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One.

 

Shouto takes in a shuddering breath. 

This is bad. 

It's almost bizarre to walk out of the room only to see the halls empty. Often there's nurses strolling about, checking in on patients, trading bits of information, sending him kind hellos and smiles. 

It's desolate now. Like a scene out of one of Momo’s horror movies. It seems wrong to be here, wrong to stand here and see the lights bounce off the walls without the added sunshine through the windows.

That's what you get for breaking into the hospital at night. 

He's so tired. 

Shouto glances back inside the room. His mother is asleep again, face caught in the gentle light of the moon. She frowns, still. It's easy to compare her to an ethereal creature, trapped in eternal sleep; pale skin reflecting moonlight, pale hair spread out over the pale bedsheet, pale eyes hidden behind pale eyelids.

She'd flinched from him today. 

Please don't hurt me.

Shouto shuts the door and sinks to the floor, trembling.

-

He wakes up to the smell of coffee. 

Coffee? 

Shouto shoots up, instantly regretting it. He looks down at flannel sheets, head swimming. 

This isn't his bed. He doesn’t think he’s been kidnapped either. If he has, it’s a shit job.

"Good morning! Did you sleep okay?" 

"Midoriya?" 

Did we have sex? 

It’s not a question without bias. They accidentally slept together last week. It was everything Shouto had thought it would be and everything he didn’t know it could be; it was glorious, it was divine; if he’d forgotten their possible second time just because he’d been a little overworked-

Shouto carefully schools his expression into a neutral one. There’s no harm in letting any possible sexcapade truths come out on their own. Midoriya smiles, placing a cup of goodness on the table nearby. His sweater's neckline is far too wide, displaying the world’s loveliest set of collarbones and most bite-worthy line of neck, and - and more, when he leans down to check Shouto's temperature. 

"The fever's better," Midoriya informs him. "Do you remember what happened?" 

Shouto tears his eyes away from tan, hickey-less skin. Yesterday's memories slowly trickle back; the mission almost gone wrong, visiting his mother to feel better, catching her in one of her relapse moments, her confusing him for his father, walking out of the hospital with an arm around him-

Huh. He doesn't remember that. 

"I got a call from the hospital," Midoriya tells him, voice soft. "You were asleep in the hall, burning with fever. You didn't have your phone so they couldn't get your emergency contacts, and it was late so they didn’t call your family, but I was- there for a checkup, so I brought you back here because it was closest, I hope you don't mind- I mean, you were sleeping on the floor, and seemed pretty out of it, so I figured my place was probably comfier, but- you should really stop me more often, you know, I know you find it funny seeing me embarrassed."

Shouto clears his throat, embarrassed himself. "Sorry." Then, a bit belatedly, he adds, "Thank you." You didn't have to do what you did but we both know you do what you want, goes unsaid. 

Midoriya waves him off. “Anyway, you should stay here. For however long it takes for you to get better.” 

I hope it takes forever. Shouto’s sight blurs. “I can’t. I have work.”

“Shinsou-kun called and said you get a rest week.” Midoriya tilts his head slightly, and Shouto wants to trace the line of his neck up to his undercut, to feel the bristles where they end, to feel where they start under green curls. He wants. 

But. He doesn’t know if he’s allowed. Doesn’t know where they stand, doesn’t know what they are. Not after they-

“And hey,” Midoriya grins, “you can catch up on those All Might movies you haven’t seen yet! A week is a pretty long time, do you mind if I give you a list of my favourites?”

Plushy lips stretch into a wide smile, and Shouto’s heart seizes. Soft, plush lips that somehow never seem to dry out despite the torrid treatment they receive, owing to Midoriya’s anxiety. Shouto so desperately wants to kiss him in that moment, and Midoriya reaches forward to intertwine their fingers, raising their hands up to press his lips to the back of Shouto’s hand, and oh, that’s really nice.

That means something. He doesn’t know what, yet, but he will.

“Thank you,” Shouto breathes. Midoriya’s eyes crinkle in amusement. A light flush spreads over his cheeks and Shouto worries that he hasn’t already passed his fever to him.

“What for?” 

So many things. You keep saving me.

“Thank you,” Shouto insists, and passes out.

-

It’s a testament to Shouto’s resolve that he doesn’t run in shame the second he gains actual consciousness a day later. The fever’s gone, as is Midoriya. 

Which is worrying, considering it’s Midoriya’s apartment, and it’s ten at night. 

“Midoriya?” Shouto croaks. He might be feeling better, but he’s still tired. He tries regulating his temperature to something warmer, only to end up dizzy for his efforts. Defeated, he wraps one of the thin sheets around himself and steps out of the room. 

He’s always appreciated Midoriya’s apartment. It’s bright, filled with sentiments. The walls are covered in photos and posters of everyone, ranging from their school friends, to Midoriya’s overseas friends, to other people Midoriya’s befriended over the years, to some children, and his mother. All Might still holds the majority in the posters, though now with many others, more of their classmates. Shouto spies one of himself in the middle of a wall and feels the sides of his mouth tick up.

It’s amusing, in a way, that Midoriya considers all these people his heroes. That he considers Shouto one of his heroes. It’s a high pedestal, not because Midoriya’s in the top fifty heroes in the world, and will someday be the world’s number one hero, but because it’s an absurd concept that someone as good and giving and selfless as Midoriya would look up to people that have nowhere near the level of dedication he himself holds. It’s a high pedestal, and one given very easily.

A bookshelf covers the entirety of one of the walls, mostly filled with hero research and Midoriya’s many notes over the years. They’re categorized by order, though some of the more recent ones are stuffed between different, thicker books, that seem to be on physical manipulation. Notebook #67 is currently on Midoriya’s person most of the time, freshly started.

The clock keeps ticking, eventually pushing fifteen minutes past ten. Shouto frowns, unsure. He should probably dress and head home. Midoriya could be out with friends, or avoiding his own apartment because of Shouto, trying to give him space.

Midoriya’s just that kind of person. 

It takes him all of three minutes to find his pants and jacket. He tracks the apartment for his keys, increasingly frustrated as a headache starts to make itself known.

The front door clicks open. Midoriya’s eyes brighten when they see him, which isn’t something Shouto would credit to himself, personally, but more to the fact that he’s on his feet, and not asleep. 

“You’re up! How are you? Sorry I wasn’t here, I ran by your place to get your stuff for you, and I told the cleaning staff that you’ll be staying here until you’re better, so you don’t have to worry about that, and I brought some soup and tea, the real, authentic shoga-yu kind, not that fake stuff, and-” Midoriya freezes. “You’re dressed.”

“I-” Shouto looks at the duffel bag in Midoriya’s hand. “I was going to head back.” 

“Oh,” says Midoriya. He glances away from Shouto and back again, but Shouto catches it. 

“Ah, I’m- I’m sorry, I overstepped, I just thought you’d be comfortable- I mean, obviously you’d prefer your own bed- home, environment-

“I don’t want to impose on you-”

“You won’t! I promise, it’s not imposition at all, I’d love for you to stay- be here.” 

They stare at each other. Shouto wishes, oh does he wish, that he was better at communicating, at not fucking up this friendship that might not be a friendship anymore, at not feeling so wrong-footed, at everything he wasn’t better at right now.

“Todoroki-kun,” Midoriya says firmly. “Would you like to stay?” 

Shouto doesn’t have to think about his lonely, near-empty apartment that he barely ever lives at. 

“Yes.”

Shouto blinks at Midoriya’s panic-stricken face. 

“Unless you-” Shouto feels like an idiot. “That was meant as a joke. Sorry, I’ll just-”

“What? No!” Midoriya drops the duffel and reaches for him, hands fluttering around Shouto’s face unsurely. “You’re crying.” 

Shouto reaches a hand up to his cheek, staring at the wetness on his fingers. A part of his brain relays that this is probably the most embarrassing fucking thing possible to do in front of someone he’s been friends with for years, had sex with just last week, someone he’s been harbouring an unholy sized crush towards since highschool, someone who’s going out of their way to help him.

Shouto agrees wholeheartedly with this information. He turns his face away from Midoriya, trying not to dwell on the fact that he hasn’t showered since his return, and the hospital sink had only done so much to clean his face. His hair feels gritty where it falls over his shoulders, and if his nose wasn’t stuffed he’d probably smell whatever god-awful smell was coming from him. The less Midoriya can see, the better. He makes sure not to look at Midoriya as he moves back, the floor swimming under his feet.

Midoriya’s arm catches him around the waist. 

“It’s alright, Todoroki-kun,” he says gently. Midoriya carefully drags him from the measly two steps Shouto managed, all but hauling him onto the sofa nearby. Shouto stares down at Midoriya’s muscled forearm, sleeves rolled to the elbows. He’s barely using any force, yet he can see every tendon, every vein, taut skin over knuckles.

It’s a very nice arm. The same one that had- last week- 

“I’m not crying,” Shouto murmurs. “I haven’t cried since I was five.”

Midoriya stills for a moment, before walking to the sink and filling a glass. He hands it to Shouto.

“Well, not to brag, but as someone who’s kind of a professional, I can safely say you’re definitely crying. You’re doing a great job,” Midoriya assures, placing a tissue box in his lap.

The small act sends more hot tears spilling down Shouto’s face. 

“This is horrible,” Shouto says. He can hear his voice trembling along with his body now, and he’d prefer to be put through Natsou’s shitty drag makeup skills right now, than this utter humiliation. “I don’t know how you do it.”

He doesn’t notice when Midoriya takes back the glass and slowly maneuvers him into lying on his side. Midoriya goes to his knees on the floor to be at face-level with him, slipping his fingers through Shouto’s. 

“I’ve had practice,” Midoriya smiles. His eyes are soft, and Shouto could wander within them for eons, memorizing every different shade in every type of light. “I’ll teach you, if you like. It’s really easy, once you get used to the dehydration, the never-ending existential crises, and the fact that the feeling of euphoria you get after is only because some dumb endorphins get released-”

Shouto puts an arm over his eyes and groans. Midoriya’s laughter is infectious, and he smiles shakily, closing his eyes again.

He doesn’t want to call it a turning point in his life, exactly, but it’s definitely something.

 

Two.

 

Some time after he graduates, when he finally creates a name that isn't his father's, that's solely his, that people use to recognize him as a hero and not Endeavor’s son, Shouto realizes he doesn't really know what he wants. 

He's in Japan's Top Ten. He's in Worldwide One-K. 

