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awake and (un)afraid, asleep or-

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honey if you stay I’ll be forgiven

 

-

 

(Shoto has been daydreaming about their lives – their futures – for far longer than he wants to admit. He used to do it in the moments between classes, between trainings, between meals – he had often let his mind drift, and wonder, and imagine what it would be like, to be an adult, to be a pro hero at Izuku’s side.

But no matter how much time he had once put into imagining his and Izuku’s lives, he still hadn’t imagined it quite like this.)

 

-

 

“Dude,” Kirishima says, shaking his chopsticks at Shoto and nearly smacking him in the face with a noodle. “I miss you, like, so much.”

Shoto leans back to avoid getting broth or noodle in his eyes and can’t help but snort. “Dude,” he echoes back, in the deadpan kind of tone he’s been honing to perfection for the last five years. “I, like, miss you too.”

Kirishima cracks up, the way he always does when Shoto mimics his speech patterns, rocking back in his chair and inadvertently kicking Shoto in the shins. They’re crowded around a table for one since it had been the only one available when they came in, their food nearly in their laps and their legs tangled beyond hope, but neither really mind.

Shoto lets himself grin, a smug little expression of pride at being able to make someone laugh so much. It’s not the same kind of victory it once was, when he was still learning and relearning the ins and outs of friendships during their years at school, but it feels good nonetheless to hear.

He watches with growing horror, however, as Kirishima starts to shake his head with mirth, little bits of rubble and building dust raining down from his hair and onto the table.

Hey,” Shoto complains, dragging his noodle bowl even closer to his side of the table, where he hopes it will remain free of debris. “We agreed you’d keep the grime to your side of the table this time.”

“Sorry, sorry,” Kirishima says, still snickering a little as he visibly refrains from shaking his head again. His hands twitch, like he wants to run them through his hair, and Shoto narrows his eyes at him until he huffs out a breath and turns back to his food instead.

“Next time you show up as backup, I’m dragging you into the building first thing,” Kirishima threats, grinning and good natured. Shoto only arches an eyebrow at him, ducking his head to slurp up some of his noodles, since they both know that wouldn’t be feasible.

(Up until ten minutes before they’d been seated in this restaurant, Kirishima had been onsite of a collapsing building, helping direct people to safety. Shoto had been called in as a reserve, there to shore up what he could of the foundation with ice to keep it stable as Kirishima and the other pros on site worked.

It’s a set-up that happens relatively often with those kinds of situations, not only because of their history as classmates and the previous collaboration between their agencies, but because society as a whole has been shifting more and more toward team-based operations.

It means that Shoto runs into Kirishima sometimes as often as once or twice a week and that means they had a routine in place – once the site of the disaster or villain battle has been cleared and the media has released them, they wander into one of the nearby restaurants, squeeze into a table or booth, and catch up.

Which is really how they’ve ended up here.)

Kirishima rolls his eyes at Shoto’s lack of answer and doesn’t bother ducking his head to his bowl as he brings his noodles up to his mouth. “So,” he says, remembering to cover his hand with his mouth as he chews and speaks, a compromise Momo instilled in their class in their second year, when she gave up completely on trying to make them stop talking with their mouths full. “How’s Midoriya doing? I haven’t seen him since before that big disaster last month, is he okay?”

Shoto has a lot of experience not freezing up, despite what his Quirk might be, and so he lifts his chopsticks to his mouth smoothly, chewing slowly as if the question doesn’t send a little lance of longing through him.

“The disaster was rough on him,” Shoto says quietly, lifting a hand as he chews and watching as Kirishima’s eyebrows furrow in concern. “He worries that he won’t be able to save everyone, as usual, and for a while it looked like it’d be pretty bad. But he got everyone out in the end, him and all the pros in the area who showed up to help.”

“But he still feels like he could have done better,” Kirishima says sadly, picking up on one of the things Shoto didn’t say.

(And Shoto is glad that’s the thing Kirishima picked up and not the fact that Shoto also hasn’t seen his boyfriend since before the disaster.

Pro heroes often go where they’re needed, when they’re needed.

And Izuku is the best, will one day be the best of the best in the whole world, just like All Might, so he goes, and goes, and goes, wherever he’s needed.

Sometimes, Shoto just wishes where he was needed fell a little closer to home.)

“I don’t think he’d be Izuku if he didn’t come out of every situation wondering what he could have done better,” Shoto answers, his tone dry to try and hide how that makes him feel. Kirishima nudges their legs together under the table, giving him a look to convey how well he’s failed at that, and Shoto can only roll his eyes and smile, just a little grimly, at how well the other knows him.

“But he’s doing better now?”

Sometimes I think so, Shoto wants to say, but then I wonder if he’s just gotten better at hiding the hurt over the phone.

“Yeah,” Shoto says, because he trusts Izuku, has to trust Izuku, and Izuku has said time and time again over the last month that he’s okay, that the disaster was terrible but he’s not going to dwell on it when there are other people who need his help. “You know Izuku – nothing can keep him down for long.”

Kirishima beams, shaking his head fondly, probably at the thought of Izuku’s relentless spirit, and then yelps loudly when Shoto kicks him under the table for the bits of rubble that are flying everywhere.

Shoto,” Kirishima whines, clutching a hand to his chest to show how deeply Shoto’s gentle kick had hurt his soul. “Dude! You would kick your beloved bro like this, during such a nice meal?!”

Shoto bites back a smile at the theatrics, ducking his head to hoist a pile of noodles into his mouth. He slurps them, loud and unconcerned, and watches as Kirishima fights back the urge to laugh at the sight he must make, cheeks puffed out and expression fighting to be bored.

“Yes,” he says, not even bothering with the hand over his mouth as he talks with his mouth full. “I would.”

And that, mouth open around half of a sentence, is when Kirishima whips out his phone and snaps a picture of him.

Trying to groan with frustration through all the noodles in his mouth nearly kills him, but Shoto makes an attempt at it nonetheless. You’re the worst, Shoto wants to tell Kirishima, who’s cackling like a madman on the other side of their too-small table, loud enough to draw the whole shop’s attention their way, but the second he opens his mouth, the phone is pointed in his direction once more, and he shuts it again with a click.

Once his mouth is free of noodles and Kirishima has seemingly given up taking another photo of him, Shoto drawls, “sometimes, I think you only miss taking unattractive photos of me.”

“Bro,” Kirishima says, still trembling with little mad cackles as he sets about probably typing a caption for the latest cryptid-Shoto photo being added to his Instagram collection. “I mean this from, like, the manliest part of my heart – there are no unattractive photos of you.”

Shoto wishes that statement has less perfect timing, but as it is, he snorts noodles and broth up his nose as he tries to bark out a startled laugh.

“Oh my god,” Kirishima whisper-screams, while Shoto slams a hand over his mouth and chokes, on noodles and laughter both. “Oh my god, this is golden, I’m gonna take another picture, hold on.”

Get fucked, Shoto wants to tell him, but there’s broth coming out his nose and noodles stuck in his throat, so he settles on trying to survive while Kirishima cranes his phone around to take a selfie with him in what’s possibly his last living moments on Earth.

“Oh man,” Kirishima says, after he’s taken the photo and Shoto has somehow survived. He holds out napkins, almost absently, leaning over the table to pat Shoto’s shoulder as he finally frees his breathing passages of noodles-and-broth, and Shoto considers, just for a brief moment, freezing him in that awkward position. “Shit, that was good. Are you okay, dude?”

“Your addiction to social media will be my death,” Shoto tells him, voice a little scratchy from the Near Death Experience he’s just had. And then, after a beat, he adds, “you’re paying for this now.”

Kirishima laughs, which sends more rubbles and building dust every which way, including in their bowls, but Shoto figures he can’t talk much, with broth having come out his nose, so he lets it be. Kirishima cranes his arm to ruffle at the beanie crammed over Shoto’s hair, snickering when he sends it crooked and Shoto has to reach up to pull it back down.

“Sure,” Kirishima agrees, not bothering to clarify on which part of that statement he’s backing. Shoto kicks him once more, just for good measure, and Kirishima snorts, kicking back like a juvenile as he bends over his phone to return to his caption writing.

All in all, it’s a good, standard sort of lunch for the famous pro heroes Red Riot and Thermo.

Or it is, right until Kirishima posts that picture, but neither of them know that yet.

 

-

 

(Social media and Shoto don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand, despite the fact that he’s a trending topic almost every time he’s recognized in public. It’s not like Shoto has anything against media platforms themselves, but Shoto never learned how to interact with the world online as a child – it was forbidden, as were most things normal children got to do – and at this point in his career and life he isn’t that interested in learning the convoluted ins and outs that seem to come with being online.

His friends and classmates had tried during their time at U.A. to get him interested, but past making a Twitter once he became a pro it had never really stuck. Nowadays anytime his friends ask, he gives them his best deadpan response of, “well, someone here has to follow in Aizawa’s footsteps,” but in truth, he’s just kind of lazy.

If he had known Kirishima’s latest photo of him would have the power to set off a chain of events that would change his stance on social media’s usefulness, Shoto probably would have snatched the other hero’s phone away and dropped it in his noodle bowl.

But alas-

He had not.)

 

-

 

The first time Shoto wakes the day following his lunch with Kirishima, his right arm is numb up to his shoulder from the weight of someone else’s body, there’s sunlight desperately trying to sneak in around the cracks of their blackout curtains, and his phone is buzzing obnoxiously on the bedside table to his left.

Muscle memory has him picking up the phone before he can really register what the sound is, his sleep laden brain still too sluggish to truly panic that there might be an emergency. The screen is too bright in the dimness of their bedroom and at his side the person-shaped weight, which turns out to be Izuku, makes a noise of sleepy distress, rolling further into Shoto’s side so he can bury his face in Shoto’s neck to block out the light.

Even if they didn’t see each other so infrequently thanks to their work schedules, Shoto thinks the feeling of Izuku’s lips on his throat would still be enough of a distraction to warrant dropping his phone on his face.

Someone had better be dying, he thinks groggily as he picks the device back up and finally succeeds in unlocking it.

His notifications display three text messages, one from the pro hero leading the agency he’s working for and two from Kirishima.

The one from his boss just says heard Deku got back into town last night, so if I see you in the office today, you’re fired.

It’s probably the most roundabout way to say have a fun day off with your workaholic boyfriend that anyone could manage, but it’s also pretty par for the course with his boss, so Shoto doesn’t even bother replying. His absence this morning will be reply enough.

Kirishima’s messages, however, are less direct and more baffling.

From: the manliest backup man of honor
twitter thinks we’d make a cute couple :eye emoji: :eye emoji: :eye emoji: lmao

From: the manliest backup man of honor
also ps i know this looks like its my fault but you’re just as much to blame as i am!!!!!!

Shoto can’t even remember the last time he went on Twitter, so nothing about either of these text messages make any sense.

In the end, he manages a response of why that is only spelled correctly thanks to auto-correct, though he does have to try and type it in twice. After he sends the message, he lets his head drop back to his pillow, even though he knows Kirishima is probably going to reply in just a second. He only realizes that it’s past the point in which his alarm should have gone off when Izuku shifts against him in his sleep, reacting to the way Shoto himself is moving his arm.

Izuku must have turned it off, he decides groggily, as his phone buzzes like mad in his lax grip. Genjo must’ve texted him too.

He swipes lazily at the screen, presses his thumb against the sensor, and then lifts it to read the message as it pops up.

From: the manliest backup man of honor
dude, we have some pretty amazing chemistry and twitter OBVIOUSLY knows that. it’s not my fault you were making doe-eyes over me at the third most romantic noodle shop in the city :smug sideye emoji:

“I am too fucking tired for this,” Shoto whispers to his phone, as if it can convey that to Kirishima without him having to do anything. It won’t though, not unless he speaks up and hits the speech-to-text function, so in the end he types up the best response he can with one hand before letting the phone drop from his grip and off the edge of the bed.

To: the manliest backup man of honor
my boyfriend can and will kick your ass

He’s asleep against before Kirishima’s next text even comes in, his body turning to curl around Izuku’s with rarely-used muscle memory and some kind of sappy instinct he hadn’t thought himself possible of having, once upon a time.

(On the floor, the replies pop up on his lock screen, the vibrations muffled by the discarded sweater it’s landed on.

From: the manliest backup man of honor
honestly even saying that as a joke felt wrong af. you and Midoriya are like the definition of True Love and we all know nothing could ever come between that. pls remember that when you eventually do look at twitter and also pls convey to your bf my deepest regards for his beautiful manly form, which could, admittedly, probably kick my ass in a fight for ur honor

From: the manliest backup man of honor
also tell him that i still want a redo on our last arm wrestling match and if he uses his fucking quirk im gonna show up to ur far-in-the-future wedding in the most obnoxiously colored suit humanly possible :wink kiss emoji: thnx love u bro

If Kirishima minds not getting a reply to either of these messages, Shoto will never know. He’s already drifted off back to sleep, safe and content in the arms of the one he loves.)

 

-

 

The second time Shoto wakes he has feeling back in his right arm, the smell of coffee warm in his nose, and a hand stoking carefully through the tangles in his hair.

Grlg,” he groans, turning so that he can bury his face in Izuku’s lap. Above him his boyfriend of six years laughs, his weight in their bed shifting around as he leans toward the bedside table, taking extra care not to shift Shoto around too much. The clunk of his coffee mug being set down is practically silent and Shoto almost wishes his eyes were open so that he could watch the muscles of Izuku’s forearms as he exerts that kind of control.

“Hello to you too, handsome,” Izuku teases, soft and warm somewhere in the vague direction of up. Shoto feels Izuku bend at the waist and then a kiss is dropped to his temple, sweet and affectionate and easy. “You fell asleep with your hair wet again, didn’t you?”

“Shut up,” Shoto croaks, reaching up with a hand that feels like it weighs too much to rub at his eyes. He blinks them open after nearly knocking himself in the nose and is rewarded for his herculean efforts by the sight of his love looming above him, hair curling and damp from a shower, eyes shadowed with an exhaustion Shoto can’t take from him while his smile is warm and soft and fond. He feels himself go limp at the blinding way Izuku is looking at him, which only serves to make Izuku laugh that sweet, huffed little laugh Shoto always craves when the other isn’t there.

“You’re the handsome one,” Shoto yawns, rolling onto his side to bury his face in Izuku’s stomach when the man above him only laughs. It puts all his weight onto Izuku’s legs, which isn’t exactly comfortable for him and almost certainly isn’t comfortable for his boyfriend, but Izuku’s hand creeps back into his hair regardless of that fact, fingers combing carefully through strands he keeps meaning to get cut until it’s in some semblance of order.

“Whatever you say, mister voted-most-handsome-in-the-class-three-years-running,” Izuku snorts. Shoto groans into Izuku’s shirt, squirming to try and convey you promised not to ever mention that without having to find the words, and as silence falls between them once more, Izuku twists to pick up his coffee mug, resuming his at-home morning routine without a hitch.

Eventually, though, the smell of Izuku’s coffee and the emptiness in his stomach is too much to ignore. Shoto groans again, this time to rid himself with the last of his sleepiness, and starts to hoist himself up.

Izuku, meanwhile, makes no move to help him, just carefully keeps his hand in Shoto’s hair as he moves, until he’s upright, and then he uses the hand he has cradling the back of Shoto’s head to tug in him, the corner of his mouth curling in a heart-stopping handsome little grin as Shoto sways in without complaint.

Their kiss is familiar, for all that it’s been almost two months since Shoto’s been able to touch his boyfriend – familiar and soft, warm and sweet. Izuku tugs him in and Shoto goes willing, curling up and into Izuku’s frame so that he can wind his arms around Izuku’s shoulders to press their bodies together.

Shoto opens his mouth, pressing closer, practically crawling in Izuku’s lap as he deepens their easy, lazy kiss, and he’s so deeply, desperately in love, so relieved to have Izuku close again, that he only registers the thunk of the coffee mug getting dropped carelessly on the bedside table when Izuku slides his suddenly free hand under Shoto’s shirt, pressing the flat of his palm along Shoto’s spine to drag him even closer.

God,” Shoto groans, when they’re forced to part for air. Izuku is gorgeous and rumpled, cheeks flushed and eyes dark and alluring as he lounges back against their headboard from the space in between Shoto’s legs. “God, Izuku, I missed you so much.”

Izuku’s face softens, the hand in Shoto’s hair pulling him forward until their foreheads can gently touch. “I missed you too,” he confesses, a tremor on the edge of his words as his eyes go soft and sad, so green Shoto can’t remember in that moment if any other colors actually exist. “I missed you so much, Shoto, I- I’m sorry I was gone so long.”

“You’re back now,” Shoto whispers, curling his fingers into Izuku’s t-shirt, as if that will convince them both that it’s enough that Izuku is here now, when yesterday he wasn’t and the next day he might not be. It is, it is enough, because they both love their work too much to give it up, but in split-seconds like these that feeling almost wavers. “You came back to me, Izuku. That’s all I ask.”

Izuku sucks in a breath, hitched and forceful, and when he blinks it’s quick and determined, as if he’s struggling not to cry.

“Yeah,” the love of his life croaks, drawing Shoto even closer in his lap, until they’re flush together, Shoto’s thighs spread wide around Izuku’s hips. “I’m home, Shoto.”

Shoto smiles, feeling the way tears start to sting in the corners of his eyes, and he has to clear his throat to speak.

“Welcome home, Izuku,” he rasps back.

Izuku’s smile is blinding, bright and seared into Shoto’s memory, for all that he only glimpses it for a moment before Izuku is drawing him back down into a kiss, one that quickly fills with heat like a furnace as they press closer and closer to one another, as if melding into one person instead of two can change the time they’ve spent apart.

 

-

 

Later, after Shoto’s need for caffeine and their mutual need for breakfast drags them from their bed, Shoto finds himself perched on the kitchen counter with his phone in hand while Izuku mans the stove.

Kirishima’s text messages, now four in total, make no more sense now that Shoto’s awake, but Izuku’s snorting laugh when Shoto mentions them is a sort of clue that, combined with Kirishima’s vagueness, can only spell trouble.

“You’re not going to like it,” Izuku promises him with an impish grin that makes Shoto want to kiss him (again). Shoto makes a face at that statement, dread coiling in his stomach as he glances down at the phone.

“How much am I not going to like it,” Shoto asks warily. Izuku only laughs, which is a sound Shoto loves, but in this moment could almost do without.

“You and Kirishima are trending on Twitter right now,” Izuku tells him, rolling his eyes when Shoto immediately groans as loudly and theatrically as he can. “People think you’d be cute together.”

Shoto feels his face scrunch up in disgust, like he’s a child faced with a bitter vegetable, and he can’t help the way he sputters a little bit when he says, “together?!”

Izuku laughs, which might have been an insulting reaction from his boyfriend if he couldn’t still feel the slight sting of the hickeys Izuku had left around his collarbone just that morning. Shoto still must look appalled by his reaction, because Izuku abandons his position supervising their cooking bacon to crowd between his legs, one arm sliding behind Shoto’s back as he presses a kiss to Shoto’s cheek.

“I said Twitter thought so,” Izuku teases him, leaning back so that Shoto can drop his coffee mug on the counter next to him. “Not me.”

(The heat in Izuku’s gaze, the weighted drag of his palm as it curls around Shoto’s waist – all of it tells Shoto that as much as Izuku’s laughing right now, he’s not as unaffected and carefree about this turn of events as he’d like to be.

Shoto probably shouldn’t feel a rush of heat in his veins at that realization, but, in his defense, Izuku’s always been able to bring the fire up beneath his skin like no other.)

“Social media was a mistake,” Shoto tells Izuku balefully as he winds his arms around Izuku’s shoulders and tries to pull him into a kiss. Izuku laughs even as his eyes smolder heat and light a fire under Shoto’s skin, ruining Shoto’s attempt at being smooth, but Shoto finds himself grinning anyway, laughing against Izuku’s mouth as Izuku presses forward until they’re just leaning together, snickering against each other’s lips.

“You said the same thing about making friends, back in second year,” Izuku reminds him when he draws back, pausing only for a soft kiss that ends with Izuku’s teeth dragging against Shoto’s bottom lip, leaving him breathless as Izuku twists to pay attention to their stovetop once more. “Remember? The second Kirishima got you detention for a prank on Sero it was all making friends was a mistake, wasn’t it?

“I should have stuck with that,” Shoto says, as mock-serious as he can be with so much warmth flooding through his limbs. He nods, to really cement the serious image he’s going for, which makes Izuku laugh, loudly and freely, doubling over the stove only to yelp and flinch back when the grease in the frying pan pops and gets him.

“Making friends wasn’t a mistake,” Izuku snorts, rubbing at his wrist as he leans away from the stovetop to give Shoto a dry look. “Don’t lie to me, babe, I know you.”

“I hope you do,” Shoto deadpans back, biting the corner of his mouth against a grin. Izuku laughs again, the sound bell-light and charming, ringing and heavenly, and even the obnoxious snort at the end is music to Shoto’s ears. He feels his efforts to keep from smiling crumble, until he’s beaming, the sight probably dopey and obviously head over heels in love, but he can’t help it, can’t change his expression at all, not even when Izuku scoops up the frying pan from the stove eye and turns to face him.

He just sits there, caught red-handed, caught with his heart as visible on his face as his scar – caught sitting on the counter, coffee completely forgotten at his side, while he gazes at the love of his life like a lovesick fool.

(But it doesn’t matter, because Izuku gives him a look in return, wide eyed with adoration, soft and open and wonderstruck in the same exact way Shoto imagines he himself looks.

Izuku loves me, Shoto thinks, taking in the way his boyfriend’s lips part, just a little, as the frying pan in his grip dips like he’s forgotten it exists. Izuku loves me and I love him.

The rest of the world pales in comparison to that thought, that knowledge, that realization that settles anew as a weight on Shoto’s shoulder. Nothing else matters, in this moment. Nothing but Izuku, and him, and them.)

“If I wasn’t holding this frying pan right now,” Izuku tells him, voice trembling a little bit with something between affection and want, “I’d kiss you.”

“So put down the damn frying pan,” Shoto murmurs back, his voice coming out thick and throaty, sharp with a challenge but soft with love.

Izuku gives him a look, the same flinty eyed thing of pure determination sprinkled with heat that made Shoto first fall in love with him, and then, very pointedly, drops the frying pan back on the stove.

 

-

 

Their bacon burns.

“Don’t say a word,” Izuku tells him as he drops the plate in Shoto’s place at their small rarely used dining table. His thick mess of curls are still sticking up wildly in every direction, a byproduct of Shoto getting his hands in it that Shoto isn’t even a little sorry about. Shoto gives his boyfriend his best look of innocence, widening his eyes slightly to make the expression really stick, and Izuku gives him a flat, dry look in return.

He means to say something light, something teasing – he means to say something that would keep their banter going, but what comes out of his mouth is a raw, too honest remark instead.

“I’d eat burnt bacon every morning if it meant I had you here.”

Izuku freezes, just for a heartbeat, an expression flickering over his face too quickly for Shoto to pin down. Shoto looks away, feeling his shoulders hunch even as he fights to keep them loose and easy, to keep his distress off his face, but it’s impossible to fool Izuku, even for a second.

“Hey,” Izuku says. Shoto feels Izuku’s fingers curl in his shirt, feels the tug of the fabric as his boyfriend tries to turn him back. “Shoto,” Izuku murmurs, soft and achingly sad, and Shoto hates himself for a moment, before he sucks in a breath and lets it go.

Shoto lets Izuku tug him around, lets his boyfriend crowd him up against the counter, breakfast forgotten once again on their tiny kitchen table, and sighs as Izuku reaches up to cradle his face.

“No matter where I am,” Izuku whispers, swiping his thumb along Shoto’s jaw. “No matter how far I go, Shoto, my heart’s always here, with you. You know that, don’t you?”

Shoto sighs again, letting his hands curl into fists at his sides so that he doesn’t curl them into Izuku’s shirt and refuse to ever let him go. “I know,” he whispers back, because it’s the truth – he does know that Izuku loves him and he does know that no matter how far away or how long his boyfriend is gone, Izuku will, in the end, return to him once more.

(But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck, all the travel, all the bouncing around filling the holes All Might’s absence left in their society, outward and inward. No one’s asked Izuku to do this, but Izuku can’t stop, can’t slow down, can’t stay in one place when there might be someplace else in the world that needs him – it’s who he is, it’s what he’s always wanted to do.

It’s nothing something that Shoto would change or take from him, just as he’s sure that Izuku would never change or take Shoto’s need to be a hero in his own right either. They’ve talked the topic to death, they’ve laid out their options, but as much as Shoto misses Izuku like a phantom limb, he knows from experience that trying to follow Izuku and help would only drive them both crazy eventually. Shoto does his best here, in the city, only occasionally traveling when his help is requested elsewhere, with a routine and a safe place to come back to, a safe place for them both to call home.

So it’s a little hard to balance, so it’s a little bit of a fight to make work –  so what?

They’ve never backed down from a fight before, so why would this be any different?)

Shoto leans in to kiss Izuku, chaste but sweet, trying to ease his boyfriend’s worries, and then draws back, shuffling past him to fetch their silverware. He can feel Izuku’s eyes on him the entire time, but they know each other well enough by now that Izuku probably knows he doesn’t want to talk the topic to death again, doesn’t want to think about how much longer they have before Izuku leaves when he could live in the moment now and feel that ache after he’s left.

(It helps, probably, that Shoto can tell that Izuku doesn’t seem to want to talk about it any more than Shoto does.)

“So,” Izuku says, watching as Shoto scoops up some forks for them to use and then opens the fridge, looking for orange juice, since Izuku’s already finished his coffee. “What are you going to do about Twitter?”

Shoto shoots Izuku a look, one that he hopes conveys this was the topic change you went with?, before rolling his eyes and kicking the fridge shut. “I’m never hanging out with Kirishima again,” he declares, which isn’t going to work at all, realistically, but it’s what he said every time Kirishima and Kaminari got him in trouble in high school and so he sticks with it now.

“Sounds unlikely,” Izuku tells him, grinning softly as he fishes out a glass from the cupboard. “Especially since I’m pretty sure last time you guys got drunk you promised him he could be the backup man of honor whenever you got married.”

The face Shoto makes at that admittedly fuzzy memory is enough to makes Izuku laugh, the sound of which only grows when Shoto deposits their silverware and orange juice on the table and then crosses his arms over his chest.

“In my defense,” Shoto says, having to raise his voice a little over the sound of Izuku’s ever increasing laughter, “in my defense, it was Jiro and Momo’s engagement party and somebody kept handing me their drinks because despite accepting them from a waiter, they didn’t actually want to drink them.

Izuku, who had passed him along at least nine glasses of champagne that night, minimum, starts to laugh so hard he’s wheezing. “Kirishima cried,” he recalls in between ragged breaths, not at all acknowledging that Shoto’s accusation. “He was so happy he cried, Shoto.”

“I do unfortunately remember that,” Shoto drawls. He doesn’t add that he mostly remembers it because when Kirishima had started to cry, so did he, but the fond look Izuku gives him tells him that Izuku hasn’t forgotten that part either. “I’ll get a new backup man of honor for my potential future wedding.”

Izuku’s cheeks go pink, he’s snickering so hard, and he shakes his head fondly as he staggers over to curl against Shoto’s chest. “If it bothers you so much,” he says, as reasonably as he can between snickering snorts, “you could just make a post online about it.”

Shoto wrinkles his nose, feeling his cheeks heat when Izuku responds to that by leaning up to kiss the tip of it gently. “That’s a terrible idea,” he tells his boyfriend, who leans away to amble over to his seat at the table and plop down in front of his breakfast, which is not only burnt beyond recognition but now also probably cold. They’re really terrible at this home-together stuff, Shoto thinks for a second, but it’s not like they have very consistent practice, so he gives them a pass.

“Why is it a terrible idea,” Izuku asks, taking a bite of his charred bacon. Izuku’s poker face has gotten better over the years, because he manages to take a bite without having his expression reflect any of the disgust he must be feeling, which only serves to make Shoto’s lips twitch as he drops down into his own chair at the table.

“It could reflect badly on you,” Shoto reminds Izuku dryly. He glances down at his breakfast, scrambled eggs and burnt-to-a-crisp bacon, and is relieved to find that at some point when he wasn’t looking, Izuku had gotten him a new cup of coffee to replace the one they’d spilled while kissing like teenagers against the kitchen counter.

Izuku snorts at him, rolling his eyes as he slouches down to tangle their legs together under the kitchen table. “If anyone I’m saving has a problem with who I’m dating,” Izuku tells him dryly, gesturing with his fork in the air between them, “then maybe they don’t deserve to be saved.”

Warmth floods Shoto’s chest, weighty and forceful enough that it chases away everything else. He swallows back against the feeling, swallows back against the way he wants to blurt out I love you so fucking much, and picks up his fork as well instead.

“I’m going to tell All Might you said that,” Shoto deadpans, scooping up a forkful of eggs and finding that they’re not as cold as he feared. Under the table Izuku kicks gently at his ankle, scowling at him playfully as he hisses don’t be a snitch, babe!

(And that should be that, Shoto thinks. Case closed, moment forgotten, they’ve talked about it and moved on – all that jazz.

Oh, if only it were that simple.)

 

-

 

Two days later, after Izuku’s left again and Shoto has settled back into his routine with his agency, Shoto only manages to get into his official pro hero Twitter account after redownloading the app to his phone because he has approximately three passwords for anything and all of them are relatively easy to remember.

He shouldn’t even be bothering with this, he thinks, because it should be old news by now – nothing, Shoto thinks, can be trending for more than a few hours, especially just another blurry, silly picture Kirishima’s posted of him making a fool of himself.

And Shoto is right, thank god. #REDTHERMOISREAL isn’t trending any more.

However, in its place, there’s #redthermolives and #heroeverafter, the second of which, if Shoto remembers correctly, is the hashtag that their friends were talking about going viral when Jiro and Momo announced their engagement.

“Why are you like this,” Shoto asks the phone quietly, and he doesn’t know if he’s talking to the internet as a whole or himself, because he finds his thumb hovering over it for a second, tempted to click on it just to see-

(Maybe, if there was someone out there robbing a bank, or a villain monologuing in the street, maybe then Shoto wouldn’t have been stuck at the office, a pile of paperwork to do and no will to do it with. Maybe then, he wouldn’t have clicked on that link, wouldn’t have opened that Pandora’s box and let out all the evil in the world anew.

But as it was, it’s just a quiet Wednesday, the other heroes in the area have taken all the patrols, and Shoto, in all honestly, is a little, tiny, itsy-bitsy bit curious.)

Curiosity, Aizawa had once said in their second year, is a stupid instinct. It will get you killed.

It had been a lecture that had been inflicted on the entire class at two in the morning, brought into being on the front lawn of their dorm after Kirishima and Kaminari had tried to execute a coordinated joint move powered by their Quirks that, if it had worked correctly, probably would have perfectly replicated the move from the video game they’d all been playing inside.

Shoto finds himself thinking of that lecture now as his phone loads the new trending hashtag’s page and, in the end, he can’t help but agree with Aizawa’s statement. His curiosity is going to be the death of him, or at the very least, the death of his piece of mind.

There are hundreds upon hundreds of posts in this tag. Shoto stares at the number, uncomprehending in a way he rarely is, and then starts scrolling.

An hour down the drain later and Shoto can only conclude that Kirishima is and always will be entirely to blame for this mess, but that, at least, he had known from the start. What he hadn’t know was that in their seven years of friendship, Kirishima has taken over six hundred pictures of him and posted them online.

The latest one, the one that was apparently the straw that broke this particularly insane camel’s back, is the one in the noodle place.

