only possible with the backing of Idaten and its sidekicks. He hurt someone very important to us. The credit for his arrest goes to everyone who helped at Hosu last night. That will be the last question I will take. Thank you all for your time.”

He bowed and began walking away, cameras and microphones all scrambling to follow. Several sidekicks magically appeared to block their way, including a few U.A. interns whose methods were… less than conventional.

What happened to the camera?” the reporter’s voice called out when the screen suddenly became shrouded with darkness. “Is that ice? Wait, was that Todoroki Shouto, son of Endeavor? Mr. Todoroki! Mr. Todoroki, can you give comment on your father’s latest mission—

A loud rustle, like someone knocking into the camera.

You’re persistent, lady. Don’t you know there are lines?”

“There are no lines in journalism, young—”

A sudden, awkward pause.

“And that’s all,” the same boy’s voice commented eventually, louder and clearer and instantly recognizable to any Present Mic fan. “Dad’ll probably cover Hosu on his show next Tuesday. If you’re a listener, tune in at 4 on 102.3 as usual. See you then. Mini Mic out.”

 

--

 

Interning at Idaten had brought back bittersweet memories of Tenya chasing him and Shouchan down these halls; of the two of them brushing up on their hand signals with the staff; of them watching wide-eyed at Ingenium’s body cam being broadcast in the main office. If Toshi was lucky, Tensei would return from patrol before his parents came to pick him up. He’d pull out the photo albums and point out his parents at various points at U.A., his expression gleeful.

"This is when your dad was using that awful blue gel in his hair," he'd say, pointing at a miserable-looking Present Mic in a photo. "It didn't react well to pool water and turned his hair green for weeks. Your mother offered to cut it all off but you know how Hizashi is about his hair."

He was absolutely anal about it, Toshi knew. Even when he'd been four and doing his best to mimic his mom's grumpy expression as the pages turned, he'd known. Tensei was the best because he knew too.

So Toshi was familiar with these halls. Even with Tenya tight-lipped at the helm and Tensei still coming in and out of surgery, he felt on top of things.

Except he wasn't, not at all.

“Did you think your brother would’ve appreciated if you died in his name? What about Fuyumi?" Shouto's tendency to yell had gone up two hundred percent since facing off with his brother and father. Toshi was almost proud. "Because she’s still getting over Touya’s situation and the last thing she needs is to hear is that her boyfriend got skewered!"

It had taken only four hours for things to break down once he and Shouchan arrived at Idaten. Tenya's argument could be heard across the building, until he'd stormed out on a path to Hosu regardless of Idaten's backing. Of course they'd decided to run after him.

If he and Shouto hadn’t received Midoriya’s strange text in the middle of the chaos; if the staff, familiar with both boys and more likely to trust their judgment, hadn’t taken their call for back-up seriously; if the Hero Killer Stain had managed to pierce through Tenya’s armor like he’d meant to.

So many ifs.

Shouto’s scent was sharp and targeted, nothing like the out-of-control cloud he’d struggled with at school. Midoriya was gripping his hand. “This isn’t just about you. People care about you, too, and even if you think you’re helping them by hurting yourself, you’re not.”

They’d spun it as an Idaten operation rather than Tenya recklessly heading off on his own. It was a better story for a rookie hero than the uncomfortable truth. Toshi was somewhat glad Mom was still out on patrol at this hour—no matter how fierce Shouto's tongue-lashing got, it was nothing compared to whatever Mom could think of on the fly.

Later, after Midoriya had been escorted home by his frantic mother and Shouto was busy arguing over the phone with his sister, Toshi went upstairs. He found Tenya sitting by himself in front of an important door.

“Are you going to scold me too?” he said without looking up. He took off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose.

“No,” Toshi plopped down beside the other alpha and leaned against the back of the seat with his legs outstretched. “…but Tensei’s going to kick your ass.”

“I’m avoiding going in to see him,” Tenya admitted, like there was any other reason he’d be sitting on a bench across from Ingenium’s room. The agency had insisted he leave the hospital for privacy reasons and had done its utmost best to recreate his hospital room within its walls. “I can’t… I can’t face him. I don’t know how.”

“He’s going to kick your ass, but I think he’ll understand.” Toshi turned his head. “There aren’t a lot of other people who’ve fought the Hero Killer and lived, after all.”

Tenya’s expression crumpled. He'd always cried easily, something Touya used to tease him about. Tensei had gotten rather beat up many times over the years, and every time he landed himself back in a hospital bed Tenya was there by his side sobbing his eyes out.

This, despite is more serious conclusion, was still the same.

“…Midoriya’s really a problem child, isn’t he?” Tenya managed after the tears trickled to a crawl, his voice wavering. Toshi hadn’t bothered giving him platitudes; they both knew it wouldn’t do much. He simply sat there and waited. “I… I can see why your mother is so exasperated by him.”

“He’s a self-sacrificing, moralistic troublemaker,” Toshi said. “But Shouto has him working on it.”

“Him and Shouchan, huh? Fuyumi always thought the two of you would get together instead, but I wasn’t so sure,” Tenya looked down at his lap. “I… I know what it looks like to pine after a childhood friend. You never had that same awkwardness with Shouchan, though, so…”

“It was less pining and more awkward flailing. I’m pretty sure Fuyumi thought you were on drugs or something, you were so twitchy.”

“Drugs? Never!”

“I know, you’re usually so straight-laced,” Toshi cocked his head. “And no, Shouchan’s not really my type.”

Tenya hummed. “His personality?”

“His dynamic,” and oh. To be honest, Toshi had never said it out loud before. He’d never seen the need to, not when his crushes were few and far between and the looming goal of U.A. had been all-encompassing. But with Shouto and Midoriya finally hooking up and Bakugou’s strange push-and-pull thing with Kirishima… it was hard to ignore the elephant in the room. “I’m not into omegas. At all. Their scents do nothing for me, which makes it easy to settle them without worrying about my hormones acting up.”

Tenya frowned. “So… beta girls?”

Typical Tenya. Toshi let a sliver of an Aizawa grin grace his face. “Beta boys.”

"Beta... you're atypical?" Tenya blinked.

When Toshi refused to repeat himself, the man visibly switched into the role of alpha mentor. It was a relief to see that attention focusing on something other than his own failure, even if it was directed uncomfortably at Toshi's personal life. Tenya was someone who needed a goal to strive for and a set of rules to follow.

“Such phenomenon is not terribly uncommon, Hitoshi. You don’t have to feel ashamed about your preferences, or worry that you’re somehow ‘wrong’—”

“I don’t,” Toshi said dryly.

“—and while you may encounter those who are… vocal about the sanctity of reproductive couples, that kind of thinking has been dying since the end of quirk marriages. We are free people with our own wills! As long as you are happy and safe, I have no doubt your parents will support you!”

“Thank you,” Toshi said, only half sarcastically. He’d known all of that already, yes, but it was still nice to hear it. "And I know my parents don't care. My aunt's atypical, too."

“I see. Now, I know this is awkward but as an older alpha it is my responsibility to ensure you know the proper way to become intimate with—”

Tenya,” Toshi interrupted before the man could go any further down that Tunnel of Nope. “I’m good. Mom’s already given me all the diagrams I need, even if I didn’t want them.”

His mother had tied him to a chair and forced him to sit through a bleach-worthy powerpoint of all the possible dynamic combinations an alpha male could get himself into, typical or not. It ranked pretty high on the Mom Torture List, just under that one time Mom's heat came early and Toshi had to lock his parents in the bathroom. He’d ended up calling Midnight with the neighbor's phone, to her eternal glee.

Yeah, that was a fun memory.

“Eraserhead is very intimidating,” Tenya allowed, like he even knew the half of it.

“Yes,” Toshi said. He gave the other alpha a side-eye. “Much more intimidating than Tensei, you know.”

Tenya swallowed.

“You’ll have to go in there eventually,” Toshi said. “It’s like ripping a bandaid. You just have to do it.”

“You’re… you’re entirely correct, Toshi,” Tenya sighed and finally stood up on shaky legs. He stared forlornly at Ingenium’s door. “You had the courage to speak to me, and so I too must have the courage to speak to him. Thank you.”

“No problem,” Toshi said, and watched Tenya slowly cross the hall and crack open the door. An awkward pause wherein the brothers inevitably stared each other down. Then, Tenya slipped through the door and closed it.

Toshi let out the breath he was holding and carefully placed his head on his knees.

For all his bravado and know-how, he'd never actually said it. It was irrational how hard his heart was beating in his chest. Neither of his parents cared that Aunt Kaiya mated with that what's-his-face omega guy, and city life pretty much required a basic understanding of typical and atypical relationships.

But divulging personal information was such an anti-Aizawa trait to begin with, and this...

He knew Tenya wouldn't say anything to his parents, which he was thankful for. The man had needed the push to apologize to Tensei already, and Toshi's mouth had apparently decided his orientation was a great place to start.

Whatever.

Once he was sure his expression was back in order, he stood up and went downstairs. Shouto was definitely finished with his phone call by now, and Toshi just wanted to go home.

 

--

 

Fuyumi forbade Shouto from staying overnight at Idaten in the end, so he and Toshi took the train home to Mustafu in silence.

It was still comfortable sitting side-by-side with his friend, even with the secrets and boys and family drama between them. Shouto seemed more settled in general, less standoffish as a form of social defense. The difference would be imperceptible to anyone who didn’t know him well, but Toshi had been worrying over Shouto since they’d been kids.

“I want to be someone you can rely on too,” Shouto said when Toshi had told him as much. The omega was surprised but honest in his response. He knew Toshi hated personal talk as much as Eraserhead did. “It’s one of the basic requirements for being a hero.”

“Hm,” Toshi said, feeling wrong-footed and strange but not exactly upset. Things were changing. That was okay. But just because he knew it was okay didn’t mean his baser instincts had gotten the memo quite yet.

With only a little hesitation, Toshi slowly and deliberately leaned over and rested his head on Shouto’s shoulder. He closed his eyes.

Shouto still smelled like a fucking fruitcake, but it was a scent Toshi had long found comfort in. Even if he occasionally smelled like Midoriya, that underlying base would always be the same.

Chapter Text

“Keep up, Shitty Hair,” Katsuki called out over his shoulder. He continued forward but kept an ear out for the awkward alpha bumbling behind him. “And stop causing such a racket already. I don’t like noise when I hike.”

“I’m not making any noise,” Kirishima whined, making such a commotion the birds above scattered. Katsuki narrowed his eyes. “I still don’t understand why we couldn’t have taken the trail like normal hikers—“

“We’ll make it to the summit faster this way.”

“Sure,” Kirishima shielded his eyes from the sun and glanced up at the sheer rock face before him. “If we don’t fall and brain ourselves first.”

Katsuki spread his lips into a wicked grin. “Are you scared, Hair for Brains?”

“Scared?” Kirishima hardened his hands and pounded them together, as easily pumped up as usual. “I’m not scared of a little rock climbing. I can withstand any fall, but you…”

“I what,” Katsuki said.

Kirishima’s responding grin was only scarier because of his teeth. “Your head’s a bit soft, isn’t it? You sure you can blast yourself up if you lose your grip?”

“How ‘bout you come over here and I’ll show you I don’t need to,” Katsuki snarled, tossing aside etiquette and blasting himself towards the cliff. “I’ll make it to the top before you even start, you rock-headed extra!”

“Rude!” Kirishima called out, closer than Bakugou had expected. The alpha wasn’t physically weak, he had to give him that—despite his whining and overall confusion over why Katsuki hiked the way he did, he never had trouble keeping up.

Good, because if he did Katsuki would have left him at the bottom of the mountain.

It was strange enough for Katsuki to take anyone to his middle school training ground to begin with. While Deku threw down with All Might, of all people, the private schoolers had trained with their respective hero parents. But Katsuki didn’t need anyone’s help to grow stronger. He did better on his own.

Or maybe it was because he’d still been struggling with his pheromone sensitivity back then. Secluding himself to nature or some other peaceful bullshit was probably a blessing in disguise.

“I like it here,” Kirishima kept filling the air with noise, be it through his words or his feet or the way he moved. He wouldn’t know subtlety if it hit him over the head. “It’s kinda nice to smell the breeze, y’know?”

“I didn’t come here to smell the breeze,” Katsuki said, despite silently agreeing with the boy’s words. “I came here to train.”

“Seriously? That’s hardcore, man. I just holed myself up at my middle school doing push-ups in the gym,” Kirishima rummaged through his backpack’s side pockets and scrounged up some energy bars. He threw one to Katsuki and tore into his own with his teeth. “’Course, back then I wasn’t even sure if I could be a hero yet. Training was something I did in secret, not something I planned for ahead of time.”

“What the fuck,” Katsuki finally glanced back at the boy. His expression lacked its usual stupid cheer, replaced instead by a soft, self-depreciating look. “What do you mean you weren’t sure you could be a hero?”

“I mean,” and Kirishima’s expression melted into embarrassment. “My quirk’s not flashy, you know? And I couldn’t even harden my arms up that much to start with, so it was an uphill battle from the beginning…”

“But you can harden up enough to break through robots now, can’t you?” Katsuki turned back to his imagined path and squinted up at the summit peeking between the trees. They were almost there. “I hate it when people don’t know their place. You’re in U.A.’s hero course. Of course you’re meant to be a hero.”

Kirishima was silent for a long time, long enough Katsuki felt a blush rising from his neck to the tip of his ears. Goddammit, only Shitty Hair for Brains could make silence worse than his constant noise.

“That’s…” the alpha finally managed once they were crossing into the last leg to the summit. “That’s so manly, Bakugou.”

“What?”

“You’re cool without even trying. It’s pretty manly.”

“Fine,” Katsuki reached down and yanked the alpha up by the straps of his backpack. “I’m the manliest man to ever man. Now get the fuck up here and admire the sunset before I kick you off the cliff.”

“It is a very pretty sunset,” Kirishima allowed, and sat himself beside Katsuki on the tallest rock of the mountain. “What are we going to do now?’

“I’m going to kick you off the cliff.”

“Ha,” Kirishima said, but his grin quickly faded once he saw the serious expression on Katsuki’s face. “Wait, what?”

“How do you think I learned to control my quirk in the air?” Katsuki’s grin seemed to rise from hell itself. “You getting scared now, little alpha?”

“Fuck no,” Kirishima immediately scrambled to his feet, limbs already hardening up. “Let’s do this!”

“Good,” Katsuki said—then planted his foot square in Kirishima’s back and shoved him off the cliff face. Despite himself, he grinned when the boy just whooped and crossed his arms in preparation for landing. It wasn’t so bad sharing his mountain with Kirishima.

Especially when he was going to beat his ass to the foothills, gravity be damned.

 

--

 

“Wait, when you said you guys were going mountain climbing, you actually meant mountain climbing?” was the first thing out of Kaminari’s mouth when told the story, his chin in his hand and golden eyes incredulous.

“What else would it mean?” Katsuki glowered at the the boy. “Shitty Hair did an okay job for his first time. Still beat him by two minutes, though.”

“Because you cheated and used my head as a launching point to blast yourself forward,” Kirishima argued. “If you’d made it a fair fight—”

“Oh my god, you’re both equally bad at this,” Kaminari clasped Kirishima’s shoulder, his other hand pressed against his own heart. “Kiri, my man. My dude. Let Uncle Kaminari help you out a bit. This is getting painful.”

“No,” Kirishima said.

Excruciatingly painful.”

“Hey!” Katsuki glared at Kaminari. The other omega was a shameless flirt and gossip, and while he was good friends with Kirishima he wouldn’t put it past the boy to spread rumors regardless. It wasn't lead omega behavior or whatever Yamada kept hounding him about. Katsuki just didn't feel like dealing with a sad puppy Kirishima any more than he had to. “You better not spread some stupid rumor like me dating Yamada again—”

“It wasn’t that unbelievable! You’re, like, super close and knew each other and he wasn’t scared of you at all! Childhood alpha and omega couples are a thing, guys!”

Except Yamada was a pigtail-pulling, atypical asshole. Icyhot used to obliviously complain about the beta boys Yamada would tease into tears.

"The teachers think he's bullying them to feel out his alpha side, but Toshi's not really like that..." he'd explain away Yamada's detentions like the dumbest omega in existence. Good god, it was painful. The real kind of painful, not this dramatic bullshit Pikachu was whining about.

“What are you three doing, getting all worked up?” Sero said, poking his stupid soy sauce face where it didn’t belong. “Hey, Bakugou. I saw Midoriya and Todoroki heading outside for lunch.”

“I don’t care,” Katsuki said.

“I don’t know where Yamada is,” Sero hummed, ignoring Katsuki’s surliness. “Those three have been a bit different since that Hosu thing, right? You’re closest to them, so I figured you’d want to know where they were at.”

“Well I don’t. Deku can do whatever he wants with Yukimura, as long as I don’t have to see them sucking face. And Yamada can go straight to hell.”

“Wait,” Kaminari stopped poking Kirishima’s shoulder and turned to face Katsuki with a frown. “Who’s Yukimura?”

“What do you mean ‘who’s Yukimura?’ Stupid half-and-half, Icyhot, scar face…” Katsuki finally realized what he’d let slip and reddened.

“You mean Todoroki?” Sero offered.

"Shut up."

“Wait, is that why Midoriya used to call Todoroki ‘Yuki?’” Kirishima sat up.

“I said shut up,” Katsuki managed and turned around in his seat so his back faced the others. “What does it even matter. Whatever he wants to call himself, Icyhot is still stupid, spoiled Icyhot.”

“Hey, it’s fine,” and there was a hand on his shoulder, familiar and calloused. It was almost frightening how accustomed he’d become to Kirishima’s touch. Deku never grabbed him like this, not even when they were kids and still truly the best of friends. The closest comparison was Yamada back when Katsuki had been throwing omega tantrums left and right, but it was more of a settling thing than an ‘I just want to touch you’ thing.

Katsuki may choose to ignore a lot of the bullshit around him, but he wasn’t an idiot.

“How was your and Kirishima’s ‘rock climbing,’” Sero changed the subject, his timing on point as usual. “Was it… enlightening?”

“I kicked him off a cliff,” Katsuki said.

“…you really did, didn’t you?”

“I told you, it’s painful!” Kaminari wailed. “They actually went rock climbing!”

“Maybe you should go rock climbing, Mr. Flabby Abs!” Katsuki finally rounded on him. “What are you going to do when some hero gets past your shocks? ‘Whey’ him to death?”

“Dude,” Kirishima sighed, using the new angle to curl his entire forearm around Katsuki’s shoulders. Katsuki kicked his shin because the guy was taking way too many liberties with his grabby hands, but otherwise made no move to free himself. When Soy Sauce gave him a knowing grin, Katsuki discretely flipped him off under his desk. Kirishima, oblivious, continued, “You can’t just call a bro out like that. Not cool.”

“My abs aren’t that flabby,” Kaminari said mournfully.

“They kind of are,” Sero informed him. “Hey, how ‘bout you jog with me after class? Build up some endurance, you know?”

“I only like girls, dude.”

“No, I mean real jogging.”

Kaminari pressed his forehead to the desk. “You’re all awful. I give up.”

“Good,” Katsuki said savagely, and Kirishima had the gall to throw his head back and laugh.

 

--

 

“You’re getting along pretty well with our classmates, huh,” Deku said on the way home one day, more thoughtful than accusatory. Katsuki tensed up anyway. “That’s good. It’s nice to have friends.”

“They’re not my friends,” Katsuki hissed. “They’re jerks too bothersome to chase off. Not my fault they keep following me.”

“But you took Kirishima hiking with you the other day, right?”

Who told you that.”

“...Kirishima did?” Deku looked at him like he was the crazy one. Dating Icyhot had given the beta far too much self-confidence if he was pulling sass on Katsuki right now. Katsuki kicked at his leg. Deku ducked and continued walking beside him like nothing happened. “He’s pretty popular, you know, and he likes making small talk with everyone. But don’t worry, I think he definitely prefers you over the other omegas in class.”

“Why the hell should I care?” Katsuki tried kicking him again.

Deku caught his foot but yelped when the omega used the opening to smack him in the jaw. “Kacchan!

“Stop it with the ‘everything’s fine’ act,” Katsuki hissed, jabbing a finger to Deku’s chest. “Just ‘cause you and Yamada and Yukimura got swept up in that Hero Killer mission doesn’t mean you’re suddenly better than me!”

“I’m glad you weren’t there, Kacchan,” and Deku was being absolutely genuine, which made everything a thousand times worse. “I thought we were going to die.”

“You think I would’ve died?” Katsuki shook him a little and then pushed him back into a wall. He tucked his hands into his pockets and stomped ahead, hearing rather than seeing Deku picking himself back up and following after him. “You’re a real piece of work, you know that? Chasing after Tengine yourself… if your Icyhot boyfriend hadn’t had your back you’d all be sashimi right now. You think you’re so good you don’t need help?”

“I can’t believe those words just came out of your mouth.”

“Fuck off, Deku!”

“You sound like Monoma,” Deku sighed. He took out his phone from his pocket and began tapping at it furiously. Icyhot, without a doubt. “Which is kind of ironic, now that I think about it.”

Katsuki stopped and turned around, eyes narrowed. “Who’s Monoma?”

Monoma, it turned out, was that Class B asshole who thought it’d be a good idea to taunt Katsuki during that disaster of a Sports Festival.

“Oops, couldn’t help but hit that huge head of yours, Midoriya!” the blond said sweetly after pretty much braining Deku with his lunch tray. Specks of spilt gravy dotted his tie like blood spatter. “Once again, Class A makes it into the papers! You can’t even get attention by your own merits, can you? It’s almost like you staged the whole thing on purpose just to make yourself look better!”

“What the hell,” Katsuki grabbed Deku by the shoulder and dragged him back from the madman. “Who are you and why are you talking to us?”

That faux-hurt expression was just as annoying. “I’m hurt, Bakugou. You’ve already forgotten me? Monoma Neito—the boy you made a fool of during the Calvary battle!”

“Oh,” Katsuki said after a pause. He vaguely remembered beating that smug ass into the ground before ripping those headbands from around his pale neck. “You’re Copy Cat.”

