In retrospect, Todoroki should have been more careful.
He should have never allowed himself to lapse, to foolishly believe he was fully in control, but everything had been going well lately; he’d been sleeping better and better, he’d tamed U.A.’s hectic schedule into something manageable, his father had finally left him —mostly— alone. His Quirk training was going especially well too. His ice felt like a natural extension of his body, and he’d fully reconciled with his fire, which allowed him to focus in order for it to catch up with his ice.
But it had only been about a year or so from the sports festival, from Midoriya breaking his body to pull him out of a dark, dark place; he should have paid more attention, he realizes in a split second, when he feels control slipping from his fingers, just for a single moment, and his fire hugs Midoriya’s right forearm.
Midoriya’s choked gasp is one of the worst sounds Todoroki’s ever heard.
His flames wink out in in the blink of an eye, and he’s on Midoriya’s side in less than that, fighting the horrible taste rising in his mouth. Midoriya’s nearly doubled over, clutching his forearm, but when he catches glimpse of Todoroki, he tries to smile through the pain, as if to say I’m fine.
“Midoriya I’m—so sorry, I—I thought you were— I lost control, I—I—”
Midoriya shakes his head, breathing through his teeth. “It’s—It’s fine, Todoroki-kun, I…” He bites his lip, attempting to straighten his back.
Todoroki lifts his arm above his head. “Aizawa-sensei!” he calls. “I—Midoriya’s hurt!”
“I’m fine, Todoroki-kun,” Midoriya tries weakly. Around them, a few of their classmates have stopped their sparring and started gathering around them instead. “I should have been able to—dodge that, it’s my fault—”
“Alright everyone, give them space.” Aizawa’s voice is level as always, and usually, it’d reassure Todoroki, but not this time. “Midoriya, show me your arm.”
Todoroki’s heart, previously hammering in his chest, briefly stills when Midoriya reveals the bright red skin of his forearm. The blisters that have already started forming make Todoroki’s stomach churn.
Aizawa examines the area for a moment, careful to touch his arm in unaffected areas.
“I’d say it’s a second degree burn, but it looks rather superficial. Todoroki’s fire must have touched you for just a moment.”
Midoriya’s nod is too eager. “Yeah, he immediately extinguished it.” He turns to smile at Todoroki again, this time more genuinely. “It really doesn’t hurt too bad.”
Todoroki’s confused. Why is he smiling? Why isn’t he angry? Why isn’t Midoriya screaming at him to get away?
“I...I wasn’t—I shouldn’t…” he stutters. Aizawa’s gaze seems to understand something.
“Midoriya, can you go to Recovery Girl alone?” After Midoriya’s nod, he adds, “Todoroki, you get the rest of the day off, you can go to the dorms.” He turns to the crowd to scowl at the rest of Class 1-A still around them. “The rest of you, continue sparring.”
Everyone hurries back to their previous positions and after a second, their Quirks are back in action.
“Bye, Todoroki-kun,” Midoriya waves with his good arm as he leaves the training grounds.
Todoroki barely manages to stumble out, too, and dazedly make it into his room, before passing out on his mattress.
A knock on his door wakes him up, but he’s more concerned about the fact that his pillow case is stained by two wet spots. He brings a hand to the skin around his eyes and finds dampness.
A second knock brings him back to his senses, and when he opens the door, he finds Midoriya looking at him.
He looks fine enough; he’s a few seconds away from smiling, probably, Todoroki thinks, and nearly smiles as well at the thought. Then his eyes fall on the gauze wrapped around his right forearm.
It’s not an unusual sight, Midoriya wrapped in bandages, but the fact that Todoroki knows what lies underneath, knows he’s the one who caused it, makes it that much more painful.
“Sorry, did I wake you up?” Midoriya asks. He looks sheepish.
“No,” Todoroki lies. “I was just catching up on some studying.”
“Ah, I see. Can I come in?” he asks, and Todoroki gestures inside. The door closes with a soft sound.
“I just came by to say…” Midoriya begins, sitting on Todoroki’s desk chair; he’s been here for more than a few study sessions. “...I hope you don’t blame yourself.”
Todoroki frowns. “What?”
“I mean, I understand that you’re probably inclined to, I think I would be too, but it wasn’t your fault, you know —seriously.”
“Midoriya, I lost control of my Quirk; of course it was my fault.”