Shoto clicks on the image and then squints at it for the hundredth time that hour, but he still can’t quite see what everyone else online apparently sees when they look at this image. He just sees himself, flushed from the heat of the shop, covering his mouth as noodle juice fights its way out of his nose, eyes closed as his red and white hair just barely curls out from under the edge of his incognito Hero Deku brand beanie. In the corner of the image the top half of Kirishima’s face peers into the lens, eyes crinkles with laughter, his red hair dusted with building dust as the hood of his failing-to-be-incognito hoodie slides down the back of his head.

It's not a remarkable photo, or even a new one in terms of framing or composition. Kirishima has hundreds of photos of Shoto making a fool of himself in restaurants and in front of food stalls, dozens upon dozens of them taken mid-bite or halfway through taking a drink. Some of them even date all the way back of their days as second years, when Kirishima’s Instagram as bringingtheriot had gone viral for the video he’d taken when his arm had been broken and he’d had to sit out a training session, leaving him with the perfect chance to capture the way Izuku and Shoto had gone all out against the entire class (and won), just for fun.

The only thing different that Shoto can see in this image is the caption, and even then he doesn’t think it takes a genius to figure out that feeling hashtag blessed that such a handsome hero deems me worth of his time :wink kiss emoji: xoxo luv u man had been meant as a joke.

Or, well, not really a joke, but that’s just how Kirishima talks. Anyone could figure that out with a little bit of googling and a few seconds spent watching any of his interviews.

Shoto,” his boss yells, jarring him out of his depths-of-Twitter bafflement. “Is there any coffee left in the pot?!

Lazy old fool, Shoto thinks, but fondly. The pro hero leading the agency he joined upon graduation was from an older generation, the one All Might probably would have been counted in if anyone really knew his age, and in the oddest and most explicable of ways, he reminds Shoto of his old teacher as well.

Or, he reminds him of a combination of All Might and Aizawa, like the few classes the two had taught together had come to make a man, one that was brash but cautious, quick to care and even quicker to pretend he didn’t.

Genjo was, however, genuinely a bit lazy, especially when it came to wandering through their office building to the coffee pot in the breakroom, a journey that took less than a minute and was still, somehow, too far for him to fathom.

(But Shoto was grateful to him, more than he could say. He’d had a lot of offers, after graduation, from a lot of different pro agencies, all who wanted to use his name, his history, and his skill for big, big, big things.

Genjo, as he’d told Shoto to call him, had only wanted another hand on deck, one who knew his head from his ass, as the man himself had put it, and wouldn’t wind up dead or a villain within a month. The old pro had only shrugged his shoulders when Shoto had mentioned the media attention his presence might bring, muttering something along the lines of fucking busybodies, the lot of them as he waved his hand through the air dismissively.

“We’re here to help people, kid,” Genjo had said, narrowing his eyes at Shoto as if weighing his heart against a feather to see if he was worth the trouble. “I don’t give a fuck about everything else. I thought that might be something you were interested in, but if I’m wrong, you can tell me to get fucked.”

Shoto still doesn’t know how, exactly, Genjo had figured that out about him or if someone had contacted the old pro for him in his stead, but he’s enjoyed his employment with him so far, so he doesn’t regret taking the man up on his offer at all.)

Cupping his hands around his mouth to be heard, Shoto yells back, “if there is, I’ll bring you some!”

“And this is why Shoto’s my favorite,” he hears Genjo tell Seiten, his partner, as Shoto struggles out of his chair. Shoto snorts quietly to himself as he gets up, making sure to swipe his own coffee mug from his desk as he goes.

The kitchen of their little break room is quiet and empty, everyone else in the office either off of work for the day or out on patrols, and a quick glance at the coffee pot shows there’s only dregs left. It’s quick, familiar work to rinse the pot out, refilling it and adding a new filter and grounds before he hits the start button, and then there’s nothing left to do but wait.

He’s leaning against the counter next to the coffee pot, waiting for it to brew, when an idea strikes him out of the blue.

(It’s a terrible, no good, and reasonably embarrassing idea, if Shoto is going to be honest with him. One he probably shouldn’t follow through with in the slightest.

But Izuku had suggested it, hadn’t he?

And if Izuku had suggested it, how bad could it turn out?)

 

-

 

The photo is simple, if awkwardly staged. It’s just Shoto, back at his desk, coffee mug held up to his lips as he looks directly into the camera. His hair is still just a bit too long and his eyes are half-lidded in an expression that comes out a lot like disinterest, because bored is still his default expression when he feels awkward and unsure.

He doesn’t know why he feels the need to make an entire Instagram account, just for this photo, but it has to be a moment of true madness, because he does it anyway. It’s more complicated than he was expecting, but eventually he settles on the same handle as his Twitter, theherothermo, and then, because he can, he sends in an email to their agency HR department to see how to get his account verified.

The longest thing about the whole process is the caption, which Shoto spends so much time debating his coffee actually goes cold.

Eventually he settles on gotta stay caffeinated, just in case and then reluctantly adds #heroesneversleep and #butcrimeapparentlynaps, because it seems like the kind of thing Kirishima or Jiro would write.

He also tacks on #myherodeku, which was the whole reason behind the photo, staged and awkward as it is.

The mug that takes up most of the picture if a Hero Deku brand mug, designed like Izuku’s costume, forest green and gunmetal grey. It’s front and center, obvious and recognizable, especially considering Izuku is currently the eighth ranked hero in the nation, a miracle considering they’ve only been out of high school for four years.

There, Shoto thinks, after he hits the button to post it. That should clear things up.

(And, as if the universe has only allowed him enough grace to land the perfect boyfriend and survive the hell-mess that had been high school, it turns out that Shoto was wrong.

His forty-five minute effort to take a photo and caption an image does not make things more clear.

It only makes them worse. And that’s before Shoto finds himself hooked.)

 

-

 

Two hours after he posts the picture, after someone finally attempts the robbery that Shoto could have benefited from happening three hours ago, Shoto’s phone is losing its damn mind.

He checks it after he’s handed the would-be robber off to the police, who still, to this day, eye him with something between awe and exasperation, depending on whether or not that particular officer had been there for any part of his high school career, and he’s very, very, very alarmed to see that his screen and notification bar are, to put it simply, fucking crowded.

The text messages alone account for at least twenty notifications, but Twitter – which he managed to connect to his Instagram after having to Google instructions on how that worked – has given him so many notifications that they’ve stopped counting them at all.

Instagram is a whole other mess, one Shoto doesn’t even want to think about clicking on.

Shoto focuses on the text messages first, though only because he and Izuku have a routine in place and he’s not going to break it just because he’s scared of the repercussions of his earlier stupid idea.

To: my hero :green heart emoji: :thumbs up emoji:
robbery stopped, bad guy caught, and no injuries to speak of. I love you.

Once that’s out of the way, Shoto hovers over their text history for a moment, tempted to scroll up and relive the few messages they’ve shared in the past two days, but he resists. Instead, he takes in a deep, even breath, and then hits the back button, trying to take stock of all the people who have texted him in the past two hours.

Almost all of their friends have messaged him, Genjo has texted him twice, some of the pro heroes they know have sent him texts, and Fuyumi and Natsuo have sent him identical text messages that just read if you’re having a crisis, please call me.

For a brief moment, Shoto considers sending out a mass text message to everyone he knows that just reads you all gave me shit for not having an Instagram and now you’re giving me shit for HAVING AN INSTAGRAM, but he resists. Instead he opens every single message and then, because he’s a mature adult, he leaves them all on read.

There, he thinks, tucking his phone back in his pocket. It’s like it never happened.

 

-

 

It is not, in fact, like it never happened.

“Fuyumi, for the third fucking time, I am not having a mid-life crisis at the age of twenty-two,” Shoto snarls quietly. It’s a harsher tone than he means to take with his sister, who’s been calling him since he left her text message on read five hours ago, but he’s tired, and hungry, and really, really, really regrets making an Instagram account, so he thinks he’s allowed to be a little peevish.

“Are you sure,” Fuyumi asks stubbornly, for what’s probably the seventh time since he gave in and picked up the phone. “Because- no offense, Shoto, but-“

“If you finish that sentence,” he tells her, as calmly as he can, “I’m going to hang up on you and then block your number.”

“I’m trying to help,” she snaps, now sounding a little waspish with him, which is, admittedly, a pretty fair thing, especially since Shoto answered the phone with don’t say a fucking word about my Instagram account instead of his usual hello Fuyumi.

“I know you’re trying to help,” Shoto admits haltingly. He stares balefully at the stairs of their apartment complex for a moment as he holds the phone to his ear before deciding that today is an elevator day instead, turning on his heel and ambling over to hit the button to go up. “I know that, I do, I just- I didn’t think it’d be that big of a deal.”

Fuyumi lets that statement sit in silence for a moment, which is as good of a response as any to Shoto’s ears. He grits his teeth and leans against the wall as he waits for the elevator, closing his eyes as he tries to arrange his thoughts into something less defensive.

“I was- upset,” Shoto admits finally, after Fuyumi lets him sit in silence for however-long it takes for the elevator to arrive. “I was upset about- something that was trending on Twitter. And I thought- I thought it would be- fixed if I- if I posted something on Instagram. As a way to clear things up.”

Fuyumi sucks in a breath that’s audible over the phone and then blows it out again in something like an exasperated breath.

“Please tell me you didn’t make an Instagram account to combat the idea that you and Red Riot are dating,” she says, in a tone that isn’t pleading, but only just barely.

Before Shoto can reply, the elevator dings, stopping on his and Izuku’s floor, and the doors open.

Dude,” Natsuo says, from the place where he’s sprawled in front of their front door. He has, for some reason Shoto doesn’t want to think about too much, a Congratulations! balloon in one hand and a small plush toy of Hero Deku in the other.

“Do you normally get home this late,” his brother asks, while he stands in baffled silence as the elevator dings at him for not having stepped off yet. On the other end of the phone Fuyumi is saying something, her tone sharp and concerned at his lack of answer, but Shoto can only stare in horrified silence at the toy and balloon.

“Why are we like this,” he asks, not sure if he’s directing the question to Fuyumi or Natsuo anymore. Natsuo, for his part, just kind of shrugs, giving him a wide grin like that will keep Shoto from seeing the concern in his eyes.

Fuyumi just says, “well, the childhood trauma probably has something to do with it,” in the driest tone humanly possible.

Shoto snorts out a laugh, finally managing to step off the elevator before it closes and takes him away somewhere else. “Why the balloon,” he asks Natsuo, who hasn’t bothered to try and get up from the apartment hallway floor at all in the time it’s taken Shoto to climb out of the elevator.

Natsuo just shrugs, tipping his head back to peer up at the balloon like he’d forgotten he was holding it.

“I thought it’d be fun,” Natsuo says, frank and honest.

Shoto eyes his brother for a moment as he listens to the way he can just barely hear Fuyumi breathing on the other end of the phone. Childhood trauma or not, fractured however they might have been growing up, his siblings care about him, enough to put their days on hold and harass him endlessly to make sure he’s okay. It’s humbling and annoying in pretty equal measures, but that, Shoto has been learning over the past few years, is how a family often works.

“I like it,” Shoto tells Natsuo, finding that he means the statement more than he thought he would. And then into the phone he adds, “Natsuo bought me a Congratulations! balloon, so my Instagram account couldn’t have been that bad of an idea.”

Fuyumi makes a noise, something low and strangled that might have been either laughter or a swear, and then sighs loudly and theatrically into the phone.

“Don’t do anything else stupid,” she tells him flatly. “I’ll be there in thirty minutes with some take-out.”

 

-

 

Later, once Fuyumi and Natsuo have finally left, after scolding and laughing at him in equal measure for his dumb, oddly spiteful decision to make an Instagram account, Shoto feels his phone buzz on the couch next to him with a text measure from Izuku.

From: my hero :green heart emoji: :thumbs up emoji:
I am glad you’re safe babe!! and I’m proud of you for the robbery!!!

From: my hero :green heart emoji: :thumbs up emoji:
but also I have a question and you’ve probably heard this a lot today, but are you okay?

(Shoto wonders, briefly, how this conversation would have gone if Izuku were here.

He probably would have gotten home while Fuyumi and Natsuo were over, which means he would have walked into the living room and found them all clustered around their old battered coffee table, take-out containers strewn around the floor.

Shoto imagines Izuku would have said something like you had better of saved me an egg roll, to which Shoto would have replied haven’t you heard, I’m having a crisis, and that means I can eat all the egg rolls I want to.

Izuku would have laughed and ambled through the living room to kiss him hello, would have turned pink at the way Fuyumi and Natsuo would have cooed and teased them for being adorably domestic, and then, after Shoto would have presented Izuku with the egg rolls he had, in fact, saved for him, Izuku would have defended Shoto’s right to make a minorly questionable decision on social media if he wanted to.

It would have been nice, Shoto thinks, a night spent with his siblings and the love of his life, tucked inside their living room as they squabbled like the families on television shows.

It would have been really, really nice.

But the world needed Izuku today, more than Shoto did, and so Shoto lets that thought go.)

I’m okay, Shoto types out. He tacks on a heart emoji, and adds something about Natsuo giving him a Congratulations! balloon for finally joining Instagram like the rest of their generation, and that night, when he goes to sleep, he finds that Natsuo has tucked the little Hero Deku plush doll into Izuku’s side of the bed, the green ears of his mask sticking up comically against their pillows.

Shoto touches the doll gently, considers taking it out of the bed and putting it on their bookshelf instead, but in the end he can’t.

It’s not the same, not Izuku, but for now, it’ll be enough.

 

-

 

“Well, if it isn’t the future husband of the future number one hero!”

Hawks’ voice is pitched low, just for Shoto’s ears, and it announces his presence seconds before his arm swings around Shoto’s shoulders, dragging him in close until their sides knock together. Shoto had been in the area when an alert went out for nearby heroes, but Hawks had beaten him to the scene and gotten all the glory in rounding up the little gang of villains, which has almost been a relief until now.

The line of cameras twenty or thirty feet away go wild at the sight of the number one hero rubbing elbows with Shoto, who’s only ranked fifteen or sixteen at the moment, and from then on it’s just camera flashes and people shouting their names as loud as they can, trying to coax them close enough to interview.

“Please,” Shoto says, trying to control his expression even as he feels his cheeks heat up. “Please at least wait until we’re engaged to call me that.”

(Hawks had stolen the title of number one hero from Endeavor’s undeserving shoulders nearly six years ago and has seemingly been trying to get rid of it ever since, lamenting it too much hullabaloo, not enough helping people in a tone of voice that always makes Shoto think of Aizawa, not that his old teacher would probably appreciate the comparison. It had been almost amusing, hearing the gossip about the barely-twenty-three-at-the-time man who’d become number one from Tokoyami, who had still been working with him for his work study, and it had continued to be, right up until Izuku and Shoto had run into him themselves.

Hawks, much like most of the population who has ever been blessed with the chance to meet Izuku, had taken to the young Hero Deku with the enthusiasm of, well, a bird to the air.

He had taken similarly, for some ridiculous reason, to the knowledge that Shoto and Izuku were dating.

Sometimes Shoto worries that their chosen profession does odd things to peoples’ heads and ninety-five percent of that time, his worries come straight from the current number one hero himself.)

Hawks keeps grinning for the firing line of cameras in front of them, waving with the hand not curled around Shoto’s opposite shoulder in what looks vaguely like a royal wave. Shoto thinks they must look ridiculous, as he often does whenever he runs into the current number one hero, because Shoto’s had at least three inches on the man since he was fifteen, a gap that’s only gotten wider since then.

“Well,” Hawks tuts theatrically, speaking without bothering to look at Shoto, something that Shoto is all too used to with their interactions. “What’s keeping you? How am I supposed to live it up at all the youngsters’ weddings if you guys don’t get the ball rolling?”

For a second Shoto debates whether or not it’s worth it to argue the ‘youngsters’ part of that, but in the end he lets it go. Hawks likes to bemoan his age like he’s ninety and falling apart instead of twenty-eight and in perfect health, and Shoto is more than willing to let him if he wants to.

“We’re only twenty-two,” Shoto says, trying to dodge the question as best he can. “We’ll get to it at our own pace. You still have Creati and Earphone Jack’s wedding to look forward to, don’t you?”

Hawks sighs dramatically, twisting with one final ridiculous wave at the crowd to turn them both on their heels, something Shoto only lets him do because it reminds him both of Natsuo and Kirishima. The look Hawks shoots him, once they’re no longer being photographed and scrutinized like zoo animals, is serious and strangely solemn.

“It probably also helps if you’re both in the same place too, huh,” the older man says lowly, his tone casual but soft, probably in an effort to be kind.

Shoto doesn’t flinch – he has too much practice not flinching from the hurts in his life, but a spike of sadness runs through him anyway.

“We have our whole lives ahead of us,” Shoto repeats, stubbornly working to keep any inkling of loneliness or misery out of his voice. “Izuku and I are happy together, and if we progress further in our relationship, we’ll do it on our own time.”

Hawks is silent for a moment, leaning far enough back that his eyes can study Shoto’s expression, before he sighs loudly, sagging into Shoto once more as he makes a show of shaking his head and rustling his feathers.

“Man,” he laments at a volume that says he doesn’t care who hears him, “you guys make me feel so old. Oh- hey, we should take a selfie, now that you’re hip and with it!”

 

-

 

The selfie with Hawks is the second picture posted to his Instagram, despite the fact that Hawks was the one who insisted on taking it, and it’s simply captioned someone lose their bird?. Hawks thinks it’s hilarious, making sure to reach up and ruffle his hair before taking off, and by the end of the day it’s got more likes and comments than Shoto really wants to think about, ever.

Izuku laughs at him that night on the phone, claiming he should have thought of this before, especially considering how stubborn he had been before about not ever getting a real online profile, ever.

He manages to take the third picture the next morning in the early dawn hours; a pre-workout photo he takes in his Hero Deku hoodie, sleeves scrunched up until the green fabric is all bunched up against the white that’s lower down on the sleeves, fabric caught in the crook of his elbows. The fourth and fifth are with his Hero Deku mug again the day after that, one with it set against his desk in the office, the hazy outline of Genjo darting past his desk as he chases Seiten for- something, and the other with it set beside the empty coffee pot. All three have vaguely witty captions that make Shoto both proud and horrified with himself and all three have the hashtag #myherodeku as well.

He finds that it gets easier the more he posts, coming up with captions and figuring out what everyone else has been talking about over the years with angles and lighting. It’s fun, in an odd sort of way, to let it distract him for a little while, the trivial aspect of it all – no one seems to have picked up on exactly why Shoto has made an Instagram account, outside of Izuku and his siblings, but there’s an outpouring of support and admiration from Izuku’s fans in his comments every time he posts a picture with Hero Deku merch, and that’s nice enough in its own way that Shoto kind of forgets, for a while, why he spent so many years pushing back against the idea of using social media himself.

Or at least he forgets, right up until he notices how many comments like to mention how nice it is that he and Izuku are such good friends! From that point on there’s no forgetting, something that’s made doubly obvious when his friends finally manage to hunt him down and re-make his life into a living hell.

 

-

 

Shoto is out on patrol when his phone buzzes in his pocket, the three quick vibration burst signaling a priority message. He pulls it out quickly, fingers blindly dealing with the closing that keeps the device from falling during a fight thanks to years of practice, and then takes a short glance at the screen.

In the distance, there’s a noise building slowly, tugging on the edge of Shoto’s awareness. It’s like an engine, loud and unruly, like someone’s put their foot down on the gas pedal with no regard for the state of the car itself. The soft, muted sound of sirens come in a second later, drifting through the maze of city buildings to Shoto’s ears.

Shoto should feel dread at the sound in the distance, because it certainly spells villainous trouble out to a T, but with the text message he can see on the screen, all he can do is snort.

From: He’s Got MBoD (Mad Banquet of Darkness) Energy
be ready to jump, chargebolt refuses to slow the car down

(Sometimes his old classmates are a breath of fresh air.

Sometimes, however, they’re just a bunch of reckless idiots he wishes he didn’t have the pleasure of knowing.

Today could go either way, he can already tell. So this must be how Aizawa always felt, Shoto thinks, grinning quietly to himself.

But truthfully he doesn’t think he’d have it any other way.)

With a twitch of his foot, he’s got ice building beneath his boots, poised and ready as the sound of engines and sirens winds closer and closer through the streets. Casually he tucks his phone back into its pocket and fixes the close shut, nodding at the people who have collected on the sidewalk around him, staring in awe at the pro hero on duty as he readies for action.

It’s the work of a split second’s timing to get this right, a hundred little things hanging in balance as the truck full of villains careens past him. He launches himself in the air the second he can see the truck, tucking himself into a flip as it hauls down the street underneath his head, and then he’s craning his neck as he starts to fall, trying to catch a glimpse of the car he’s supposed to land on before-

“Oh, for the love of-“

Kaminari Denki has, somehow, in the middle of a high-speed car chase with villains, acquired a soft top red convertible car for this nonsense. This, at least, makes landing in the backseat an easy enough matter, though it does take a little ice and a clawed, shifting hand from Dark Shadow to keep him upright once he hits the backseat.

The speakers of the car are blaring- something, Shoto realizes, as he fixes himself firmly in the backseat with a block of ice around his calves. It’s loud, there’s a lot of guitars, and someone is yelling something vaguely coherent in what sounds like pure anguish.

“I’ve changed my mind,” Shoto says, by way of greeting. He has to duck his head when Tokoyami turns, so that he isn’t smacked in the face by the other man’s cape. “I think I’ll chase them on foot instead.”

Aw, Shoto,” Kaminari whines, twisting his head around to give Shoto his best puppy dog eyes over the edge of his ridiculous and flashy sunglasses. Ahead of them the villains’ take a turn, too fast and too rough for anyone’s good, and Shoto has a split-second to wonder if they’re all going to die in a crash before Tokoyami physically reaches over and grabs Kaminari’s jaw, forcing him to face the road again.

“C’mon,” Kaminari complains, loudly, lifting one hand to slap at Tokoyami’s hand and then gesture beseechingly for a second before he drops it alarmingly to the parking break. “I put this shit on special for you and Prince Darkness over there. It’s, like, peak emo, so you know you love it!”

There’s no warning before Kaminari guns the car into the turn and no chance for Shoto or Tokoyami to respond to that defamation of their characters. Kaminari’s turn to keep the villains in sight is terrifying and oddly almost elegant, but it does throw Shoto hip-first against the car door with enough force that he’s sure to bruise, so he lets his next response, when he can manage it, bite a little in turn.

“Knowing you is a regret I’ll take to my grave,” he complains loudly, over the sound of the peak emo music and the wind roaring in his ears. Kaminari just squawks loudly in wordless distress, even as Shoto sees the corner of his mouth hitch up in a smile.

“That grave might be quickly approaching,” Tokoyami mutters darkly, while over his shoulder Dark Shadow cackles like the mad, ridiculous bastard he is, a flickering presence in the light of day as they speed forward towards-

“Oh no,” Shoto says, instinctively adding even more ice to his legs as the car they’re following turns sharply toward the highway.

“Oh yes, baby,” Kaminari crows in delight. He puts his foot down on the accelerator in a way that Shoto can almost feel jolt through the car and the engine roars in response, the steering wheel jerking angrily in Kaminari’s hands as he wrenches it to make the merge as well. “Brace yourself, boys, I think I can see Suneater and Jiro’s car up ahead!”

How many people are in on this fucking car chase, Shoto wants to ask, but before he can, another car full of villains pulls up beside them, guns already peeking out the windows of the van.

“The grave has come,” Tokoyami intones ominously. Shoto kind of wishes he wouldn’t, but any complaints he has gets lost in the chaos as he starts icing bullets midair left and right.

 

-

 

They chase (and are chased by) the villains in their various cars all the way up the arch of the highway, to the point where the three major roadways in the area overlap, straight into what appears to be a roadblock put in place by a blockade of pro heroes, already lying in wait.

“Why did we have to be in cars for this,” Shoto shouts to no one in particular as every car in this stupid game of tag puts on their breaks at once. The squealing of tires and kickback of dirt and gravel fills the area, his head ringing faintly as he winds up nearly bent double over Kaminari’s shoulder as the momentum of their car halts suddenly and jerks him forward.

If it hadn’t been for the thick sheet of ice he’d incased his legs with earlier, he probably would have ended up in Kaminari and Tokoyami’s laps or through the windshield completely. Thank god for small favors, Shoto thinks, even as he sends a ripple of heat down his left side to break the ice, muscles tensing for what he knows will come next.

If you’d all be so kind,” Best Jeanist calls loudly at the center of it all, twisting his fingers as he begins to pull at the clothing of the villains already pilling in the street around them, “we’d like to keep the damage to a minimum please.”

Shoto has no idea who the current number two hero is talking to exactly, the heroes or the villains (or both), because in the next second it’s all chaos, all over, as people launch themselves out of their vehicles so that they can brawl out on the surface of the highway like a badly budgeted action movie fight sequence.

This is my life, Shoto tries to lament internally, but he knows without anyone else telling him that he’s grinning a little bit in the corner of his mouth as he hoists himself up onto the car door to join the fight.

Shoto,” Tokoyami snaps in warning, but Dark Shadow is already winding around him, coiled and powerful even in the blazing sun, and then he’s flying through the air, twisting as he goes to land over behind Jiro’s head to send a blast of fire at the villain nearby.

“Huh,” she huffs, a short, angry kind of breath bunching out of her as she smacks her glove-speakers together and ducks a punch thrown by a skinny, green-skinned villain with sharp pointed teeth and no ears that Shoto can see. “Didn’t know you were in on this bust, Shoto.”

“Neither did I,” Shoto mutters, sparing a moment to try and give a headcount to the nearby heroes and villains. They’re the only heroes in this immediate area, the closest being Suneater and Death Arms nearly twenty feet away, but there are at least twelve villains that Shoto can spot just with a turn of his head. Good enough odds that he’s almost not needed here, but it’s better to have too many heroes than not enough. “Kaminari decided to pick me up on the way, I guess.”

“Oh god,” Jiro answers back, her earjacks twisting through the air to poke one guy in the eye as Shoto coats the floor around them with ice. “My sincerest apologies,” she drawls. Shoto laughs, a small noise in the back of his throat that he tries to swallow back and fails, and a grin splits her face like an earthquake, sharp and fierce and delighted.

“Also,” she adds after a moment, twisting to put them back to back. “Mind giving me something to-“

Shoto pulls a thin, easily broken wall of ice all around them, already having an idea what his old classmate and friend wants. The small thanks he gets proves that his guess was correct and he spares a moment to cover his own ears, twisting to keep step with Jiro and keep their backs pressed together as she plugs her earjacks into the speakers on her legs and turns up her heartbeat to full volume.

Ice shatters into daggers, flying off into every direction. The villains who find themselves skewered scream and the ones who don’t draw back, fear and awe a cocktail mix on their faces as they realize just who they’re facing down.

And then, before Shoto can do much more than thrust out a wave of ice, catching those not quick enough to jump out of the way, a single voice cuts above the noise of the fight all around them, probably the leader of the villains, if Shoto had to take a guess.

“Come on, you bastards,” the man snarls, loud and commanding enough that Shoto feels himself jerk a little on the spot. “We can still win this yet!

The villains are scattered around the three levels of the roadway, just as the heroes are, but the way their voices arch up as they answer the battle cry is deafening and a little alarming. Even the ones Shoto incased in ice cry out, shaking their heads back and forth for a wild minute as they scream their lungs out in support of their leader, and then-

And then, all at once, every villain answering the call jolts and falls silent.

Heh,” that same deep, villainous voice snorts. Now that things have quieted down Shoto can tell that it’s being amplified by something, something that sounds tinny and oddly familiar. “Stop.”

The villains, already having fallen silent, hold in their stopped positions.

“That son of a bitch always takes all the fun outta it,” Tetsutetsu pretends to complain as he scrambles up from seemingly nowhere on the other side of the iced villains, little flakes of frost glinting off his metal skin. He’s trying to sound annoyed, Shoto knows, but he’s grinning ear to ear as he cranes back to squint against the sun above. Shoto, still trembling faintly with the adrenaline of a fight barely-started, cranes his head back as well, peering at the lithe figure perched above them on a street light. All around them their colleagues join in Tetsutetsu’s laughing complaint, jeering up at the hero Hi-Jack for his interference in their fight.

And now,” Shinsou says, still in the lead villain’s voice, grinning as he ignores the way Kaminari is loudly and laughing trying to boo him from the second-tier highway, “everybody clap your hands.”

“Really,” Jiro laughs, wrinkling her nose as all around, in the most deeply strange and oddly in sync rendition of the Cha Cha Slide Shoto has ever seen, the villains around them begin to enthusiastically clap their hands. “Really, is he kidding me right now? We planned this bust for days and he just- he’s just gonna Cha Cha Slide his way in?!”

(This is in no way the grand and elusive life of a hero that Endeavor had pictured for him when Shoto first displayed his quirk.

Shoto, however, thinks it’s definitely more than enough for him.)

From up above, Shinsou pulls off his mask to reveal his most devilish smirk. “Don’t knock the Cha Cha Slide,” he shouts down to Jiro, still perched like Aizawa on top of the street light, his definitely-not-Eraser Head-inspired costume dark against the blue of the sky. “It works every time!”

What is sure to be a rousing argument is cut short, thank god, by Best Jeanist, calling out over the heads of the still eerily clapping crowd of villains.

“Hi-Jack,” Best Jeanist says authoritatively. “If you would be so kind as to command those who can into an orderly line, we’ll take it from here.”

Shinsou gives Best Jeanist his showiest half-assed salute and then starts barking out orders, looking like the cat who got the canary even as Kaminari finds some way up to the highway where Shoto is standing so that he can heckle their friend even more loudly than before. At his side Jiro only sighs, shaking her head as she mutters boys, really under her breath.

It’s so oddly reminiscent of their training classes in second and third year that Shoto has to take a careful, casual look down at his costume to make sure he isn’t in his old gym clothes instead.

While he’s trying to figure out if he’s dreaming this whole fiasco, only to wake up and have to attend class with Aizawa once more, Jiro hooks a hand in his utility belt and gives him a sharp pay-attention-to-me tug, the kind she definitely picked up from Ashido.

“Hey,” she says, when he’s lifted his head to look at her. “You got any plans tonight?”

Shoto blinks at her blankly for a moment. “Does it look like Izuku’s in town,” his mouth says dumbly, before he can stop himself. Jiro gives him a look at that statement, one that is somehow sad and judgmental, all at once.

“Don’t lie to me, Icy-pop,” she quips back. “I know you hang out with Kirishima and your family a lot when Deku’s not in town. Are you busy tonight or what?”

“Kirishima’s dead to me,” Shoto says, mostly to be a little shit, “but no, I’m free. Why, what’s up?”

Jiro rolls her eyes theatrically at him, blowing bits of hair out of her eyes as she gives one last tug on his belt before letting him go. “Yaomomo and I are gonna take you out to dinner,” she declares, giving him a smile that’s soft around the edges, something that Shoto knows it happening only because she’s thinking about her fiancé. “She was just saying last night how she wanted to text you and grab food, since she’s back home after her consulting abroad thing.”

A trickle of warmth pulls through him at the reminder than he has friends, friends who like to seek him out and spend time with him. He keeps expecting that kind of feeling to go away, the echo of his old surprise that there are people who want to know him outside of his Quirk, but it’s been nearly seven years and it hasn’t stopped happening yet.

“Technically, my patrol ends in an hour and a half,” Shoto tells her dryly, thinking of his abandoned patrol route and how not-surprised Genjo is going to be that Shoto’s old classmates pulled him into an across-town car chase. “But I’m all yours.”

Jiro laughs, like she knows exactly what he’s thinking, and starts to fish her phone out of her costume pocket as well. “Good,” she says, gesturing with one of her earjacks in a stay right there kind of way. “Call your boss, see if you need to go back, and I’ll tell mine I’m clocking out for the day, capiche?”