“No, he’s more of a mouse,” and Monoma jumped.

Yamada, having clearly just come down from the faculty lounge, walked over and frowned down at the beta's gravy-stained tie. He wiped it clean with his hand like he regularly manhandled crazy people's clothes, and Monoma just stood there, stunned. “Hello Monoma. What kind of game are you playing now?”

“It's not a game!” Monoma finally managed, jerking back. “I’m simply confronting your classmates about Class A’s conspiracy to tarnish U.A.’s good name!”

"A conspiracy?"

Monoma whipped out a newspaper from his pocket with a flourish. "Your dear old classmate Todoroki used his quirk without permission on a reporter’s camcorder! And while unconfirmed, audio footage heavily implies you used your quirk as well! U.A. students misusing their quirks on civilians only hurts our school’s reputation. Am I wrong?”

“No, you’re right,” Yamada said like he was having a perfectly rational conversation. “I’m sorry for tarnishing U.A.'s good name.”

Monoma’s half-formed smile froze. “What?”

“I’m sorry for using my quirk that way. Isn’t that what you wanted to hear?”

“That’s—well good!” and Monoma was turning a truly impressive red, the color even starker on his pale skin. “As students representing our school, we should act the part of ideal citizens. As Class A is particularly guilty of bad behavior, I suppose every step forward lifts your class up from the mud—"

Yamada turned to Katsuki. "Bakugou, has there been any bad behavior I don't know about?"

Katsuki glared. "Why the fuck are you asking me, Sleepy Face?"

"You're lead omega."

"I'm not lead omega!"

"Bakugou's lead omega?" Copy Cat looked gleeful. "Some uncouth, unrefined omega such as him can't possibly—"

Which was when a giant hand smacked the guy right into the ground.

Everyone stared.

The beta just lay there, crumpled, as the hand retracted to reveal a redheaded alpha girl from Class B. She immediately bowed. “I’m so sorry, everyone! I’m Kendo Itsuka, Class Rep of Class 1-B. Our Monoma’s a bit… spirited, so I ask you please ignore anything insulting he might have said!”

She then grabbed the back of Copy Cat’s collar and dragged him away, but not before Katsuki caught Yamada giving the beta a considering look.

Oh hell no.

“Yamada! You don’t usually join us for lunch,” Deku immediately began filling the air with noise. “You’ve been spending more time in the faculty lounge right? Not that I know for sure! It was just a guess since you normally come back to class around the same time as your—as Mr. Aizawa, and I couldn’t think of anywhere else you’d like to spend your time—”

“Don't you dare, Yamada,” Katsuki interrupted him, annoyed. Because Yamada had a type, and that type was fucking annoying. “He’s going to bite your fucking hand off one day and you'd deserve every ounce of pain.”

Yamada's eyes widened only a little, like Katsuki hadn't known about his preferences for years. The alpha then turned and scoffed, feigning nonchalance. “He’s not you, Katsuki. His bark is annoying as crap but his bite’s a whimper. It’s fun to see how worked up he can get.”

“What are you, a sadist?”

“Guys?” Deku was looking between them, hands already beginning to twitch nervously. “What… what are you talking about?”

“Yamada’s shitty taste in men,” Katsuki said.

Yamada, without moving a facial muscle, kicked him savagely under the table.

“I already had lunch in the lounge earlier,” the alpha changed the subject gracelessly. He stood up and cast one last glare in Katsuki’s direction. “But I need to head out and get some more practice in. Mom says I can start bringing my support items to our combat training if I can prove I can use them.”

“Oh!” Midoriya brightened, falling for the excuse hook, line and sinker. “That’s awesome! You’re already really good at using your voice modifier—I’m sure he’ll let you bring it!”

“Yamada,” Katsuki called out as the boy walked away. Despite clearly trying to ignore him, Yamada did indeed turn to look in his direction. Katsuki picked up the newspaper from the table and grinned unkindly. "You sure you don't want to keep this as a souvenir?"

And Yamada blushed. It made the asshole look like the fifteen year old he was instead of a miniature copy of his mother, which was… more gratifying than Katsuki had expected.

“Was that Toshi? He’s normally at the lounge during lunch,” and Icyhot chose the moment his friend left to sit down beside Deku. Katsuki rolled his eyes when the omega pecked Deku on the cheek. The cheek! Deku smiled, every inch the chaste goody-two-shoes he was. Icyhot glanced over at Bakugou. “Did something happen?”

Yeah, no. Katsuki finished the last of his curry and stomped over to the dish return. There was no way he was sitting through Deku and Icyhot’s weird, family-friendly flirting, not when it had gotten inexplicably worse after their internship and not better.

Katsuki hadn't asked for the details of their case, mostly because he didn't want to explain his own week of hell.

Best Jeanist had truly been the worst. While the others were busy getting experience points taking down actual villains, Katsuki had been at the mercy of omega etiquette lessons and lectures that would have even driven his mother to tears.

“Omegas are the social stitching that holds our society together,” Best Jeanist had snapped after Katsuki had gone off on some kids. “As heroes, it’s even more important for us to help heroes connect with the populace. We want to draw seamless confidence, not tear its fabric apart.”

Katsuki wanted to kindly tell him to fuck off, but Best Jeanist was ranked fourth on the Japanese Hero charts and was the second strongest omega in their country. The first, if he disqualified Hawks for his youth. Which meant Best Jeanist had a strong enough omega presence to easily squish Katsuki into his “proper” box. It was like Eraserhead but also like his opposite: ceding to Aizawa’s control was freeing, while being forced under Best Jeanist’s thumb drove him batshit crazy.

“How is your class pack organized? Do you behave this poorly with your lead omega?” Best Jeanist had, at the very least, dedicated a decent amount of one-on-one attention to training Katsuki. Even if it wasn’t physical training.

“We don’t have a lead omega,” Katsuki bit out.

“Ah,” Best Jeanist took out a comb and smoothed an errant strand of hair back from Katsuki's face. He twitched. “Interesting. Your class is filled with powerful omegas, is it not? Perhaps the reason why a leader hasn’t stepped forward is because no one is capable of threading together such self-centered characters.”

“What the hell’s your point? Our pack has nothing to do with you.”

“It has to do with me because it has to do with you. Tell me, Bakugou, have you ever considered stepping up as lead omega yourself?”

“No,” Katsuki bit out. He stabbed his pen into the stupid work form Best Jeanist had given him to familiarize him with the nonviolent side of heroing. “Not because I think it’s beneath me, before you jump to conclusions. Lead omegas need to coordinate with lead alphas. They need to inspire confidence. I can barely stand talking with either Pineapple Hair or Wind Dunce, and the other students are scared of me. So no. I haven’t considered taking the spot myself.”

“Interesting,” Best Jeanist leaned back in his chair and regarded Katsuki from beneath his lashes. “You know you could be the omega leader, just not right now. You are at least somewhat self-aware.”

“Self-aware enough to know ‘taming’ me is a waste of time,” Katsuki hissed.

“You came here to learn how a top omega hero operates. If you wanted haphazard disregard for dynamic politics, you should’ve gone to Hawks.”

Hawks hadn’t even made Katsuki an offer, but he wasn’t about to admit that to Jean Jerk’s face. He grit his teeth and got back to filling out paperwork. The week couldn’t have ended fast enough, even if he had to watch the news like everyone else to find out the three other pre-U.A. bastards had taken down the hero killer.

Goddamn fuckers better start running—Katsuki was going to catch up to them and kill them dead.

 

--

 

"Bakugou!" Black-eyes whined one morning when Katsuki came through the door. "Inasa and Uraraka are having a floating contest outside and no one can get them down."

"So?"

"So? Get them down before Mr. Aizawa sees!"

"How the hell are those two knotheads my problem?" Katsuki snapped, ignoring Ashido's pout and slumping into his seat. "Let them freeze to death in a cloud."

"Hey, man," and Soy Sauce was even less swayed by his glare than Ashido. "If we can combine my tape with your blasts, we can drag them down. This is basic lead omega stuff, come on."

"I'm not lead omega!" Katsuki snapped, explosions crackling from his palms, and Sero Soy Sauce Hanta just shrugged his shoulders.

"Not yet, I guess," he said, nonchalant. Despite knowing he was being played, Katsuki couldn't help but want to prove an asshole wrong.

"Give me the fucking tape," he held out his hand, jaw clenched. He pretended not to see Sero's and Ashido's triumphant grins and vaulted out the window. Stupid assholes couldn’t do anything without him, could they?

Chapter Text

Katsuki finally figured out why the class had become more clingy lately, and it wasn’t because of some magical lead omega bullshit.

It was because Eraserhead was still off his game. Even with his casts long gone, he napped more often, activated his quirk less, and was generally less patient when it came to shenanigans during class. While the other students still worried in a general sense, Katsuki's observations put him especially on edge.

“I can still kick your ass,” Aizawa said when he caught Katsuki staring a bit too long at the crescent-shaped scar beneath his eye. “The boys are already fussing over me too much at home, I don’t need to deal with that nonsense from you too.”

“I’m not fussing,” Katsuki growled under his breath. He stomped off when Aizawa just gave him a classic, I-call-bullshit look Katsuki recognized from years of dealing with Yamada.

Because putting him on the same level as those idiots... it was insulting.

Yamada was good at subtlety, always had been. His worry over his mother’s health translated into a constant awareness of where the man was at all times; eating his lunch in the faculty lounge to ensure Eraserhead consumed something other than juice packs and caffeine; and putting his classmates into place whenever things spiraled out of control. Little things that were obvious to Katsuki but innocuous to anyone else.

Present Mic, on the other hand, had the subtlety of a bull in a china shop.

“Hey, hey, hey, Eraser!” the teacher burst through the door at the tail end of Homeroom. It was the third time he'd done so since Aizawa's casts came off, and the omega's patience was clearly at its limit. “I brought some coffee and cookies! Oh, and the paperwork you needed filled out. I handled it! Yeah!”

“Wow, that’s… really nice of you, Present Mic,” Frog girl pointed out immediately, and Aizawa’s eye twitched. “Aren’t these cookies from that fancy café a few blocks away from here?”

“Yup! They’re Eraser’s favorite, you know. Oh, how are your eyes? I have more eye drops in case you ran out—”

“Mic,” and Aizawa’s voice could freeze someone solid. “I’m recovering but I’m not an invalid. While I appreciate our friendship, kindly get out of my classroom.”

Present Mic stared blankly at him before deciphering his meaning. “Oh, yes! Friends. Well, as your friend I brought you some new eye drops. I’m going to put them right here…” and he leaned across a frostier and frostier Eraserhead and somehow managed to ignore Yamada’s facepalm from the back of the class. “…and then get out of your hair. If you need anything else—”

“Hizashi,” Eraserhead’s patience reached its end. “Out. Now.

“Oh my god,” Yamada whispered under his breath, face still in his hands. “Dad, run.”

Speculation descended once the lunch bell rang.

“Did you hear that? Mr. Aizawa called Present Mic ‘Hizashi!’ That’s his given name, isn’t it? Did you know they were that close?” Ashido was chattering loudly to a quieter but still intrigued Earphone Girl. “Like, I assume the faculty all know each other but I didn’t know Mr. Aizawa and Present Mic were coffee-and-cookies kind of friends!”

“Hey Yamada,” Frog Girl cut to the chase rather than wasting time guessing like Black-eyes. “How do your dad and our teacher know each other?”

Katsuki bit back a snort at the look on Yamada’s face, and felt gratified when he saw Icyhot doing the same across the aisle.

“…they were in the same graduating class at U.A.,” Yamada settled on the most neutral answer possible. “So they’ve known each other since high school.”

“Wait, wait, wait,” Kaminari decided to join in, eyes sparkling. “If they knew each other since high school… does that mean you knew Mr. Aizawa before you entered U.A.? Dude, that’s totally cheating!”

Icyhot broke first, though he quickly hid his laugh behind a cough. Deku looked at them as if they’d kicked a puppy, like seeing Yamada in the hot seat wasn’t absolutely hilarious.

“You’ve gotten a good sense of what Mr. Aizawa is like,” Yamada managed. “Do you really think he’d go easy on someone he knew before becoming their teacher?”

“Honestly, he seems like the type to go harder instead,” Frog Girl tilted her head. “Still, the way Present Mic acted… I’ve only seen them interacting when they were commentating at the Sports Festival, but it’s clear now that they’re very close in person.”

“No, Tsuyu, you can’t say things like that!” Ashido burst out, smothering the beta girl with grabby pink hands. Frog girl put up with the groping quite well. “If that’s how you think, how do you think Yamada’s mother feels? We don’t want to stir up family drama! Typical friends since high school who work closely with each other every day—it’s a tragic love triangle waiting to happen!”

Which was when Katsuki lost it, laughing so hard in his seat he nearly fell over. Deku’s look upgraded to killed a puppy; Icyhot began to chuckle without restraint; and Yamada looked a second away from vaulting over his desk and strangling them all with the duplicate capture scarf Katsuki knew he kept somewhere in the room.

“While I appreciate your concern, Ashido,” the boy loudly declared over her increasingly ridiculous speculation, “I can tell you it’s not a problem with my mom. Now, unless you want Mr. Aizawa to turn your life into a living hell the next few weeks, I suggest you never bring any of this up in his presence again.”

It was enough of a threat to sufficiently cow the class. Enough so that Yamada could stand up and stroll out of the room like he wasn’t about to make a break for the faculty lounge and hide.

When Aizawa returned for their end-of-day homeroom, the class was as perfectly behaved as it could be for twenty curious heroes-to-be.

“Oh, and before you leave,” Eraserhead mentioned once the last bell rang. “If you see Present Mic try and enter this room any time other than for English, do not open the door. Lock it if you have to. Anyone who lets him in will get detention with me in the mornings. Do I make myself clear?”

“Even Yamada?” Ashido asked tentatively.

Yes, even Yamada,” the man’s eye twitched again. “It is important to maintain professionalism as a hero, even in situations that overlap with the personal. Here, Yamada is a student of U.A. and not Present Mic’s son. Therefore, he should abide by the rules of the school over the whims of his father. Do you understand, Yamada?”

“Like I’d let him in anyway,” Yamada grumbled, surly, and Eraserhead narrowed his eyes. “Yes, I understand. Can we go home now?”

“Yes,” Eraserhead said, and the students immediately fled.

The next day, a baffled Present Mic was forced to leave the coffee and cookies out in the hall. Trying to open the door earned him a “Sorry, Mr. Mic! Eraserhead told us to!” and an immovable knob like it had been welded shut from the inside.

So yes. Aizawa’s injuries forced Katsuki to exercise more patience when dealing with pack drama, even if he still thought his packmates needed to learn to handle themselves.

Clearly he needed to up his terrorizing if he wanted to get some goddamn peace.

 

--

 

Eraserhead eventually healed enough that the constant attempts at smothering finally died down. Yamada was less twitchy, the weather was warming up, and Katsuki could taste summer beginning to seep into the air.

It would have been perfect had final exams not been looming over their heads.

“No,” Katsuki said.

“Please!” Kirishima clapped his hands together, eyes squeezed shut. “I really need help with my Math and Japanese literature!”

“You need help with every subject, Shitty Hair! Fifteenth out of twenty is shameful.”

“I know, I know. I mean, Momo’s holding a study session at her house, so if you don’t think you can do it…”

Katsuki narrowed his eyes at him. He knew when he was being played—the alpha wasn’t even trying to be subtle about it—but at least two other omegas were going to be there and his dumb, possessive side did not like Kirishima joining them. At all. It made him want to lash out in spite, but Katsuki’s whole problem was his inability to resist his omega instincts.

“Fine,” he snapped, reaching over and grabbing Kirishima’s painfully empty notebook from his hands. Problem number one? The guy didn't take notes. “Be ready for the worst week of hell in your life. Fancy café every day after school for an hour. You’re paying.”

“Yes! Thank you, Bakugou!” Kirishima beamed and threw his arms around him. Katsuki withstood that solid strength pressed against his back, the cedar scent from where his face was tucked unintentionally to the alpha’s neck, and that impossible-to-explain presence that still failed to trigger Katsuki’s usual alpha alarms. He let himself breathe it all in and settle his core for a single moment.

Then, he punched Kirishima in the stomach.

The alpha whined, only a little bruised thanks to his quirk, and Katsuki flipped off the chortling Kaminari and Sero on his way back to his desk.

Free coffee and baked goods every day in exchange for a little help looking over notes? Why wouldn’t Katsuki agree?

“So you’re going on a date with Kirishima?” Deku asked, suicidal as usual. They were on their way to the ice cream shop like it was middle school, something Katsuki had only agreed to because Yamada was paying. “Oh, does that mean you’re officially letting him court you?”

“You mean he hasn’t already been courting him? He even asked for my permission and everything,” Yamada said dryly. 

“Wait, you like Kirishima back?” Icyhot asked.

Everyone shut up!” Katsuki hissed, explosions crackling from his palms. “I’m just going to waste time beating lessons into that empty head for free food! Stop making this weird!”

“Sounds like a date to me,” Icyhot mused and grabbed Katsuki’s wrist before his crackling palm could meet his face. “The fact that you’re willing to hang out one-on-one with an alpha… you don’t even do that with Toshi. Not on purpose.”

“Because if he tried beating lessons into my head, I’d brainwash him into writing apology letters to Midoriya,” Yamada said.

“I’m doing this for the free food,” Katsuki repeated, jabbing a finger into Yamada’s side. “Not because Kirishima’s interested in me or I in him and if you tell anyone otherwise I will rip out your neck.”

“We’re not Kaminari or Ashido,” Yamada swatted his finger away. “I don’t know why you’re like this, Bakugou. If you want something, just say it clearly. Don’t drag it out until interest has passed.”

“If interest passes that fast, it wasn’t worth it to begin with,” Katsuki scowled. “Not that I need your advice with stuff like this.”

“It’s worth more than theirs,” Yamada jerked his chin at the resident diabetes couple behind them. “They’re the poster children for unnecessary pining.”

“I’m not pining.”

“I didn’t say you were. You already know Kirishima likes you.”

Katsuki ground his teeth. He could pull a jerk move by bringing up Copy Cat as revenge, but it was pretty clear neither Deku nor Icyhot had picked up on Yamada’s preferences just yet. He wasn’t sure how the hell they hadn’t; the knowledge that Yamada Hitoshi would never be interested in him had killed the tiny crush he had on the boy in middle school. Thank god.

“What ice cream flavor haven’t we tried yet?” Deku had actually taken out a notebook filled with ice cream flavors from his pocket and was showing it to Icyhot. Rather than swat him away, the omega indulged him with a goopy smile on his face. Katsuki’s eye twitched.

“Get me a spicy mango,” he told Yamada, who raised an eyebrow but didn’t bother protesting being ordered about like a servant. Maybe he was finally acknowledging Katsuki’s superiority after all these years. Or maybe he wanted to give Katsuki time to cool off—both literally and figuratively. His cheeks still felt warm.

It wasn’t a date. It was a study session.

 

--

 

It really was a study session, it turned out, because Kirishima was dumb. So goddamn dumb Katsuki wanted to track down his middle school teachers and give them a piece of his mind. How could this alpha have gotten into U.A. with such abysmal comprehension skills?

“Ashido made it into U.A., too,” Kirishima had said, then winced when Katsuki smacked him across the head with a sheet of paper. “Hey!”

“She got an even lower ranking than you, Hair-for-Brains! Shitty teachers and shitty knothead alphas who can’t write a thesis worth shit—”

“Hey, c’mon,” Kirishima frowned and grabbed the paper the next time Katsuki tried swatting him with it. “Don’t call people knotheads. That’s rude.”

“Write me a decent essay outline and I’ll consider it,” Katsuki snapped, and the alpha just sighed and stared at the paper in front of him.

Kirishima wasn’t entirely without hope. He had decent instincts, great empathy, and a hands-on learning approach Katsuki approved of. But he was also the kind of guy who could go on and on about the biological mechanisms behind a new training regimen, yet still couldn’t name the bones in the body. It was driving them both insane.

He ordered Kirishima a smoothie after another half hour of wrong answers and watched the alpha pick at it forlornly.

“Kirishima,” he finally said, and the boy looked up at him. “What the hell do you want?”

“…to pass the final exams?”

“No,” Katsuki folded a new piece of paper and made to smack the idiot across the head. Kirishima hardened in time to slice the makeshift disciplinary tool in half, the bastard. “I’m asking what do you want if you answer a question correctly?”

Kirishima rubbed his forehead, frowning. “Like a bribe?”

No. It’s called positive conditioning, moron. Now tell me what the hell you want.”

“You can’t just ask a dude that and expect an immediate answer! Let me think for a sec,” Kirishima grumbled. He slurped up the last of his smoothie, popped off the drink lid, and licked the rim of his cup. It was only by some miracle he failed to notice the spike in Katsuki’s scent before he forced it back down. “If I could have anything for answering a question right… how about I get to ask you a question?”

“That’s what we’ve been doing.”

“No, no, no—I mean a personal question! Like your favorite color or maybe some embarrassing story from when you were a kid. Come on, I want to know!”

“Okay,” Katsuki said. The alpha looked surprised that he agreed so quickly. “But I reserve the right to tell you to mind your own fucking business if I want.”

“Sure, sounds good!” Kirishima beamed. He sat back and cracked his knuckles. “Let’s get back into it!”

Of course, Kirishima wasted his first question on a meaningless one. “Who’s your favorite hero?”

Katsuki had half expected him to go for the jugular by demanding his darkest secrets, but this was just him being… nice.

“Mine’s Crimson Riot! His quirk’s not too impressive—he can harden his hair—but he managed to become a popular hero anyway because of his skill and perseverance. The true epitome of a man!”

“Is that why you dye your hair red?” Katsuki said. “If you got that done at a salon, fire your hair stylist. Dad can do a better job than that and she’s been out of the fashion game for years.”

“What? How do you know I dye my hair?”

Katsuki leaned over the table and grabbed a handful of stiff, gelled-to-hell-and-back hair. He itched to raid his cabinet at home and pull out some of his parents’ quality shit: the dry conditioner, shampoo, texturizer, hairspray. He’d only ever seen them style someone else, but Katsuki was positive he could figure it out.

