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hellfire, take my soul

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It is 9 pm, and Shouto is making pancakes.

He has never been a talented cook; his mother cooked for him until she was in the hospital and then staff was hired until Fuyumi was old enough, but all that changed when they were moved into the dorms. UA decided it was a good idea to shove twenty teenagers into a building and give them a shopping budget to figure it out for themselves. Thankfully, he wasn’t the only one who was hopeless in the kitchen, although he was one of the few who seemed to take to learning it well.

Izuku taught him this specific recipe, an unashamedly American dish that was unhealthy in all the best ways. Not something one normally cooks at 9 pm on a Saturday, but his friends had given him a talk at one point about “self-care” and “comfort food” and, given the fact that Fuyumi had taken a long overdue vacation now that things were better at home, and he was left alone for the weekend with him-

Shouto figures he’s earned some comfort food.

It’s actually quite peaceful to cook for himself like this, no sound but the quiet sizzling of batter and the hum of the aircon. He thinks of days that seem to be decades ago now, of sitting on the floor and quietly watching his mother prepare dinner, not even taller than her hip yet. There’s something peaceful about making something with your hands like this; he wonders if this is why Katsuki always has a rare expression of tranquility on his face while he cooks. Shouto thinks he could grow to like it very much, and the calm it brings him.

Calm that fades as soon as Endeavor appears in the doorway.

The peace he was feeling slips off his shoulders like running water, replaced by a familiar, weary tension. Endeavor’s frame fills the doorway, and he doesn’t know if it’s better or worse that he is out of uniform, dressed only in a black turtleneck and jeans. It does nothing to make him feel safer. He knows he might feel safer if he was in his own hero suit instead of one of Katsuki’s old hoodies and leggings he was sure belonged to Yaomomo at some point.

Endeavor says nothing, and neither does he, continuing to flip, flip, plate, pour. The absence of noise is no longer comforting but oppressive, heavy with the weight of a million things to be said. Shouto refuses to break the silence, wanting nothing more to finish his food and retreat to his room and pretend like Endeavor doesn’t exist, just like he does every other time he comes home. It is only from years of training himself out of the habit that he doesn’t flinch when Endeavor walks further into the room, every step closer blocking a little more room for Shouto to run.

But this is his house, Shouto is a hero-in-training, and he refuses to run from this man anymore.

He idly wonders if Endeavor will waste time on small-talk; ask what he’s making, perhaps, or where he learned to make it. He wonders if he will fill the awkward silence as he gathers the courage to say whatever he needs to say to him.

“Shouto.” He says. Evidently not. Shouto flips his last pancake.

“What?” His tone is as dead and bland as always, but there is no mistaking the bite. Endeavor doesn’t flinch, but he hears a near-silent huff of air. He plates his last pancake and switches the burner off, putting the pan and spatula in the sink and turning back around. He sees Endeavor on the ground, forehead pressed to the floor, and loses any appetite he had left.

He doesn’t hear much of what he actually says, catching snippets of “harshly” and “wrong” and “regret” that manage to bleed through the pounding in his ears. He thinks it might be his heartbeat. It is a well-thought-out and well-rehearsed speech, and he recites it as if reading off cue cards, tone perfunctory and empty. He sounds like he is giving a presentation in class.

Even through the roaring in his head, his last two words to Shouto are crystal clear.

“Forgive me.”

He is speechless. Shouto may not be very knowledgeable in social interactions but he usually has a response for most situations, however awkward it may end up being. But this? This he has no words for. He has no words and a stomach twisted in knots and the dizzying feeling of hot, cold, hot, cold under his skin as both parts of his quirk flare.

The silence stretches and Endeavor looks up, up at him in a worn sweatshirt and leggings with his hair in a messy bun, stark white and nearly shaking. He raises a brow at Shouto, impatient, like he expects something he is not being given fast enough. The word rips itself from his throat without his consent, almost silent but no less vehement.

”No.”

Endeavor raises another brow, a louder scoff this time. “No?”

Shouto is silent. He is suddenly very glad that he isn’t holding anything because he is certain he would’ve dropped it by now.

Endeavor’s lip curls, flames slinking across his eyebrows. “I apologized, Shouto. Now you forgive me.”

He sounds like a child, Shouto thinks half-hysterically, a child who has been put in time-out and is forced to apologize before they can go back to recess. Some weathered old thing deep inside him, a rope that he leaned on and clung to throughout years of burning, backbreaking training, snaps.

And suddenly Shouto is furious.

“I will never forgive you.” He spits, fists shaking and wreathed in frost and fire. “Do you hear me?” He slams one of them against one of the upper cabinets, paying no mind to the rattle or the scorch mark left behind. ”I will never fucking forgive you!”

How dare he. How dare he. Years of burns and broken bones and bruises and silence and he thinks one measly little ‘I’m sorry’ would be enough? He thinks going through the motions, making a pretty speech, checking all his goddamn boxes would make up for everything he had done?

