It starts with the petals in the sink.
Ochako is staring into the drain, staring at the vibrant green and the speckles of crimson, and she is thinking, something is wrong.
She sets down her plate on the counter and reaches tentative fingers for one of the petals. Up close, it’s apparent that the red spots are, in fact, droplets of blood.
A magazine article that she once read flashes to mind, on a rare disease with no clear origin and no apparent scientific explanation. Something about flowers and choking and unrequited love.
Something stirs uncomfortably in the pit of her stomach. Something that feels a lot like dread. Staring at this petal, it feels like an omen, and not the good kind.
“Uraraka!” calls Ashido from the couch area, where several of their classmates are gathered around a card game. “Hurry up!”
Ochako shakes her head roughly and runs the garbage disposal. The petals disappear in a whirlpool of soap and as she washes her dish, her fingers are shaking.
She tries to put it out of her mind, but her dreams tonight will be full of flowers. It shouldn’t mean what it does, and it shouldn’t cause so much anxiety, but all she can think about is one of her friends slowly dying, alone and in pain.
Ochako doesn’t say anything, but for the next several weeks, she keeps an eye out for petals.
Todoroki is pale.
Ochako is watching him and she is thinking of flowers and his face is white as marble. His hands clench and unclench around the edge of his desk, his eyes unfocused, his expression carefully blank.
Hanahaki disease means flowers in the lungs. Choking, suffocating, hurting. Petals in the chest, in the throat.
She’s done a lot of research. There’s a lot of information, if you’re really looking.
After class is over, Todoroki leaves quickly. He doesn’t talk to anyone, which isn’t unusual, but when Deku calls his name he only offers a tense smile and flees, and that? That isn’t normal.
Ochako hurries after him, but then Tsuyu grabs her arm and asks to eat lunch together and by the time she escapes, Todoroki is long gone.
She gives in and follows Tsuyu outside, but she does not push Todoroki’s pale face completely from her mind. She just sets it aside, to rest beside the petals.
She’ll get to the bottom of this.
(She has to.)
“Todoroki,” she says, and he turns. His eyes are glinting in the dark, fire sparking in his pupils and ice crawling across his face. He relaxes, marginally, when he sees her, but the tension in his shoulders does not fade.
The common room is empty, except for the two of them. Todoroki’s left hand is curled into a fist, fingers wrapped around something that he does not want her to see.
“Uraraka,” he says. His voice is hoarse, and he coughs into his elbow after the name. “What are you doing awake?”
“I was getting water,” says Ochako, and raises her glass as proof. She has to be careful, here. One wrong word and he could run again. She can’t afford that.
Todoroki hums in a sort of neutral acknowledgement, lips pressed together into a tight line. Then he turns away, long hair swinging into his face, knuckles turning white against his knees.
Ochako bites her lip and walks to the fridge, thoughts whirling. She knows she’s not imagining this. She knows she’s right. But how to prompt his confession? How to earn his trust, when they still barely know each other? Why would he talk to her, when it’s Deku who—
Several things suddenly make very clear sense and Ochako fumbles her glass, water from the dispenser sloshing over the sides and dripping all over the inside of the fridge. She can feel Todoroki’s eyes jump to her and she tries her best to steady herself, shoulder braced against the door and fingers squeezing the glass.
But it’s not unrequited, she thinks, and then she thinks, but he doesn’t know that.
Neither of them know that. Neither of them…
Does Deku have this, too? Has he been suffering, has she not noticed?
“Oh my god,” she says, and sets her glass down on the counter. She turns to Todoroki, heart pounding in her chest, and finds herself looking into blue-and-gray eyes that are glossy with pain. “You’re in love with him.”
He flinches violently, and a cough startles out of his chest. Then another, and another, and then he’s bent in half, hands covering his mouth as his body is racked with coughs. Ochako hurries to his side and rubs tentative circles into his back.
After what feels like an eternity, Todoroki sucks in a long, shuddering breath, and brings his hands away from his mouth. Ochako’s heart stops in her chest.
