He knows that the air outside the window is cold. Spring is coming early this year, but it hasn’t taken its rightful place just yet. The occasional chill that the breeze brings to his left side is a mild and pleasant one. He could use it too - it’s a bit too hot to be comfortable right now, the air in the homeroom stuffy and humid. All the students have been piled in here, excitement abound for the final class of the day and the promise of sweet freedom. For them, at least.
Everyone is still too wound up from the sports festival. The chattering is too excited, the voices are too loud and even the champion himself seems to be more animated than usual. Todoroki finds it heartening. Maybe something will finally change for Bakugou? Maybe he’ll come to accept his victory... It would bring solace to both of them.
He has let down a number of people that day. Some of them, he didn’t care about too much. Others deserved more. For their efforts, for trying so hard to reach him when he had all but given up, sealed himself off in the ivory tower of his fear. For him, they’ve… He’d mangled flesh and broken bones. Just for him to have a chance. For him, for a total stranger, he’d shouted his name at the top of his lungs, even if it meant surrendering his dream, and Shouto did nothing with it. Gave it all up at the altar of his hesitation. Sacrificed his shot at a future of freedom.
Shouto sighs and puts his right elbow on the desk, leans his cheek into the rough palm of his hand. Tries to settle in, relax and turn his head towards the window. Take the breeze in. His hand is too rough - it makes his cheek itch. Makes the skin on his back crawl. He can’t hold this pose for more than ten seconds and turns with a sigh, only to find Midoriya standing in front of him.
He’s his usual crumpled up and shaky self. Todoroki doesn’t know how long he’s been standing there, but once he sees that Shouto is aware of him, he tenses up and takes a breath. As if he’s about to dive headlong into a deep, dark lake.
“T-Todoroki-kun!” He’s too intense, as always.
“Yes?” Shouto tries to brighten up, tries to show that he’s happy to see his classmate, but his words come out damp. Mute.
“I… I just… wanted to say that I thought that you did great during the Sports Festival!”
“You… you did?”
Midoriya perks up at hearing the hesitation in his words.
“Of course! You fought very hard and you defeated me using the quirk that you’ve never used before, and you got to the finals and you’ve fought very hard… wait… did I...?” His voice takes on a pitch that Todoroki didn’t know it could and Midoriya clasps both of his hands around his mouth, cheeks rapidly turning the color of ripe peaches.
It’s strange that all this is going amidst several other heated discussions. Nobody notices them - it’s like there’s a thin membrane that separates them from the rest of the class. The only acknowledgment this is getting are the occasional angry glances from Bakugou, but even those are relatively subdued, all things considered.
It’s dawning on Todoroki that he still hasn’t responded. Even now, he’s hesitant to fulfill Midoriya’s expectations, hesitant to help him out. Before long, his classmate - his friend - unclasps his hands and composes himself.
“If… if you had just a little bit more practice with your fire quirk, you would’ve won for sure!”
“You think so? Why?”
“Because… in the end… you never gave up!”
He feels a breath escape his lips and Midoriya is just looking at him, right fist clenched, eyes full of earnestness and warmth. He wants to say something, has to say something. It hurts, it’s like a needle in his heart, and he tries desperately to find the right words to release the tension. To finally take that one plunge in his life that Midoriya takes hundreds of times on a daily basis. And Todoroki finally thinks he knows what to do.
He raises his hand from the desk and extends it to Midoriya, palm turned not quite upwardly, but diagonally. Midoriya looks surprised, confused even and before the moment can come to its conclusion, before Shouto can do something he might have just enough bravery for, it all shatters as Aizawa enters the classroom. Midoriya lets out a yelp and rushes to his seat, leaving Todoroki’s hand to hang lamely in the air.
He makes a fist before he lowers it back to the desk. Class continues, but he finds that he simply can’t focus. His mind drifts.
He sees a vision of warmth. Of Izuku guiding his hand into his own and raising them both to meet at Todoroki’s cheek. Of an embrace that warms his heart, brings a smile to his lips and happy tears to his eyes. He sees the two of them joining their foreheads together, grinning as they do.