“One—the color. It’s too artificial to be natural.” He tugged the lump of hair forward, ignoring the alpha’s small grunt of pain. “Two—your hairline is pretty clean but the roots towards the center of your hair are still a bit black.” He leaned across the table and pressed his nose to Kirishima’s hair, acutely aware of the alpha’s face practically buried in his own neck and just… not caring. Or maybe he did care, cared so much he was desperate to communicate somehow even if his mouth consistently failed him. “Third—it smells off. It doesn’t smell like you, which means it has to be dyed.”

“Huh,” Kirishima tilted his face slightly, nose now pressed skin-to-skin with Katsuki’s neck. “You know what I smell like that well?”

Oh god, he was too close. Katsuki's entire chest felt warm and it was only a matter of time before the flush spread up his neck and to his face.

"What did I just say," Katsuki managed gruffly. He then pushed himself back and crossed his arms like he hadn't basically scented an alpha in public. Kirishima grinned, sharp teeth glinting in the light coming through the window. It made it nearly impossible to tell which ones were his alpha teeth and whether or not they were extended. He scowled. "What? What are you grinning at, Shitty Hair?"

“You haven’t answered my question, Bakugou! Who’s your favorite hero?”

“All Might,” Katsuki said, and Kirishima’s eyes sparkled. He glowered at the alpha, daring him to call him predictable. “He’s fucking strong and always makes sure to come out on top of a fight. When he’s there, you know he’s going to win. I’m going to beat him and become the number one hero, even if all he cares about is Deku 'cause he trained him.”

Kirishima didn’t pester him with questions of What? How? Why? like Katsuki had expected. Instead, he propped his chin on his hand and said, “Huh. Is that why you two don’t get along? ‘Cause All Might didn’t train you too?”

Katsuki stared at him, fingers digging so hard into his own arm he was surprised he didn’t start bleeding. No one had dared ask him this question, not even Yamada. And Yamada wasn’t scared to ask anything.

“Get another question right and I just might answer,” he finally managed, voice mostly calm. Kirishima’s brow pinched together just a fraction.“Now stop dragging your feet. Memorize these equations. Now.”

But Kirishima did not, in fact, use that as his second question.

“You know the alphas in class aren’t going to bite?” Kirishima was on his second smoothie. There were cookies on the table but Katsuki supposed alpha metabolisms weren’t anything like an omega’s. “Sure, Inasa’s a bit loud, but he’s a good dude. And Shoji’s, like, super protective and everything. He’s the classic bodyguard type, totally reliable when it comes to pack. Uraraka’s passionate too but also very sweet, and Yaoyorozu’s the pinnacle of chivalrous alpha. So I don’t get why you act like they’re all about to go caveman on you anytime they get too close? You’re okay with me and Yamada, so…”

“My omega instincts are insane,” Katsuki ground out, uncomfortable but perfectly aware that refusing to answer the question would be admitting weakness. “Doc says it’s my dad’s crazy dominance making me more sensitive or some crap like that. Yamada’s okay because my instincts know he’s not interested in me that way."

"Wait, why wouldn't Yamada be interested in you?" Kirishima asked like that was even a question. Katsuki stared. The better question would be why Kirishima was interested; the list of Katsuki's worst attributes would scare any sane alpha away. "I mean, you say things like they are, you're passionate, and you're really manly! And even if you complain a lot about him, you and Yamada do get along pretty well."

Katsuki chose to ignore that embarrassing list—because self-reflection led to madness—and instead focused on Yamada. "Trust me, he's not interested. I'm not his type, and his purple hair's stupid anyway."

"So... you're okay with Yamada because there's no interest?" Kirishima repeated slowly, propping his head on his chin. "What about you and me?"

"What about you and me?"

"You don't seem to mind me in your space."

God, he couldn't just let this go, could he? And his stupid puppy eyes meant Katsuki couldn't deflect the question without feeling like the worst person in the world. He ducked his head and muttered, "Honestly, I don’t know what the fuck is going with you.”

“Maybe it’s a sign?” Kirishima said, then flushed at how goddamn corny that sounded. It kept him from pursuing the subject further, thankfully, and Katsuki took a giant swig of his coffee to signal to the boy to keep working.

The third question was the one Katsuki had expected from the beginning. It was getting dark out and it was clear their study session was coming to an end. On one hand, three out of however many questions Katsuki had bombarded him with was an abysmal score. On the other hand, getting any question right at all was more than he'd expected.

"Why does Midoriya bother you so much?" Kirishima ignored Katsuki's immediate tensing and plowed on. "I mean sure, there's Todoroki and Yamada too, but Midoriya seems to get to you the most. Why?"

Any smart omega would choose to dodge this question. Especially since things with Kirishima right now were good.

"Because stupid Deku was quirkless up until the entrance exams," Katsuki bit out before his temper sealed his mouth shut with rage. "He was never supposed to get into U.A. He was just some stupid, quirkless beta who didn't know the first thing about what the real world was like. He was supposed to have his dreams crushed, not be picked as a trainee by goddamn All Might himself. Do you want me to go on?"

These were the darkest thoughts that laid bare exactly what kind of an asshole Katsuki was. If Kirishima had the awful idea of going through with this, he better know what the fuck he was getting into.

Even if the gooey part of him screamed for him to stop, to not drive the alpha away,  Katsuki refused to run.

Kirishima frowned, looking considerate. Finally, he said: "I don’t think him choosing Midoriya meant you were rejected, Bakugou. I think... I think All Might already knew how good you are.”

And that was it. That was all he said when he should've politely excused himself, and the worst part was that Kirishima was being earnest.

Katsuki wanted to kill him out of sheer, nervous embarrassment.

He may have even done so if Kirishima’s alpha presence wasn't deliberately settling him down. It was awkward and inexperienced and nervous, but it was a good attempt for an alpha unused to extending their presence. Yamada could have done better, but Yamada had the advantage of not actually wanting to get into Katsuki’s pants.

“Stop that,” he finally bit out once the attempt went from soothing to uncomfortable. Kirishima froze. “It’s not going to work if you're so fucking nervous.”

Kirishima blinked slowly before retracting his presence. “S-sorry.”

“You don’t have to be sorry.”

“I know I’m not as good at this as Yamada is,” Kirishima admitted in a rush, cheeks flushing pink. Katsuki wasn’t the only one feeling strangely vulnerable. “But if you let me, I’ll definitely be willing to learn. And we’re gonna be heroes, so obviously being a hero is always going to be the most important—”

“Obviously,” Katsuki said.

“—but when it comes to omegas, I’ll put you first. On my honor as a man!” Kirishima pressed his fist to his chest, just above his heart. His face was as red as a hair. “So… so I wanted to ask. Will you let me court—?”

Katsuki vaulted over the table and slapped a hand over the alpha’s mouth. The boy flailed, wide red eyes shining, and made a noise of protest when Katsuki actually crawled the rest of the way through the cookies and sat himself on Kirishima’s side of the booth.

They sat there like that, silent, for what seemed to be an eternity. Kirishima’s expression went from hurt to embarrassed to contemplative the longer Katsuki held his hand to his face. The omega wanted to glance away from those big red eyes because who knows what his expression was betraying right now. It was mortifying.

Finally, Katsuki drew back his hand.

“You forgot already, didn’t you?” he pulled back, feigning cool despite still feeling the tingling sensation of Kirishima’s lips on his palm. “You want to ask a question, you’ve got to get an answer right. So you better bring your best game tomorrow, Kirishima, or I’m going to kill you.”

“S-sure, man,” Kirishima said, voice hoarse. “Whatever you want.”

“Good,” Katsuki awkwardly stepped over the alpha’s lap to escape the claustrophobic booth. He swept the supplies on the table into his backpack and slung it over his shoulder. “I’m going home now.”

“Wait!” Kirishima scrambled to his feet. “A-at least let me walk to you the station.”

“Do I look like I need your help walking five fucking minutes? Sit the hell down and pay the bill, Shitty hair,” Katsuki turned and stomped to the café entrance. He yanked the door open. “…if you actually learn a thing or two, maybe I’ll let you walk me tomorrow.”

He let the red fully cover his face the further he walked from the café. Goddammit, that shitty Deku had been right for once in his oblivious, socially inept life. It was a date.

And, despite the anger and embarrassment and otherwise annoying parts of being vulnerable… Katsuki had actually enjoyed it.

 

--

 

"You're in a good mood," the old hag immediately pointed out when Katsuki came down for dinner. He scowled at her and yanked open the rice cooker. "What? Did you beat that rival omega of yours in a fight?"

"None of your damn business," he said, scooping rice into three bowls and then tossing the rice paddle in the sink.

When he went to carry the bowls to the table, however, she grabbed him by the hair and tilted his neck.

"Dad!"

She pressed her nose against his neck like he was six and not sixteen. "Is that an alpha I smell?"

Katsuki, despite himself, reddened. "So what if it is?"

"Oh my god. Masaru!" and oh no, Dad wasn't dragging the old man into this, not if Katsuki could help it. He tore himself away from her hands, flung the rice bowls onto the table, and then hightailed it upstairs. "Masaru, Katsuki's got himself an alpha!"

"Shut the fuck up!" he yanked open his door to yell down the stairs. "And he's not my alpha!"

"A male alpha!" Dad sounded far too giddy. "Masaru, did you hear that?"

Mom came up with Katsuki's forgotten rice bowl and a plate of heated dinner an hour later. Katsuki pointedly ignored him placing the food on his desk, focusing instead on his homework with trademark intensity.

"I'm glad things are going better for you, Katsuki," Mom said, adjusting his glasses awkwardly. Katsuki threw him the most scathing glare he could manage. This usually sent Mom running, but he must have felt especially brave today because he stood his ground. "I know... your father and I haven't been able to give you the environment you needed, as an omega. And the schools couldn't either. But that's our fault and not yours. While it's a bit shameful, we're still glad to see you doing better at U.A."

Katsuki stared so hard into his workbook he was surprised it didn't catch on fire. "Stop being so fucking sappy. It's gross."

"Alright, alright," Mom said, laughter evident in his voice. "Teenage boys around the world are embarrassed by their parents. Speaking of..."

"No."

"Mitsuki thinks this alpha of yours must be a saint by default, but I don't want to assume..."

"He's not mine," Katsuki finally shut his workbook closed and faced him completely, jaw clenched. "And he's way too good for me, alright? Is that what you wanted to hear?"

"Katsuki, he'd be lucky to have you," Mom said, voice soft, and then wisely chose to make his escape before Katsuki's crackling explosions could set his bedsheets on fire. Again.

Mom only said that because he was his mom. Katsuki knew exactly what he lacked after years of omega specialist sessions. He knew it but he didn't care, because if he wasn't changing himself for his parents he definitely wasn't changing himself for some alpha.

If he were a better person, he'd let Kirishima go find a sweeter and more proper omega to court. But Katsuki was greedy and ambitious and Kirishima had long signed his fate.

Propriety couldn't pry the alpha from his cold dead fingers now. It was far too late.

 

--

 

But that didn’t mean he wanted others to hound him about it.

“Hey man, spill the deets!” Kaminari pounced on him the next morning. Katsuki batted him off like a fly and, just like a fly would, the other omega came zooming back. “Kiri’s too ‘manly’ to kiss and tell so I figured you were my best bet. So, did he ask you? Did you say yes? Are you finally aware of Kiri’s absolutely embarrassing—”

“Fuck off, Pikachu!” Katsuki set off a series of small pops in warning. While Kaminari put his hands up, placating, the spark in his eye meant he was less scared and more amused. “Go mind your own business! I’m just making sure that idiot doesn’t flunk out and leave me alone with you!

“Momo probably won’t mind if he joins us,” Kaminari chirped. “If you only want him to pass, that is. ‘Course, I’m a girl’s dude—Yaomomo’s smoking, man—but Jirou’s good with all alphas. If you refused his courting offer than—”

“I didn’t refuse!”

“So you said yes?”

“No!”

“Stringing my man along ain’t cool,” Kaminari said, shaking his finger at him. “You’re not playing with his heart, are you?”

Bakugou!” Kirishima immediately went into containment mode the second he stepped into the classroom and saw Katsuki strangling the life out of Kaminari. “Do you want Mr. Aizawa to tie you to the ceiling? Calm down!”

“I’ll calm down when I’m dead!

“That can be arranged,” Aizawa announced upon entering the room, and everyone scrambled for their seats.

So Katsuki hadn’t arrived at the café in the best of moods. Even more so when Kirishima dragged his feet making his way from U.A. to their studying session and what little patience Katsuki had left fizzled away.

“The answer is yes,” Katsuki said, arms crossed and slumped against the soft seat with the surliest expression he could manage plastered across his face. The café buzzed dreamily in the background. “Now let’s get back to studying.”

“Hey, hey,” Kirishima, who was far more well-mannered than the omega, actually stood up and walked around to the other side of the booth instead of crawling over the table like a heathen. “What's wrong? I thought I needed to get an answer right to ask you a question?”

“If you know it and I know it and everyone else knows it, what’s the point of dragging it out,” Katsuki snapped back in response, shoulders tensing. “It’s a given fact, not something to make a huge fuss over.”

Kirishima didn't say anything for so long Katsuki actually began to feel uneasy. He jumped when the alpha placed a hand on his shoulder, firm but earnest. "Hey, I'm sorry if Kaminari and the others were bothering you, okay? I know you're pretty private, but even though I told them to lay off they're still... a lot."

Katsuki ground his teeth. "Who said I had a problem with that group of extras?"

"No one," Kirishima said immediately, proving he's learned something about handling Katsuki these last few months. "But hey, if you're giving me a free answer I'll take it. But you have to say it all out loud, just so I'm sure."

"What the fuck?" Katsuki shoved his hand off. "You know damn well what I mean!"

"I think I know what you mean, but it might not be what you think you mean."

"Dammit, Shitty hair!"

“Sometimes it’s good to hear it out loud, no matter how sure you are,” and Kirishima hooked his chin over Katsuki’s shoulder and fluttered his dark lashes. His mouth stretched in a coy grin. “So can’t you just say—”

The alpha let out a startled noise when Katsuki snarled in impatience and pressed their mouths together: firm, close-mouthed, and just a touch annoyed. But it was a kiss with intention, not just an awkward touch of the lips, and the alpha easily followed Katsuki’s pace without complaint.

“Fine,” Katsuki pulled back, cheeks red but surly expression as unmoving as ever. Kirishima licked his lips, effortlessly distracting “You can court me. Are you happy?”

“Yes,” Kirishima leaned in for another kiss and whined when his lips met calloused palm.

“That first answer was a freebie, but I'm not giving you anymore handouts. We’re here to study, not fool around,” Katsuki hissed, his entire body tingling with warmth. Some part of him didn’t want the boy to stop, but the louder, hero-driven part told them to get back on track. “Get back to your seat, Shitty Hair. I’m quizzing you on trigonometry next. If you can’t answer five questions correctly by the time we’re done, I’m telling Dad we’re fixing your hair.”

“Not the hair!” Kirishima whined a second time and buried his face into the crook of Katsuki’s neck. He clung like a limpet when Katsuki tried shoving him off, transitioning from whining to laughing in what felt like a millisecond. His happiness was so infectious Katsuki felt the corner of his mouth actually tugging up in a smile.

 

--

 

“Hey, take me to that mountain again,” Kirishima nudged Katsuki one day as they walked together to the train station, his sunshine grin so bright Katsuki wanted to wince. “I’ll kick you off this time!”

“Only if you beat me to the top,” Katsuki snapped, which wasn’t exactly a ‘no.’ Kirishima hummed, content, and Katsuki didn't move away when the backs of their hands brushed.

Chapter Text

“I want to use my capture weapon during the final exams.” Toshi said during a rare dinner together as a family. Dad’s show had been canceled in favor of a special radio segment; Mom’s patrol had been cut short by some villain's annoying quirk that caused him to glow like a human-sized nightlight for six hours; and Toshi had finished his homework during lunch like an actual, responsible student for once.

Dad had even brought back takeout so Toshi hadn’t needed to go scavenging for a non-juice-pack dinner as usual. It was great.

“If you want to use it, use it,” Mom said, shoving another sushi roll into his mouth. “Just fill out the support form and I’ll file it in the morning.”

Toshi hesitated. Finally, he clarified: “Using the scarf… it’s your signature item, Mom. My classmates are oblivious, not dumb.”

“And I am private person, not a tyrant,” Mom put down his chopsticks and stared at him seriously. The effect was ruined by the angelic glow radiating from his every pore. “I value the separation of personal and professional, but not to the point where it would hinder your growth as a hero. As a mental quirk user, you will need a support weapon of some sort. The final exams will test each student at their best, so use every tool you have to claw your way to the top.”

“Wowza,” Dad commented after a moment, half-eaten hand roll between his fingers. “I know the whole dog-eat-dog world schtick is something you like to preach to your class, but please don’t bring it home. The point is you want Toshi to be doing his best, right? Why don’t you say it like that?”

“Because I don’t sugarcoat the truth, Hizashi.”

“It’s fine, Dad. I get what he means,” Toshi finished the rest of the sushi on his plate and stood up. “I’m going to go practice now.”

“But Toshi! Family time!”

“The first day of written exams is tomorrow, Hizashi, leave him alone. Speaking of, have you even looked at the students I assigned to you?”

“Who do you take me for, Shouta? Of course I have! Though it’s kind of evil for you to assign me two little omegas to terrorize—”

Practicing didn't always mean jogging to the local gym and training with his scarf. Knowledge was just as important, especially when it was knowledge that had landed him in the hero course in the first place. Watching his parents all his life had given him a sense of what mattered in a crisis situation, so choosing to rescue the other students over taking down the robots...

He probably wouldn't have passed the entrance exam without knowing that, to be honest. So instead of taking out his scarf, he opened his laptop.

Toshi was midway through reading an article about fear responses and human speech patterns when he received a message on his phone.

class b is going to kick your ass tomorrow. The robots are going to be dead.

Toshi shouldn’t smile at receiving smack, but no one ever said he was the picture of mental health. Monoma had been sending him texts like these over the last few weeks: little jeering notes trying to catch his attention like a neglected kitten pawing at his legs. Final exams had led to less run-ins, after all. Monoma must be too busy helping his classmates to stalk Toshi down the halls as usual.

how sure are you that kendo’s right about the robots, Toshi wrote back.

if you have extra knowledge ‘cause your dad’s a teacher than YOU MUST TELL ME or be a CHEAT. What are you, Yamada? A hero or a CHEAT?

Toshi didn't hesitate. I’m a cheat.

Three little dots furiously looped until the screen blacked out with an incoming phone call.

“Even if you knew what the exam was, it wouldn’t help you,” Toshi spoke before Monoma could get a word in. Phone calls weren’t as rare as they should have been for supposed class rivals, but Monoma preferred ranting live versus wrestling with autocorrect. “And just because I have an idea doesn’t mean I've told any of my classmates.”

“So you should tell me anyway," Monoma said without missing a beat. "You've got an advantage over your classmates. One cheater in Class A and one cheater in Class B. It’s only fair.”

Toshi laughed. “Oh, so it’s only fair if you become a cheater too?”

“If that is the sacrifice I must make to even the odds, I’d gladly tarnish my soul to ensure Class B’s victory! A sentiment clearly not shared by your out-for-themselves classmates. You should be ashamed to call yourselves a pack.”

“We don’t have a solid omega leader,” Toshi shrugged, rolling his chair over to his bed and flopping onto his comforter. “Bakugou's growing into it, sure, but he's not quite there yet. Then again, even our disorderly pack managed to beat your strategy during the sports festival, didn’t we?”

“Arrogant of you to bring up past victories, Yamada.”

“Well, the festival was where we first kissed,” Toshi said, knowing full well the reaction that would get. He kicked off his socks and carefully nudged a sleepy cat out of the way as he stretched across his bed. “I think I can afford to be a little arrogant.”

A brief, heavy silence. Then: “Aha—you mean the time we attacked each other?”

“Yes, with our tongues.”

“Where you forcefully dominated a beta while he was down to boost your own pride?”

“It took a while for that bite to fade, true.”

“Where you stole my first kiss?”

“So it was your first kiss,” Toshi teased despite already knowing it was true. Monoma sputtered with rage. “And you kissed me first. I should be complaining to you about stealing mine.”

Another pause. Toshi already knew what sort of expression the beta was making. After the festival, Monoma would often try to blindside him in the halls, behind the cafeteria, even in the bathroom once—each time attempting to throw him off, and each time leaving even more furiously bewildered than before.

Toshi knew that look because he enjoyed inciting it: a bit defiant, a bit bewildered, lips half-parted as if expecting a logical response to appear from nowhere.

It was the best time to steal a kiss, even if Monoma often descended into crazed laughter right after.

“Ha!” Monoma finally found his voice again. “I knew you were inexperienced! Your feeble attempts only made it clear how poorly your class lived up to your hype!”

Toshi laughed again. “Well, it mustn't have been too bad, since we’ve made out a few times since then.”

More sputtering, and then the line went dead. Toshi sighed and stared at the screen waiting for Monoma to remember the point of their phone call to begin with. When it rang, he picked up.

You’re a cheat!”

“You’re not up against robots,” Toshi said, because he'd never hear the end of his "cheating" otherwise. It just wasn’t as fun teasing Monoma when he couldn’t reach over and grab him. “They’re going to be pitting you against teachers hand-selected to target your weaknesses. That’s all I know. I don’t know who you’re up against or who you’re paired with, so it’s not like you can plan ahead. Just know it’s not going to be easy.”

“The teachers? Hm. I’ll need to brush up on all the knowledge I have on the faculty…Monoma muttered to himself. And then he seemed to remember that Toshi was still on the line listening to him act like a normal person. He let out a derisive laugh.“…ha! Fool! I will use this knowledge to send Class B to the top! Did you really think I wouldn’t tell anyone else about this fact?”

“You could do that," Toshi said. "But if you tell anyone else in Class B, my parents will kill me and you’ll have to find someone else to make out with in the closet.”

More silence.

Then, Monoma hung up for good.

