The first time you saw him, you thought he was beautiful.
Five-year-olds have a vague idea of what beauty is, but somehow you knew he was beautiful the moment you first laid eyes on him.
It was purely done on accident–one of your playmates threw a ball at you at a speed that you didn't handle, and instead of catching it with your small arms, the ball caused impact on your head and made you fall over. You laughed and looked up at your playmates to tell them you were fine, but then your eyes caught sight of the traditional house right across the street where you were playing. Upon closer inspection, you saw a boy, maybe about the same age as you were, standing on the wooden balcony with his hands clutched on the railing. A smile was upon his lips.
He was what one would describe as odd. His hair–red on the left side of his head and white on the right–was odd. His eyes–a vibrant turquoise hue colored his eye while a cold gray was present on his right eye–was peculiar.
Yet you–a five-year old who still doesn't grasp the concept of beauty–found him beautiful. So beautiful that you found yourself staring at him for a few moments, not minding the curious gazes of some of your playmates and the others' attempts to regain your attention to the game.
He, too, was looking at your direction, perplexed as to why a girl from across the street was staring at him so intently. Before he discovered his answer, a rough hand pulled one of his arms away from the balcony railing and dragged him inside the house.
You looked on silently at the boy dragged aggressively by a man with tongues of fire on his face. For the last time, however, you saw him look back at your direction.
His smile was gone, his expression forlorn.
He disappeared after a slide of a door.
In that moment you knew.
You had to know his name.
"Mama, mama, there's a boy living across the street with white and red hair and two differently colored eyes!"
A soft smile graced your mother's lips as she gave you a glass of water to drink to refresh you from your afternoon playdate.
"Really (f/n)?" she asked, feigning curiosity.
"Yes, mama! He was... um... what's the word..?" you trailed off to say the word on the tip of your tongue.
"Odd?" your mother finished.
"No, that's not it."
You stayed silent, looking at the glass of water with intent, hoping to find the word suitable to describe the boy. Your mother looked at you with curious eyes.
"Was he... beautiful, (f/n)?" she asked.
A spark seemed to go off in your head and you looked at you mother with a twinkle in your eyes.
"He was beautiful..." you tested the word on your tongue before bursting out with joy. "Yes, mama! He was beautiful!"
You smiled as you downed the glass of water with satisfaction and handed it back to your mother.
"Do you know his name, Mama?" you asked suddenly, tiptoeing to meet your mother's eyes.
Your mother set the glass down in thought. She must've heard from the neighbors about a boy with red and white hair and differently colored eyes living across the street. Now if only she could remember the name...
"Todo...roki, was it? Ah wait, I remember now. Todoroki Shouto. His name's Todoroki Shouto."
You said the name slowly, testing how it felt on your tongue.
Your eyes twinkled again in delight the moment his name left your lips.
Even his name was beautiful.
The second time you saw him, he had a scar on his face.
A light breeze touched your skin gently as you rushed outdoors one morning where you had woken up earlier than usual. You took a deep breath as your feet planted themselves on the street outside your house, filling your lungs with fresh air, and exhaled with satisfaction as the morning air left you feeling more refreshed than usual.
That’s when you saw him.
Right across the street, standing behind a cast-iron gate, illuminated by the sun’s rays.
Staring at you.
The morning sunlight touched his face and emphasized his facial features in morning light. But, there was something that caught your attention. Something you didn’t see from the moment you first saw him. Something odd.
A jagged, red mark covered a rather large region around his left eye.
He looked hurt.
You took a small step toward him, as if to test the waters between you. You had a condition: If he would flinch or react even the slightest, you wouldn’t pursue it any longer and leave.
So, you took small steps toward him, every move calculated and careful. Your eyes didn’t leave his form, examining him as you walked toward him. He didn’t react with every step you made.
He just stared.
Moments later you were right in front of him, barely close enough that he could reach you. Only the cast-iron gate was separating the two of you. With only a few inches of distance from each other, you noticed his eyes were blank, devoid of any expression.
“Hello, Todoroki-san,” you greeted warmly, hoping to initiate even the smallest of conversations.
He blinked, lips parting slowly as if to form words.
You then realized your mistake.
“You… how did you know my name?” he asked. There was a barely visible expression coloring his heterochromatic eyes with a bit of vibrance… surprise, maybe?
Your cheeks flushed red with embarrassment, lips trembling and voice stuttering as you struggled to form coherent words. “A-ah! S-sorry ab-about th-that, I..I..”
You gulped, deeply breathing a few times to regain your composure and started to speak again. “Ah, the thing is…my mama happened to know your name and told me when I asked her.”
There was a new expression present in Todoroki’s eyes, you noticed, as his eyes lit up fractionally.
“Why?” he inquired again, as he looked into your eyes, seeming to search for the answers he was seeking in them. His childish curiosity was getting the better of him.
You were silent for a while, debating on what you were going to say to him. If you were to say the wrong thing, it would break the conversation, and you might not see him for god-knows-how-long, and that might be a long time. Maybe never.
You wanted to see him again.
“I saw you two weeks ago while I was playing with my friends on this street,” you began, slowly enunciating the words as if to test how they would sound. “I…wanted to…see you again.”
You felt a pang of fear well up in your stomach as you heard your words echo back. Oh no, you thought. Maybe that didn’t sound right.
He’s still staring, but the tiniest of expressions were gone. His eyes have gone blank again.
Oh no. That definitely didn’t sound right.
“A-ah! I’m sor—” you managed to stutter out before his voice interrupted your apology. “What’s your name?”
You stand in silence for a few minutes, this time however, avoiding his eyes and trying to hide the redness that dusted your cheeks in embarrassment. Todoroki slightly tilted his head to the side, waiting for your answer.