“Aye, aye, Ms. Hearing Hero,” Shoto deadpans. He doesn’t add that Genjo probably won’t make him come back and finish his patrol, because it doesn’t need to be said. Most of his friends are familiar enough with stories about the pro hero leading his agency that they know Shoto can get away with things like an impromptu action movie style car chase and not get raked across the coals for it.

That, he reflects, is probably why they keep roping me into things like this.

Shoto pulls out his phone while Jiro tries to find Death Arms in the mess of pro heroes carefully herding stupefied villains down to the police cars, opening up his text history with Genjo with a swipe of his thumb.

To: The Bossman
do I need to come back to the office to hand off my patrol?

He gets a reply almost instantly.

From: The Bossman
considering you didn’t even finish your fucking patrol, I’d say no. how’d the car chase end?

Shoto feels a wave of dread crest through him, even as he types out well, you could say we got a standing ovation in the end. After a second he adds, I’m trending again, aren’t I?

The only response he gets to that inquiry is kid, when the fuck are you NOT trending, which is unfortunately more true than he wants to admit.

He’s fired off an apology for being such a pain in the ass sidekick, even though he knows Genjo is just going to shake it off and tell him that he wouldn’t have hired Shoto if he cared about any of that shit, and is debating whether or not opening Twitter to find out if he’s actually trending is worth the trouble when someone claps their hand against his shoulder and tugs him around.

This is probably a god-send, Shoto thinks, as the decision on whether or not to open Twitter is taken out of his hands.

Or at least he thinks it’s a god-send, until he turns around and finds Shinsou at his heels, grinning at him like the devil in purple himself.

“If you use your quirk on me to make me cutesy smile in a photo again,” Shoto says quickly, before Shinsou can so much as open his mouth, “I will call Izuku, I really will.”

“Tattle tale,” Shinsou snorts, dropping his hand off Shoto’s shoulder so that he can shove them in his pockets and draw out his phone. He shakes it at Shoto, grin drawing up into a shit-eating smirk, and then drawls, “who knew all it would take is a little romantic scandal to get you online, huh?”

Shoto’s first reaction to that is who told you, but it’s probably pretty obvious to the people who know him what he’s doing, so he doesn’t say anything to that. Instead he wonders how many times he’s going to reconsider his friendships in the next few weeks and then decides to drop it, since that train of thought is just going to drive him nuts.

“Aren’t you an underground hero,” Shoto asks beseechingly, as Shinsou ignores everything Shoto’s saying and tosses an arm carelessly around his shoulders. “Aren’t underground heroes supposed to hate the media, social media included?”

“Even underground heroes like memes,” Shinsou replies glibly. “Now smile or I’ll tell your boyfriend you were weeping in the streets about how much you missed him.”

“Izuku would never believe such a blatant lie,” Shoto grumbles, glaring into the phone that’s held up to him. The screen reflects his grumpy expression, hair mused from being tossed around in the air so much so recently, while Shinsou’s reflection gives off the impression of being faintly amused and distinctly unimpressed. He mutters something quietly that sounds an awful lot like you sure about that, buddy? but before Shoto can give in to the urge to ice him in place or pout like a child, there’s a blur in the background behind them in the camera and Shoto watches the screen as both his and Shinsou’s eyes go wide.

Wait,” Shinsou yelps, trying to twist around to intercept their would-be attacker, but it’s already too late.

“Don’t take selfies without me,” Kaminari shrieks, tackling them both off balance as his arms lock around their throats. Shoto yelps as he careens sideways, unbalanced as the weight of both heroes falls against him, and that’s-

That’s pretty much how they end up in a tangle of limbs like they’re seventeen again, sprawled in the middle of the highway like it’s the common room floor when Best Jeanist wanders over to peer down at them from over the collar of his costume.

“Ah,” he says, in a tone that means he’s either disappointed in them or wholeheartedly about to mock them in the group chat he’s in with some of the older pros and their old teachers. “Youth.”

Shoto’s not sure exactly how he wound up wedged between Kaminari and Shinsou, who seem to be squabbling about who’s fault this dog-pile really is, but he sure is trapped there for the moment. “You know what would be really heroic,” he tells the pro above them, his words slightly wheezy from the way Kaminari is leaning his weight against Shoto’s throat with his goddamn elbow. Best Jeanist arches an eyebrow in question. “Ending my miserable existence.”

Best Jeanist slowly brings his second eyebrow up next to the first, so both are arched in judgement at him, tipping his head down to hide his mouth behind his collar as he does so. Shoto’s ninety-five percent sure that he’s only doing such a thing to hide a smile, but it doesn’t necessarily make him feel better about this whole situation.

“Well,” the number two hero replies drolly, voice faintly muffled by denim, “you can certainly tell you were taught by Eraser Head.”

Shinsou stops arguing with Kaminari long enough to snipe, “I’m going to tell him you said that,” in a tone oddly cheerful for someone who has somehow ended up at the bottom of their limb pile. Best Jeanist doesn’t deign that comment with a response, though Shoto thinks that if he wasn’t so cool he’d probably snort, and stands over them for another second, thinking.

Finally, he offers quietly, “if you’d like, I could take the photo for you, of course.”

Mental note, Shoto thinks at himself. Burn any of Izuku’s Best Jeanist merch when I get home. This betrayal cannot go unpunished.

“Dude,” Kaminari says, over the sounds of Shoto viciously trying to keep Shinsou from handing his phone over to the current number two pro hero. “You really are the coolest, Jeanie!”

Threads tug at Shoto’s arm, pulling at him until he’s no longer in the process of smothering Shinsou to an early grave, and Best Jeanist leans over to pluck the phone from Shinsou’s hand, humming noncommittally as he does so.

“That,” he says drily, as Kaminari and Shinsou both turn to wrestle around, trying to get stick their fingers in Shoto’s face to get him to smile, “is Best Jeanie to you, Chargebolt.”

The comment is unexpected enough that Shoto can’t help but snort a little with laughter, which he suspects a second later was the whole point of the remark.

“Social media was a mistake,” Shoto bemoans, as Best Jeanist reviews his handiwork and Kaminari tries to roll over his limp body to heckle Shinsou even more for stealing the spotlight in today’s fight. Shoto would try and worm his way out from their grip and try and regain some of his dignity, but he knows from experience he’s going to be stuck there until Kaminari and Shinsou decide he’s suffered enough and free him on their own.

“Probably,” Best Jeanist agrees quietly, responding to Shoto’s rhetorical question as if he was serious. “But it is also uplifting, isn’t it, for those who we protect? They can see themselves in our lives, in our little moments of struggle and lightheartedness, and therefore be empowered by the knowledge that somewhere out there, there’s a hero just like them. And we, in turn, can take a moment to be human, instead of simply bearing the burden of being a hero all the time.” The man shrugs, as if he drops philosophical bombshells on people all the time, and then adds, “if you look at it this way, it has it’s uses, however mundane and pointless they may seem.”

Shoto lies there for a moment, staring up at the pro hero who once almost gave his life to save his colleagues during the fall of Kamino Ward, and finds that he understands what the man means.

(In some ways, it’s been nice, even if he’s only posted about five pictures so far, because there are dozens of people in the comments who say things like I have that same mug!!! and Hero Deku’s my favorite, I can’t believe Thermo likes him too! Not all the comments are so cheerful and a lot of them make his skin crawl with awkwardness, but there’s a still connection there, between the people who like and comment his photos and himself, even if it’s one he can’t really put into words.

It feels, in a small way, a bit like when he was still getting used to making friendships for the first time in high school. He’s trying to adapt, awkward and clumsy though he might be, and even if his start toward change is fueled by spite and loneliness all over again, he’s still trying, isn’t he?

I’m proud of you, Izuku had texted him the other night, after Shoto had already fallen asleep. He’d found the messages the next morning, reading them over and over again as he brushed his teeth and got ready for the day. I’m proud of you for trying new things. I’m proud to be your boyfriend. I love you, Shoto.

Shoto had almost texted him back I miss you, but at the last minute had deleted it all and instead sent I’m proud of you too. I love you, Izuku.

Later he’d read about the building collapse that Izuku had helped with on the news, watching the clips play again and again as the hero Deku surged into the crumbling building and hauled out people by the dozens. He watched, heart in his throat, even though he knew from Izuku’s text messages that he had saved everyone present, and he had felt small and humbled as pride, and fear, and admiration for the one he loved had crested over him in waves.

And in that way, and many more, wasn’t he just like the people who followed him online?)

Shoto blinks up at Best Jeanist as Kaminari finally succeeds in rolling on top of Shinsou, freeing Shoto from his half-crushed prison. “Hey,” Shoto asks the man, as he sits up and ducks sideways to avoid catching Shinsou’s retaliating elbow to the jaw. “Will you take a picture with me?”

Best Jeanist studies him for a moment, eyes thoughtful and clear, before tipping up his jaw up so Shoto can see his mouth.

“Of course,” he answers, reaching down and offering Shoto a hand up as a small, pleased smile curls the corner of his lips. “And for the record, you may just call me Jean. Your boyfriend does, after all.”

Shoto remembers that interview, remembers the look of horror on Izuku’s face in the playback clip with the reporter where he’d accidentally butchered the number two’s name and just blurted out Jean’s really cool!, and can’t help the way his shoulders shake with laughter. He reaches up, still grinning, and takes Best Jeanist’s hand.

“Sounds good to me, Jean,” he answers and Best Jeanist does him the favor of laughing, soft and dignified as Kaminari and Shinsou wrestle like giggling children beside them.

 

-

 

By the time Jiro finds him once more, he’s had selfies taken properly with both Kaminari and Shinsou, a group shot with Tokoyami and Dark Shadow with Kaminari in tow next to the red convertible (which seems to have been nearly smashed in two, to Kaminari’s utter dismay), and pictures taken with more than half the heroes present, all of which tease him endlessly about finally acting his age and joining the digital world for real.

“Good grief,” is all Jiro says upon locating him, giving him one of her signature exasperated looks as he sits in the middle of Kendou’s enlarged palm and gives what has to be the fiftieth peace sign of the hour.

“Good grief,” Shoto echoes back wholeheartedly. He clicks the photo button on Kendou’s phone, checking it over as quickly as he can to make sure that the photo captures both of them, with him in the foreground and her in the background, the edge of her large palm present and visible over his shoulder, and then gives the woman a thumbs up so that she can let him down.

“Thanks, Thermo,” Kendou says cheerfully, grinning mischievously as she lets him down and plucks her phone from his hands with her normal sized ones. To Jiro she says, “he’s all yours, Earphone Jack! Are we still on for lunch next week?”

“Far as I know,” Jiro answers, grinning a little as she nods to their friend. They wave as Kendou disappears into the crowd that’s finally beginning to disperse, and then Jiro takes his arm, tugging him along behind her like an errant child as they head towards the edge of the highway.

“So,” she says, grinning him at with a sly, teasing look in her eyes. “Are you having fun being hashtag Insta-famous?”

Shoto pretends to consider it for a moment, really putting an effort into his thoughtful act, before he grunts. “Considering I created this to convince the world I wasn’t dating Kirishima and am actually dating Izuku? Not really.” He pauses for a moment, pretending to mull it all over some more as he taps a single finger to his chin, and then adds, “Best Jeanist did compliment my lighting and tell me I could call him Jean, though, so maybe it’s not all bad.”

Jiro blinks at him for a moment, mouth opening and closing a little as she studies his face, and then, with a loud, blown-out breath and a half-muttered swear, she shakes her head.

“You’re just as hopeless as always, huh,” she says in response to his questioning look, gesturing beseechingly as if that will explain what, exactly, he’s done to deserve such scorn. To clarify, she adds, “did you consider just tweeting actually, I’m dating hero Deku!, or was making an obscure Instagram where you post pictures of you in your hoard of Deku merch really your first option?”

Shoto narrows his eyes at her for a moment, weighing his possible answers, and then says slowly, in his best approximation of dawning horror, “I don’t have a hoard of Hero Deku merch, do I?”

They come up against the edge of the highway, where the barrier stands to keep the cars from flying off the road and into the air, and Jiro gives him one long aggravated look before pointedly and obviously bending over the edge to look down at the ground below.

“The drop wouldn’t kill me,” Shoto promises glibly, as if he hadn’t said the comment about his Hero Deku merch hoard just to drive her crazy. He’s self-aware enough to know that he’s got almost as much merchandise for Izuku as Izuku once had of All Might, which Izuku claims is weird and Shoto maintains is necessary to his continued happiness, even though they both know that while he genuinely loves his Hero Deku merchandise, he mostly collects it to tease his boyfriend.

Shoto has the distinct impression that if Momo didn’t like him so much, Jiro would try pushing him over the edge anyway. Finally she just shakes her head, looking up toward the sky as if asking someone up there for the patience to deal with him, and then gestures back toward the city with a jab of her hand.

“C’mon, Icy Pop,” she snaps. “Ramp us out of here already. I’ve got a fiancé to kiss and you’ve got a best friend to catch up with.”

Shoto grimaces at the nickname Ashido had accidentally stuck him with in their third year, but hoists himself up on the edge of the barrier, throwing out his right arm in the smoothest sheet of ice he can manage. “After you,” he offers, gesturing with a dip of his head, and Jiro gives him one dagger-sharp grin before jumping straight up onto the ice and grabbing at his arm, hauling him down with her in one of the most uncoordinated and freezing slides of his life.

Friends, Shoto thinks again as they come to a crashing halt at the bottom like a couple of kindergartens on a playground slide, really were a goddamn mistake.

 

-

 

Momo’s already at the restaurant, seated in one of the back corners where the lights are slightly less bright and the booth is a little more secluded and private, and when Jiro drags him in by his sleeve. It only takes a moment for Momo to spot them, but when she does she lights up like a firework, beaming at them both like she couldn’t be happier to see anyone else in the world.

“Over here,” she calls, waving one arm as if there’s any possible way they could have missed her. Shoto smiles as Jiro finally releases his sleeve, slowing down a little as the smaller woman bounds forward and Momo rises from her seat. He glances away, trying to curb the way a smile tugs at the corner of his lips as the two meet in a chaste kiss, and then slides into the side of the booth opposite where Momo was sitting, tugging one of the menus towards himself as Momo and Jiro murmur to each other quietly, settling into their seat as well.

Momo nudges him under the table after a minute, grinning a little in that soft-smitten way she’s never quite lost when Jiro’s around, and Shoto can’t help but grin back, nudging his shoe against hers as well.

“I’m glad you could join us,” Momo says, flicking open her menu and glancing down at it in a cursory kind of way.

Shoto opens his mouth to tell her that he’s always free for her and Jiro, but what comes out is, “I missed you while you were gone.”

Jiro and Momo stare at him for a second, mouths slightly parted in surprise, before Momo smacks a hand over her face and starts to sniffle.

“Y’know,” Jiro says, reaching up to cover her own mouth as it pulls into a snickering smirk. “You really are a lot more fun now that you’ve gone all soft and squishy, Shoto.”

Shoto feels the heat in his cheeks like a brand, but he can’t really argue against her claim. Still, he does his best to put up a token effort while Momo tugs a handkerchief out of her own palm, dabbing at her eyes daintily like that will hide the way she’s tearing up across the table.

“Keep talking like that and I’m going to revert to Earlyroki out of pure spite,” he threatens, doing his best to straighten his spine and mold his expression into the one of pure disinterest he’d worn in the first few months of their first year. Jiro laughs a sharp barking laugh aloud at the sight of his best attempt, curling down to her side so that she’s draped along Momo’s shoulder as the other woman does her best not to laugh as well.

“You’d manage it for, like, an hour,” Jiro predicts airily, leaning her head to her left as Momo leans her to her right, until their hair meshes together slightly, dark purple blending into black in the soft light of the restaurant. “Half an hour, tops.”

“Please, Kyoka,” Momo hums teasingly. “He could manage three hours, at least, but only if Midoriya wasn’t there.”

Shoto nods stoically at Momo in thanks, still trying to maintain his cross expression as warmth trickles like a blessed poison through his veins. Jiro, meanwhile, snorts, jolting herself and Momo in the process, dissolving into giggles when Shoto manages to arch one bland eyebrow at her in question.

She’s still giggling like mad when their waiter comes, and by the time they’ve ordered their drinks and food, she’s barely calmed down, even though Shoto has dropped the act entirely. Shoto can’t help but quirk a quick grin at her when she meets his eyes, which nearly sends her into another fit all over again. Momo sighs theatrically as Jiro wheezes against her shoulder, rolling her eyes fondly when Shoto gives the same who me? I’m innocent expression that never really worked on Aizawa.

“Please stop trying to kill my fiancé,” Momo pretends to plead, her voice as dry as a desert as her face twists with soft amusement. “We’re only two months from the wedding. Let me at least marry her first.”

Jiro squawks in the worst attempt at offense Shoto has ever seen, drawing back from Momo’s side as if her fiancé was the one with the fire Quirk instead. “You want to become a widower so soon,” she exclaims, loud and ridiculous enough that Shoto suddenly remembers why, exactly, she and Kaminari had always gotten along so well. “I knew it, you’re only using me for my riches!”

Momo blinks, somewhere between exasperated and perplexed, giving Shoto a look that pleads for help while he does everything in his power not to laugh outright at the look in Jiro’s eyes. There are people craning around to look at them all over the restaurant and a quick glance at the staff shows that they’re whispering as well, but Shoto doesn’t really care about the scene they’re making when his friends seem so happy and his chest itches with the need to laugh.

“It’s true,” Shoto deadpans, making sure that he catches Jiro’s eye conspiratorially. “She is only using you for your riches, she’s told me as much.”

“Good grief,” Momo groans, as Jiro stutters into helpless laughter all over again. “Now I remember why I try and keep you two as far from each other as possible.”

“We’re too powerful together,” Shoto agrees in the most serious tone he can manage, while Jiro laughs so hard she starts to kick her boots into his shin. “We’re an unstoppable force. If it had not been for the rules of this country, we would have-“

Please,” Jiro bites out, still half-dying across the table, “do not finish that sentence. You’ve fucked it up already, Shoto, and I think I’m legitimately going to puke if I laugh much more.”

Shoto feels himself frown, even as he tries to mask the expression, and Momo reaches over to pat his arm in understanding.

“Don’t worry,” she says, rolling her eyes when Jiro greedily scoops up the water glass as it’s delivered so that she can chug it down to try and stop herself from laughing any more. “I thought you were doing great.”

Shoto makes a mental note to ask Izuku what the actual phrase is, since if it weren’t for the rules of this country, I would have beaten you don’t seem to be correct. Izuku will laugh at him, probably, but Shoto’s never really minded Izuku laughing at him, much like Momo doesn’t seem to mind the way Jiro has been laughing at her for the past few minutes.

“You two are a riot,” Jiro says finally, when she comes up from her water glass for air. She grins at them to take the sting out of the words, and Shoto makes a show of catching Momo’s eye to share a look over the table. Jiro, in response, kicks gently at both their ankles.

“Oh,” Momo exclaims, before Shoto can kick Jiro back and start something truly childish. She claps her hands together excitedly, fingers twitching for a second, and there’s a little bit of light that builds between her palms as she moves her hands, a telltale sign that she’s using her Quirk. “I almost forgot, I wanted to give you something, Shoto!”

“Oh sure,” Jiro says, shifting so that she can almost lounge back against the back of the bench they’re sharing. “Take all the credit why don’t you?”

“I will, thank you,” Momo teases breezily, grinning wickedly over at her fiancé only to squawk in surprise when Jiro uses one of her earjacks to poke her in the jaw. The light fizzes and dies in her palms and she uses one hand to swat at her fiancé gently, the other curling into a fist on top of the table, half extended toward Shoto.

“Hm,” Shoto says, watching them nudge at each other for a moment as he glances between their grins and Momo’s still closed hand. “Should I be afraid?”

“No,” Momo says, scowling at him. At the same time, however, Jiro fires back, “yes,” with enough enthusiasm that Shoto shifts back in his seat, just a little.

“Oh, don’t be like that,” Momo scolds, shaking her closed fist at him. “You’ll like it, Shoto, I promise! It’s one of a kind.”

“It’s right up your alley,” Jiro promises with a wicked smile. She leans forward on the table, propping her elbow up so that she can rest her chin on her palm, and they both watch him, waiting patiently as he eyes Momo’s palm for another moment before sighing and giving in.

“If it’s another fake cockroach,” Shoto tells them dryly, “I’m going to make you both regret this.”

Shoto holds out his hand, relief coursing through him when they don’t make him close his eyes as well, and Momo leans over to let the thing she’s made tumble into his waiting palm. It’s light, and warm to the touch, some kind of small, metal thing, and then Momo draws back her hand, letting the light above their table fall on it, and Shoto feels his breath catch.

It’s a ring, gunmetal grey with little notches etched into it, the shape of it vaguely triangular as it comes together in a diamond at the top. There’s little gems in the diamond-shaped bit, small black round ones that glitter softly in the light, and for a moment Shoto is so mesmerized, so taken-aback by this shape he knows so well that he can hardly breathe.

“Oh,” he finally says, rather dumbly. Across the table from him Jiro snorts.

Oh, he says,” she teases softly. At her side Momo hushes her, murmuring Kyoka, let him be, but Shoto doesn’t mind. He traces his thumb over the raised shape of it once more, feeling his callouses catch on the edge of the little round gems as he does, and even when he blinks, it’s still there, still real, still- gorgeous.

Finally, he manages to pick his head up and look at his friends, not caring what expression they might see on his face. “It’s Izuku’s mask,” he tells them, which is perhaps a stupid thing to say, but he can’t really believe it nonetheless. “It’s- it’s a ring of Izuku’s mask.”

Momo smiles at him, her eyes bright like she might be tearing up once more, and reaches over trace a finger over the ring still sitting in the palm of his hand. He almost curls his fingers closed on instinct, as if something inside him recoils at the thought that she might take it back so soon, but he manages to keep still at the last second.

“It’s Midoriya’s mask,” Momo agrees softly, her voice hushed with fondness as she glances up at him through her lashes. “And it’s made just for you. It should fit, but if it doesn’t I can make another.”

“Don’t you dare,” Shoto blurts, and he feels himself flush immediately as he does so. He draws his hand back, as if he’s playing up his defensive act, but it’s not really an act at all and he suspects they all know it. “Don’t you dare make another,” he breathes, unable to put into words how much he likes the idea that this is the only one that will ever exist.

“Told you he’d go nuts for it,” Jiro says smugly, leaning back so that she can worm an arm behind Momo’s back and curl it around her waist. One of her earjacks flicks out at him, as if she’s gesturing with her hand, and Shoto can’t help the way he flips her off with one hand as he runs the thumb of the other over the ring’s surface once more.

Momo rolls her eyes in response to her fiancé’s taunt, leaning back into Jiro’s side as she does so. “I didn’t doubt you, Kyoka,” she murmurs, watching Shoto with a knowing look as he ducks his head over his new ring. To Shoto, she adds, “we thought you might like something special, since you’ve been more open about your Hero Deku merchandise these days.”

Shoto swallows around the lump in his throat, making himself lean back in the booth until he’s less hunched like a wild animal and more sitting like a normal human. “I- thank you,” he says, forcing out the words even though they come out dangerously like a croak. “I appreciate the thought very much.”

“Uh oh,” Jiro snorts, and though her tone is mocking, her expression is soft and kind. “I think we broke him, babe. He’s reverted to Earlyroki again for real this time.”

Shoto hasn’t got anything smart to say about that, because he does feel genuinely a little broken and more than a little like he might cry, so he does the most mature thing he can think of and reaches over to turn what’s left of her water into solid ice.

Hey,” Jiro yells, loud enough to garner the attention of everyone and their brother eating in the restaurant with them. She snatches up the glass and shakes it at him, as if that will terrify him into unfreezing it, and at her side Momo very quietly puts her hands over her face and sighs.

“Darling,” Momo says, in a strangled tone of voice that’s mostly embarrassment, sprinkled here and there with endearment. “Darling, Kyoka, please- people are staring.”

“Let them stare,” Jiro snarls, but she settles down against Momo’s side with a huff, narrowing her eyes at Shoto in a way that he’s almost sure isn’t entirely playful. “Shoto’s the one who started it.”

Momo looks to the ceiling in much the same way Jiro had earlier, as if begging for the patience needed to deal with them. “Shoto,” she says, in the same sort of tone Fuyumi and his mother probably would have used on him, if he’d been a normal child with a normal childhood. Shoto, for his part, only huffs, reaching out with his left hand to melt it back to water.

Jiro wrinkles her nose at him once he’s done, eying the glass as if it’s done her a personal disservice until he reaches back over with his right hand and chills it back to its previous temperature.

“You two are terrors,” Momo complains, even as she reaches down to intertwine her fingers with Jiro’s, since Jiro had yanked her arm back from around Momo’s waist somewhere in the middle of causing a scene over her water glass. “Now I know what Aizawa always meant when he said he almost felt bad for the villains we fought.”

“In our defense, at the time he was referring to the way Bakugo was shrieking at Monoma loud enough to break glass,” Shoto points out, glancing back down at his hands as he cautiously and carefully tries slipping the ring on his index finger. It doesn’t fit, not the way he thinks it’s supposed to, and a quick glance at Jiro tells him why, as she gives a pointed look towards his left-hand ring finger and winks.

Momo winces, as if she’d forgotten that training session entirely until this very moment, and then shakes her head with a sigh. Instead of commenting on the fact that Shoto is right, she instead drops her gaze to Shoto’s hands as well, her mouth twisting down in one corner when she sees how he’s very resolutely not putting the ring on the finger it’s meant for.

“Here,” she says quietly, reaching over with a palm that glitters with light for a second before it winks out and reveals a chain of metal, as strong and dark as the ring itself. “I told Kyoka you wouldn’t want to wear it on your finger quite yet.”

There’s an unspoken part of that sentence, one Shoto doesn’t know how to put into words but still feels, right in the center of his chest, and it tells him that Momo understands.

(Momo, in a way, has always understood him better than most anyone else, save Izuku. Momo, who hadn’t entirely known what their classmates were talking about at any given point either – Momo who had been raised in an entirely different world from them and had to learn and relearn how to fit in amongst their peers, in a way that was similar to Shoto’s struggles, if for an entirely different reason.

Momo, who had been the first ask, tentative and reserved, if it would be alright to still call him by his first name, after Izuku had suggested Thermo as his hero name in their second year. Momo, who had never asked, but had still, somehow, known how he felt about being called Tododoki and known as just Endeavor’s son.

To most, his friendship with Momo has always been understated and quiet, to the point where a great deal of people were surprised that she picked him to be her man of honor for her wedding. But Momo has had his back since their first final exam, where she saved him from Aizawa’s capture tool and won them both passing grades, and he has put his faith and trust in her for just as long.

They might not be the loudest or flashiest people, might not shout their affections and support from the rooftops at all hours of the day and night, but Shoto thinks it’s always suited them, their quiet, steady companionship, and he knows Momo thinks so as well.)

“I really do like it,” Shoto promises them both quietly, taking the chain from her hand and slipping the ring on it carefully. It’s quick work from there to duck his head and fasten the latch around behind his head, sitting up straight once he’s done to admire the way the chain is just long enough that the ring sits perfectly in the space under his collarbone. He reaches up, touching the edge gently with his finger, and when he looks up it’s to see Momo and Jiro watching him with two identical, soft expressions of affection.

“Hey,” Jiro says quietly. She reaches out with the hand not clasped with Momo’s, holding her palm up towards Shoto on the table like they haven’t been squabbling at each other like children all afternoon. Shoto feels his chest clench as he reaches back toward her, letting their palms fall together gently so that she can squeeze his hand.

“We care about you, you know that, right?”

Under the table Momo nudges her foot against Shoto’s, the buckles on their boots catching briefly in a way that tugs at his leg as they move. His heart squeezes like someone’s reached a hand down his throat and when he breathes, it catches awkwardly on a weight that seems to live in the space just behind his tongue.

He clears his throat, once, twice, and then swallows. “Yeah,” he says, voice coming out a little more rough than he means for it to be. “I know that.” He squeezes Jiro’s hand back, managing to give them both a brief, heartfelt smile.

Jiro squeezes his hand back one more, tight enough that he feels his knuckles ache just a little bit, and then lets him go to fall dramatically back against the bench seat of the booth. “Good,” she spits, lifting her chin to hide the fact that seconds ago she’d seemed worried for him on a deep and upsetting level.

Shoto lets the corner of his mouth curl up into a grin, mostly because it’ll make Jiro squirm for having soft, fleshy kind of feelings for anyone who isn’t Momo, and then he can’t help but snort when she narrows her eyes at him and mimes the I’ll kill you motion with one of her earjacks across her throat.

“So,” Momo says brightly, settling with happy pride against her fiancé in the restaurant booth. “Now that that’s out of the way- Shoto, are you going to follow me back on Instagram or not?”

“Oh come on,” Shoto blurts, jolting so hard in surprise at the sudden topic change that he jars his knee against the underside of the table. Even Jiro is caught off guard by her fiancé’s question, or at least she seems to be, if the way she erupts into a laugh that barrels straight into a wheeze is any indication.

“Oh, his face,” Jiro hisses, doubling over until she nearly smacks her face on the table between them. Shoto considers skipping freezing her water all together this time and just dumping it straight on her head, only for Momo to reach over and pull it out of his range before he can so much as twitch in its direction.

“That was possibly unkind of me,” Momo admits, though she’s still smiling, the expression a small, wicked one Shoto is nearly positive she didn’t make before she and Jiro started dating. She hums as Jiro fights to get herself back under control, idly pulling her own water glass closer so that she can sip at the straw. “But I was being serious as well. I expect a follow back, Shoto, and I expect one promptly.”

Shoto waits for a moment, so that Jiro can catch her breath, before he admits, “honestly, I have no idea how to do that.”

The only thing that probably keeps Jiro from screaming with laughter at that is the fact that it looks like she chokes on her tongue before sliding, trembling with silent mirth, until she’s draped across the bench and nearly out of sight.

Momo only gives him her best disappointed look, sighing slowly and carefully as if the world has tested her last ounce of strength, and then returns to sipping at her water.

And that, of course, is when their food arrives.

“Oh,” Momo says, as one of the waiters comes over to drop their dishes off and pauses to give Jiro’s sprawled form a worried glance. “Oh, I’m- I’m so sorry. She’s alright, I promise, she’s just-“

“Oh god,” Jiro croaks, from her spot lying awkwardly on the bench beside her fiancé while also still trying to hold her hand. The waiter looks both more alarmed and somehow less, like they had been worried that she was dead this whole time and are now alarmed that she’s alive. “Oh god, Shoto, you’re the best. Holy fuck. I love you, man.”

“I love you too,” Shoto answers dutifully as he reaches up to take his noodle bowl from the waiter, nodding his head politely as he does so. Jiro snickers a few more times as Momo rolls her eyes fondly before beginning the long and tedious process of righting herself without letting go of Momo’s hand. Once she’s upright she sticks her hand out imperiously, lifting the hand still clasped with Momo’s to kiss the other woman’s knuckles, and then offer-demands, “I’ll follow everyone for you if you gimmie your phone.”

If anyone else had offered to do such a thing, Shoto would be immediately suspicious of their motives, but for all their hot air and back and forth, he trusts Jiro with his phone just as he trusts her with his life. He fishes it out of it his pocket without a fuss, pressing his thumb to the home button to unlock it before leaning over to drop it in her waiting palm. Momo has to lean over their arms to accept her own bowl of noodles, which she does so with a flush of embarrassment high on her cheeks.

Jiro only hooks her arm around her own food, nodding absently to the baffled waiter who probably isn’t being paid enough at all to put up with the ridiculous antics of Real Life Pro Heroes, and then promptly ignores it.

“Can I change Kaminari’s name in your contacts,” she asks as she curls around his phone, finally tugging her hand free of Momo’s so that she can type that much faster. She makes a theatric face at his home screen a second after speaking, twisting the phone around to make a really? face at Shoto for the picture he has of Izuku kissing his cheek.

