Izuku came back from patrol just after sunrise. None of Shouto’s news apps mentioned any overnight incidents and Mirio hadn’t phoned ahead, the way he often did when he was worried about Izuku. But he knew something was wrong when, instead of sleeping, Izuku sat rigidly on the couch, not watching the TV, quiet and pale-faced. He poured tea on himself twice. Shouto had to take the mug away before it could happen a third time.
Shouto didn’t press. Izuku would talk to him when he was ready.
Shouto was prepared to wait days, weeks, for an answer. But during an early lunch, an hour before he had to leave for work, Izuku blurted, “The Harding Hero Agency called me.”
Shouto set his chopsticks down. “When?”
Izuku scrubbed a hand through his hair. “Last night. Well, early morning, technically. And it was daytime in America, so, uh—”
“Izuku,” Shouto said, “is everything okay?”
“They want me to work for them,” Izuku said. “Full-time. In New York.”
Izuku explained, haltingly, about the position they were offering him in America. It was good, Shouto thought. More than good. It was the perfect opportunity for Izuku to distinguish himself as something else, something more, to pull him out of the mass of talented young heroes in Japan.
Shouto rarely felt jealous, but his stomach twisted at the thought of Izuku working in America. But that didn’t make sense. Shouto’s determination to scale the hero rankings and spite his father had eroded over time, concurrent with Endeavour’s waning control and presence in his life. And what other reason would Shouto have to be upset about Izuku working for an American agency?
“America’s a long way away,” Izuku said.
“It is,” Shouto said.
Silence fell over them. Izuku was curled in his seat, as distant and anxious as he had been since he walked into the apartment at sunrise, smelling of sweat and the beating city, as exhausted and dishevelled as he always was after nighttime patrols.
This was hurting Izuku. He had an amazing opportunity, the kind he had been wanting for his entire life, and it was eating him up inside.
“You should go,” Shouto said.
Izuku jolted, like he was waking up from a long sleep. “What? No. I have so many friends in Japan, and Mum, and All Might, and …”
“They’ll understand. They would want you to be happy.”
Izuku faltered. “But …”
Shouto reached across the table and took Izuku’s hand. He wasn’t sure where the words were coming from, but they were here, pushing up against his throat. “You deserve this, Izuku. Don’t turn this down just because you’re worried what other people might think. Everyone will still be here when you come back.”
I’ll still be here, Shouto thought, though he didn’t say it out loud. It was easier to imagine Iida and Uraraka at the airport with signs to welcome Izuku home, sprinting across the terminal to tackle Izuku in a hug; or to think about Inko face-timing Izuku and demanding to see the contents of his fridge, rather than to think about himself, in this two-person apartment without Izuku.
“Thank you, Shouto.”
Izuku was crying, just a little, but he looked more relieved than sad. When he wiped his face dry and settled back in his seat, Shouto could see the familiar burn of determination in his eyes.
They returned to their lunch, though Shouto didn’t feel hungry. He just felt nauseous.
Within twenty minutes of Shouto texting Yaoyorozu about what had happened that morning, he found himself at a high-scale cafe, drinking mimosas opposite his two friends. Yaoyorozu was wearing a silk blouse and kitten heels. Jirou was in her dusty hero costume. The leather jacket was slung over the back of the chair.
They looked natural sitting together; Yaoyorozu dabbing the dust off her fiancee's cheeks with a damp handkerchief, Jirou letting herself quietly enjoy the attention. It hurt to look at them.
They were his friends, and he loved them, and he was touched that they would rush away from their meeting and patrol respectfully to talk to him. But seeing them together …
Yaoyorozu dropped the dirty handkerchief into her purse and declared Jirou was as clean as she was going to get without a shower. She picked up her glass, turned to Shouto with an apologetic smile, and then stopped.
“Oh, Shouto. What is it?”
Shouto blew out a breath. And then started explaining.
When he was finished, Jirou said, “That fucking blows.”
“Kyouka,” Yaoyorozu said delicately. “But yes, this must be incredibly difficult, Shouto. Have you and Midoriya decided what direction your relationship is going to take?”