He's not happy. 

Forget that. He’s never much cared for or believed in happiness. 

But he isn't satisfied. Somewhere between needing to step out of his father's shadow and finding a purpose, to disowning the man, he lost the anger that was driving him. He doesn’t know what to do without the familiar buzz under his skin, without the suffocating cloud in his mind, doesn’t know how to handle the absence of the negativity that has powered him his whole life.

He runs into Shinsou at a Hero Con, who takes one look at him, and says, "You wanna visit Orca-san's agency?" 

A week later, halfway through Shinsou's personal tour of Kugo Sakamata AKA Gang Orca’s Underground Agency, he meets Orca-san and Aizawa-sensei and Amal, a transfer hero from Israel with a neat teleportation quirk, Shouto texts his manager from his current agency that he's leaving. 

It isn't much different from what he does on a daily basis. It's still being on-call most of the week, though it’s six days instead of five. It’s still running around when he's not yet on pager-level, he still gets stopped to have his photo taken, he’s still bundled off with little problems, because he gets assigned to Aizawa who thinks it’s funny to use his authority to make Shouto act as security on field trips with old ladies.

But it’s also thrilling. 

There aren’t exactly different categories on hero jobs, per se, but if he takes all of Izuku’s research into account, there are definitely tentative groups; heroes that do any and all public and flashy missions, heroes who are mainly sidekicks and called upon depending on their usefulness, and heroes who do classified and dirty work. 

(Izuku does all three.)

Underground heroes don’t often, if ever, release the details of their missions to the public. That job goes to everyone else. Shouto now revels in the lack of press he has to deal with, the same way Aizawa-sensei did when he taught at Yuuei. He comes back from a mission and there’s absolutely no interviews waiting for him. Amal insists Shouto’s addition to the agency has brought more journalists to their doors anyway, because couldn’t he have joined before he got famous?

He starts enjoying waking up in the morning. He goes on missions, usually paired with either Shinsou or Amal, often chasing the same leads and villains for months - he feels alive, in a way he didn’t think he ever would, in a way he doesn’t think he deserves. He likes the paperwork. He likes working under Aizawa. He likes having Gang Orca as his boss. For once, he's doing something that no one's forcing him to do for themselves, that he's not forcing himself to do for revenge or to prove himself, something that has literally no expectations. 

He's doing it because he enjoys it. 

At the time, a benefit was also avoiding Midoriya. 

It’s not like his not-so-much-a-crush-than-eternal-love for Midoriya was new. Momo knew it without him telling her back in second year while it was still just a crush, and she took all of highschool and two years after graduation to realize Jirou would move heaven and earth for her. 

But his current relationship with Izuku is new.

Being in love with Japan’s Number One for a tentative four years somehow didn’t make it any easier to deal with over time. Shouto will never admit that the agency’s longer hours a year back helped him to keep from constantly thinking about Midoriya and his (three) significant others over the years and how they were so different from Shouto, and that’s why Midoriya would never in his right mind love him. 

But somehow, here he was. Dating Izuku, who wasn’t Midoriya anymore, who apparently would, in his right mind, ask Shouto out after an accidental one night stand that was fueled more by adrenaline and Shouto’s overflowing emotions than anything. He hadn’t expected anything. He’d been happy to take it for what it was and part ways, to go back to avoiding Midoriya so he couldn’t be told it was a mistake, that it would’ve been better if it never happened. 

Then, transgressing every law created by mankind, Izuku went forth and took him in and nursed him back to health from a toddler-level flu, and asked if he might want to continue sleeping together, but with romantic feelings. 

It’s strange. It leads to much more overthinking than he’s used, something that has never been his department, but Shouto likes to think he’s learning at a good pace. Between never allowing himself to imagine this might happen and Izuku’s patience, he’s learning. 

It’s more than he could ever ask for.

Now, the long hours help distract him from missing Izuku when he’s away.

Not really, though. Nothing can actually help with that, but it’s a distraction.

A small hand swats his calf sharply. Shouto looks down, bemused.

“Hey!” Says the four foot child with a vehemence that rivals Endeavor’s. “Aren’t you a hero? Why’re you sleeping with your eyes open?”

It’s his third time babysitting this specific group of second-graders. Aizawa insists every underground hero goes through some form of babysitting their first year, be it teenagers or kindergartners or senile old folks. Shouto refuses to call bullshit on it for fear of being reassigned to Midnight.

Shouto stares coolly at Arima, who impressively maintains her unimpressed expression. Goni-chan stomps over, wearing a t-shirt with the creepy thing from Spirited Away Shouto only knows because of one of Fuyumi’s foster children; Arima takes a swipe to the back of her head. 

“Arima-kun, that is a Pro Hero. Say sorry.”

He should probably reprimand her for hitting the kid. 

Shouto looks at her approvingly. 

“Yeah, so?” The girl huffs, taking the hit better than he thought she would. “He’s not doing anything, is he.”

Shouto’s instincts tell him something stupid is going to happen to this eight-year old. Soon. 

“Let’s get back to the group,” he tells the midgets, accepting Goni-chan’s hand when she holds it out. Arima gives him a suspicious look, and attaches herself to Goni instead, who graciously accepts the responsibility.

Of course, when he gets back to the rest of the second-graders, it’s to see a few of them missing, including their teacher. 

Horrible as it is, he’s glad to be relieved of his boredom when a wailing Kena chokes out, “A v-v-villain! Took away Taka and, and Sensei went, and ev-everyone else went too!”

“Of course they did,” Shouto replies, awkwardly patting Kena’s small head. It doesn’t help, but Goni-chan confidently takes over. Shouto gathers the remaining class under a tree; there isn’t anyone around, and one of the students informs him there was only the one bad guy, and three kids went after Ushi-sensei. 

“If anything happens, scream as loud as you can,” he tells the kids before running towards the pointed direction. 

The half-assed villain hasn’t made it far. The park is deserted, being a weekday, and Shouto is going to complain extensively about the lack of security. There’s just the one guard, still snoring at his booth, same as he was when they arrived an hour ago. Ushi-sensei is bouncing back and forth, trying to stop the kidnapper from passing, and the kidnapper seems to be trying to get through without harming her or any of the kids, including the one in their arms. 

“Ushi-sensei,” he calls, successfully startling Taka’s abductor and icing their legs. “Please take the students and get back to the class.”

Ushi-sensei looks like she’s about to cry, and obediently bundles up the three indignant students in her arms and flees. Shouto approaches the angry cloaked thug, and puts his arms out. 

“Taka, are you hurt?”

Taka fists his hand in his captor’s cloak and shakes his head. Captor glares at Shouto. 

“I’m not letting him go,” they hiss. “His stepmom’s abusing him.”

Taka smacks the captor’s face. “Nee-cha, you promised you wouldn’t tell!”

Why are eight year olds so violent?

“Taka,” Shouto says, hoping his expression doesn’t change, “is that true?”

Taka looks at him, mouth set in a wobbly line, and doesn’t reply.

“Okay.” He needs something to work with. “You don’t have to say anything. Can you nod or shake your head?”

Taka hesitantly nods. Shouto’s stomach twists. Taka’s a cheerful kid, the kind who looks out for others and their general happiness, who laughs everything off. To know it’s because he’s going through his own shit-

God, Shouto fucking hates adults. 

“Dabi said you’d listen to me,” the big-sister-villain says, eyes narrowed. 

Fucking Touya. Of course he did. 

“I can’t help you,” Shouto glowers. “Just because you’re a softie where your brother’s concerned-”

“I knew you wouldn’t listen!” She cries. “I’m taking him and leaving, see if you can stop me you- you half-baked apple pie.

Taka sighs. 

“I can’t help you,” Shouto repeats, resisting the urge to look skywards, “but I can deal with the stepmom and get someone to care for Taka. The police are on their way-” they weren’t, “-and you won’t make it past the boundaries of the park together-” she would, “-so leave him here and go. Or whatever. Don’t.” If she hadn’t escaped her ice shackles already, it was unlikely she would anytime soon. 

She gives him hard eyes. “And if you don’t?”

“It’s my fucking job. He’ll be safe.”

“You said a swear word, Entropy-san.”

“...sorry, Taka.”

“It’s okay. Nee-cha says them a lot too, though she tries not to.” 

Villain Sister slowly extends her brother towards Shouto. Not that she had a lot of other choices, being stuck as she was.

“Can I piggyback ride you?” Taka asks. 

Ah, what the hell. Shouto bends down to let him climb up. Against his better judgement, he slightly mists the ice holding Villain Sister hostage. It’ll give her a fifty-fifty chance of escape, unless Ushi-sensei really hasn’t called the police yet, in which case she’ll definitely get away. Villain Sister beams, freeing her legs and nearly kicking him in the face.

“Dabi was right! Thanks man, I won’t forget this.”

“Please do,” Shouto says. 

She ignores him. “Hey, baby bro, I’ll be back for you, okay? I doubt any foster house is gonna live up to living with me, huh?”

“You’ll get caught again,” Taka assures her, small hands holding onto Shouto’s shoulders with surprising strength. “But okay. Be safe, Nee-cha.”

Shouto heads back to the group, not knowing how to feel about letting Villain Sister go. Technically, if Touya talked to her, how bad could she be?

“Thanks Entropy-san,” Taka sighs. “I know Nee-cha is a bit funny, but I love her a lot. I know you let her go.”

“Taka,” he says slowly, “you should tell someone when you’re being hurt.”

Taka tenses against his back. 

“She doesn’t- hurt me. Not all the time,” the boy mutters. “Just. Sometimes, she has bad days, and hi- she says things she doesn’t mean, and it’s not her fault because I’m, I’m lucky she keeps me around even after Tou-san left-”

It’s rehearsed. Shouto’s said these same words to himself, alone at night, trying to justify his father’s actions. He feels sick. 

Shouto stops and kneels, Taka sliding off obediently. The kid looks down at the grass, fingers twisted in the hem of his Deku-costume shirt.

“-and it could be worse because-”

“Taka. Adults are supposed to take care of you. When they’re hurting you instead, you tell someone, so they can help stop it.”

Taka trembles, and Shouto curses himself. He’s not good with kids, and he has no idea what to say. Just because he kind of maybe wants them someday in theory, doesn’t mean it would be a good idea, in all actuality. It doesn’t mean he’d be good at it, which meant he would never, ever put a child through having to be his kid. Taka quivering in front of him is proof of how shit he is at it.