“Go wild,” he deadpans, ignoring her criticism, since he knows for a fact she has a picture of her and Momo as every profile image on every form of social media she owns. He ducks his head, using his chopsticks to lift noodles to his mouth, and then adds, “he’s in there right now as just the lightbulb emoji.”

Momo leans her elbow on the table and then carefully rests her chin in the palm of her hand, watching them both with amusement as her noodles cool before her. “Do you ever tire of your ridiculous contact names,” she asks drily, arching an eyebrow at him as Jiro begins to mutter and snicker to herself. Shoto only shrugs, because in truth he thinks they’re just as funny as he had in second year, when Izuku, Uraraka, Kirishima, and Jiro had all helped him rename everyone for the first time.

“You- you only follow one profile,” Jiro suddenly hisses, jerking up from his phone screen to give him a look that’s somewhere between exasperated and horrified. “Shoto, it’s not even a person.”

Shoto only shrugs once more, ducking his head to eat another mouthful of noodles. “I believe,” he says, without bothering to chew or swallow, “as Ashido used to say, ‘it be like that sometimes’.”

Jiro makes a noise in the back of her throat, something like a scoff that sounds like it catches on a laugh, and then bends over his phone once more to get to work. Momo just looks at him, seemingly impressed that Shoto really is that bad at working social media, and then she shakes her head.

“What profile is it,” she asks Jiro, leaning over her fiancé’s shoulder as if to find out for herself.

Jiro answers without lifting her head, muttering, “the official profile for Hero Deku merch.”

There’s a beat of silence at Jiro’s pronouncement and then, very quietly, Momo breathes, “ah.”

“Ah,” Shoto echoes back, nodding a little bit as he scoops noodles into his mouth, as if that will help him pretend that there’s no such thing as the heat in his cheeks. Momo huffs out a laugh, grinning at him with impish fondness.

Shoto, in response, sticks his tongue out at her with his mouth open, so that he can show off his half-chewed food, and Momo’s look of impish fondness immediately shatters into disgust as she physically leans back in her seat.

“Encouraging you to get along with the boys in our class was a mistake,” she tells him pointedly, tutting a little bit like someone’s disapproving aunt. At her side Jiro snorts, thumbs flying over Shoto’s phone as she hunts down all the profiles of their friends for him.

“Probably,” Shoto agrees good-naturedly.

“It did finally get him to make an Instagram account, though,” Jiro points out absently. “It took, like, a shitton of years, but it worked.”

Shoto grimaces as Momo laughs, shaking his head with the scraps of his denial, even though he knows it’s a lost cause. Momo hums thoughtfully as she ducks her head to eat her food, blowing carefully on her steaming noodles before daintily eating them with all the care in the world.

Jiro lifts her head briefly, so that Shoto can share a look of amusement with her, and then she’s lost to the phone once more. In retaliation Momo kicks him under the table, chewing carefully before she speaks.

“So,” she says, in the same dangerous tone that started this whole Instagram talk in the first place. “Who’s backup best man now that Kirishima’s dead to you? Iida?”

Shoto can’t help the face he makes, nor can he stop himself from answering. “Theoretically, no. And theoretically we won’t have to find out, because I won’t need a backup man of honor, because if I ever get married you’re not going to back out on me.”

He doesn’t add that theoretically Iida would probably be in Izuku’s wedding party, if he was in the party at all, because that brings forth the same uncomfortably tight feeling in his chest that the thought of putting the mask ring on his left-hand ring finger inspired in him.

(And anyway, he’d gotten enough teasing in his third year when Jiro found the printouts he’d made about the laws regarding changing your last name that he’s been a little gun-shy with mentioning marriage and Izuku in the same sentence ever since. He doesn’t need to relive that kind of embarrassment, not now and not ever again.

Though he probably still has the little nametag they’d made for him, fancy and professional looking enough to be real as it read Midoriya Shoto for all the world to see.

Friends, Shoto has learned over the years, really are the worst. But they’re also kind of the best.

Ups and downs, he thinks. Ups and downs.)

“Besides, we all know that Kirishima isn’t dead to you,” Jiro speaks up, looking up just so that she can shake his phone at him. “You just want something to complain about now that you’ve lost the Instagram argument, like the old man we all know you are.”

Shoto swallows his mouthful of noodles half chewed, just so that he can scoop up some of his broth and duck his head. He slurps it straight from the spoon as loudly as he can, lifting his eyes at the last moment so that he can make pointed eye contact with both his friends. When he’s finally finished with his production, both Jiro and Momo’s face are scrunched up in disapproval, though they also look like they might be fighting back smiles, just a little bit.

“Get off my lawn,” Shoto deadpans, in the best attempt at an Aizawa voice that he’s ever done.

Jiro laughs, barely managing to keep herself from falling out of the booth completely this time, a loud shouting kind of laugh that makes her earjacks sway against her throat as she rocks back and forth. Shoto grins, an expression that Izuku would probably fondly call all kinds of trouble, and then finds himself smiling more softly as he glances over at Momo, who seems to have gotten caught up in watching the love of her life laugh, her face open and soft, lovestruck and sweet.

(It aches, a little, to see them together like this, squished side by side as Jiro leans, trembling with mirth, against Momo’s shoulder and Momo in turns shifts to accommodate her. It aches and it stings, because his side of the booth is empty save for himself, because it’s been little over a week since Shoto had to say goodbye to Izuku once more, because even though he’s grown used to the feeling, missing Izuku is still like missing a limb, at the best and worst moments, and sometimes Shoto is so tired of it he could cry.

But then he lifts his hand to his chest, fingers catching gently against the ring lying just under the jut of his collarbone, and he tugs on the chain quietly, spinning the mask-shaped ring with his thumb as he does so.

It doesn’t make the ache go away completely, but it does ease the burden a little, and for that, Shoto is grateful.)

 

-

 

Later Shoto looks at his phone and forgets for a second that he told Jiro she could change Kaminari’s name in his contacts list. He ends up blinking blankly at the screen for a few seconds, baffled both by the unfamiliar name and the message the notification contains.

From: lightbulb machine broke
i will literally pay for every meal for the rest of our lives if you caption one of your deku hoodie selfies “can’t get enough of that D”

He stares at the phone screen long after the realization that Kaminari has sent this message, regretting everything that has led him to this point in his life, but mostly the fact that a caption like that might actually help him get his original point across. He unlocks his phone rather miserably before he sets about replying.

To: lightbulb machine broke
cancelled, blocked, unfriended, unfollowed, and I’m calling my lawyer, right now this instant

From: lightbulb machine broke
do it for the vine, shoto…… the v i n e

To: lightbulb machine broke
vine was cancelled years ago and now so are you

From: lightbulb machine broke
:’’’’’(

In the end he does post another selfie in his favorite Hero Deku hoodie, one where he’s scrunched all the way down against the arm of the couch, collar pulled up to his chin as the hood is pulled down nearly to his eyes. He captions it sometimes I can’t get enough of this, hesitating for only a moment at the half-lidded look of sleepy comfort in his own reflected image before he hits the button to post it for good.

(The comments section of that image is a mess, as usual, but at least this time it’s mostly because Kaminari immediately comments, COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT I’M CALLING MY FUCKING LAWYER, leaving everyone and their goddamn brother freaking out over what that could mean.

It’s a nice relief, in a way, from everyone cooing over how sweet it is that Shoto supports his ‘old classmate’ so much.

He still responds to Kaminari’s comment with just the word cancelled, laughing quietly into their quiet apartment as he does so.)

 

-

 

(The thing is, Shoto isn’t necessarily scared of telling the world about his relationship with Izuku.

Or at least, he isn’t scared of how the world will react to him if he says anything, but he is scared of what the world will have to say about Midoriya Izuku, the (in)famous pro hero Deku.

Izuku has been and still is a controversial topic for many people in their world, for many different reasons, a few of which are simple and many more of which are not. Like the rest of their classmates, Izuku has been in the media’s eye since high school, but unlike their friends and classmates, Izuku’s fight with All For One and the League of Villains hadn’t ended in their third year.

Almost no one knows that. Most see Izuku bouncing all around Japan and sometimes out of the country and get the impression that he’s trying to fill All Might’s shoes several years too late, trying to take on the burden of being the world’s Symbol of Peace all by himself. Since the fall of the man himself and the damage done to heroes’ reputations in the public eye throughout the nation, hero society as a whole has been slowly shifting, bit by bit, until nowadays it’s more common to see heroes working in teams to protect and serve than it is to see one trying to solo everything as a way to catch all the glory and fame.

It doesn’t help that Izuku had gone straight from high school into being a freelance hero, while all the rest of his class had gone into being sidekicks like everyone thought they should. It left him with the reputation of someone young and unmoored, too powerful to ignore and belittle but too unpredictable compared to the rest of the heroes his age to really cement him as anything else but an oddball and an outlier.

The hero Deku is adored, of course, not only for his strength and his charm, but also for the way he always manages to turn a disaster around and save everyone with a smile, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t one of the most highly debated heroes since All Might and Endeavor. It makes him a well-known name, enough for him to snag the spot as the eighth ranked hero in Japan, but it also makes everything about him a little precarious as well.

Shoto still remembers the reactions of their friends the first time Izuku couldn’t return home from one of his missions hunting down the ghost of All For One when he had said he would. A few months after graduation one of his one week-long trips had turned into two weeks, which had then turned into three weeks, which had then turned into a side-mission overseas. Izuku hadn’t been able to come back to town for a month and a half past his initial estimate, and though Shoto had understood why, had been kept in the loop about what was happening thanks to Izuku and All Might both messaging him at all hours of the day, it had still been hard, at first, to explain to their friends what was going on.

They’d tried to be understanding and supportive, Shoto knows, the same way they continue to try to be; they had made sure that there was a collective effort not to leave Shoto to his own devices for too long, lest he do something ridiculous like waste away like a romance novel heroine, filling his days with impromptu dinners and hang outs so that he was never lonely for long. But then one mission like that had turned into two, which had turned into three, which had then turned into – their lives, as it were, together and apart, all at once.

Shoto had tried, for a few weeks, to go along with Izuku on some of his missions, just so that he wouldn’t miss him so much, but he’d found very quickly that the nomadic, sporadic kind of lifestyle Izuku lead while on the chase for all the remaining bits of All For One’s presence wasn’t for him. They’d be an unstoppable team, the way they always were, but without a concrete place to call home, neither had taken the time to rest that they’d needed. It had been soothing, to be side by side the whole time, but they’d both felt off as well, unable to fall into the rhythm they needed as Shoto found himself missing having a steady routine and stationary home and Izuku found himself pushing himself farther and farther without a reason to return to the city and slow down to rest, and so they’d put a stop to that very quickly, settling into the rhythm at which they lived now instead.

If I’m Aizawa’s student, Shoto had told Momo once, at one of their breakfast get-together’s after his failed attempt at keeping Izuku company on his missions away, then Izuku is All Might’s. I’m happier staying in one place as much as I can, traveling only when I have to, and he’s happier running around so that he can give everyone a hand. Our lives will probably always be like this, at least to some degree.

Shoto hadn’t bothered explaining about Izuku’s efforts to hunt down all the loose ends the government had with All For One, hadn’t wanted to rehash everything they’d barely survived in high school, because in the end, he didn’t think it was just All For One Izuku was chasing. Izuku really is All Might’s protégé, for all the teasing Shoto and their friends have done over the years, and that means that Izuku feels like he has to save everyone he can, grasping out at every soul he can reach so that he can wrench them to safety in any way possible.

It’s something that Shoto loves about him, even though he knows it’s that exact thing that keeps Izuku out fighting as a hero for longer and longer stretches of time. It’s what makes Izuku who he is, what makes him vibrant and brilliant and kind, and Shoto loves who Izuku is too much to resent the way it’s shaped their lives.

No one understands that, though. They see Shoto regularly, whether or not they live in the city, because he’s a routine hero, doing his patrols, helping where he can, and he comes home every night to the same place so that he can go out the next morning to do it all over again. He makes an effort, when he can, to spend time with his friends, and when he can’t, he can usually catch most of them out on the streets as they fight crime, just like he had with Kaminari and Tokoyami or Jiro and Momo. But they don’t see Izuku like that, they don’t get the chance to fight and laugh at his side as often as they once had, and his absence leaves them uneasy and unbalanced in turn.

Shoto doesn’t know how to explain it to any of them, how happy he is, even when missing Izuku weighs on him like an ache, because he doesn’t know how to admit that he has never in his life imagined that he could have a life as stable and fulfilling as he does now.

So maybe it doesn’t sync up perfectly with the daydreams he’d had during slow English classes and the long hours of the night in high school when he couldn’t sleep. So what?

Somewhere out there, Izuku is saving someone, and Shoto knows beyond a doubt that Izuku loves him, just as much as he loves Izuku.

And one day, maybe one day soon, Izuku will come home to him again.

What’s a little bit of waiting in the meantime, now that he has Instagram to help him pass the time?)

 

-

 

Once upon a time having his agency and Fat Gum’s pair up had been a blessing, but now Shoto thinks it might just be a curse.

“I’m here and I’m bringing the riot,” Kirishima crows, launching himself into the street-wide brawl Shoto’s found himself in with a hardened right hook. Shoto ducks, muscle memory kicking in at the sound of the other man’s voice yelling that line, and the hero Red Riot sails over him by the barest of inches, landing a solid hit to the guy Shoto had been trying to keep from slicing his face open.

“Take the riot elsewhere,” Shoto complains, but despite his words, having Kirishima on the scene is an instant relief. He’d been outnumbered twenty-three to one only a moment before, which wouldn’t have been a problem if there hadn’t been so many civilians around, keeping Shoto from being able to just ice the whole damn street and be done with it. He spins on his heels as Kirishima follows his first punch up with a kick, flicking his right hand to direct a spray of ice shards, while Tamaki and one of Fat Gum’s other sidekicks starts working to keep the villains in the street and away from the gawking civilians. Shoto lets himself relax at the sight of more heroes, just for a moment, and finds that his ease only grows when Kirishima bounces up to his feet and presses their backs flat together.

“Aw, don’t be like that, Ice Ice Baby,” Kirishima laughs, loud enough that it’s probably doomed to be caught by a news camera or gossip-happy civilian nearby. Shoto rolls his eyes, but he can’t help but grin a little bit, amused enough to humor his friend, especially since he hasn’t seen him since before Izuku’s last visit.

“I’ll be however I want, Little Red,” he drawls back, snorting under his breath as he sends enough ice at one of the villains to completely freeze him in place.

Dude,” Kirishima whines, his complaint about the old Little Red nickname nearly drowned out by the sound of flesh meeting hardened rock. Whatever Kirishima is going to say to follow that cry up with is lost to them both as they fall back into the rhythm of the fight, Kirishima’s presence at his back moving away, the outside of his left foot knocking gently into the inside of Shoto’s right to signal that they need to turn.

They do so flawlessly, twisting to trade places in the span of a second, so that Shoto can freeze the villains Kirishima has just knocked unconscious to the ground while Kirishima draws the ones Shoto had been keeping at bay close enough to punch once more. It’s teamwork that’s so ingrained in them that they don’t even have to think about it, something that’s as easy to fall into as breathing and blinking, and it feels as wonderful as it always does, like lightning in Shoto’s veins.

And then, just as Shoto starts to settle his back against Kirishima’s once more, the man in question reaches back, his hands hooking awkwardly over Shoto’s shoulders so that his fingers can curl around the straps of his uniform.

Upsie-daisy,” Kirishima yells, cackling a little madly, his muscles already straining before Shoto can try and yell don’t you fucking dare!

But it’s too late. In a move that Kirishima hasn’t tried on him again since it failed in their third year of school, Kirishima uses Shoto’s body as a pivot point, trusting that Shoto will lock his own legs in ice to stay upright, which he manages at the last possible second before he and Kirishima both start to fall.

The sound of Kirishima’s boots knocking into two villains’ heads as he flips around over Shoto’s is loud and sudden, but not nearly as sudden as the way Shoto’s vision fills with Kirishima’s face as he lands, yelping a little in surprise as his boots skid on the ice holding Shoto firmly in place.

Shoto would like to say he maintains his dignity, glaring down at the way Kirishima has all but swooned into his chest with that flashy, pointedly, reckless move of his, but-

Dude,” Kirishima breathes, eyes wide and lips curled into a viciously victorious grin as he sways forward, beaming up at Shoto. “It worked.”

“Holy shit,” Shoto breathes back, grabbing Kirishima around the waist to steady him as he cracks the ice around his legs with a burst of fire from his left side. All around them there’s sound, the other sidekicks Kirishima brought probably dealing with the last of the villains, but Shoto can’t focus on that when his heart is pounding like it is in his chest. “It really fucking worked, holy shit.”

(Sometimes, upon reflection, Shoto thinks he might have been better off as an angry, awkward, closed off youth who didn’t understand anything his peers were saying. Obviously having energetic and touchy-feely friends who laughed loudly and loved freely had been his downfall all along, not his salvation.

Goodbye dignity, Shoto should be thinking, but instead all he can say is-)

“That that, Eraser Head!”

Kirishima whoops with joy, unrestrained and young in a way that they rarely let themselves be on the field, grinning at Shoto has he shakes him with the grip he still has on Shoto’s costume straps, while Shoto in turn uses his grip around the other man’s waist to keep them both upright as the ice melts into a slippery puddle around their boots.

(And that, of course, is when The Worst Photograph Ever is taken.

But Shoto doesn’t know that yet. Instead of dread, all he feels is elated and victorious, high on the feeling of winning the fight and having his friend close.

It’s a good day to be the hero Shoto, he thinks- right up until it isn’t.)

 

-

 

They’re still on site of the villain attack, giving a hand with the cleanup process since Shoto had iced quite a bit of the street in his attempts to keep the villains both from getting away and from hurting anyone in the crowd, when suddenly Kirishima’s phone begins to go off.

“I am here,” it screams, in a faint and tinny, but undeniably distinct way. “I am here! I am here! I am here!

“Uh,” Kirishima says, pulling his phone out of his pocket as the sound gets slightly louder each time, glancing down at it with confusion. “Is your phone broken or something, dude?”

“No,” Shoto answers, equally confused, even though there are a very limited number of people Kirishima would have given an old All Might ringtone to. “Why-“

“No reason,” Kirishima says, but the reason becomes crystal clear when he shuffles over to Shoto’s side, clicking the phone onto speaker mode as he answers it. “What’s up, Dekudeku, my dude?”

(Shoto’s heart stumbles and skips a beat.

Izuku, he thinks, feeling his lungs squeeze like a python’s grip around his heart.

It’s only been a little over a week since Izuku left town once more, but in times like this, it feels both like no time at all and all the time in the world has passed since Shoto last laid eyes on him.)

“You know,” his boyfriend says, voice warm and amused for all the phone tries to distort it into something vaguely sharp and muffled, “I didn’t believe Shoto when he said you were doing this on purpose, but now I kinda do.”

Kirishima and Shoto blink at each other for a moment before they drop their heads down to blink at the phone instead. “Uh,” Kirishima says, reaching up with his free hand to scratch idly at the back of his head. “No offense or anything, Midoriya, but I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

There’s a moment of silence on the other end of the phone, one that crawls up Shoto’s spine to live in his throat, and then Izuku asks, “is Shoto there with you?”

Some kind of sixth sense has Shoto pulling out his phone, ripping off his glove so that he can unlock it with his fingerprint and access the messages he can already see piling up, so that it’s already too late by the time Kirishima answers, “uh, yeah?”

“Don’t let him look at his phone,” is what Izuku tries to tell them, but it’s already too late.

“You,” Shoto says, picking his head up from where his screen is filled with The Worst Photograph Ever, curtesy of Shinsou, Jiro, Kaminari, his brother, and nearly everyone they fucking know. “You are so dead to me.”

Kirishima blinks at him for a moment, mouth half open while Izuku mutters oh god, it’s too late, isn’t it on the other end of the phone, before Kirishima is leaning into his space to see his screen.

“Oh,” he says, in response to the photo someone in the crowd of civilians watching the fight had taken of them, nearly nose to nose with wide, vibrant grins etched on their faces. “Oh, that’s-” he cuts himself off for a minute, leaning back to eye Shoto’s face while on the other side of the phone Izuku smothers what is probably a laugh, and then changes tracks.

“It’s super manly to love and support your friends,” Kirishima tells Shoto haughtily, gesturing with the hand holding his phone between them like he hasn’t just thrown gasoline on a fire that had been slowly and blessedly going out.

Shoto takes a minute, weighing his options, imaging the mess that Twitter is going to be after this, and then promptly snatches up Kirishima’s phone.

“Friendship ended with Red Riot,” he says loudly, as on the other end of the phone Izuku makes a noise low in his throat before he starts to laugh. “Now- Suneater is my best friend.”

Across the street from them, Tamaki jerks his head up with enough force to nearly knock his hood off his head, eyes wide and horrified at the sound of his name. He’s come a long way since high school, Shoto knows, but apparently not that far if the way he breathes out, “please no,” is anything to go by.

“But bro,” Kirishima tries to beseech as he wrestles his phone back from Shoto’s hand, but the corner of his mouth is twitching and his eyes are bright, the way they always are when Shoto manages to pull out an old meme correctly. “You’d replace me with Suneater?”

Please stop saying my name,” Tamaki begs, looking very much like he regrets ever accepting Fat Gum’s full time offer after his graduation all those years ago.

“Suneater is an incredible hero,” Izuku adds through the phone, and even with all the distance between them, Shoto feels warm at having Izuku back him up.

“He is,” Kirishima agrees wholeheartedly, while Tamaki makes a strangled noise and then decides to cut his losses and just leave his patrol partner behind. Shoto snorts and then exits out of all the text messages he’d received, opening up his history with Izuku instead.

To: my hero :green heart emoji: :thumbs up emoji:
you might want to get mirio to text tamaki, I think we broke him again

Kirishima says something else, something about how Tamaki might be incredible, but that doesn’t mean he can just replace him as Shoto’s bro!, but Shoto isn’t entirely paying attention. He leans into Kirishima’s shoulder absently as his phone buzzes in his hand, a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth while Izuku’s laughter dances out of the speakers of Kirishima’s phone.

From: my hero :green heart emoji: thumbs up emoji:
already on it, babe!! glad you and kirishima are having fun, though I wish I could have seen that move in person! the video I saw of it on a forum was INCREDBLE!!! it was the one you guys tried during our third year midterms, right? I knew you two would master it eventually <3

Shoto swallows roughly at the message on his screen, aware in a distant kind of way the nearly sad look Kirishima gives him out of the corner of his eyes.

To: my hero :green heart emoji: :thumbs up emoji:
next time you’re in town, kirishima and I can show you it in action <3

“Hey Midoriya, man,” Kirishima says, while Shoto blinks his eyes in an effort to pretend there aren’t tears stinging the corners of them.

“Yeah,” Izuku answers, after a heartbeat too much silence. His voice sounds strained all of a sudden and Shoto knows without having to ask that he’s not the only one affected by their distance. Kirishima gives him a smile, lopsided and kind, before slinging an arm around his shoulders to drag him closer to the phone.

“Did you know your boyfriend’s kind of a drama queen,” Kirishima asks Izuku, all mock innocence as he grins when Shoto nearly squawks in offense under his arm.

Izuku, for his part, only gives a slightly watery sounding laugh, one that crackles through the phone’s speakers in the same powerful, awe-inspiring way his Quirk jolts through his limbs like electricity.

“No,” he answers drily, as in his hand Shoto’s phone buzzes with a I love you message. “I didn’t know that at all. Are you sure?”

“Congratulations,” Shoto announces, just as drily as he types out I love you too with fingers that only shake a little. “Now you’re both dead to me.”

Aw, Shoto,” both Kirishima and Izuku whine in unison, as Kirishima begins to bodily hang off of him, despite what it’s going to do to both their public images, and Izuku starts to laugh again over the phone. “Don’t be like that!

“Friendship ended,” Shoto reminds Kirishima pointedly, which only makes Izuku laugh even harder on the other end of the phone. “Please submit my refund for emotional damages so that I can go have lunch with my new best friend Suneater.”

“Suneater is not going to buy you lunch,” Kirishima informs him, as if Shoto has only been his friend for this long as a way to secure sporadically free meals. Shoto gives him a dry look while Izuku snorts into his phone, rolling his eyes when Kirishima only widens his in that look of faux innocence once more.

“No, but Fat Gum probably will,” Izuku adds cheerfully. Kirishima whines, ducking his head so that the sound of it goes directly into his phone’s speakers, even though it’s on speaker phone and that isn’t even remotely necessary, and Shoto can’t help but laugh as well, his eyes scrunching closed as he does.

(And if closing his eyes makes it easier, just for a single moment, to pretend that Izuku is really there with them, dusty from their most recent battle with villains and ready to join them for their customary lunch, well-

That’s really no one’s business but his own, isn’t it?)

 

-

 

Normally Shoto spends a weekend a month off of work, with one day and night spent with his mother at the little house on the coast that’s right nearby the care facility she attends daily, and the next day and night with Izuku’s mother in Musutafu. Which weekend he manages to get off changes month to month and he can count on both hands the number of times Izuku has managed to join him for the trip, but it’s still one of his favorite parts of his adult routine, riding the train up and down the country, eating meals and catching up with their respective mothers so that they can fuss over him to their hearts’ content.

This month, however, he finds himself winding through a festival out in the mountains instead, his mother tucked against his right side while Izuku’s mother is tucked against his left. Their arms are hooked through his, so that they don’t lose each other in the crowd, and though he’d been skeptical about it in the beginning, he finds that such a thing is now necessary, as the street the stalls are poised on is packed to the brim with people.

“Is it just me, or is it really cold out here,” Natsuo complains, from where he’s plodding along at their mother’s other side. He gestures at Shoto after a second, who’s not entirely sure how they all ended up like this in the first place, and then adds, “space heaters don’t get to answer, by the way.”

Natsuo,” Fuyumi and his mother say, at the exact same time in the exact same tone. Meanwhile Inko just laughs, pressing in shamelessly against Shoto’s left shoulder as he does his best to put out enough heat to blanket both her and his own mother without catching anyone on fire.

“I told you to bring a heavier jacket,” Fuyumi continues, while their mother looks faintly amused at the fact that her daughter is out-scolding her. “The mountains are always colder and besides, it’s nearly winter! We all managed to bundle up just fine, you know.”

Natsuo, Inko, and even his mother take a moment to pointedly look at Shoto, who is the only one not bundled up within an inch of his life. There are a few brave souls that pass them on the street who are wandering around in traditional kimonos and the like, but most sensible people have thick puffy coats on, hats and scarves sticking out like bright spots of color, meandering about with their gloved hands curled protectively around their steaming cups of warm cider.

Shoto, in comparison, is just wearing his Hero Deku hoodie and a matching Hero Deku slouchy beanie. He feels the chill, in a way, but his ability to regulate his body temperature, coupled with the way he’s actively using his Quirk to keep Inko and his mother warm means that he’s as toasty and comfortable as can be.

(Fuyumi and Natsuo have only their ice Quirks, which means they’re used to withstanding a bit of cold, but not exactly well supplied to combat having cold pushed at them from all sides.

Natsuo really should have worn a thicker coat, but Shoto hadn’t been willing to point that out to him when they met him at the train station, and he’s even less willing to point that out to him now that they were already all the way out here, wandering around in the cold.)

“No comment,” he mutters, while Fuyumi gives an exaggerated eye roll on Inko’s left side.

“I think it’s lovely out,” Inko says warmly, in the beat of silence that falls between Shoto’s noncommittal comment and whatever it is that Natsuo is surely gearing himself up to say. Inko’s round cheeks are rosy and grinning when Shoto glances at her, her eyes a vibrant, joyous green that makes Shoto miss Izuku so sharply he almost wants to turn away. “This was a wonderful idea, honestly. Thank you so much for inviting me, Rei!”

“Of course,” his mother answers, quiet but warm as well. For a moment Shoto worries about her, wondering if the crowds are proving to be too much, but her smile is wide and honest as she leans around Shoto to peer at Izuku’s mother, and her eyes are clear and unbothered when Shoto catches them with his own. “It’s so nice that you were able to come, Inko. We should do this again next year, shouldn’t we?”

“We should,” Inko gushes happily, leaning forward as well until Shoto is rather comically boxed in by the talking mothers. Out to the side Natsuo snickers, ducking ahead and making a bit of room in the crowd around them as he whips out his phone to take a picture of the image they must make, Inko and their mother tucked into their winter coats and pompom hats while Shoto stands wedged between them, visibly underdressed for the weather and slouching a little like he’s still a reluctant and closed off teenager.

No one says it out loud, but Shoto can still hear it and see it flit across their faces for a moment, as they all seem to think maybe next year, Izuku can come too.

Before Shoto can follow that white rabbit of a thought too far down the whimsical hole to wonderland, there’s a tremor in the ground beneath their feet, one that starts off small and then steadily grows, until it’s so strong things are falling from the stalls around them and people are screaming as panic sets in.

“Oh shit,” Natsuo swears loudly. He staggers forward as he tries to come back to them, nearly crashing into Inko and Shoto as the ground heaves under their feet, and Fuyumi’s berating remark not to swear in public is cut off in a yelp when someone nearby nearly knocks her on their ass as every which way people begin to bolt.

“I’m just gonna,” Shoto starts to say, but as quickly as it had started, the tremor suddenly stops once more.

Inko, however, wastes no such time. “Go,” she says, in the same exasperated and affectionate tone she’d used when Izuku had tried to stop a robbery on a family grocery trip during high school and nearly given her a heart attack while Shoto had watched on, bemused. “And don’t you dare break any bones!”

She uses the grip she has on his left arm to push him forward, propelling him around Natsuo as his mother reaches out to draw her older son and only daughter toward her. There’s a second there, where Shoto thinks he might feel his mother’s fingers graze his arm as she tries to pull him towards her as well, but it’s there-and-gone, his momentum enough to carry him over the displaced earth ahead.

“Going,” Shoto answers Inko dutifully as he fishes his phone out of his pocket and tosses it toward his family for safe keeping. He’d meant to throw it toward Natsuo, who probably has the best reflexes out of them all, but Inko catches it instead, barely keeping from fumbling it with her gloves on.

All around them people are panicking, though the screaming has stopped for the most part, and once Shoto’s scrambled over a crack in the ground, there’s enough space in the crowd ahead that he should be able to safely use some ice to get an aerial view of the surrounding zone, since that hadn’t felt like a normal earthquake to him, and if it wasn’t a normal earthquake, that most likely meant there was a villain loose in the area.

He spares one more second to glance back at his mother, who’s now flanked by both Fuyumi and Natsuo as she stands, pale and shocked, eyes wide with fear as she watches him move away.

(She looks so small and frail that for a minute, he almost doesn’t want to leave her side, terrified in turn what might happen to her if he takes his eyes off of her even for a second.

But, thankfully, he isn’t the only one around to watch out for his mom.)

Inko, brave as her son and just as strong, for all that there are tears glittering in the corners of her eyes and stress tremors traveling along the backs of her hands, reaches out as Shoto’s watching and clasps one hand with his mother’s.

“It’ll be alright,” he hears her tell his mother, as the smaller woman starts to tug his family to the side, sweet but insistent, just like her son. “Let’s get out of the way and let Shoto do his job, okay?”

There’s no more time to worry about his mother after that, not when he knows she’s in good hands, because the second he launches himself into the air and above the crowd with his ice, there’s the muted fwoom sound that goes hand-in-hand with a nearby explosion, and suddenly the woods all along the mountain’s side have caught on fire.

Shoto doesn’t waste any time after that when he lands at the base of the mountain, his boots touching down by the steps leading up into the temple housed above. He’s shouting what instructions he can to the nearby civilians, coaxing them to leave the area as quickly and carefully as they can and asking them to please stay calm, while at the same time trying to gauge where the best place would be to put a wall of ice, so that he can contain the damage the fire will cause without risking trapping anyone in there by accident.