“…that does not sound like studying,” Mom poked his head in a few minutes later, suspicious. Their walls were relatively soundproof after one too many accidents with Dad’s quirk, but that didn’t make Mom’s mom sense any less sharp. The glow of his skin seemed even brighter in the darkness of Toshi’s room. “Who were you talking to? Shouchan?”

“No,” Toshi dragged his laptop over and began tapping on it.

“One of your classmates?”

“No.”

Mom stared at him long and hard, mouth set in a line. Toshi ignored him and kept pulling up article after article about their teachers sans his parents. He was relatively sure Mom wouldn’t pair him up with either of them due to his unfair advantage.

Mom eventually sighed, low and tired.

“There are things I like to keep private too,” Toshi answered the unspoken question when Mom remained in the doorframe instead of taking the hint and going back to the kitchen. “But I’ll tell you if things get serious.”

“If what gets serious?”

Bye Mom,” Toshi called out, and Mom rolled his eyes.

“We’re talking about this later,” he informed him before backing into the hallway and closing the door. Toshi placed his phone in his pocket and rubbed his eyes.

Two hours later, he received a text in the middle of feeding the cats.

I’ll win next time.

Toshi sent Monoma back a photo of his cats staring up at the camera, unimpressed, and grinned when the beta sent back a cat emoji in return.

 

--

 

The thing was, Toshi doubted it’d ever get serious. This was temporary. He'd known that since the beginning when he saw that fearful glance in Monoma's eyes and had the irresistible urge to poke him. Even when every rational bone in his body told him to stay away, he couldn't.

"My parents would kill me," Monoma had once admitted after a sudden text on his phone had interrupted their makeout session. It'd been one of the beta's usual hallway blitzes, one that resulted less in Toshi's groveling and more in being shoved in a literal closet. Monoma had squinted at the phone screen and began firing off a rapid-fire response; a quirk question, from what Toshi could see of his screen. "They're traditionalists who didn't even want me to be a hero, if you can believe that."

"Of course I believe it," Toshi had pressed his mouth to Monoma's ear. The boy's fingers stuttered when Toshi pressed a wet kiss to the curve of his jaw, his cheek, his temple. "My grandparents didn't want Mom to be a hero either."

"Stop," Monoma finally found the strength to press his hand to Toshi's face, his cheeks red. "What the hell are you even doing? You didn't win any game that I remember."

"We made out in a closet for five minutes and you're only pointing that out now?" Toshi said, but stepped back accordingly. Monoma adjusted his wrinkled blazer like that would hide anything from his more discerning classmates. "You can say I won at distracting you, I suppose."

'"No, that's not good enough," Monoma's tone shifted from confused to desperate. He jabbed a finger to Toshi's chest. "We can't do this without a reason, Yamada! Didn't you hear what I just said?"

"Monoma."

"This is supposed to be a game to you. A fun side quest to keep Class A on top. No more, no less."

"Monoma, stop," Toshi grabbed the boy by the shoulders and shook him lightly. Monoma's maniacal glint dimmed a little. "You can lie to yourself all you want, but don't you dare make assumptions about me."

Monoma's gray-blue eyes finally focused. He blinked up at Toshi, lost, before shaking him off like a skittish cat. He pressed himself into a corner of the closet and brought his phone to his face with shaky hands. “This is your fault.”

"You're the one stalking me down," and Toshi usually didn't rise to the bait, but something about standing in a dark closet being judged had his temper flaring. "You're hunting me. Take some goddamn responsibility for yourself, Neito."

"Shut up," Monoma hissed at him. "Stop talking."

"Why the hell do you care what people think of you anyway? Everyone in Class A already thinks you're off your rocker. Being atypical isn't—"

"Stop!" Monoma finally put down his phone and shoved Toshi hard into the wall. He didn't back down, not even when Toshi's alpha presence flooded the small space and let the beta know exactly how annoyed he was. After a long moment, Monoma bit out, "Not everyone can go around doing what they want, Yamada. Your dad's a fucking radio star. Your parents obviously love you no matter what. So don't think you understand how difficult it is for people who aren't as fortunate as you. I've worked too goddamn hard to get here to let something like this drag me down."

Toshi bit his cheek so hard he was surprised it didn't bleed. He didn't understand, sure, but watching Mom handle his crazy parents gave him an idea of what it was like. And thinking about his Bad-Grandparents... reminded him of Aunt Kaiya.

Monoma was very much like Aunt Kaiya, and Toshi had never faulted his aunt for staying behind.

When he got his alpha presence under control, Monoma let him go. His cheeks were an angry, flushed red; his gaze averted. He looked guilty for some reason, like he hadn't meant to snap at Toshi. It must've meant a lot given Monoma's absolute lack of guilt for the vitriol he spouted on a regular basis.

"You know, the game includes Class B in general winning and not just you," Toshi said, folding his arms and forcing the rest of his temper down. He was a master of the long game, after all, even if this may be an unwinnable battle. "Who knows, if you guys beat us next time you can take a prize from me."

"...if you think I'll ask for a kiss, you're wrong," Monoma said, voice returning to its usual cadence. He unlocked his phone screen and continued tapping away at it. "Whatever I ask for will be much, much worse. Prepare yourself, Yamada. I'll have you on your knees."

"If that's what you want," Toshi couldn't help but say, and smiled when the beta turned red for an entirely different reason—

"Monoma!" and the door suddenly barged open. Monoma jumped into the air with a surprised yelp while Toshi squinted at the sudden onslaught of light flooding the once dark space. "I found you! Shiozaki isn't listening to anything I'm relaying to her so you better come talk to her yourself—"

The boy paused and took in the scene properly. Monoma, who was usually such a smooth liar, just stood there clutching his phone. Which meant it was Toshi's job to cover for him.

Irrational fears or not, it was Monoma's choice to act like a crazy person.

"I was shaking him down for cash," he told the Class B boy tonelessly. "Oh no. You've caught me."

"Aren't you Yamada from Class A?" the boy narrowed his eyes at him. "You're Present Mic's kid! What do you need cash for?"

"Okay, I admit it. Monoma was being a little shit and I thought I could shut him up by scaring him a bit."

Absurd as it was, the second explanation worked. The boy's suspicion cleared up in an instant. "Ah, sorry. He's just like that. Next time, try and find Kendo though? He's a bit unhinged but he's one of us—our responsibility and all that."

"You're taking Class A's side, Awase?" Monoma seemed to remember he had a voice. "What about defending my honor?"

"Monoma, just go help Shiozaki," the Class B boy informed him. He glanced awkwardly up at Toshi. "Uh... well, I guess it's true. Don't beat up Monoma. Only we get to do that."

"Noted," Toshi said. He watched as Monoma followed after the other boy down the hall like nothing had happened. If he focused, he could still feel the sensation of the beta's hand pressing against his chest. Monoma had been honest for once in his life, and it sent an uneasy feeling up Toshi's spine.

It shouldn't have bothered him. He knew this game was temporary, that eventually this difference in perspective would be enough to tear them apart. Toshi wasn't optimistic enough to believe Monoma would come out of the closet for him, so it shouldn't annoy him so much when he wouldn't.

Sometimes when the beta acted like this, he wasn't even really sure the boy liked him back.

 

--

 

The written test was going fine. Toshi ranked near the middle of their class at nine out of twenty, but not from lack of ability. It just didn’t seem to matter too much, a mindset his mother grudgingly understood and his father lamented. As the other students rushed home to cram for the last day of the written test, Toshi took advantage of the empty training fields to practice capturing objects with his scarf.

He was mid-throw when he heard the sound of footsteps approaching the training area.

Toshi snapped his scarf around the newcomer's waist on instinct. Only when he reeled him in did he realize he’d caught himself one startled Monoma Neito.

“Your stealth still sucks,” Toshi told him, refusing to apologize. He loosened the scarf’s hold on Monoma’s waist in favor of slipping his own arm there instead. The beta stiffened but didn’t extract himself. “Hello, mouse.”

It took Monoma only a split moment to reorient himself. “Should’ve guessed you were a teacher’s pet, Yamada. With that scarf, who’s the copy cat now?”

“Says the boy who can’t stop talking about Vlad King,” Toshi shrugged off the insults easily. “It’s always ‘Vlad says this’ and ‘Our Class is better ‘cause of Vlad’ and ‘Vlad could beat Aizawa up!’ I know you love a strong alpha, but perhaps this is taking it too far?”

Excuse me,” Monoma said, scandalized. “I’m not the one parading around with that scarf copy without shame! Aizawa’s not really omega material, but I guess your tastes are perverted no matter what!”

Toshi would’ve been more disturbed at the implications if he hadn’t walked right into it. He let Monoma twist out of his grip and fuss with the bottom of his blazer to hide his embarrassment.

“Is that what I am? A pervert?” Toshi stepped behind Monoma and stared down at the delicate profile turned away from him.

“Of course! Going after betas… that’s the epitome of alpha arrogance. You know we’ll fold easier than another alpha and we won’t take it personally like an omega would.” Monoma cast a dark glance back at Toshi, gray-blue eyes glinting like steel. “We’re just practice to you. What a despicable showing from a supposed hero.”

Toshi resisted the urge to… to what? Punch him? Shake him? Hook his chin over his shoulder and bite into the soft flesh of his cheek? He simply moved closer. "Then what are you doing? You like alphas, Monoma. Am I just practice for you, too?”

“You—” the beta snapped and then went slack as Toshi’s quirk took effect. He rarely used his quirk on Monoma anymore, too aware of how blurred the line could get when mixing brainwashing with… whatever they had going. But years of dealing with a skittish Shouchan had honed Toshi’s instincts, and his instincts told him Monoma was a slippery son of a bitch.

The last few conversations clearly hadn't gotten through, so forced-listening brainwashing it is.

“I do like throwing my dominance around,” he told Monoma’s blank-eyed face, fully aware the boy could still hear him. “But not around omegas. Their scents do nothing for me and girls aren’t really my type. So I wouldn’t say you’re practice for an omega, if that’s what you’re worried about. Completely atypical here, not bitypical."

A pause. He wanted to lean forward and press his face into the beta’s neck, but speaking to a blank-faced puppet was morally ambiguous enough.

“And if you ask me, you’re not a pervert either for being atypical. Maybe I am your practice for an alpha you’ll mate with some day, which sucks because you're actually kind of cute. But I’m not going to let you twist my intentions into dynamic-stereotypical bullshit.”

He let his control snap a bit more suddenly than usual. He was as angry as he was concerned, after all, and he was sure Monoma could see it in the furrow of his eyebrows. Various emotions flickered across that pretty beta face, far too fast for Toshi to read. Monoma then lurched forward and grabbed his hand. His skin felt especially delicate against Toshi’s scarf-chafed palm.

“Do you mean it?” Monoma said, blue eyes big and pale. Toshi wasn't sure which part he was talking about, but he knew it didn't matter.

“Yes—”

Toshi's mind fogged up under Monoma’s control. The beta had had plenty of time to observe Toshi’s use of his quirk and had long proven to be an excellent improviser. He'd expected it. Monoma only initiated touch when he wanted to steal his quirk, after all.

Monama stood there breathing hard, like he hadn’t expected it to work.

"If you're so open about it, why doesn't anyone else know?" Monoma finally said, squeezing his hand tight. "You act like it's so easy when you're not even out yourself. Should I march you upstairs? Force you to confess to your dad? Let's see how you feel then, shall we?"

An excellent improviser wasn’t a perfect one, however. Monoma’s makeshift string was full of holes and gaps. Impossible for anyone without a brainwashing quirk to tell, but Toshi had experience on both sides to draw on. It took one good mental stab to break the connection and then snap his scarf around Monoma’s leg.

The beta yelped as he landed flat on his back.

“Pretty good for a first try,” Toshi shrugged and crouched over Monoma, expression even. “But my grandmother’s brainwashed me before, so I know what it should feel like. First rule of a good brainwasher: establish absolute control.”

“Fuck,” Monoma managed. Another point against him—for all his intelligence, the boy wasn’t the most physically fit. “Get the fuck off of me, Mind Eraser.”

“No,” Toshi said.

"I'll tell everyone you're an atypical creep if you don't."

"No, you won't," Toshi grabbed his shirt. "Because that's something you're scared of more than me. I win this round, mouse. I'd like to take my prize."

"Fuck off," Monoma bitched, but didn't fight back when Toshi leaned down to gather his deserved kiss.

To be honest, Monoma had yet to really win a game, but Toshi couldn’t find it in himself to feel guilty. Not when Monoma kissed back like this of his own accord, as honest with his actions as his words were lies.

“At least help me up,” the beta complained when they parted, grabbing what scarf he could reach and pulling. Toshi, not caring about the dirt gathering in that neatly brushed hair, just pressed him down a second time. Monoma melted for exactly one second, and then his hands moved from grabbing scarf to yanking Toshi's hair. The alpha pulled back with a hiss.

“Someone’s going to see,” Monoma snapped, going for haughty and landing somewhere shy of quietly fearful. Toshi turned and kissed the inside of his forearm, causing the beta to let go of his hair with a flinch. "Yamada, I'm serious."

“My parents told me there’s a faculty meeting around now,” he said, unconcerned, and gave into the instinct to press his alpha teeth against Monoma’s neck. The beta swatted his cheek, irritated. “Deciding who they’re pairing up with who. No one else is going to see.”

“Your parents, plural?” Monoma said, and shuddered when Toshi pressed his teeth hard enough to break through skin. He didn’t bite down fully, however, because that brief taste of blood on his tongue was enough to send uncomfortable warmth through his body—and while he was sure no one was going to come and see, they were still in public.

Toshi reluctantly sat back and allowed Monoma to scramble to his knees.

“Both your parents are faculty members?” Monoma repeated, hand coming up to clutch at Toshi's shirt. His cheeks were red, which meant Toshi wasn't the only one affected by his bite. Monoma slid his hands up his chest and grabbed Toshi’s scarf. The look he threw it was very, very different from his first glance. “Oh my god."

"Congratulations," Toshi said, ignoring the lingering warmth of the beta's touch. "You're officially smarter than three fourths of my class."

"Mind Eraser. Eraserhead.” Monoma shook him by the scarf like that would somehow change the structure of Toshi's genome. “Your mother is your homeroom teacher. That’s nepotism, Yamada! What will your classmates think of you now?”

“They’ll think nothing, because nothing I do is anywhere close to the horror Mom will unleash if you start running your mouth,” Toshi said, not bothering to inform him this secret wasn't about to remain much of a secret anyway. He extracted he scarf from Monoma's hand and did what he loved doing best: manhandling squeaky mice.

Monoma did not in fact squeak when hauled into Toshi's lap, which was a shame. Toshi hooked his chin over his shoulder. “So...how does it feel to have something to hold over me? Do you feel strong and important, little mouse?”

In a rare fit of sobriety, Monoma said, “It feels like you’re tricking me."

Toshi’s grin exposed his alpha teeth. “And what if I am?”

“I’m not sure,” Monoma turned and squinted at him, cheeks red but his expression otherwise unreadable. “I can't figure you out, Yamada. It's really annoying."

It was the most honest answer he’d gotten from the beta all day. An honest answer for an honest answer—for all his talk about gaining the advantage, fairness was still a trait Monoma prized no matter what.

This was the part of Monoma he didn't want to share with anyone else. He felt greedy, possessive, and altogether not himself. It’d been a long time since he’d cared about something on his own. Not because Shouchan cared or was affected by it, nor because his parents were involved, nor because of All Might or the fate of the world.

No one really cared about these little moments except for Toshi. And while his reasons were very different than Monoma's, there was certainly a part of him loathed to let these secret conversations go.

 

--

 

"The practical starts tomorrow," Mom told him while suiting up for patrol. Toshi looked up from where he was texting Shouchan. "I submitted the paperwork, by the way. Your capture weapon's been approved."

"Okay," he said.

Mom paused, and then turned to face him completely. "You do know this will draw even more attention to you? There'll be even more talk about favoritism once it's revealed that both your parents are faculty members."

"You make it sound like I'm not used to people talking behind my back," Toshi shrugged. He sent Shouchan a broccoli emoji and a heart and received a question mark in return. Really, Shou. "I'll prove I deserve to be here. You don't have to worry about me, Mom."

His mother raised a hand like he was going to do something mortifying, like hug him or pat his head. He caught himself in time, however, and tucked it back into his pocket. "I'll always worry about you, Toshi. Go to sleep. You'll need the energy for tomorrow."

"But it's only eleven," Toshi said, half teasing, but got up from the kitchen table regardless. He was going to prove he deserved to be here. Even if he had to break out the capture weapon to do it.

“Wait, Yamada!” and it was Ashido who noticed it first the next day, bounding out of the girl’s locker room and catching sight of Toshi exiting the boy’s behind all the others. “Your hero costume! It’s different!”

“That looks like Mr. Aizawa’s capture scarf,” Sero pointed out. “It's even the same color. Are weapons even allowed during the physical exam?”

“As these are simulating actual hero-villain encounters, the answer is yes. As long as the item has been approved by the board, it is considered part of a student’s hero costume,” Mom was still good at sneaking up on the students given how many of them jumped at his voice. “Everyone, gather in front of the communication hub. I’ll be going over the details of your practical exams once everyone arrives.”

“Toshi,” and it felt like it’d been forever since Toshi had spoken with Shouchan face-to-face. Shouto’s determination to rely less on Toshi may be good for his well-being, but it also meant creating a distance between them they hadn’t had since preschool. Distance that let him entertain Monoma, sure, but Shouto was still his best friend. The boy spoke lowly so their classmates couldn’t overhear: “That scarf…”

“Mom okayed it,” Toshi said. “I’ve gotten pretty good at using it these last few weeks. More of a weapon than a decoration, now.”

Shouto nodded. “…I like how you kept it gray. Changing the color would have been weird.”

Toshi knew Shouto would get it.

“Wait, what are all the other teachers doing here?” Kaminari’s cry signaled the beginning of the exam, and the two abandoned their conversation to join their classmates.

It was just as Toshi had told Monoma: one teacher versus two students, with a goal of capture or escape. The actual team-ups, however, still caught him off guard.

He hadn’t expected Mom to pick any of the problem children to face up against him, though if he had he would have pegged Bakugou. Not Shouchan, who knew Mom nearly as well as Toshi. It must be a match-up of quirks, then. Taking away Shou's quirk would take away his greatest distraction from acting as a hero. Without fire and ice, he had to stand on his own.

Toshi and Sero matched against Midnight was also less personal and more technical. Toshi's quirk required him to be in close- to mid-range so that the villain could hear him. This put him well within Midnight’s sleep radius, rendering him useless unless they managed to distract her with long-distance attacks first. Pitting him up against someone who could knock him out before he even spoke was just like Mom. Pairing him against someone he needed to use his scarf against was also just like Mom, which had Toshi wondering just how long he’d known of his son’s final exam plans.

The last match-up had both him and Shouchan exchanging worried looks.

Pairing Midoriya and Bakugou up against All Might... was a disaster waiting to happen. They’d been behaving better since entering high school, sure. Midoriya got along with most of the class, and when he wasn't flitting about quizzing people on their quirks, he was plastered to Shouchan's side. Bakugou had at some point joined Kirishima’s crowd, introducing him to people more suited to handle his loud and obnoxious personality. Things were improving.

But pitting them against their role model as each other’s support was going to bring all that childhood drama back to the surface. Toshi wasn't sure if either of them were ready for it.

The only reason he could think of for Mom doing so anyway was because of the League of Villains. They needed to grow up fast, even if that meant Mom was basically chucking them into a pit to fend for themselves.

“Midnight will definitely try to take you out first," Toshi told Sero during their fifteen-minute planning session. "Your quirk is versatile and is obviously long-distance, which better suits you against her quirk. She also knows less about you, making you an unknown variable.”

“Ah, Midnight is close to your dad, right? I wonder if that’s part of the ‘pairing against teachers we’ll have a hard time with’ Mr. Aizawa mentioned?” Sero cracked his knuckles and then turned to stare at Toshi for an uncomfortably long moment. Toshi tugged at his scarf out of nervous habit, something Mom had tried time and time again to train him out of. “…you kind of look like Mr. Aizawa in that scarf, to be honest.”

“Do I?” Toshi said.

“Yeah, quite a bit. It's freaky.”

“Perfect,” Toshi deflected, then turned to face the boy full-on. "Also, I think I have a solid idea of how to get past Midnight. Do you want to hear it?”

 

--

 

They passed by the skin of their teeth.

“Hitoshi!” Midnight had called out once the clock began, signaling her location and not caring an inch. “Come out and play with that shiny new toy of yours! Auntie Midnight is so proud of you!”

“Midnight, you’re moving too fast. Slow down and let the kids prove themselves first,” Mom’s voice called out through the pink fog surrounding the alpha woman’s body. “We want to make this test passable, not insurmountable. Can you do that?”

Midnight cocked her head with a smile. Then she cracked her whip at a rock just outside her range. Toshi cursed and flipped out of the way before shrapnel could knock him out faster than Midnight’s quirk.

“Cute,” Midnight said, fully aware that Toshi couldn’t activate the second half of his quirk if his concentration broke between the call and response. ”But your mother wouldn’t dare backseat teach me if he valued his life. Hello, Toshi. You’ve gotten quite good at that modifier, haven’t you?” Another crack. Between the fog and the whip it was a high-stakes game of keep-away and Toshi was running out of places to hide. He drew further and further back in the field, only ever a step ahead. “But even if you successfully control me, you don’t think I have a way to knock myself back into action? Don’t underestimate a dominatrix’s creativity when it comes to pain!”

The next time Midnight’s whip came into range, Toshi wrapped his capture scarf around it and tugged.

“Good job, Yamada!” Sero’s voice called out. “Make a break for the entrance! I’m right behind you!”

Tape shot out and wrapped around Midnight’s free arm. Rather than grow disoriented, she simply tugged her hands close to her chest: the whip returning from one direction, and the tape from another. What surprised her, however, was who was on the other end of the tape. Not Sero, but Toshi, who twisted around and aimed for her head. She ducked and slammed him to the ground, quirk already activating. But there was a piece of tape tied to his foot, and before she knew it, he’d been dragged out of her mist’s range—and was being reeled in towards the entrance.