Shouto stared past them. A couple was squashed together on one side of a booth, laughing, oblivious to the rest of the cafe.
Though he couldn’t point to Izuku’s location on a map, Shouto thought, if he had to, he could close his eyes and let his feet lead him to Izuku, let the taunt threat connecting their bodies pull him home.
Would it still feel like that when Izuku left for America? Would it be worse? Or would the feeling disappear entirely?
“Oh, Shouto,” Yaoyorozu murmured when he didn’t answer. She flagged down a waiter and ordered another round of mimosas for the table, specifying that there should be more champagne than juice, and then took his hand. “It’s going to be okay. You and Midoriya are both amazing heroes. Amazing people. You’ll work something out.”
“Has Midoriya said what he wants to do?” Jirou asked.
“Not really. But I can tell he wants to go. It’s a good opportunity and …”
The waiter brought them their drinks. Shouto wrapped his hands around the sweating glass. The flute, trapped between the two extremes of his palms, shook between his fingers.
“Izuku is too big for this city.” Shouto had known that for a while.
“I know what you mean,” Jirou said. “The rest of us are doing fine, moving up and out into our own territories, opening up hero agencies, but Midoriya …”
Izuku was different. The city was smothering him, like a plant grown too big for its ceramic pot.
“He should go,” Shouto said. He had already decided that much. He loved Izuku and wanted what was best for him. And that meant Shouto had to let him go.
“But, Shouto,” Yaoyorozu murmured, “what do you want?”
Shouto found All Might in one of UA’s training facilities with a class of first years. His slim suit jacket was visible from afar, a sensible blot of tweed amongst the clashing bright colours of teenage heroes.
The exercise All Might was leading was designed to hone the kids’ control, helping them master the finer details of their quirk. The lesson was sensible and unsurprising; what Shouto hadn’t expected, however, was the person weaving through the students and offering helpful but blunt advice.
Bakugou had always seemed to value power over delicacy, but he seemed natural in the crowd of sixteen-year-olds. How long had he been an assistant teacher?
All Might spotted Shouto and shot him the same toothy smile that he used to greet Shouto at Midoriya family dinners. It was nice to see All Might stay the same, regardless of the context.
“Young Todoroki,” All Might said, “how are you?”
“Fine,” Shouto said. “Is this a bad time to talk?”
“That depends on what you want to talk about, and if you’re willing to help in the lesson. It might be good for the students to see your fine control over your own quirk.”
Shouto nodded, and fell into step with All Might. The students directly around them gaped at the sight of him. He wasn’t surprised at being recognised—he was in his hero costume, his hair falling around his face in a two-toned curtain—but it was odd to come back here, to a place so achingly familiar, and be looked at like a stranger by UA students. At least All Might remained a constant in his life.
Even Bakugou, as different as he was as an assistant teacher, cut a familiar figure against the backdrop of gawking students.
“What the fuck are you doing here, you freezer-burn bastard?”
“We were just getting to that,” All Might said mildly. Bakugou glared at Shouto over the heads of three wide-eyed teenagers, but there was no real heat in his eyes.
“I’m here to talk to All Might,” Shouto said.
Bakugou’s eyes flicked from Shouto to All Might and back again. Shouto could see the pieces slot together in his head. “What has that idiot done this time?”
“He’s fine,” Shouto said. “This is more of a … personal dilemma.”
Bakugou scoffed, and turned back to the teenagers still staring at Shouto with awe. Tiny explosions, no bigger or louder than a sparkler, detonated in his palm, drawing their attention away from Shouto.
Shouto and All Might started walking again. All Might threw out helpful comments as they passed the students, but managed to follow the thread of their conversation easily. The dignity All Might carried these days must have come with experience. It reminded him of Izuku, settling gracefully into his role as a public figure after years of nervous fumbling.
“You know why I’m here, don’t you?” Shouto asked.
All Might cocked his head to the side. “Maybe. Why don’t you tell me?”
“Izuku received a job offer in America. I told him to take it.” There was no surprise in All Might’s face. As Shouto expected, Izuku must have told him everything.
“Going overseas will help broaden his career. And it’ll be good for his confidence.” All Might eyed Shouto. “And what do you think?”