“I was hurt, too,” Shouto finds himself revealing. “I didn’t tell anyone for a long time, and it wasn’t good for me. But when I finally did tell someone, they made it stop, and I got better. I wish I had said something sooner.” Taka looks at him with watery eyes, full of easy-earned, undeserved trust, and nods.

“Okay,” Taka says, voice smaller than his forty seven inches of height. “Will you- help?”

Shouto thinks he’d take on the sun for this kid if he asked.

“Of course.” He holds out his hand, and Taka slips his tiny hand into it. 

-

“You’d be a really cool big brother,” Taka tells him later, as he’s dropping him off at Fuyumi’s, who has the cleanest record a social worker could ask for. Shouto would rather the kid be with someone who isn’t a complete stranger, and though Fuyumi is, Shouto isn’t. “But I already have Nee-cha. So. Maybe you would make a cool dad, too.” 

Then he darts in to squeeze Shouto’s waist, which his short arms don’t even reach half of, though not for a lack of trying, and bounces back, waving goodbye as he disappears into the house. Shouto stays standing on Fuyumi’s driveway for a good while, feeling his heart expand triplefold in his chest.

It’s stupid to even think about it. Having kids while being a full-time hero is probably the shittiest thing you can do to a kid. Heroes are rarely ever home when they first start out, even more so when they get famous. It’s worse if more than one parent is a hero, and he really can’t imagine living into that potential stage of his life with anyone but Izuku.

Not to mention, he hasn’t had an actual father his entire life. What the hell was he supposed to take as an example?

Aizawa-sensei is probably the one closest to the mark.

Huh, thinks Shouto. That’s terrifying.

His sister comes back out, takes one looks at him, and rushes back with a squeak.

“Waaaaaah,” she frets, clutching a handkerchief. “Why- Shouto, what’s wrong.

“Ugh,” he mutters, letting her dab under his eyes. Fuyumi sniffs. 

“Don’t cry,” he falters. 

“I’m a sympathetic crier,” she hiccups with a glare. “You haven’t cried in- years. You stop crying.”

“You first.” Shouto drags his gaze up to the night sky. “Do you think-” I’d make a good father?

“Finish the question, Sho.”

“Never mind.” 

Fuyumi shakes her head, fondly exasperated. “Yes, you’d make a good dad. You should probably get some practice, though. I teach a class of rebellious teens and still mess up. Maybe- get a high-maintenance plant. Or a pet.” She side-eyes him. “Does Midoriya want kids?”

Shouto’s lungs immediately cease to function at the mental imagery of Izuku holding a mini green-headed version of himself. 

“Ah,” Fuyumi says knowingly. “Too soon.”

 

Three.

 

It’s a normal day. By all means, it should stay a normal day, because ever since Shouto’s cut off the Big Ugly Fuck from his life, things have gone forth, dare he say, swimmingly. 

There’s nothing amiss when he wakes. There’s no message from Izuku when he checks his phone, which isn’t out of the norm - Izuku has an erratic sleep schedule at best, what with jetlag and insomnia, so is usually up before Shouto is, sending him messages saying ‘Good luck with work!’ or ‘Good luck today!’ or on the days he’s feeling more hyper than usual, ‘Ganbatte!!!!’  

So he messages Izuku a Good luck at work today. He goes about his routine; morning run, shower, getting ready for work. Taking the private subway to the agency for underground heroes he works at. 

It’s when he arrives at the agency that things start looking different. Shinsou’s waiting for him at the elevators, watching everyone but him. 

“Why is everyone staring at me,” he mutters. Shinsou snorts. 

“I told Tenya you wouldn’t check the news and he didn’t believe me.” 

It’s a strange feeling to have, being happy for your friends. It doesn’t quite affect you, yet you’re pleased all the same, for all the mediocrity a simple friendship offers. It’s strange that he even has people in his life that qualify as friends.

“He’s Tenya now?”

“Shut up,” Shinsou replies tartly, rolling his eyes in an attempt to hide his faintly flushed cheeks, “isn’t yours Izuku now?” 

“Yeah. But we’re-” Shouto looks away, flustered despite himself, “-dating.”

“Wow,” Shinsou says drily. “Amazing. Such class. What I wouldn’t do to have you on tape right now.” 

Shouto doesn’t deem him a reply. 

“We should talk,” Shinsou continues, quieter. “Amal and Orca-san are waiting for you.” 

Shouto’s brow furrows as he jabs the down button. They step inside the thankfully empty shaft, whispers quieting as the doors slide shut. 

“What did Endeavor do now?”

“He said you’re cheating on Midoriya with the number two hero.”

Shouto levels an unimpressed look at him.

Shinsou doesn’t smile. 

“What the fuck?” Shouto hisses.

-

It’s everywhere. 

Shouto knows by now, that nightmares can, and will, manifest into reality. Except, usually, he has the nightmare before the real thing ever happens. 

This is something he didn’t think would ever take place, not in his dreams, not in his truth.

This is a nightmare he didn’t know he had come true.

Izuku’s phone has been off for the past hour; there hasn’t been any reply to Shouto’s text, and honestly, he wouldn’t want to talk to himself right now either. Amal’s taken his phone and powered it off, but Shouto reboots it every five minutes anyway. Just in case.

In that moment, it doesn’t really matter that Izuku knows not to take Endeavor’s words, that Izuku knows how Endeavor twists everything he gets his claws in - it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because his phone is off and the subway that is the fastest way out of Gang Orca’s agency is blocked by goddamn reporters, and Shouto’s staving off an anxiety attack because of this fucking guy who won't leave his life the fuck alone.

Amal replays the video, hand deep in a bucket of caramel popcorn.

“Endeavor-san, what do you think of your son Entropy's relationship with Number One Hero Deku?”

Endeavor laughs jovially. “Is that a trick question? He’s seeing Ground Zero.”

The interviewer gasps loudly. “What do you mean? Do you mean your son or Pro Hero Deku? Both?”

After a deliberate pause, Endeavor looks straight into the camera. 

“Why, Shouto, of course,” he says, lips stretching into a thin smile. “I was informed this is public news.”

“It definitely isn’t!” The interviewer leans out of their seat, practically salivating. “How long has this been going on?”

Endeavor shrugs charmingly. 

The clip isn’t even part of the actual interview. It’s a seperate video on the internet, a segment of the original interview that was generously cut, but somehow still made its way to the world. No doubt his father paid one of the crew. 

Endeavor has never taken an interview like this, one he knew would ask about his son’s love life. This was on purpose. This was an attack. Maybe he paid all of them. Maybe this whole thing was staged.

Shouto’s nails break into the soft skin of palms. 

“Requesting permission to take the day off, sir,” he grits out to Orca-san. The killer-whale mutant is in a dark suit instead of the light-coloured ones he usually wears to avoid intimidating others, and it matches his reflective skin, making him look all the more terrifying for it. Shouto doesn’t acknowledge it. Orca-san’s the nicest person he knows. 

After Izuku. 

Who he needs to get to, this very second. 

Aizawa-sensei looks bored. For someone who resigned from teaching to avoid getting attached to any more children, you’d think he would have had to actually be attached to any in the first place. 

“What, you're gonna leave through the same subway flocked by paparazzi?” Aizawa drawls. 

Shouto knows Sensei’s attached. It’s just - the nerves. And who in the world based their agency literally underground, just for the sake of the aesthetic? It’s such faulty fucking planning. He barely holds his tongue from putting forth the question to Orca-san.

Shouto nods. 

“No,” Orca-san says. Before Shouto can come up with a plan to sneak out anyway, he adds, “Take the elevator in my office. It will lead you up to Battle Hero’s office.”

“That’s where the elevator goes?” Shinsou asks dubiously, the same time Amal goes, “Pro Hero Gunhead’s office? I’m coming!”

Somewhere between riding up next to an overeager Amal, meeting Gunhead, and wanting to run at breakneck speed to Izuku’s agency, Shouto goes in and out of reality and imagination for different lengths of time, too many times. 

He has the city memorized. Trains will take too long. The roads and sidewalks are crowded, but the tops of buildings, on the other hand, will allow him to get where he wants, probably in about twenty minutes. It hasn’t been unusual to see someone hopping roofs in a long, long time. 

Probably should’ve opened Kirishima’s message, he thinks briefly before he launches himself up.

In fifteen minutes, Might Tower comes into view. As he nears the building, he starts to see the invasion of journalists; the closer he gets, the more saturated the crowd. On closer inspection, there’s actual people clinging to the windows all the way up to at least the fifth floor of the building. 

Ants, Shouto thinks. Not wanting to cause attention to his identity, he hops back a building, and uses ice to propel himself up in order to fly onto the top of Might Tower.

Too fucking high. He barely softens his landing, scraping his cheek on the sculpture of the planet on his way, ice-sliding the rest of the way down.

For such a popular building, it doesn’t have a single member of security on the fucking roof. Shouto slams the roof door open and jumps down the stairs, bursting through the door labelled Floor 87. A startled intern drops his tray of coffees. 

“Where’s Izuku?” He demands. 

Several fingers point downwards. Before Shouto can lose his already diminished dignity by driving the whole room to tears, someone helpfully calls out, “Floor fifty-three!”

He falls through the middle of the stairwell, past a familiar head of green, before coming to a screeching halt, flinging his arm out to catch on a railing. 

“Izuku?”

“Hi!” Izuku leans over the railing of floor number sixty-four, some three floors above Shouto. “Yuuma-san said you were here and, oh. You look- really nice.” 

“I’m not cheating on you,” Shouto blurts out.

A chorus of ‘ooo’s sound out from below him.

“Jenka-san,” Izuku calls politely. “You’re not recording, are you?”

Jenka shoves her phone into her pocket. “Absolutely not, sir. I would never intrude on what is clearly such a private moment-”

“Go on, Izu-chan,” Tsuyu says, nimbly plucking the phone out of her pants. “I’ve got her.”

“Thanks, Tsu-chan!”

Once in Izuku’s office, they turn to each other. 

Izuku looks really nice. He always does, technically, but he looks really nice doing it every time. The sides of his head are freshly buzzed, and he’s wearing one of those spiral-like headbands to keep the tips of his curls off his face. He’s not in his uniform, which makes Shouto glad he isn’t either. It’s almost normal, with Izuku in a soft, navy blue v-neck, and Shouto in his cut-offs and flannel shirt. If he wasn’t so horrified by their entire situation, the small, green-speckled stone on Izuku’s wrist would make his heart flutter. 