Midoriya rolls his eyes. “Trust me when I say I should have dodged it. I was about to, I don’t know what happened. It’s like my feet stuck in the ground for a moment and I couldn’t use my Quirk. And besides,” he shrugs, “it’s Quirk sparring; of course you have to use your power.”
Todoroki narrows his eyes. “Midoriya, it was my fault. Why are you excusing me?”
“I’m...not?” Midoriya’s eyebrows are raised in a what-are-you-talking-about expression. “I’m not excusing you, Todoroki-kun, because I’m fine. It hurt a bit at first, but Recovery Girl worked her magic and now I’m fine. Plus,” he shrugs, “I’ve been through worse.”
That doesn’t mean I didn’t hurt you.
“Seriously, Todoroki-kun. I’m fine.”
Todoroki remembers Midoriya’s eyes when he lost control, the briefest flash of panic in them, of fear.
“Okay.” His voice rings hollow. Midoriya stares at him, as if trying to decipher a blank page of paper.
“So, we’re good then?” Midoriya asks, tentativeness coloring his tone.
Todoroki thinks about the fear in his mother’s eyes when his father got angry at anything, got angry at everything.
“Yeah,” he replies. “We’re good.”
He needs to pull away.
“Alright, then.” Midoriya gets up. “Just wanted to clear that up. Oh, and also,” he adds, eyes brightening at the prospect of whatever he’s about to say, “Uraraka-san, Iida-kun and I are going for karaoke tomorrow. You wanna come?”
The offer seems so tempting; a Saturday night out with his friends, having fun, just being regular teens for a change.
“No. I…” he fights to swallow the lump in his throat. “I still have quite a bit of catching up to do in studying.”
“Oh,” Midoriya says. Todoroki’s turned to the window, so he misses Midoriya’s features pulling in a brief look of disappointment.
“I hope you have fun,” Todoroki wishes. He really does.
“Thanks. Good luck with studying.”
Todoroki hums, still staring outside his window as the door closes softly behind him.
He’s withdrawn the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that as well. Over a week or so passes with him closed off, not too much, but enough to keep Midoriya at arm’s length; he rejects invitations under the guise of studying, turns down offers or requests for studying together because he’s ‘too tired’, eats lunch less and less with Midoriya and the others and stalks off alone instead.
He’s berated himself about the incident more times than he can count, and taken measures to prevent it from happening again —namely, using his fire Quirk less and less when around Midoriya, and if he has to, keeping the tightest leash on it.
But Midoriya’s noticed, he thinks, and it hurts. It hurts, because he can see Midoriya hurting, no matter how much he tries to mask, no matter how fleeting the disappointment in his eyes is when Todoroki hides just a bit deeper into his shell. It’s pulling at Todoroki’s heartstrings but…
It’s for your own good. I’m sorry.
After two full weeks have passed, Todoroki notices a change of attitude in Midoriya; from wondering, he becomes sure, from hesitant, determined, from mildly passive to wildly active.
Midoriya tries to chat him up more often than usual, an unexpected spike, considering he’d made less and less offers as the days passed before. He tries to convey to Todoroki with intense looks a message, that he wants to talk to him, tries to get him alone to corner him and ultimately, Todoroki thinks, to confront him.
In response, Todoroki sticks to the crowd. He hangs out a bit more with his friends, sometimes alone with Iida or Uraraka, but never alone with Midoriya. He stays up at night to find more and more convincing excuses about being unable to go out, ranging from “I’m visiting my mother today,” and then promptly doing so, to “I have a fever,” and showing Midoriya a thermometer previously warmed up with his Quirk.
It works, for a little while, but brings about three disadvantages.
One, Midoriya’s never been a quitter; if things get harder, if the obstacles in his course rise higher and higher, he’ll just keep running and face them head on, unwavering.
Two, the guilt is eating Todoroki from the inside out. He’s lying, hiding because he’s afraid, and causing Midoriya distress on top of that.
Three, he misses Midoriya. His other friends as well, of course, but Midoriya’s absence in his daily life leaves a gaping hole Todoroki’s not sure how to cover. His mood’s taken a swan dive too, intrusive thoughts coming back to haunt him in his loneliness. Midoriya was his first —and only, for a little while— friend in U.A., and he considers him by far the most important.
A rainy afternoon, while he thinks the weather embodies his forlorn mood quite well, the pang in his heart from Midoriya’s absence makes him realize something, something he’d somehow managed to miss, despite this feeling occupying space in his soul since the summer.