“America is far away,” Shouto said.
“Not too far.”
“It’s not like he would be living a few cities over; this is another country. Another continent. I couldn’t jump on a train and go and see him.”
“You could always do long distance,” All Might said.
Shouto was struck with the image of an American airport years down the track, and of a stranger that he only half-recognised as Izuku coming to pick him up. He thought about staring into an older, freckled face and seeing none of the man he knew, and felt ill.
“No,” Shouto said. “No, I—I don’t want to do that.”
They turned and lapped the class again. All Might looked thoughtful. “Do you want to go to America?”
“I don’t know,” Shouto said. “I haven’t thought about it. New York is very different from Japan.”
Bakugou left the student he had helped create miniature sculptures with her earth manipulation quirk. He scoffed, and said, “New York? Why would you want to go to that crap-hole? You wouldn’t be as famous over there. Just another nobody in the crowd.”
And then, like a thunder-clap, Shouto thought: I wouldn’t be Endeavour’s son in America.
He could be recognised as a pro hero there if he wanted. He was famous enough in Japan and he had enough contacts in the hero community that he could find a steady position in America.
But he didn’t have to do any of that. He could be someone well-known, like Izuku was aiming to be, or he could be just another foreign hero.
Or he could just be Shouto. Another man with eccentric hair on the subway. Another person on the swelling streets of New York City. The boyfriend of a popular up-and-coming hero. Not someone who lived in Izuku’s shadow, but someone who knew he belonged by his side. Who took joy in the anonymity New York City offered.
That thought felt like a betrayal. Like something he wasn’t allowed. He had never considered leaving Japan; he had never been able to.
Bakugou was getting impatient. He never did like to be ignored. But then, Shouto had thought Bakugou would be the last person to become a teacher, so maybe he didn’t know him that well at all.
“Did you lose a bet?” Shouto asked.
“What the fuck are you on about?”
“I just never expected you to teach. I thought you wanted to be a top hero.”
Bakugou sneered. “People can be two things. It might be impossible for someone as fucking thick-headed as you, but I can handle teaching these brats, and being a hero, and I’ll still scale the ranks.”
All Might neatly cut in before their conversation could devolve into an argument in front of the kids. “Young Todoroki, why don’t you show our class how to create snowflakes?”
All Might steered him to the front of the class, but Shouto’s mind was whirling. Bakugou was the last person he would have thought of to come for advice, but he had managed to warp Shouto’s perspective in a matter of minutes without even meaning to.
One day, during his last year of middle school, Shouto came home with pamphlets stuffed into his backpack. The teacher had handed them out to everyone. Shouto had tried to refuse—the trajectory of his life had been decided fourteen years ago, and a stack of glossy brochures wasn’t going to change that—but she had forced them into his hands, anyway.
They fell out when he was pulling his bento out of his bag. Endeavour saw the sprawl of brightly coloured papers, the scowl on his son’s face, and laughed.
“You won’t need those,” Endeavour said. “You’re destined for something greater.”
The tight dread in Shouto’s stomach eased. He had thought Endeavour would lash out if he found the pamphlets.
But in a way, the easy way Endeavour dismissed the pamphlets cut deeper than if he had gotten violent. Endeavour wasn’t threatened, because he already knew Shouto was locked into the path he had set out for him over a decade ago.
Looking at the smiling faces of the college students huddled together on the campus green with a sprawl of books, Shouto wondered what it would be like to be them. To be ordinary and curious and thirsty for knowledge. It felt like he was peering into another world. Another life.
Shouto threw them all out without opening them, without reading the laundry list of courses printed on the back.
He couldn’t afford to waste time on something unattainable.
Shouto was twenty-three. He had been a pro hero, officially, since he was eighteen. He had been fighting, daily, ritualistically, for almost as long as he had known how to read.
Shouto was so tired.
He thought about passing through UA’s office and talking to the principal after visiting All Might—but was that really what he wanted? He wasn’t like Bakugou. He would be a terrible teacher. The Hero Course needed enthusiastic teachers who would buoy them up, or realistic ones who would ground them. Not someone who had lost their passion years ago. Not someone who never had the love for heroism in the first place.