His heart flutters anyway. It means something that Izuku hasn’t taken it off.

Or maybe he’s just forgotten about it. Maybe he’d take it off if he remembered he had it on. 

It’s quiet. 

It’s enclosed, it’s private, and it’s fucking awkward. 

“I’m not cheating on you,” Shouto repeats after several moments. 

“I mean- I kinda know? Or I hoped?” Izuku scuffs his signature red shoes against the carpet. He looks- unsure. Death be unto anyone who makes Izuku feel like that. Death onto Shouto. “I mean, I know you’re not that kind of person, so, but I mean, for sure you wouldn’t- not when Bakugou's with Kirishima, right, it’d probably be someone else, and I did think of other reasons, like maybe dating me was just a cover-up for someone else, or a farce, though that was really just me being me-”

Izuku,” Shouto says in anguish, completely horrified, honestly what could possibly be worse than this - “Izuku, I swear, there is no one else, there never was, there is no one who’s ever made me feel like-” his voice cracks embarrassingly.

“Yeah, so it’s- that’s- that’s still nice to hear.” Izuku looks down, cheeks bright. “I’m glad. And you, too.”

“If I- do I make you feel like that?” Shouto looks down at the same stain on the laminated floor that Izuku is probably staring at. “If I make you feel like I could do something like that, then I’m doing something wrong.”

“What! No!” Izuku’s shoes come closer to his, stopping inches away, hands doing the awkward dance where they don’t know if they’re allowed to touch. “Shouto, you’re not doing anything wrong, I shouldn’t have even listened to what he said - and honestly, I didn’t, it’s just no matter what I accomplish, I’m still just me, and I know you’ve legally disowned your dad so I don’t know why I even- it just wouldn’t have been surprising-”

Shouto’s head snaps up. 

“Whoever made you feel like that wasn’t anyone worth listening to,” he says angrily. “You’re the best person I know.”

“I love you so much,” Izuku says. 

Shouto’s mouth drops as Izuku’s eyes widen. Izuku’s entire face is on fire. “I- sorry , sorry, I know it’s only been four months-”

And two weeks, Shouto’s brain supplies.

“-and it’s too soon and you don’t have to say it back, I don’t even know why I said it-”

“I love you,” Shouto breathes. He’s wanted to say it for the entirety of the time they’ve been dating, and now he gets to because Izuku loves him. He wants to hold Izuku’s hand and his waist and the back of his neck and kiss him until neither of them remember today’s events, or their names-

“I love you,” he says again, firmer, inducing an unknown shade of gem-red under Izuku’s skin. “I-”

Izuku covers his mouth with bare hands and splutters. 

“That’s- I can get used to that,” Izuku says faintly, eyes bright as they stare into Shouto’s. A bashful, giddy smile starts to spread over Izuku’s face, and Shouto lifts his hands to wrap around Izuku’s wrists. 

“I love you,” Izuku says. Shouto’s ears prickle with heat, with the weight of Izuku’s stare-

“I love you,” Izuku whispers, and Shouto feels his entire face flush. Izuku’s teeth bite into his lower lip as he tries to contain his glee. 

“Now you know what it feels like,” he beams, removing his hands from Shouto’s mouth. Shouto pulls him by the wrists, setting his fingers above Izuku’s hips. It’s with familiarity that he leans in and sees Izuku’s sharp intake of breath, sees his eyes flutter shut as he leans in, that is somehow a new experience every time-

Outside the door, something explodes, followed by a flurry of cursing and screams. 

“That’s Bakugou,” Shouto sighs, dropping his forehead onto Izuku’s shoulder. "The roof needs security."

“Your face is hurt,” Izuku frowns.

“I’ll schedule an interview for today,” Shouto says miserably.

-

“For the second time this week,” says the news reporter, practically vibrating where he stands, “we have a Todoroki on the show, twice the amount this time, and on live! Welcome, Todoroki-san and Todoroki-san!”

[camera zooms out to involve heroes Endeavor and Entropy, sitting on opposite sides of Miyara, into the shot]

“Thank you, Miyara-san,” Todoroki Shouto says politely. Endeavor glares stoically. “Congratulations on becoming Japan’s number one hosting show.”

Miyara flushes, pleased. “Thank you! It’s an honour. So, Entropy, we’re here today to find out,” Miyara winks into a camera, “what exactly is going on? What we heard a couple months ago - three, to be exact - was that you and number one Pro Hero Deku were official! Where does Pro Hero Ground Zero fit into this?”

“He doesn’t,” Entropy says flatly. “Whatever Endeavor’s… sources were, they were wholly incorrect. Izuku and I are exclusive and happy.” Entropy stands abruptly, walking briskly to the darkness behind their seats. “Now that that’s out of the way, I only promised one interview about this subject, so I’d like to add something.”

Entropy pulls down a foil from the ceiling. A pointer appears in his hand. 

On the transparency shows a projection of a certificate. 

Entropy smacks the pointer on it, staring directly at Endeavor, who seems to have gone unnaturally pale under his flames.

“This,” Entropy taps the pointer on the foil again, accentuating the spot, “is my legal name. It has been for months. Ishida Shouto. Mother’s maiden name. I disowned you weeks ago.”

Miyara’s jaw drops. Endeavor’s eyes flash. 

“This news wasn’t made public to save face, so that you wouldn’t lose your standing.” The projection disappears, and Entropy steps forward again, maintaining eye-contact with Endeavor. “Not only do I not give a fuck about your standing, but if you pull anything like this again, I know there’s more than just one of us who won’t mind releasing more information to the public.” 

Endeavor stands. Entropy stares coolly back at Endeavor. For a minute, Miyara looks genuinely terrified of their energies, and looks to be hovering his thumb in his jacket, presumably on the Emergency Live Cut-Off Button in his jacket. 

Then, the moment passes, and Endeavor strides off-set.

“Well,” Miyara breathes. “What a night, folks.”

-

Being in the same room as his father doesn’t so much as give him unholy fits of rage anymore, but does leave him with a vague sense of tiredness. Orca-san tells him to take the day off but to make sure to hand in the paperwork from his latest mission tomorrow, so Shouto heads over to Izuku’s apartment and immediately passes out on the familiar bed. 

He wakes to gentle fingers running through his hair. 

“I mean, I guess so?” Izuku sounds upset. “I just wish-” The voice on the other line supposedly finishes his sentence. “Yeah, exactly.” 

“No,” Izuku sighs. His fingers slow their soft massaging of Shouto’s scalp, eventually withdrawing. “I haven’t told him yet. I just- I know he- I don’t know. It’s probably going to be really bad.”

Shouto fights everything in himself to stop his eyes from flying open. He knows he shouldn’t still be pretending to sleep. He knows he shouldn’t have listened to even this much. He knows he should get up right now-

Izuku laughs. “Pfft, don’t worry about me! I love you, too!”

I love you. 

For someone who wears his heart on his sleeve, Izuku says that phrase to very little people. Shouto has only ever heard him say it to his mother, and to Uraraka, and to Iida, and to random little children he meets when they say it to him first. Stray animals have no idea how privileged they are, to receive those words so easily and so heartfelt. 

He’s only said it to Shouto for the first time today. Shouto’s been in love with him longer than four months, has probably been since halfway through second year at Yuuei; Shouto thinks he shows it too much at times, and has to reel it in, so it doesn’t scare Izuku off. 

But here Izuku is, saying it to a mysterious person who’s neck Shouto wants to hack away at with a thick, a generous shard of ice. 

Maybe it’s a cat that can talk, Shouto thinks without much optimism. Maybe it’s - All Might?

He has no right to think, no fucking right, not when Endeavor had spread the same thing about Shouto not forty-eight hours ago, and there’s no way Izuku would have reacted like he did, so upset and sad and awkward if- if he were- there’s no way-

He stays still and unmoving as Izuku finishes his call - the caller’s earnest farewell is too chirpy to be Iida, too deep to be Uraraka or Inko-san. Certainly doesn’t sound like All Might or a cat. There’s a light tap as Izuku puts the phone down, before gently lifting Shouto’s head off his lap and onto a pillow. 

With a heavy sigh that has Shouto pressing his eyes shut even harder, Izuku walks out the room, shutting the door. 

Shouto watches the closed door unmovingly, eyes wide, heartbeat accelerated. Five minutes go by, and he falls out of the bed with less dignity than he’s ever had in his life, and runs to the attached bathroom, locking himself in. 

There is no fucking way Izuku would cheat on him. 

It isn’t about Shouto. There’s no way Izuku would cheat on anyone. It’s not in him. It’s against everything he stands for. 

Maybe. 

Maybe it is about Shouto. Maybe of all the people he could date, Izuku would be willing to cheat on Shouto. Because Shouto messes up all the time-

Don’t be fucking stupid, Shouto tells himself furiously, ignoring the drops of liquid falling off his face. 

He’s tired. The weariness from meeting Endeavor isn’t gone, and he hasn’t seen his mother since her last lapse, and his misses his siblings, and he should have just gone back to work. 

He would never. 

It’s a horrible, horrible thing to imagine.

Izuku would more likely break it off with Shouto before going to anyone else. He wouldn’t do that, not to anyone, not even Shouto, because surely he thinks Shouto is decent enough of a person to not put him through something like that, right?

Right. 

Maybe.

But- if, if he is, then - he’ll have to tell Shouto someday. Or, he’ll leave Shouto because of it. And though it isn’t how Shouto imagined their inevitable end, he’ll just have to suck it up. He’s going to suck it up and ignore it and make the most of his time with Izuku before he- 

Before. 

Shouto forces the thought out of his mind with the same vehemence he forces himself into the shower. 

 

Four.

 

Four months become nine, and nine months become a year, without any drastic happenings, and Shouto concludes the mystery event as a severe lapse of judgement on his part, and blames fatigue for coming to deluded conclusions. In all likelihood, the matter probably hadn’t even involved him.

His mother is leaving today. 

“With your blessing,” Rei says that morning, smiling at three of her four children, finally discharged from the hospital, looking just as small and fierce from her college photos, “I would like to take my leave and visit my father in Hiroshima. Would you like to come with me?”

Natsou goes with her, since Fuyumi has Taka to care for, and takes temporary leave from his job. None of them have ever met anyone from either side of their families. Shouto faintly remembers a red-headed woman with a stern face from his childhood who was likely Endeavor’s mother, but he never cared enough to ask about her, not when her eyes held the same indifference Endeavor's do. 