He’s in love.
He breaks on Saturday night.
He’s getting out his leftover soba noodles from the fridge when Midoriya walks in the dorms’ kitchen, footsteps echoing in the silence of the room. Todoroki freezes for a moment, one hand holding the plate, the other one ready to close the fridge.
“Todoroki-kun, can we talk?” Midoriya’s voice is steady. He’s not letting him get away this time.
Todoroki snaps out of it, places the plate on the table and closes the fridge.
“No,” he says, more curtly than his usual deadpans.
Midoriya shuts the door behind him, narrowing his eyes at him.
“Okay. Todoroki-kun, I want to talk.”
Todoroki keeps his face neutral, ignoring the cold sweat on the back of his neck. He opens a drawer, quickly rummaging for chopsticks, takes a seat after he finds a pair.
“I’m tired,” he says, in a futile attempt. There’s no getting out of this.
Midoriya takes the seat across him. “Well, so am I.” He’s facing him directly, practically giving him nowhere to look except for Midoriya’s face. “I’m tired of you avoiding me.”
“You’re not avoiding me?” Midoriya cuts off his protest. “Please. I’m not stupid,” he scoffs, and this bitterness is rarely seen from him.
“I don’t think you are—”
“Really? Then why?” Midoriya throws his hands in the air. “What the hell did I do to deserve this treatment from you?” His anger is rising, Todoroki can tell, but his own emotions are close, dangerously close to spilling over, as well. He gets up, turns around to the cupboard to find the sauce for his noodles, and bites his lips.
“I seriously have no idea!” Midoriya continues, and now his words betray a certain kind of hurt. “Tell me what it is I did so I can fix it, I will, but don’t push me away. I don’t think I deserve that,” he finishes and oh, he doesn’t. He doesn’t deserve this at all, didn’t deserve getting his skin burnt, deserves so, so much better than Todoroki.
But Todoroki’s angry, because goddammit, this hurts. This hurts him too. It hurts not seeing Midoriya’s smile every day, it hurts not being able to stand so close while studying that he can count his freckles, it hurts being the one that hurts him.
“You…” he starts, slowly, words coming out of his throat like he’s pulling out teeth, “didn’t do anything,” he admits. The truth sounds better and worse out loud.
He doesn’t look at Midoriya; he doesn’t want to see his shock, his bewilderment, his pain.
“Then why?” Midoriya asks, voice cracking, like a dam breaking, and that’s the tipping point for Todoroki.
“Because!” Todoroki shouts, slamming the cupboard shut. “Don’t you see it?! Midoriya, I hurt you!”
Then Midoriya’s shell-shocked face registers, the deafening bang of the cupboard door reaches his mind belatedly and he finds himself suffocating.
He really is…
“I’m just like him,” he whispers, a tear burning its way down his face. Midoriya opens his mouth to protest, or to agree —he’d be right in doing so— but Todoroki’s already opened the door and rushed past him, plate of cold noodles forgotten on the table.
As he runs, barely conscious of where he’s going, half of his mind is numb, static playing over his thoughts, but the other half is racing, offering him possible places to hide in. Once he’s gotten over the shock, Midoriya’s bound to come looking for him.
His room is off the table, that’s the first place Midoriya will look; the training grounds are predictable as well; so is the common room.
Lightning-quick, a thought brings him hope; the roof. No one will be there so late, and he has never seen Midoriya hang there, either.
He gets there in under a minute, taking the steps of the stairs two at a time. It’s rather cold, since he’s just in sweatpants and a tank top, the air making goosebumps erupt all over his skin.
He sits to the edge of the rooftop, scanning the city stretching in front of him. It’s a serene night, it appears, no disturbances in sight. It sounds as it normally does; cars passing by, the occasional yell between fighting neighbors, train announcements about a minor delay.
He fucked up. He fucked everything up.
It’s not even a matter of maybe I can fix this or maybe he didn’t notice; he’s completely screwed over his friendship, and any possibility of a future relationship, with Midoriya.
Another tear makes its path down his face. This time he lets it; he’s all alone, maybe permanently so.
A few minutes pass like that, maybe five or ten or twenty, with him silently crying and contemplating how the two things he dreaded more than anything both happened; he’s become his father and hurt Midoriya far, far too much.
His eyes are closed, so he feels and hears, rather than sees, someone next to him. Despite himself, he smiles.