On the way home, Shouto squeezed into a corner of the train carriage. Even with a hat slouched low over his hair he attracted stares. His face was too recognisable. He thought, again, about a foreign subway in a city full of people who didn’t know and didn’t care who he was.
He angled his phone away from the other passengers, and googled, without thinking, Natsuo’s university. He had graduated years ago, but it was the only university Shouto knew anything about.
There was a lot of information about research and scholarships and housing. Shouto found himself scrolling through a list of subjects. How were there this many degrees? How could he possibly know what interested him enough to spend years studying it?
A voice floated to the surface of his thoughts, unbidden: I have my whole life to decide.
Shouto closed the webpage before the freedom of it could overwhelm him.
“When I was a kid,” Izuku had said one night when they were lying in bed, carefully not talking about the future, “I told myself I would never get married.”
“So did I,” Shouto said. “It was a decision I made fairly early in life.”
Izuku curled closer around Shouto’s body. Neither of them were wearing shirts. The body warmth, the heat of Shouto’s fire side, made it feel like summer inside their bedroom, even though rain was beating noisily against the window panes.
“It wasn’t really a choice for me,” Izuku said. “Not consciously. I didn’t have any friends after Kacchan … changed, and no one treated me very well, so I figured that friends, and marriage, and everything like that probably wouldn’t happen for someone like me. I tried not to think about it. Didn’t let it bother me.”
Except Shouto knew that wasn't true. Their separate issues had kept them apart for years when they were in high school, even though their individual crushes should have been obvious. Their separate issues were keeping them apart, even now.
“I had chosen heroics as my impossible dream,” Izuku said. “There was no room in my life for more unattainable things.”
Shouto took Izuku’s hand. Their interlaced fingers rested over his sternum.
It was a strange thought, that they were each other’s unattainable thing when they were wrapped around each other like this, but Shouto thought it nonetheless.
Rei was out on the balcony, watering the potted flowers. Fuyumi’s apartment was larger than anyone on a teacher’s salary could afford, but after knuckling his way through half a dozen sponsorships, Shouto had been able to buy it for them.
(Fuyumi had tried to turn it down, so Shouto had asked a real estate agent to show her around the local listings, and let Fuyumi’s imagination run its course. It was hard for her to turn down the help when she had seen the spacious home, the sunlight folding in through the large bay windows, the wide balcony, the seashell-blue rooms that could house Rei permanently and Natsuo, Shouto and Izuku temporarily when they visited.)
Rei paused when Shouto stepped out onto the balcony. Fuyumi was bustling around inside. She had helped him look through several American websites earlier, without comment, like she knew instinctively he wasn’t ready to talk.
Shouto and Rei sat together on the low outdoor seating. This area of town was fairly busy. It was a good place to people watch.
Shouto drew in a deep breath, and broke the silence, “Izuku got a job offer overseas. In America.”
Shouto thought she looked sad—except Shouto was used to his mother looking sad, especially when she thought he couldn’t see. This was something else. Nostalgia, maybe. Like she was already missing him, even though he was sat beside her.
“Will you come back to Japan to visit us?” she said.
“I haven’t decided if I would even,” Shouto began, then faltered. “I mean, Izuku didn’t ask me to move with him. I assumed that meant…”
“It would be too much to ask him to stay in Japan, because there is so much for him overseas,” she said. Shouto nodded stiffly. “Well, maybe Izuku thinks the same. Maybe he thought it would be too much to ask you to come with him, because there is so much for you here.”
Was that true, though? If Izuku left, the list of things tethering Shouto to Japan shrunk. There were his friends, his siblings, his mother. There was the food he preferred. The job he had begun to find monotonous. The too-big apartment full of Izuku’s things.
“Shouto,” Rei said, firmer this time. “You are not a guest in Izuku’s life. You are his partner. You don’t have to wait for an invitation.”
Shouto unstick his tongue from the roof of his mouth. His fingers had gone numb. Quietly, he asked, “But what if he doesn’t want me there?”