And then, of course, before he can get too much work done, the ground starts to shake again.

For the love of god, Shoto thinks, pulling in the cold from all around him as he gets ready to just try and ice the whole damn mountain still, gawking panicking civilians be damned. I’m not even in my fucking costume right now, are you serious?

Incoming,” a voice yells a split second before he’s ready to let the ice loose, the voice barely reaching him over the rumbling sound coming from below and the screaming going on behind. Shoto nearly yelps when a hand snakes out and slaps at his shoulder, only to actually yelp when that same hand fists itself into his hoodie and flings him up into the air as if he weighs nothing at all.

Which, it seems, he suddenly does.

Uraraka,” he shouts as he goes tumbling upward. He catches a glimpse of the hero Uravity, her costume a bright pink spot among the upheaved ground, just in time to watch her tap the side of her head, voice still projected so that it can carry commandingly over the chaos below.

Up, up, and away, Yoarashi,” she says, giving Shoto a little wave as he spins, and spins, and spins away. “Thermo can take care of the villains while we keep the mountain from land-sliding!

Shoto barely has enough time to make a rude gesture in Uraraka’s direction before a gust of wind picks up his weightless body and flings him up toward the sky. He whizzes past Yoarashi after a moment, the man in question booming out a laugh instead of telling him anything useful, like how many villains there could be, but in the end it doesn’t matter, because it doesn’t take too long for Shoto to figure it out himself once he’s up high enough.

Two villains, that he can see at least, one with a fire breathing Quirk and the second with an earth shattering one. Both are standing in front of the temple, surrounded by fire and broken earth as it is, and one of the temple monks is outside, pleading with the pair of them in words Shoto can’t make out.

There’s too much fire giving off too much hot air for Yoarashi to guide him in as close as he needs, so Shoto twists in the air as best he’s able and sets about pulling back in the chill from the air that he’d been building earlier, trying to keep an eye on what’s happening below as he tumbles and sways in Yoarashi’s barely controlled gale.

Hopefully Uraraka will know when to cut me loose, Shoto thinks to himself, wishing for a second he’d had one of the earpieces the pair must be wearing. And then, all at once, he tosses that thought aside, pushing out with his ice as he flings his right hand out to smother the flames below.

Yoarashi, control restored once the fire has been mostly smothered to ash beneath his ice, sends Shoto twirling around with one final push toward the villains, as they both crane up to see where all the ice that’s just foiled their plans has come from.

And it’s in that exact moment, with both villains standing side by side, heads craned back to look at him, that Uraraka cuts off her Quirk, giving his body back the pull of gravity it needs to go slamming down into them, a foot on either villains’ chest.

Unfortunately the two villains aren’t quite enough to break his fall and he goes slamming down into the ground as well, Yoarashi’s gale winds coupled with his own sudden body weight a little more than he had been expecting. He rolls onto his back on the ground with a wheeze, listening faintly to the sound of one of the villains retching in the snow behind him, and can only manage a slightly dazed thumbs up when the temple monk leans over him in concern, eyes wide and startled at Shoto’s sudden entrance.

(And thought it might not be the most suave and heroic entrance ever, Shoto supposes that for a day off in an old pair of jeans and his Hero Deku hoodie, it’s a fucking good enough entrance for him.)

 

-

 

Shoto gets the villains to the bottom of the mountain by virtue of icing their arms to their sides and their mouths shut, leaving the unharmed monk in place to survey the damage to his temple and make sure no one else is present and injured. Neither villain puts up much of a fight as he corrals them, but considering Shoto’s almost positive he at minimum cracked their ribs and gave them both a concussion, he hadn’t really expected them to be too much of a hassle.

It seems in however long it had taken for Shoto to be flung around and then get his feet under him once more, the police have shown up to help with damage control, officers swarming the ruined festival to help the injured and take statements as they go. Closer to the mountain, however, with a trail of rubble floating along behind her like a 3D game of snake, Uraraka is doing the most to further the clean up efforts from the attack, her costume dusted with dirt and frost, her helmet pushed up on top of her head as she bobs along to gather debris. Further on, far above everyone’s heads, Shoto can see Yoarashi’s wind as it coils its way above the festival, powerful and contained as it picks up individual pieces of debris and carries it back toward the rather sorry looking mountain behind them.

“Do not send me blasting off again like that without any warning,” Shoto calls out to Uraraka as he leads the villains towards the closest set of police officers. The two officers he picks at random look baffled to see him, though whether that’s because they know the hero Thermo’s supposed to be nowhere near this town or because he’s in his civilian clothes, Shoto neither knows or cares.

Uraraka glances over at him to give him her best unimpressed look, planting her hands on her hips for a moment as Shoto reaches out with his left hand and sets about melting the ice incasing the villains, so the police officers can deal with them instead. “I did give you a warning,” she calls back haughtily. “I yelled incoming, didn’t I?”

She pauses for a second to duck back down and touch another piece of displaced rock, and then upon straightening up, continues like nothing ever happened. “Also, Shoto, don’t think I haven’t noticed your blatant favoritism here! Kirishima gets to use you as a jungle gym all he wants, but when I send you sailing in to save the day, that’s totally unacceptable?

She’s having fun teasing him, putting on an air of theatrics to her words, as if this is the greatest offense Shoto could have dealt her. His lips twitch at the thought of the sight they must make, as well as the thought of having Izuku there with them, to amp her up and drizzle even more dramatics on like hot fudge on a sundae, and barely manages to scrape together a flat, unmoved look as he receives a nod from the police officers to show they’re done with him.

“You’re on a thin fucking ice,” Shoto deadpans as he ambles over to where the hero Uravity is standing, waiting imperiously for his oh-so clever defense of what she calls blatant favoritism.

Uraraka’s laugh in response to such a statement is bright and loud, dancing in the air around them like starlight in the sky, and Shoto can’t help but smile as he bends down to help move some of the rubble.

(Once upon a time, when Uraraka laughed at him like that, Izuku would always be nearby, grinning and snickering as well. If Uraraka’s laughter was like starlight, bright and airy, Izuku’s had always been like lightning and thunder, like the depths of a black hole as it pulled him in and in and in, lighting up his senses and blocking out all other sound.

It’s nice, hearing Uraraka laugh so happily, so freely.

But, like most everything else in Shoto’s life, it also makes him miss Izuku all the more.)

“You always say I’m on thin fucking ice,” his friend teases cheerfully, as she uses the ice Shoto’s coated some of the rubble in to break the rocks down into more floatable pieces with a well placed kick. Shoto shoots her a look out of the corner of his eye, trying to convey that there’s a reason for that with his eyes alone, and in response Uraraka just sticks her tongue out at him and grins cheekily at his tired sigh.

“C’mon, Mister Hot-and-Cold,” she says, as Yoarashi’s wind picks up with a howl in the distance to carry off a fallen tree. “We should get able to get this taken care of pretty fast if we work together. All we have to do is get everything cleared aside, so that the Wild Wild Pussycats can mold it back into one whole rock.”

Shoto considers it for a moment, imagines his family and Inko out in the crowd somewhere, waiting for him, and then sighs. Duty calls, he thinks, and then can’t help but imagine that this is how Izuku must feel all the time.

“I don’t think you can call a mountain one whole rock,” Shoto points out, as he reaches out to push some of the floating debris back into line as it begins to drift.

Uraraka only looks him dead in the eye, cheeks even rosier than usual with the cold, and pronounces, “one whole-ass rock then!”

Shoto presses his lips together to keep from laughing, nodding a little bit because he expected nothing less from Izuku’s best friend.

Working together, it really doesn’t take long at all before they’ve got all the moveable debris gathered up. Shoto doesn’t do much to help, icing some rocks so that they’re easier to shatter and then warming other parts of the ground, so that they can survey the damage under the gathering frost, but he gets the impression that Uraraka is just happy to have his company as she strains herself to help, and in the end Shoto is happy to help any way that he can.

“There,” she says, clapping her hands together as she surveys their handywork with a beaming smile. Behind them both the air is full of gently bobbing rocks, much the way it had during their first sports festival in her match against Bakugo, and Shoto can’t help but grin with her as he feels awe and pride bubble in his chest.

“Nice job, hero,” he teases gently, leaning over to elbow her softly in the side of her arm. Uraraka shoots him a look when he does so, her cheeks flushing further with pride and pleasure, even as her face twists up in mock offense.

“Just for that,” she tells him, prim and sharp, “you’re going to smile in our selfie.”

Shoto doesn’t have any time to process that statement past a surge of exasperation and a half muttered oh, come on, because in the next second Uraraka is reaching up to tap at her earpiece, hopping into the air at the same time to sling an arm around his neck.

“Okay, Yoarashi, it’s all yours,” she calls out, and seconds later the wind roars behind them, distracting Shoto enough that he barely has time to notice Uraraka pull out her phone as he rushes to wind his arm around her waist to keep her suddenly weightless body from flying off as well.

In comparison, though, it’s hard not to notice the way Uraraka yanks at the hood of his jacket, pulling it up and over his head until he’s sure the green ears have flopped vaguely upright, and it’s similarly impossible to ignore the finger she pokes ruthlessly against his cheek.

“Say Hero Deku,” she coos, as Shoto turns his head to look forward into the camera. Shoto feels a little blindsided by the last ten or so seconds of his life, unable to keep up with her bubbly energy, as usual, and is torn for a moment between forcibly scowling or going along with their traditional call-and-response for pictures.

The tradition winds out in the end.

I love Izuku,” Shoto dutifully answers, and the sentence pulls a smile out of him despite his best efforts, but he decides he can’t really be blamed, not when Uraraka is floating so that they’re the same height, giggling in his ear as in the background behind them Yoarashi rises into the air, hands on his hips as he cackles like a fool, chunks of rock swirling in a vortex against the night sky.

Uraraka takes the photo with a click of her thumb, and then, just like that, the deed is done.

“Ah,” Uraraka gasps, wriggling against his side as she brings her other arm up, boxing him in against her shoulder. She clicks on the image of the photo she’s just taken with obvious excitement, legs kicking weightlessly in the air against his hip, and Shoto can’t do much more than wince and hang on when the image loads and she let’s out a little scream of joy.

It’s perfect,” she says, somehow managing to hand him the phone so that he can see, which frees up her own hands to clasp together and release her from her Quirk. She drops to the ground with a thud, nearly taking Shoto to his knees from the grip he still has around her waist, and once they’ve untangled themselves, Shoto takes a moment to look at their selfie.

It looks just as ridiculous as it had in the moment, though now Shoto has the time to notice how the hood on his hoodie is, indeed, pulled up enough that the ears of the costume could stick up, mostly straight, the green of it bright against the night sky behind him. His hair is in shambles, the part of it gone completely until in the shadow of the hood it all looks vaguely pink instead of red and white, and his cheeks are apple red and flushed, making his eyes seem brighter than he thinks they ought to be. At his side, Uraraka looks vibrant and heroic, grinning like the devil as she throws up a peace sign, her arm wound behind his head so that her fingers are pale against the gunmetal grey of his hoodie collar.

Both of them are coated in frost, glowing against the backdrop of the seen-better-days festival behind them, and in the air, just over their heads, Shoto can make out Yoarashi and the whirlwind of rock debris, his cape snapping dramatically in his own wind.

“You’re never going to let me live this down,” Shoto mutters quietly. “But that is a pretty good photo.”

“It’s the best photo we’ve ever taken,” Uraraka tells him pointedly as she plucks her phone from his hands, tapping away on it with her touch-sensitive gloves. Shoto finds himself squinting at them suspiciously, making a mental note to text Hatsume later to complain about how his gloves aren’t touch-screen sensitive.

(Technically, they’re not supposed to text Hatsume about their costume modification complaints and suggestions at all, because support companies don’t like it when she freelances her work around.

But Hatsume’s been in Izuku’s corner since high school, and Shoto has played guinea pig to so many of her inventions that he’s actually lost count how many have tried to blown him to bits and pieces.

So she owes him, which means the support companies will have to suck it up.)

“Do you wanna see the caption before I post it,” Uraraka asks, humming a little tune to herself that Shoto can’t identify. Shoto shrugs, but leans over her shoulder nonetheless, snorting quietly to himself as he reads the caption out loud.

Team Rescue, blasting off again! #thermosherodeku #hesmyherotooyknow #galeforcewillprobablynevernoticehesinthisrip.”

“You have ten seconds to suggest changes before I remember I don’t care about your opinion,” Uraraka taunts cheerfully. Shoto only arches an eyebrow before scooping her phone clear out of her hands, tapping away at it with his gloveless hands and ignoring the way she jabs her elbow into his stomach in retaliation.

“If you’re going to mock my hashtag,” Shoto tells her, grunting at her second elbow-jab, “then at least have the curtsey to be classy about it.”

He changes the #thermosherodeku into #hisherodeku, and then tags himself in the photo, tapping on the image to add his own profile until the little icon shows up over his face, just like Kirishima had taught him. Uraraka leans up on the toes of her boots to see what he’s doing, oohing a little bit in the back of her throat as she takes in the changes.

“You still learn things quick as ever, huh,” she teases, accepting her phone once more so that she can tag Yoarashi as well before she posts it. Once she’s hit the button she waits for the screen to load again, probably so she can admire the image in its officially public format too.

“Jiro says I’m hopeless, as usual,” Shoto tells her, grinning when she glances up at him through her lashes, “but I don’t think I’m doing too badly, do you?”

Uraraka’s beaming smile gentles at his words, turning into something wistful and a little sad around the edges. “I think you’re doing great, Shoto,” she tells him genuinely, and even though neither of them say it, Shoto gets the impression that she’s talking about more than just his skills with Instagram. Embarrassment seems to flood her a second after speaking, because she tears her eyes from him and looks away, fiddling with her phone and the little frog charm hanging off the end with her rounded, pink gloves.

Oh,” Uraraka says suddenly, tugging on her little frog phone charm that Izuku had won her from an arcade in their third year. “That reminds me-“

Whatever it reminds Uraraka of, Shoto doesn’t know, because just as she goes to speak, one of the police officers behind them starts to shout.

Ma’am,” the police officer calls, sounding stressed and more than a little baffled. “Ma’am, you can’t come this way, it’s not safe-

“If it’s safe for them, then it’s safe enough for me,” Midoriya Inko snaps out, flustered enough that her tone comes out sharp and ragged like broken glass. Shoto whirls at the sound of her voice, feeling his heart kickback against his ribcage in his chest, and when their eyes meet he’s both relieved and horrified to see her trying to climb over rubble to get to them, safe and sound in one piece.

Shoto,” she shouts, scrambling over the uneven ground between them as the police officer tries to grab her. The poor police office is young enough that he’s probably never had some woman try and make a dash for the pro heroes he’s supposed to help, and so he flubs the grab for Inko’s arm, nearly sending himself stumbling headfirst into a ditch as he does so.

It’s okay,” he calls out, both to the police officer and Inko. At his side Uraraka gasps in excitement, hissing out you were here with Deku’s mom?! like it’s something scandalous and surprising. If Shoto could spare a moment, he’d give her a flat look in response, but instead he finds himself scrambling forward to catch Inko as she trips and comes careening into his arms.

“It’s okay,” he says again, ignoring the baffled look that’s being thrown his way by the too-young police officer. He rights Inko carefully, steadying her only for Uraraka to swing in for a hug, which Inko accepts with a happy little squeak. “I know her,” he adds over their heads, “so it’s alright for her to be here.”

“Uh,” the police officer says, blinking blankly at the plain-clothes hero as if he’s never, ever been trained to handle this kind of situation. He probably hasn’t been, if Shoto is being honest with himself. He should mention that to someone, probably, but then again, a lot of their society is shaped trial-by-fire, so the lack of training for this might have been on purpose.

“I’ll keep her safe,” Shoto promises dutifully, edging around the space where Inko and Uraraka are both managing to fuss and gush over each other while still understanding what the other is saying. He reaches out with one hand, giving the poor kid his best reassuring pro hero smile, and then adds, “hero’s promise.”

The police officer hesitates only for another second before blowing out a breath between chapped lips and reaching out to shake Shoto’s hand.

“Okay, sure,” he says, grinning a little in a young, lopsided way as his handshake gets more enthusiastic. “And, uh, you probably get this all the time, but- you’re a really cool hero, um, Mr. Thermo.”

Shoto feels himself flush, just a little, as he pulls back his hand, and he sees some of his embarrassment reflected on the kid’s face as behind him Uraraka and Inko let out hushed, muted little giggles. “Thanks,” he says, heartfelt but awkward, and the police officer gives him a little thumbs up before turning and scrambling back to his earlier post.

“Every day, I find more and more reasons to never leave the apartment,” Shoto mutters to himself, fighting the urge to hunch his shoulders up to his ears and hide. He turns, reaching up to rub his left hand over his face and tug the hood of his jacket off his hair, and finds that both Uraraka and Inko are staring at him, fond amusement bold and bright in their eyes.

“Bones,” Inko prompts, planting her hands on her hips as she stares him down, eyebrows arching expectantly as he blinks at her in bafflement.

“Uh,” he says, glancing down at his own limbs as if he’s unsure of the answer, even though he shouldn’t be. He holds out his arms at his sides for good measure, trying to look as reassuringly unhurt as humanly possible. “Whole and unbroken?”

She squints at him for a moment, as if this was something he could lie about, as if he was the one with the ability to walk without a limp even with a broken leg (he’s not, that’s Izuku, who had only managed that trick once, back before they got better about watching for his tells), and then huffs out a breath.

“Thank god,” she breathes, and there are tears building in her eyes, the infamous Midoriya Tears, big and wobbly as her lower lip trembles just a little bit with every breath. “I was so worried-“

Shoto’s been dating Izuku for six years, so he has an extensive history with the infamous Midoriya Tears. His arms are still open at his sides from his earlier display of un-broken bones, so it’s quick work from there to step forward and wrap Izuku’s mother in a hug, pulling her against his chest and ducking down until they’re tucked close together, the way Izuku and she would be if he had been here.

Inko lets out soft sob before she presses forward against Shoto’s chest, winding her arms around his waist to squeeze him to her with the hidden strength he thinks the Midoriyas should be known for instead of their tears. She’s mumbling something against the material of his hoodie, garbled and half-swallowed by her own stuttering breath, and Shoto does his best to just hold on, closing his eyes as he breathes in and out, slow and easy, just the way he used to do for Izuku in high school.

“Sorry to worry you,” he murmurs eventually, when Inko has started to calm down. “And thanks, for taking care of my family and for coming to find me just now.”

Inko huffs at him, pulling back her arms and tugging her sleeves down over her bare hands as she moves, so that she can wipe the ends of her jacket sleeves over her face in lieu of a tissue. Once she’s all cleaned up, or at least as cleaned up as she can be at the moment, she reaches up to cup Shoto’s face, and he bends a little at the waist to let her, letting his Quirk heat his body a bit so that her freezing hands can steal his warmth as they press against his cheeks.

“I’m a mother, Shoto,” she tells him, her eyes burning and fierce, in a way that makes it easy to believe she raised Izuku without any help at all. “And as a mother, it’s my job to worry, do you hear me? It’s my job and I’m happy to do it.” She pauses for a second, as if weighing her next words, and then smiles, crooked and achingly sad.

“I’m so happy,” she murmurs, quietly, with the hush of a heartbreaking secret, “that I still have someone I can worry about nearby.”

Shoto blinks, feeling the corners of his eyes sting and knowing that it isn’t from the cold all around them, and holds himself very, very still as Inko fights back a set of tears on her own in front of him.

He’ll come back, he wants to offer, but Midoriya Inko is the only person in the world who understands on any level what it’s like to have Izuku walk away, what it’s like to know he cares about you and still have it not be enough when weighed against the safety of the whole goddamn world. It’s something that keeps them together, something they understand on a level so deep they’ve never had to talk about it, and it’s one of the reasons Shoto goes out of his way every month to make sure he sees her.

So instead he just breathes in, a shuttering kind of breath, and then says, “I’m still here,” which is its own kind of offering in the end.

Inko breathes in, a quick, pained kind of way, and then breathes it out slowly, shaking her head side to side as her small, cold fingers squish his cheeks inward like he’s a child.

“You are,” she tells him, pulling out a trembling, brilliant smile, so that he can see everything’s okay once more. It’s something she learned from her son, or maybe for her son, and Shoto feels his eyes burn anew at the sight. She swallows, pursing her lips tightly, and then repeats, “you are.”

I am,” he agrees quietly. And then, because he doesn’t think he can withstand another round of almost-tears without actually crying too, he adds, “despite Uraraka’s attempts to throw me to my death, that is.”

Inko blinks at him for a second, fingers still squishing at his cheeks like she’s been frozen on the spot, and then she lets him go like he’s caught fire, whirling on Uraraka just as she tries, in turn, to bolt, in the same way little kids tend to do when they realize they’ve been caught red handed.

Uraraka,” Inko snaps, voice like a cracking whip, and Uraraka seems to freeze against her will, shoulders hunching up to her ears as she stares at Izuku’s mom with wide, horrified eyes.

“Um,” is all she can manage in defense of herself. “It was- there was- using Shoto was the best plan to deal with the villains before anyone got hurt, so-“

Ha ha ha, Shoto mouths at Uraraka from over Inko’s shoulder when she glances at him, and for the next few minutes, he does nothing to help the young woman as she’s berated and fussed over in turns by Izuku’s surprisingly steel-like mother.

Though the berating doesn’t last long at all, because a few minutes into the scolding, Inko seems to deflate, hunching in on herself as she wrings her hands in front of her.

“Oh,” she hiccups, as Uraraka blinks at them both, not as used to the ups and downs of Inko’s emotional state, the way Shoto is. “Oh, I’m so proud of you two!”

She’s trembling in the cold, her hands chapped and red, and Shoto winds an arm around her shoulders to pull her in against his left side as he uses his Quirk to warm the air around them. “We’re proud to make you proud,” he murmurs, as Uraraka bounces forward to clasp Inko’s hands in her own, eyes bright, smile just as wide and charming as it always is.

“Yeah,” Uraraka agrees, squeezing Inko’s hands gently. She glances at Shoto, too many things in her eyes for Shoto to even begin to understand any of them, and then says, in a slightly more subdued manner, “you two should get going, though. Gale Force and I can handle it from here.”

Inko sucks in a breath at her words, but Shoto beats her to the punch, nodding as he reaches out a hand to curl over Uraraka’s and Inko’s. “We should find my family,” he agrees, and Uraraka’s face softens into something like sadness as she realizes that Inko wasn’t the only person he was here with.

“Sorry the villains ruined your family outing, you guys,” Uraraka says, eyebrows furrowing as she starts to frown. “But- I really am glad I got to see you.”

Inko sniffles loudly once more before she surges forward, throwing her arms around Uraraka in her best and strongest kind of hug. She doesn’t say anything, but then again Shoto doesn’t think she can right now, if the bright shine to her eyes and the slight trembling of her lips is any indication.

Shoto speaks for her then, holding out his arm as she tucks herself against his side once more, making sure that he snags her hands as he wonders vaguely what happened to her winter gloves. “We’re glad to see you too, Uraraka. If you or Tsuyu end up in the city sometime, you should come over for lunch.”

Uraraka clasps her hands in front of herself, nodding in bouncy agreement, and then gasps. “Oh, wait, before you go- Shoto, I meant to ask you something for Tsuyu!”

Shoto hangs back, arching an eyebrow in surprise, and Uraraka gives him a lopsided, shy smile, her eyes softening as she thinks about her girlfriend.

“She was going to contact you in a few days,” Uraraka explains, “and then go through your agency if you said yes, but she was wondering if you’d give her a hand with cornering a couple of smugglers? Her team know in a vague way where they probably are, but they think someone on the smugglers side has an ice Quirk, because every time they get in close it gets too cold for them to do anything. Do you think you’d be able to help?”

Shoto blinks in surprise, more at the idea that he was Tsuyu’s first thought than anything else, and then nods as warmth curls through his chest. “I’d be willing to try,” he answers softly. “Tell her to have her boss send me the details and I’ll talk to Genjo when I get back into town, okay?”

Ah, thank you,” Uraraka gushes, bouncing on her toes in her excitement. “I’ll text her and let her know!”

Shoto smiles, feeling his cheeks heat with something that isn’t wholly his Quirk’s fault as Uraraka waves them goodbye and they make their way across the uneven ground back toward the festival’s entrance. Police officers and volunteers give them slightly baffled looks as they make their way around, Shoto’s distinctive hair visible without his hat or his hood up, but Shoto doesn’t mind. At his side Inko is quiet, sniffling here and there as she gets herself under control, and then, as they’re winding through the quiet stalls and nearly empty streets, she pulls them to a stop so that she can speak.

“You are a good boy, Shoto,” she says, tugging her hands out of his so that she can reach up and cradle his face once more. “You’re- I’m very lucky, that Izuku brought you into my life. I-“ Her tone, fierce and sure, wobbles slightly as her breath hitches in her throat. She swallows, blinking twice to keep herself focuses, and then adds, “one day, Izuku will remember that while the world may need him as the hero Deku, he needs you, needs Shoto, and that you need him as Izuku too.”

Shoto’s breath punches out of him, as if Inko’s knocked him in the solar plex with her words, and for a moment all he can do is blink at her, mouth falling open as he fights to find the words for what he wants to say in response to something he thought they’d never mention in so many direct words.

Eventually he just clears his throat, reaching up to cover her hands on his face with his own, and he drops his gaze down to their feet, hoping she can’t see the aching feeling in his chest in his eyes as he does so.

“No,” he tells her quietly, “I’m the lucky one here, Inko.”

He doesn’t address her last statement, mostly because he can’t, and after a moment Inko huffs at him, squishing his cheeks together with a watery, sad kind of laugh.

“I suppose we can both be the lucky ones,” she tells him, trying to hide her misery in cheer, and Shoto closes his eyes for a moment, nodding his agreement.

By the time they reach his family, huddled next to Natsuo’s car in the parking lot, he and Inko seem to have gotten themselves under control. Out of everyone his mother seems to be handling the stress the best, as Natsuo paces and loudly complains about how the public is never told anything helpful in these situations and Fuyumi tries to convince herself that it was impossible for Shoto to be the tiny figure flying around in the wind just before the mountain iced over completely.

His mother, in comparison, is calm and contained, leaning against the side of the car with Shoto’s phone in her hand, Natsuo’s scarf around her neck and Inko’s gloves peeking out of her pocket. She’s the first to notice their arrival and her gaze sweeps over him in much the same way Inko’s had, checking him for obvious injuries and then melting a little when she finds him whole.

“Sorry for the wait,” Inko says, stepping forward to drag him around by his arm like he’s an errant child who was dragging his heels the whole way here. “Shoto got a little caught up in helping Uravity clean up.”

“That’s alright,” his mother says, over the sounds of Natsuo sputtering and Fuyumi squeaking in surprise next to her. “Shall we head home then, now that the day is saved?”

The question is posed to all of them in theory, but Shoto watches his mother and Inko as something unspoken passes between them. He doesn’t know what to call it exactly, doesn’t know how to put into words the way worry and sadness and pride all flicker over both their faces like they’re telepathically linked and having a conversation on some level he can’t hear, but it happens in a split second, in the blink of an eye, and then it’s over.

“That sounds like a good idea,” Inko agrees softly.

In the car ride back to his mother’s house, Shoto finds himself wedged against one of the doors, with his mother in the middle and Inko on the opposite side. On the way to the festival he had sat in the middle, but his mother had slid in the seat before he could, and as he lets his mind drift, he can almost hear the way the two women murmur to each other gently, whispering thank you for taking care of him and thank you for letting me be apart of your family like two people sharing secrets in the night.

 

-

 

Two days before Shoto is scheduled to take a train down south to help Tsuyu with the smugglers, he comes in from the night-shift patrol to find the living room light on, when he’s sure he’d left the kitchen light on instead.

Instantly his tired senses are on high alert, heart thundering like a jack hammer in his chest as he drops his bag carefully to the ground and starts to crouch, ice building on the fingertips of his right hand while flames flick at the fingertips of his left. He inches forward, eyes tracing over the apartment to figure out what might have been taken or toyed with, and is met with the sight of a familiar pair of red shoes, kicked off nearly halfway across the living room like breadcrumbs leading him toward-

“Izuku,” he breathes, feeling himself go numb with surprise. The ice melts in his palm while the flames go out with a flicker of heat along his senses, and before he can consider that it’s only been two weeks since he last saw Izuku and Izuku shouldn’t have been home quite yet, he’s rushing across the living room and down their hallway, slipping through the bedroom door where the bathroom light is on, illuminating the room just enough that he can see.

Izuku’s in their bed. He’s curled up in the center, half on his side and half on Shoto’s, and he’s wearing one of the Hero Thermo shirts he bought to try and embarrass Shoto, the back of which is scrunched up along his spine. The sheets and blankets have been kicked down to be tangled around his legs, and Shoto feels his breath catch at the sight of him, real and alive in their bed, home so unexpectedly that Shoto almost doesn’t want to be believe it’s happening, because then he might start to believe it could happen again.

He had been planning to shower, maybe make a plate of scrambled eggs before crawling into bed, but now he sheds his clothes without pause, letting them drop where they will without a care as he bends to unzip his boots and toe them off by the door. Their room is a mess, as it almost always is, Shoto too tired to put away clean clothes most days and Izuku never home to help, but it’s a familiar mess, a warm mess, and Shoto makes his way across it easily, scooping up one of his own Hero Deku sleep shirts and tugging it over his head as he crawls onto the edge of their bed.

Izuku stirs at the movement, twisting and mumbling in his sleep, and Shoto feels his breath catch as he reaches out to touch him, jolting a little when he finds that Izuku is solid and real to the touch, his skin cool under the soft cotton of his t-shirt.

“Sho’,” Izuku mumbles, without opening his eyes as Shoto moves to curl against his back, worming his legs under the blankets so that he can shift one leg in between Izuku’s and pull their bodies flush together. Usually when he’s home Izuku sleeps tucked against his chest, but Shoto can’t stop himself from burying his face against Izuku’s shoulder instead, feeling the stinging in his eyes and finding himself unable to stop it as it builds to true tears.

“It’s me,” he answers quietly, squeezing an arm around Izuku’s middle as he tips his head to the side to speak clearly. “I’m home, Izuku.”

“S’my line,” Izuku slurs, still obviously mostly asleep. There’s a pause, one long enough that Shoto almost thinks Izuku’s fallen asleep again completely, and then he murmurs, “we should- we should get a cat, Sho’.”

Shoto feels his breath catch in his throat, feels his eyes burn as his tears build enough that they threaten to crawl down his face, and it takes every ounce of his strength not to let his voice shake as he answers, “we can’t get a cat, Izuku. Neither of us are home enough to take care of it, silly.”

“Mhm,” Izuku only slurs in response. If he says anything else it’s lost to Shoto’s ears as he turns his head against the pillow, burrowing back into sleep as Shoto holds him, tighter than he needs to, tighter than what must be comfortable, and fights against the tide of joy and sadness and love that rises up within his own chest and threatens to drown him.

“I love you,” Shoto chokes out, the words so quiet he’s not even sure he’s said them at all. “Izuku, I love you so much.”

Izuku makes a noise in his sleep, wiggling like he wants to turn around and embrace Shoto, but Shoto holds him steady, hiding his face against the collar of Izuku’s t-shirt instead.

Eventually exhaustion pulls him under, but not before he can immortalize this moment in his memory, filing it away with a dozen like it, stolen little moments that, when strung up beside each other, make them look like everyone else they know.

(When Shoto dreams that night, he dreams of a house, and a cat, and Izuku.

It’s a good dream, hazy and soft, the details shaky and the edges soft.

It’s a good dream.

But that’s all it is in the end, isn’t it? Just another good dream.)