“So, you found me.” His voice is just above a whisper.
“I did,” Midoriya replies. He sounds careful, as if approaching him with caution. Todoroki can’t blame him; he’d be cautious around himself too, were he in Midoriya’s position.
“I don’t know what to tell you,” Todoroki sighs, finally opening his eyes, and turning to gaze into Midoriya’s, “except for, I’m sorry.” He digs his nails into his palm. “But I don’t think that can cover it.”
Midoriya stays silent for a while. Then, “Can I talk?”
Todoroki studies him, lungs out of breath at the sight of his earnest, honest eyes. “Go ahead.” Whatever Midoriya has to spit at him, he’s earned it.
“You are not your father, Todoroki-kun.” Midoriya's voice is soft, softer than Todoroki deserves. "You never have been, and you never will be."
"But—" Todoroki goes to interrupt, but Midoriya beats him to it.
"Ah, you said you'd let me talk." He smiles at him, a timid smile that hides a little bit of insecurity, a little bit of longing in it. “You’re far too kind, far too caring. You’re good,” he emphasizes, and Todoroki has half a mind to protest that because, oh, he wouldn’t be so sure, but Midoriya lifts a finger, “and I won’t take any objections regarding that.”
He lifts his right arm and shows it to Todoroki like a badge of honor. “See? I’m fine. Not even a scar left. Actually, it’s been okay for over a week now, which is something you’d know if you hadn’t been avoiding me.”
He bows his head in shame, muttering a “Sorry,” but he can tell Midoriya’s mostly joking.
“But you panicked, and I get it. I get it,” Midoriya says. “It’s fine; I forgive you, for real. Since...the incident, the only thing that seriously hurt me was you avoiding me.”
Todoroki’s throat is raw. “Sorry,” he repeats. Midoriya waves his hand nonchalantly.
“I told you, it’s fine now. You’re one of my best friends.” He turns to Todoroki again. “I just want things to be okay between us again.”
“Me too,” he says, not missing a beat. “I missed you a lot during those two weeks. Things have been...worse without you next to me.”
“So, we’re okay? For real this time,” Midoriya clarifies, hopeful eyes burrowing deeper and deeper into Todoroki’s heart. Todoroki smiles.
“Yeah. We’re okay.”
“Good,” Midoriya replies. He bites his lip, trusting gaze turning into hesitant. “Hey, Todoroki-kun…there’s something else I wanted to tell you.”
“Hm?” Todoroki looks at him, tries to see past his layers and figure out Midoriya’s wishes. “What is it?”
“I…” Midoriya takes a deep breath, seemingly bracing himself for something entirely unknown. “I like you.”
Todoroki blinks, confused. “I...like you too? I just said you’re one of my best friends, of course I like you.”
Midoriya resists rolling his eyes. “No, Todoroki-kun. That’s not what I meant.”
And before Todoroki can ask what the hell he meant, Midoriya’s leaned to him and pressed their lips together in a feather-light kiss.
Todoroki closes his eyes on instinct, pressing back with a tiny bit of force.
Midoriya’s lips are a bit chapped, and so are his, but Midoriya darts his tongue out, just for one second, and Todoroki is gone. Midoriya smells like vanilla, like clean sweat, like the dorms, smells like home, and Todoroki can't help sighing into the kiss.
Midoriya’s hands creep up Todoroki’s body, to settle on the sides of his neck, pulling him closer to kiss him deeper. Todoroki slots his own hands on Midoriya’s waist, careful not to squeeze too hard, even as the kiss gets more and more frantic, untold emotions spilling out in desperation, like keeping them inside for one more second will destroy them both.
They have to pull apart, eventually, as the lack of air rudely reminds them; both of them pant, one’s breath stolen from the other.
Todoroki smiles. “I told you. I like you too.”
Midoriya laughs. He leans on Todoroki’s shoulder to rest his head there. “Yeah,” is all he offers back, immense tenderness hidden in a single word.
“We should go to our rooms to sleep. It's gotten pretty late,” Todoroki notes. He brings his arm up to stroke Midoriya’s curls. Midoriya hums, either in agreement, or because he loves his Todoroki playing with his hair; maybe both.
“In a while, Todoroki-kun,” he requests, and Todoroki can't help but oblige. The cityscape below them buzzes still, as they bask in each other’s mere presence exchanging words and kisses.