No one from his mother’s side ever visited her while she was in the hospital, either. Them, too, he doesn’t care for, for if they don’t visit their own daughter when she needs them, why should he give them the satisfaction of being part of his personal life? His mother had wanted him to go, he knows, but he doesn’t think anyone would take well to him socking his so-called grandfather in the face.  

It’s weird, in a sense, since they all now carry their mother’s family name. In another way, he sees it as picking the lesser of two evils. 

After he sees his mother and Natsou off at the station, he stands there for a while, thinking. 

It’s Saturday. Izuku should be home, either catching up on things he missed from his missions outside of Japan, or Skyping Inko-san, or napping. Usually he’d drop by at Momo’s or Shinsou’s, but Momo is busy planning an anniversary date for Kyouka, and Shinsou is away on a mission. 

I’ll pick up some taiyaki for him, Shouto decides. 

-

He unlocks the door to their apartment - their apartment - to Izuku’s laughter, and another’s softer, but just as erratic giggles. 

Shouto dips his head at the laptop screen. 

“Hello, Inko-san.”

Twin heads of green hair and bright smiles greet him, and Shouto pauses, momentarily blinded. 

How lucky he is to have this.

“How have you been, Shouto-kun?”

He exchanges pleasantries with Inko-san for a while as Izuku gets to demolishing the taiyaki like he has a personal grudge. All he wants to do is have Izuku curl up into his lap, but thinks both mother and son would likely die of embarrassment at such a bold display of affection, so he settles for placing a kiss at the back of Izuku’s head, which still leaves him red and stuttering, and takes the groceries into the kitchen and gets to making dinner. 

He’s about to roll up his sleeves, before deciding to chuck his button-down entirely, pleased at the choked-off noise Izuku makes at the sight of his bare arms. Shouto’s just wondering if he can get Izuku to sneak out of the camera’s range to get a proper kiss when Izuku flies out of his chair, dashing into their room, yelling “Pager!”

He’s out the front door wearing his uniform in seconds. Shouto stares at the empty doorway, lowering the knife to the cutting board, his heart sinking with it. 

“Oh dear,” comes a tinny voice from the laptop on the counter. Shouto’s heart freezes in its descent. “I don’t remember how to turn this off...” 

Slowly, he pulls his button-up back on. 

This can’t be so bad. He talks to Inko-san all the time. She’s his long-term boyfriend’s mother, who might end up being his mother-in-law someday, if he doesn’t fuck this entire relationship up. Midoriya Inko would rather leave her windows open in an attempt at getting the flies out, instead of using bug spray. She’d probably stop and apologize for stepping on someone’s toes while trying to get away from a villain attack. What was there to fear in such a lovely woman?

Shouto is terrified of Midoriya Inko. 

“Inko-san,” he says hesitantly, placing himself in Izuku’s seat. “I’m afraid Izuku-”

“Oh, don’t worry! I heard everything.” She beams at him and he takes a beat too long to reply, immediately lapsing into an awkward state. 

“It must be hard having him away all the time,” Inko-san says kindly. It’s not pitying, but sympathizing - Shouto imagines she knows what it’s like, probably - definitely - less used to it than he is, being a parent. He feels a nonsensical guilt. She probably wishes Izuku visited more often, and here Shouto was, hogging almost all of Izuku’s off-days to himself.

“-should come for dinner sometime!”

Shouto’s brain clicks back online. 

What?

“In fact, tomorrow’s a Sunday! Unless Izuku’s thing today lasts long, you should both come for lunch tomorrow! I’m sure you both could do with a parent’s cooking.”

Shouto has never in his life had a parent make him something as menial as food. Or- anything. At all.  

Shouto also has yet to meet Midoriya Inko in real life.

Not for a lack of trying on her side. In the one year he and Izuku have been together, Izuku has extended at least three dinner invites from Inko-san. Shouto isn’t afraid to admit to himself he’s exceeded in his luck to have had missions conveniently pop up every single time, but now - either Inko-san is a saint, or she’s secretly livid with him. 

It’s a weekend. It’s a direct invitation. It’s - Inko-san looks at him with a very sincere look, with very familiar green eyes, and she’s never once complained that he’s never managed to make it to her dinners, and Shouto can’t refuse.

“Sure,” he agrees weakly. 

“Perfect!” Inko-san exclaims. “Would you let Izuku know? What type of soba is your favourite?”

Zaru,” Shouto dutifully informs her, registering that she knows he likes soba, which mean Izuku talks about him to his mother. There’s no getting out of this. Inko-san thanks him, excitedly promising their favourite dishes the following day, before ending the call. 

Shouto stares at his reflection in the darkening screen.

Didn’t she say she didn’t know how to end the call?

Shouto is scared shitless of Midoriya Inko.

-

Shouto watches, mesmerized, as he blows lightly on a sleeping Izuku’s hair. It’s been like this for an hour, and Shouto has yet to tire. He blows on green curls, frosting the ends with delicate flakes, before blowing steam over them, then decorating again. 

“If you’re done making me look like a pixie,” Izuku murmurs into his collarbone. Shouto hides his grin in fluffy curls, tightening his leg around Izuku’s waist, feeling Izuku’s arm wrap more snugly around his own. 

“You don’t need any help from me to look like a fae.” 

“Wow,” Izuku drawls, and bites his collarbone. He clamps his limbs around Shouto, ruining his attempts to wiggle away. 

As if Shouto would ever willingly step away from Izuku, anyway.

“You have the teeth for it,” he snorts, batting firm, uncovered shoulders. He smothers a gasp as Izuku continues biting his way up his neck, back down, and back up again. Shouto digs his fingers into muscled shoulders, and tries to think past the sudden haze in his mind. 

Izuku,” he inhales, desperately reaching for the logical reasonings that keep slipping away from him, “we- we’re meeting your mother today, I don’t know if I have concealer-”

“Unfortunate,” Izuku hums, moving lower, pulling more skin into his mouth as he goes, leaving marks over Shouto’s chest and stomach. 

“She’ll- she’ll know, ” Shouto moans weakly, brain slowly but surely shutting down as Izuku’s mouth gets closer to his dick. “Her first impression of me is going to be sex deviant.” 

Izuku pauses. 

Shouto doesn’t know whether to be relieved or place multiple curses upon himself. The image of Izuku between his thighs, hair mussed with sleep, and bright, amused eyes sears itself in a very warm part of his mind. 

“Sex deviant?” Izuku giggles, climbing back up, kissing the corner of Shouto’s mouth. 

“She’s going to think I’m defiling you.”

“Defiling- Shouto. Oh my God.” 

Shouto draws Izuku down for a kiss to stop his laughter, embarrassed. Izuku lazily licks into his mouth, still smiling. A soft, teasing bite to his lip has Shouto’s toes curling, his cock fattening, and a shiver passing over his spine. The basic domino effect.

“I mean,” Izuku draws back, gazing hotly at Shouto’s hickey-littered neck and torso. “It’s a lost cause now. And she already knows you, even if you haven’t met face-to-face.” Izuku drags his gaze back to Shouto’s, watching through half-lidded eyes. “If it really bothers you-”  

“You know it doesn’t,” Shouto says, staring at the ceiling with warm cheeks. Soft lips press playfully high on his cheekbone, before a set of teeth lightly chomp down. 

“Izuku,” he growls, twisting to get on top of his laughing boyfriend.  

Whatever. He has Natsou’s spare keys if he needs the cover-up.

-

He doesn’t have any concealer. 

It’s too warm for scarves. It won’t even help to keep his hair untied. 

Izuku’s marks, on the other hand, are all under the collar, like any sane person would take care to do before meeting parents.

“Pixie,” Shouto mutters as he passes Izuku, firing a text to Natsou over his state of makeup at home. Natsou replies immediately, assuring there’s an unopened tube in Shouto’s shade, and unless it’s for drag, or an injury, he doesn’t wanna know. 

Izuku snaps his notebook shut, leaning in to kiss him softly. 

“I’ll take that as a compliment. Kaa-san asked if I was free to help her cook, so I’m gonna head there first to help her with shopping - she said you wanted zaru? Which I think is easier to make than katsudon, so I’m gonna try to get her to leave that-”

“She probably won’t.”

“-right? But I don’t want her to think she has to go overboard-”

Shouto’s nerves go haywire. Hell, he’s going to meet his boyfriend’s mom. He’s going to meet his boyfriend’s mother for the first time, and she could end up hating him, because even Shouto knows he finds it easier to communicate via devices than real life, and he’ll probably say something horrible, and he’ll embarrass Izuku, and Inko-san will hate him, and Izuku will use it as an excuse to leave him-

“Shouto? Hey, Sho.”

He blinks at Izuku’s worried face. 

“Are you alright?” Izuku reaches forward to hold Shouto’s hands, searching his face. “If this is too soon and you’re not ready, or if you wanna postpone this to some other weekend, I understand-”

“No,” Shouto replies firmly. “Just- got worried for a second. First impressions count.” 

Izuku smiles sweetly. “I promise, she loves you already. She loves all the little things you send her. You have nothing to worry about!”

“Number one hero’s honour?” Shouto teases.

Izuku presses his lips into a shy smile and flushes, nodding. Every time he’s reminded of his status in Japan, he gets like this. Shouto will never tire of it. He can’t wait to see the look on Izuku’s face when Shouto can finally tease him about being the #1 Hero in the world. 

“Can’t say no to that,” Shouto says definitively, heart swelling at Izuku’s bashful face. “Tell her I said hello? I should be done with the reports in two hours.”

“I’ll see you then,” Izuku promises, and Shouto meets him halfway.

He watches Izuku pull his car out of the parking space, and just stays at the window, contemplating the worst scenarios that could take place, from least to most likely. Statistically, the thing Inko-san is most likely to shy away from is his personality, which doesn’t really look great.

“Do you just wait there until he comes back?”

Shouto whirls around, see-through barrier of ice formed between him and- 

Touya. 

“Since when is your first move defense?” Dabi asks slowly, half amused, half confused.

Since I found people to be happy for, Shouto wants to snap. Not that you would know.

“What the fuck.”

“Thought he’d never leave.” Touya drops down onto the sofa, kicking his legs up. “You two are disgusting. I didn’t take Japan’s Number One to be a biter,” Touya continues, eyeing Shouto’s marks.

His only saving grace is that he has no shoes on, so Shouto doesn’t slice his ankles off. 