Endeavor’s face dropped instantly, flames coating everything but vicious blue eyes, and he rose back into standing. He was suddenly struck with all the ways his father was bigger than him, at least a foot taller with a hundred more pounds of muscle. Shouto was no slouch by any means; he was never as muscular as his harder-hitting classmates like Eijirou and Ochaco, but he had lithe muscles that gave him the edge he needed in combat.

But now? Nearly cornered against the wall with Endeavor’s shadow almost covering him? He had never felt smaller. Endeavor pulled his hand back, like he had a thousand times before, rage burning across each knuckle, and Shouto was struck with a truth that he knew to be more immutable than anything else in the world right now.

I am going to die here.

The hit left him reeling, like it always did, cracking across his face with the force of a boulder and scorching his unburnt cheek like lava. He was sent careening into the cabinets, not given a chance to even try to run when a flaming hand wrapped around his upper arm (right side, always his right side, had to make sure it hurt) and digging thick fingers in so tight the circulation was cut off.

Shouto’s head slammed into the kitchen wall, vision blacking out for a moment before a hand gripped his throat, tight and hot and he screamed louder than he ever had before. Louder than his last scream in this kitchen, when boiling water nearly sloughed the skin off of his face. This was worse. The hand tightened, bruising, crushing, burning burning burning oh Gods make it stop burning-

And still he couldn’t fight back, but when could he ever? Endeavor was a giant, a goliath, always bigger and stronger and more powerful and a hero so why would he fight back? When has he ever had a chance of escaping his own personal villain?

He was running out of air and Endeavor was yelling, even the spittle flying into his face hot to the skin. “Ungrateful.” He heard. ”You would be nothing without me.”

Quirks are a miraculous thing. After so many decades they are ingrained into our DNA, embedded into our very instinct. Instincts are what keep humans alive and, if you are on death's door, your quirk will activate to try to save you. This is one of the most widely known facts in their superpowered society.

Shouto’s hand came up to grasp the grip on his throat, and ice enveloped Endeavor’s arm.

~

Something was wrong.

By all means, Shouta should be relaxed, or as relaxed as he ever can be. He is sequestered in the teacher’s dorms on one of his rare days off, sipping sake and surrounded by his husband and best friend. Nemuri and Hizashi are just edging towards tipsy, and Shouta himself was filled with a pleasant warmth that should leave him boneless on the couch.

And yet, something was wrong.

He had been a Pro Hero for nearly twelve years now, and his instincts were honed as fine as a knife’s edge. He couldn’t count on two hands the number of times a ‘gut feeling’ had saved his life in the field, saved the lives of others, led him to a break in a case he might not have otherwise found, or just generally made his life easier. He learned over time to trust these instincts, no matter what situation he was in.

And right now, they were telling him something was very wrong.

He did a mental checklist. Hizashi was right next to him on the couch, laughing uproariously at a dirty joke Nemuri had told him. Eri was staying with the Wild Wild Pussycats for the weekend to spend time with Kota. Hitoshi was in the dorms along with Tokoyami, Shouji, Uraraka, Midoriya, and Bakugou. All of his other kids were at home for the weekend. His coworkers were all in their own rooms, and Nedzu was no doubt squirreled away in his office, plotting to take over the Hero Commission or something like that.

And yet…

“Alright, babe?” Zashi asked him, rubbing a soothing hand on his shoulder. His hair was in a messy ponytail, at-home glasses perched on his nose and he was wearing a shirt that was almost definitely Shouta’s. He looked more relaxed than he had in weeks, maybe months, and Shouta hated to ruin his fun but Zashi was just as much of a hero as him, and if anyone was going to believe him…

“Something’s wrong.” He said bluntly, noticing the way the atmosphere dropped as Nemuri stopped laughing suddenly, the both of them looking at him with worry.

“Are you alright, love? Do you feel sick?” Hizashi said, moving his hand from his shoulder to cup his face, and using the other to place both their drinks on the table. Shouta was shaking his head before he even finished talking.

“Not with me. Something…” He trailed off, rolling his shoulders and trying to shake away the haze of alcohol as the feeling grew. He felt tension start to gather in his neck. “Something’s wrong. I have a bad feeling.”

To anyone else it would sound nonsensical, but Hizashi and Nemuri are both Pros in their own rights and knew the value of ‘bad feelings’. They were both immediately more alert, sake and amusement discarded.

“What do you think? Is it one of the kids?” Zashi asked, and he wasn’t sure if he was referring to their son and daughter or his class as a whole. Shouta clenched his jaw. If it was one of the dorm-goers he would’ve heard the alarm by now with the way his gut was screaming ‘danger danger danger’ at him. He mentally went through the list of kids staying at home this weekend, fighting the immediate worry that they had been attacked by villains without him there to protect them. Sero, Ashido, Kaminari, Kirishima, Asui-

His train of thought was cut off by the buzzing of his phone, discarded on the table along with their drinks and lighting up with an incoming call. Shouta had long since given all his students his personal phone number after the mall incident, just in case, and his screen had lit up with the name of one of the two students who would only ever call in a life or death emergency. Bakugou was in the dorms, and his phone read-

Todoroki.