Rei laughed, like a bell on the wind. They both knew Izuku. Even swamped with anxiety like he was, Shouto doubted Izuku would ever get sick of his friends and family—or of him.
But it was hard to remind himself of that with such a huge change looming on their horizons.
Rei schooled her expression, and said diplomatically, “If he doesn’t want you to move with him, then you can have a conversation about what you’re going to do instead. Maybe you could do long distance. You earn enough that you could do regular trips back-and-forth.”
Long distance. Maybe. But the thought of Izuku not being there when Shouto came home, of a relationship made up of hellos and goodbyes, made his stomach cramp up with emptiness.
Shouto laced his fingers together and squeezed, trying to get some blood back into his hands. “And Mum,” he said, barely a whisper, because saying this out-loud took more courage than he had, “what if one day he wants to get married?”
“Do you want to marry him?”
Shouto peeked up at her through his fringe. “I promised myself years ago that I wouldn’t get married. That it wasn’t worth it.”
Rei’s face broke open. She abandoned the tin watering can. It clashed to the ground noisily. She leant forward and took Shouto’s face in her hands, her palms ice-cold against his cheeks.
“Shouto,” she said, like a prayer. “Oh, Shouto. I’m so sorry.”
Shouto closed his eyes, because it hurt to look at her face. “It’s not your fault. It’s that bastard’s. He …”
“That’s not what marriage is supposed to be.”
Shouto shook his head, gently, not enough to dislodge the hands cupping his jaw. “I told myself I would never let my life get tangled up with someone else’s like that. It wasn’t worth it. Even if it started out good, which it always seemed to in the media, it would only dissolve over time, and then I would be trapped and resentful, and if we had children—”
He pried his eyes open. Rei was crying. He hadn’t meant to make her cry.
“What happened to myself and your father wasn’t normal. We weren’t in love. I knew from the beginning that he was a selfish man, even if I hadn’t realised how deeply that greed ran. And what happened to you and your siblings …” Her hand curled in his hair. Her fingers brushed the edges of his scar, stretched out with age. “And I was selfish, too. I wasn’t strong enough to protect you all, and you paid the price.”
“Mum. That wasn’t your fault either.”
She shook her head and took a shuddering breath. She saw a therapist twice a month, but changing decade-old thoughts and habits was difficult. Shouto knew that. He hoped that one day Rei—and his siblings, and Shouto himself—would be able to entirely break free of everything Endeavour had done to them.
“Izuku is a good man,” she said. “You know that. I know. Japan knows. Do you think he would ever hurt you?”
“He’d sooner fling himself off this building, I think.”
Maybe this was why Shouto’s thoughts had been so tangled. It wasn’t just fear keeping everything locked behind his teeth; if he had said this to Izuku, had ever compared him to Endeavour, even slightly, then Izuku would be hurt. Izuku might have understood the way abuse can live inside you, the way it can twist up rational thoughts, but Shouto couldn’t risk hurting Izuku like that, even by accident.
Oh, Shouto thought.
“And I wouldn’t ever want to hurt him either,” Shouto said slowly, the words slotting together in his head, pieces fitting to create a greater whole, “because I love him.”
“And he loves you,” Rei said. “Love doesn’t have to be scary. It can be two people exploring the future as a team. It can be about—”
“—making decisions together,” Shouto finished. He stood. “Thank you, Mum.”
He paused in the doorway. “If we did go, then you, and Fuyumi, and Natsuo—”
“We will be fine, Shouto,” Rei sai, standing and pulling him into a brief hug. Shouto pressed his nose to her hair, overwhelmed with gratitude once again that she was in his life, before pulling away. “Just remember to write and come back every so often to visit us. Now go.”
Shouto jogged through the apartment. Fuyumi stuck her head out of the office.
“I have to go,” Shouto said, before she could invite him to stay for dinner. “I’m sorry, Fuyumi. But—I have to—”
Fuyumi laughed. “Go, Shouto.”
Shouto ducked out of the front door. He was too full of energy, so he bypassed the elevator and dashed down five flights of stairs.
He had to talk to Izuku.