 

-

 

Shoto’s on the southbound train to go help Tsuyu, only a few hours after leaving Izuku in their bed despite every cell in his body screaming at him not to, when he’s startled out of the habit he’s found himself with of playing with the ring of Izuku’s mask on the chain around his neck as his phone buzzes with an incoming text.

From: my hero :green heart emoji: :thumbs up emoji:
hey I’m gonna call you don’t panic I’m okay!!!!

Shoto snorts a little, even as warmth bleeds through him at Izuku’s thoughtfulness. He also takes a moment to internally thank Hatsume for her most recent reception boosting satellites, because without those being stationed around the nation he wouldn’t have gotten that text message, let alone a call.

“Hey,” Shoto says quietly, when his phone rings a second later. “What’s wrong?”

“We really need to stop leaving our clothes all over the floor,” Izuku says, in lieu of a greet. There’s a lot of noise in the background of his call, raised voices muffled but almost understandable. Shoto frowns, slouching in his train seat as he tries to pinpoint why the sound is so familiar.

“You’ve said that before,” Shoto reminds him gently, “and so have I, but if you’re serious this time we can give it a shot for real.”

“I am very serious this time,” Izuku says, and the scary part is he genuinely sounds it. Shoto feels himself sitting up straighter almost instinctively, his gut dropping as nauseous dread floods his system. “And you will be too, but before you yell,” Izuku adds, “please remember that this was a genuine accident and that I’m really, really sorry about it.”

“Babe, you’re scaring me,” Shoto murmurs, his voice coming out a little thick with worry. There’s almost no one near him in the train car, but even disguised in a plain hoodie (since he couldn’t find his Hero Deku hoodie before leaving) and a beanie, Shoto still feels that knee-jerk habit to keep his voice down and names out of the conversation. “I’m not going to yell, just- tell me what happened, please.”

“I accidentally wore your Deku hoodie into a burning building thinking it was my costume.”

“You- you what,” Shoto yelps. He ducks his head when an older woman on the other side of the train car shoots him a look, clutching the phone against his face like that will bring his boyfriend closer to him as well. “Oh my god, are you okay?! That thing isn’t fireproof, you could have been killed!

“Band-aid took care of my burns, they were only minor,” Izuku promises him immediately, voice still guilty and tight. “And I swear I didn’t mean to grab it, I was just in a rush and those things are, like, scary accurate on the details, and I was still kind of out of it after you left and- and-“ he’s rambling, and Shoto’s about to point that out to him before Izuku cuts himself off, pausing for a heartbeat before he adds, soft and anguished, “I’m gonna get you a new one, I promise.”

Shoto finds himself blinking rapidly, heart tearing apart in his chest at the pure misery in Izuku’s voice, and for a second he wants to get up and march up to the head of the train and demand they stop so he can get on the first one home. He doesn’t want to be heading south, doesn’t want to be the one leaving Izuku behind this time – he just wants to be home, to be wherever the fuck Izuku is, and that’s-

“Izuku,” Shoto says, the words rasping out of his throat as if he’s been inhaling smoke and ash for hours and hours. “Izuku, I’m not- I don’t care about the damn hoodie, babe. I’m just glad you’re okay, babe. Shit, I shouldn’t have even left that thing on the floor, I could have killed you with that-“

“Hey,” Izuku interjects, voice thick even through the offense, like he’s on the brink of tears. “It wouldn’t have been your fault, I shouldn’t have just blindly grabbed it off the floor like an idiot-“

“Shut up,” Shoto snaps, feeling his voice crack as his mind conjures up image after image of what could have happened. Jesus Christ, they really can’t keep leaving their clothes all over the place, Izuku could have died.

“You shut up,” Izuku huffs back. He laughs a little, a soft, wavering watery sound that reminds Shoto of Inko at the festival the week before, and he can’t help the way he scoffs back, ducking his head down to drag the edge of his sleeve over his eyes as he does.

“I can’t believe you wore my hoodie into a burning building,” Shoto murmurs, feeling himself make a small, nervous noise somewhere between a laugh and a wince. Behind his eyelids the corners of his eyes sting with tears and his chest is tight and pained, but he does his best to keep it contained.

God,” he says a split second later, a hysterical laugh crawling out of his throat, “please tell me you managed to grab pants.”

Izuku’s silence, coupled with the sounds in the background that Shoto realizes are reporters shouting for Izuku’s attention, is very, very telling.

“Oh my god,” Shoto breathes, surprised and yet not at all surprised at Izuku’s ridiculousness.

Izuku, in response, only mutters, “I need to buy you new Deku sleep pants as well, actually.”

“Oh my god,” Shoto repeats, wondering for a moment why Izuku was even wearing Shoto’s Hero Deku sleep pants, since the last he’d seen of Izuku, he’d been wearing an old pair of sweatpants instead, but then he discards it as unimportant. “Why did you even answer the hero alert if you were asleep?”

“I wasn’t asleep,” Izuku mutters softly and something in his voice makes Shoto’s chest ache so sharply he can barely breathe, let alone speak.

“Izuku,” he breathes quietly. “I-“

“I’m sorry,” Izuku repeats miserably, when Shoto cuts his own sentence off, not knowing what else to say.

“I don’t give a fuck about the hoodie or the sleep pants,” Shoto says, probably a little too loudly if the look he gets from the old woman is anything to go by. “You could get all of my merch caught up in a fire and I wouldn’t care, Izuku, as long as you were okay.”

There’s a long pause, only broken by the soft sounds Izuku’s hitched breathing and the crowd of probably-reporters in the background. Shoto lets himself fall into the silence, rubbing at the corner of his eyes with his knuckles until he can see bright spots beneath his eyelids.

“Even the limited edition collector’s First On The Scene Series Hero Deku figure,” Izuku asks eventually. His tone’s meek, but there’s enough spirit hiding in it that Shoto feels something in his chest loosen, his shoulders slumping back against the seat until he’s scrunched down it in with his knees nearly to his chest.

“If you came out okay,” Shoto tells him quietly, “nothing else would matter. Not even the limited edition figurine that you hate.”

“I don’t hate it,” Izuku says loudly, which is a lie and they both know that. Izuku has tried to subtly get rid of that figurine no less than four times, hiding it in increasingly obscure places around their apartment every time he’s home, until Shoto finally had to cradle the damn thing to his chest and tell Izuku I need him to watch over me when you’re gone.

“I don’t care if you hate it,” Shoto tells him quietly, putting as much care into his words as he can. “The only thing I care about is you.” He lets his words sink in for a moment, waiting to see if Izuku has anything to say to that, and then continues.

“Would you be mad at me if I accidentally wore your Silver Age All Might hoodie into a burning building?”

“I hate when you do this,” Izuku tells him, which in itself is all the answer Shoto needs. No, Izuku’s tone says, without needing the specific word. Shoto smiles to himself at the thought of how Izuku’s face must be scrunched up in frustration right now, the way it always tends to be when Shoto turns Izuku’s guilt on its head. “You know I wouldn’t be mad, Shoto.”

“Then why would I be mad,” Shoto asks rhetorically. Now that the tight feeling in his chest is slowly easing he can almost see the situation as something other than terrifying, especially since Izuku mentioned that the Healing Hero: Band-aid had been on-site to help him out.

“I don’t know,” Izuku blurts out, sounding like he’s caught between exasperation and reluctant amusement. “You loved that hoodie!”

Shoto shrugs, even though Izuku can’t see him, and opens up one eye to peer out the window next to his seat. “I love you more,” he answers simply, because it’s true. Nothing Shoto owns could compare to having Izuku safe and sound, and he’d chuck every single thing he owned into a fire to prove it if the man in question needed him to.

Things could be bought and replaced, no matter how limited edition they might have been. Izuku, though? Izuku was one of a kind.

Izuku blows a raspberry directly into his phone’s speakers in response, and then immediately adds, “I love you too, Shoto,” which makes his breath catch in his throat in an odd and painful way, despite how many times Izuku’s said it over the years. “I’m still gonna get you a new one though, I swear.”

Shoto laughs and can’t help but hope the sound doesn’t seem as watery over the phone as it does in his own ears. “Whatever makes you happy, babe,” he says, reaching up to tug at the edge of his beanie, to make sure it definitely covers his hair after moving around so much. Outside the window, the world flies by, and the sunlight is warm on his face, for all that it’s been getting weaker and weaker the closer they get to the winter season.

“Well,” Izuku mutters, a little bit of a drawl in his voice to show he’s teasing, “you tend to make me happy, as does knowing you’re happy, so-“

Shoto’s heart squeezes, like someone’s pressing down on his chest with a force he can’t even imagine, and for a minute he’s worried that he’s going to end up crying on this train like a fool, love rising like a tsunami through his veins until he’s drowning in affection and homesickness.

(It seems like these days, he’s always drowning in this feeling, two-parts love and one-part homesickness, even when he’s tucked into their apartment in the city.

He wonders if Izuku feels this way too, but only for a second. In the end that thought is almost enough to break his heart completely, and if he can avoid crying on public transportation today, he’d be very, very happy.)

You make me happy, Izuku,” Shoto manages to say, after what’s probably too long of a pause, but Izuku blessedly doesn’t ask. Instead he just hums, a quiet, almost subdued sound, and lets silence build between them. Shoto watches the country pass outside the window, just as reluctant to hang up as he was to leave Izuku behind this morning.

A lot of their calls fall into this silence, this suspended moment where if they both close their eyes, they could be side by side in their room instead. Shoto often finds himself curling around the phone when he’s in their room for one of these calls, putting it on speaker and closing his eyes so that, for a moment, he can pretend Izuku is just up brushing his teeth or messing around with their piles of laundry. Neither of them have ever mentioned the silence, but it builds between them like an old friend, and even if Shoto knows Izuku needs to hang up and deal with the fallout from showing up to a crisis in his pajamas, he thinks he’s earned the right to be selfish, just for a little while longer.

“Hey,” Izuku says eventually, breaking their I-don’t-want-to-hang-up-me-either kind of silence. “I have a weird question, and before you ask, this was All Might’s idea, so just- bear with me.”

Shoto blinks for a moment, thrown for a loop, but then snorts. “I’m sure I’ve put up with odder, whatever it is,” Shoto promises dutifully, but considering All Might is in the mix, he could be absolutely wrong about that.

(Still, he doesn’t think anything will ever top the thrilling story of how exactly Izuku’s Quirk had come in so late in his life.

Sometimes he still looks at the love of his life and thinks All Might told a kid to eat a strand of his hair, which is always followed by a wry tidal wave of adoration as that thought is chased by the even more ridiculous thought that the damn kid actually did it too.

Midoriya Izuku certainly is one of a kind, before and after One For All. Shoto wouldn’t have him any other way, though.)

Izuku takes a deep breath before he speaks, something that’s audible through the phone, and then asks, “can you tell me where we had our first date?”

Okay, Shoto thinks, watching his reflection open and close its mouth in the train car window for a moment. That is suitably All Might odd I guess.

“I counted our first date as the day in Gym Gamma,” Shoto recalls slowly. “But you thought it was Ground Beta. We told everyone we went on a walk in the park and ate takiyaki though.”

He almost adds do I pass?, but bites his tongue at the last moment.

“Oh good,” Izuku says, which isn’t worrying at all. “You’re really you!”

“Who else would I be,” he asks, bemused enough to make a face at himself in the reflection of the window.

The baffling, but somehow unsurprising response he gets is just:

“All Might said he saw a bunch of selfies of you on Instagram, so he thought that you’d been abducted and that someone with a doppelganger Quirk was trying to steal your life.”

That was his first assumption,” Shoto breathes, not sure if he should laugh or cry. “Not that I, I don’t know, just wanted to post a few selfies?

“Sweetheart,” Izuku says slowly, warm and amused and unfairly attractive, considering how far away he is right now. “No offense, Shoto, but until like a month ago, you couldn’t even spell Instagram correctly without spellcheck. I’ll admit, the doppelganger theory was a bit much, but it means he was worried about you!”

“What did you tell him,” Shoto asks, ignoring the statement about All Might being worried about him. His connection to the man is confusing at the best of times, even outside the fact that Shoto’s been long-term dating the closest thing the man has to a son since high school.

Izuku laughs, amused and warm. “That you were waging war against the collective poor tastes of the internet in a way that’s doomed to drive me crazy and that if I suspected even for a moment that there was a doppelganger Quirk at work, I’d call him immediately.”

Shoto doesn’t know what to say to that, partially because it hadn’t even occurred to him how Izuku would react to him publicly posting pictures of all his Hero Deku merchandize, other than the fact he might find it mildly embarrassing or annoying.

But the way Izuku says doomed to drive me crazy is low and heated, full of exasperated, wound up affection instead.

Oh, Shoto thinks, suddenly mourning the loss of his hoodie for a whole new reason. I didn’t even think of that. How foolish of me, I need to correct that next time we’re both home.

“Oh,” Izuku says suddenly, jarring Shoto out of his wandering thoughts as, for a split second, Shoto worries he said that last part out loud. “Speaking of All Might-“

“Did he have something else on his mind,” Shoto asks drily, uncurling his legs from his chair to straighten them along the floor in front of himself. “You know, other than my possible abduction and impersonation?”

Izuku’s eyeroll isn’t audible, but Shoto holds the image of it in his mind like that of an old friend, dark lashes fluttering as green gem-like eyes peer at him with amusement. “He wanted to know if he could crash with us for Jiro and Momo’s wedding,” Izuku answers after presumably rolling his eyes at Shoto, and there’s a smile evident in his voice, one that makes Shoto smile as well. “I told him that I’d check with doppel-you, but that I was almost positive you wouldn’t mind.”

Shoto snickers for a second, thinking of their spare bedroom, plastered as it is in all of Izuku’s old All Might merchandise, little shelves lining every inch of the walls to hold all of his figurines and action figures. He’s almost sorry that All Might asked to stay with them before Shoto could convince Aizawa to do so, because Eraser Head’s expression probably would have been just as priceless as it was the first time he’d seen Izuku’s room in high school.

“Of course he can stay with us,” Shoto murmurs, ignoring the doppel-you comment for the moment. He shakes his head as he rearranges the phone against his ear, ducking down so that he can hold it against his shoulder for a moment instead. “They’re having it at the park with the concert dome, right? The one with all the cherry blossom trees?”

“You’d probably know better than me, Mr. Wedding Party,” Izuku teases softly. “But I think so, yeah. You were hanging out with them like last week, weren’t you? Are they freaking out yet?”

Shoto thinks back to Jiro and Momo, soft and in love in the back of the restaurant, tucked together and grinning at him as they sat on the opposite bench in their booth. He feels his chest clench at the thought of his friends, how well they suit one another and how hard they’ve worked to get to where they are, and swallows.

“Not that I could tell,” he tells Izuku honestly, his voice coming out a little low and rough with emotion. “But you know Jiro and Momo; if they were going to freak out about it, they’d do so behind closed doors.”

On the other side of the phone, Izuku laughs, humming a little bit in agreement at the end. “That’s true,” he agrees quietly. “They’ll be okay, though, I’m sure. Jiro’s probably going to flip when she finally catches sight of the price tag for everything, and Momo’s either going to glide through the whole thing completely unruffled or panic at the very last minute, right before she walks down the aisle, but either way, I’m sure they’ll be fine.”

“Jiro might flip a lot sooner if we don’t manage to get in for our suit fittings soon,” Shoto points out quietly, grinning at the memory of Jiro trying to step into his space with her most threatening and terrifying expression that night as they left the restaurant, to tell him in no uncertain terms he and Izuku would get their stupid fucking suit fittings done already, or else, Shoto.

“Oh shit,” Izuku blurts out, “I’d totally forgotten about those. Can’t I just wear my old suit?”

Shoto’s short snorting burst of laughter catches him so much by surprise that he almost drops his phone. “Babe,” Shoto murmurs quietly, grinning down at his lap as he curls his fingers into the soft cotton of the hoodie. It’s one of Izuku’s old ones, one of the hoodies he used to wear jogging when they were in high school, and the only reason it still fits Shoto now is because Izuku has always had a habit of buying hoodies and jackets one or two sizes too big. “There’s no way you’d fit in that suit from our high school dance, you know that, right? And if you showed up in something that clashed with the colors that badly, I don’t think even I could save you from Momo’s wrath.”

Izuku groans, low in his throat in faux misery, and Shoto feels a shiver trace his spine at the sound. “I’m pretty sure no matter we do Kirishima and I are doomed to inspire Momo’s color coordinated wrath,” Izuku complains. Shoto just hums a little, because it’s probably true, and after a moment Izuku adds, “but you’ll at least try to save me, right?”

“I’ll do everything I can,” Shoto promises, heartfelt even though he knows Izuku is only teasing him. “For you, at least. Kirishima can suffer.”

“You wouldn’t let Kirishima suffer,” Izuku points out, which is becoming an annoying trend of everyone he knows. “Besides- oh, yeah, I’m-“

Izuku’s voice disappears for a moment, becoming muffled as he covers the phone to speak to someone else. Shoto can’t pick out the voices or the words, but he imagines some poor police officer finally got tired of a charred, hopefully-clothed-now pro hero chatting on his phone while the press waits like hungry piranha outside the perimeter.

“Sorry,” Izuku murmurs, once his voice becomes clear again. He’s speaking more softly, hushed and subdued, and Shoto feels like he’s been stabbed for a moment as longing lances through him. “I think I’ve got to go though. Officer Sansa was holding the press back for as long as he could, but-“

“It’s okay,” Shoto murmurs back, interjecting when Izuku’s words falter and halt. “If you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go, Izuku. I’m just glad you’re okay and- thank you for calling me.”

Izuku huffs out a breath, one that Shoto knows from experience usually sends his curls bouncing with the force of his irritation, and insists, “of course I was gonna call you! You don’t have to thank me for that, Shoto.”

Shoto only hums for a moment, closing his eyes instead of responding. Even though he has to go, Izuku lingers in the call, breath just faintly audible through the speakers.

“Before you go,” Shoto says, when it’s clear Izuku has no real intention of hanging up this very second. He makes a mental note to send a sorry text to Officer Sansa, or at least the cat Quirk man’s boss, but whatever guilt he feels for keeping Izuku on the phone disappears when Izuku answers.

What’s up, babe?”

Shoto tucks himself against the wall, feeling a lopsided grin tug at the corners of his mouth, and murmurs, “congratulations on the possible bump-up in rankings.”

Izuku’s response is as quick as his punches, and almost before Shoto is done speaking he’s groaning into the phone, loud and theatrically pained as can be.

Please don’t,” Izuku begs, sounding like he’s swallowing something sour as he forces the words out. “That article was- there was so much wrong with it, I don’t know if I’ll ever truly know peace when there’s someone that bad at hero analysis out on the loose.”

Shoto laughs, a sharp bark of a thing he should probably try and muffle, but doesn’t. The article published this morning on one of the hero-centric, analytical-type news websites had been full of praise for the young and rising hero Deku, going on for paragraphs and paragraphs as it talked about all Izuku’s done as a hero for their society.

“Even if they’re a hero Deku fan,” he teases quietly, but he already knows the answer to that, wholeheartedly aware that at this point he’s just poking at a hornet’s nest to watch it go off.

“They called Best Jeanist boring,” Izuku shrieks, in a tone that he really, really shouldn’t use when there’s already a hoard of reporters trying to get his attention. “Old fashioned and unnecessary! How could they-“

Shoto bites his tongue on even more laughter, happy to let Izuku’s infuriated rant drift over him for the moment. The article had been kind to Izuku, that was true, and it had even touched on some of their friends in an admiring and inspiring light, but for those pros that had been around for a while, it had not been kind at all. There’d been a whole section on the favoritism within the ranks, claiming that the older heroes actively worked to keep the younger ones down, siting interactions like gang bust on the highway to accuse Best Jeanist of using younger heroes to his benefit without giving them the proper credit.

He’d also been annoyed by it, the longer he read it, but Shoto had known the second he’d laid eyes on the article that Izuku, who had idolized the same heroes they now got to work beside on a day to day basis, would be furious about it.

“It’s just- it’s so stupid,” Izuku snarls, huffing a little at the end of the statement in a way that makes Shoto smile. “It’s completely ignoring the way those same heroes have worked to teach us and help shape society for the better, and I can’t believe someone let them publish it!”

“Did Hawks text you about it,” Shoto asks, because they both know Izuku is right, so agreeing with him isn’t quite as necessary as it would be if Shoto was discussing the article with anyone else. And while his chest still aches at the thought of his last interaction with the current number one pro hero, Hawks’ knowing tone ringing in the back corner of his mind, he can’t help but grin a little as well, because every time an article is published claiming the hero Deku is on his way to steal Hawks’ title as number one, the older man always texts Izuku first thing.

This instance is apparently no different, because Izuku’s anger drops away for a moment as he snorts, wry and warm, before answering, “yeah, he did. He was the one who first linked me to the article, like, ten minutes after it was published or something. His message only said pull the trigger, Piglet.”

“Ah,” Shoto says, trying to deadpan and only succeeding in barely holding back his snickering. “You know, when you finally do take that title from him, he’s probably going to throw you a party.”

“I might not even be the one to take the spot from him,” Izuku protests. It’s a stupid protest, because they both know Izuku has been aiming to be the number one pro hero in the nation since he was, like, six, and nothing on the face of this earth is going to stop him from doing so, but Izuku’s always been modest at the worst of times, and so his protest isn’t really that much of a surprise.

But before Shoto can argue and point out that even Hawks knows Izuku is going to take it from him, there’s a voice calling Izuku’s name, yelling Deku! Hero Deku! loud enough that Shoto thinks Officer Sansa must have finally gotten overrun and their time really is up.

“Shit,” Izuku swears quietly. Shoto feels ready to echo that statement, gut twisting as his heart lurches uncomfortably in his chest, and in the next second, Izuku falls away, his tone shifting slightly as the hero Deku pulls back from the phone to call out to the crowd.

“Sorry for the wait, everyone! I’ll be right with you, just let me say goodbye!”

“You’ve gotta go,” Shoto murmurs into the phone, because he knows no matter how much Izuku claims not to care about whether or not the media knows about them, he’s going to watch what he says right now. “Text me when you get a chance, okay? I love you, Izuku.”

Izuku pauses, just for a second, just long to be noticeable, and then murmurs. “I will, I promise. Stay safe.”

I love you too, Izuku’s tone says. Shoto swallows, rough and miserable, and when he pulls the phone from his ear, it’s to see the call ended screen flashing at him quietly.

Shoto could get online, could probably find pictures from the civilians in the crowd of Izuku in the ruined hoodie and sleep pants, but he doesn’t.

Instead he tucks his phone against his chest, twists in his seat so that he’s facing the window, and closes his eyes as the train carries him further and further away from the one he loves.

 

-

 

Seeing Tsuyu again is nice, as is being able to help combat the smuggler’s frost-based Quirk with his fire Quirk. It takes most of the week to hunt them down and corner them, and by the time Shoto is back on a train up north Izuku has already left town once more.

He leaves with one of the crew’s sailor hats in his bag (a gift from Tsuyu’s captain/boss), a selfie of him and Tsuyu all bundled up against the cold (captioned what a time to leave my Hero Deku hoodie at home #itsnoteasybeinggreen #orbeingnotgreeneitherIguess), and an offer to come out to the coast again to help anytime.

When he gets back to the apartment, it’s quiet and dark, the air inside cool from having the heater put on the lowest setting while Izuku and he were both gone. He flips on the living room light, toeing off his shoes and letting his duffle bag fall from his shoulder as he surveys their home.

The only noticeable difference that screams Izuku really was here out at him is in the bedroom, which is cleaner than it’s been in the past two years they’ve lived here. The floor is free of discarded and clean clothes alike, and a peek at their open closet shows that Izuku probably had to go buy more hangers, because everything’s been hung up, even the stuff Shoto didn’t realize they still owned, like the aforementioned suit Izuku wore for their high school dance in their first year.

The room is so unrecognizable for a second, so not them, not the room where he’s spent the most time with Izuku this year alone, that it takes him almost a full minute of staring to notice the box at the end of the bed. He flicks on the light switch before he pads over, and now that the light is on, he can see the note taped to the top of the box as well.

Shoto, the note reads. I know this doesn’t make up for the fact that I’m always gone, but I hope it makes it a little easier to bear. I love you. Be home soon.

Izuku’s forgone a signature in favor of scribbling a heart at the bottom, and then, underneath that, it also has P.S. the support/merchandise company wants your input on the stuff, as usual. You don’t have to, of course, but at this point I think they like working with you better than they like working with me.

Shoto touches the note carefully, tracing the edge of it with his fingertips, and then lifts the lid of the thin cardboard clothes box up, setting it aside so that he can retrieve the note from the top of it later.

Inside there’s a brand-new Hero Deku hoodie, along with a new set of the pajama pants Izuku ruined. And underneath those, dark and soft and expensive looking, there’s something else as well. Another note sits on top of it, signed by the head of the Hero Deku merchandise team, and it simply says your boyfriend said you’re in charge again, champ.

Izuku’s right, in the end. The soft, supple leather jacket with its dark forest green coloring and gunmetal grey accents doesn’t make up for the fact that their home is cold and empty. But Shoto touches his fingers to it anyway, pulling it carefully from the box so that he can hold it up to the light, and he finds the ache in his chest feels less like a sore and more like a bruise.

Especially when he sees the tag on the inside, with the same remark all of Izuku’s merchandize has stitched into it at the man’s own request.

Anyone can be a hero, the tag reads, in bright, bold red threads.

Shoto blinks, reaching up absently to run his thumb over the stitched letters, feeling the corner of his mouth tug up in a smile, even though it feels like there’s no air left in his lungs.

Later, he’ll probably try on the jacket for real, probably take a selfie in the mirror on the back of their bedroom door and then text the head of the marketing department his thoughts on it, but for now, Shoto takes off the old black hoodie, stopping just before he drops it on the ground and instead, jerkily, turning to put it in the laundry hamper in the corner of the room. After that he tugs on the new Hero Deku hoodie, mourning, just for a split second, the loss of his soft, well-worn one, and then changes out of his jeans to pull on his new sleep pants.

The rest of the world can wait. For now, Shoto turns to head back to the kitchen for a cup of tea and to see if Izuku’s free to answer his call.

 

-

 

Shoto’s at work the following night when his phone buzzes on the edge of his desk, the two-burst vibration signaling a text message.

From: He’s Got MBoD (Mad Banquet of Darkness) Energy
please remember that I am just as much a victim of chaos’ whims as you are

“Well, that’s alarming,” Shoto says out loud. He blinks down at the message for a minute, tempted to text Tokoyami back and ask him what the fuck that’s supposed to mean, but then his phone buzzes just once, with a notification saying that someone’s tagged him in a post on Instagram.

“What’s alarming,” Genjo asks, wandering out of his office, coffee mug in hand, as Seiten ducks around him, complaining about being hungry as Genjo comes to a stop next to Shoto.

Shoto tips his phone so that his boss can see the text message as well, and adds, “that’s Tsukiyomi.”

Genjo reads the message at a quick glance before his purple eyes narrow, his head lifting as the sounds of banging cupboards drifts back from the breakroom. “That’s Hawks’ sidekick, right,” Genjo asks, arching an eyebrow as dread and horror slam through Shoto all at once.

“Fuck,” Shoto says, suddenly wary of the Instagram notification, especially since Jiro somehow managed to set it up so that he’d only see those from the people he follows. His boss gives him a look that toes the edge of amusement, seeming to lift his coffee mug to his lips before he remembers that it’s empty.

Shoto, meanwhile, is desperately tapping at his phone screen to find the Instagram notification once more. He clicks on it, barely registering the username of the person who tagged him (@birdbrainedhero, oh god no), and then, when the app boots up and loads, he barely resists the urge to swear once more.

@theherothermo Am I doing this right? #myherodeku #keepingupwiththeyouth #pleasedontfreezemekidlmao

“The list of people who are dead to me grows by the day,” Shoto says out loud. Genjo peers over his shoulder once more, barks out the closest sound to a laugh that Shoto’s ever heard him make when his strength-and-speed enhancing Quirk partner isn’t around, and simply shakes his head. Mystery apparently solved for the man, he turns on his heels and heads for the break room, shouting you stupid monkey, you better have started the coffee maker, like that’s a normal thing to shout at your hero partner/husband at ten-thirty at night.

The picture Hawks has posted is- well, it’s probably not objectively a bad photo, but Shoto kind of wants to freeze him to the side of a building regardless.

It’s framed so that Hawks is front and center, the city spread out beneath him in a hazy mess of glittery lights and shiny grey buildings, the night sky blurring everything together in a muted kind of darkness. He’s got one hand up in a peace sign at the bottom corner of the image, mouth crooked in a cockeyed smirk that Shoto knows, somehow, is directed straight at him.

And, to top it all off, he’s wearing, instead of his usual goggles, what has to be the cheapest child’s costume Hero Deku mask on the market. It’s the wrong color green, a fabric that looks like felt, and the pieces that make up the ears to Izuku’s hood are, at minimum, three times larger than they need to be.

Shoto can only see the way the other man is smirking because the matching mouthpiece to the mask is tucked under his chin, visibly thin and flimsy and-

Without realizing that he’s done it, Shoto is dialing the number listed in his phone as #1 Dumb Birb. He’s not sure this is a great idea, but before he can decide otherwise Hawks picks up the phone.

“You’re gonna kill me, aren’t you,” Hawks says, instead of some variation of his usual yo, what’s up lil’ hero? He’s laughing, the faint sound of wind moving past the microphone on his phone signaling he’s still probably up in the air after taking his picture. That or at the very least perched on some building’s roof.

“Izuku probably won’t let me,” Shoto tells him, which is unfortunately true. “But I have another punishment for you, actually.”

Hawks laughs, the sound loud and trilling, and coos into the phone, “if I live, how bad can it be? You’re, like, a total softie! I know all your secrets, kid.”

Shoto reconsiders his stance on murder and whether or not he could get Izuku to back him up, but ultimately, he’s still a hero and Hawks is still, technically, their coworker; murdering him would be bad for many, many reasons, but god if throttling him just a little doesn’t sound nice right about now.

Hawks’ punishment isn’t so much a plan as an on-the-fly gut feeling, but Shoto puts every ounce of confidence he doesn’t feel into sounding like the smuggest little shit possible when he says, “If I ever do manage to get Izuku to marry me, you’re not invited.”

On anyone else, the theatric gasp Hawks lets out would sound ridiculous and faked, but Shots is willing to bet on it being more real than the man would like to let on. “What,” he sputters, sounding flabbergasted and appalled. “Shoto, wait, that’s not fair-“

Shoto hangs up the phone before Hawks can make his case, grinning smugly to himself as the sounds of Genjo and Seiten’s usual faux-argument flirting floats down the hall toward him.

For good measure he texts Izuku, typing out whatever you do, don’t answer any of Hawks’ calls, he’s just being a dumbass. He sends another separate text message with a heart emoji directly after that, before he clicks back over to the Instagram app to weigh the pros and cons of calling Hawks an overgrown chicken wing on his own post.

Before he can make the (honestly bad) decision to go through with it, Izuku responds.

From: my hero :green heart emoji: :thumbs up emoji:
oh my god babe

From: my hero :green heart emoji: :thumbs up emoji:
one of these days you two will figure out how to get along… one day it’s gonna happen

Shoto snorts quietly to himself as he types back over his barbequed body, maybe, before switching back over to Instagram to double tap on Hawks’ image with the smallest amount of guilt.

@birdbrainedhero, he comments, can’t wait to see Deku overtake you in the ranks ;^)

Shoto, do you want some fucking coffee,” Genjo yells from the kitchen. Seiten yells on the heels of that question, asking if he wants any take-out as well before he heads out to help with a small bust that Kendou’s agency is doing.

“Sure,” he calls back, grabbing his coffee mug with one hand as he finally types out a reply to Tokoyami with his thumb.