“Pass!” the announcer cried out. The mist dissipated to reveal Sero standing past the gate. He saluted at her and returned to dragging a disoriented Toshi towards freedom.

“Clever,” Midnight admitted, popping her glasses onto her head. “And I thought you wanted to show off your capture scarf skills, Mini Eraser.”

“I might have if you hadn’t been our opponent,” Toshi called out. “I was banking on that assumption to throw you off the fact that Sero had already started running to the exit.” He finally came to a stop at Sero’s feet. “Ow.”

“Mini Eraser, huh?” Sero crouched down and cocked his head at him. “That… actually explains a lot. Oh, and Ashido owes me a thousand yen for getting the love triangle idea wrong. You want me to buy you a coffee?”

“Already have a boyfriend,” Toshi muttered without thinking just before Midnight's mist finally took effect.

Wait, boyfriend? Where did that come from?

Chapter Text

He woke up to pandemonium.

“…really Mr. Aizawa’s son?” he caught the tail end of a hushed conversation. He blinked rapidly and found himself lying in an infirmary bed. He sat up.

“Yamada!” and there was Jirou Kyouka, capture weapon in her hands and expression curious. “Sero was keeping this for you but he went to go comfort Ashido and Kaminari. Here.”

“They failed?” Toshi took the scarf from the omega girl’s hands and wrapped it around his shoulders. Midnight hadn’t been wrong when she’d assumed him bringing this capture weapon meant showing it off. He’d cherished it since Mom had begrudgingly gifted it to him for his birthday one year. Choosing to tie it to a rock so he could rush over to impersonate Sero hadn’t been easy. It’d won them the match, however, which was what mattered.

“It was brutal,” Uraraka sighed, and he hadn’t even seen her behind Jirou. “Principal Nezu completely outsmarted them. “

“The only other group to fail was Kirishima and Satou.” Jirou looked uncomfortable. “They’re less upset than the others, but I think Kirishima’s scouting out a place to hide. The only reason Bakugou hasn’t kicked his ass yet is ‘cause he and Midoriya are still recovering.”

“But that’s not what we wanted to ask you about!” Uraraka finally burst out as Toshi filed away that knowledge for potential Shouchan reasons. The alpha girl was clearly unable to keep her excitement to herself anymore. “We were watching on the monitors! Sero said when you were imitating Mr. Aizawa to throw Midnight off—she called him your mom! And then later, she called you Mini Eraser! Is that true?”

“Why wouldn’t it be true?” Toshi answered blandly.

Uraraka flailed. “Because you haven’t said anything about it? You call Mr. Aizawa ‘Mr. Aizawa’ like the rest of us! Your hair and eye colors are different, your quirks are different…”

“They’re both mental quirks, though,” Jirou pointed out. “And their overall air is kind of the same. Besides, if Mr. Aizawa was my mom, I wouldn’t say anything either. He clearly cares a lot about the separation between the personal and professional.”

Uraraka's flails continued. "But if Mr. Aizawa’s your mom than that means—that means—that means he’s mated with Present Mic! How? Why?"

“Why is that always the hardest part to believe?” Toshi frowned at her.

“Because Mr. Aizawa is—he’s Mr. Aizawa! And Present Mic is Present Mic!”

“Ochako, you’re getting too caught up over their hero personas versus their real selves,” and thank god Asui entered the room and let her beta calmness wash over the three of them. Uraraka immediately reached over and clung to the girl’s elbow, forcing her to take a seat between her and Jirou. “They’ve known each other since high school and clearly get along pretty well. Besides, it’s rude to talk about someone’s parents when that someone is right there.”

“Mr. Aizawa is his mom,” Uraraka repeated. “Give me time to adjust my worldview.”

Toshi sighed. “To be honest, I thought it’d be obvious once I showed up with the scarf on. Hello Asui.”

“Call me Tsuyu. And people see what they want to see,” Asui shrugged. “But yes, word spreads fast. Quite a few people already knew, it seems. Todoroki, Midoriya and Bakugou make sense because you’ve known each other since middle school. But Shoji, Tokoyami and Hagakure were unsurprised too.” A pause. “Then again, Shoji and Hagakure specialize in stealth and information gathering. They may have overheard it accidentally during scohol.”

“But why would Tokoyami know?” Toshi said, bewildered.

Asui looked very disappointed in him. “…because Shoji told him?”

Toshi stared at her.

“Ah,” he managed. He kept tabs on his classmates in a whole-picture kind of sense, but the specifics of their relationships had never really interested him. If this was what Shouchan felt like all the time, it sucked. “That’s… rational.”

“See, Ochako. Yamada’s class dynamics knowledge is always focused on supporting Todoroki or Bakugou—and both of them are dating someone else.” Asui told a pouting Uraraka. “If he has a boyfriend, it’s not someone in our class.”

That woke Toshi up completely: “I don’t have a boyfriend.”

Uraraka looked unconvinced. “Sero said he heard you mention it, and it doesn’t seem like something you’d say accidentally. C’mon, Yamada, spill! You’re always so cool, even more than Todoroki sometimes. Is it someone from another class? Or not a U.A. student at all? It just seems like a lot of extra work for you, you know?”

“Yes,” Toshi said. “Like dating in general. It’s energy I could use towards training to be a hero. Saying ‘I have a boyfriend’ is my automatic response to being asked out because I don’t have the time.”

“If you didn’t have the time, you’d just say you didn’t have time,” Asui pointed out. “You’re very much like Mr. Aizawa in that way, ribbit.”

Which was when the door opened again and Toshi groaned. The last thing he needed was for Shouchan to poke his head in, a little rumpled, a little singed, but otherwise calm and in one piece.

He stood there, firmly refusing to disappear into a puff of smoke. “Toshi, you're up. Your mom’s reaming All Might out for nearly breaking Bakugou’s back. What are you girls talking about?”

“Nothing,” Toshi said at the same time Asui declared, “Yamada’s boyfriend.”

Shouto blinked very slowly, awkward and wrong-footed. The girls didn’t notice, but Toshi sure did. He sank back onto the bed and closed his eyes.

“Toshi… doesn’t have a boyfriend?”

“Sero said he did! Right before he passed out, he told him!” Uraraka sounded far too invested in this. “You’ve known Yamada forever, haven’t you, Todoroki? Who is it? Do we know him?”

“I wouldn’t betray Toshi’s trust like that,” Shouto said without missing a beat. “Izuku’s awake, by the way. I thought you wanted to say hello before you went home?”

“But—”

“Ochako, come on,” and Toshi cracked his eyes open enough to see Asui carefully herding Uraraka and Jirou out the door. “Let them talk for a bit. We can always investigate later.”

Shouto watched the door close behind them and then wandered to Toshi’s bedside. He sat the visitor’s chair and crossed his arms, mismatched eyes cool like the sea.

“Heard you passed,” Toshi deflected before the boy could get a word in. “Congrats. Mom’s a bitch to fight, let me tell you.”

“Toshi,” Shouto said, serious and intense and leaving no room for him to hide. Toshi winced. “You’re dating someone?”

“Not dating,” Toshi muttered, unable to spout bold-face lies under the knowing gaze of his childhood friend. “Not by your and Midoriya’s standards, at least.”

“You’re not the kind of person to just fool around.”

“Maybe I am,” Toshi couldn’t help the irritation bleeding into his voice. “You couldn’t even tell Midoriya liked you back, how the hell would you know if I fooled around or not?”

“Because you’re my best friend and I know you?” Shouto frowned, hurt but even-tempered enough to keep his expression calm. Guilt immediately pooled in Toshi’s gut. “I’m sorry I haven’t been the kind of friend you could lean on. I’m working on it. But I don’t believe you’d waste time fooling around with someone and hiding their identity if they didn’t matter.”

Toshi felt chastised and stripped bare at the same time, and he hated it. He sank deeper into the bed and did his best to look anywhere but in his friend’s eyes.

Shouto sighed. “Is this… because he’s a beta boy?”

Toshi stiffened. “What?”

“During the sports festival, your neck… I could smell a beta on you, but I didn’t know if it was from a boy or a girl. I was too absorbed in my own drama, but I should have asked.”

Toshi just stared at him, startled. Shouto was so naturally oblivious it was hard to remember he was still an omega with an omega’s nose—and Toshi, as a childhood friend, was one of the few scents he’d memorized by heart. Toshi had noticed Midoriya’s scent clinging to Shouto sometimes, after all. It wasn’t rocket science figuring out Shouchan could do the same to him.

“Did you think,” Shouto visibly struggled to find the right words the longer Toshi sat there silent. “Did you think I wouldn’t… approve or something? I don’t care what dynamic you date, Toshi. I just don’t understand why you wouldn’t tell me.”

Guilt and indignation roiled in his stomach. Guilt for keeping secrets from his best friend; indignation for Shouchan simply expecting Toshi to spill his guts. Especially when Shouto had kept the particulars of Touya’s crime a secret from Toshi, to the point where he went off like a bomb in class.

“We’re not dating,” Toshi finally said. “I called him my boyfriend by accident. That’s all I want to say.”

“Hm,” Shouto propped his chin up with a hand, calm in the face of Toshi’s discomfort. “What did you say to Bakugou that one time? If you want something, just say you want it?”

Toshi clicked his tongue. “Do what I say, not what I do.”

“Do you want me to help?”

No. He’s mine.”

“See, that’s what gave it away, Hitoshi,” Shouto informed him. “You’re only possessive over things you really like. It’s one of your few obviously alpha traits.”

“You’re supposed to be as dense as a brick. Stop being so perceptive,” and Toshi didn’t know why those words caused wetness to well up in his eyes. It was mortifying.

“I’m not dumb,” Shouto said.

“I said dense, not dumb.”

“It takes me a bit longer to figure dynamic politics out, sure, but I’ve known you since forever. Did you really think I wouldn’t notice you acting differently?” Shouto asked hypothetically, but Toshi couldn’t help but hear it as truth. He was so used to having the upper hand when it came to protecting Shouto, it was disorienting remembering that Shouto knew Toshi just as well—and could point out his flaws just as easily when necessary.

“Still not saying,” he said.

Shouto patted his shoulder, expression serene. “That’s fine. But if things get serious, I expect you to tell me first.”

Toshi didn’t bother telling him the serious-not-serious conundrum he'd been wrestling with, not when he couldn't even  put it into words. It had been easier when it'd been more of a game than a relationship, when he'd found Monoma's assholery interesting rather than cute. He'd done the worst thing a cat could do by getting attached to his prey.

Having Shouto point it out like this just made it worse, because he was right. Toshi wasn't the type to fool around for the hell of it. He hadn't even realized how far he'd fallen until the word boyfriend had slipped out of his mouth unbidden.

For as shocked as his classmates had been, no one was more surprised than himself.

 

--

 

It took Monoma nearly the whole day to crack and call Toshi first. He was lucky Toshi ran on an Aizawa clock, because any sane person would've been in bed by now.

“You failed the exam?” Toshi said, frowning.

“Against your mother,” Monoma hissed over the phone. He'd clearly been working himself up in the hours since the exams ended, the usual taunting edges of his voice replaced by anger. “I can’t copy mutant quirks so Shishida was no use, and an erasing quirk does jack shit to help me against Eraserhead. What the fuck was I supposed to do?”

Ah. Mom had definitely been a potential Monama-opponent because of the beta boy’s greatest strength and weakness: his reliance on others to utilize his quirk.

“Mom often faces villains his quirk can’t work against,” Toshi said over Monoma’s dark, unintelligible muttering. “He always says it’s important not to be a one trick pony. If you’re an actual hero on patrol and get cornered by a mutant quirk villain on your own, you have to have some strategy up your sleeve.”

Shut up! Don’t you think I know that? I had a plan, Yamada, but everything went wrong and—" he let out a sharp laugh. While most other Class A students found Monoma’s ability to break into maniacal ranting disturbing, Toshi thought it was cute in an ugly, one-eyed cat kind of way.

But the beta using it as a self-depreciating tactic shifted his feelings from amused to concerned.

“Well, at least Class B had a better showing than Class A, huh? Four students failed in your class! That’s a fifth of your class! Versus Class B, who only had one student fail. Vlad King is clearly the superior hero course teacher here!”

“Sure,” Toshi said. “You should be celebrating that Class B won a round. You said it yourself, right? How you were willing to make a sacrifice for the greater good of the class?”

He waited patiently as the boy turned this information over.

“…I want a prize,” Monoma finally said, eerily calm.

“Okay," Toshi indulged him. "What do you want?"

"I want you to come over.”

"...now? In the middle of the night?”

“This is a prize, isn’t it?” Monoma’s voice bordered on hysterical. “It’s not my problem how you get here. Unless you’re backing out of the game, in which case, I win.”

The line went dead. Toshi didn't hesitate: he dropped his phone on the bed and strode to the closet. He’d pulled one of Dad’s old leather jackets and a deep purple scarf by the time his phone screen flashed with Monoma’s address.

“Dad, I’m heading out,” he walked by his father asleep at the dining table and tapped his shoulder. Dad startled awake, an ink stain forming at the corner of his mouth.

“Wha—? Where are you going so late, Hitoshi? There’s school tomorrow!”

“I’m going to rob a bank,” Toshi said, perfectly deadpan. "We’ll adopt all the stray cats in Mustafu and Mom will be so happy he won't even yell at me.”

Dad stared at him like he was a product of some bizarre nightmare.

Toshi finished tying up his boots and slung on his bag. “Oh, and if I don’t come home tonight it should be fine. I’ll see you at school tomorrow, Dad.”

“Hitoshi!” and as Toshi shut the door behind him, he heard his dad crash into a chair and fall to the ground, cursing.

A split second later, he received a text: HITOSHI TELL ME YOU’RE GOING OVER A CLASSMATE’S HOUSE OR I’M ACTIVATING THE TRACKER.

He texted back: sure i’m going to beat him up.

Dad immediately began blowing up his phone after that, but Toshi had reached the train by then and had the perfect Lost Signal excuse to ignore him. It was a twenty-minute ride by train to the beta’s location, and by the time he arrived the city was waning from bustling nightlife to dead silence. With years of wandering empty streets under his belt, however, Toshi refuse to be cowed.

He stared up at the normal-looking condo the address had led him to, half disappointed he didn’t find some crazy mansion. But no, aside from his theatrics, Monoma always struck him as an average Japanese teenager.

“Hey,” he called Monoma over the phone, leaning back to squint up at the single lit room on the second floor of the house. “I can ring the doorbell, but that’ll probably wake your parents.”

Silence. Then, the sound of fumbling and fussing, until the door in front of him jerked open and Monoma tugged him inside by the scarf.

What are you doing here,” the boy hissed, cheeks a brilliant red against his pale skin.

“…you told me to come?” Toshi unwound his purple scarf and placed it around Monoma’s neck out of impulse. Monoma, still blushing, seized the scarf and backed a safe distance away.

“Upstairs,” he finally said. “And bring your shoes with you so my parents don’t see.”

Toshi amended his original assessment of Monoma’s normalcy upon glancing at the titles on his bookshelf: Monoma Neito was a nerd. A western-media nerd, by the looks of it. Everything from Harry Potter to Lord of the Rings to entire books written in French. It was clear how well-read he was, which only made his brutish competitive spirit even more baffling.

“I won’t have you saying I’m a bad host,” Monoma huffed, grabbing a hot water kettle beside his bed and filling a tea cup with boiling water. He proudly stuck a paper tea bag inside of it and handed it over. Toshi sniffed it and wrinkled his nose. “Don’t look down on my tea, Yamada! It’s mango passion fruit! The best of teas!”

“Are you even Japanese,” Toshi set the cup on a bookshelf and watched Monoma’s face spasm with the clear urge to tell him to use a coaster.

“Yes, though my grandparents are French. Mom was born and raised in Japan, though, so Japanese culture is in my blood,” Monoma said haughtily, then leaned over and placed a coaster under the cup himself. “Not that you'd understand.”

“I’m actually a quarter American,” Toshi said. He picked up a Harry Potter book and flipped through it, surprised to find it written in English instead of Japanese. “My dad teaches English at our school for a reason. You can read these?”

“I am fluent in French, English, Japanese and Chinese. Of course I can read those."

"Nice," Toshi said. Monoma stared at him as if expecting more of a response. When Toshi just picked up a Harry Potter plushie and squeezed it, however, the beta huffed and threw himself into a chair. He glowered from beneath long blond lashes, though the effect was ruined by how nicely Toshi’s purple scarf complemented his skin tone. 

“What are you planning to do, Yamada?” he snapped.

“Whatever you want me to do, I guess,” Toshi took a hesitant sip of the mango passion tea. Not his preferred flavor, but being raised on Mom’s haphazard idea of what constituted dinner had lowered his food standards to somewhere above dirt. “This is your reward, after all.”

“Is it really,” Monoma said. He stood up and stalked over to where Toshi stood, crowding the alpha uncomfortably close to the bookshelves. “So you’re just going to let me do whatever I want with you?”

“Within reason,” Toshi said, putting down the tea cup and carefully keeping his hands by his side. Monoma seemed thrown off by his inaction. Even without Monoma's habit of foisting responsibility into Toshi's hands, Toshi was a tactile kisser. He grabbed, pushed, hefted and otherwise manhandled Monoma without guilt, and it was clear Monoma hadn't expected him to just... stand there.

To actually let the beta do whatever he wanted to him for once.

Finally, after an awkward moment, Monoma grabbed Toshi’s hair and shoved him down to his knees. Toshi went willingly, amused. Monoma had promised to have him on his knees as a prize once. One hand moved from his hair to his temple to down his cheek, fingers curling against his bottom lip. The alpha opened his mouth when they tugged in clear command. It wasn’t clear where things were going until Monoma’s thumb brushed the bottoms of his incisors, curious. The beta jumped when Toshi extended his alpha teeth, canines nearly sinking right into flesh.

“You’re like a vampire,” Monoma said, thumb still in his mouth despite the dangerously sharp edge of an alpha’s fangs. “You even like the taste of blood, don’t you? You always get so excited when you bite me.”

He extracted his thumb and wiped the saliva off on Toshi’s cheek. The beta then wrapped his hands around the back of Toshi’s neck and leaned over him, expression dark. Despite how maniacal his grin seemed, his palms felt warm and reassuring against his skin. “I can do horrible things to you from this position. I can even snap your neck.”

Toshi blinked up at him lazily. “Are you going to?”

Monoma looked like he was actually considering it for a moment. His dedication to his role was adorable, if a little unhinged. His hands squeezed his nape for a brief moment, and then the beta was lifting his chin up and sloppily kissing him on the mouth.

“You’re impossible,” he hissed at Toshi angrily, hands raking through his hair. “Annoying, unpredictable—”

“And you’re fucking crazy,” Toshi drawled, earning himself a bitten lip and a few lost hairs when those hands tugged. Monoma’s pace was fast and greedy and unrefined; a coarse appetite for a coarse mouth, no matter how pretty the dressing was on the outside. It was embarrassing how Toshi had already begun cataloguing their preferences. How he himself preferred a slower and more solid pace, a bit more nipping, a bit more grabbing. But with Toshi on his knees and his head between Monoma’s hands, he had little choice but to follow the beta’s lead. It was as good and annoying as he expected.

“Monoma,” he gasped through his next breath. His mouth felt sloppy and sore and he was pretty sure he was drooling all over Monoma’s clean button-down shirt. His entire body thrummed with warmth, and despite his best efforts his alpha teeth had descended again with the overwhelming urge to bite. He pressed a hand under the boy’s shirt, too out of it to stop himself. “Neito, hey…”

And then the beta suddenly slumped over on top of him. Toshi flailed in an attempt to stop Monoma from braining himself on the corner of a bookcase, one hand coming up to support his waist and the other to grab his legs. Monoma twisted so his face landed somewhere on his shoulder, even as the rest of him sprawled across the alpha with the grace of a cut puppet.

It was kind of awkward. Despite their time spent together, Toshi had never actually seen Monoma crash before.

“…Monoma?”

“Shut up,” the beta rasped. He didn’t shy away when Toshi swept his hand under his shirt and up his bare back. The skin beneath his hand trembled. Toshi swallowed. It was soft moments like these that had him questioning his sanity. That made him feel like things weren't temporary, even when Mom's rational voice told him in no uncertain terms that it was.

Monoma muttered, “This sucks.”

“You never complained before.”

“I meant the test, Yamada.”

Toshi sighed and sat up the best he could. He might not be very good at consoling others, but he wasn’t terrible. He was also observant enough to know where Monoma had been putting his time the last few weeks. “You’ve been coaching the rest of your class on how to pass, haven’t you? Instead of focusing on your own weaknesses. That’s why you’re the only one who failed, little mouse.”

Monoma’s grip on Toshi’s arm tightened.

“Your pack pride is impressive but remember to take care of yourself too.”

“Shut up,” and Monoma’s nails were digging into his arm now. "Stop being reasonable. It's not fair."

"One of us has to be," Toshi said, before realizing that comment reeked of commitment. Rather than skitter away, however, Monoma just curled up tighter. For such a wordy bastard, it was clear Monoma didn't need words to comfort him. He just needed him to be there.

Which was probably why he'd asked Toshi to come over in the middle of the night.

When it was clear that Monoma had no plans to move any time soon, Toshi relented and shifted them into a more comfortable position. The beta's extremities ran cold even with the added scarf, which meant he soaked up all of Toshi's heat like an evil ice cube. Using him as a living space heater may be annoying, but it was also... dangerously close to sweet.

Oh god, Toshi was so goddamn screwed.

“You can’t be here in the morning,” Monoma mumbled like he wasn't melting against him with sudden lethargy. “Parents can’t see you.”

When Toshi tried shoving him off, Monoma clung to him tight.

"Can't leave if you won't let me go," he said.

"No."

"No what?"

"No," and Toshi was too soft, really, for letting the beta's cute whininess go to his head.

“Lazy little shit,” Toshi muttered and ignored Monoma swatting him in retaliation. So he sat there waiting patiently until the beta finally passed out from what was clearly an hours-long mania. His legs were numb from Monoma's weight, his hands were cold from being drained of every last drop of heat, and Toshi himself was about to pass out. But some part of him wanted to stay there for as long as he could, surrounded by Monoma's stupid nerdy things.