His hands are full of blood-flecked flowers.
“Todoroki,” she begins, but he cuts her off with a wild-eyed stare.
“Please don’t tell anyone,” he begs. “Please. Please.”
She’s already shaking her head, and moving to sit on the couch beside him. “Why not?” she asks. “Todoroki, you need to get help, you need to...you need to confess.”
“I can’t,” gasps Todoroki. “I can’t. You can’t. You—please don’t tell anyone.”
Ochako frowns and reaches worried fingers for his hands. She uncurls them gently and takes a flower, holding it up to her eyes. And it is a whole flower, not just a petal; a green carnation, beautiful and morbid.
She remembers reading that larger flowers indicate the later stages of the disease. Her eyes flick towards Todoroki’s face and he cringes.
“Todoroki,” she says. “Why won’t you talk to anyone?”
He looks away again. He’s shaking, she notices, and pale as ever. “I can’t—“
“Is it because of your father?”
Todoroki looks up sharply, eyes blown wide with shock. “Did Midoriya—“
“No, but I’m not stupid, Todoroki.”
All the pieces had been small, but had come together to form an undeniable conclusion. Todoroki’s poorly concealed distaste for his father, his silence regarding his family, his reluctance to visit home, the mask he wears on his face. She remembers the sports festival vividly, watching his flame and his tears and the determination on Deku’s face, and she remembers putting the clues together. Todoroki is not what he would have them think he is. He is young and fragile and breakable, just like everyone else.
And looking at him now, blood-stained flowers in his hands and fear filling his shadow-rimmed eyes, she is thinking that she has never seen him look so much like glass. Transparent and beautiful and so easily shattered.
“You’re right,” he says softly. “Endeavor is…if he found out about this sickness, he would not take it kindly. He’d say that I’m weak. He’d…he’d take me away.”
Take him away from the source of his anguish. It almost makes sense, in a twisted, terrible sort of way. Ochako feels poison in her gut again, but now it’s the angry kind. She wants to march up to Endeavor and demand reparations for every scar he has inflicted on this boy, physical or otherwise.
“But he doesn’t have to know,” says Ochako, careful to keep the anger far from her tone. “We don’t even have to tell the teachers, if you don’t want to. The easiest thing would be to just…just confess.”
The shutters on his eyes slam shut. “No,” says Todoroki, and squeezes the flowers in his hand until they are crushed into petals and pollen and stem.
“Because he deserves better,” says Todoroki sharply, and stands. “And because I think his rejection would kill me.”
Todoroki is gone in an instant, soft footsteps retreating up the stairs to his room. Ochako watches him go, mouth agape and fingers still wrapped around the flower she’d taken from his hand.
He thinks Deku would reject him.
Todoroki may have begged her confidence, but she’s not about to let him die. Not when his fears are so unfounded. Not when a solution is mere words away.
She’ll fix this. No matter what it takes.
“Deku,” says Ochako the moment he opens the door. He peers at her blearily, rubbing at his sleep-glossy eyes.
“Urakaka-chan,” says Deku, voice rough from sleep. “It’s the middle of the night. What are you—“
Ochako pushes into his room without asking permission and catches his arm on the way, shoving him towards his bed. The door shuts, leaving them in darkness, and she reaches for a lamp.
“Deku,” she says, voice loud in the confines of the dorm room. “You have to tell Todoroki you like him.”
He chokes on air and she waits impatiently for him to finish coughing, ignoring the part of her mind that recalls Todoroki choking on petals just a few minutes earlier. Deku doesn’t have the disease, she’s sure of it. He’s been as bright and vibrant as ever, and even if he tends to be good at hiding this kind of thing, if she’d managed to spot it on Todoroki of all people, she’d notice it on her best friend.
Besides, he’d tell her, wouldn’t he? At least...she hopes he would. (She doesn’t like the thought of him slowly dying without her knowledge. She could be wrong about him being disease-free, but god, she hopes she’s not.)