“I came to ask why Okaa-san is missing from the hospital,” Touya says after a moment, when it’s clear Shouto has nothing to say. “And why Natsou isn’t home. And why you aren’t panicking about it.” Touya squints. “Are you?”

Touya’s always avoided Fuyumi. It’s difficult to think past her tears once she gets going.

“Fuck you,” Shouto says between his teeth. “You’d know if you came home.” 

Touya shrugs. 

“We’re not living with him anymore.” 

“I know.” Their respective scars are prominent, the cause of the same man, Touya’s so much more evident. 

“They’re on vacation,” Shouto finally says. “In Hiroshima. Okaa-san wanted to visit her father.” 

Touya processes this. “That old fuck?”

“I don’t know. I don’t remember him.”

“Small blessings,” Touya mutters, and places a small tube of concealer on the coffee table. He swings his legs off the couch and stands. “Well, that’s all. Nice place you guys have, glad you’re doing good, congrats on-”

“Touya,” Shouto says. “Come home.”

“...I’ll try.” Touya turns back to face him, shoving his hands into his pockets. “On that note, keep a lookout for any fuckups next month. I’m going to do something that’ll cause a shitton of panic.”

Shouto knows better than to ask, and nods. Touya smirks. 

“The long hair is good.”

“The black hair isn’t. Bleach it.” 

-

Touya’s impromptu visit leaves him both settled and more shaken than before, and Shouto doesn’t even get half the paperwork done before his two hours are up and he has to rush out the door, before rushing back inside because he forgets to change. 

He makes it to Inko-san’s exactly seven minutes late. He hasn’t combed his hair, his shirt is slightly creased, and he doesn’t know if his breath smells. 

This isn’t highschool, he tries assuring himself. The voice sounds like Momo’s. His hair is tied back, so the mess is probably unnoticeable, and his shirt is dark, which should hide any wrinkles. He doesn’t want to think about the fifty other things that are probably wrong with his appearance. 

Just smile and wave, boys, a Shinsou sound-alike says in his head.

Maybe don’t wave. 

The door opens. 

In the first five seconds, Shouto misses Izuku’s hand when he reaches for him, bows so fast in Inko-san’s direction that he catches his head on a table corner, clacks his teeth together loudly to stop from saying something awkward, and resumes a stony face. He pretends he doesn't see the concerned look Inko-san shoots towards Izuku, as if to ask this is the man you gush about over the phone? 

It can only go up from there. 

-

It does go up from there. 

Inko-san is gentle. She is gentle, and she is kind, and there is a light in her that Izuku has clearly inherited. She is the embodiment of what a good person should be, of what a parent should be, and she makes the best cold soba Shouto has had in his life. 

Realistically, it's probably average soba. Except it isn't, because even if the ingredients are more or less the same to the cafeteria soba he eats, this one has the touch of a person who made it specifically for him, in hopes that he would enjoy it. 

He’s never had that. Never really deserved it. It’s not something he’s going to forget. 

By the time dinner is over, he's settled into his skin again, lazily swinging Izuku's hand in the space between their chairs. Inko-san sways gently on her feet, mixing up a fierce custard. 

“And, remember the time Tensei-san yelled at me for not sleeping the whole week even though I took naps?”

“Naps don’t count,” Shouto and Inko-san say. Shouto hesitantly returns Inko-san’s beam with a small smile. 

“So, the time you slept for two hours and called it a nap, was what, convenient for you?” Izuku snorts. 

“That was a whole night’s sleep,” Shouto says with a straight face. Inko-san sends them both disapproving looks. 

She is so brave, Shouto suddenly realizes, to go every day knowing her son was out fighting for the sake of some level of peace, not knowing if he’d be back for the next month’s dinner. Not knowing if, after he’d saved yet another victim, would he be safe himself? They’re the same questions Shouto ponders over, and Shouto feels a strong sense of kinship with this woman who has raised the man he’s loved since they were boys. Wonders if anything had gone different in their lives, that he might not be sitting here, surrounded by this small family and the sheer amount of love they freely offer. 

It’s late when they finally leave the table. Shouto’s ass is sore, and he doesn’t know the last time he was at such peace in the presence of anyone who wasn’t Izuku or his siblings or Momo. 

He thinks it will be easier now, to accept Inko-san’s invites to dinner. If she would want him to. 

“Ah!” Inko-san exclaims at the door before they step into Izuku’s car. “Just a second!” She reappears a moment later, holding tupperware boxes, which she stuffs into Shouto’s arms.

“These are for you,” she beams. “I know work gets tiring and doesn’t leave much time for cooking-”

“This is so unfair,” Izuku moans. “I’m due out of the country so I don’t get food? Why can’t I freeze some and take it?” 

So you come home, Shouto thinks. Inko-san’s gaze flickers to him, and he knows he’s right. He looks at the plastic boxes and- and by now, he knows the tell-tale sign of tears, and he tries blinking rapidly to shove them back. 

“-it’s mostly just soy broth, and it’s the same recipe as today’s, I just packed the extra, and you said you enjoyed it, so-”

Shouto presses his lips together and nods. The blinking doesn’t work. 

“I did enjoy it,” he agrees, hoping his face isn’t as bad as Inko-san’s slack expression implied. “Thank you for- thank you. You didn’t have to.” Izuku’s arm snakes around his waist as he leans his head on Shouto’s shoulder. 

“I’m rubbing off on you,” Izuku says, in such a fond tone that Shouto finds himself wanting to be entirely enveloped by it, utterly consumed and rightly destroyed. Inko-san pulls up the bottom of her apron, flipping it over to dab at Shouto’s cheeks. He has to lean down a bit to allow it, and doesn’t mind. 

“It was my pleasure,” Inko-san says, eyes smiling and tone gentle. 

 

Five.

 

There are things one learns over the course of their life, be it in minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, or years. 

Izuku is a fast learner. 

He learns not to rely on people. He learns that they will hurt, and they will twist, when someone errs just on the wrong side of normal. He learns - kind of - that he should avoid those people. Doesn’t quite abide by it, but he learns.

He learns to control One For All in a school year and then a month under Gran Torino. Statistically, it should have taken him longer, when comparing how others at his age in highschool were still learning to do things with their quirks they didn’t yet know. So for Izuku to master his under twelve months - he is a fast learner. 

He learns that he is worthy. He learns that there hadn’t been a necessity to place Katsuki as a point-save in his life, to reach and to overcome. That he doesn’t need checkpoints, that any progress he makes might not be enough, but will be something.

He learns that he cannot save everyone, but he will try and try, and will give his all in trying to save everyone, no matter what it costs him. 

He learns that he is very easy to befriend, and that he is very good at befriending.

He learns that the souvenirs he returns home with don't lessen the worry in his mother’s eyes, but instead serve as a reminder of the physical distance between them. He learns to bring her books and the knowledge of cultural activities instead of just fridge magnets of monuments. 

He learns that he didn’t have to date Ochaco in second year of highschool, or Arata in fourth year, or Frez from London. He learns that he does not have to date someone just because they would like to date him, for fear of no one else wanting to date him. This knowledge comes to him later in life, and though he cared for them all differently, had their love fit him in separate ways and doesn’t regret any of them, he wishes he’d known all the same. 

He learns he is easy to love, but difficult to keep loving. 

At some point, Izuku realises none of his close relationships are going to last, because eventually they will find out about his truth, whether it is when he is seventy and has passed down One For All, or before. Whether they decide to hate him for keeping this secret, or for not trusting them - it will have consequences. 

He tells Toshinori-san as such. 

“You’re not wrong,” Toshinori says dryly.  “I, too, have people who know. But you should take care in who you allow the information to.” He means Katsuki, and Izuku wants to insist that was back in first year when he didn’t know any better, but doesn’t know how to without sounding childish, so settles for pouting. 

He tells Tenya first, after Yuuei. The new Ingenium spends thirty-four hours drawing up his own notes before he makes Izuku go over them. They’re full of all the instances from highschool and the proof anyone could possibly need to prove Izuku - guilty, for lack of a better word. Tenya accepts it, and doesn’t leave, doesn’t blame him. Instead, he thanks Izuku for trusting him and spends the rest of the day feeding Izuku tissues and ice-cream.

He tells Ochaco soon after, and though it’s years after they’ve broken up, it somehow brings them to a better level of friendship than they were trying at.

It becomes easier. There is a lightness in knowing his mother and his best friends know, that there are people he can talk to about it. 

He learns he is easy to love, but difficult to keep loving. 

Izuku doesn’t tell everyone he ends up getting close to. He learns that while people are always, always excited to meet him, to know him - that is really all the extent of their want. Because when they learn of his frequent visits across the world, his infrequency at home, his inability to stay in one place for too long because of his job, the way he knows too many people - they will shrivel, and they will tire, and they will leave. 

Izuku doesn’t fault them. Sometimes he wonders how his mom doesn’t go off on him every time he returns too late from his missions. 

Izuku wonders if he will ever tire of learning. If one day he might explode with everything he has absorbed, with everything he has yet to discover. 

Izuku learns why he didn’t tell Shouto about One For All in highschool, or after. Izuku learns why there was an uncanny fear in allowing the boy with so many colours to know about him. Izuku learns he would have gladly waited his entire life waiting for Shouto, because although every person fit him different, no one has quite fit him like Shouto does. With patience and unequivocal love and an unbelievable kind of gentleness. With wittiness and being able to keep up with him and not shying away from Izuku’s many, many faults. 

Sometimes he wonders what it would’ve been like if Shouto had been his first. If he’d been Shouto’s first. He knows he isn’t, because he saw the looks between Shouto and Inasa after the license exam, and he saw the signs of chaos, and he saw- he saw, because Izuku is a fast learner. He doesn’t know what they had. He doesn’t know if he wants to know, because the selfish, greedy parts of him want all of Shouto to himself. Those parts of him want to do something remarkably un-hero like whenever he thinks about running into Inasa.

He learns he is easy to love, but difficult to keep loving.

“I think I’m going to tell him,” Izuku finds himself saying. “Shouto. About One For All.” 

Toshinori lowers the newspaper. 

“I confess, I thought you had already told him,” Toshinori says, after a moment. His glasses do nothing to dull the pierce of his eyes. Izuku looks at the coffee table where he’s kicked up his feet. 

“No,” Izuku says, uncomfortable. “I wasn’t- I dunno. I was- scared. I didn’t know if he- if.”

Toshinori looks unimpressed. 

“And you’re not, now.”