So screwed.

Toshi finally tucked the boy into his bed and started to unwind the purple scarf from around his neck. And then he stopped. Leaving a token like this behind would cross an unspoken line. Toshi must be honestly sleep-deprived to even consider stuffing the thing under Monoma’s pillow instead of taking it home.

It was an archaic courting gesture that meant things were getting serious. If Monoma threw it out or, god forbid, returned it, it meant Toshi's Mom-voice had been right all along. A large part of him didn't want to tempt fate. Another part of him, however, knew he needed to put himself out of his misery. Things were spiraling out of control, and Toshi needed to stop this game before it took over his life.

So despite his shaky hands, he tied the scarf back around Monoma's neck and let himself out before he could change his mind.

He didn't go home.

Shouchan groaned when Toshi burst into his bedroom at three o’ clock in the morning, the Yukimura's spare keys dangling from his hands.

“Move over,” he said, nudging Shouto aside. The sleepy omega hissed at him but obeyed, letting Toshi squeeze himself into a bed far too small for the two of them.

“Oh god, you smell like brine,” Shouto took one whiff and immediately turned to face the wall and away from Toshi’s Monoma-smelling skin. “Is this why you crashed my place instead of going home? Your parents are going to kill you.”

“Shut up,” Toshi punched his arm. “Go back to sleep. You can interrogate me in the morning.”

“Uggh,” Shouto mumbled and buried his head under the covers. Then, after a heavy moment, he resurfaced and glared at Toshi suspiciously. “...are you okay?”

“No,” Toshi said honestly, and pressed his face to Shouto’s nape. The familiar scent soothed him. He may not react to every omega pheromone, but their scents’ calming effect still worked. He lay under the covers willing sleep to come as soon as it could.

Because the ball was in Monoma's court right now, and that... was honestly the scariest place it could be.

 

--

 

did you leave this by accident, Monoma texted him early the next morning.

Toshi stared at the photo of the sleep-mussed beta squinting up at the camera, scarf still around his neck. It was the kind of photo he'd been secretly trying to capture the last few weeks, and Monoma had just sent it to him.

He didn't reply. Monoma would know he read it, of course, but saying anything more may prove so embarrassing Toshi would die.

“Is that your scarf?” Shouto squinted across the lunchroom later that day.

“Hm?” Toshi tore his attention away from his phone when Shouto poked him. He’d been banished from the faculty room once the teachers began planning out their training camp. Sitting amongst his classmates during lunch felt strange but not horrible.

“I said,” and Shouto’s face had gone from curious to disbelieving in two seconds flat. “Is that Class B boy wearing your scarf?”

He pointed at Monoma, who was leaning over a table detailing some elaborate plan to his classmates. From the amused, somewhat long-suffering expressions on their faces, the plan must be more maniacal than tactical.

“Ah,” Toshi finally caught the deep purple scarf tied loosely around the beta’s neck. Oh.

Oh.

Something must have changed in his face, because Shouta's attention switched from making-conversation to you're-being-suspicious in a flash. Toshi's chest felt warm with—with relief, honestly. Because not even crazy people like Monoma would invite some fling home right under his traditionalist's parents nose. The hopeful part of him had known that, even if acknowledging it was something his heart couldn't handle.

Said heart was feeling sickeningly, cheesily happy right now. “Yes, he is.”

Shouto stared at Monoma. He then turned and stared at Toshi.

“That boy hit Izuku with his lunch tray that one time,” he managed, eyes narrowing, which was when Toshi broke out into a large grin. Not a sarcastic grin, either, but one that actually reached his eyes. It bubbled up unbidden, no calculation or intention involved, and Shouta couldn't look more horrified if he tried. “Toshi, no.”

The grin refused to go away. “Toshi, yes.”

“Bakugou, break up with Kirishima and go out with Toshi instead,” and Shouto reached over and grabbed the back of Bakugou’s blazer. The omega scowled at him. “Please save him from himself.”

“What the fuck, Icyhot? I’m not trading Kiri in for Sleepy Eyes! Why are you even—” Bakugou glanced over Shouto’s shoulder and caught sight of Monoma gesturing dramatically. Kendo was sneaking over his shoulder, hand already raised for cross-chopping. Bakugou turned to Toshi. “Is that your scarf?”

“Yes,” Toshi said, and continued smiling like a mad man when Kendo delivered her trademark smack. "He’s actually wearing it, Bakugou.”

”Are you broken?” the omega said, squinting at him. “You’re being really fucking weird. Stop it.”

”No,” Toshi said.

”Copy Cat broke him,” Bakugou informed a wide-eyed Shouchan. “You should go beat him up.”

”I’m not beating up Toshi’s boyfriend!” and wow, that word meant so much now that Toshi let himself feel. Boyfriends. Huh.

Toshi liked it far too much.

Chapter Text

Aizawa Shouta received the call halfway through yet another lunch spat with Hizashi.

“All you have to do is put down that pen, pick up a fork, and eat! I did all the walking for you! Shouta—” and Shouta took the opportunity to turn and jab his pen to Hizashi's forehead. "Ow!

“As much fun as your domestic squabbling is,” Midnight interrupted them from the other side of the faculty lounge, “Nezu’s planning to call a meeting in five minutes. Mic went through all the trouble of getting you food, Eraser. Just open your mouth and let him hand-feed you if you're too lazy.”

Don’t,” Shouta hissed when Hizashi inched forward. He grabbed the goddamn plate and shoveled a spoonful of curry in his mouth, ignoring his mate's triumphant smile.

Hizashi poured some orange juice into a cup and placed it in front of him like he was five, not a full-grown adult. “You normally love it when I get you food, Shouta. Is the training camp really stressing you out?”

Of course it was. After what happened last time, Shouta couldn’t help but constantly look over his shoulder whenever he took his class out of the main building. Between the League, the camp and the traitor...

He stuffed another spoonful of curry into his mouth.

...there was also the matter of Toshi.

Hizashi had called him in the middle of patrol, going on about their son leaving the house in the middle of the night to beat up a classmate. As Toshi had a habit of spouting nonsense, Shouta hadn’t thought much of it until he came home and realized Toshi still wasn't back.

They’d stayed up all night waiting for him. Shouta wasn't sure who was more upset, him or Hizashi, but the bottom line was that neither of them were happy. When Toshi arrived to class unharmed and not dying on a street corner, concern gave way to anger immediately.

Shouta cornered him once the lunch bell rang.

“Hitoshi, where the hell were you?” He shot out his capture scarf and wrapped the kid tight, not bothering with niceties. “Do you know how worried your father and I were last night? You can wander the city however you want, but you always, always need to come home to sleep.”

“I was at Shouchan’s,” Toshi said, voice wavering but otherwise cool. Shouta wanted to shake him. “I sleep over there all the time.”

“If you were sleeping over at the Yukimuras, why didn’t you tell your father where you really were? He was about to call the hero network on you.”

“Sorry.” Toshi’s purple eyes shifted away from Shouta’s eyes and towards the ground. “I was just being funny. I guess I forgot to text him back saying I was okay.”

“You forgot.”

“…yes.”

Shouta took a deep breath. Then another. When he was sure he wasn’t going to drag Toshi home by the ear and lock him in his room until he told the goddamn truth, he released the scarf and watched Toshi pat himself down.

“Don’t do it again,” he finally said, and Toshi gave him a short nod before walking out the classroom door.

Yukimura Rei confirmed that Toshi had eaten breakfast with her family, which meant he’d at least spent the morning there before heading to school. But Shouta was sharp enough to know that spending the morning didn’t exactly mean he’d spent the night. The boy had a copy of both the Yukimuras' complex key and their apartment key; he could’ve let himself in at five in the morning and pretended to be there all along for all she knew.

On top of that, Toshi had been acting strangely for weeks now. The most obvious difference was the number of phone calls he took. Calls, not texts, and always in his room instead of the common area.

It ground on Shouta’s nerves.

“…you know, when you say it all together it’s kind of clear Toshi’s probably seeing someone?” Hizashi had told him while lying in bed and acting as Shouta’s personal pillow as usual. He hissed when Shouta’s fingers dug hard into his flesh. “C’mon, Shouta, we’ve taught teenagers for years! He’s sixteen! It’s not weird.”

“He should have told us.”

“What, did you tell your parents when we first started dating?”

“My parents are sociopathic control freaks that I moved across the country to escape from,” Shouta informed him. “Of course I didn’t. But Toshi should know we can be trusted.”

“Look, you can have the best parents in the world and still feel too embarrassed to say,” Hizashi yawned. “I didn’t tell my parents at first either, and they’re great. And didn’t he say something about telling when things get ‘serious?’”

“What, are they not serious now?” Shouta’s fingers dug harder. Hizashi carefully extracted the hand from his poor, abused flesh and pressed a kiss to his knuckles. “He could be dating some creepy old man in some alleyway and we wouldn’t know.”

“It’s probably another U.A. student,” Hizashi said reasonably. “Kids usually hook up within their class, so…”

Creepy old man."

Hizashi had just sighed and turned off the light.

So there were a lot of things on his mind when Shouta's phone suddenly rang. He paused mid-bite to take out his phone, brows furrowed. When he saw the caller ID on the screen, his stomach dropped.

“Sis?” he picked up the call and saw Hizashi freeze in the corner of his eye.

“I’m pregnant,” his sister blurted out, the first thing she’d said to him in years and the absolute last thing he expected. Shouta simply sat stunned in the stupid faculty swivel chair in silence. That… was supposed to impossible. His sister continued, voice hushed, “Mom doesn’t really approve and I don’t know. I need somewhere to go. I’m scared of what she’ll do if I stay here.”

“What she’ll do,” Shouta repeated.

“Please, Shouta,” and hearing his sister sound so lost reminded him uncomfortably of how he’d been like after his positive pregnancy test. How he’d reached out to family despite breaking things off for years, and while he and his sister were no longer close…

She was his sister.

“Okay," Shouta said, closing his eyes. "Okay."

 

--

 

“What,” Toshi squinted at him like he’d lost his mind. He’d been irritable after the fiasco with Midoriya in the mall—of course the most problematic child of his problem children would get himself nearly strangled to death by a villain—and was currently messing with his voice modifier. “How the hell is that even possible? Isn’t Aunt Kaiya mated to that omega guy—whatever his name is?”

“Yes,” Shouta said, not bothering to scold him because he'd forgotten the guy's name himself. “That’s apparently what’s gotten your grandmother so upset. It can’t be his, and god forbid an Aizawa brings more shame upon the family by bearing a child of an affair.”

Was it an affair?” Toshi said.

Shouta resisted the urge to put his head in his hands. There were things he didn’t want to know about his sister and things he wanted desperately to keep Toshi from as well. But the boy was sixteen and Aizawas had an unspoken policy of honesty when things became serious. “No, it was a threesome.”

Toshi looked like he’d like to rewind the last minute, please.

“As my mother’s taken to pretending I don’t exist these days and Kaiya’s mate is the son of the town mayor, this is ‘the most shameful thing to happen to us in generations.’” Shouta snorted. "I can list at least eight things off the top of my head that are more shameful, but Mom's always been dramatic.”

“Must be nice to forget people,” Toshi continued picking at his voice modifier. “Don’t have to pick up the phone if that’s the case.”

As if on cue, Toshi’s phone beeped with a new text. Shouchan again. He’d had been texting his son nonstop, undoubtedly still stressed about Midoriya's brush with death. Toshi bore the constant beeping of his phone with grace, by which Shouta meant he didn’t just throw it against the wall.

“So when’s she coming over?” Toshi said after rolling his eyes at whatever nonsense his friend had sent him.

Shouta turned and stared out the window. “…whenever your father comes back from the train station, I suppose.”

Mom,” Toshi immediately stood up and began gathering the tools scattered across the living room. “My stuff is everywhere, what the hell!”

“So? No one cares.”

“I care! Aunt Kaiya’s sleeping on the couch, right? Did you get extra blankets ready?”

Shouta just stared at him.

“Oh my god,” Toshi groaned and then disappeared into his room to drop off his belongings. He came back empty-handed and made a beeline for the guest closet that Hizashi always kept stocked. “Pull out the couch—I’ll get the sheets and pillows ready. And take your juice packets out of the fridge.”

“Hrn,” Shouta muttered, wondering when the hell Toshi had taken after Hizashi in the mother-hen department. It was twice the nagging when all Shouta wanted to do was sleep.

Toshi managed to get things in impressive order by the time Hizashi returned with his sister in tow. He’d washed the dishes, gotten the couch set up, and even cleaned up the cats’ litter boxes and food dishes to look moderately presentable.

“Hitoshi,” his sister, looking far older than the late thirties she was, smiled at the boy lounging in a dining room chair. He waved casually, like he hadn’t spent the last half hour running around like a chicken with its head cut off. “I saw you at the Sports Festival on TV! You were so impressive, getting to the third round."

“Hi Auntie,” Toshi said, and bore Kaiya’s forehead kiss with long-suffering patience. “Heard Bad-Grandma’s spoiling your fun these days. Two in one? Damn.”

Hitoshi,” Hizashi said, horrified.

Kaiya laughed. Ah, there was the sister Shouta remembered. It was sad how grateful he felt seeing that smile again; the decades had slowly stripped it away as Kaiya continued refusing to leave. It had driven Shouta to tears exactly once, not that anyone needed to know that.

“Yes, I suppose your grandmother is a right bitch, isn’t she?" she said, her smile taking ten years off her face. "She should be grateful to get another grandbaby no matter where it came from.”

“Yeah, but you’re like, old,” Toshi continued, social etiquette be damned. “Isn’t it bad for your body?”

“I’m thirty-nine! That’s not too old.”

“That’s old,” Toshi informed her. “And where’s your mate? And the other person? Don’t tell me they’re assholes and just left you out to hang.”

“They stayed behind to hold off your grandmother for me,” Kaiya said at the same time Hizashi finally had enough and grabbed Toshi’s arm.

Oh-kay, you must still be tired from final exams, Toshi! Come on, let your aunt rest a bit before the twenty questions, okay?”

This had the desired result of leaving the Aizawa siblings alone to talk. They stared awkwardly at each other. Kaiya’s deep eggplant-colored hair looked drab against her pale skin. She wore casual clothes, t-shirt and khaki pants and sandals. It was like she’d chosen to go on a brief walk and not run away fro home

She had a single luggage sitting innocuously by her feet.

Kaiya spoke first. She looked down at the couch. “I’m… surprised you got this ready for me.”

“I didn’t,” Shouta grunted. His hands twitched with the urge to fold his arms. But that was a tell, and tells got heroes killed. “Toshi did.”

“Huh. He takes after you so much I forget he’s not as rude."

"Kaiya," Shouta finally cut to the chase, social etiquette be damned. The question had been haunting him since the phone call yesterday, and the answer mattered more than he wanted to admit. "You refused to leave that place for years; what the hell did Mom do?"

Kaiya sat herself down on the pull-out couch. "You don't get to ask that after you left me there two decades ago."

"We're not bringing up that old argument," Shouta snapped, tamping that guilt down with familiar brutality. Growing up, he'd been his sister's only line of defense against their mother using her quirk. When he'd left... "What did she make you do?"

"Nothing," Kaiya said. "She didn't manage to make me do anything before Riku intervened, but it was what she wanted to do. She—I don't—I didn't feel safe, Shouta. It'd be one thing if it was just me, but it's not just me anymore."

Riku? Ah, that was her mate's name.

"So you left," Shouta said. "After all those years telling me you'd rather chew your own foot off than leave."

“Oh, there it is. You’re not going to yell at me some more, Shouta? Tell me I'm being a hypocrite?”

Shouta let out a long breath. A younger him may have fallen for the bait, but experience let him see the self-loathing glinting in her eyes. She hadn't come here to face more criticism, even if she expected it. Not when their mother was apparently throwing a tantrum the likes of which they'd never seen.

He said, “That would be hypocritical given my own actions when I found out I was pregnant with Toshi.”

Kaiya stared at him, lips trembling.

“It’s getting late,” Shouta continued. “I need to go on patrol soon. If you need anything, ask Toshi." He turned to fetch the rest of the costume and then paused. He glanced over his shoulder. "...how worried are you about Mom showing up to drag you home?”

“It’ll take her a few days to get here since Riku’s hitting her with all kinds of social obligations,” Kaiya managed, the tension slowly draining out of her shoulders the longer Shouta stood calm. “But I’m not worried about her showing up so much as him.”

Shouta didn't need her to clarify. There was only one person he dreaded showing up on his doorstep as much as their mother, and there was no doubt he'd arrive at any moment.

 

--

 

As predicted, Aizawa Kyou showed up on their doorstep the next afternoon.

“I’m not angry,” he told Shouta when he came home from staff meetings to find his father and Toshi having tea at the dining room table. “In fact, a second grandchild may result in another manifestation of the brainwashing quirk. I need to know the quirk of the father to properly assess the chances of that occurring. Kaiya has been very unreasonable in keeping her silence. Honestly, she spends decades telling us she fell in love with an omega and to not expect children, and then she’s shocked we’re excited?”

You’re excited, Bad-Grandpa,” Toshi corrected him. He poured hot water into his grandfather’s cup, which had a sad little convenience store tea bag placed in it. History repeated itself in the strangest ways. “Bad-Grandma’s throwing a fit. I think Auntie thinks she’ll make her abort the baby or something.”

“Nonsense. Shino'll see sense once she calms down," Kyou waved off, "The Shinsou family's quirk would have died off if not for you, Hitoshi. In fact, children traditionally took the surname of whatever family's quirk they inherited. You have legal right to the Shinsou name—perhaps it would be enough to remind your grandmother what another grandchild could mean."

"Did you really try and bargain away Toshi's last name to appease Mom?" Shouta interrupted, knowing he shouldn't have expected anything different and still managing to be surprised. Honestly, two decades and he still couldn't stop himself from hoping his father would change. "Explain why you're here in the next ten seconds or I'm kicking you out."

Kyou sighed. "Stop acting so hysterical, Shouta."

"I'm not hysterical."

"I'm simply here to assure Kaiya that I guarantee the fetus's safety. As long as she agrees to weekly check-ins to examine the fetus as it develops, of course. This is an excellent opportunity to study quirks before birth, you understand."

“No," Shouta said.

"It's the least you can do for forbidding me to study you when you were pregnant with Hitoshi here."

"Dad—"

"We could have caught the flaw in his genome earlier, Shouta. Don't you want Kaiya's child to be as healthy as they can be?"

"Toshi's perfectly fine, Dad, what is wrong with you?" Shouta's temper flared. His father could be talking about any number of things, but it didn’t matter. No one talked about his son like that. "And Kaiya's a grown woman. If she wants to move the hell away, she has every right to move away. If that's all you wanted to say to us, then leave."

"There's your mother's irrationality," Kyou shook his head, the bastard. "The problem right now is Shino's temper. If she manages to come down to Mustafu while still in a rage... I do fear for Kaiya. Having your sister as my test subject is the safest option, Shouta. It'll put her under my protection. I’ve protected her for years against our neighbors; she knows I can do the same for her child."

"Oh god, you actually think you're helping," Shouta pressed his face into his hands. "Get out."

"I'll just return in a few hours."

"I don't care. Get out before I kick you out. I'm a goddamn hero. Don't fucking test me."

"Hysterical," Kyou declared, and the only reason Shouta didn't follow through on his promise was because Toshi's arm was in the way.

“This is why you are Bad-Grandpa,” Toshi informed him, holding Shouta back while his grandfather ambled to the door like he'd come by for a pleasant chat. “Aunt Kaiya's not an invalid that needs protection. She can take care of herself.”

“Evolution has consistently culled the weak. From a biological standpoint, the only thing saving your aunt is the love of her family," Kyou declared. "But we can discuss this more over dinner. I'll bring some pickled plums from home."

"Yeah, okay," Toshi said. The moment the door closed, he let go of Shouta and watched him send the tea cup flying with a whip of his scarf. It shattered with a splintering crash against the kitchen wall.

"...clean that up," he told Toshi, who gave him an unimpressed look. "I'd probably break even more cups if I tried, and then we'll have to drink out of bowls like heathens."

"Really, Mom?" his son muttered, but went to fetch some paper towels at Shouta's glare. Turning away, Shouta stormed down the hall and followed his sister's faint distressed scent to the hallway bathroom. He yanked the door open and found her sitting on the closed toilet, her face pale.

"You are not going back," Shouta told her, voice tight. "Because there's nothing for you to be scared of. So what if Mom comes over? She can't do anything to you with me here, and if she or Dad throws a big enough fit, I'll call the police on them."

Kaiya's mouth opened and closed for a moment. Then: "You can't call the police on our parents!"

"I can," Shouta said, "and I will if I need to."

"I... I don't know. Maybe I'm overreacting, Shouta," Kaiya pressed her hand to her head in remarkable imitation of Shouta's earlier face-palm. "If I stay away for a month or two and then head back..."

"Sis."

"Where would I even go? Riku and I, we've stayed there all our lives. And Dad's not wrong about strangers—you've lived in the city for years, you know how others can be like to people like me."

"People are assholes no matter where you go," Shouta told her. "But the great thing is, you don't have to put up with them if you don't have to. Find the people that matter and fuck the people that don't." A pause. "Wait, don't do that. That's what caused this mess in the first place."

"Shouta!" she smacked his arm, a sliver of her usual self slipping through.

"It's not just about you or Riku anymore." Shouta perched on the sink, tired of standing and not caring one bit that his feet were next to Toshi's toothbrush. The boy was probably going to yell at him later. "You said that, remember?"

Kaiya let out a shuddering sigh. "I did, didn't I?"

"Mom, the kitchen's—that's my sink!" Toshi poked his head into the bathroom and yelped.

"Who pays property tax here? Me. This is my sink," Shouta said, feet still firmly planted on granite.

"That's my toothbrush!"

"I'll buy you a new one."

"First the cup and now my sink—take Aunt Kaiya clothes-shopping or something!" Toshi shoved Shouta off, cheeks flushed an embarrassed pink. "If Dad comes home to find the apartment burnt to the ground, he's going to cry. Do you want Dad to cry? Do you?"