“What?” gasps Deku, once he’s regained his breath. “Uraraka, what—“
“You have to tell him,” says Ochako, and she’s not sure whether it comes out as more of a plea or an order. “You have to go tell him right now.”
“Yes, you can.” She’s on her feet again before she knows it, grabbing his wrist and dragging him out into the hallway. His door is left open, the golden light from his lamp bleeding out into the shadows of the sleeping dorm building, but she can’t bring herself to care. She drags him through the building in his pajamas and socks, ignoring his spluttering protests and weak attempts at escape.
Todoroki’s door is plain and unmarked but for its number, empty of the posters and stickers most of them had elected to stick up. Behind it, Ochako can hear him coughing, and her resolve only strengthens. She knocks sharply, insistently, foot tapping impatiently as he waits for him to answer.
He opens it barely a crack before making eye contact and trying to slam it shut again, but she manages to jam it with her foot (which is painful, as it turns out, but she has bigger concerns right now). “You stay there, Todoroki Shouto,” orders Ochako, brandishing a finger at him.
“Uraraka!” whispers Deku urgently, still trying to pull away. Todoroki’s eyes widen and he turns to her in a panic, but she only smiles triumphantly and pushes a stumbling Deku forward into the doorway.
“Deku has something he needs to say to you,” she says, and then turns on her heel, leaving them to it.
A cricket chirps outside the window. The wind whistles past the eaves. Everything is quiet, in the still sort of way that only comes with the midnight hour, and Shouto is frozen, gaze locked on an unkempt, anxious-looking Midoriya. They’re too close, bodies sharing warmth, and Shouto swallows thickly around the scratchy petals in his throat.
“What did she—“
“Todoroki,” says Midoriya, and runs a shaky hand through an impressive bedhead. “I’m so sorry, I don’t know what she was—maybe she’s sleepwalking, or maybe…maybe…”
Shouto raises an eyebrow and tries not to show his relief. She hasn’t revealed his secret, then—good.
Midoriya sighs, and it is a long, slow thing. “Ok,” he says quietly, as if speaking to himself. His hand drops to his side and his shoulders square as he lifts his eyes to meet Shouto’s gaze.
“She was right,” he says. “I do have something to tell you.”
Shouto’s heart pounds violently in his chest, and suddenly he can’t hold in the coughing fit anymore. He doubles over, bringing his hands to his mouth, and coughs until he can barely breathe. Midoriya is at his side in moments, rubbing a calloused hand in circles on his back, and Shouto imagines the flowers growing even quicker in response to his gentle touch.
“Are you alright?” asks Midoriya, concerned, and Shouto shoves his hands into his pockets, blood and petals hidden in his fists.
“I’m fine,” he says. “What were you—”
There’s a gasp, and Shouto looks up. Midoriya is staring at something—a petal, fluttered loose from his grasp, speckled with blood. “Oh my god,” says Midoriya, and his eyes are wet. “Oh my god, are you—”
“I said I’m fine.” Shouto can’t look at him, now, can barely hide the way he’s shaking. He just wants to curl up in bed and cry, but he knows that will only make the breathing harder. “Maybe you should go.”
“Is this my fault?” Midoriya is panicking now, hands clutched to his chest. “This is my fault, isn’t it? Todoroki, I’m so sorry, I didn’t—”
“It’s okay,” says Shouto, even though nothing is okay right now. “You don’t have to say anything. Just a few more weeks and you won’t have to bother with me anymore.”
Midoriya gasps sharply and recoils. “Todoroki,” he whispers, and Shouto flinches at the horror in his tone. “Why would—”
“You should leave now,” says Shouto, and moves to reopen the door. Before he makes it, though, Midoriya’s hands are on his shoulders and his forest green eyes are blazing into him.
“Todoroki,” says Midoriya. “Don’t ever think that I would want you gone.”