He sees a vision of snow. Of the two of them skating on the surface of the frozen lake, cheerful laughter breaking the silence of the night air as they fall down over and over. Always leaning on each other to get back up. Of being knee deep in snow only to trip and fall, pulling Izuku down with him. Of him keeping the two of them warm, without doubt or fear.
He sees a vision of their dreams fulfilled. Grasping the purposes that they’ve worked so hard for, together. Finding their stride in this broken world. Being able to show everyone that all pain can heal and that evil is just a word.
He sees a vision of a bright morning. The smell of hair. Morning breath that doesn’t bother him one bit. The scent of black tea. The warmth of a shared pillow, of a shared blanket, of a shared home. He sees a vision of waking up and finding that he’s holding the hand of the person he loves. Without hesitation and with all his heart.
He sees a vision of their heritage. Finding a lone light in this world and giving it nourishment. Taking their hand and showing them the meaning of love, of care, of kindness. Building a better world for them and leaving it all behind, together, passing the torch as they depart.
He sees a vision of their happiness and he is not surprised to feel tears streaming down his cheeks, warm and tender. He’s not surprised when he breaks into an incredibly fake-sounding coughing fit and makes up an excuse about needing to go the nurse’s office. Stepping out into the hallway, he reasons to himself that there is no need to waste Recovery Girl’s time. The only thing he needs is a breath of fresh air. The hallways are empty and the windows are open, so he puts some distance between himself and the classroom before leaning on the windowsill and taking in the view.
He sees the day for what it is, sunny and chilly and beautiful. He thinks of hesitation and impossibilities and lost chances and the future that will never come. He thinks of resignation.
Before he can rise up from the windowsill and head back to the classroom, he feels a hand touch his shoulder. It’s warm but it is not soft. Even through his uniform shirt, he can feel that it’s very rough. He turns around to see Izuku, eyes warm and full of concern. There’s no way that he can hide his red eyes now.
Without thought and with only the slightest bit of hesitation, Shouto extend his hand once more. Midoriya looks at him, confused. A passing breeze ruffles his hair. He mistakes it for a handshake and tries to take it with his right hand, fingers still bandaged from the damage suffered during the festival. Shouto simply shakes his head and motions with his eyes to Izuku’s left hand.
Midoriya lets out a small gasp and his cheeks redden, but there is also determination in his eyes as he gingerly places his hand into Shouto’s. Todoroki examines it, regarding it as a strange novelty that shouldn’t quite be. It is soft and tender, thankfully unharmed by their youthful foolishness. He tries to be gentle with it, but he realizes just how rough his hands are, just how foolhardy this idea is, just how absolutely broken everything is. He hesitates. Wants to let go. To let it slip out of his grasp. He almost does.
Before that can happen, Izuku gently removes it from his grip and slips his hand underneath Shouto’s, placing his other bandaged and mangled one on top of it. Todoroki raises his eyes to meet Izuku’s. He feels his heart skip a beat when he finds nothing but affection and encouragement in them. Drawing in a breath, Shouto slips his hand out of Izuku’s grasp and takes his left hand, warm and soft and raises it to his own cheek. He knows that his cheek is still damp, but he needs this to be real. He finally wants his dreams to become reality, even if he’s the one who has to make them come true.
“Midoriya, I…” Shouto tries to find the right words, a desperate, fractured battle playing out across his face. The tension for him is almost unbearable, but it’s broken when Izuku lets out a small chuckle to himself. Soon enough it grows into full-fledged laughter, the sound of it brimming with mirth and joy. It spreads like wildfire and Todoroki is happy to find himself joining him. When the moment is over, Shouto lets Izuku’s arm rest on his shoulder as he closes the distance between them to hug the person who has saved him. It’s deep and warm and it makes his spine tingle with a strange feeling. It’s a feeling that he had desperately hoped would be there and he is happy and relieved to have finally found it.
As they hold their embrace, Todoroki Shouto sees the visions of his future. He doesn’t cry anymore. It is within his grasp and, thanks to the person whom he thinks he could fall in love with, he’s going to set out on a journey to reach it. Whether he will succeed or not doesn’t matter at the moment. All that matters is that he is finally strong enough to try.