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Shouto was crouched down near a tall pine tree. Its broad, needled branches seemed like outstretched arms, inviting him into a dark, shadowy sort of embrace. The snow below his boots was bathed in a soft sort of goldenrod from the streetlight near the sidewalk. Shouto figured he was close enough to the light to see his surroundings, but far enough away that nobody could see him.

He poked the pointer finger of his left hand into the crunchy snow thoughtlessly, letting heat shimmer from his skin. Soon, the hole became bigger and bigger until the icy area was just a dampened patch of brown, dead grass the size of his palm. He switched to his right hand, filling the hole with ice before beginning his melting process all over again.

“Are you seriously doing Quirk control during your own damn party?”

Shouto’s back went rigid, elbows locking for a moment before he processed the voice a second later. It was simply habit to become uneasy at being startled when he was somewhere he wasn’t meant to be; though he couldn’t help but be proud at how much his reaction to such events had been minimized since moving into the dorms.

“No.” Shouto said, one of his hands instinctively rubbing over the rectangular shape of his phone in his front pocket. He tilted his head up and met Katsuki’s usual, unimpressed face and noticed his eyes track the movement of Shouto’s hand. He let it drop back into the snow nonchalantly.

“If I was dragged to that shit-show, surely you’re meant to be there as well.”

Shouto nodded slightly. “You’re right. I’m… I’m being rude, aren’t I?”

Katsuki snorted with an air of indifference. “I’m the last person you should be asking about that. I didn’t come out here to lecture you on your manners, rich boy.”

Shouto can’t help the words that spill from his chapped lips. “Then why did you come out here?”

Katsuki holds his gaze for several moments before scoffing, aggressively throwing something wadded up at Shouto. It hits his shoulder, causing him to lose his balance and topple into the snow and onto his ass.

Shouto curiously smoothed out the thick fabric and recognized the grey and black hoodie as one of Katsuki’s.

“You’re covered in frost, dumbass.”

“Am I?”

“Be a pretty dumb thing to lie about.”

Shouto releases some heat from his fingertips, running the warm digits over his cheek and the column of his neck until he felt less frozen. Then, as though feeling the cold of the night for the first time, he hastily slid the hoodie over his head.

“Thank you.”

“Whatever.” Katsuki muttered, shoving his hands into the pockets of his coat and clearly trying to act unbothered by Shouto’s wellbeing, albeit unsuccessfully. “Why’d you come out here?”

Shouto pulled the sleeves over his hands before putting them into the warm pocket of the hoodie. It smelled strongly like cologne and cedar. “It was…” Shouto tries to think over his words carefully. He was usually blunt, something that everyone knew Katsuki Bakugou wouldn’t mind. But still, he didn’t want to be rude. “It was just…”

“It was a lot for someone like you.”

As assumed, Katsuki had no problem being blunt at all.

“I know Midoryia went to a lot of trouble-”

“Deku’s an idiot! If he’s really your best friend, he should know that you’d be overwhelmed with all the people and attention!”

Shouto frowned at Katsuki’s gritted teeth and clenched fists. “Don’t call him that. He just knew that I haven’t ever had something like this before. He wanted it to be… special, I guess.”

Katsuki scowled, muttering a quiet, “Don’t tell me what to do,” before turning to look back at the dorms from their place far out near the sidewalks, hardly managing to contain his shiver.

“You can go in if you’re cold. I know you can’t really warm yourself with your Quirk like I can.”

“Then you come and warm me, stupid. Or I could just leave you out here alone on your birthday. Makes no difference to me.”

Shouto lets the ghost of a smile fall across his face as he straightens up, subtly hooking his left arm with Katsuki’s right. The explosive boy scowled, several blonde spikes of hair pressed down by the orange winter hat he wore.

“This is stupid.”

“You suggested it.”

“Shut up and walk faster before someone sees.”

Shouto doesn’t know why he feels like testing his luck so much tonight. “Would that be bad? If someone saw, I mean.”