The air hangs heavy between them. Each breath is another stab of pain in Shouto’s throat, and his vision is a haze of tears. Around them, their classmates slumber, completely unawares of what is taking place here, now. “Midoriya—”
“I care about you,” says Midoriya. “Deeply. And as more than just a friend.”
“You don’t have to say that just because—”
“I’m not.” Midoriya pulls him close, closer, so near that their foreheads are touching and they are breathing as one. “Todoroki, I’ve been too afraid to say it, but I have felt this way for a very long time.”
Shouto is choking. He is choking on emotions and flowers and tears. He is bending double and gasping for air and he is overwhelmed, mind alive with thoughts like is this real and does he truly care and am I going to die anyway?
Midoriya’s hands find his face, and his scars are rough against Shouto’s skin. Shouto is blind, and he is breathless, and then Midoriya kisses him and he is breathless for an entirely different reason.
When they part, Shouto coughs once, and a single petal flutters to the floor. The air has never tasted so sweet.
“Better?” asks Midoriya, and he, too, is crying.
Shouto nods. “Yeah,” he chokes out, throat rough from coughing and tongue metallic with the aftertaste of blood. “Midoriya—”
“Don’t talk,” says Midoriya, and rubs a thumb under his eye, wiping away a tear. “You don’t need to talk.”
“No,” says Shouto, because this is important. “No, Midoriya, I have to—I care about you, too. Deeply.”
Midoriya smiles, and laughs a wet laugh, and brings their foreheads together again. “Don’t die for me again, okay?” he asks. “Don’t die because you think you aren’t worth anything.”
Shouto nods once. This, at least, he can promise; with the knowledge that Midoriya cares for him, he thinks he could live forever. “Okay,” he whispers.
“Okay,” echoes Midoriya, and embraces him, and they cry and cry and they do not let each other go.
They will never let each other go.
“Uraraka,” says Todoroki from the doorway. Ochako looks up, notes the way that he’s standing, notes the healthy flush of his cheeks.
“Oh, good,” she says brightly. “He confessed, then.”
That flush becomes noticeably brighter and Todoroki ducks his head.
“Yeah. He did.”
“Todoroki, I just want you to know, I didn’t tell him about the disease, I just wanted—”
“I know.” Todoroki has crossed the room, and his hand is on her shoulder. “I came here to thank you.”
Ochako blinks at him, taken aback. She’d been expecting anger, or at least exasperation, though thinking about it now, this should not be so surprising.
“If you hadn’t intervened, I would be dead,” says Todoroki, and his bluntness knocks the breath from her lungs. “So, thank you.”
“Of course,” says Ochako. “Todoroki, of course. You didn’t think I would have just let you die, did you?”
He looks away, which means he did. “Oh, Todoroki…”
“It’s over now,” he interrupts. “The flowers are gone. Midoriya and I...we’re…”
“Good,” says Ochako softly, and then draws herself upwards, placing her hands firmly on her hips. “And it’s about time, too.”
“We’ve been watching you two dance around each other since the sports fest, and quite honestly, it’s been infuriating. We should throw a party or something. Oh, I know! I’ll bake you cupcakes!”
“Nope!” Ochako grins her widest grin and dances towards the kitchen. “We’re celebrating and there’s nothing you can do about it!”
Defeated, Todoroki slumps onto the couch. “Fine,” he says, long-suffering, but there’s a smile pulling at the corners of his lips, and Ochako takes that as a victory.
(The cupcakes are vanilla and the smell of them draws the whole class into the common area. They ooh and aah and ask for the occasion, but Ochako only smiles and spoons more frosting into the piping bag.
Todoroki’s cupcake is frosted with a flower. He raises an eyebrow at it, and she informs him it’s a sugary ‘fuck you’. He laughs and eats it in one bite.
“To moving forwards,” he says around a mouthful of frosting.
Ochako raises her own cupcake in salute and then takes a bite. The sugar hits her tongue in an explosion of sweetness and food coloring and she smiles, eyes caught on the way Todoroki is holding Deku’s hand beneath the table.
“To moving forwards.”)