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Understanding

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He finds Momo crying behind the cabin she’s sharing with the other girls.

It’s the second evening of their training camp retreat and Shouto is completely worn out (not to mention his skin has gotten all pruny) from sitting in a barrel of water all day and alternating it between freezing and boiling.

It’s early still, the sun only just set, and most of his classmates are eager to unwind together after spending their day training in conditions that have been equal parts exhausting and exhilarating.

The cabins are little more than spartan shacks, small enough that the boys can hardly roll over without smacking someone the next futon over. The girls are luckier in that regard, having more space (and fewer students) and a lounge room of sorts making up the front of their cabin. Most of the boys were eager to accept Mina and Hagakure’s invitation to gather before bed for a game of cards and are assembled in the lounge now.

Shouto hadn’t planned on joining them at first, but there’s really nothing to do back at the boys’ cabin besides sleep, and no matter how exhausted he feels, sleep does not come easy to him when he’s away from home. The only other person in the cabin is Bakugou, who always goes to bed early and is passed out across his futon, softly snoring.

And Izuku’s disappeared somewhere on his own. After tossing and turning restlessly for a while, Shouto decides to go looking for him. Ever since the incident in Hosu, knowing where Izuku and Iida are has become a bit of a point of anxiety for him.

He decides that he’ll walk by the girls’ cabin, maybe poke his head in and check if Izuku has already returned. Maybe he’s just joined the rest for cards. If he’s not there, maybe he’s told Uraraka where he’s going. Shouto knows his anxiety may be clouding his judgment, so he doesn’t want to quietly panic about Izuku’s whereabouts on his own: if it’s really worth panicking over, Uraraka and Iida will share his fear, and if he’s overreacting, they’ll let him know.

He feels better once he catches sight of the girls’ cabin, until he hears sniffling and choked breathing.

Instincts instantly on alert, Shouto runs around the side of the cabin and finds Yaoyorozu not far from the back door, sitting on the ground with her face buried in her hands.

“Yaoyorozu?” He steps over to her awkwardly, unsure how to offer comfort. “Is everything okay?”

She looks up at him. “Oh, Todoroki-kun. Sorry, I didn’t see you there. What are you doing out here?”

“I could ask you the same…”

He waits, but when she doesn’t offer up an explanation, he continues. “I was looking for Midoriya, actually. Have you seen him?”

Yaoyorozu turns her head away and sighs. “Yeah, he’s in there with the others. They’re playing Truth or Dare.”

Shouto sags in relief. Midoriya’s fine.

Yaoyorozu continues: “When you go in, will you do me a favor? Don’t tell them you saw me here?”

Shouto gets closer and sits down next to her. He’s not very good at talking about feelings and he’s spent a great deal of his life distancing himself from all emotions besides resentment and self-loathing, but he’s going to be a hero someday so this is something he needs to learn.

And besides, he likes to think Yaoyorozu is… could be… his friend.

“Are you… alright?”

Sniff.

“Yeah, it’s nothing. You can go inside, it’s cold out.”

“I’m not cold,” he tells her. She says nothing so he holds up his left hand, gently flaming.

She snorts, an odd sound which doesn’t match the tears on her face. “Oh, I guess not, huh.”

They sit there in silence for a little bit. Then…

“You seem to be using your fire side more lately, Todoroki-kun.”

He grunts. “I have no choice. Midoriya was right. If I really want to be a hero, I can’t afford to ignore half of my quirk.”

“Midoriya is a good friend, isn’t he?”

Shouto hums. “Yes… he’s— a bit too nosy for his own good, though.”

Yaoyorozu makes a noise of surprise and Shouto immediately feels guilty for speaking badly about Izuku to one of their classmates.

He sighs. “I owe Midoriya a great deal. He pushed me to become better when we fought at the Sports Festival and he continues to push me as we train our quirks. Sometimes I wish he didn’t… see through me so much, though.” The last admission is embarrassing, an acknowledgment of Shouto’s own weakness. But it’s true, and it’s also an acknowledgment of Izuku’s unique strength that has nothing to do with his quirk and everything to do with the kind of hero he’s already become to so many of his classmates. To Shouto.

Yaoyorozu is silent, but Shouto can tell that she’s thinking through something and isn’t sure how to say it yet. He’s familiar with the process. Speaking without thinking— leaping without looking— that’s dangerous when you have a quirk like Shouto’s, or a father like Endeavor.

He waits, giving her the time she needs. He’s never minded silence. Yaoyorozu is a thoughtful person and he never feels like she expects him to fill up the space in their conversations. She is kind.

“Todoroki-kun…”

Yaoyorozu doesn’t look at him as she begins, just brings her knees up to her chest. Shouto wonders if she’s cold and he lets the flame on his left hand burn a little higher while he waits for her to continue her train of thought.

“I’m glad you’re here. Thank you for sitting with me.”

Shouto nods. “I’m not very good… at this…” he gestures vaguely. “But you should always feel free to speak candidly with me, Yaoyorozu.” He takes a risk: “We’re— friends.”

Yaoyorozu smiles, and it reaches her eyes.

“Thank you, Todoroki-kun. And the same for you, of course. I’m glad we’re friends… I think you understand, better than anyone, maybe.”

Now Todoroki is confused. “Understand what?”

Yaoyorozu sighs.

“Hagakure just dared Kyouka to kiss Kaminari.”

Shouto frowns. “Why?”

Yaoyorozu throws up her hands. “I don’t know, Todoroki-kun, that’s what you do in truth or dare!”

“That... seems like a stupid game.”

“It is stupid!” Yaoyorozu scrubs at her eyes. “It’s so stupid! I’m stupid!”