His companion seemed to positively bristle at the question, his scarlet eyes narrowing and chest puffing like some sort of ridiculous cat and bird hybrid. “I don’t give a fuck who sees me do what! If anyone wants to start any shit, I’ll blast them straight to Hell! I do what I want to do, end of story!”

Shouto lets out a soft sort of laugh. “Okay.”

“Don’t think I’m embarrassed! I’m never embarrassed, not of anything! Not…” it seems to take him a split-second to lower the aggression in his tone, even just a little bit. “Not of you.”

Shouto wants to put his head on Katsuki’s shoulder. He doesn’t know why. Neither of them were touchy. Hell, Shouto didn’t even know what they were. If they even were anything.

He supposes he should ask that at some point. He wasn’t sure if this was the sort of thing that was implied or needed to be clarified. Shouto wasn’t exactly great at social cues, and Katsuki didn’t care to follow them.

What a pair.

They don’t really talk as they make their way back to the dorms. Shouto hopes nobody sees them, only because he knew they shouldn’t leave so late (especially he and Katsuki), and also because he doesn’t have the energy to explain or apologize to any of his friends tonight. His white boots crunch footprints into the snow while the tall, black and orange pair stomp beside him. Shouto liked when their steps were synchronized.

“You can hide out until all of the extras are asleep or whatever.” Katsuki recommended once they reached their building.

“Could I go up to your room?”

He bites the inside of his cheeks as soon as the words left his mouth. It was stupid. So stupid. All of the progress from the night would be erased because he asked a dumb question that he already knew the answer to. Katsuki didn’t let anyone into his room. Ever. Not even Kirishima.

“Sorry.” He immediately punctuates, the usual anxiousness he feels after asking something stupid fluttering around his chest.

“…Whatever. But you better not attract your idiot friends.”

Shouto’s first instinct is to point out that they’re kind of his friends too, at least a little bit, but he decides not to push the other anymore tonight.

They stomp the snow from their boots and head to the elevators quietly. It isn’t until they reach Katsuki’s floor that he thinks it necessary to say, “Um, if you changed your mind- I know you don’t like people in your room…”

“It’s fine.”

Shouto follows Katsuki down the hall. Shouto was now carrying his boots in-hand, but the other boy didn’t seem to be at all bothered by the wet prints he left on the hardwood floor.

Just as they reach Katsuki’s door, another dorm room opens and Shouto feels a sinking feeling. He recognizes the person to be Shouji, and they just maintain eye contact for a moment while Katsuki unlocks his door.

A mouth forms on the end of one of Shouji’s dupla-arms and stretched towards him.

“Don’t worry about it. Happy birthday.”

Shouto gave a small nod of thanks, snapped from the conversation when an impatient Katsuki called, “Todoroki.”

Shouji watched the exchange with unveiled interest, what with Shouto being invited into Katsuki’s room. He had a feeling Shouji wouldn’t bring it up to anyone, even if Shouto had ditched his own surprise birthday party.

Katsuki’s room was surprisingly uninspired. He had black sheets and a black comforter on his bed, a few different stacks of books, and the gold medal from the sports festival in the corner, like he’d thrown it at the wall. He had a black rug and a dark grey desk chair, but there wasn’t anything that was really telling of his personality. This room could belong to any teenager.

But Katsuki Bakugou wasn’t just any teenager. He had an amazing quirk, a short fuse, and unlimited ambition. He was practically internationally known due to winning the sports festival, being taken hostage twice, and for being the most assured person anyone had ever met. The fact that his room didn’t reflect any part of him was… just a little stunning.

Not that Shouto’s room really reflected his own character. He just did what was familiar, and maybe that was telling in and of itself.

“You look like you’re working out a damn calculus problem.”

Shouto shook his head, snapping from his thoughts. “No. It’s… nice.”

“No it isn’t.” He said simply, sitting on the end of his bed with crossed arms. Shouto turned on a small desk lamp. “Just haven’t really felt up to packing or decorating.”