Hizashi crying was, in fact, one of the worst things ever. Shouta sighed and gestured for Kaiya to follow him out. Toshi slammed the door shut behind them.

"You haven't changed at all, have you?" Kaiya sounded far better than she'd been a few minutes ago, even if it was at Shouta's expense. "Still a disaster omega to the bitter end, little brother."

"The outside may change, but the heart stays the same," he said, matter-of-fact, and Kaiya's mouth twitched upwards in a small smile. It was a town motto of sorts, and one Shouta hadn't used in forever. But it seemed a fitting reminder when so many things around them were changing, reconnecting, shifting. "Oh, how do you feel about cat-patterned clothes?"

"Don't you dare," she said, and he gave her a sharp grin that told her exactly how much he dared.

 

--

 

Dinner found the whole family sans his mother at the table, for which Shouta dryly thanked the gods for. Dryly, because if they’d been looking after them Kyou wouldn’t even be here at all.

“How about monthly testing instead of weekly?” Kyou said, opening a can of pickled plums and spooning them into a bowl. His sister looked like she was going to stab their father any second. “Minimally invasive. Oh, and you need to tell me more about the father as well.”

“Mr. Aizawa,” Hizashi burst out with a fake grin. “How are enjoying the chicken?”

“It’s decent convenience store food,” Kyou replied blandly and then turned back to his daughter. “Kaiya, you can’t seriously think about moving away. Your entire life is in our hometown. Think about what it'll be like for you in a city away from home."

"You make it sound so awful when staying is even worse," Kaiya hissed, placing her fork down with a clatter. "Stop it with this sudden 'oh I care' act, Dad! The only reason you guys were okay with my atypical preferences was because you wrote my DNA off as trash. And now you think my kid will... what? Single-handedly revive the Shinsou name from the dead?"

"Hitoshi manifesting his quirk means Shouta's a carrier," Kyou said. "It's entirely possible you are too, despite not having a quirk of your own."

"And this is why you think I can't move away," Kaiya stood up, cheeks flushed a dark red. "That's what it always boils down to. Sure, I'm almost forty, but poor Kaiya is quirkless. An atypical, quirkless beta. What are those evil city people going to think?"

"I'm only looking out for your best interests," Kyou answered, and Kaiya threw her hands up and stormed out of the room.

Awkward silence descended upon the table. Then, Toshi said, “Pass me the pickled plums, Bad-Grandpa."

"Shouta, talk sense into your sister," Kyou said, handing over the bowl absent-mindedly. "You've lived here for many years. I'm sure you've seen what others are like around those who are... different. Especially since Toshi suffers the same error in his genome as Kaiya—”

Toshi dropped the bowl, spilling plum juice all over his fried chicken.

“Dad,” Shouta said, eyes narrowing. “What did I say about Toshi and errors in genomes?”

Mom—“

“You can’t smell it? Your own son, Shouta! Ah, the two of you never seemed as scent-savvy as me…” Kyou shook his head. “I caught it the moment he opened the door. He’s got the scent of a beta boy on him. A beta boy! He and Kaiya should switch partners, it would prolong our bloodline just a bit longer. Or perhaps he can give me a semen sample and I’ll do it myself.”

"Wait, hold the phone," and oh no, Hizashi, don't make this worse. "You're atypical, little listener?"

"Hizashi!" Shouta snapped, but the damage was done. Toshi stood up from his seat, cheeks a hurt and mortified red, and fled the room.

 "Your father was talking about taking a semen sample, I can't help but want to change the subject!" Hizashi held up his hands, guilty and panicked.

Kyou acted as if nothing had happened. "The best way to ensure the Shinsou line continues is through Hitoshi, as he has definitely inherited Shino's quirk. If he won't have children himself, a sample would—"

Enough!” Shouta whirled on him, omega presence a raging beast filling the entire kitchen. Kyou actually flinched, and his father was rarely affected by pheromones. "You've done enough today. Out!"

Kyou looked disappointed but resigned. “Well, Hitoshi’s still young. He may have an accident like Kaiya... and I’m no stranger to the waiting game.”

"What about 'out' do you not understand?"

"We've still got an entire cheesecake to get through," Hizashi mourned to himself as Shouta not-so-subtly crowded his father out the door. "Who the hell's gonna eat it now?"

 

--

 

In the end, the only one Toshi allowed into his bedroom to talk was Kaiya. Shouta tried not to feel like a hot knife was stabbing through his heart, but his instincts were on the fritz and his son's rejection hurt.

He stormed down to the master bedroom and kicked Hizashi’s feet aside from his star-fish sprawl across the bed.

“I know your mom is the brainwasher, but your dad is the terrifying one. He honestly doesn't know what lines not to cross.” Hizashi rolled over and let Shouta flop beside him, their sides pressed together. “...I'm really sorry, Shouta. I messed up. Me and my stupid mouth."

“It’s not your fault; it's my father's.” Shouta pressed his face into his hands. “He outed Kaiya the same way, can you believe that? We moved halfway across the country, and he still managed to pull the same shit. And Toshi could have told us any time. He could, but he didn't, and now Dad's got another victim on his list—"

“Shouta,” Hizashi ran a hand down his arm. It was light and calming and just enough to ground him back into the present and not fly off into traumatic backstory hell. “I'm upset Toshi didn't tell us himself too, but I get it. Teenagers hide stuff all the time. Even when things are in their favor—he knows we don’t care about Kaiya’s mate—they hide stuff. It’s not… personal.”

“It feels personal.”

“I know, I know, but I don't think it's as bad as you think. You’re rational, you know omegas and alphas are more affected by stressors like this. Just... Let’s get some sleep. Kaiya’s talking with Toshi right now, right? We’ll give him time to process, give you time to get your instincts under control, and then we’ll all talk in the morning.” A pause. “Also, we’ll pretend we’re not home if your dad rings the doorbell. We all know how to sneak out the back window, don’t we?”

Shouta let out a shuddery breath. Thank god Hizashi's beta self knew how to talk sense. It was grounding, an anchor keeping him from drifting apart, and he needed that rationality right now. Finally, after far too long, he took his hands off his face and shoved at Hizashi until he got the memo. It was warm and dark under the covers. Even warmer when using Hizashi as a personal heater, which was the least he could do for exacerbating an already fraught situation.

They probably should brush their teeth and change into pajamas and everything Shouta hated, but he was tired. So they didn't.

If he'd actually gotten his ass up to fetch water from the kitchen as usual, however, he may have been able to stop what came next.

 

 

"What do you mean Toshi ran away?" Shouta snapped the next morning. He seized Hizashi by the front of his shirt. "Why didn't you stop him?"

"Hey, I only woke up half an hour ago," Hizashi protested. "And I only know because he left a note!"

Shouta snatched the neatly penned letter from Hizashi's hand and stared at it. The more he reread Toshi's deliberate words, the more the blood drained from his face.

"Something happened to Hitoshi?" his sister called out sleepily from the couch, and Shouta barely restrained himself from attacking her in a panic. He'd forgotten there was a guest in his home for a second. "He seemed fine when we finished talking yesterday..."

"Your nephew," Shouta said, voice barely above a growl, "has decided to return to our hometown with our father. Does that seem fine to you?"

That woke her up. "He's going home?"

"It’s not his home, Kaiya! And if I have any say in it, it'll never be. Hizashi, cover for me while I drag him back here. Don't let my sister leave the apartment."

"Wait—" Hizashi's protest was cut off by Shouta pulling on the rest of his hero costume and vaulting out the closest window. He'd feel worse about leaving his mate with sister-watching duty, but Hizashi was a full-grown hero and Toshi was just a puppy. His puppy, even.

If he drove the car a bit too recklessly on his way out of the city, no one dared to stop him. His expression and omega rage had most people giving his vehicle a wide berth, even the police. But the Aizawas still lived in the middle of nowhere, and the sky was growing dark by the time he'd made his way to the doorstep of his childhood home.

Shouta let himself in with the key hidden behind a decorative rock. He swept his gaze across the shoes laid out in the foyer. Toshi's boots weren't there.

"Where is he?" he snapped, storming into the living room and wrapping his son-of-a-bitch father in his capture weapon. "Where is Hitoshi?"

"Your mother's taken him to the Shinsou burial ground," Kyou said calmly, as if carbon-alloy strands weren't about to cut him into ribbons. He used what little mobility he had to place his cup onto the table. "He seemed to think he'd have better luck convincing Shino than I could."

Shouta drew back his weapon and stalked out the house without another word. Arguing with his father meant more time wasted, and more time wasted was more time Toshi had to spend with her. Despite knowing in his rational brain that Toshi was old enough to defend himself, the irrational part of him wanted to spare him the trauma of dealing with the Aizawas. Especially after yesterday.

He hadn't even gotten to speak with Toshi about dinner. Maybe if he had, he wouldn't have left.

The Shinsou Burial Grounds lay behind the main household collecting dust by the edge of town. Shouta vaguely remembered his mother bringing him here until his quirk manifested. Once it was clear he'd inherited the Aizawa's Erasure quirk, she'd stopped the impromptu trips in sour disappointment. A quirkless child followed by another with the wrong quirk. She hadn't cared enough to put herself through pregnancy again, but Shouta was acutely aware of how disappointed she was in the both of them.

He'd mostly put it out of his mind even after Hitoshi manifested his quirk. He'd been more worried about how it would affect his son in school, not its effect on something as inconsequential as family lines.

He wasn't sure what he was expecting when he caught sight of the two figures bowing their heads over a scroll before his own grandfather's tombstone. Toshi writhing on the floor while his mother cackled evilly above him? But no, the look on his idiot son's face was less fearful and more determined. Accepting, even, of whatever fate Shinsou Shino had planned for him.

"Hitoshi!" he yelled, fury coursing through his every vein. The boy jumped and looked over his shoulder, stunned, like he ever doubted Shouta would come here to drag him home himself. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

"I..." and before Toshi could say anything more, Shouta was hauling him up to his feet and squeezing him tight. The panicked omega inside his chest calmed for a blissful moment. Thank god he was alright. Thank god he was here. After an embarrassed pause, Toshi wound his arms around Shouta's waist and squeezed him back.

"Reckless, irresponsible, and completely unprofessional behavior," Shouta finally pulled away. Toshi withstood the scolding without complaint. "I have half a mind to expel you here and now for going off on your own. What were you thinking?"

"I was thinking I had the best chance of convincing Bad-Grandma to back off," Toshi said guilelessly, like his opinion somehow overrode that of three grown adults. Of all the times for that self-righteous teenage spirit to rear its head...

"The ink's dried, Hitoshi," his mother finally spoke. She rolled up the scroll and turned to Hitoshi without acknowledging Shouta at all. Ah, she was still playing the he-doesn't-exist game. "Let's return home for some tea and dinner, shall we? It's a day of celebration."

Shouta, rather than scream at his mother for throwing a tantrum over Kaiya's decisions; for being such a control freak she'd rather pretend Shouta didn't exist than acknowledge he'd escaped from under her thumb; for being so bullheaded their sociopathic father had chosen to face his children rather than his wife when it came to finding a solution. Rather than saying any of those things, he chose the option that mattered the most to him.

Getting him and Toshi as far away from here as possible.

"Let's go," he told Toshi, voice tight, and the teenager had enough self-preservation not to argue.

The car ride back to Mustafu was suffocating. Toshi was standoffish, arms crossed and expression entirely unreadable. It made Shouta want to slap him upside-the-head. He refused to break first, however, not when he'd wasted his whole day worried sick over the boy. Halfway into their journey, the teenager's nonchalance cracked.

"I called Bad-Grandpa," he admitted. He glanced out the passenger seat window so he didn't have to look at Shouta's face. "He wasn't wrong yesterday. Bad-Grandma cares a lot about her family name. I... I told him they can write my name in the Shinsou book if it got her to lay off of Aunt Kaiya. He seemed to think it was a good idea. Bad-Grandma was so happy, she forgot all about Kaiya. It was so easy for her to forget, but Aunt Kaiya and Uncle Riku..."

"Your grandmother has never been able to see the full consequences of her temper," Shouta said. "It's normal to feel angry about it, but that's just how she is."

Toshi pressed his forehead against the glass. "The name thing won't really change anything for me outside of that town. It's not a legal document or anything. Shouchan gave up his entire name to the nation just to keep moving forward, so this is nothing in comparison."

Conflicting feelings warred in Shouta's chest. Making a devil's deal with his parents was stupid, but from a logical standpoint a throwaway name was a bargain deal for Kaiya's freedom. His head knew that but his heart did not. This was something Toshi should never have had to involve himself with. "You should have consulted me first, Hitoshi."

"You wouldn't have agreed," Toshi turned away from the window. "Besides, it got Bad-Grandpa and Bad-Grandma to leave you alone. I... I don't like how they make you feel, Mom. I wanted Bad-Grandpa to go away as soon as he could."

Shouta closed his mouth. He was angry still. Furious. Shouta had desperately wanted to protect Toshi from his own parents; and instead, Toshi had protected him. Toshi shouldn't have had to step up for Shouta's sake, even if he didn't have the same baggage clouding his vision as Shouta did.

"You're grounded," he managed after far too long, voice hoarse, and Toshi just sank into his seat in quiet acceptance of his fate.

Reckless, short-sighted alpha. It was Hizashi's pep made even worse by alpha hormones, and it was just another example of Toshi growing up. Shouta had watched his surrogate puppies grow up and wander off on their own over and over, sure, but Hitoshi had been the one he'd carried and birthed.

Everything changed so quickly. The only reassurance was how slow-moving one's heart shifted. Toshi will grow up fine; he had a hero's heart, after all. This reckless stunt had just proved it.

 

--

  

Their arrival home had been met with a worried Hizashi, so frazzled he hadn't even taken off his hero costume while waiting for them in the living room. It had taken far too long to convince his mate to save the interrogation for the morning, and he only acquiesced when Shouta reminded him of what gel did to his hair after eighteen hours.

But this was a conversation he wanted to have with Toshi alone, which meant cornering him in his bedroom before Hizashi finished his morning routine.

"Toshi," Shouta stepped into his son's room. "I want to talk about what my father said."

Toshi bolted up in a sitting position, cheeks dusted red and eyes wide. "...what?"

"I’m not mad. But you’ve been sneaking out more than usual, and we can’t help but worry you’re seeing some creepy old man in an alley.”

What?” Toshi’s blush broke in favor of disbelief. “No, that’s not—ugh, gross. No.”

“Good,” Shouta said, convinced by his son’s genuine disgust. “Now that that’s out of the way, you know your father and I don’t care what dynamic your partner is.”

Toshi hugged his knees to his chest, as gangly as ever even beneath his blankets. “I—I know that. Thanks.”

It looked like something else was on the tip of his tongue, so Shouta waited.

Eventually, the boy said, “I guess I just… was thinking about what being atypical meant. For my future. Aunt Kaiya's whole drama makes me think, ‘Wait, what about kids?’ Do I want kids? Do I want my own kids or do I want to adopt? I don’t know?”

“You’re sixteen; kids should be last thing on your mind,” Shouta said dryly. But he knew what Toshi was getting at. Teenagers were notorious for living in the moment. Even the most self-aware of them would have no idea how to consider the future a decade from now, two decades from now. It rightfully scared them.

“Your grandfather’s awful,” he answered slowly, “but he’s a genius at biology. I’m sure if you want to find a surrogate or have a biological child, he’ll be more than happy to help. You have options and you have time. And Hitoshi… it doesn’t matter to me if you have kids or not. That’s your choice and I’ll love you no matter what.”

Toshi’s mouth trembled. He didn’t cry, hadn’t cried since he was nine. When Shouta sat on his bed, however, he wrapped his arms around his mother's neck and buried his face into his shoulder. Shouta had to admit he missed hugging his son. Not rough and panic-fueled like yesterday, but as a form of comfort. It was such a basic, instinctual thing to do when he saw his boy upset, and it was something he had to refrain himself from doing in recent years.

“Oh, Toshi,” Hizashi's interrogation during breakfast had ended with him in tears and Toshi being the one to hand him tissues. He recovered as quickly as he always did, however, and gathered Toshi up in a tight squeeze. "I'm so proud, you know. And mad, but I'm sure Shouta's already scolded you half to death already. It takes a lot to deal with Shouta's parents! They're horrible listeners! The absolute worse!"

"They're not too bad," Toshi said, and Shouta wasn't sure if he was lying or not. "Didn't you have to head to the station, Dad? Go on, don't worry about me."

"After what you pulled yesterday, I should worry!" Hizashi fussed with Toshi's hair. "Are you sure you don't want me to take the day off? I can try and get someone else to fill in..."

"You've taken too many days off this year. I'll be fine."

"Okay, okay, you want your old man gone before I embarrass you too much, huh? Well tough luck! It's my job to be embarrassing!" and Hizashi planted a sloppy kiss on Toshi's forehead. He grinned when Toshi let out a disgusted groan and rushed out the door before the boy could retaliate.

Only once the bright, beacon of blond had left the apartment did his sister finally shuffle out of the bathroom.

“Hey,” Kaiya said, awkward. She hadn't said a word when Shouta had told her what Toshi had done. Out of guilt or gratefulness, he wasn't sure, but it must feel strange knowing she could go anywhere without their parents breathing down their necks. Freedom was always terrifying at first. “I just got off the phone with Riku, and he said he’s booked us a hotel the next town over. We’ll… figure things out together once we meet back up.”

“So you’re leaving,” Shouta said. He stared pointedly at the luggage case propped up against the pull-out couch.

“Gee, way to sound sad to see me go,” Kaiya managed enough sass to roll her eyes. “But yes, I’m getting out of your hair. I know letting me stay meant pretty much agreeing to put up with either Mom or Dad for a few days. And I know how much you hate that. I never imagined they'd involve Hitoshi, too...” She bowed her head down, lips pressed into a line. “I’m so sorry and grateful. Thank you, Shouta, for everything.”

Shouta said nothing, just reached out and pressed his hand to hers. She jolted, surprised. It was a simple reassurance that he was there for her and vice versa, no matter how much time had passed or what kind of trouble they’d bring. It was why she’d come when he called nearly two decades ago. It was why he’d given her a place to stay despite his moaning and groaning.

“Text me your new address once you and Riku settle down,” he said, and she squeezed his hand with a wane smile.

She then turned to Toshi.

“Thank you, Hitoshi," she said, completely earnest. She kissed his cheek and Toshi's face spasmed with the clear desire to wipe it off. He didn't, however, as polite as Shouta was rude. "You'll become a fine hero if you're willing to help a near-stranger like me. Perhaps we'll see each other more often. Shouta, drive me to the train station.”

Shouta scowled. “I don’t want to.”

“Tough. I’m not walking there with my luggage and your mate’s already left the house. Let’s go.”

Shouta sighed but grabbed her luggage case in assent. Toshi waved at them as they were making their way out the door.

“Bye Mom. Bye Good-Aunt. I’ll be out too, so don’t freak out if I’m not home when you get back.”

“He called me Good-Aunt!” Kaiya said, far too happy in Shouta’s opinion.

“You better be home when I get back,” Shouta warned him, and Toshi actually pouted. “‘Grounded’ means curfew. Just because we don’t mind his dynamic doesn’t mean you’re off the hook when it comes to teenage dating etiquette.”

“You never followed teenage dating etiquette,” his sister said unhelpfully, and Shouta growled at her. “You ran away to Yamada’s that one winter break without telling anyone. The only reason why Dad didn’t call the police was because he’d put a tracker on your shoe.”

“Get in the car,” he said before she could offer his son more incriminating evidence to use against him. She stuck her tongue out at him like she was ten again but acquiesced, and really. Things had changed so much after so many years, but some things felt like they hadn’t changed at all.

Chapter Text

The first thing Shouta noticed about Class 1-B wasn’t the horrified expressions of Vlad’s students.

That was to be expected. Vlad was more of a mother hen, always pointing out how Shouta’s habit of tossing his puppies over a metaphorical cliff was too brutal. Shouta viewed it more as sparing their lives. If training to prevent their deaths on the field meant shocking Kaminari into a crisp and dunking Bakugou’s hands in boiling water... so be it.

At least his class had the benefit of already expecting the worst.

So no, he wasn’t surprised by Class B’s horror. What caught his eye instead was the beta boy launching into some motivational speech in front of his pack, an effort undermined by his maniacal laughter and the scarf he fluttered about to emphasize his words.

It was a very familiar scarf.

“Class A may have started their camp training early, but that doesn’t mean we’re behind! Nay, they started early to catch up to us, my fellow packmates. We’ll show them exactly how much better we are for diligently studying while they’re off gallivanting with—”

The boy flailed when Eraserhead jumped in front of him and snatched the scarf out of his hands.

“Monoma Neito,” he said, recalling the boy’s defeat during the semester's final exam. He was intelligent, yes, but still relied too much on his quirk. He was also a well-known, Class-A-hating little shit. “Perhaps you should watch Class A a little longer before making erroneous assumptions about them.”

The boy’s expression went from maniacal to stunned to scared. Interesting.

“Mr. Aizawa,” he said stiffly, back straight. He was looking at the scarf in his hands. “Please give that back.”

“No. We’re here to train, not fool around. I’m confiscating it until the end of the lesson.”

Monoma glanced over at Vlad King, who sighed and shook his head. The beta boy took the confiscation with relative grace, bowing back into his pack without another word. He was capable of reining in his temper in a professional setting then, which was more than Shouta could say of Bakugou.

Get your paws off of me Copy Cat!” the boy howled once the Class B kids were split up and coached in their routines. Monoma was running in a loop around the other students, copying and using each of their quirks in quick succession. When he reached Bakugou, the beta grinned and let out an explosion that sloshed hot water all over the omega's front.

“Bakugou!” Shouta barked when it looked as if the boy was about to abandon his oil drum to chase after Monoma. Bakugou angrily dunked his hands back into the water with a growl. The beta still liked poking the beast, it seemed, having yet to learn self-preservation.