To: He’s Got MBoD (Mad Banquet of Darkness) Energy
you’re good, thanks for the head’s up though

His phone buzzes in his hand as he goes to tuck it into his pocket once more, and the message on the screen brings a smile to his face, even as he ducks into the kitchen and hands off his coffee mug to a shouting Genjo, who, at a glance, seems to be desperately fighting against the urge to grin at his pouting husband.

From: my hero :green heart emoji: :thumbs up emoji:
babe I trust you with my whole heart, but WHY is hawks trying to secure a “no take backs” invitation to “any possible celebration you and shoto throw”?

To: my hero :green heart emoji: :thumbs up emoji:
no idea but you should absolutely tell him it’s never gonna happen <3

 

-

 

From: :alien emoji: :crown emoji:
shoto!!!!! we should go dancing!!!!!!!! I know all the clubs with the best selfie lighting it’ll be lit cmon!!!!!!!!!

To: :alien emoji: :crown emoji:
no

From: :alien emoji: :crown emoji:
not understandable have a cursed day

To: :alien emoji: :crown emoji:
Ashido I’m not going to let you drag me out dancing when Izuku’s not in town to fish me out of whatever ditch I crawl into to die after you’re done with me

From: :alien emoji: :crown emoji:
slightly more understandable have an average day

From: :alien emoji: :crown emoji:
but this means u owe me three selfies and a dance at yaomomo and jiro’s wedding buster

From: :alien emoji: :crown emoji:
also u have to let me pick our captions and hashtags

To: :alien emoji: :crown emoji:
you drive a hard bargain

To: :alien emoji: :crown emoji:
but I can agree to that

From: :alien emoji: :crown emoji:
:kiss emoji: :wink emoji: :sparkle heart emoji: ur the best shoto!!!!!! love u!!!!!!!!!

To: :alien emoji: :crown emoji:
love you too Ashido :pink heart emoji
:

 

-

 

Halfway through his morning run, Shoto feels a hand grab at the back of his hoodie, and seconds before he can throw out ice and fire in every direction, a voice cracks through the cool still air around them.

It’s a really, really good thing Shoto only runs with headphone in, because otherwise he probably would have nearly killed Hagakure for what has to be the twentieth time since meeting her.

Shoto,” Hagakure cries, voice still as bright and bubbly as ever. “Take selfies with us too!

“Oh my god,” Ojiro whisper-shouts in exasperation, also from behind him. “Hagakure that’s not what I meant when I said we should say hi.”

Shoto skids to a stop with his heart in his throat, stumbling a little bit as the pro hero Invisible Girl seems to trip and fall into him. They nearly end up in a pile of limbs on the ground, which would be embarrassing for a number of reasons, Shoto is sure, but at the last minute Ojiro’s tail snaps out, curling around Shoto and Hagakure both to keep them on their feet.

“I’m going to kill you by accident one of these days,” Shoto complains loudly, as he lets his weight rest against Ojiro’s tail for a moment as Hagakure elbows him in the side. “I’m not going to mean to, but it’s going to happen and it’s going to be your fault.”

“Eh,” Hagakure says and he can feel the way she shrugs against his back. “If you didn’t accidentally kill me in high school I don’t think it’s gonna happen now.”

“No one is going to accidentally or on purpose kill anyone else,” Ojiro says, in a tone of voice that implies it’s not the most ridiculous thing he’s said to his patrol partner in their time together. Shoto snorts, nudging his elbow back, and Hagakure blows out a raspberry in the space behind his shoulder before pushing off of him with a little shove.

“You’re no fun,” Hagakure complains. Shoto turns, hoping that today is one of the days where Hagakure has her suit deactivated, so that he has a better idea of where her body is, but Hagakure has never really liked having people know where she’s standing, so he’s not entirely surprised to find a pair of floating gloves in front of him, Ojiro standing behind them looking amused and exhausted.

“Number one enemy of fun right here,” Shoto deadpans. Ojiro’s lips twitch at his words, which he tries to couple with his best Aizawa-impression expression, and Hagakure giggles, gloves bouncing as she waves her hands about in the area between them.

“I take it back,” Hagakure promises him, hands flying up and down at a rate that makes Shoto’s head spin a little trying to watch it. “You’re bunches of fun, Shoto! Oh, that reminds me though-“

Shoto lifts his chin, as if he has to do such a thing to see over Hagakure instead of through her, and makes eye contact with Ojiro, who only smiles a little in the corner of his mouth in response, eyes saying you know how she is without words being needed. Meanwhile Hagakure seems to spin on her heels, her specially-made bodysuit flickering for a moment in a riot of dancing colors, giving Shoto the impression of where her arms and legs are before she goes completely invisible once more, this time facing Ojiro.

One of the gloves snaps in front of his face, fingers wiggling impatient, and Ojiro keeps his vaguely amused look as Hagakure demands, “cough it up, Ojiro! I told you we’d run into him during one of our patrols eventually!”

“I feel like I’m in danger,” Shoto says out loud, as Ojiro rolls his eyes and sticks his hand in his costume’s pocket. “I think I’m just gonna-“

Quick as lightning, but not faster than Shoto can dodge, one of Hagakure’s hands is flashing through the air to snake back toward him and snag the front of his hoodie, her fingers curling tight enough that Shoto worries for a second she might actually stretch it out too much.

“Oh c’mon,” Ojiro says, swallowing back audible laughter as he fishes something out of his pocket and hands it off to Hagakure. “Grabbing the hoodie is a little bit of a low blow, don’t you think? Everyone knows Shoto loves that thing.”

“It’s true,” Shoto agrees, shrugging loosely when Hagakure tugs him closer by a half of a step like he doesn’t have what’s probably at least seven inches on her. He ducks his head down, approximating where her face would be, and adds, “please be nice to my hoodie, Hagakure, it’s new.”

“Oh my god,” Hagakure says, shaking him a little bit before Ojiro expertly leans around her invisible body and pries her hand off of Shoto’s clothing. “That really was your hoodie Deku wore into the fire!”

Shoto feels his mouth twist, half misery and half amusement, and Ojiro lets out a little cough to cover his own surprise as he herds them both to the side of the sidewalk instead of standing in the middle of it. There’s not a lot of foot traffic right now, since it’s been maybe ten minutes since the sun crested over the horizon, but Shoto knows from experience it’s better to stick to the sides just in case.

“He got me a new one,” Shoto tells them drily, “but yes, that was my hoodie.”

“Aw, that sucks, but at least he replaced it! Is that why you’re running in this one,” Hagakure asks. Shoto can almost feel the way she brushes up against him as she leans forward, more of an awareness than a physical feeling, and he can’t help but notice that for all her earlier insistence, she seems to have forgotten whatever she’d made Ojiro carry around to give him. “Trying to break it back into that sweet, worn-in softness?”

Shoto shrugs again, not bothering to answer since it’s true, and Shoto gets the impression that Hagakure is nodding at him, even though he can’t see it.

“That makes sense,” she enthuses, clapping her hands together in front of her. The thing that was clasped in her other hand seems to startle her as her palms try to come together and she jolts, costume flickering pink for a split second like a chameleon as she eeps in the back of her throat.

Ojiro just looks even more amused. “Sorry,” he says, as Hagakure seems to collect herself. “She’s had, like, three of those energy drink coffee things tonight.”

“Ah,” Shoto says, nodding sagely, mostly because he knows it’ll make Hagakure go hey! like a little kid. “Understandable. Izuku once convinced himself he knew how to knit after downing four of those in third year.”

“You guys suck,” Hagakure interjects, before Ojiro can play along and remark something like oh, I think I remember that, though his expression looks like he might try and say such a thing anyway. “Ojiro! Stop egging him on, before I forget his gift again!”

“I think I’m in danger,” Shoto whispers again, letting the way Ojiro tries and fails to swallow back his laughter warm him to his core. He’s tired in a bone deep kind of way and he’s been up all night because his mind won’t settle down and let him sleep, so as startling as Ojiro and Hagakure’s presence is, it’s also more welcome than he thinks he’s able to admit to them.

Shoto,” Hagakure whines, hands seeming to fly apart as she lifts one to shake an accusing finger in his face. He leans back, wary of being booped on the nose, the way he was throughout high school, and her scolding dissolves into a giggle that catches in the back of her throat.

“This,” she announces then, since she’s seemingly done yelling at him, “is for you, Mister Glum-pot!” The pair of floating gloves comes together again, curling around the thing Ojiro had given her, and suddenly she’s brandishing a little Eeyore plush at him, round and soft, dressed in what appears to be a small custom Hero Deku costume.

“Sorry,” Ojiro says from behind her, rubbing at the back of his head with one hand. “I tried to get her not to.”

“Which part did you try to stop,” Shoto wonders absently, eyeing the toy that’s being nudged closer and closer to his nose as he speaks. “The eternally glum Winnie the Pooh toy or the itsy-bitsy Hero Deku costume?”

Ojiro shrugs, grinning crookedly in the corner of his mouth in a way that makes Shoto doubt that he tried very hard to stop Hagakure from doing anything at all. “Both?”

“Hey,” Hagakure protests loudly, “it’s not my fault no one saw you smile until second year, when you sneezed and accidentally iced the stairs while Bakugo while trying to climb up!”

Shoto ignores that comment, mostly because it’s probably more true than he wants to think about. Outside of Kirishima and Izuku, it’s likely that no one did see him smile until that first day in their second year, and that’s honestly a little depressing. He arches his eyebrows at the space above the hovering gloves instead, where he supposes Hagakure’s head is, and she huffs at him, wiggling the toy even closer to his nose impatiently.

“If it makes you feel better,” Ojiro offers, still grinning cheekily, “she’s been trying to find a Hero Thermo costume for the little Piglet she bought for Midoriya, but she hasn’t had any luck yet.”

Shoto also ignores the way that information does, horrifyingly enough, make him feel better. Instead he focuses on putting every ounce of his energy and every scrap of acting ability he has into shifting his face into the best look of genuine confusion he can muster.

“Are you implying that Piglet and Eeyore are gay,” he asks, widening his eyes for good measure, even as his voice cracks with suppressed laughter.

Hagakure responds by not hesitating to smack him in the face with his newly gifted toy. Behind her Ojiro responds by promptly choking on his tongue, wheezing out I told you so as he doubles over on the side of the street. The only thing that keeps him on his feet appears to be his tail, which props him up like a board as he curls closer and closer to the pavement.

Ah, Shoto thinks, as Hagakure smacks him again, harder this time, and the few civilians out this early in the morning turn to watch them, like a particularly unruly group of monkeys at a zoo exhibit. Somewhere, somehow, Aizawa must be feeling a wave of disappointment and he doesn’t even know why.

(Still, though, it’s better than being in their empty apartment, so Shoto can’t say he can complain, even as Hagakure smacks the toy dangerously near his eye.)

 

-

 

As is becoming the norm for everyone he knows, they refuse to leave him alone to continue their patrol until he takes selfies with them.

“Kirishima is so, so dead to me,” he says out loud, after Hagakure has wrangled the promise of two pictures from him, one for her Instagram and one for his. Ojiro is arguing with his partner as the streets fill with people on their morning commutes, most of which turn to stare at them in bemusement as they make their way by.

Shoto wonders absently which part is making them stare: the pair of floating hands loudly arguing with the recognizable pro hero Tailman about whether or not he has to be in the selfies, or the man in the Hero Deku hoodie and matching Hero Deku jogging pants slouched against the building nearby, hood pulled up all the way over his hair like some kind of apathetic teenager dragged out on errands with his mom.

“Shut your mouth,” Hagakure tells him, whirling around to nearly poke his eye out with one of her flying fingers. “You and Kirishima have been thick as thieves since that stupid training camp our first summer and it’s so rude of you to pretend otherwise!”

Shoto arches an eyebrow at her, a little surprised that Hagakure would have noticed that he and Kirishima’s friendship had pretty much started that summer, since most of their friends hadn’t noticed until Kirishima started dragging him into the dorm-wide prank war in an effort to get him to socialize with someone who wasn’t Izuku and whoever-Izuku-was-hanging-out-with.

Satisfied with the fact that he has nothing to say in his own defense, Hagakure twists back around to Ojiro, grabbing at the collar of his costume and pulling him closer as she forces her phone into his hands. “And you, mister, are getting in these pictures! No buts!”

Ojiro catches Shoto’s eye as they’re forced shoulder to shoulder, dipping his head to the side to mouth bossy as obviously as he can. He grunts a second later as Hagakure either elbows him or stomps on his foot, Shoto can’t tell which, and Shoto barely keeps himself from snickering as Hagakure’s weight leans back against their shoulders, her head brushing against Shoto’s chin as he leans in for the picture.

“Alright,” she says, as Ojiro starts to lift up her phone, unlocking it with her passcode without even having to ask what it is. “So we’re doing the first one with happy faces and the second with sad faces, okay? Everybody on three!”

“Uh,” Shoto says, eying the picture they make in the photo screen. His own skeptical face looks back at him, one eyebrow slightly cocked as he watches Hagakure’s gloves move with her words. “No offense, Hagakure, but… you don’t-“

“Don’t say it,” Ojiro stage-whispers, and his lips are twitching in a smirk in the screen of the phone in front of them. Between them Hagakure huffs, making sure to dig one of her invisible elbows into Shoto’s side as punishment for pointing out the very reasonable flaw in this plan.

“Don’t worry about it,” Hagakure says, after she’s done trying to dig a hole in his side with her elbow. “I’ve got it covered!”

Shoto turns his head slightly to look at Ojiro, but Ojiro only arches his eyebrow for a split second, lip twitching into a grin before he forces it back into something more neutral.

Watch,” Hagakure says, gesturing in front of them at the camera Ojiro is dutifully holding up. “These are my happy hands,” she explains very genuinely, holding up two perky peace signs in the space just above their shoulders. “And these,” she adds, twisting her wrists a little so her fingers aren’t quite so upright, “are my sad hands!”

Shoto lifts his eyes to meet Ojiro’s gaze in the phone’s screen, but the other man just gives him a long standing look that simply says go with it and says nothing.

“Sure,” Shoto mutters, after a long pregnant pause. In his pocket his phone buzzes, the two quick vibration probably a text message. “You know what? What the fuck did Kaminari used to say?”

“Yolo,” Ojiro offers in a near perfect deadpan.

“Ah yes,” Shoto drawls, nodding to himself. He holds the toy up against his right cheek with one hand, giving his brightest peace sign with the other. “Yolo.”

“Oh my god,” Hagakure whines, leaning back against them like if she shoves their shoulders enough they’ll stop being so annoying. “You two suck! You know that yolo was already out of fashion when we were in high school!”

Ojiro might have known that, but Shoto sure hadn’t. Instead of arguing, however, he just gives the camera his best imitation of Izuku’s smile, bright and carefree, and lets Ojiro take the first photo before he drops his expression into a dramatized frown for a second.

“Yolo,” Ojiro whispers quietly, just before he takes the second photo.

(In the end, it takes them three tries to all make their proper ‘sad’ expressions, and Hagakure berates Shoto for another ten minutes for never making time to have lunch with them before she finally lets him go with a promise that she’ll text the second picture to him.

Shoto goes straight home after that, forgoing the second half of his usual morning run, and crawls straight into their bed, hoodie and jogging pants and all.

His head still feels clouded and overfull, their apartment too quiet, too empty and clean, not at all what he’s used to, but it’s not so bad, he figures, not when he has friends like theirs and a soft new toy to hug to his chest as he finally drifts off to sleep.)

 

-

 

(Shoto has always been fairly good about going to sleep when he needs to, knowing that it will only be a hinderance on his ability to perform as a hero if he doesn’t. He doesn’t struggle from the same problem Jiro and Momo have mentioned, where they’ve spent much time living together as a couple that they can barely sleep when one of them is traveling, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy, per say, to sleep when Izuku is gone either.

It should be. Izuku is almost always gone, but some nights their bed still feels too big without him, their room too quiet without the soft, muted sounds of his breathing as he dreams.

On those nights, Shoto likes to call Izuku when he can, when the other isn’t too busy or caught up in a different time-zone, and Izuku, in turn, likes to humor his habit as much as he can.

It’s a double-edged blade, however, because while having Izuku’s voice drifting from the speakers on his phone is a comfort, sometimes it only makes it all the more obvious what Shoto is missing.

Half-asleep, Shoto feels his himself start to drift, his senses dulling as exhaustion takes him, inch by inch.

“Izuku” he murmurs, knowing he shouldn’t, but not remembering why he shouldn’t as the world around him loses its edge.

“Yeah,” Izuku answers absently. Shoto thinks he might have been on a stakeout, or reviewing data they’d collected from one of All For One’s hidden hideouts when Shoto had called, but now he can’t remember which it might have been.

Either way, it doesn’t really matter to him. Izuku is there, wherever there is, far out of Shoto’s reach, and a swell of sadness fills his veins at the thought.

“I wish you’d come home,” Shoto mutters, tears burning like fire in the corners of both eyes. “I miss you.” He turns his head then, burying his face in the pillow on Izuku’s side of the bed, which doesn’t even smell like him anymore, and drifts.

He’s already asleep the next second, which means he doesn’t hear the way Izuku’s breath hitches, in pain or surprise he’ll never know, or the soft, aching way Izuku murmurs his name.

Shoto sleeps, and as he sleeps he dreams of a house, and a cat, and Izuku, safe and warm and home in his arms.

In the morning he doesn’t remember falling asleep, nor the words that he had said. He just blinks at the text message that Izuku had sent him after hanging up, reading the I love you, Shoto <3 with unseeing, exhausted eyes.

I love you too, Shoto responds. And then he gets up, yawning as he goes, and gets dressed for the day.)

 

-

 

Once or twice a month, whichever they can manage, Shoto and Sero meet up to spar at the hero gym downtown.

Shoto barely makes it on time, dragging his heels a little from his back-to-back day. He’d gotten called in to help with a robbery minutes after clocking out on his night patrol shift, and then that robbery had turned into a car chase, which had taken most of the morning to sort out, even though stopping it had only taken thirteen minutes and a hand from Kamui Woods.

Now the afternoon sun is coming in through the windows, the day strangely bright for the beginning of winter, and Shoto sheds his Hero Deku leather jacket as he makes his way through the gym, which is quiet and empty all around him. Mostly he just wants to close his eyes and let the rest of the world fade away for a little while, but even if Shoto didn’t have their sparring session in his schedule, he thinks going home to sleep would be a fruitless adventure anyway.

“Dude,” Sero says when he arrives a few minutes later, the sound of his sneakers squeaking against the floor loud in the silence of the boxing room. Shoto cranes his head up from where he’s stretching on the mats in the corner to find his friend is standing with his arms crossed, chin tucked against his throat so that he can peer at him from over the rim of his sunglasses. “Are you even alive right now?”

“Mhmm,” Shoto pretends to groan, lifting his arms from where he’s been touching his toes to hold them out in front of him like a zombie. “Brains.”

Sero snorts out a laugh and shakes his head, uncrossing his arms so that he can put his hands on his hips as he scrunches his face up and sighs dramatically.

“C’mon man,” he says, wandering over to where Shoto’s sitting, attempting to do his pre-spar stretches, and offering out his hand. “Kicking your ass like this wouldn’t be any fun.”

Shoto wants to protest, because he appreciates their no Quirk sparring sessions a great deal, but Sero tips his sunglasses up on top of his head with his other hand and arches his eyebrows, wiggling his hand between them in faux-impatience.

“Take my hand,” Sero intones, lowering his voice as he obviously starts to quote something Shoto is almost certain he hasn’t seen, “if you want to live.”

Shoto can’t help the soft bark of a laugh that tears its way out of his throat, even if he hasn’t the faintest clue what Sero is quoting, and he reaches up to clasp Sero’s hand easily after that. “I thought you weren’t going to kick my ass,” he pretends to grumble quietly. Sero hauls him up with a grunt of effort, clapping his free hand to Shoto’s opposite shoulder once he’s on his feet.

“I’m not,” Sero tells him, grinning happily. “But I’m glad you went with Plan A. Plan B wasn’t going to be pretty.”

Shoto rolls his eyes, but he can’t help it when he asks, “what was Plan B going to be?”

Sero shoots him an apologetic look, even as his mouth curls in an entirely unapologetic grin. “I was gonna tell your boy you’ve been pushing yourself too hard again.”

Sero glances pointedly down at Shoto’s Hero Deku tank top, like there would have been any confusion in who he could have possibly meant by your boy, and then, without waiting for Shoto to argue back that he’s never pushed himself too hard in his life, Sero throws an arm around his shoulders and starts to propel him from the room.

They end up in the lower level of the gym, where the heated pool is located, Shoto’s pants legs scrunched up to his knees while Sero lets the edge of his basketball shorts barely brush the water as their bare feet drift lazily around. Shoto is almost positive they aren’t supposed to have smoothies from the store upstairs down here, but Sero had charmed the gym employee into promising not to tell, ignoring the way Shoto had arched both eyebrows and smirked at him from the sidelines as he did so.

“So,” Shoto says, after they’ve been sitting there for a few minutes, Sero slurping his puke-green smoothie in the loudest, most obnoxious way possible. “Aren’t you going to pester me about my Instagram?”

Sero pops his mouth off his straw in the most audible way possible, grinning like he’s won something just for making Shoto ask him that, and then shrugs carelessly. “Seemed like everyone else already had,” he says easily, like the godsend Shoto always forgets he is. “Figured you probably wanted to be left alone about it by now.”

Shoto isn’t surprised by the wave of relief that crashes through him, but it’s smaller than he expects, and that’s more unsettling than he likes. He tears his gaze away from his friend, frowning instead at the surface of the water below, and tries to find words for what he’s feeling.

“I- I like it,” Shoto admits finally, the words falling from his mouth like baby teeth, suddenly and with varying degrees of a fight. “It’s- it’s been nicer than I expected, I guess. Everyone’s been very- excited.”

“Well, they are your friends,” Sero says rather matter-of-fact. He leans over, nudging their shoulders together gently, and then adds, “you wanna talk about it?”

Shoto mulls overs the offer for a moment, weighing the pros and cons of trying to dredge up the last month or so and put it all into words. He and Izuku have gone over it a couple of times, Izuku checking in to make sure Shoto doesn’t think he has to have an Instagram and post on it, but Shoto hasn’t known what to say about it other than I don’t mind it.

Until now, apparently.

“Does it seem stupid,” he asks, knowing Sero won’t sugar coat it for him, the way everyone else would. Izuku, he knows, would be truthful with him as well, but Izuku would feel guilty about it either way, and that’s the only reason he hasn’t asked him during their calls. “It probably seems stupid, right? I could have just- ignored it.”

Sero laughs a little, in a way that’s not kind, but not inherently unkind either. “Shoto,” his friend says, tucking his straw in the corner of his mouth to chew on absently. “No offense or anything, man, but you’ve never really been one to walk away from a fight when you’re feeling some type of way about it.”

Sero doesn’t say it out loud, but Shoto still hears the you did ice me and half the sports festival audience just because Endeavor pissed you off that Sero’s probably thinking. Shoto grimaces, feeling his shoulders hunch for a second before Sero slings his arm around them and kicks his feet, splashing them both with the pool water.

“But it’s not stupid,” Sero adds quietly. He squeezes Shoto’s shoulders with his arm, slurping at his straw loudly as a way to punctuate his statement.

“It seems kind of stupid,” Shoto argues, glancing at Sero from the corner of his eye. He thinks about the Twitter hashtag, about how he hasn’t let himself examine too closely why he’d been so hung up over the outpouring of excitement people expressed when they thought he and Kirishima were dating. He had played it off as being baffled and offended, playing up how ridiculous it was that anyone think such a thing, but-

But that hadn’t been it, not entirely. Not when he had looked at all the support people were trying to give him, for being able to balance a relationship against his job as a hero, for creating his own happiness after going through so much, both as a child growing up with Endeavor, who’s less-than-stellar parenting qualities had become more or less public knowledge during his fall from number one, and as a student of Class 1-A, which had been publicly targeted by villains all throughout their high school career.

People had been so willing to celebrate his life and happiness, to cheer on his supposed relationship, and that would have been nice, wonderful even, except-

They hadn’t been cheering for him and Izuku.

(Now, with his Instagram account, they still aren’t technically cheering for him and Izuku, not in the same way they’d been cheering on him and Kirishima. But if Shoto has to pick between being known as the hero Deku’s number one fan or being known as the hero Red Riot’s boyfriend, he knows he’ll pick the former every time.)

“But,” Sero prompts, somehow knowing without Shoto saying anything that there’s a but coming.

“But,” Shoto admits quietly, “it’s been kind of- nice.”

Sero hums quietly in the back of his throat, drinking some of his smoothie more normally now that they’re talking about something serious, and Shoto finds himself leaning against his friend’s shoulder quietly as he waits for a response.

“I can see that,” Sero says eventually, nodding a little to himself. “And making an Instagram account like this is probably easier than throwing Midoriya to the wolves and letting them call him an absentee boyfriend, like they would’ve if you’d just made a tweet about it, huh?”

Shoto jolts so hard he probably would have fallen into the pool if it hadn’t been for Sero’s arm around his shoulders. As it is he still nearly fumbles what’s left of his fruit smoothie in the pool instead, catching it at the last moment as his head whips around to stare at the tape hero in pure bafflement.

“Oh man,” Sero says, grinning in a way that’s both shark-like and sad as Shoto gapes at him. “I figured that was probably the problem, but I didn’t expect you to almost fall into the pool. Maybe we should have gone up to the running tracking instead, huh?”

How,” Shoto asks, ignoring everything Sero’s said to distract him from that fact that he isn’t just paranoid and that Izuku really would suffer the media’s wrath if their relationship was public knowledge. “How did you- how the fuck did you know they’d-“

Sero shrugs again, the movement of which rolls across his shoulders and nudges against Shoto’s. “My sister’s a political journalist,” he reminds Shoto quietly, turning his head to stare out across the pool to the far wall. “She’s always saying how polarized the media is on Midoriya and how if one thing goes wrong, they’d all probably turn on him, just like that. It wouldn’t be hard for the assholes out there who hate him to spin your story into something it’s not, so when I saw you what you were posting, I figured you knew that.” Sero drops his gaze down to his mostly empty smoothie, picking at the edge of the plastic lid with his fingernail before glancing over to give Shoto a sad smile.

“Right now,” he says, “all your photos could just be- admiration, or friendship, or something. Everyone in our class has always been close, especially with Midoriya, and we’re all pretty openly supportive of one another, so it’s not too weird, y’know? But if everyone knew about you guys and realized Midoriya left for weeks and weeks at a time, not a lot of them would stop to ask if you guys had talked about it beforehand… It’d just be blood in the water from there on out.”

Shoto swallows, feeling as if a chunk of ice has just slid down the length of his spine as his stomach rolls with disgust. All of his fears have just been validated, all of them have just been backed up with the exact kind of supporting evidence he didn’t need, and that’s almost worse than being told he’s being stupid and paranoid about the whole thing.

“Izuku doesn’t believe it’d be that bad,” Shoto breathes quietly, his words coming out nearly unwieldly. He ducks his head, suddenly unable to look at the sympathy plain as day on Sero’s face, and then swallows roughly twice. “But I- I know it wouldn’t be worth it.”

Sero puts aside his smoothie, some of the nasty colored concoction still at the bottom, and that’s when Shoto knows for sure that this has turned into one of those conversations.

“I’m about to tell you a story I don’t think you remember,” Sero says, not addressing what Shoto’s just confessed, but something in his face tells Shoto he isn’t not addressing it either. “You cool with that?”

“Uh, sure,” Shoto agrees, shrugging a little. He sets aside his smoothie as well, not really interested in drinking it or dropping what’s left in the pool, and twists to the side a little, so that they’re slightly more face-to-face instead of side-by-side.

“Do you remember our midterm exam in the first semester of our third year?”

Shoto blinks, thrown by the question as it seems, to him, to come completely out of left field. “I remember the fact that I don’t remember it,” he answers drily. “That was the one where Aizawa brought in heroes with Quirks which mimicked incapacitating qualities, like the one we faced with Momo that made those he touched act drunk.”

The corner of Sero’s mouth twitches momentarily, like he’s trying not to smile, before he shakes his head with a low laugh. “Drunk is, like, putting it mildly. When you took that hit for us, you were- you were really far gone, dude. You were like hammered.”

Shoto snorts, trying and failing to remember anything that had happened during that test. He only remembers the instructions for their midterm test in the vaguest sense, but after they were split into teams of three, there’s basically nothing.

“Would this story have anything to do with the vague memory I have from Jiro and Momo’s engagement party, where Kirishima was trying to get me to dance on top of a table and you walked up, planted your hands on your hips, and said Shoto, this isn’t how you’re supposed to act when you’re smashed.

Sero barks out a laugh that nearly topples him into the pool and Shoto manages to snag the back of his shirt at the last moment, pulling him back until he’s cackling against Shoto’s shoulder, shaking his head back and forth as he tries to calm down.

“God, I can’t believe you remember that,” Sero snorts, scrunching his face up as he rocks backward, falling gracelessly back against the pool tiled floor. “You had to have drunk, like, an entire bottle of champagne by yourself by that point. Izuku just kept handing you his glasses, not realizing you’d been drinking them until it was way too late. Christ! That was a good night.”

Shoto feels his lips twitch and before he can help himself he’s laughing too, leaning back on his palms as he shakes his head at the admittedly very, very hazy memories he has from Momo and Jiro’s party.

“In my defense, Iida and Ashido were freaking me out,” he complains, remembering the way both of their friends had kept cornering him to ask him when he and Izuku were going to get engaged. “I don’t think I even noticed I was drinking them at first either.”

Sero lets out a soft, wheezing kind of ahhh that’s more sigh than laughter, grinning up at the ceiling for a moment before he turns his head to catch Shoto’s eyes. He’s still grinning when he says softly, “it was so cool, did we ever tell you that? The dude had his Quirk all built up to take us all out in a few seconds, and you flung us sky high so we could take care of the objective like it was nothing. You got three full-blast doses of his Quirk and still shot us off in the right direction to win.”

Shoto blinks, humming a little in his throat as he tries to imagine it. Aizawa and Momo both had told him the bare bones of what had happened during the exam, Aizawa more in the terms of if you risk yourself so recklessly during a test it will negatively effect your grade, even if it helps your teammates and Momo in the terms of if you fling me in the air like that again, Shoto, I’m going to be very, very irate with you. He doesn’t remember Sero telling him anything except good job, bro! after the fact, so he shakes his head no.

“I think I tried to tell you when we got out of the field,” Sero explains, waving one hand lazily in the air as if to say my bad. “Aizawa had already set you up to the side of the testing site and when we got out he was just kind of towering over you, staring down at you like you’d just told him cats were the worst kind of animal or something. He was so disappointed, dude, and when we came barreling out he took one look at us and went get him to drink some water before stalking off. Momo ran after him almost immediately, yelling that he couldn’t dock your grade for this, since your efforts gave us the opportunity to succeed, and then it was just us.”

“I’m going to assume I didn’t try and dance on any tables,” Shoto murmurs drily, grinning when Sero huffs out a laugh.

“Nah, you were really chill about the whole thing,” Sero tells him, shoulders trembling with mirth for a moment. “In fact, I think after a couple of minutes of prodding you to make sure you were drinking water, I blurted out shit dude, you’re really chill about this whole thing and then told you that what you did during the test was super fucking cool.”

Shoto nods sagely, shifting his weight from one arm to the other. “That sounds like something you’d say,” Shoto admits. “What did I do then?”

“Well,” Sero says, grin sliding into something twisted up baffled, fond amusement. “You said you know what would be even cooler, and then, uh-“

“Oh god,” Shoto says, suddenly understanding why at the party Sero had very clearly and carefully informed Izuku that Shoto really shouldn’t try using his Quirk drunk. “Oh god, I froze you, didn’t I?”