That was fair. Shouto probably wouldn’t be excited to decorate his dorm if he were the sole reason dorms were instilled upon the entire school in the first place.

Shouto’s eyes roam the room once more. He doesn’t bring up the nightlight plugged into the outlet next to Katsuki’s bed.

“Were you waiting for a phone call or something?”

Shouto feels blindsided by the question. It wasn’t asked in an accusatory way. Well, everything Katsuki said was a little accusatory, but this wasn’t outside the limits of what was normal for his tone.

“Why do you ask that?” he asks evenly, gently twisting the top of a mechanical pencil on Katsuki’s desk.

“’Cause you were outside doing nothing?” he snorted. “When I approached you, you brought your hand to your phone in your pocket.” Damn he was sharp. “Who were you waiting for?”

Shouto’s mouth felt dry. He couldn’t tell Katsuki. And that was that. He was stupid for even thinking that they could get to a trusting place and maybe even become something, together. He’d forgotten his own reality.

“Damn, you look pale.” Katsuki muttered, scooting his body back to recline against his pillows. “That bad, huh?”

“You could say that.”

“I knew there was some bad shit going on.” Shouto feels his heart freeze and drop at those words. How had Katsuki known?

His face must have revealed some of his terror, because the other boy simply said, “I’m not going to tell anyone. I overheard it at the sports festival when you were telling Deku.”

“I… what?”

“Look, don’t get upset just because your piece of shit dad didn’t call to wish you a happy birthday.” Katsuki shrugged. “His opinion should be dogshit to you now, anyway.”

Shouto looks away guiltily, swallowing thickly whilst unsure whether he should be feeling relieved or not. “Yeah.” He tries not to think about how his father left him a Happy Birthday message on his phone earlier that morning, before he was even awake.

Shouto trusted Katsuki, because he was honest. Sincerely so, even if it hurt. There were no mind games, guilt-trips, or runarounds. He had been mistaken in thinking something like this could work. Katsuki was an open book, and Shouto was a locked journal. Here they were, the private blonde inviting him into his safe space because he knew Shouto got overwhelmed in crowds, lent him a hoodie even though he hated sharing, and promised to keep his secrets that he’d never even gotten the courage to tell him.

How was Shouto supposed to explain he was hoping for a phone call from the guy that had assisted in kidnapping Katsuki Bakugou?

“I’m going to go wash my face while you wait on your call.”

Shouto nodded and with the quiet click of a door, he was alone.

He passed the minutes by reading the spines of Katsuki’s books whilst swiveling gently in his desk chair. He’d never been given the luxury of a swivel-chair. He was told it would ruin his posture.

Some of the books were ones he’d read before, others completely foreign to him. Could he ever get to a place where they could just talk about books? Reading? Stories?

Shouto’s phone vibrated loudly on the desk before him like a hornet in a jar. He gave a dumb sort of yelp, slapping his hands over his mouth instinctively before scooping up his cell phone.

Restricted Number.

He hadn’t truly expected a phone call. Of course he hadn’t.

Feeling sick to his stomach yet some sort of twisted relief, Shouto slid his thumb across the answer icon and shakily brought his phone to his ear.

There’s just silence for a moment before soft breathing. He doesn’t greet the person on the other end of the line.

“Happy birthday, kid.”

Shouto lets out a quiet, shaky exhale, just so Dabi knew he’d heard. Then the line goes dead.

He doesn’t try calling back, knowing he’d receive a cool, robotic female voice claiming that the number he was trying to dial was no longer available.

The door busts open and Shouto jumps to his feet, juggling his phone for a moment before finally catching it once more, holding it against his chest as his wide, mismatched eyes looked at a shirtless Katsuki.

“Kirishima must’ve used all the hot water. Dickhead…” He muttered with hostility, mussing his darkened blonde strands with a towel. Katsuki leaned over his bed to pull out a laptop. “You get that phone call?”

“Yeah.” Shouto mumbled, shoving the phone deep into his pocket, alongside his guilt and self-loathing. “Yeah, I did.”