“Look, I know Monoma was talking smack about your class, but I ask you leave any Class B disciplining to me,” Vlad King said to Shouta once everyone had settled into a rhythm. Like Vlad himself wasn’t competitive as hell. He probably high-fived the boy for taunting Shouta’s puppies, the bastard. “Hand the scarf over. I’ll give it back to him during dinner.”

Shouta gave Vlad a side-eye. "Do you know where Monoma got this scarf?”

The alpha looked confused. “I… don’t keep track of my students’ shopping habits?”

Monoma had reached the strength-quirk exercise squad by now. Toshi had been stationed there to brainwash his fellow students for as long as he could, something only possible because the exercises trained the body and not the mind. When Monoma reached out for Midoriya, however, Toshi leaned forward and slapped his hand away.

“Hrn,” Shouta said, narrowing his eyes at the scene. “I’ll get it back to him during dinner. Don’t worry about it.”

“Eraser, I really insist—”

Shouta’s face must have truly been frightening, because Vlad King backed away with his hands up. Good.

By the time the sun had begun to set, Toshi had gotten three bloody noses and had had to take several breaks to keep from passing out. None of this dissuaded Shouta from grabbing the back of his son’s shirt on his way to dinner prep.

“Toshi,” Shouta said, feeling no remorse when the boy groaned. The groan abruptly cut off when Shouta extracted the damning purple scarf from his pocket and dangled it before him.

“Your father got this for you that one winter we all got snowed in at the radio station,” Shouta said, matter-of-fact. “He bought it from some souvenir shop on the bottom floor. Why didn’t you tell me it had been stolen?”

Toshi’s red cheeks only grew redder. He snatched the scarf out of Shouta’s hand and pressed it to his face, eyes averted. It was a gesture that was far more damning than some kid waving about an article of his clothing. It meant Toshi found the owner of the scent comforting, which Shouta knew would happen one day but that was before he discovered who that scent belonged to—

He wasn’t sure if this was any better than Creepy Old Man.

“It wasn’t stolen,” Toshi at least had the strength to mutter. He let out a breath and then stowed the scarf away in his pocket like he was scared Shouta was going to take it back. “I gave it away.”

Shouta stared at him. He stared at him hard.

“The sad thing is,” he finally said, turning and squinting in the distance where Monoma Fucking Neito was making jabs at an increasingly explode-y Bakugou. “I can see why you like him.”

“Yeah?” Toshi said, suspicious.

“Yes,” Shouta paused for dramatic effect. “It figures you’d inherit my terrible taste in men.”

Bye Mom,” Toshi immediately said, diving past the omega to grab some carrots and potatoes lying in a wooden box. Shouta turned and whipped out his capture scarf around his leg. “Hey!”

“If it wasn’t stolen, you’re free to give it back,” he said. He tightened the scarf just a tad and saw Toshi wince. “But tell that brat there’s no room for horseplay here. If he’s not going to treat this training seriously, he can pack his bags and leave. Understand?”

“Yes, sir,” and at least Toshi was aware of the beta boy’s appalling behavior. Shouta’s scarf loosened enough for Toshi to escape. The alpha boy glanced over his shoulder one last time before shuffling over to classmates, already apologizing for the hold-up. Shouta sighed.

How he could feel so young one day and so old less than a week later was absolutely baffling. Children grew up far too fast.

 

--

 

“You’re such a momma’s boy, Yamada,” Uraraka teased, elbowing the boy good-naturedly. Katsuki narrowed his eyes at her from across the bench. “Always spending time having little chats. I wish I saw my parents more often.”

I still can’t believe Eraserhead is your mom!” Ashido burst out, chopping carrots haphazardly. “Isn’t that, like, super embarrassing? I’d totally die if my mom was my homeroom teacher. Mr. Aizawa’s pretty cool, but we’ve all seen him crawl around in a sleeping bag like a caterpillar. You’re the caterpillar’s kid. A—a minipillar. A larva?”

“A caterpillar is a larva,” Yamada pointed out. “And the sleeping bag’s comfy.”

You’ve slept in the sleeping bag?”

“Can we please stop talking about this? We shouldn't pry into our teachers’ personal lives.” Yaoyorozu chided them as she fixed up Ashido’s sloppy pieces into perfect cubes.

“Yaomomo is still traumatized thinking of Eraserhead and Present Mic doing the frickity-frack,” Ashido told them, which was when Katsuki finally broke his self-imposed silence and threw a potato at her head.

“No one wants to think about that, Black-Eyes!” he shouted, because there was a limit to the amount of stupidity he could tolerate. “And stop messing up the damn carrots. Make yourself useful by washing dishes or something!”

“Aye, lead omega,” Ashido saluted.

“I’m not lead omega!”

“Why is everyone shouting,” Icyhot said in his usual passive-aggressive way from the camp stoves. He stepped aside, expressionless, when Katsuki threw an explosion in his direction and lit two fires under the stoves at once. "Thanks, Bakugou."

"Eat shit and die, Icyhot!"

"Stop it, both of you," Yamada warned them, to Icyhot's chagrin and Katsuki's fury. Goddamn alpha still thinks he can order the two of them around. They were in a larger pack now, bigger than just the four of them, but Yamada could be pretty commanding when he actually tried. Katsuki would've spent more time fuming about it if he weren't suddenly in high demand.

Between getting the vegetable production line in order, convincing Inasa it was a bad idea to use his winds to carry the vegetables to the pots—“We have feet for a reason, Wind Dunce!”—and glowering at the Class B extras snickering at their disorganization, Katsuki wanted to fall over and sleep.

"Bakugou, over here," Kirishima said, blissfully unaware that Katsuki would have flipped off anyone else who'd dare call him over. "Taste this! Is it good?"

Katsuki sipped the spoon and made a face. "No, there's too much pepper. Move over, I'll handle this."

"No, no, no, just tell me what to do!" Kirishima attempted to push Katsuki back to his seat, but Katsuki was an unstoppable force. "You're tired, aren't you? Go rest a bit and leave it to us."

"You'll ruin a perfectly good pot of stew if I leave this here," Katsuki wrestled him back with a growl. "Aizawa should ban you from the kitchen, you goddamn tasteless menace!"

"Guys, no fighting!" Deku had come back from wherever he'd gone and, as usual, couldn't keep his nose out of Katsuki's business. Even with a knife in one hand and raw beef in the other, he looked as harmless as a puppy. "Kacchan's a Summer Heater so he had his heat last week. He's still a bit cranky so please don't hold it against him!"

"He doesn't need to know that!" Katsuki roared, the tips of his ears so hot they felt like they were on fire. "Just shut up and get that beef ready for me, you stupid Deku!"

Kirishima grabbed his hand. "Katsuki..." 

"Go cut meat with Deku," Katsuki pushed him back. It was less rough than it could've been, however. When Kirishima glanced up at him with those puppy eyes, Katsuki's temper tamped down even further. "Look, spices and tastes are my thing. Go make yourself useful doing grunt work. I'm sure you can chop three times as many beef chunks as Deku can."

"Hey, Midoriya's kind of ripped," Kirishima cocked his head. "But I’m serious, man. Fix this up and then go take a water break or something. You've gotta trust we’ve got this. Promise me.”

Katsuki growled when the alpha turned on those goddamn puppy eyes to the max. “Fine. Fine, I promise. So get chopping already, Shitty Hair!”

Kirishima broke out into a wide grin. He clapped Katsuki’s shoulder and turned to Deku with a fist raised. “Midoriya! Prepare yourself!"

"You got it," Deku replied cheerfully, unfazed by the very real threat of Kirishima's biceps. Katsuki wanted to shake them both, but he was tired and sore and wanted to eat a goddamn good meal today. Leaving these knuckleheads to fend for themselves while Katsuki took a break was a disaster waiting to happen. But he’d promised, and Katsuki didn’t go back on his promises.

Besides, watching Kirishima chop beef like a madman and splattering blood everywhere?

He probably shouldn’t find it as hot as he did. Goddamn weird-as-fuck omega instincts.

 

--

 

"You can see the stars from here," Shouto noted as he carried another armful of cooking supplies to the washbin.

Despite Toshi’s boyfriend's obnoxious bragging, it was true that Class B had stronger pack cohesion than they did. There was far less yelling on their side, for a start, and while Monoma wasn’t a leader, he was certainly a great Class B cheerleader. If he turned to give Bakugou a self-righteous grin once in a while, well. It wasn’t like Bakugou could shout any louder than he already was.

“Did you say something?” Izuku peered up at him from behind the faucet. He had flecks of beef blood all over his face and hair, something that gave Kirishima a rugged appearance but made Izuku look like a first grader who needed a bath.

Izuku yelped when an ice sheet suddenly cut the water at an angle and soaked him right through.

"Yuki!" he wailed, green hair clinging to his forehead in dark wet curls.

"Come over here and I'll dry you off," Shouto offered. Izuku pouted but shuffled over. Even his shoes were wet, and while Shouto did sympathize with the beta's plight, he also found him absolutely adorable. Even with the way his soaked clothes just clung to his body like a skintight suit. It was mostly focused on his chest, but the back...

"Stop staring at my butt," Izuku said while turning in place against the heat wave emanating off of Shouto's left side. His hand burst into flame in surprise. "If you wanted to see so badly, you could have asked without spraying me down."

"Izuku," Shouto said, putting the flame out with a scandalized blush.

"Yuki."

"It wasn't because of that," Shouto stressed. "Of course I would ask. In fact, if you ever wanted something of me, just let me know. I'll do my best to accommodate you."

"Oh my god, Shouto," and Izuku's hair was floofing up quite well, rising to reveal his berry-red face. "Don't sound like some host talking to a client."

"A... host?"

"You know! Someone who works at one of those clubs..."

Shouto's blank expression must've told Izuku all he needed to know. He flushed an even darker red and put up his perfectly dry hands.

"N-n-never mind! Forget I said anything! Butt? What butt? I don't have a butt! Hahaha!"

"Everyone has a butt," Shouto said, dead serious, and Izuku slapped a hand over the omega’s mouth. Shouto nearly went cross-eyed looking down at him.

"You said something earlier, didn't you?" Izuku said, eyes cast downwards in embarrassment. "Something about stars?"

There wasn’t much of a connection between butts and stars, but even Shouto knew a change in subject when he heard it. Shouto carefully wrapped his fingers around Izuku’s wrist and tugged his hand down to rest on Shouto's chest. He used his other hand to tap under the beta’s chin, gesturing for him to glance up at the sky.

"They're coming out, see?" Shouto let a soft smile grace his face. Izuku’s hand felt warm against his t-shirt. "It's harder to see them in the city because of light pollution. When we used to visit Mom's family in the countryside, though, the stars were always clear as day. They're like that here, too. Look."

"It's amazing," Izuku agreed, brilliant grin back in full force. “Y’know, they say if we didn’t have quirks… we’d have found a way to travel to the stars by now.”

“But why would we want to travel to the stars?”

“To see what’s out there? To explore?” Izuku shrugged. “But two hundred years have passed and humanity’s pretty much the same, you know? So many things have changed, but it’s like. The core of us is the same.”

“Eraserhead’s hometown had this motto… something about the outside changing, but the heart staying the same?” Shouto cocked his head. “Honestly, I think there’s plenty of amazing things right in front of us, right now. Everything from people’s quirks to all this nature surrounding us. We just need to stop and look.”

“That's... really poetic, Shouto. I can kind of see why Kacchan likes mountain climbing so much now."

"I thought he still did that to show off to Kirishima," Shouto said and felt rather than heard Izuku sigh. "What?"

"You're so cute, Shouto," the boy said. He leaned back and shook his head with a smile. "Never change."

Shouto wanted to tell him that change was inevitable; that time was a cruel slavedriver; that he didn't understand how his lack of knowledge was cute. But he think he understood what Izuku meant. It was what they’d just been talking about a minute ago, after all.

"You too,"  he said before tapping Izuku's chest. "Never change your heart, Izuku. It's what makes you who you are. Deku the Quirkless Hero's now the future Symbol of Peace. You're amazing."

"No, you're amazing," Izuku said, voice wobbly.

"You're more amazing."

"No, no, no, you're way more amazing—"

"Oh my god, are you two done cleaning the dishes or what?" Bakugou's voice suddenly burst out from across the dining area. "Stop making out and come help serve the stew!"

"We're not making out!" Izuku shouted back, pink-cheeked, and Shouto sighed. He appreciated the time alone with Izuku, no family drama or villains to distract them. It made him miss the times they’d spend at the Dagobah Beach dock.

But it was time to rejoin their classmates and return to the world of heroes, which wasn’t such a bad place to be.

“Hey, is that Monoma?” Izuku turned as they entered the cafeteria, squinting into the darkness.

“Who?”

“I know you know who he is, Shouto,” Izuku said. “Dinner hasn’t even been served yet. Where’s he going?”

To make out with Toshi, was the first awful thought Shouto’s brain came up with, and he resisted the urge to suddenly turn heel and charge after the beta with ice and fire in his hands. No, Toshi could handle himself. And he wouldn't be reckless enough to follow Monoma out, would he?

 

--

 

"Monoma," Toshi followed the beta out and saw the boy flinch in response.

"Yamada," Monoma said. He sat sulking on a rock at the edge of the forest, appearing far more endearing than he probably should. The alpha sat himself down beside the boy and took a page out of Mom’s book by letting awkward silence hang heavily between them.

Monoma had been relatively upbeat all during dinner prep, even after Kendo banished him into a corner for being a menace in the kitchen. But a conversation with his packmates at the serving station had sent him running outside. Chasing after him was a base requirement for any boyfriend, and Toshi had been fully prepared to break out his alpha presence if he found Monoma unleashing his anger on the wildlife.

But the beta wasn't angry. He didn't even need space, because instead of shoving Toshi away he leaned closer and pressed their sides together.

Finally, Monoma said, "Surprised you can even walk after nearly fainting like a wuss earlier today."

"Surprised you can even move after all the quirks your body had to cycle through," Toshi said, then grabbed Monoma's arm before he could yank it away. It was shaking. "Copying so many quirks in quick succession is difficult on your body, isn't it? That's why Vlad has you working on your endurance."

"Did you really follow me here to talk about training?" Monoma scowled but didn't try and free his arm.

“No,” Toshi said. “My scarf, Monoma.”

The beta’s face flushed red to his neck. "Ah. You’re just so happy to get your scarf back after you forgot it at my place, aren’t you?”

Toshi snorted and leaned over to press his face into the boy’s neck. Monoma didn't smell wary or nervous or paranoid. Confused, maybe. He tugged the beta’s arm and drew him half into his lap, caution thrown to the wind. 

"I didn't forget it," Toshi said and felt Monoma shiver against him in response. "I liked seeing you wear it."

"You're such a fucking weirdo.”

"And you're the one who wore it everywhere," Toshi pointed out with a lazy grin. "Enough so that Mom found out and took it away."

Monoma's red skin was especially vivid under the cool tint of the moon. Toshi carefully took the scarf from his pocket and smoothed it out in his lap.

"You're not wound up as much," Toshi said conversationally, pretending he couldn’t see Monoma perking up. Satisfied the wrinkles were mostly worked out, he neatly wound the scarf around Monoma's neck like he did that night in the boy's house. It was a smooth, confident move that pleased the beta enough to let Toshi steal a kiss. A small one, but still a kiss.

Monoma brought the scarf to his nose and glanced away, somewhat embarrassed. "After Eraserhead took it away, the others wanted to know why I was so upset. Those stubborn idiots wouldn't give up. And then Awase opened his big fat mouth and..."

"You told them about us?" and of all the conversations he’d imagined Monoma had with his packmates, this wasn’t it. Toshi figured Monoma would have combusted the second any of his precious Class B friends discovered the truth.

"I told them that I am in a direct battle with one of Class A's members. We are fighting on behalf of our packs and this scarf is a symbol of the last victory I achieved. What? Is that not what you thought I'd said?"

"Hm, I see," Toshi said, amused. He pressed his mouth to Monoma's cheek. "And what did they say?"

"What does it matter what they said?"

"Well, even if you did run away, you're pretty relaxed right now. I like it. Whatever they said, I'm grateful you're happier."

Monoma looked like he wanted to protest—at his sappiness, as his own alleged relaxed state, at the world. But between Toshi holding him, the return of his scarf, and the beautiful glow of the stars? He clearly didn't have the anger to spare.

"Kiss me again," he demanded.

"Bossy," Toshi muttered but tipped his head anyway. They’ll miss the start of dinner at this point, but he didn’t care. If Mom yelled at him later, so be it.

Besides, Mom had given him back the scarf. Toshi doubted he’d expected him to do anything less.

 

--

  

Monoma Neito was wearing the scarf at breakfast.

It was bittersweet to realize the last of Shouta's problem children—his problem child—had opened his heart up to someone. He wanted to hide Toshi in his arms and tell him how dangerous it was, how reckless. The heart was a vulnerable, soft thing that could bleed forever. But no, if his boy was old enough to begin fighting on the battlefield of heroes and villains, he was old enough to venture out with his heart in hand.

Shouta himself had found Hizashi during U.A., after all. He didn't really have a leg to stand on.

Oh god, Hizashi.

He vaguely remembered his mate talking about Monoma’s excellent English comprehension, but personality-wise… hm. They were both loud, obnoxious betas. As much as Shouta wished Hizashi would take his side on this, the more rational part of him knew they’d probably get along like a house on fire.

"What are you thinking about, Eraser?" Vlad King sidled up to him as if Shouta could miss six plus feet tall of awkward alpha moving into his peripheral vision. "You're being quiet."

"I'm thinking how quickly children grow up," he said. "I want them to be young for just a little bit longer. Is that too much to ask?"

"Careful—you’re starting to sound old,” Vlad teased, then winced when Shouta snapped his scarf against his leg like a whip. He quickly changed the subject. “I see you returned Monoma’s scarf. He’s kind of possessive over it, so I’m glad you went easy on him.”

Shouta sighed.

“…what? That was a pretty bad sound. Did you get enough sleep yesterday?”

“Vlad, do me a favor. If you see my son anywhere close to your Monoma, chase him away. Haul him off if you have to.”

Vlad couldn’t look more confused if he tried. “Why?”

“Because Monoma Neito is a distraction Toshi doesn’t need. They’re here to train.

“Wait,” Vlad said. “Your son—”

Shouta whirled on him with his quirk activated, hair flying upwards and capture weapon unraveling. While Vlad could hold his own against Shouta, he was clearly less inclined to throw down at five in the goddamn morning.

"I’m going to get some more soup. Relax, Eraser. It’s a beautiful day,” his fellow teacher said before making his escape.

Shouta knew this was all an inevitable change; that as long as Toshi was happy, he and Hizashi would have no qualms. But he was allowed his initial grumpiness, alright?

He was allowed to miss that young boy who used to cling to his leg, wary and thoughtful. But like his other puppies, Toshi was growing as a hero. And he would keep growing.

As Shouta later watched them train from high up on the cliff, bittersweet perfectly described the proud and melancholic mood he found himself in. Even Bakugou, the most volatile of the four, was desperately working to become a hero in his own right. Anyone who thought differently didn’t understand him, just as so many people misunderstood Shouchan because of the Todoroki name; Midoriya for his lack of a quirk; and Toshi for the terrifying potential of his power.

They all had their struggles, but Shouta wasn’t worried. With their hero’s hearts and determined drive, the four of them were going to be fine.

 

--

 

The outside changed, but the heart stayed the same. Shouta and his sister had held themselves up to that stupid motto when they were kids; a kind of “things may be bad but we’re still together in this” kind of attitude that got them through their mother’s worst tantrums. It was an attitude Kaiya insisted he broke when he’d decided to run off to U.A.

He’d removed the stabilizing pillar that had kept their household from falling apart, and Kaiya has been caught in the aftermath.

"I don't blame you anymore, Shouta," Kaiya had said on that last car ride to the train. "But I blamed you a little at the beginning. With you gone, our parents focused all their attention on me. It was unbearable. And when I told you to come home, you refused. It was like you left me behind."

This old argument again, though it was less of an argument and more of a fact. Shouta’s response was in the same cadence: "And you could have left with me."

Kaiya sighed, leaning back in the passenger seat and pressing her hand to her flat stomach. "It was our hometown, Shouta. It was where all my friends and connections and support system was, where I knew I’d be accepted even if I was still within our parents' reach. It takes more courage than I had to simply leave."

Shouta considered her with dark, knowing eyes.

"But I understand why you never returned now. I really do. Because I can put up with all of that without trouble, but the idea of this one having to go through it?" Kaiya shook her head. "I can't. I just can't. So... I had to leave."

Shouta’s panic at Hitoshi’s disappearance was still on their mind. It was one thing if it was them, but it was another thing for their children. Of course he understood.

He stopped by the curb and watched Kaiya tug out her luggage case from the backseat. She smiled down at him through the window.

“Goodbye, little brother.”

“Goodbye, Kaiya,” he said, and watched as she disappeared into the train station. For once, their goodbyes held no sense of finality. No sense of frustration.

Kaiya could call him whenever she wanted now, a change that may finally bring forward that heart he’d last seen far too long ago.

 

--

 

"Shouto? What is it?" Izuku stopped and looked back at the omega. Shouto was staring up at the clear sky, bangs still dripping water down his fine features. Lunch break had just been called and Izuku had stayed behind to wait for Shouto to dry off.

"...nothing," his boyfriend—boyfriend!—said, zipping up the rest of his gym uniform and shaking his damp hair. He turned and gave Izuku a warm smile. "I was just thinking how beautiful of a day it is."

"When we're not dying of training," Izuku joked. He held out a hand and smiled when Shouto took it. "Let's go help out with lunch. I bet Kacchan's scolding Kirishima again."

"He should get Toshi to help him out. He's actually pretty good in the kitchen," Shouto said wistfully. They began walking back towards the dining area, hand-in-hand. "But he's probably hanging out with his boyfriend instead."

"Wait, Yamada has a boyfriend?" Izuku said, flabbergasted, and grew even more concerned when Shouto let out a long-suffering sigh. "Shouto? Shouto, what's wrong? Don't tell me he's dating someone awful—" 

The wind whipped around their feet. It was, indeed, a very beautiful day.

 

 

the end