“Yeah.” Izuku leans his chair back on two legs, bending his neck to look at the wall behind him. “I think I’m gonna ask him to marry me.” 

“...perhaps one thing at a time.” 

Izuku’s already lost in his own mutterings. Toshinori sighs and takes a long sip of lukewarm tea. 

-

He plans it out. Waits until Shouto has an entire weekend off, then he schedules the same weekend off for himself, and he makes Shouto cold soba, and when Shouto is finished eating, he opens his mouth and-

Shouto’s clutching his chopsticks too hard. His gaze is panicked, and he’s directing it into the empty bowl, like it’s a lifeline.

“What’s wrong?” Izuku blurts instead, doubt creeping up on him. 

Shouto stiffens. He raises his eyes to meet Izuku’s, and his face does the weird (cute) thing where it doesn’t know what to do, so ends up grimacing. 

“You’re stressed,” Shouto finally says. Before Izuku can deny it, he continues, “You made me soba using your mom’s recipe. You’ve washed yesterday’s dishes. The inside of the fridge is clean. Your notes have been rearranged according to quirk types instead of their numbering. You-” Shouto’s jaw works for a second. “Do you have something you have to tell me?”

Wow, Izuku is fucking transparent. He feels a nervous laugh build up in his throat and suppresses it. 

“I- well yes, but it’s not exactly something to be worried about, exactly, it’s more of, er-” he twists so the table isn’t between them anymore, and crosses his legs in the classical criss-cross-applesauce way on top of his chair, and takes a deep breath. 

It’s easy to let it out. The words flow out of him like they’re rehearsed a million times over, when he’s only said them a handful of times the last five years, and it only gets easier as Shouto’s expression gradually relaxes, the tension seeping out of his body. 

It’s over in under fifteen minutes. 

That’s all it takes. Something he’s carried since he was fifteen, out in the open, over with in fifteen minutes. 

“Oh,” Shouto says quietly, when he finishes. Izuku nods in what he hopes is a wise, sage manner.

“So in first year…” Shouto taps his chopsticks against the top of the bowl in thought. “I wasn’t very far off from the All Might Love Child Theory.”

Izuku chokes on a laugh. Shouto smiles softly, and though Izuku has seen it countless times, has been the cause behind it countless times, it still reaches inside his chest and wraps around his heart, small and soft and alive. Shouto pulls the sleeves of his shirt over his thumbs to wipe at Izuku’s tears. 

“I’m glad you told me,” Shouto says. “Thank you. I thought it was- something- well.” 

“Sorry. I made you think- sorry. Sorry it took me so long,” Izuku hiccups. “I didn’t- want you to leave. After you found out. Because I’m- I love you, I love you so much , and I didn't know if you--if you would- people leave after they learn things like-”

"You deserve any happiness you can get," Shouto says, words slow like he were handpicking them. Each of his fingertips are warm where they’re in contact with Izuku’s face, and Izuku leans into it, wants to be swallowed. "You deserve that, and more, and if I can give you that, if you will take it from me, there is nothing I will not do to continue to provide it.” 

There is warmth in his eyes and Izuku wants to drown. 

“Your circumstances only allowed you the chance to be where you are now,” Shouto continues, tone gentle, and Izuku knows he is the only one who is lucky enough to get to hear him like this. Only one lucky enough to have this, have Shouto. “They haven’t made you into who you are. You did that, yourself.” Pink lips form a half-smile. “I love you because of who you are, not because of what you do. You could retire right now and become a florist, and I wouldn’t love you any less just because you'd be saving people with flowers instead of your quirk.” 

Izuku lets his head fall to his boyfriend’s shoulder and just breathes. Warm fingers card through his hair, gentle and careful, and Izuku feels like he might be swallowed whole by this feeling. 

“Do you want to cuddle?”

“Hell yes,” Izuku says fervently, and hauls Shouto up by his thighs. Shouto yelps, digging his fingers into Izuku’s hair as they move to the couch. 

“Can I ask questions?”

“Anything,” Izuku promises. 

-

A week goes by without anything happening. Then a month. Then, then, Shouto starts- withdrawing. Being shifty. So what if it hadn’t happened overnight? Obviously Shouto used his time to think things out, and now, a month later, was probably trying to figure out how to let Izuku down gently.

“I’m telling you,” Izuku hisses. “He. Is. Avoiding. Me.” 

Ochaco glares with a ferocity she most certainly did not hold four years ago. Tenya pats her head with caution, until it reduces by a margin. 

“Out of the two of you, you are the one who called his friends and asked to have an emergency faked,” Tenya says, putting forth an entirely unneeded call-out. Ochaco nods, kicking her feet up onto the table, before immediately lowering them at Tenya’s glare.

“Well, yes, but-”

“A terrible start to any sentence,” Ochaco points out. Izuku drops his head into his head and whines. 

He doesn’t want to lose Shouto. He told Shouto what he did so Shouto wouldn’t leave after inevitably finding out some other way. And here he is. Losing Shouto anyway. 

“Izuku,” Ochaco says. “Talk to him.” 

He hates talking. He does it too much. He can’t stop. 

“Okay,” he mumbles miserably. 

He’s not going to. But they don’t have to know that. Ochaco flicks his forehead as she sets out to pick up Tsuyu, and he knows they know anyway.

-

Maybe it can’t be defined as a withdrawal, exactly. A withdrawal consists of many things; of retreat. A hold-back from affection. A departure from making inside jokes. A mental removal from the investment you put into a relationship. An abandonment from promises.

This isn’t quite that.

It’s just plain, shifty, sickeningly worrying behaviour. 

It’s hesitation. 

It’s a momentary blink-and-you-miss it pause before leaning in for a kiss. It’s a sudden dawning mid-sex that leaves you flustered, for reasons that don’t seem to be sexual, but not bad, either. It’s weird, unexplained looks at any given time of the day, with no decipherable meaning behind them. 

He doesn’t ask.

He wants to.

He doesn’t want to. 

He wants to, but doesn’t know that he will like the answer.

What am I waiting for? Izuku thinks. For him to say something? For me to bring it up? What is he waiting for? 

He just wants the suspense to be over. 

“You’re staring,” says Shouto. There’s a small smile lurking around the edges of his mouth, and Izuku wants to kiss it over the burning of his heart. Over the sound of his fears. 

It could be nothing.

He knows that’s not true. He knows Shouto. Like how Shouto knows all of Izuku’s nervous foibles, Izuku knows all of Shouto’s. How he sleeps different when he’s relaxed. How he secretly becomes a furnace for stray cats to attach themselves to. How he likes poring over Izuku’s quirk research. How he always, without fail, sends Izuku a message asking if he’s landed safely, no matter where he is, or what he’s doing. How he drags Izuku to his second-favourite katsudon place every week they don’t go to Kaa-san’s. 

“I’m not staring,” Izuku says, easily returning the smile with a grin that’s only half rehearsed.

How Shouto apparently starts breaking out into a sweat every time he’s alone in a room with Izuku for more than two minutes because-

Because? Because he wants to leave? How far does he want to leave? The room? The apartment? Their relationship? 

Izuku’s not an impatient person. He’s not overly patient, either. He likes to think he has a good balance of things. He doesn’t plan ahead, but he definitely goes over as many possible circumstances that could take place, so as to foil as much of any element of surprise as he can. Shouto needs patience, and that is something Izuku gladly offers, because he is not impatient. 

It might cost him is sanity, though. 

That’s okay. 

“Hey, wanna get coffee?”

Shouto makes a face, but considers it. His nose crinkles the slightest bit. It’s insufferably cute, and Izuku might realistically go into cardiac arrest over it. 

“The Bean’s Beans place?”

Of course the Bean’s Beans place. Seeing Shouto chug half a litre of deep brew is one of Izuku’s guilty pleasures in life.

“Bean’s Beans,” Izuku agrees.

-

The cafe is relatively empty for a weekend, but then again, it’s post-exam season. Shouto holds one of Izuku’s hands inside the pocket of his Deku merch hoodie. Izuku’s wearing an Entropy hat, split down the middle in respective red and white. It’s an on-going joke where they think it’s funny to wear each other’s merch out in public, when in reality it’s just really fucking satisfying to broadcast the other’s accomplishments out there.

Kenai-san is usually the barista working on weekends. He knows their orders, and knows they don’t like to draw attention to themselves. 

Kenai isn’t here today.

Instead, the current one - Dino, according to his nametag - takes one look at them and promptly lets out a wail.

“Waaaaaah!”

“Ohmygosh, it’s Deku and Entropy!”

“Deku?!”

“OMG, are they out on a date?”

Shouto’s grip tightens on his hand. 

“It’s okay,” Izuku whispers. There aren’t that many people; fifteen, if he’s generous, and there isn’t enough of a commotion to bring in more people. 

“Do you want to leave?” Izuku asks gently. “There aren’t a lot of people, but we can go if you want.” 

Shouto purses his lips in distaste. His eyes sweep the room, and he shakes his head. 

“We can stay,” he says quietly. “You like answering their questions.”

Izuku loves this man with every shred of his unworthy being, and hopes the fact isn’t too honestly translated on his face. 

With a few words, the cafe is moved around into a classroom. Shouto and Izuku perch on top of two pushed together tables, so they can be seen by everyone, and the manager flips the sign on the door to closed. 

“I don’t want you to lose customers because of us,” Izuku insists. The manager looks him head on, and says, without skipping a beat, “I would lose my job for you multiple times over, anyday.”

The dozen or so customers spread out in chairs in front of them; it’s a young crowd, with the odd one or two children clinging to their parent. 

“We’d love to answer any questions,” Izuku starts. “Is it alright to do the usual, um, raising hands system?” 

A chorus of yesses sound out. Izuku claps his hands together, pleased. 

“Alright! Who’s first?”

Everyone’s hands go up. Shouto snorts beside him, and Izuku elbows him gently.

“The kid in the Froppy shirt,” Shouto calls, purposely taking the decision off his hands.

“Hi!”

“Hello,” Izuku chirps back. “What’s your name?”

“T-Tanaka,” the teenager supplies. “Um, firstly, it’s so cool to meet you guys! I never thought it would actually happen, even though I daydream about it-”

“Same,” someone calls out. Shouto huffs in amusement.

“I wanted to ask if- if you have any advice? I applied to as many hero courses as I could, so even if I don’t get into Yuuei-”

Dino the barista wolf-whistles, inciting a scatter of applause from the small crowd. Tanaka bows deeply, flustered.