Shouto had imagined himself as the country’s top hero for decades. Endeavour had put those images in his head when he was a child, and they had stayed there, growing like a fungus, until Shouto had reached adulthood. Even now, he was only just beginning to realise he didn’t have to live his life according to almost thirty-year old decisions made by his abuser. He could do more. Be more. Outside of the hero community.
Shouto had stopped imagining himself as the Number One Hero years ago. But the idea of being in a relationship with the top hero was another thing entirely.
The idea would have scared him as a child. He had thought the only person more trapped than him was Rei. Shouto’s time in that household had a deadline. If he was strong enough to get away from Endeavour, he could spend his adult years free. But his mother’s adult life had already been taken from her.
But Shouto is not his mother or his father. If he were to become the top hero, it would be because of his own power. And if he were to pledge himself to the world’s top hero, it would be his own choice. He would give himself to that person as an equal, as a man deeply in love, and in return, that person would give themselves wholly to Shouto.
Relationships weren’t ownership. It was a choice. Izuku had taught him that. Izuku had taught him a lot of things.
Marriage was still a long way off, he knew, if it were to happen at all. But Shouto had made the decision a long time ago to follow his own desires. Not Endeavour’s Maybe not even Izuku’s. He would go where his own heart lead him.
And Shouto found he was, continuously, being lead to Izuku.
Shouto moved on autopilot. His thoughts ate up all of his concentration, though it felt as though he was circling around the same point.
I want to move forward with Izuku. I want to see his future unfold beside mine.
Izuku wasn’t at home. His news app told him that.
Shouto took a taxi straight to Izuku’s location.
The receptionist blinked at his casual sweater and jeans, but sent him up to the office with a guest pass, anyway. He was recognisable enough that he could get through without a scheduled appointment. Or maybe she had seen Izuku earlier, saw now the determined way Shouto held himself, and knew not to interfere.
Sidekicks and officer workers eyed him as he passed. Shouto didn’t pay them any attention. His focus had zeroed in on Izuku, that string that connecting them pulled taunt.
Izuku and Kirishima were outside Fatgum’s office, both of them soot-stained and dishevelled, but uninjured.
Kirishima saw him first. “Todoroki? Is everything okay, man?”
Izuku turned. There was a swollen bruise in the corner of his mouth, but when he beamed, it was like a rush of fresh air. “Shouto!”
“Izuku.” Shouto was as serious and stiff as he had been almost ten years ago, when he had pulled Izuku into a shadowy tunnel to make that first shattering confession. A decision that would transform the way he saw himself, heroics, the world around him—because Midoriya Izuku wasn’t capable of seeing someone in pain and walking away.
“I want to come to America with you,” Shouto said. “If you’ll have me. If that’s something you also want.”
Izuku blinked rapidly up at him. “Sh—Shouto?”
Shouto forged on, “I thought I was doing the right thing by letting you go. I know how much your dream means to you, and I won’t get in the way of that. I thought the way to properly love you was to watch you walk out of my life.
“But I don’t want to do that. I never did. I want to go with you and discover what America has in store for the both of us. I want to fight by your side. I want to live by your side for years to come.”
Izuku was tearing up. Shouto’s steely determination cracked.
“If that’s not what you want, then—”
“No!” The word rung out across the office, too-loud. People were staring. Neither Shouto nor Izuku cared.
“You’re crying,” Shouto said.
“I’m happy!” The tears came faster now, the words tumbling from Izuku’s mouth, “I’ve been so torn up these past few weeks. I didn’t know what to do. I wanted you to come with me, but I thought, that would be selfish, right? To ask you to move across the world because of me? But then, wouldn’t it also be selfish to move and leave you behind, just because my dream is taking me elsewhere? But then, wouldn’t it be selfish to discount All Might’s power and the people I could save by going to America? I didn’t know what to do. I love you, a-and I don’t—I want to be with you—”
Izuku cut himself off. He took Shouto’s hand and pressed it against his face. His cheeks were wet, and he was shaking, and he was the most delicate thing Shouto had ever touched.
“Shouto,” Izuku said, pushing into the warmth of Shouto’s palm. “Stay with me.”
“I will,” Shouto said. “I will.”