He was snatching it and answering before the second buzz ended, fear a cold fist in his stomach. “Todoroki? What’s wrong? Are you alright?”

There was silence for a moment, only punctured by heavy breathing, before- “Sensei?” He suddenly felt the urge to throw up. Todoroki sounded terrible, as if he had a horrific cold or had been screaming for hours. “Are you injured?” He demanded, waving a hand at his shoes near the door, watching as Nemuri scrambled to grab all of theirs. Hizashi hurried to grab their coats and his capture weapon.

“Sensei, I-” Todoroki cut himself off to cough, even though it sounded more like gagging at some point. Shouta set the phone on speaker as he started to jerk on his boots, tying the laces as fast as he could manage. He waited as patiently as he could manage to let the kid finish his coughing fit. He hoped, hoped, that the kid had only come down with some sort of bug and maybe needed a ride to the hospital. He hoped.

His stomach dropped at the kid’s next words. “He’s dead.”

His hands froze where they were rounding the capture weapon around his neck, head jerking to look at the other two scrambling to get dressed. The light atmosphere from only ten minutes ago was a distant memory now, leaving only tension and pale faces. He swallowed around a dry mouth, wrestling his tone into something calm and neutral, the same that he always uses during class. “Todoroki, are you safe right now? Who’s dead?”

There was no answer. Shouta tried not to panic.

“Kid, where are you? Are you at home?” He asked, scooping his phone up as the three of them nearly ran to the door. Hizashi’s car keys jingled in his hands.

“Uh-huh.” Todoroki sounded so far away, despite the fact that he was speaking directly into the phone.

“Todoroki, I need you to listen to me.” Aizawa Shouta was tucked away with some effort, given that this was one of his kids, and Eraserhead took his place. “Is there anyone else in the house with you?”

He tried not to jiggle his leg anxiously as Hizashi sped out of the teacher's parking lot, careening onto the main road in the direction of the Todoroki estate.

“No.” He rasped, after a weighty silence. There was something about the way he said it, something that made the three of them exchange a glance.

“Where’s your father?” He probably should’ve led with that. He cast a glance at the car’s clock: 10:38 pm. Even for a workaholic like Endeavor, he should definitely be home by now. The silence stretched, so much that he thought Todoroki had hung up for a second, before-

”Sensei.”

And Shouta finally let himself feel the fuzzy edges of panic.

~

It only took another five minutes for Hizashi to speed their way into Todoroki’s driveway, thankfully being close to UA. He didn’t know what he expected to find when they pulled up; maybe a house engulfed in flames, or surrounded by the screaming of cop cars. Perhaps even a villain fight happening on the front lawn. It was eerie to pull up to a house that looked completely normal, no screaming or signs of struggle, with the windows lit up by lamplight as if it were just another night.

They approached the door silently, muscles tense and waiting for combat, but the only sound they could hear was cicadas chirping and the sounds of distant cars. Shouta shot off a few quick signs behind him, ‘quiet’ ‘slow’ ‘caution’, and tried to convince himself that this was just another mission, another day on patrol, and not that he was about to walk into his student with a dead body.

The door pushed open with barely a sound, and the house beyond it was silent in a way that reminded him of a horror movie. The only noise was the hum of an aircon, and Shouta wished he could at least hear Todoroki breathing, but they had to continue on. They passed a sitting room, doors for what they discovered were bathrooms and guest rooms, before finally rounding into a hallway that led to the kitchen.

Todoroki was slumped against the wall, wide-eyed, and his right side covered in burns.

They sprang into their respective roles immediately, and as much as Shouta wanted to rush to his student he let Hizashi run ahead, slipping into a crouch in front of Todoroki and trying to gain his attention. Keyword being ‘trying’, as the kid couldn’t seem to look away from whatever was in the kitchen. Shouta walked forward first, Nemuri a half-step behind him, and he could see why the kid couldn’t look away.

He couldn’t help but agree with the soft, strangled ”Fuck.” that Nemuri let slip behind him. The body splayed out on the floor of the kitchen was coated in burns itself, though instead of the shiny red of heat burns it was the white-blue-black of frostbite, skin split and cracking. The kitchen itself was covered in swathes of ice and massive scorch marks, the fire miraculously not catching and burning the whole house down. The kitchen floor was bare of anything but the body, and there was nothing to obscure the fact that it was, without a doubt, the corpse of the new Number One Hero.

Nemuri stepped forward on silent feet, reaching a gloved hand down to feel for a pulse that Shouta knew wouldn’t be there. Endeavor wasn’t moving. Endeavor would never move again.

“Sho, his neck.

Shouta whipped his head around so fast it nearly cracked, catching the moment Todoroki raised his head from its slump to look up at him, putting his neck on full display. And there was absolutely no mistaking the bruise-burn of a massive hand wrapped around his student's throat. He started checking Todoroki’s other injuries without a second thought, cataloging the burn and swelling on his face, the burn and bruising on his arm, the way some of his white hair was stained red.

Shouta thought of the body behind him, the state of the kitchen, and realized he already knew exactly what happened here.

The only question was “why?”