“That’s amazing!” Izuku beams. “I know there’s a lot of prestige around Yuuei, but you can become an amazing hero anywhere you go; it really relies on your own effort. I know it might seem like I’m just saying that, but there are so many pro heroes from Japan that have made their names without the help of schools like Yuuei; take Pro Hero Quake for example - Shindou-san is an amazing hero, who made it look effortless getting into Worldwide One-K. So you do you, Tanaka-kun, and good luck!”

Tanaka expresses an enthusiastic, “Osu! Thank you!” and sits back down. Immediately, the hands go up again, and Shouto nods towards someone who looks to be a college student.

“Hello! I’m Misa. It’s nice to meet you.” The student bows politely. “This is a pretty general question, but as someone studying to be a hero-exclusive doctor, how often do heroes get hurt?” 

Izuku winces, causing a laugh out of her and a few others. 

“Well, I’d like to say we’re pretty careful,” he says with his own laugh. “But generally, pro heroes are pretty reckless. I’m not going to reveal how many times I end up in a hospital on a monthly basis because it might get back to my mom-” a few snickers go around, “-but hero-exclusive doctors are pretty much always on-call. You might have to adapt a pretty bad sleep schedule. We really couldn’t do it without you guys.”

Misa thanks him and takes her seat again. 

The next question comes, “Um, Entropy - does it ever get scary, being a hero? Fighting all the time?” 

It’s a bit more than just fighting, but Izuku thinks they get the gist of it. He turns to Shouto, wordlessly asking if he wants Izuku to take the question instead. Shouto frowns, hesitating. 

“It can be,” he says after a moment, haltingly. “But- it helps to remember who you’re fighting for. Heroes are often fighting with somebody in mind - their family and friends, or the people they’re trying to save. And that helps. Support from them, and fans, and anyone, helps. When we say ‘thank you for your support’, we mean it.”

“Do you keep Deku in mind?” Someone asks slyly. Shouto flushes, but answers a firm, “Yes,” anyway, to the delight of their small group. Izuku knocks their knees together, stifling the grin threatening to take over his face. Shouto takes a long sip of his coffee to avoid looking him in the eye, but keeps his thigh where it is, pressing a warm, solid line against Izuku’s.

The questions go on for a while, Izuku taking on most of them while Shouto offers his inputs now and then, until one question goes along the lines of; “Does the long distance affect your sex lives?”, to which both Izuku and Shouto go beet-red at and start spluttering. 

“Alright! That’s enough out of you lot,” the manager calls, firm. “Heroes, your drinks are on the house-”

“Really,” Izuku says, trying to keep the manager distracted long enough for Shouto to pop the lid of the tips jar and shove a literal wad of cash inside it. “I insist-”

“You’ll be doing me a favour,” the manager says, a touch dreamy. Shouto places the jar back behind the cash counter, and Izuku bows his head, thanking the manager profusely. The cafe’s small herd bend at the waist in unison, thanking them for their time, and Shouto and Izuku bow back. 

“Thank you for your support!”

-

Izuku watches, heart in his throat, as Shouto pulls his hoodie off. He watches Shouto fold it in quick movements, leaving it hanging neatly on the back of a chair. 

The cafe had been a reprieve. It had been an escape, a temporary one, to avoid the odd behaviour. At this point, Izuku knows Shouto’s not even aware of it. Now, back home, he doesn’t want to go back through the muddle of confusion.

He’s not impatient. 

He’s not overly patient, either. He just wants to rip the bandage off. He doesn’t want to take his time, peeling it back bit by bit. He wants to wedge a nail under it, secure a good grip, and tear it the fuck off.

“Shouto?” Shouto turns back to him, expression open and curious and the slightest bit defensive. “Can we- talk?”

“Of course,” Shouto says, brow furrowed. “Did I say something wrong at the cafe?”

“No, you were great! Especially that question about becoming an underground hero - I hadn’t really considered it was much different? But now that I think about it, it must’ve had changes from what you were doing back then-”

He was getting off track.

“-and, um, I can ask about that, later.” Izuku swallows, and it causes Shouto’s eyebrows to pull together a bit more. 

“I wanted to ask you if something was wrong,” Izuku puts carefully, ignoring the thudding of the stupid muscle in his chest, ignoring the way the sound pounds in his head. “You’ve been kind of - not distant, exactly, but different?” 

Shouto doesn’t look surprised. He doesn’t look defensive, or startled, or-

He looks guilty.

Izuku’s heart stops for a millisecond and kicks back into overdrive. 

“If- have I done something?”

No,” Shouto denies, almost violently. “You haven’t.”

“Well- is it something else?” Has something happened that Izuku missed? It wouldn’t be difficult, what with being away all the fucking time. He doesn’t deserve Shouto, not when he can’t even realize when his boyfriend is troubled, when he knows Shouto prefers to undertone things so Izuku doesn’t get worried-

“No,” Shouto repeats, a lot less convincingly.

He’s not going to cry. He’s not going to cry, because that would be unfair, and will seem like he’s trying his hand at manipulation, which he’s not and never will, so he’s not going to cry. He’s just not. “I know I’m. I’m away a lot, and if that’s becoming a problem, or-”

“Izuku, it’s not-” Shouto presses his lips together, uncharacteristically nervous. “I promise, you haven’t done anything wrong. Nothing’s wrong.” 

“But- something’s different,” Izuku pushes. “Something- is because- is it because of the talk we had? About me not actually having a quirk? Is it-” giving you doubts? Changing your mind about me? Lessening your feelings - for me?

Shouto’s eyes widen as he takes in Izuku’s mutters, and oh, Izuku knows that look; the self-loathing one where Shouto hates his entire existence, and-

“No,” Shouto says again. “I didn’t know I was. Being that obvious.” His shoulders hunch a bit before they relax, and his hands make towards his hair, as if to redo his bun, like he does when he’s nervous, before he doesn’t, before he lowers his hands again. He nods, seemingly to himself, and says to Izuku, “Stay here,” before he goes inside their room. 

For- for what? What’s he doing? Was he going to escape out the window? No, that was far too unrealistic. Was he packing a suitcase to leave? Packing a suitcase for Izuku to leave? What-

Shouto walks back out, hands empty. Izuku’s heart and mind lurch together, confused. 

“I didn’t know I was being so obvious,” Shouto repeats, miserable this time. “It’s- you know me, and I didn’t know how to keep it from you-”

“What,” Izuku chokes. 

“Can you,” Shoto’s jaw works for two hot seconds. “Can you hold your hand out?”

Izuku’s already lost control of this situation. Which isn’t true. He never had a grasp on it in the first place. So he opens his palm, and Shouto places something soft in it. 

A small, black, velvet box.

“What,” Izuku whispers.

“I was going to ask you properly,” Shouto says, eyeing the folded up hoodie like he was regretting ever taking it off, like if he hadn’t, he might have been able to be swallowed by it. 

It doesn’t have to be- it could be a bracelet. A necklace. Maybe studs. Maybe Shouto was going to offer to pierce his ears for him-

“I asked Inko-san,” Shouto continues, eyes downcast, “and Toshinori-san, and Tenya and Uraraka.”

It’s. It’s probably not any of those things. It probably is- that.

“Oh my god,” Izuku hears himself say faintly. Shouto’s mouth twists, in a not-good way. 

“You don’t have to say anything,” he says, awkward and unsure and- “I was going to wait. It just ended up being made earlier than it was supposed to, and I didn’t know how to. How to keep it from you. I’m a good liar but,” Shouto sighs. “I’m really bad at lying to you. I’m sorry I made you think it was you.”

He had a- he had it made?

“Can I-” Izuku looks between the intimidating box in his hand and Shouto. “Can I- open-?”

Shouto shoves his hands into his pockets and nods stiffly. Izuku’s hands only shake a little when prying the lid open, and oh. Oh, oh.

It gleams. It gleams and it’s not taunting, but welcoming, and somehow, somehow seeing it makes it feel real, convinces Izuku that this isn’t some mad hallucination. There’s a white stone in the middle, and gentle carvings around it, and, and-

“I’m sorry,” Shouto says quietly. “You don’t have to- you’re not obligated. If it’s too soon, or.” He looks away. “Or if you just don’t want to. With me. I understand.”

“Ask,” Izuku blurts. Shouto’s head whips up, eyes wide. 

“What-”

“Ask,” Izuku repeats, clearly beyond words and reason. “Can you-”

“Izuku,” Shouto says, face full of naked hope, hands wrapping around the one Izuku holds the box in, “will you. Will- you marry me?”

“Yes,” Izuku breathes. “Yes, yes-” and there’s no helping the tears now, not when Shouto lets out a tiny disbelieving laugh and gazes at Izuku like he holds the universe’s secrets and Shouto’s heart in his palm instead of a small, tiny box full of-

Not when Shouto deftly plucks the ring out of the box and slides it smoothly over Izuku’s finger. 

They both stare at it with wonder, the small, gold band with its careful engravings that Shouto specifically picked out to have made for him, and holy fucking shit Shouto wants to marry him.

Shouto wants to marry him.

Shouto wants to marry him.

Shouto wants to marry him.

“That’s the idea,” Shouto laughs wetly, and he brings Izuku’s hand to his face, cupping his cheek with it, and it’s. It’s everything, to see the ring in contrast with Shouto’s skin, to lean forward and kiss him until they’re both sobbing and laughing, until they can’t tell whose tears are on their skin, until Izuku sets the box down somewhere and cups Shouto’s face with both hands, kissing him once, twice, thrice-

“I love you,” Izuku says, voice strangled somewhere around his throat instead of inside it, “I love you, I can’t believe you want to- with me-

“Who the hell else is as good as you at making me cry,” Shouto says, disgruntled, and it’s fake grumpiness, and Izuku laughs with all the delight in the world, burrowing into Shouto, into the warmth of his eyes, into the arms around his waist. Shouto presses his lips to Izuku’s forehead, to the corners of his eyes, to the highs of his cheeks. 

“I love you,” Shouto finally breathes, smothering his face in Izuku’s neck. It draws more hot tears out of them both. “Thank you.”

Izuku clutches back, feeling like he might fly away if he doesn’t. 

“For what?”

Arms tighten around him. 

“Thank you,” Shouto insists. Izuku feels the curve of a smile against his skin, and hides his grin in Shouto’s hair. Holds on, so he can revel in this moment for a while longer. 

“That’s the endorphins talking," he promises.