“No, actually,” Sero says, with obvious relief in his tone. “But you did try to make sunglasses out of ice and nearly froze your own head solid.”

“That,” Shoto replies flatly, “is probably worse.”

“Probably.”

Shoto can’t help but laugh at Sero’s matter-of-fact agreement, sitting up a little to cover his face with his hands, something he finds himself doing after so many years of dating Izuku. “I tried to make sunglasses out of ice,” he repeats, baffled by himself. He can’t believe he doesn’t remember this, but in a way it’s probably better that he doesn’t.

“You did,” Sero answers, reaching out to pat Shoto’s arm comfortingly. Shoto glances at him, only to find him grinning like the devil, and when their eyes meet Sero adds, “you were really bummed out when it didn’t work.”

“I don’t like this story,” Shoto lies, feeling his face scrunch up in horror as a thought occurs to him. He twists around, eying Sero as seriously as he can as he says, “please tell me I didn’t cry.”

“You didn’t cry,” Sero promises immediately. His shark-like grin softens, somewhat, and he pulls himself upright easily, leaning forward until he can prop his elbows on his knees. He stares at the water for a moment as Shoto watches him, seeming to mull over his words before he admits, “but I thought you were going to, so I panicked and asked you about how your weekend had gone. I thought it’d distract you.”

Shoto feels something crawl up his spine, not quite dread but close enough that his fingers still against his legs, his breath catching in his throat as he watches Sero glance his way out of the corner of his eyes.

“Did it,” Shoto asks quietly. He hates that he doesn’t remember this, suddenly, because this conversation feels weighted once more, the point of the story Sero wants him to see coming closer and closer instead of just two people reminiscing about the stupid things they’d done.

“It seemed to,” Sero tells him, just as softly. “But I don’t think, if you’d been sober, that you ever would have told anyone about your weekend. Or at least, I don’t think you’d have told me then.”

Desperately Shoto tries to remember when their midterm had been, when it would have put them in the year. It would have been just before summer break, or maybe just after? School had only been three years ago, but suddenly it feels decades, and he can’t remember what his weekend would have been like for Sero to look so guilty.

“You- you, uh- you moved your mom out to the coast, the weekend before,” Sero supplies gently, when Shoto doesn’t say anything in response. “With your siblings and- and Midoriya.”

Shoto blinks as the puzzle pieces suddenly fall into place. It comes back to him all at once what weekend Sero is referring to, and how his siblings had tried to insist that they could get their mother settled without his help, since he has his mid-term to prepare for. He remembers telling them to shove it, that he was helping whether they liked it or not, and putting in a special request with Aizawa to miss class the Saturday leading up to mid-terms.

Izuku had offered to help as well, but he’d been scheduled for a week at his work study, with the agency he’d gotten to take him on in their second year, and Shoto had told him not to bother, that his work with the agency would be more important. They’d argued about it, he remembers faintly, as much as they had ever argued about anything, and in the end Izuku had put in a request as well without telling Shoto and had showed up outside the hospital Shoto’s mother had been in since he was five with a duffle bag and a box of donuts, grinning sheepishly and apologizing like a steamroller to his family for being late.

It’s one of Shoto’s fondest memories of his family, one of the ones he holds close to his heart in the hopes it will overshadow all his childhood hurts and help heal the scars still left from growing up with Endeavor. He remembers Fuyumi and Natsuo both hovering like nervous parents on their kid’s first day of kindergarten as his mother climbed into the car, and Izuku’s nonstop chatter on the way to the new care facility on the coast, and how Natsuo had tried to argue that Izuku and Shoto shouldn’t be in the same hotel room that night, to which Fuyumi had agreed, mostly, Shoto remembers, because it had made both Izuku and him blush and sputter in their own defense.

“Oh,” Shoto says, blinking at the realization that Sero has known for years and years that his mother had, for most of his life, lived in hospital. He swallows, unsure how to feel about that, but one more look at the way Sero holds his mouth, lips pressed tightly together in discomfort and guilt, and Shoto finds he doesn’t care as much as he might have, once upon a time.

“That was probably rather shocking,” he adds, wincing when the words come out more robotic than he means them to. He swallows, feeling his shoulders hunch a little like he’s a teenager standing outside his mother’s hospital room door all over again, and drops his gaze to the water instead.

“It was kind of shocking,” Sero agrees quietly. “But not in a bad way. I mean, I was worried for you, but just because it was always your sister, y’know, attending the school events and coming to check on you at the dorms. We all kind of figured your mom was just, like, super busy or something, but- but that’s not why I’m telling you this story. Sorry I never told you that I knew, though. I just didn’t know how to bring it up.”

Shoto swallows, breathing in slowly and then out just as slowly before he glances back up at Sero’s face. “It’s okay,” he says, smiling in a way that’s probably a little bit crooked and sad. “I appreciate it and- and for what it’s worth, my mother is doing very well, these days. We went to a festival in the countryside a few weeks ago and she had a lot of fun.”

Some of the tension that Sero’s holding in his shoulders leaves him, his whole body seeming to deflate a little with relief. The guilt clears up from his expression as well, replaced with a joy that’s bright and gentle as the corners of his mouth turn up in a smile.

“That’s really good, dude,” Sero tells him genuinely. “I’m so glad! Was that the festival where you ran into Uraraka and Yoarashi?”

Shoto nods, feeling his throat close over as a tide of gratitude for his friend washes over him. He lets his fingers curl slightly in the material of his jogging pants, his fingernails scratching at the fabric absently as nervous energy coils and uncoils in his gut.

Anyway,” Sero says, seeming to sense that while Shoto isn’t upset that Sero’s known about his mother this whole time, it isn’t something he’s comfortable talking about. “The point I was trying to make was this: up until that afternoon, I’d kind of thought you and Midoriya were going out, like, casually.”

Sero’s words slam into Shoto like an oncoming truck, knocking him off balance enough that he blurts out, “you what,” at a volume that rings throughout the echoing room and bounces off the ceiling. Sero winces at the sound of Shoto’s shout, shrugging his shoulders and holding up his hands in the universal sign for gimmie a chance.

“I know, I know,” Sero hedges, laughing nervously in the back of his throat. “In hindsight it’s totally stupid, but at the time you guys were, like, really good at keeping the PDA under wraps and all your dates were either, uh, weird sparring things or you guys got special permission to leave campus, so none of us ever saw you on them, y’know?”

“You thought we were- what do you mean,” Shoto sputters, not able to wrap his head around it. “What does casual even mean?!”

“Uh,” Sero says, face scrunching up like he wishes he’d never said anything at all. “Like, not that serious? Um- don’t take this the wrong way, but most of the class thought that once we graduated and we had, like, real jobs with pros, you and Midoriya wouldn’t, um-“

Wouldn’t last, Sero doesn’t say. The words, even unspoken, feel like knives shoved in between his ribs, and before Shoto knows what’s happening his breath is coming quicker and quicker, the taste of bile building on the back of his tongue.

Whoa,” Sero yelps. He smacks a hand against Shoto’s shoulder, shaking him a little bit, and the weight of his palm coupled with the jarring motion knocks him from his own head, just enough for Sero’s words to sink in. “Dude, my bad, I shouldn’t have told you that.”

Shoto sucks in a desperate breath, but instead of letting it go he holds it in his chest, trying to count to five. Once he’s there he lets it out, as slow as he’s able, and he repeats the process once, twice, three times before he starts to feel less like a firecracker coming apart and more like a human being once more.

“You said- you said in hindsight, it seems totally stupid,” Shoto repeats, ignoring how his voice comes out like a hoarse croak. He stares at Sero instead, willing his friend to confirm that no matter what ridiculous things he might have thought back in high school, he didn’t believe Shoto and Izuku would fall apart just like that. “What- what changed your mind?”

Sero’s expression gentles and the hand he still has on Shoto’s shoulder squeezes softly, the strength and warmth of his fingers welcome on Shoto’s right side.

“You rambled, a little bit,” Sero tells him quietly, not looking away from his face even as Shoto starts to squirm. “After I asked about your weekend. You kept trying to explain about your mom, kept going off on tangents about your siblings bickering back and forth, noisy and excitable in a way you said were still trying to get used to. And- and then you mentioned how Midoriya came to help, even though he was supposed to be out on patrol and stuff.”

Sero laughs quietly, another awkward sad kind of sound, and lifts one hand to scratch absently at the back of his head, but he still doesn’t look away. “You went on for a while about how good Midoriya was with your mom, how he visited sometimes when you couldn’t and they’d just hang out, and how much it meant to her to have him there. And while you were talking, you had this look on your face, kind of dopey and happy, and I realized that you and Midoriya might not have been as obvious about it as Jiro and Momo or Tsuyu and Uraraka, but you guys were serious, and you were gonna make it work. You already were making it work, really, but none of us had noticed.”

“I can’t tell if I’m glad I have no memory of this or not,” Shoto says, when Sero pauses to assess how well Shoto is taking this in. His cheeks feel warm and his chest aches, the picture in his mind becoming clearer and clearer the more he thinks about it, because that sounds exactly like something he would do if he was drunk and someone even indirectly prompted him to talk about Izuku.

This time Sero’s laugh is a little warmer, though it doesn’t stop the way the corner of his mouth twists with something like regret. “I’m sorry, you know,” his friend says lowly, “that we thought that. I know we weren’t, like, super supportive of Midoriya going freelance after graduation, but we should have been. You guys have put a lot of effort into making things work, and either way, it’s not like Midoriya wants to be gone all the time, right?”

Shoto swallows, feeling his heart lurch into his throat for a moment before he forces it back down. “If he could be here, he would be,” he agrees softly. “But he’s- the world needs him, needs him to be Hero Deku. And I’m needed here.”

Sero studies his face after Shoto speaks and Shoto doesn’t his best not to squirm, trying not to worry about what his friend might see written in his eyes or in the corners of his mouth. Eventually, though, Sero just sighs, shaking his head as he looks away, and when he glances back his mouth is ticked up in an uneven smile, one that’s sad and hopeful all at the same time.

“Well, whatever it is, I don’t think that Midoriya was entirely wrong when he said that the media finding out wouldn’t be so bad,” Sero says, lifting one hand to make a rocking back and forth gesture to illustrate his next point. “How the media finds out, that’s honestly the real deal breaker. So it could go just as badly as you’re afraid it will, or it could go just as quiet and boring as Midoriya expects. Either way, though, you guys gotta know we’ll all be there to back you up, yeah?”

Shoto opens his mouth and then closes it, swallowing roughly and feeling as if they did actually spar, exhausted and weak-limbed, his heart just a little bit faster than usual as he struggles to wrap his head around the point Sero is trying to make.

“Yeah,” he says eventually, clearing his throat to try and ease the way his voice rasps in the space between them. “Yeah, I- we know. Thanks, Sero.”

Sero leans over, bumping their shoulders together companionably as he scoops the last bit of his smoothie up with his other hand and tucks the straw in the corner of his mouth once more.

“No problem, dude,” he says, his bright grin nearly covering up the worry still present in his eyes. “And if Midoriya ever needs a hand with whatever shit he’s dealing with out there, we’ll be there for that too, okay?”

A sound crawls out of Shoto’s throat at that statement, something close to a choked off laugh, and he shakes his head, reaching out for his own smoothie as he leans sideways to bump their shoulders together as well.

“We will,” Shoto agrees quietly. “We’ll have his back, just like you guys will have ours.”

Sero grins, sucking obnoxiously on his straw, probably just to see Shoto wrinkle his nose in response, and then says, “it’s what Class-A does, bro,” in the most over-enthused Kirishima imitation that Shoto thinks he’s ever heard.

This time Shoto’s laugh is brighter and louder, and it feels less like glass caught in his throat and more like a glass of cold water on a hot summer’s day.

“It is,” Shoto agrees again, tucking his smoothie straw in his mouth to try and get the last melted bit up. He waits a beat, drinking quietly as Sero starts to kick his feet absently in the water, and then adds, “so are we going to take a selfie or not?”

Sero laughs so hard at Shoto’s otherwise unexpected statement that he really does fall in the pool this time.

 

-

 

(It turns out that making sunglasses made of ice is actually a difficult task, but not so difficult that Shoto can’t do it.

Sero laughs uproariously when Shoto presents him with the thin, frosted frames, and he complains loudly and emptily about how cold they’ll be against the sensitive skin of his ears and temple, even as he snatches them from Shoto’s hands and shoves them on his face.

The take a picture for each of their Instagrams, Sero with his wet and rumbled hair and Shoto with his Hero Deku tank top clearly visible. Sero gleefully captions his we’re getting 20% cooler #thatsmyicebro #hisherodeku #mybroisthecoolestbropunintended, and then suggestions Shoto’s caption for him, scooping up his phone to type out we better wrap this up #thatsmytapebro #myherodeku #friendshavetosticktogetherpunintended.

“Thanks,” Shoto says, when Sero hands him back his phone, shoulders shaking with the force of his laughter. “I hate it.”

“No you don’t,” Sero announces gleefully, reaching up for a high five as his ice sunglasses start to turn the skin of his nose a faint, freezing red.

Shoto sighs, trying and failing to fight back a smile, and then lifts a hand for the high five.

“No,” he agrees quietly, “I don’t.”)

 

-

 

Shoto’s so focused on trying to keep the burning building contained, under orders from the fire department and higher ups to just let it burn itself out so long as it doesn’t spread, that he almost misses it when a police offers behind him shouts, “hey, you can’t be here, kid!

“It’s okay,” an oh-so familiar voice calls back cheerfully. “I won’t get in the way, I promise!”

A quick glance is all Shoto means to take, trying to figure out how and why Izuku is being shooed away from the scene of a disaster like he’s some kind of civilian, but there’s nothing he can do to stop himself from doing a double take once he lays eyes on his boyfriend.

(It doesn’t even occur to him, at the time, that Izuku shouldn’t be there. He’d gotten Izuku’s text message that morning, about how his boyfriend was heading toward the site of his next long-term mission, and though the message had filled his stomach with lead, he’d still acknowledged, to himself at least, that Izuku probably wouldn’t be back until Jiro and Momo’s wedding at the earliest.

But that thought is far away, distant and unimportant, because right in front of him is-)

“Hey, babe,” Izuku laughs, waving at him from his spot next to a young, baffled police officer. The sleeve of his hoodie flops with the movement of his hand and when he grins it’s a cheeky, bright little expression, eyes shining innocently like he hasn’t just wrenched Shoto’s attention from a building burning hot enough to scorch half the city down.

What,” Shoto spits, glancing back and forth between the raging fucking fire and his boyfriend, who is- who is wearing-

Is that a hoodie of my costume,” Shoto shouts, much more loudly than he means to. He’s flustered enough that the next wall of ice he shoots up around the building comes out three feet thick instead of one, something that probably isn’t obvious to the civilians gathered around the police line, but probably is obvious to the other pros on site.

“Yep,” Izuku answers cheerfully, ducking the arm of the befuddled man in a move that reminds Shoto oddly of his mother at the festival weeks ago. The poor police officer makes no further attempt to stop Izuku, a dreadful kind of realization dawning like horror upon his face as Izuku knocks the hood of his Hero Thermo hoodie off his head, distinct curly green hair a definite tell to just who the police are dealing with now.

“Like it,” Izuku teases as he comes closer, holding out his arms in a ta-da! kind of way.

In turn Shoto allows himself just one moment of blatant ogling before he whips around to face the fire once more. The heat in his cheeks has nothing to do with the flames still licking at the sides of the building, nor does it have anything to do with the left side of his body and the Quirk it contains.

“I deserve this, don’t I,” Shoto asks rhetorically. It’s probably a show of growth that there’s enough emotion in his words for them to sound strangled, but if it is, Shoto thinks growth may be overrated.

“This is tame, sweetheart,” Izuku tells him, with a voice that would be kind if it wasn’t so smug. Shoto feels his shoulders hunch as Izuku’s footsteps come closer, knowing without having to look that the bright blue of Izuku’s hoodie will be a perfect match to the color of his own costume once they’re side by side. “I almost bought one of the Hero Thermo onesies, you know, but I decided the hoodie and beanie would be enough in the end.”

Shoto feels himself choke, not sure which thought is more alarming, Izuku warm and comfortable in one of the costume onesies Shoto knows his merchandise company makes, or the thought that Izuku had gone out and bought this stuff on purpose, just to tease him.

“I have spare costumes at home,” he sputters, the words falling from his lips in a panic. “You- what would you need a onesie for?”

Izuku’s footsteps get even closer, close enough that the sound of his warm, bright laughter marches straight up Shoto’s spine and burrows pleasantly into his nerves. “Oh baby,” the love of his life snickers, and for a second Shoto thinks he might as well just walk forward into the flames, because his heart is going to catch fire regardless of what he wants it to do, which is chill the fuck out. Izuku keeps speaking, as if he doesn’t know what he’s doing to Shoto, when Shoto is nearly positive it’s the exact opposite.

“It’s kinda cute you think that your costumes would zip closed on me,” Izuku muses, apparently not caring who could possibly be listening to them right now. “Though maybe the unzipped look is what you want me to go for?”

“I- I am trying to stop a fire,” Shoto hisses at him, even as a corner of his mind takes the idea and runs the fuck away with it. It’s not the time for that, not the time at all, but does that corner of his mind listen? No. “Not start one, Izuku!”

“And you’re doing a great job of it,” Izuku tells him, teasing but genuine. He hums a bit in the back of his throat and the sound is the only warning Shoto gets that his boyfriend is close before their shoulders brush, Izuku coming to a stop at his side. This close Shoto can see that there is, in fact, a red and white half-and-half split beanie tucked into the pocket of Izuku’s hoodie, which is situated just below the graphic of Shoto’s costume’s utility belt. “Boss’ll be proud of you for sure, babe!”

Despite the fact that Shoto knows Genjo is more likely to call him an easily distracted disaster than compliment his ability to over-ice a fire just because his boyfriend showed up, he can’t help but snort at the thought, catching the way Izuku turns his head to beam at him from of the corner of his eyes. It makes his heart clench in his chest, makes all the air flee from his lungs, and it also, in the end, reminds Shoto that he hadn’t expected to see Izuku again for another month and a half, at minimum.

“Not that I’m not thrilled to see you,” Shoto murmurs, because he is and if there wasn’t a fire he’d probably already be trying to coax Izuku into a deserted alleyway to sneak a kiss, “but aren’t you supposed to be starting a long-term mission right now? You texted me about it this morning, didn’t you?”

The fire is finally starting to wind down, finally starting to run out of fuel to burn, and after a moment of consideration Shoto deems it safe enough to step forward, throwing a thin layer of ice along the walls to help smother the last of it. Once that’s done he can turn and look at Izuku head on, which seems to be what his boyfriend is waiting to happen before he answers.

“I am,” Izuku confirms, smiling in a way that, coupled with the brute force of his gorgeous, glittering green eyes, chases the breath from Shoto’s lungs.

Shoto blinks, scrambling to understand what that’s supposed to mean. “Shouldn’t you be heading there then?”

Izuku’s smile grows, twisting a bit into a grin, one that’s wide and just a little shark-like. “I am,” he confirms again brightly.

O-kay, Shoto thinks, still blinking dumbly at his boyfriend. He swallows, trying to squash the sudden rush of his heart beating in his chest as he fights to understand why Izuku could possibly be standing here in front of him when he should be miles and miles and miles away instead. “Is there a reason you’re here instead,” he finally asks.

(Out of the blue Shoto remembers All Might’s far-fetched doppelganger idea, but Shoto has enough arrogance left in him that he feels confident in his ability to tell, even at a glance, that this is the real Izuku standing in front of him.

Still, he thinks, maybe All Might’s reaction wasn’t totally uncalled for.)

“There is,” Izuku answers, rocking a little on the toes of his red sneakers, the way he can’t help but do when he’s excited. Shoto blinks at the sight of the nervous tick, feeling his heart lurch in his chest anew, and then, after a suitable dramatic pause, Izuku finally announces, “Genjo gave me the day off to settle back in and see you.”

Shoto thinks, just for a second, that he might have inhaled too much smoke from the fire. Maybe he should have stood further back?

“Genjo,” he says slowly, as if trying out the shape of the words in his mouth, “gave you the day off?”

Izuku’s grin grows, a feat Shoto almost thought impossible up until this second, until it’s as big and bright as the sun above, and when he laughs Shoto feels his breath catch as his heart thunders like a racing horse in his chest.

The realization of what Izuku is implying settles over him slowly, and then all at once – it’s like a sunrise, like feint in a spar, like drop in a rollercoaster or the moment in a song where the melody stretches tight before the tempo suddenly changes.

He hangs, suspended for one infinite life-time, and then, all at once, he drops.

Disbelief is close on the heels of his realization and he can feel his eyes widen in surprise as it rips through him, chanting that this can’t be possible, that he shouldn’t get his hopes up, that everything will be swept out of his reach once more if he even dares. But on the heels of disbelief, there’s a dogged, stubborn kind of hope that blooms and builds, fed by the soft look that steals over Izuku’s face as he takes that last step closer until they’re toe-to-toe.

He can’t quiet the hope, can’t push it down, and it fights against the disbelief that bubbles in his veins like ice against fire, ripping him in half all over again.

“But you go,” Shoto hears himself say, as if from a great distance. His voice is strange and echoing in his own ears and he watches, as if everything that’s happening before him is just a movie on a screen, as Izuku’s face flickers with sadness in response. “You always go, wherever you’re needed.”

You never stay, Shoto thinks, but he can’t bring himself to say it, because he’s long since come to terms with the fact that Midoriya Izuku – and by extension the hero Deku – is like a force of nature.

And nothing, nothing, can chain a force of nature in place. Not even love.

“Yeah,” Izuku answers, grin faltering as that sadness flickers and builds on his face. He glances down, regret like an open wound across his expression, and Shoto feels himself stumble forward in response, already reaching for Izuku as the other glances up at him through his lashes.

He looks, for a moment, like he did when they were fifteen and about to kiss for the first time. Determined and terrified, powerful and weak, a heart wrapped in lightning, pure kinetic caring force, ready to tackle the problem ahead even if it scared him shitless.

God, Shoto thinks, feeling his breath catch in his throat. God, I love him.

“It’s true,” Izuku murmurs quietly again, shrugging awkwardly with one shoulder in a way that just makes Shoto notice even more how good he looks in the Hero Thermo hoodie. “I do go where I’m needed, but-“ He pauses, swallowing visibly before he adds, “but you need me too, don’t you?”

Just like I need you, Izuku’s face adds, open and wanting, the homesickness Shoto has been living with for so long reflected in the irises of Izuku’s gorgeous green eyes.

Shoto stares at his boyfriend as the world stretches like taffy around him, the tug of everything he’s wanted and always thought would be out of reach stealing the breath from his lungs. His heart thunders in his ears, his heart feels lodged in his throat, and even when he swallows, his mouth feels dry.

“You’re going to ruin my reputation as an unrufflable hero at this rate,” he croaks out finally, blinking quickly as if that will keep the burning in his eyes to a minimum.

(The idea that Shoto has ever been at all concerned with his own reputation is such a fucking joke that Shoto almost bites his tongue in half trying to bite that statement back.

What they’re doing – what Shoto thinks they’re doing – could crash Izuku’s standing in the ranks, it could damage everything he’s worked for with the public. They probably shouldn’t do it, at least not without talking about it first, not so publicly without a plan to handle the fallout.

But Izuku is in front of him, wearing a hoodie designed like his costume, saying he’s here because he knows Shoto needs him too, implying that he needs Shoto just as much, and that-

That’s too much for Shoto to ignore, even though it’s probably the most selfish thing he’s ever done.)

Izuku just laughs at him, the sound a little trembling and watery with joy, while Shoto does his best not to cry, blinking rapidly and breathing as evenly as he can manage.

“Would it ruin your reputation if I kissed you right now,” Izuku asks, coy and still somehow shy, like he hasn’t just turned up at the scene of a dangerous disaster where Shoto is on the clock with the sole intention of torturing him via Hero Thermo hoodie.

“On second thought,” Shoto says hoarsely, “fuck my reputation.”

Izuku bursts into laughter, the sound bright and joyous and gorgeous, and he leans into Shoto’s space, reaching up to curl his fingers around the straps of Shoto’s costume to tug him across the spare inches between their heights and into a smiling, giggling kiss, one that melts into something soft and loving as Shoto fists his hands in Izuku’s new hoodie and drags him close, opening his mouth to swallow down the way Izuku breathes out his name with a trembling laugh as he does so.

(It doesn’t matter who might be watching or what they might be thinking anymore. All that matters is Izuku, his beautiful, incredible Izuku, and the way he holds him close, murmuring we’ll face it together and I’m not going anywhere, not this time against Shoto’s mouth.

Life, Shoto knows, is nothing at all like the daydreams he used to have. In them, though there had been challenges they would have faced, everything would have been easy too, honey-sweet and soft around the edges, the way musings and imaginations tend to be.

His daydreams never would come close to this, not when there was no way for Shoto to predict the ups and downs that come with life.

In the end, he could say without hesitation that while his daydreams had been good, his reality was even better, because while reality might have been surprising and ridiculous at times, it was also solid and sure.

Like the way he loved Izuku. Like the way Izuku loved him.

So he would take reality, he would take Izuku, ups and downs and everything in between, over the haziness of an absent daydream any time.

Because in the end, Izuku was worth it, every time.)

 

-

 

nothing you can say can stop me going home

 

-

 

(Izuku has spent most of his life dreaming about being a hero, someone to rival All Might, someone strong and powerful and kind, someone who can save everyone with a smile. It had been all he’d thought about, once upon a time, all he had dreamed about, day in and day out.

But the thing about dreams, Izuku knows, is that you can never nail down the details, the ups and downs, the high points and the low points, and as a child with so much hurts and so many lonely hours, that had made reality the less appealing option.)

Izuku shifts his phone in his left hand, holding it carefully off to the side so that he doesn’t risk dropping it on Shoto as he sleeps. He’s been awake a while, as he usually is, but instead of crawling out from under Shoto and making coffee or going on a run, as he tends to do during the rare times he’d been home in the last few years, he lets himself bask in his boyfriend’s presence instead, sleepy and lazy and content.

His phone buzzes in his hand and a glance at the screen tells him it’s another of their friends, reacting to the news that he’s in town to stay this time. It’s Sero this time – earlier it had been Jiro, and before that Hagakure, and before that Ochaco – and his message simply says if you feel down for it, my sister wants to interview you. you’re a hot topic right now in the political world, man, and I promise she’ll be nice about Shoto.

He glances down at the top of Shoto’s head as he considers the offer, grinning to himself a little at the memory of Shoto’s face the day before, as the realization that Izuku was home to stay had settled upon his love like a shroud. Part of Izuku wants to hate himself for the look of sheer disbelief on his boyfriend’s face and the small, aching kind of way Shoto had whispered but you always go, but he pushes that aside for now.

Whatever damage he might have done with his continued absence and sporadic schedule, Izuku can’t change it now. He can only work toward being better in the future instead.

(And for Shoto, that’s something he will always do, in a second, in a happy heartbeat.)

His phone buzzes again as he’s halfway through typing I appreciate that, Sero! if you give me her number I’ll call her later!!!, and in response he almost ends up closing out of his reply completely, before accidentally switching to his internet tab as well. The home page for the animal shelter nearby is still open to the cat adoption page, and he hovers there for a moment, his chest constricting at the half-fuzzy memory he has of Shoto murmuring we can’t get a cat, we’re not home enough, before he finally manages to get back to his text messaging app. Izuku half expects it to be another text from Jiro, informing him that now that he’s a homebody like the rest of them she expects he and Shoto to get their suit fittings for the wedding taken care of or she’ll string them both up by her earjacks, but instead it’s Kirishima.

From: Little Red Bro :strong arm emoji:
thought you might like these!!!!! here’s a link to the photographer too, and i already asked if u could repost them and they said yah. so glad to hear you’re back in town for reals, man!!!!! we should grab lunch soon, all three of us!!!!!! xoxo stay manly you two <3

Izuku snorts at Kirishima’s overly excited text before clicking on the images he’s attached. He can’t help the soft way his breath punches out of him as they load, the first an image of Shoto’s face the split-second after he’d turned around and spotted Izuku in his Hero Shoto hoodie and the second of their kiss, both so wrapped up in one another that Izuku can still feel the way the rest of the world had fallen away just by looking at it.

He immediately saves both images to his phone, opening up the Instagram app he’d only just downloaded earlier that morning and saving one of his old pictures of Shoto in his Hero Deku hoodie with the caption #tbt to the time I accidentally grabbed by bf’s hoodie instead of my ACTUAL HERO COSTUME smh #thisiswhatwegetforbeingslobs #riphewassounderstandingilovehim as a draft instead of posting it.

It’s not that hard from there to pick the two photos Kirishima’s send him from his gallery. They’re both already pretty well framed and the colors are bright and eye catching, so all Izuku really has to do is type in his caption and hit post.

He doesn’t even have to muse over a caption for that one, tapping out tfw your boyfriend sees you in a hoodie designed like his hero costume and suddenly understands the sweet, sweet hell he’s put you through with his #myherodeku tag. He smiles to himself as he reads it over for typos, adding a quick #myherothermo and #itsgoodtobehome before he clicks on the post option with his thumb.

That done Izuku realizes suddenly that he’s grinning to himself, a laugh building in his chest, giddy and excited at the idea that he’s finally, finally home, the hunt for the ghost of All For One finally over and done with. He decides abruptly that he’s had enough of a head start on the morning and lets habit take over as he lets his phone fall carelessly from his hand. It thumbs loudly against the cleared floor of their room, the sound nearly jarring without any discarded clothes to cushion its landing, and Shoto starts to stir at the noise before Izuku hushes him gently, scrunching back down in their bed until he can press his face back against Shoto’s throat, in the same place where he’d woken up an hour or so before.

“Mhm,” Shoto mumbles, rubbing his face against the pillow above Izuku’s head sleepily. “Izu’?”

“M’here, Sho’,” Izuku mumbles back, pressing a smiling kiss against his boyfriend’s collarbone. “Not going anyway, I promise.”

Good,” Shoto slurs with force. Izuku feels the other man drop an absent kiss to his head before he goes limp and drifts off once more.

On the floor, Izuku’s phone starts to buzz, but Izuku only closes his eyes, presses closer to the man he loves, and lets the buoyant feeling of joy in his chest carry him back to sleep.

(For all his hours and hours of dreaming, Izuku could never have imagined that it would be so lonely to be a hero. He had never imagined that anything could matter to him as much as saving people, as being just as great as All Might, but then Shoto had come into his life, and his foundation had shifted, just enough that traveling around the nation and the world to save people and hunt down the last few threads of All For One’s presence had turned from exciting to exhausting.

How could he have imagined that the life of a hero would seem so dull and tedious without someone at his side? How could he have pictured clearly the way it would ache, leaving Shoto behind every trip, or how much it would fester inside of him when he heard stories second-hand from their friends and looked at pictures of Shoto, going through his life with Izuku in his heart, but not at his side.

Similarly, though, Izuku never could have imagined it would feel so good, having someone to love, or how incredibly fucking amazing it to be to finally call off his mission to make sure All For One really was wiped off the map and settle down. To be able to come home and see Shoto smile, to make plans with the hero monk Genjo for Shoto and him to slowly take over and build up his agency, so that Genjo and Seiten could retire for real and leave everything in their capable hands.

To be able to curl around Shoto at night, nowhere to go in the morning, and know that every night for the foreseeable future, this is where he’ll always be.

Whole, and safe, and home, with the man he loves.)

It’s good to be home, Izuku thinks distantly as he starts to drift back off. The last thing he remembers is the outline of a hazy new dream, one where Shoto and he wear rings on their fingers, a cat winding between their ankles as they brush their teeth and get ready for bed.

It’s a good dream, Izuku knows.

(But it’ll make an even better reality, he’s sure.)