They stood together, Izuku crying, Shouto on the cusp of—not crying. Melting, maybe. Dissolving. The force of his emotions seemed too great to stand.
When Shouto wrenched his gaze away from Izuku’s blotchy, bruised face, he saw Kirishima leaning up against the water cooler and openly sobbing. “That was beautiful. Seeking out your partner and boldly asking to spend your lives together—that was so fucking manly, Todoroki.”
Fatgum and Suneater were in the doorway of the adjacent office. Suneater looked embarrassed on Izuku and Shouto’s behalf. Fat Gum’s hands were clasped to his chest. He looked in danger of crying, too.
“I made a scene, didn’t I?” Shouto asked.
“The biggest,” Fat Gum said through a teary smile.
“I think someone might have streamed it to YouTube,” Suneater said.
Fat Gum stormed out of his office and barked at anyone with their phones pointed in their directions, and everyone scurried away or tried to look busy. Suneater ducked back into the safety of the office, and Kirishima bounced after him. He shut the office door with a conspiratory wink at Shouto.
“We never do things by halves,” Izuku said, mopping his tears up with his sleeve, which was made of kevlar, and only spread the tears around.
“At least I didn’t do it in the middle of a villain attack,” Shouto said, and then thought about it. “Would it have been cooler if I had done it in the middle of a villain attack?”
“Yes,” Izuku said too quickly, and then grimaced. “But that’s unprofessional. And cheesy. No one would let us live it down.”
“Maybe we could try something like that in America,” Shouto said, and Izuku fell into his chest, laughing and crying all at once. Shouto held him tight and didn’t think, for once, about having to let him go.
Four years later
Izuku sunk into the leather seats. Outside the SUV, a villain landed with enough force to crack the asphalt. Izuku watched through dark-tinted windows as several more villains joined their colleague.
“I knew I should have worn a hat yesterday,” Izuku said. “Or a face mask. A scarf, at least.”
“It’s partially our fault,” Iida said. “Uraraka and I were so excited to see you and Todoroki. We didn’t think about the ramifications of making a scene at the airport when people didn’t know you were coming back to Japan.”
“Don’t apologise, Iida. I was just as happy to see you both. It was really nice and your signs were so cute. I just didn’t want something like this to happen.”
“The news would’ve gotten out eventually,” Asui said. She sat primly in the front seat, draped in spring green fabric. “Someone would’ve slipped up on social media. Ribbit.”
On the other side of Izuku, Uraraka was pressed up against the window, watching the villains intently. She muttered under her breath, “They better not come near this car. They better not even look at—oh no, he doesn’t. Izuku, hold this.”
Uraraka shoved her bouquet into Izuku’s chest and opened the door. She tumbled out of the street in a haze of green chiffon. Asui quietly slipped out of the car to join her.
The two women cut a path through the congested streets. Several cars inching forward blared their horns at them. Uraraka flipped them off. Asui leaned into several windows to inform the occupants about the impending fight, warning them to evacuate the area, but people in Tokyo were unconcerned about villain fights, especially when they occurred during peak hour.
Uraraka stopped when they were away from the road—away from the nondescript SUV that held Izuku. She cupped her hands over her mouth. “Hey assholes!”
Asui kicked off her kitten heels. “I thought your PR department told you to stop swearing during fights.”
“This is personal,” Uraraka said. The villains zeroed in on Uraraka and Asui, recognisable heroes dressed in matching shades of green, hair curled and done up with pearl pins. Before the villains could start scanning the cars again, Uraraka hollered, “You wanna fight someone? Fine. Lets fight.”
Back in the car, Iida leaned over the headrest and briefly spoke to the driver, before turning to Izuku. “Stay here.”
Izuku glanced out the window. Uraraka threw herself on top of a villain with a flying quirk and dragged her back to the ground. Asui had lassoed another villain with her tongue. She batted another away with her bouquet. Petals flew around the fight.
“I can’t just sit here while my friends fight for me,” Izuku said.
“Today isn’t a day that you should fight,” Iida said. “You can’t risk ruining your tux, anyway. Think of the photos.”
“Go. We’ll meet you at the venue.”