“I’m (l/n) (f/n),” you finally said after a few moments of silence.
He nodded slowly and whispered under his breath. Your ears caught syllables of your name being repeated in his hushed whispers.
The sun was starting to warm the surroundings when he turned to leave wordlessly.
“Wait!” you exclaimed suddenly, attempting to make him turn back. Your heart leapt when he did.
“Can I see you again?” you blurted out, barely keeping your emotions under wraps for too long. Todoroki saw your eyes hold a small glimmer of hope.
“Yes,” he replied softly, holding your gaze with his briefly. His voice held no tone of hesitation.
“Same time… here in front of your gate?” you asked, expecting to feel a sense of definitiveness of when you can see him again.
He gave you the smallest of nods before he walked off, disappearing from your line of vision.
You smiled in content, as you slowly made your way back to your home, a renewed energy coursing through you.
Even the smallest of nods was enough confirmation for you.
You found yourself waking up when the sun barely peeked over the horizon every morning.
Todoroki would be in the same place every morning, behind the cast-iron gate of his house, waiting patiently for your appearance. And, every morning, without fail, you would always show up almost immediately, greeting him with a smile. “Good morning, Todoroki-kun!”
He would always nod to acknowledge you but would stay silent.
Todoroki wouldn’t talk much either when you were having conversations. You talked about almost everything, from your quirks to how your day went to other random things you would ramble on about with your childish bubbliness.
But you would never talk about family. You had attempted, however, in the first few days you got to talk to him, but he evaded the topic so suddenly that you never pursued it again in fear that you would never get to talk to him again and go back to square one in getting to know him more.
Todoroki doesn’t voice it out though, but he enjoys your company. He’d listen to your rambling on and on to distract him from other things, even though he wouldn’t usually reply and be silent for most of your conversation.
After a few weeks of early morning talks, he asked if you could be friends.
“Eh, aren’t we already friends?” you asked in bewilderment, your small hands clutching on the railings of the gate, wide eyes staring at his.
“We are, (l/n)-san?” it was his turn to ask, eyes holding the same bewildered expression as yours.
“Well,” you started. “We talk about almost everything…and we are getting to know each other more every morning. You always listen to me when I talk, and I’d listen to you. Besides…” you trail off, attempting to find the right words to say.
“Besides, I’m happy when I’m with you every morning, Todoroki-kun.”
Todoroki stood still, as you smiled warmly at him. He noticed how your eyes sparkled in the morning light as you smiled.
Though Todoroki doesn’t talk much, he felt he was at a loss for words. He was hesitant to say anything that may break the friendship he realized you have shared for a very long time that only grew whenever you met every morning.
He was afraid to say anything that may make him lose the only friend he had.
“Friends make you happy, don’t they?” you said cheerfully.
The boy glanced at you, feeling a warm feeling bubbling inside him. Before he knew it, his lips had upturned into a small smile.
“In that case, (l/n)-san, we’re friends now.”
Today wasn’t like most days.
You stood still, unmoving, even as the sun had begun its steady rise to place itself in the sky. Still, there was an unease that pushed you to the brink of confusion. Your eyes remain fixed on the cast-iron gate.
There was an unusual emptiness behind the cast-iron gate. You waited.
“Shouto-kun?” you called out. Your voice faded in the emptiness.
You had resigned to calling Todoroki by his first name after you had grown accustomed to your early morning meetings and realized the friendship that was cultivated by the morning talks. He was hesitant to call you by your first name, but he eventually got used to it. He still adds the honorific “-san” out of habit, which you didn’t mind.
There was a lump in your throat as you waited for him to arrive at his usual spot behind the gate. Still, you didn’t move, your small feet planted firmly on the ground.
The sun had started to warm your skin when you realized that he wasn’t going to appear.
Every morning, out of habit, you still wake up before the sun peeked out over the horizon.
Every morning, out of habit, you stand in front of the cast-iron gate. Out of habit, your heart drops to find it empty.
You don’t realize how long you’ve been doing these things out of habit until the first year you started middle school.
“Again?” your mother asked you as she saw you reenter the house after yet another futile attempt to see Todoroki again.
You nodded slowly, before sitting down before the dinner table. You placed your chin in your hands and let out a sigh. Your mother sat down beside you, her hands finding their way to your hair to stroke it gently.
“You’ve been doing this for how long?” she asked.
“I dunno,” you mumbled under your breath in reply.
Your mother looked a you with eyes glassed over with concern as she continued stroking your hair to comfort you.
“At first, I thought it was a habit that would fade eventually with your childhood,” she explained. “But then I noticed it still continued even as you started elementary school. It’s been years (f/n), and you’re thirteen now. You’re still continuing a habit that started when you were five.”
In her tone, you deduced that she obviously wanted you to stop your childhood habits and move on.
But you can’t help but feel that you wanted to see him again.
“I’m sorry mama,” you whispered softly as you stood from your chair, escaping from your mother’s touch.
“I haven’t told him that I found him beautiful yet.”
On the morning of the first day of your third year in middle school, you tried to force yourself out of old habits.
You didn’t wake up in the early hours of morning, neither did you walk outdoors to stand at the cast-iron gate across the street.
Still, you found it tempting to stare at the gate as you stepped outside to go to school. You tried avoiding looking at it for too long as you started walking the route to school.
Your pace slowed to a stop when you were a few steps away from the gate. You craned your neck to look at the gate for a moment. But, your gaze lingered. Lingered for too long.
Before you even realized that your eyes were on the gate for too long than you intended, you caught sight of him.
Behind the iron-cast gate.
Staring at you.