“You’re the number one student in the class,” he tells her, more confused than ever.

“That’s not—“

“And, you aren’t the one who kissed Kaminari,” he continues.

Yaoyorozu’s chin wobbles, and Shouto feels a brief stab of panic. Had he said something wrong? He definitely said something wrong. He’s so confused about why they’re even talking about Kaminari, and why Truth or Dare is relevant to Yaoyorozu sitting outside crying behind the cabin, and why she isn’t talking to Uraraka or Asui or someone who’s actually good at this stuff, and why she thinks he of all people will understand.

He’s missing something, for sure.

Wait.

“You wanted to kiss Kaminari?” He guesses, trying not to let his dismay bleed into his voice.

“No!” Yaoyorozu sobs, and Shouto flounders. “Not him!”

Ah. Ah.

“You love Jirou.”

He whispers it, so quietly, but the way her eyes widen and her breath catches as he says it, he knows that he’s hit upon the truth.

“W-well, I don’t know about l-love—“ she twists her hands anxiously.

“But that’s why you’re upset, isn’t it,” he presses. “You’re upset that she kissed Kaminari.”

Yaoyorozu nods.

Shouto feels simultaneously relieved that he’s figured out the source of Yaoyorozu’s anguish and helpless because he has no idea how to solve this problem for her.

What would Midoriya say to her right now?

Midoriya would probably hug her and tell her how wonderful she was and how lucky anyone would be to have her as a friend or a lover. Shouto doesn’t think he can do any of that, it’s too awkward. It requires the sort of effusiveness that he could never hope to convey even at his most enthusiastic.

He feels useless, but it’s him that Yaoyorozu is telling about this, not Midoriya. And she’d said that she thought he would understand.

It’s important that Yaoyorozu feels understood. He’s not sure he understands completely, but he feels like he’s grasped the basics of it. Shouto searches for a way to convey this to her, and settles on tentatively announcing— “I… do understand.”

“I thought… you might,” she admits, shyly. “Have you told anyone, yet?”

He looks at her. How could he tell anyone about Yaoyorozu when he’s only just found out?

“No, of course not. I can... be discreet.” He says awkwardly, hoping she realizes that he would never betray her secret to anyone.

Yaoyorozu nods. “I’m not really ready to tell anyone myself, honestly. It just seems like it might hurt, and besides, we need to be focusing on school.”

Shouto nods. “That’s true. We have a lot of work to do if we don’t want to let our classmates surpass us.”

“Still, it helps to be able to talk about it, from time to time. Thank you for listening to me.”

“Of course, I always will.”

Yaoyorozu smiles again. “You’re a good friend, Todoroki-kun. Midoriya is lucky to have you.”

“I’m the lucky one,” he answers readily.

Yaoyorozu merely hums quietly.

“Todoroki-kun? Yaomomo?”

Speak of the angel.

Shouto and Yaoyorozu look up at the same time as Midoriya himself comes marching around the side of the cabin. “What are you two doing out here?” He asks.

“I was showing Yaoyorozu how I control my flames,” Shouto fibs smoothly, getting to his feet and extending his right hand to help Momo up as well.

Midoriya’s eyes go wide with excitement. “Ooooh, did you figure that out during our quirk training today?”

Shouto nods, because his fib had been based in truth. He is getting better at controlling his flames.

Midoriya beams. “That’s pretty neat, Todoroki-kun, could you show me, too?”

Shouto agrees to do so as they say their goodbyes to Yaoyorozu and make their way back to the boys’ cabin together. He shows Izuku the different ways he can control the heat and size of his flame, and Midoriya tells Shouto about his conversation with Kouta— how he plans to befriend the boy, whether he can help him or not.

Shouto nods. “If anyone can do it, I’m sure you’ll manage,” he tells Izuku softly.

Midoriya flushes and looks away with a small grin. “Hey, Todoroki-kun?” he asks, sounding a little shy.

“Hmm?”

“Earlier, when you and Yaoyorozu— were— uh, I mean, are you— umm…” he trails off, fidgeting nervously.

They arrive at the boys’ cabin.

“What is it, Midoriya?”

“Uhh, nevermind. It’s not important.”

Shouto blinks at him wordlessly for a minute. Izuku is beet-red and sweating a little bit, the way he gets when he’s nervous.

“Are you su—“

“AHAHAHA, um, you know what, I am really tired, Todoroki-kun. We should probably go to bed, huh?”

“Sure,” Shouto agrees easily, and they pause at the threshold to slip off their shoes. “Be quiet though, Bakugou is already asleep.”

Izuku nods and gives him a little smile.

They climb into their futons on their respective ends of the room in silence and lay still, listening to the sound of Bakugou’s quiet breathing between them.

Midoriya suddenly sits up.

“Todoroki-kun?” he whispers. The moonlight washes him out, makes him look younger, softer.

Shouto lifts his head, one sleepy eyebrow raised.

“I hope you have sweet dreams,” Izuku whispers quietly.

“Good night, Midoriya,” Shouto replies, favoring him with a rare, small smile.

Izuku settles back down happily on his futon, but then he sits back up again.

“Todoroki-kun—“

“Shut the FUCK up, Deku. I swear to GOD I will kill you and Half n’ Half both if I don’t get my full ten hours—“

There’s the sound of Izuku yelping and Bakugou crackling with explosive energy.

Shouto slowly lays back down on his futon and when he finally falls asleep, he doesn’t dream of dark alleyways and blood and fear, but of the freshness of the forest air, of his classmates’ delight when he helped start the fire for dinner, and of Midoriya’s determination to win over a stubborn, hurting child.

He can do it, Shouto knows. He already has.