The door slammed shut behind him. Iida dashed through the traffic. People were leaning out of cars and filming the incident. It wasn’t every day that pro heroes fought villains with that kind of feral intensity, while dressed impeccably in colour-coordinated dresses and suits.
The light turned green. The driver sped away before Izuku could run out after his friends.
They were stopped by another villain three streets away, when Izuku was cursing the decision to hold the wedding in the city. This man was alone. There was something familiar about his costume, his silver-plated hair. Izuku thought he might have fought him, years back, before he left for America.
The villain scanned the cars stopped at the traffic lights until his gaze settled on the SUV. People must have filmed his friends clambering out of this car. For the second time in twenty-four hours, Twitter had blown his cover.
Izuku opened the door and stepped out, sending a mental apology to Shouto. It wouldn’t be a difficult fight, but it would probably destroy his tux.
The villain laughed, but, before he could start in on the speech he had been rehearsing for five years inside a cell, Bakugou tore out of a grey Audi and side-tackled the villain.
Bakugou pinned the struggling man in a hold. The edges of his tux were getting singed by the villain’s smoke quirk, the spring green of his tie eaten away by the acidic fumes.
“Get back in the fucking car, you idiot,” Bakugou snapped.
The Audi pulled into illegal park on the curb. Kirishima stuck his head out of the window and waved. “Midoriya, looking good! We picked up your cake, don’t worry. We’ll meet you at the venue, okay?”
Kirishima looked good, too. His hair was pulled back into a low ponytail, and his eyeliner was sharp.
Midoriya looked from Kirishima, lazily watching Bakugou subdue the twitching villain, to the SUV. His driver gestured furiously for him to get back into the car.
Bakugou rolled his eyes. “Go on. Don’t keep strawberry shortcake waiting.”
Midoriya got back into the SUV. They took off.
The car came to an abrupt stop five minutes later. The roads around the Tokyo Gardens had been cut off. Midoriya thought that maybe something as mundane as roadwork or an accident was holding up traffic, until a hulking villain was thrown clear across the street and into a pole.
“This is as far as I can take you,” said the driver, who looked genuinely upset. “My advice is just to run for it, and try not to let anyone tear your tux.”
“I can fight,” Midoriya tried.
The driver shook his head. “It’s bad luck.”
Midoriya wasn't sure if that was sure, but he didn't have time to argue. He got out of the car. The dazed villain roared and stumbled to his feet, but Jirou, dressed in a fitted tux with a robin egg blue tie, brought him down again.
“Good to see you, Midoriya,” she said easily, like this was any other villain fight, any other day. “Momo and Inasa are holding back the villains further down the street.”
There were more phones pointed their way. Most weren't aimed at Jirou, who had just taken down a massive villain, but at Izuku.
The public must have realised why he had returned to Japan. Or maybe they had looked at him, radiating nervous energy, dressed in a tux with a black tie, a red and white splotched rose fixed to his lapel, hair as tamed as it could possibly be, and realised exactly where he was headed.
Izuku’s palms were slippery. “Where—where is … ?”
“Last I saw, struggling against Momo to come find you.” Jirou peeked over her shoulder, and laughed. “Oh, yeah. There he is.”
And there he was. Pushing through the police barrier, dressed in a white tux with a red button-up underneath, the cropped suit jacket accentuating the strong lines of his chest, his long hair twisted into an elaborate braid—he was the most beautiful thing Izuku had ever seen.
Izuku’s feet moved on their own. He forgot about the phone cameras pointed at them, the man twitching under Jirou's boot, the villains roaming the city in search of them, and pulled Shouto into a dizzying kiss in the middle of the half-destroyed street.
“That’s going to end up on the cover of Time,” Jirou said, “and I’m already sick of it. Come on, you’re supposed to kiss at the altar, not in the middle of the road.”
When they broke apart, Izuku laughed. His forehead bumped Shouto’s chin. Shouto bent down and pressed their foreheads together, and Izuku laughed again, their breaths mingling.
“I didn’t get my tux dirty,” Izuku said. “Are you proud?”
Shouto’s hands carded through Izuku’s curls, and he said, almost to himself, “I would’ve married you anyway.”